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Aspen Public Radio is proud to present select lectures, discussions, and conversations from area events and festivals, thanks to a remarkable collection of community partners. Click here to view the full archive. Events are recorded at no cost to the partner and archived here online; select recordings are broadcast on Aspen Public Radio Sunday nights at 7 p.m.

Aspen Journalism: Hanging in the Balance: Competing Needs for Water in the West

Dry soil conditions mean when snow melts much of it will soak into parched ground rather than flow to rivers such as the Crystal River in Colorado, pictured above.
Heather Sackett
Aspen Journalism
Dry soil conditions mean when snow melts much of it will soak into parched ground rather than flow to rivers such as the Crystal River in Colorado, pictured above.

This event was recorded on April 9, 2024 at TACAW, in partnership with Aspen Public Radio.

Demand for water is increasing while availability is decreasing. How do we balance the needs of the environment, recreation, and agriculture? Presented by Aspen Journalism and Colorado Water Trust in partnership with The Arts Campus At Willits (TACAW) and Aspen Public Radio, the community packed the house with more than 200 members in attendance to listen to and engage with an expert panel discussing the challenges and opportunities presented by our collective need to stretch a limited resource.

Expert panel featuring:

Heather Sackett, moderator, is the editor and lead reporter for Aspen Journalism’s water desk, a position she has held since 2019. As AJ’s water desk editor, Heather covers how policy and politics affect water management in Colorado, primarily in the Roaring Fork and other headwaters basins of the Colorado River. She has also reported for The Denver Post and the Telluride Daily Planet and has a master’s degree from CU’s Center for Environmental Journalism. Sackett’s reporting, notable for its sophistication and accessibility, has been recognized by the Colorado Press Association.

Kate Ryan is a water lawyer who joined Colorado Water Trust in 2018 and was appointed as executive director in 2023. As a lawyer, the first case she took through water court was for the Water Trust’s Three Sisters Ditch project on Hermosa Creek. Back in the early 2000s, Kate had the chance to work with Recreational In Channel Water Rights for boating on the Eagle River. Kate’s past clients include farmers, ranchers, municipalities, landowners, the CWCB, and the Water Trust itself. Before going to Berkeley Law she obtained a master’s degree in geography at the University of Colorado and worked as an associate scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Hattie Johnson is the restoration director of American Whitewater’s southern Rockies Stewardship Program and is based in Carbondale, Colorado. Prior to joining American Whitewater in 2019, Hattie worked with Carbondale based engineering firm, River Restoration, for six years, gaining an understanding of the connection of western communities to their waterways and how that connection encompasses long standing law and tradition as well as constant evolution. Hattie has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Georgia and is a licensed Professional Landscape Architect in Colorado. Her training as a landscape architect provides an interesting perspective on humans and their connection to the natural and built environment. Working in river restoration and recreation enhancement design provided insight into the physical and social connections people have to their local riverscapes. Shifting to water advocacy has provided an opportunity for a new approach and perspective to protecting and enhancing human relationships with rivers. In her spare time, you can find Hattie and her family exploring headwaters creeks and rafting on the incredible desert river canyons of the Colorado Plateau.

Andy Mueller is the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, whose mission is to lead in the protection, conservation, use and development of the waters of the Colorado River for the residents of the Western Slope and to safeguard for all of Colorado all waters of the Colorado River to which the state is entitled. Prior to taking the helm at the River District, Andy spent 23 years in private law practice on the Western Slope. His work ranged across the breadth of critical western Colorado topics: water, natural resources, land use and community issues. For nine years from 2006-15, he was Ouray County’s director on the Colorado River District Board, his last two as Board President. Andy also serves on the advisory board of the Family Farm Alliance and as an ex-officio member of the Water for Tribes Initiative Advisory Board. Andy earned his law degree from University of Colorado in 1995 after earning his BA in history from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. When he is not delving deep into Colorado River issues or spending time outdoors with his daughters, he is actively engaged with his community, serving on various community boards.

Mark Harris is a Senior Water Resources Consultant for SGM Engineers and Consultants. Previously Mark was the General Manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association in Grand Junction. In that capacity he worked on water supply, conservation, water quality, streamflow, and endangered species recovery issues locally, regionally, and state and Basin wide. His work included innovative collaborative efforts with many public, private, and NGO organizations, including the Colorado Water Trust and its support of the Vinelands Power Plant in Palisade. Mark has been involved in production agriculture and agribusiness throughout the intermountain west, has degrees in Economics from Colorado College and Agricultural Development from Texas A&M, and lives on the farm he grew up on.

About Aspen Journalism

Aspen Journalism is a nonprofit news organization founded in 2011 to produce in-depth and investigative journalism for those with a stake in the Roaring Fork Valley and the greater upper Colorado River basin. We believe well-informed citizens make better decisions, that good journalism can sustain both community and democracy and that investigative reporting can spur needed reform. Supported entirely by donors, we provide our stories for free to local and regional publications, and with no advertising or paywalls at www.aspenjournalism.org.

About Colorado Water Trust

Colorado Water Trust is a home-grown, statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore water to Colorado’s rivers. The Water Trust’s vision is that every Colorado river and stream has water that supports ecosystems, communities, and local economies. Since 2001, the Water Trust has restored 23.9 billion gallons of water to over 600 miles of rivers and streams across the state. The Water Trust works collaboratively with partners so that their projects benefit both the people they work with and the environment. Learn more about the Water Trust at coloradowatertrust.org.