Episode 23: Managing a water utility during a water crisis with Jim Lochhead

This is a transcript of the Spur of the Moment episode “Managing a water utility during a water crisis with Jim Lochhead.” It is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.

Jim Lochhead: The threats that we face in Colorado on the Colorado River affect all of Colorado, and it’s not a West Slope or an East Slope issue. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Hello and welcome to CSU’s Spur of the Moment, the podcast of Colorado State University’s Spur Campus in Denver, Colorado, 

Jim Lochhead: And you can think about those reservoirs as a bank account, and that bank account has been drawn down to the point where it is depleted and there’s unfortunately no line of credit that we can draw on, no borrowing that we can do. Once that water is gone, it’s gone. 

Jocelyn Hittle: On this podcast, we talk with experts in food, water, health, and sustainability and learn about their current work and their career journeys. I’m Jocelyn Hittle, associate Vice Chancellor of the CSU Spur Campus, and I’m honored to be joined today by Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water, which supplies drinking water to Denver and the surrounding suburbs. 

Prior to his tenure at Denver Water, which began in 2010, Jim held a variety of positions including working in private law practice on natural resource issues in the US and globally, and as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Jim was the Colorado Governor’s representative on interstate Colorado River operations, and served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Boards of Great Outdoors Colorado, the Nature Conservancy, and the Colorado Conservation Trust. Jim has a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and a law degree from the University of Colorado. Welcome, Jim. 

Jim Lochhead: Thanks, Jocelyn. It’s good to see you again. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Likewise. So as I was reading through your bio, there was a distinct theme around natural resources and particularly water, not surprisingly, which has led you to your role at Denver Water, and that’s where I’d like to start. Can you tell us a little bit more about Denver Water? 

Jim Lochhead: Denver Water is the state’s largest water utility and oldest water utility. We serve about 25% of the state’s population, but we only use about 2% of the state’s water. So we’re big, but we don’t have a big footprint, and we do everything we can to minimize that footprint across the state and across the west. 

We serve a million and a half customers, both in the city and county of Denver as well as surrounding suburbs. And we have really a vast, complex and really amazing system. We divert about half of our water supply from the Colorado River, about half from the South Platte River. Our Colorado River Supply comes from the Blue River near Silver Thorn and Dillon. Water’s diverted through the Robert’s Tunnel into the South Plat Basin. And then we also take water from Grand County up near the Winter Park ski area. We bring water through the Moffitt Tunnel into four different treatment plants, and one big brand new one, which is coming online early next year. And a big network of conduits, pipes, mains that are incredibly complex, hard to maintain. And just about every day we have a main break and are flooding somebody’s basement or something, but we try and prevent that. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Sure, of course. Also, of course, it’s very complicated, providing drinking water for the largest metropolitan area in the state and all of the complexity that comes with that means that the organization itself is also quite complex. It looks like about 1100 employees and covering more of the state than just the front range. You have 4,000 square miles of watershed that feed together to bring water to the Denver Metro. So, how do you manage some of that complexity? 

Jim Lochhead: It’s really an amazing business. People turn on their tap, water comes out and they don’t think about it. But we’re heavily into the construction business. We do a lot of construction, both replacement and renewal and expansion of our system. As you mentioned, we have 4,000 square miles of watershed area. We have employees throughout the state at outlying areas. Everything from billing to accounting to management operations, it’s really amazingly complex. It’s not like a business where you’re producing widgets and selling them somewhere. It’s really all facets of business and operations that are involved. 

I’ve been doing this for 13 years and I’m still learning aspects of this system. A lot of our employees have been with Denver Water for decades. There’s a lot of institutional knowledge, and it’s kind of common folklore that you’re not really an employee until you’ve been there for 20 or 30 years. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Understood. So, you learn a lot every day in a system that’s that complicated and that complex. How does Denver Water and the water system here in the city compare to other major metropolitan areas? What do we do differently and what’s basically the same across utilities? 

Jim Lochhead: One of the things that we’re proud of that we have done is we’ve instituted a continuous improvement process. We’ve employed the lean technology, which was developed originally by Toyota. It’s designed to increase efficiency by eliminating waste in every process that we do. 

The idea is to deliver water at the lowest possible cost to our customers while still maintaining the integrity of our system. And so we’ll have employees do what are called rapid improvement events where they will come and look at a particular process, both the process itself as well as upstream and downstream impacts. They actually spend a week with that process doing rapid experiments about asking questions, why do we do it this way? Can we do it differently? They do experiments to actually do it differently. And by the end of the week, we’re implementing changes to that process to increase efficiency. 

We’re very metric driven. We have a number of measurements of our operations, and we’re constantly looking at how we can improve. I think that we’re one of the leading utilities in the country, if not in the world, in terms of our implementation of this continuous improvement ethic. 

We’re also deeply committed to stewardship of the resources that supply our system. As we talked about the 4,000 square miles of watershed area, a lot of that’s in National Forest. A lot of it has been devastated by catastrophic wildfire. A lot of it is forest area that is subject to beetle kill overgrowth. And so we’re engaged with the United States Forest Service on a program called Forest de Faucets, whereby we are both investing in treatments to the forest that will prevent damages caused by catastrophic wildfire. 

We’re involved with a number of watershed projects, stream improvement projects in the West slope, and it’s our ethic that we need to sustain the water supply that we depend on not only today, but for our customers 50 or a hundred years from now. And so that means protecting that environment and those watersheds that sustain our system. 

Jocelyn Hittle: So let’s talk a little bit more about where the water comes from. So, that 4,000 miles of square miles of watershed means that a drop of water that falls in that area, whether it’s a raindrop or a snowflake, then makes its way eventually through some of the tunnels that you mentioned and diversions from one part of the state, the western slope or the western part of the state to the front range, for example. 

Can you talk a little bit more about where does this water come from? You talk about people turning the tap on and not realizing all of the things that go into it. Where does that come from? What pressures or what risks do we have around that supply? 

Jim Lochhead: Denver is really in a unique place. I mentioned that we get half of our water supply from the Colorado River Basin. We’re at the headwaters, obviously, of the Colorado River. That river supply seven states and the country of Mexico. We also derive our water supply from the South Platte Basin. The South Platte Basin flows into the Missouri and ultimately the Mississippi. So, we’re right at the focal point of literally the entire Western United States. And we’re impacted by everything that happens from climate change to drought, to political issues, to endangered species management. We’re involved in endangered species protection programs both in the Colorado River Basin and in the South Platte Basin. And so, literally everything that happens across the west potentially impacts Denver water and the water supply to our customers. 

As a result, we are heavily engaged in discussions among states with the federal government about water management, drought resiliency, watershed management. And it makes the job really interesting because it’s not just running an operation, but it’s being engaged in public policy and the politics of water. 

Jocelyn Hittle: And I think that might surprise people to understand that there is so much around policy and politics that is part of the work of a utility. Can you say a little bit more about that piece of it, and particularly the Colorado River conversations that have been so much in the news over the course of the last couple of years? 

Jim Lochhead: Well, we can start right here in Colorado. Most of the people in Colorado are on the Eastern slope. Most of the water in Colorado is on the Western slope. And so as a result, there’s been this historic tension between the Western slope and the Eastern slope about diversions from the West slope to the East slope. 

I spent 35 years of my law practice in Glenwood Springs, and so I know all about the West Slope. Coming to Denver, I brought that perspective here and have sought to create a bind, a bond between Western Colorado and Eastern Colorado, particularly when it comes to interstate Colorado River issues. We’re one state. The threats that we face in Colorado on the Colorado River affect all of Colorado, and it’s not a West slope or an East slope issue. So we’ve really tried to come together around that issue in particular, as a state. 

The situation on the Colorado is literally at a crisis point. There are two major reservoirs on the river, Lake Powell and Lake Mead. And over the last 20 years, those reservoirs have been drawn down as a result of the worst drought in 1200 years on the river. They’ve been drawn down to the point that in the next couple of years, it’s possible that they could literally go dry. 

And yet at the same time, the lower basin states, particularly California and Arizona, have continued to use water and draw down those water supplies. In contrast, water users in the upper basin in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico, have been limited by both hydrology and the operation of the prior appropriation system. Water rights are set by the date at which they are first used, and it’s literally kind of a pecking order of who gets water based on the first use. And so even though the upper basin has been limited, the lower basin has continued to use the same amount of water. And you can think about those reservoirs as a bank account, and that bank account has been drawn down to the point where it is depleted and there’s unfortunately no line of credit that we can draw on, no borrowing that we can do. 

Once that water is gone, it’s gone. And the results are going to be devastating. And so the economic impact, the environmental impact, the recreational impact are huge. And literally, the water users in each state are kind of looking at each other saying, “Who’s going to give up what first? Before I give up something, well, maybe somebody else should give up something.” And so we’re all kind of playing poker, and in the meantime, the reservoirs are dropping and dropping and dropping to these critical levels. 

The implications for Colorado are the potential for significant lawsuits and litigation, ultimately in the United States Supreme Court. When states sue each other, they sue each other in the United States Supreme Court. And that lawsuit would take literally 10 or 20 years. We don’t have 10 to 20 years to deal with this problem. And so that’s the worst possible scenario. 

Probably the second worst or even the worst scenario is that the river operates by the priorities that are established. The first priority on the river is Mexico. That’s a national obligation. But within the United States, irrigation users in California have the first priority. And in fact, they use far more water than the entire upper basin combined. 

So there’s a potential that if we hit that crisis point and the river operates by that priority, irrigators get their water first, and cities literally go dry because we’re second in line. And that’s obviously an untenable situation. It just cannot happen. And so there needs to be a solution that’s brought in. Given where the states are today, it needs to be a solution that’s brokered or imposed by the federal government. And the federal government has, to date, not done anything about it. So, here we sit with proposals from six states for a solution and one proposal by California, and we’ve all put that in the lap of the Department of the Interior for them to decide what they want, what they’re going to do. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Well, so that’s fascinating. And thank you for that excellent description of what is a very complicated situation that has been unfolding over the last decades as the drought has worsened. I think a lot of people are seeing much more about the Colorado River, hearing more about it and the general news, not even natural resources or water specific sources. It’s hitting the kind of mainstream audience’s attention. So it’s helpful to get an understanding of it. 

How optimistic are you? I heard you say that given where we are right now, the feds have to weigh in. Where the states are, we’ve not been able to come to an agreement among the states without federal intervention. How optimistic are you? And I guess another question might be, how could a Denver citizen or an Arizonan or someone living in Salt Lake City contribute to this in order to try to help make a difference? Because their livelihoods and water sources depend on it. 

Jim Lochhead: There’s only one real solution, and that’s to reduce uses in the basin to be commensurate with how much water the river produces. We not only have to do that, but we have to cut even more in order to build back some of that bank account that we’ve lost in Lakes Powell and Mead. 

The size and scope of those cuts are enormous. The river over the last 20 years has produced about an average of about 12 million acre feet a year. The federal government last year asked the states to cut between two and four million acre feet. So a two to four million acre foot cut out of 12 million acre feet is a lot of water. 

What we have in the basin is a grass problem. There is a lot of irrigated agriculture of alfalfa and forage crops that are used both domestically and also exported to the far East. And yet, the Colorado River only produces about 7% of the alfalfa used in the United States. So even though it’s big from a water use standpoint within the Colorado River Basin, it’s not terribly significant nationally in terms of how much alfalfa is being produced. 

We also have a problem with grass in our cities. Bluegrass, turf-grass has been prolific. And in fact, in our service area here in Denver, we’ve looked at what we call non-functional turf, which the easiest way to think about non-functional turf is grass that only sees a lawnmower. Nobody ever uses it. We just look at it. Think of medians or other areas that you drive through Denver and you just see grass that’s sitting there that nobody uses. 

We estimate there’s some 6,000 acres of non-functional turf in our service area. If you multiply that by Phoenix and LA and Las Vegas, by the way, has done a tremendous job of reducing non-functional turf. But all the large municipalities in the basin, that can make a real difference. And so I think that we can all contribute not only through conservation, reuse, recycling, but also simply by reducing demands in the system, both agriculturally and in our urban service areas. 

Jocelyn Hittle: So you mentioned Las Vegas doing a good job of reducing the amount of non-functional turf that they have. Is that something that’s in Denver water’s sights? 

Jim Lochhead: In response to the secretary’s call for these deep cuts in use in the basin, we organized a group of municipalities to sign a memorandum of understanding. We’ve, to date, gotten some 35 different municipalities in the Colorado River Basin to sign on to this MOU. It commits us to enhancing our efforts toward conservation, redoubling our efforts toward recycling and reuse, and commits each of us to a 30% reduction in the amount of non-functional turf within our service areas. 

We also need to work with municipalities and with the state to make sure that new development that occurs in Colorado doesn’t incorporate that non-functional turf. So we’re going to be embarking on a program to remove non-functional turf within our service area. We’re starting with our own facilities. So if you see a pump station or a Denver water facility with some grass on it, within the next few years, that grass won’t be there. It will be replaced by native vegetation. And that’s important as well. 

We can’t just remove turf and kill our tree canopy, for example. The tree canopy in Denver is incredibly important from an economic, climate change, as well as social aspect. We need to maintain those trees. We also can’t replace turf with rocks or concrete. It needs to be with climate appropriate native vegetation that is really actually incredibly attractive. And then we also need to be aware of underserved communities in our service area, a lot of which don’t have functional turf, much less non-functional turf. And so we need to be making sure that we provide green landscaping. Again, climate appropriate in those underserved areas as well. 

Jocelyn Hittle: And I think that’s an area where we have some mutual interest, right? CSU has a horticultural program that’s focused on things like this, and I think we’re certainly interested in helping to make that transition be something that people are really excited about. And I certainly am eager to replace the curb strip in front of my house that only sees my lawnmower and probably less often than it should with something else that is appropriate for the climate that we’re in and the changes that we’re going to continue to see. 

So, I’d like to shift gears a little bit to talk about what a day in the life is like for you as the CEO and manager of the Denver Water. Can you talk us through maybe a day or a week in the life? 

Jim Lochhead: One of the great things I love about this job is getting up, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. So that keeps me on my toes. That having been said, we talked about the complexity of the operation of Denver Water. So, we are in the process of building a brand new state-of-the-art treatment plant on Highway 93 between Golden and Boulder. And the conceptualization of that plant, the planning for that plant was a process that we went through that I was heavily engaged in. I challenged our team to attempt to build a water treatment plant that was off the electric grid. And the engineers looked at me like I was crazy. They said, “We shouldn’t do that, we can’t do that.” And I said, “Well, why don’t you try?” So they went and instead of just building a standard treatment plant, they looked at how they could do that. 

And today that plant is, it is going to be hooked up to the electric grid, but the reason is that it’s going to be a net energy producer. We’re actually putting energy back into the grid from that plant for the treatment of water. 

We built a new state-of-the-art campus that is the most sustainable campus that’s been developed in Colorado. Our administration building is lead platinum, net-zero energy. We do rainwater capture. We treat our own wastewater within the building, reuse it for irrigation, toilet flushing. And the planning of that took several years. The permitting of that took several years. 

We’re constructing an enlargement to Gross Reservoir up in Boulder County. That process took about 20 years to obtain the approvals necessary, including six years of negotiation with the Western slope on a landmark peace accord between Denver Water and the Western Slope about how they could actually support and how environmental groups could support the enlargement of that reservoir. 

We are also embarking on a program to remove every lead service line within our system. We were engaged in complex negotiations with the state health department and the EPA on our treatment processes. Service line is the line between the water main that’s out in the street and your house. And that service line is not owned by Denver Water, it’s owned by the homeowner. We have some 64,000 to 84,000 of those lead service lines. And we know from the experiences in Flint and other communities around the country that those service lines pose a health risk to our customers. Public health is ultimately our primary responsibility. And so we took it upon ourselves to reach an agreement with the EPA, whereby we committed at no direct cost to our individual homeowners, to replace every single lead service line within our system within a 15-year period. 

We’re now three years into that program. We’ve successfully met every benchmark that the EPA has given us under a variance that the issue to allow us to do this. We’re not only removing the lines, but we’re providing pitcher filters to any home that has a line or is suspected of having a line. We’ve changed the treatment of our water, which is a separate, very complex process to provide better protection. And we’ve embarked on a really extensive community engagement program. We’ve created a national model for proactive engagement in protecting public health in removing these lines. 

We’ve also partnered with CSU in the construction and development and now up and running hydro building at the Spur campus, which we’re terribly excited about. You mentioned partnership with horticulture, but there are so many different partnerships between an urban utility and a land-grant university, building the connection between watersheds and agricultural production, as well as the concepts of how water is used within our urban environment. 

We’ve located our brand new water quality lab at the Hydro building. We undertake about 200,000 water samples per year at that lab. And it’s not only a fantastic facility, but that lab is a great opportunity to be in an environment with a great university and to engage in public education and research and innovation, and ultimately in broad public policy around water. So, the future is really bright for that partnership as well. 

So, those are kind of a few of the major initiatives that I work on. We’re also very committed to the development of our workforce and the leaders within the organization. So I’m very engaged in leadership programs. We have a broad DENI initiative within Denver Water. 

And so all the day-to-day operations, I’m involved in several national boards. We engage with other water utilities across the country in learning and collaboration. We’re engaged at the legislature, we’re engaged in Congress, on national legislation, regulatory issues at both the state and the federal level. So, every day is filled with all kinds of different and unique and fun challenges. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Yep. I heard you say policy and legislative work, construction, negotiations, water quality testing, some more construction, and not to mention the management of the core function of what you do, which is with the existing facilities to deliver water to the metro area. So, sounds diverse and quite a lot of work. And that’s, I’m sure, part of the reason you have an 1100 person team to manage to do all of that as you. 

And we’re also thrilled about the partnership at Spur that you mentioned. And of course, I think we don’t even know what will come out of that yet, right? We’re excited about the things we do know we’re going to do together around education, particularly for young people, and conversations around policy. But I think there are, with us cohabitating in that space, I think a lot of opportunity that we don’t even conceive of yet around research and innovation in ways that we can be mutually beneficial, and we’re really thrilled about it. And thanks so much for your partnership over the last, gosh, it’s been, what, seven or eight years. 

So, as you know, at Spur we are focused on inspiring kids to think about careers they’re not currently aware of. Maybe you could talk a little bit about some of the more surprising careers that are within Denver Water or the utility space. What might we not know about that would be of interest to young people today? 

Jim Lochhead: Well, you mentioned construction, so obviously engineering is a big aspect of what we do, but it’s also an incredibly diverse operation. So, if you are into computers or GIS or accounting, watershed management, recreation, legal, water supply analysis, any kind of technical career, we have all kinds of operations from the people who are in the street at two o’clock in the morning when it’s 30 below, working on a main break, incredibly dedicated people, to emergency responders. You can almost think of any career, and there’s probably an opportunity at a water utility for that career. 

Jocelyn Hittle: With that, let’s talk a little bit about how you got to where you are. So correct me if I’m wrong, but you were born in California. And maybe you can say a little bit about what it was like to grow up in California, and then you came here to Colorado for college, is that correct? 

Jim Lochhead: Right. I grew up in Southern California. And really, love of the water, love of the ocean. Spent a lot of time in the ocean, was a surfer and southern California guy. And that really spurred both my interest in water and the environment. Came to University of Colorado where I graduated with a degree in biology. 

And talk about careers. I wanted to be a high school biology teacher, but I did not do so well on the GREs for biology. So I was kind of despondent, not knowing what I was going to do next. And on a whim decided to take the LSATs to go to law school. And so, that worked out okay. So here I am. And so I found a different path. I had a different aptitude, maybe. 

Practiced law in Glenwood Springs for several years, representing small municipalities as water council, ditch companies, developers. And then was engaged in the Colorado Water Conservation Board, was tapped by Governor Roamer to become the director of the State Department of Natural Resources, which was an incredible job. The Department of Natural Resources overseas not only state water, but public lands, division of Wildlife, division of Parks, Mining. It’s just a incredibly diverse and fun job. 

After my stint there, I joined a Denver law firm, but I was still in Glenwood Springs, and began practicing law across the country doing large, big river negotiations, mediation, really all over the United States. But I missed the sense of mission that comes with an organization. I had that at the Department of Natural Resources. 

But one of the great things about working at a water utility is there’s a deep sense of mission of delivering to our customers every single day high quality water at the right pressure, at et cetera, the right time, the right amounts. Of responding to every situation that comes up and just doing that in the best way possible. That feeling is almost a feeling of family, and it’s almost kind of a first responder mentality among everyone in the organization. And to have the privilege to lead those people who are so dedicated to this is really a tremendous opportunity. And it’s been just a wonderful experience. Probably the thing I’m most fulfilled by in this job are the people that I work with, and that sense of purpose and mission that they bring to work every day. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Yeah, I can understand that sense of mission. You are providing something that is necessary for people to live their lives and do their work here in the largest metropolitan area in the state and one of the larger metropolitan areas in the west. So I could imagine that that is quite fulfilling to feel that every day you’re sort of making the rest of our lives possible. 

Can you talk a little bit about, have there been other moments? So you mentioned also that the GRE wasn’t as successful as the LSAT. So that sort of pointed you in a specific direction. And then you were appointed by Governor Roamer, so that also was a bit of a pivot moment. Are there other moments that were pivot moments or people that were particularly influential as you went from thinking about being a high school biology teacher to where you are now today? 

Jim Lochhead: Well, I’ve always been interested in, again, the environment, public policy, politics. For example, I was an intern for Tim Worth when he was a senator, or no, he was in Congress at the time. And so the influence of those people, and Governor Roamer was really a tremendous influence on me. Because he not only allowed me to do what I wanted to do to further the mission of the Department of Natural Resources supporting that, but he approached everything from the standpoint, not of politics, but of doing the right thing for the state of Colorado. We would sit in his office and he was always trying to think of what is best for the future of this state without regard to politics. That was a time, obviously quite different than today. He had a Republican legislature. We worked quite well with the Republican legislature. Obviously disagreements, but they were hashed out. And again, it was always what is best. 

So that really was a big influence on the way that I have approached my career and my job, particularly Denver Water, because we’re clearly not a political organization. One of the great things about Denver Water is it was created in 1918 under the city charter in the wake of failed private water companies. You mentioned sustaining a great metropolitan area. These private water companies were competing with each other. There was flooding, there were water quality problems, there were water quantity problems. And the people of Denver created Denver Water with this vision of a great city. But it was created to be apolitical. We don’t report to the city council. I report to a board, five member board, appointed by the mayor. And we operate independently. We’re part of the city, but we operate independently as an enterprise. And specifically, it was created so that we could have that long-term vision, not be subject to politics, and could do our job and do it well. 

Jocelyn Hittle: That’s great. And it sounds like Governor Roamer was part of the influence of why that’s important to you, the fact that you’re working in a place that is apolitical and has that long-term view. 

Jim Lochhead: Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve always felt that in the natural resource field, everybody who’s involved in natural resources, whether it’s in research or the political policy realm, we’re always thinking 50, 100 years from now and how we can meet the challenges of climate change and the environment going forward for future generations. And it’s a thinking that permeates Denver Water as well. 

Jocelyn Hittle: So, with that long-term view in mind, you are actually wrapping your time up at Denver Water. You’ll be leaving Denver Water here in the coming months. So, can you tell us a little bit about what you hope you’re leaving behind there? What do you hope your legacy at Denver Water is? 

Jim Lochhead: We’ve accomplished a tremendous amount during my tenure. I presided over it, but it’s 1100 people that are working that have achieved, I think so much in the last 13 years that I’ve been at Denver Water. I mentioned some of the construction projects that we’ve done. We’ve also created… I also mentioned the ethic of continuous improvement and measurement of what we do as kind of a leading practice in the water utility industry. Achieving that was not easy in a culture that frankly was, “Well, if it costs this much more, we can just raise rates and that’s okay.” 

Well, it’s not okay, because that’s part of our mission is to keep our rates as low as possible, but also maintain the integrity of our system. And so how can we create a culture of service to our customers and thinking about our customers in everything that we do in terms of the cost, our service to them, making sure that that water supply is there. 

And there has been a real transformation internally within Denver Water over the last 13 years toward that ethic of continuous improvement in customer service and sustaining the communities that we serve, and also the integrity of the environment that supplies our water. We just recently refreshed our strategic plan. When I came to Denver Water, we really didn’t have a strategic plan, and now everything we do is tied to specific strategic objectives of our plan. 

And so that plan will, I hope, continue to guide Denver Water going forward over the next several years. And I hope that the next person, the next leader of Denver Water can build on that and create an even better and greater organization. I feel that the time, every CEO needs to pick an appropriate moment to step aside. And I think this is the appropriate moment for me because we’ve accomplished so much. Everything is running really well, knock on wood. And it’s a great opportunity for new thinking to come in and take us the next step forward. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Thanks. Well, I know that you will be missed not only at Denver Water, but across the city and the state and across the American West. So, thank you very much for all of your service. What will you do next? What’s coming? 

Jim Lochhead: That’s a really good question. I don’t know. I definitely am not retiring, so I won’t be mowing non-functional turf or doing something like that. I’ll be looking for the next thing, obviously something in water and natural resources, but TBD. 

Jocelyn Hittle: All right. You heard it here folks, Jim Lockhead is looking for a job. So, wonderful. Thank you very much. Just to wrap us up, maybe you can tell us where we can find out more about Denver Water’s great work. I assume Denver Water’s website, but where else? 

Jim Lochhead: Yep. We are also on social media, so you can follow us on whatever social media platform. I don’t think we’re on TikTok, but whatever social media platform. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Great, thanks. 

So, you touched on this, but my spur of the moment question for you is, you mentioned you wanted to be a high school biology teacher, but aside from that, is there any other career path that you could have seen yourself take? 

Jim Lochhead: Well, one of the career paths, well, I mentioned my love of the ocean. So I had this dream of being a marine biologist and working at say Scripps or Santa Barbara and spending a lot of time in the water studying the ocean. 

Jocelyn Hittle: Amazing. That sounds wonderful. It’s not too late. 

Jim Lochhead: That could be my next job. 

Jocelyn Hittle: There you go. Marine biologist. 

Jim Lochhead: Yeah. 

Jocelyn Hittle: I love it. That’s wonderful. It takes you back to the biology route of everything, too. 

Well, thank you very much, Jim Lockhead. Our pleasure and honor to have you on Spur of the Moment today. Thank you very much, and good luck in the next chapter. 

Jim Lochhead: Thank you. Good to be with you. 

Jocelyn Hittle: The CSU Spur of the Moment podcast is produced by Kevin Samuelson, and our theme music is by Ketsa. Please visit the show notes for links mentioned in this episode. We hope you’ll join us in two weeks for the next episode. Until then, be well. 


Deputy Under Secretary, USDA, Farm Production and Conservation

Gloria Montaño Greene was appointed Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area on February 22, 2021. Her experience is focused in government and community work and includes federal policy, politics, advocacy, intergovernmental relations, communications, and management.

As the FPAC Deputy Undersecretary, Montaño Greene leads agencies that deliver farm programs and services to farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers. These programs include farm loans, conservation, disaster assistance, crop insurance and price support.

Montaño Greene is a former State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency in Arizona from 2014-2017. With FSA in Arizona, Montaño Greene led implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill programs across the state.

She previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff to Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona. Montaño Greene also served as Deputy Director for Chispa Arizona, a program of the League of Conservation Voters focused on the empowerment of Latino voices in Arizona on issues including energy, public lands, and democracy access.

Montaño Greene is originally from rural Arizona. She is a proud graduate of the University of Arizona.

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Strategic Initiatives Coordinator for the Lands and Resources Sector, Ktunaxa Nation Council

Jaime Vienneau is a member of the Ktunaxa First Nation, Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it located in southeastern British Columbia, Canada and lives in Cranbrook, BC with her husband and two children. Jaime has over 20 years’ experience working with the Ktunaxa Nation Council Lands and Resources Sector, and is currently co-leading the Ktunaxa Nation’s participation in the Columbia River Treaty renegotiation. 

Jaime has a Master of Arts Degree, specializes in Indigenous Leadership and has credentials in Business and Public Administration.

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Co-Founder and General Partner, ICI Fund (Innovation. Community. Intelligence)
Board Member, Kando, Viridix, Genda, Suridata, Tailor-Ed, Illustria

Gili is a Co-founder and General Partner at ICI Fund (Innovation. Community. Intelligence), investing in early-stage Israeli companies with artificial intelligence solutions that secure our future and supporting their scale up in the US market. Gili sits on the boards of Kando (AI & Wastewater), Viridix (AI & Agriculture), Genda (AI & Construction), Suridata (AI & Cyber), Tailor-Ed (AI & Education), Illustria (Cyebr security) and is an investor in PredictaMed (AI & Healthcare). 

Previously, Gili was a Managing Director at SynTech Bioenergy, a renewable energy company located in Colorado.  Gili is an Israeli lawyer who worked at Naschitz Brandes, ADV., one of the leading Israeli Corporate law firms and at Ernst & Young as Tax Consultant, providing tax advice to US and European VCs investing in Israeli companies. Gili served on the Board of Directors of the B’nai B’rith of the Rockies, Colorado.  Gili holds an LLB and BA (in Law and Business) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. Gili also served in the Israeli military (IDF), driving tanks and guiding combat soldiers to shoot anti-tank guided missiles out of a tank. She is an avid snowboarder and is melted by dark chocolate!

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Director, Colorado Water Center
Professor of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, CSU Fort Collins

Dr. Tracy serves as Director of the Colorado Water Center and as Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University. Dr. Tracy has led research initiatives on understanding and developing sustainable water management practices in a wide range of hydro-climatological systems across the western United States, including the western High Plains, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Great Basin and Pacific Northwest regions. His more recent efforts have focused on developing programs to: increase our understanding of the integrated behavior of water resource systems under the influence of changing hydrologic, economic, and social conditions; developing science based approaches to support the management of transboundary aquifer resources; addressing the linkage between water management and health outcomes; and understanding community water security from a socio-technical perspective. Dr. Tracy received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering at Colorado State University in 1980, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering at the University of California at Davis in 1986 and 1989 respectively. Dr. Tracy also served as President of the American Water Resources Association, the University Council on Water Resources, and as Secretary/Treasurer of the National Institutes for Water Resources. 

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Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry & Columbia Foundation Chair in Soil and Water Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Dr. Chefetz’s research interests relate to physico-chemical processes of organic pollutants occurring in water, reclaimed wastewater, soils and sediments. An overarching goal is to elucidate physical, chemical and biological processes that influence the fate of organic molecules in the environment with special emphasize on the agricultural environment.

Special interests are: (1) Fate of pharmaceutical compounds in soil and water; (2) Sorption-desorption behavior of xenobiotics in soils and sediments; (3) Irrigation with reclaimed wastewater: effects on human health; (4) Nano particles in the environment; (5) Nature and reactivity of dissolved organic matter. 

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Consul General of Canada

Sylvain Fabi (BBA, Bishop’s University, 1988) joined the Consulate General of Canada in Denver in October 2020. As Canada’s Consul General in the U.S. Mountain West Region, Mr. Fabi oversees a team of 17 people who work within Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Wyoming to strengthen trade and economic ties; enhance political, academic and cultural links; and assist Canadians visiting or living in the five-state territory.  He is also Canada’s chief negotiator for the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty with the United States.

Mr. Fabi joined the Trade Commissioner Service of External Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1992.  He worked in various geographic and trade policy divisions in Ottawa.  He was senior departmental adviser to the Minister of International Trade (2009 to 2010), Director for bilateral relations with South America and the Caribbean (2010 to 2013) and Executive Director of the North America Policy and Relations Division (2013 to 2015).

Mr. Fabi’s assignments abroad include trade commissioner at the embassy in Moscow (1995 to 1998), commercial counsellor at the embassy in Havana (2001 to 2005) and commercial counsellor at the embassy in Santiago (2005 to 2009). Mr. Fabi served as High Commissioner for Canada in Jamaica and the Bahamas (2015 to 2017). Before becoming Consul General in Denver, he was Executive Director, U.S. Transboundary Affairs Division (2017 to 2020). 

Mr. Fabi is married to Jany Joyal and has two children, Frédéric and Isabelle.

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Chancellor, CSU System

Dr. Tony Frank is the Chancellor of the CSU System. He previously served for 11 years as the 14th president of CSU in Fort Collins. Dr. Frank earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Wartburg College, followed by a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. and residencies in pathology and toxicology at Purdue. Prior to his appointment as CSU’s president in 2008, he served as the University’s provost and executive vice president, vice president for research, chairman of the Pathology Department, and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He was appointed to a dual role as Chancellor in 2015 and became full-time System chancellor in July 2019.

Dr. Frank serves on a number of state and national boards, has authored and co-authored numerous scientific publications, and has been honored with state and national awards for his leadership in higher education.

Dr. Frank and his wife, Dr. Patti Helper, have three daughters.

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Associate Vice Chancellor for CSU Spur & Special Projects, CSU System

Jocelyn Hittle is primarily focused on helping to create the CSU System’s new Spur campus at the National Western Center, and on supporting campus sustainability goals across CSU’s campuses. She sits on the Denver Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Council, on the Advisory Committee for the Coors Western Art Show, and is a technical advisor for the AASHE STARS program.

Prior to joining CSU, Jocelyn was the Associate Director of PlaceMatters, a national urban planning think tank, and worked for the Orton Family Foundation. She has a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton, and a Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Jocelyn grew up in Colorado and spends her free time in the mountains or exploring Denver.

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Founding Partner, Centro Luken de Estrategias en Agua y Medio Ambiente

Roberto F. Salmon Castelo is a founding partner and consultant at Centro Luken de Estrategias en Agua y Medio Ambiente. He served from April 2009 until May 2020 as the Mexican Commissioner to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and has a solid experience in international negotiations related to water and boundary issues between Mexico and the United States. In this capacity, he led the Mexican team to accomplish the signing of 11 binational agreements (Minutes) with the United States, which are binding for both countries.

From 2002 until 2009, he worked for the Mexican National Water Commission (CONAGUA), first as the Northwest Regional Manager and later as the General Director of the Northwest Basin Region, based in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico from where he oversaw all affairs related to water resources. In addition, Mr. Salmon served as the Planning and Special Projects Director for the Center for Research and Development of Natural Resources (CIDESON) of the State of Sonora. He also started a consulting company oriented to surface, groundwater, and environmental studies and projects.

He also has vast experience in financial projects. He served as the Director of Budget and Planning and later as the Chief Financial Officer at the University of Sonora and other private entities. He is also a founding partner in three financial enterprises in the State of Sonora.

Mr. Salmon has participated as a leading consultant in many projects on various subjects, such as water resources, plant location, financial engineering, statistics, economic feasibility, agriculture, and strategic planning.

In the academic sector, he served as a professor at the Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora, University of Sonora, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (Campus Guadalajara and Obregón), as well as a teaching and research assistant at the University of Arizona in the departments of Agricultural Economics and Hydrology and Water Resources.

He has authored or co-authored several articles on water resources and US-Mexico transboundary water issues and has been a speaker at binational and international conferences.

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Former United States Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission

Mr. Edward Drusina, TX P.E. retired from the United States Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) in 2018. Mr. Drusina has served his community and his country with distinction. Mr. Drusina was appointed Commissioner by President Barrack Obama on January 19, 2010 and remained Commissioner until his retirement on May 2018 completing 44 years of engineering service to his City, State and Country.  A licensed Professional Engineer in Texas and graduate of University of Texas at El Paso, his career has lead him to successful work in both the private and public sectors. Prior to the IBWC appointment, Mr. Drusina was the Regional Director for Paragon Resources Inc., President and CoOwner of Omni Construction Management Services, Corperate Associate of Moreno Cardenas Inc, Director of Public Works for the City of El Paso, and Design Branch head for the US Army at Fort Bliss, Texas. He has been a Senior Project Engineer with Weston Solutions since 2018.

Mr. Drusina also headed some very impactful undertakings related to water in the Southwest. He represented the City of El Paso on the Far West Texas Water Planning Group, was the Construction Manager for the pipeline and injection wells for the largest inland Desalination Plant named the Kay Bailey Desalination Plant and was the City of El Paso stormwater manager.

Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Drusina has also remained active in the different organizations along the border region. He was one of the founding members of UTEP’s Alumni Academe of Civil Engineers, served on the American Red Cross Board, was the Department of State’s advisor for the North American Development Bank Board,  and served on different state and federal committees aimed at addressing border environmental concerns.     

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Chief of Water Management, Columbia Basin Water Management Division for the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Mr. Barton assumed the role of Chief, Columbia Basin Water Management Division for the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in April 2015. As Chief of Water Management, Mr. Barton plays a key leadership role in managing a large, multi-purpose reservoir system and implementing the Columbia River Treaty with Canada, where he serves as the U.S. Co-Chair of the Treaty Operating Committee.

Mr. Barton has 30 years of experience managing water resources in the western United States. Prior to his current role, Mr. Barton served in technical and leadership positions with both with the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a variety of areas including weather and stream flow forecasting, mid- and long-term reservoir system planning, wind integration, and real-time reservoir operations.

Mr. Barton holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University, a master’s degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Colorado.

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Professor of Hydrology and Executive Director, Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan

Jay Famiglietti is a professor of hydrology and the Executive Director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, where he holds the Canada 150 Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing. Before moving to USask, Famiglietti served for 4 years as the Senior Water Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Prior to working at JPL, he was a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine, and at the University of Texas at Austin. Famiglietti’s research group uses satellites and develops advanced computer models to track how freshwater availability is changing around the globe. A fellow of the American Geophysical Union and of the Geological Society of America, he is committed to science communication.

Prof. Famiglietti is a regular advisor to state, provincial and federal government officials on water availability and water security issues.

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Executive Director, Water and Sanitation, City of Cape Town

Mike Webster is the Executive Director of the Water and Sanitation Directorate in the City of Cape Town. In this position, he leads the utility responsible for the full water cycle from “source to tap” and back to the environment. The utility serves the 5 million people of Cape Town through 660,000 water and sewer connections and 20,000 km of pipeline.  It has 5,100 staff, an annual operating budget of over USD 500 million (equivalent) and an annual capital budget of USD 180 million equivalent. The Executive Director is part of the Executive Management Team reporting to the City Manager.

Prior to joining the City of Cape Town in 2018, Mike worked for the World Bank for 16 years as a water and sanitation specialist based in Washington DC. He joined the Bank through the Young Professionals Programme and worked in operations in South Asia, Europe and Central Asia and Africa with field assignments in India and Zimbabwe.  Mike was Task Team Leader for over 20 investment operations in water supply, sanitation, solid waste management, municipal services, rural infrastructure, environmental protection and urban upgrading.

Mike graduated as a civil engineer from the University of Cape Town and went on to do an MSc in engineering at Loughborough University and a Master’s in Public Policy at Princeton University.

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Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture

Kate Greenberg was appointed to serve as Colorado’s first woman Commissioner of Agriculture by Governor Jared Polis in December 2018. As Commissioner, Greenberg provides leadership and direction to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which serves producers operating more than 38,700 farms and ranches in the state. She is a member of numerous state boards and commissions, current board president of the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association, and vice chair of the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Commissioner Greenberg is the recipient of the Emerging Conservation Leader Award from Western Resource Advocates and a 2019 Who’s Who In Agriculture honoree. She has worked in and advocated for agriculture for more than 14 years.

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Director of the Native American Cultural Center and Interim Assistant Vice President in the Office of Inclusive Excellence, Colorado State University

Ty A. Smith, MBA, was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. He is Tódích’íi’nii  (Bitter Water Clan), born for  Ashiihi (Salt Clan). Ty received both his baccalaureate degree (B.S. Mechanical Engineering) and master’s degree (MBA) from Colorado State University. He was a practicing engineer in the energy industry prior to becoming director of the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) at Colorado State University in 2005. NACC’s mission is to ensure a successful educational experience for students by providing support and services related to recruitment, retention, graduation, and community outreach. The office embraces and encourages a supportive environment based on the traditions and cultures of Native American peoples.

Ty is also the Interim Assistant Vice President in the Office of Inclusive Excellence at CSU. He resides in Fort Collins along with his wife, Jan, and their two boys, Ty Jr. and William.

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Managing Partner, Entrada Ventures

Karen Roter Davis is a technology executive, investor, and board member, passionate about driving innovation that energizes and transforms companies from early-stage start-ups to global leaders. She is currently a Managing Partner at Entrada Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund, where she invests in enterprise and industrial technology companies.

Karen spent over a decade in various senior positions at Alphabet, initially from 2003 to 2008, serving as a Principal in their New Business Development group, scaling its then early-stage businesses, as well as overseeing operations for the company’s groundbreaking 2004 IPO. Most recently, from 2017 until February 2022, Karen was Director of Early Stage Projects at X (formerly Google X), where she provided strategic direction and oversight for a portfolio of early-stage technology ventures.

Karen returned to Google in 2016 through Alphabet’s acquisition of Urban Engines, a SaaS geospatial analytics platform. Karen was the first business hire into the engineering-centric Urban Engines and established foundational business development, strategy, and operations functions as General Manager of Strategy and Business Operations.

Prior to joining Urban Engines, Karen was recruited by GE Digital to build software and analytics venture investing, M&A, and strategic partnerships to advance GE’s “Industrial Internet” (IoT, Industry 4.0) capabilities across its multi-billion dollar industrial businesses.

In addition to her executive experience, Karen has held multiple board and advisory engagements, including her service as a Board Director of Innovyze, a global leader in water software analytics, acquired in March 2021 by Autodesk (Nasdaq: ADSK). She is certified in Cybersecurity Oversight by Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute and the National Association of Corporate Directors. She also serves on Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Carbon Initiative Impact Committee.

Karen earned her M.B.A. from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, and her B.A. from Princeton University’s School of Public & International Affairs. She is a former Adjunct Professor of Business of Innovation at Northwestern University, a frequent author and speaker on a variety of innovation topics, a patent inventor, and a singer and songwriter.

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Founder and CEO, Water Foundry

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry a water strategy consultancy. He is also the Founder and General Partner of The Future of Water Fund, a water technology venture fund focused on addressing water scarcity, quality and equitable access to water. He has been a sustainability and water strategy advisor to multinationals, water technology companies, investors, and non-governmental organizations for his entire career.

Prior to Water Foundry, he was a managing director at Deloitte Consulting where he established and led the water strategy practice. He was the founder and CEO of DOMANI, a sustainability strategy firm, prior to Deloitte.

Will is an internationally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation. He was ranked as; A Key Player Pressuring Businesses to Care About Water and one of the Top 15 Interviews In Smart Water Magazine 2019. Sarni is the author numerous publications on water strategy and innovation including the following books.

  • Corporate Water Strategies” (Earthscan 2011, and in Chinese by Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press 2013)
  • “Water Tech – A Guide to Investment, Innovation and Business Opportunities in the Water Sector” (Sarni, W. and Pechet, T., Routledge 2013)
  • “Beyond the Energy – Water – Food Nexus: New Strategies for 21st Century Growth” (Dō Sustainability 2015)
  • “Water Stewardship and Business Value: Creating Abundance from Scarcity” (Sarni, W., and Grant, D., Routledge 2018)
  • “Creating 21st Century Abundance through Public Policy Innovation: Moving Beyond Business as Usual” (Sarni, W. and Koch, G., Greenleaf Publishing 2018)
  • “Digital Water: New Technologies for a More Resilient, Secure and Equitable Water Future” (Routledge, 2021).

He is also the co-author, with Tony Dunnigan, of a children’s book on water, “Water, I Wonder” (Outskirts Press, September 2022).

Sarni is a co-founder of WetDATA and a host of the podcast, The Stream with Will and Tom. He is a board member of Silver Bullet, Project WET and the Rocky Mountain Rowing Club. He was the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for the WAITRO Global Water Innovation Summit 2020 and was on the Scientific Program Committee for Stockholm World Water Week from 2013 through 2019. His advisory work includes working with the 2020 X-PRIZE (Infinity Water Prize), as a Bold Visioneer for the 2016 X-PRIZE Safe Drinking Water Team and a Technical Advisor for the Climate Bonds Initiative: Nature- Based Solutions for Climate and Water Resilience. He is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Water Security.

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Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Dairy Farmers of America

As senior vice president of sustainability, Kevin is responsible for steering DFA’s sustainability activities and evolving the Cooperative’s environmental, social and governance efforts. Prior to joining DFA, Kevin worked as the sustainability strategy advisor for a venture capital fund focused on global food system innovation. Before that, he served for more than 16 years in a variety of global sustainability leadership roles at General Mills and Nike. Kevin started his career in the public and consulting sectors advising industries on sustainability. He has had extensive global sustainability and sourcing experience in 25 countries across five continents.

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President, Sakata Farms Inc.

Robert T. Sakata is President of Sakata Farms in Brighton Colorado which was started by his father Bob. Growing up on the family farm his parents were a great example of how important involvement in the community is. Following their footsteps Robert was the founding President of the board of directors for the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association which aims to fill a need for a common voice representing produce growers across the state. Currently Robert serves on the board of directors for the Fulton Irrigation Company and is the president of the New Brantner Irrigation Ditch Company. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Onion Association and in 2021 was appointed by Colorado Governor Jared Polis to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). The mission of the 15 member CWCB board is to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations. Prior to that Robert served the state of Colorado on the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) for 15 years appointed by three different Governors. The WQCC is charged with setting the water quality standards protecting designated uses for waters of the State.

While studying at the Molecular Cellular & Developmental Biology department at University of Colorado Robert worked for AMGEN when they opened their research labs in Boulder. Due to housing constraints for a seasonal workforce Sakata Farms transitioned away from growing vegetables to winter wheat, grain corn, and pinto beans on his family farm.

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Governor of the Gila River Indian Community

Stephen Roe Lewis was raised in Sacaton, “Gu-u-Ki”, on the Gila River Indian Community. His father is the late Rodney Lewis and mother Willardene Lewis. Mr. Lewis has a son, Daniel currently attending Arizona State University.

Mr. Lewis is in his third term serving as Governor of the Community, having previously served as Lt. Governor. Prior to serving in elected leadership, Governor Lewis served the Community as a member of the Board of Directors for the Gila River Healthcare Corporation, as a Gaming Commissioner for the Gila River Gaming Commission, and as a member of the Board of Directors for the Gila River Telecommunications, Inc..

Stephen Roe Lewis graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s of Science and pursued graduate studies at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Governor Lewis currently oversees the implementation of the Community’s Water Settlement of 2004 (at that time the largest water settlement of its kind in United States history). Governor Lewis advocates for renewable and green technologies guided by O’odham agricultural history and cultural teachings. Governor Lewis’s vision is to support a new generation of Community member agriculturalists with the goal of promoting and protecting the Community’s shudag (water) and agricultural development.

During his tenure as Governor of the Gila River Indian Community, Governor Lewis has brought innovative solutions to long-standing issues that will create long-term gains for the Gila River Indian Community. One of these projects, Management Aquifer Recharge sites, brings together the need for access to water while restoring the return of the Community’s riparian area which is vital for farming and the return of wildlife to the Community. Bringing back the Gila River, which is critical to the culture and identify of the Gila River Indian Community, has been a key milestone during Governor Lewis’ Administration and one that will lay the foundation for future projects across the Community.

In addition, Governor Lewis’ innovation can be seen in his approach to providing educational opportunities for the youth of the Gila River Indian Community. The Community was the first tribal community in the Nation to utilize the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to create a program that revolutionzied how infrastructure is constructed and maintained throughout Indian Country. This program, the Section 105(l) program was utilized for education construction in the Community, and the Community is working to expand the uses of the program to other infrastructure in the Community and throughout Indian Country.

Governor Lewis has also prioritized the Community’s Veterans and youth by working to establish the Community’s first Veteran’s and Family Services Department and by committing more resources to protect the Community’s children by advocating for the protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act both at home and nationally.

These projects illustrate the commitment that Governor Lewis has to respecting the history and culture of the community while providing for a brighter future for all of the Community’s citizens.

In addition to his leadership in the Community, Governor Lewis has worked on numerous political campaigns and organizing projects throughout Indian Country including serving as an elector for the 2020 Presidential election and selected as an Arizona delegate and Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus for the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Governor Lewis was the first Native film curator for the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and was an Associate Producer for the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed TBS six-part feature documentary, “The Native Americans.”

Governor Lewis proudly serves as the Secretary of the National Congress of American Indians, President of the Arizona State University’s American Indian Policy Institute Board of Directors, on the Executive Board for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), and on the Board of Trustees for the Heard Museum of Phoenix.

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Executive Director, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Cody Desautel is a member of the Colville Tribe, where he has lived his entire life with the exception of his years spent away at college. He graduated from Inchelium High School in 1995, and from there earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, and later a master’s degree in Indian Law.

Over the next 20 years he would work on the Colville Reservation for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tribe as an Inventory Forester, Natural Resource Officer, Forester, and Fuels Planner. He was the Natural Resource Division Director from April of 2014 through June of 2022, where he oversaw approximately 15 programs, and 500-600 staff. His responsibilities included forest management, fire suppression and fuels management, cultural resources, oversight of the Tribe’s 450,000 acre carbon project, and reintroduction of important fish and wildlife species (bighorn sheep, pronghorn, lynx, and salmon into the blocked area above Chief Joseph dam). He currently serves as the Executive Director for the Colville Tribe.

In addition to his regular duties he also serves as the President for the Intertribal Timber Council, and is a member of the Washington State Forest Practice Board, Wildland Fire Advisory Committee, and Forest Health Advisory Committee.    

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Consultant, Simpcw First Nation

Nathan Matthew is a member of the Simpcw First Nation, Secwepemc Nation, growing up in the First Nation community of Chu Chua in British Columbia.

Nathan has been on the Simpcw Council for over twenty years as Chief, and has served two terms as the Chairperson for the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council. He has been involved in the many of the Secwepemc Nation social, educational, economic and political developments.

Nathan has been involved with the Columbia River Treaty negotiations for several years and is currently the Secwepemc Observer at the Canada/United States Columbia River Treaty negotiations. As an Observer, Nathan attends all CRT negotiations and participates in all of the Canadian delegation negotiation preparations.

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Senior Water Policy Scholar, Colorado Water Center

Ms. Gimbel has had the opportunity to work for both State and Federal governments on western water issues. For the Department of the Interior she worked as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science and Deputy Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation. For the State of Colorado, she worked as the Director of the Water Conservation Board and was appointed by the Governor of Colorado as Commissioner on the Upper Colorado River Commission and the Governor’s representative in Colorado River negotiations. She also held several positions with both the Colorado and Wyoming Attorney Generals Offices.  

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CFO, Denver Water

Angela Bricmont is the CFO of Denver Water. She manages the financial resources of the Board of Water Commissioners, a 100+ year-old water utility serving 1.5 million customers in the City of Denver and surrounding suburbs. Angela is responsible for accounting, financial planning and performance, treasury, rates and customer care in addition to managing several retirement plans.  Since joining Denver Water in 2010, Angela has overseen a credit ratings upgrade to AAA, implementation of a new rate structure, issuance of Green Bonds, and funding lead line removal at no direct cost to customers.

Prior to Denver Water, Angela worked for several consulting firms focused on financial planning and rates for public utilities.  Angela also served as Vice President of Rates and Regulatory Matters for Comcast and the Director of Budget and Operations at the University of Denver. Angela has a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an MBA from the University of Denver. Angela was appointed by the Mayor to serve on the Denver Urban Renewal Authority Board, and she was appointed to serve on EPA’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board. 

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Senior Deputy Assistant to the Administrator & Agency Global Water Coordinator

Maura Barry serves as Senior Deputy Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security and as interim USAID Global Water Coordinator. In this role, she oversees the implementation of the Agency’s responsibilities under the U.S. Global Water Strategy. Ms. Barry also oversees the bureau’s strategy, program, budget and administrative functions, which support implementation of both the Water for the World and Feed the Future initiatives. Prior to joining RFS, she served as the Deputy of the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Before returning to Washington, she served for a year as the Acting Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica.

Ms. Barry has been working in international development for over 30 years. As a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, she has held various leadership positions throughout USAID. She served as USAID Mission Director to Jamaica responsible for the overall direction of programs that cut across a range of sectors, including citizen security, environment and health. Other assignments include serving in the Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA) in Bangkok overseeing a diverse portfolio aimed at narrowing the development gap in Southeast Asia, including programs in security, disaster management, human rights, trade, food security and local capacity development. In addition, Ms. Barry served in Afghanistan as the Deputy Office Director for USAID’s Office of Democracy and Governance, and as USAID East Africa’s Office Director for Somalia. In addition to her years with USAID, Ms. Barry worked for the United Nations Development Program and with CARE International. She holds an MPA in Public and Non-profit Management from New York University and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya.

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Member of the Board, Aguas de Portugal VALOR

Ana is member of the Board of Aguas de Portugal (AdP) VALOR and AdP Internacional, both of AdP Group. In recent years, Ana was also member of the Board of Aguas do Tejo Atlantico(the largest waste water utility in Portugal) and before she has been 15 years at EPAL (the largest drinking water utility in Portugal), as head of Asset Management and Climate Change. Before joining AdP Group, Ana worked for 10 years as a consultant, at Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners.

International project participation include EU and US Water Research Foundation funded R&D projects, as well as the collaboration with the EIB. Participation at several national working groups, having founded the “Climate Change Adaptation Group” of The Portuguese Association of Water Utilities.

Ana is also a member of the Policy Advisor Committee of Water Europe.

She holds a PhD in Strategic Risk Management by Cranfield University.

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Executive Director, Denver Parks and Recreation

Allegra “Happy” Haynes is the Executive Director of Denver Parks and Recreation overseeing 250 urban parks, 29 recreation centers, 31 pools and 14,000 acres of mountain parks. Her vision is to help build a healthier city, create more park land and opportunities for all ages to play and exercise, increase sustainable practices, grow the urban forest and connect diverse communities to nature. Happy is a Denver native. She received a BA degree in Political Science from Barnard College at Columbia University and an MPA from the University of Colorado at Denver. During a career in local government spanning 36 years, Happy served 13 years on the Denver City Council from 1990 – 2003, including two years as President, and has served under three different mayors. She also served as an elected member of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education for 8 years. She currently serves on the national boards of the City Parks Alliance and the Trust for Public Land along with local boards including the Colorado Trust for Public Land, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Zoo, Denver Botanic Gardens, Salazar Center for North American Conservation, Civic Center Conservancy, Denver Park Trust, and The Park People.

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Mayor of Fort Collins

Fort Collins has been home since I was three weeks old.

After attending Moore Elementary, Blevins Junior High School, and Poudre High School, I earned an undergraduate degree in Sociology at Colorado College. Soon afterwards I earned an MA in Geography from the University of Colorado followed by an MA in Special Education from Purdue University in Indiana. After teaching special education for a few years, I earned a Ph.D. in Literacy and Language from Purdue. 

When I was away—in college, in the Peace Corps (Morocco), in graduate school, living and working in Mozambique, Africa— Fort Collins was always my home. When the opportunity arose to live anywhere, my husband, Channing, and I enthusiastically returned to Fort Collins with our three children. My work experience includes Congressional intern, ESL teacher, Peace Corps volunteer, secondary special education teacher, middle school principal, International Baccalaureate Coordinator, university faculty member and department head.

In addition to working, teaching and attending school, I have been an active volunteer. Serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco was an honor. I served on school boards in Lafayette, Ind. and in Mozambique. After moving back to Fort Collins, I served on the Commission on Disability as well as Childsafe before running for State Representative in 2014. As a State Representative I have focused on water, agriculture, small business and public education. After 3+ terms in the General Assembly I was elected Mayor of Fort Collins in April, 2021.

Personally, my husband of 32 years and I have three adult children. My mom, Libby James is my rock and role model. In my free time, I run, bike, swim, read and talk to people. 

Wave art