10 | February | 2022

“In scarcity, opportunity for community” is the theme of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center, which hosted this year’s Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium. Those words, from the late pen of Judge Greg Hobbs, are more relevant than ever, as the San Luis Valley faces water scarcity in multiple directions. In the past, whenever we have faced risk, this community has come together to protect the future of our water. This is the opportunity that presents itself to us, if we are able to seize it.

What is the state of our water supply, current threats and opportunities? We will provide updates, insights and forecasts for 2022 at the fourth annual State of the Rio Grande Basin Symposium. It will be held virtually, on Saturday February 26, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Co-hosted by Adams State University’s Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the event is free and open to the public. The symposium is also a featured program in the Adams100 series, celebrating the first 100 years of Adams State University. Register online here to receive a Zoom link to the event.

2022 State of the Rio Grande Basin Symposium keynote speaker:
Dr. Maria E. Montoya. Photo Credit: Adams State University

Dr. Maria E. Montoya will be the keynote speaker
“We look forward to hearing a new voice and global perspective on water scarcity and communities from our keynote speaker this year, historian Dr. Maria E. Montoya in her presentation, ‘A Look at Water Scarcity Globally : From the American West in China,” said Center Director Salazar Rio de la Vista. With family roots in the San Luis Valley and the Southwest, Maria E. Montoya is Associate Professor of World Network History at New York University and Dean of Arts and Sciences at NYU Shanghai. She received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Yale University. Her research explores how workers and families in the 19th and early 20th century people used natural resources to earn a living and settle in particular places in the American West, with numerous books and articles published on these topics.Dr. Montoya is currently working on another re draft book on water scarcity in the American Southwest and the Rio Grande.

Overview of the symposium agenda
“We are very pleased to have Armando Valdez, a longtime Adams State business professor and newly appointed State Director of the USDA’s Colorado Office of Rural Affairs, as our emcee.” , said de la Vista, “As a multi-generational Capulin area farmer/rancher, water leader, educator, and now statewide leader, he brings his valuable perspective to the whole of the event.

The morning will begin with a report on “the current state of the basin” including the latest data on snowfall measurements and flow forecasts by Divisional Engineer Craig Cotten of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. . It will also provide information on the state of our groundwater and related challenges. Considering the various aspects of community and water scarcity that our community faces today and in the future, the symposium agenda will address three main causes of water scarcity and the community response to these: the state of the aquifers and sub-districts in the valley, the current threat of water export and the changes being experienced due to climate change.

The session “What’s up with aquifers?” will include a panel discussing the state of aquifers and the work of groundwater management sub-districts to ensure groundwater sustainability. Amber Pacheco of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, George Whitten, rancher and water manager in Saguache County, and Charlie Goodson of Colorado Open Lands will answer questions about these issues.

For the session on “What About the Threat of Water Export?”, Heather Dutton, San Luis Valley Water Conservation District Manager will provide an update on the latest developments with the proposal to move SLV water to Douglas County. Michael Carson of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District will explain to attendees how they can learn and engage in the collective effort to prevent export and the collaborative information source protectsanluisvalley.com.

“What is happening with climate change? will be tackled by well-known journalist and author Laura Paskus, drawing from here on the recent book, “At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate”, which was published in September 2020 by the University of New Mexico Press. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Paskus is the environmental reporter for New Mexico PBS and produces the monthly series “Our Land: New Mexico’s Environmental Past, Present and Future.”

The program will also include information on Emma Reesor’s recently completed Rio Grande Basin Implementation Plan of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project. Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will provide an update on the new global version of the Colorado Water Plan. State Senator Cleave Simpson will share the latest information on water bills at the Colorado State Legislature. The program will also provide information about Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center’s upcoming water education programs for Adams State and the community.

Hosts and sponsors
The Salazar Center and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District co-host the annual State of the Rio Grande Basin Symposium, with generous support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Symposium sponsorships from the SLV Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Conejos Water Conservancy District, SLV Irrigation District, SLV Water Conservancy District, Colorado Open Lands, Headwaters Alliance, and generous individual donors all contribute to making this event possible and free for the community.

To register and for more information on the 2022 State of the Rio Grande Basin Symposium, click here. Interested citizens can also follow the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center on Facebook for regular updates on water issues and information about the water education program at the State University of Adams at http://www.adams.edu/about/salazar-center/ or contact directly at salazarriograndecenter@adams.edu.

To learn even more about water issues in the Rio Grande, videos from the previous year’s presentations from the 2019, 2020, and 2021 State of the Rio Grande Basin Symposia and other discussions on the eau are all available online at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLM1XIDdQr4T5uncIUerKvQUhESIzAcfoO. Recordings of the 2022 Symposium will also be posted there, as part of the Salazar Center’s ongoing work to develop a Rio Grande Library of water information and resources.

San Luis People’s Ditch, March 17, 2018. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

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