A former Department of Interior undersecretary and Colorado Water Conservation Board executive director has joined the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. Jennifer Gimbel will serve as CWI’s Senior Water Policy Scholar, where she will be working with key policy stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin to find solutions for shortages that are occurring.
Gimbel was the principal deputy assistant secretary for water and science for the U.S. Department of Interior from 2014 to 2016, during which time she oversaw the department’s water and science policies and was responsible for the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey.
“Over the last 30 years it has been my good fortune to work on water issues for federal and state governments and see numerous sides of the issues,” Gimbel said. “Working with USGS and Reclamation in Washington, D.C., reminded me of how important science, data and analysis are to helping solve difficult issues, and gave me the opportunity to see how other water users approached their unique problems and solutions.”
Water supply and demand
Gimbel’s experience working with the water community at the state, regional and federal level has proven to be a valuable asset as water managers work to address the widening imbalances between water supply and demand.
“As the drought in the Colorado River basin continues, it is clear that additional measures need to be taken to sustain the system, including demand management,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute, a unit of the Office of Engagement. “Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Gimbel brings unique skills and knowledge that could advance possible solutions, including the development of an Upper Basin Colorado River Water Bank. An Upper Basin Water Bank would assist in creating a market-based system that could help to sustain the health of the river while protecting existing water uses.”
Gimbel believes in a proactive and creative approach to problem-solving, especially in the highly contentious area of water.
“It is imperative that Colorado lead with the other Upper Basin states to address the challenge of sustaining the Colorado River and meeting Colorado River Compact obligations, while dealing with a 17-year drought,” said Gimbel. “The states and their constituents are having many conversations and finding unique ways to work constructively. We need to keep pushing those conversations forward.”
Work with CWCB
Gimbel also served as director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board from 2008 to 2013, where she carried out policies and directives relating to conservation, development and utilization of the state’s water resources. CWCB is widely considered Colorado’s most comprehensive water information resource. She represented Colorado in several interstate activities, including being the governor’s representative for the Colorado River and as one of his appointees to the Western States Water Council.
“The Colorado River Basin is at the foundation of federal law and policy for water issues in the West, and any strategy on sustaining the river must necessarily be cognizant of implications throughout the West,” said Waskom. “Using lessons learned from other large water basins is important in exploring market-based solutions for the Colorado River. The Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University has extensive experience in conducting stakeholder research and engagement for positive outcomes.”
Water law expert
Gimbel’s career includes experience with the Colorado attorney general’s office and the Wyoming attorney general’s office, where she advised and represented the attorney general and other state officials regarding interstate water matters, water law and administrative law.
She has a bachelor of science and Juris Doctorate from the University of Wyoming and a master of science from the University of Delaware, and has authored numerous articles and presentations on water law, federal reserved water rights and the Endangered Species Act.