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Water leadership course spreads knowledge

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 26th, 2013

Course participants from left Tuck Slane, Lisa Carrico, Paul Tigan, and Patrick O’Neill enjoy their Citizen’s Guides and Headwaters Magazines from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.  Courtesy photo

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Water knowledge flowed like a river last week during the Rio Grande Leaders Course, easing the minds of those fearing it will be lost in coming generations.

"It makes me happy to see this many people here have been taught," said Costilla County Conservation District President Harold Anderson at the final ceremony on Friday night. "I thank all of you for doing it."

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District (SLVWCD), Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative (RGWCEI) and Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP) sponsored course provided 20 community members the opportunity to engage in education and networking to prepare to take a future role in safeguarding, developing and managing the Valley's water resources. It included information on Valley hydrology, water rights administration, notable court cases, current events and local partners and projects.

"It was a really special opportunity," said RGHRP coordinator Heather Dutton. "There is not really a forum where these people can get together at one time. We had excellent turnout and good interest."

In the past, the RGWCD hosted several similar water courses with the last being in 2010. Dutton said the four sponsoring agencies came together to again offer such an opportunity, which they hope to do again in the future.

"We want everyone involved," said SLVWCD President Dee Greeman. "It is a tough time. It is invaluable to our future in the Valley. Water is our lifeblood."

Course attendees included young farmers, federal agency employees and community members, making for interesting dialogue and numerous perspectives on water use.

"It opened my eyes," said Aliesha Carpenter, 26, originally from La Jara and now married to a fourth generation Center potato farmer. "It wasn't just about agriculture. It was about wildlife, the Sand Dunes and life for people. Without it, our agricultural economy would disintegrate. There needs to be a younger generation in agriculture."

For the federal employees, it revealed the Valley's many uses and struggles with water.

"It was really informative," said Bureau of Land Management (BLM) assistant field manager Paul Tigan. "I think it is pretty incredible how they can come up with a cross section of the water users across the Valley. There was really good dialogue. It helps set the stage for when it’s needed most. It is not necessarily in that classroom, but it is setting the groundwork. Issues come down every day and you have to have those relationships in place to help weather the issues, whatever they are."

He added, "I think the course helped with the understanding of the long term context of water management in the Valley. Federal employees have a tendency to come into a place, stay for a few years and then move on. This is a good opportunity to develop a context and to understand. The problems didn't show up the day you showed up. They have been going on for dozens of years."

Great Sand Dunes National Park Superintendent Lisa Carrico agreed the course was informative and crucial to making natural resource decisions in the future.

"I wanted to learn more about water in the Valley," Carrico said. "It is an important resource that is a benefit to us all. The national park system, we don't utilize the water in the same way, but we are certainly going to be at the table to talk about things. This was an awesome opportunity to network and to learn more about the issues and the points of views of a lot of different people."

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