Water and climate summit draws alumni experts from all corners

water climate summit group

The Water and Climate Initiative drew engineering alumni and other dignitaries to campus June 13-14. Credit: CIRA/CSU

As befits a western land-grant institution, Colorado State University has a long history of leading water science and policy research. And over several decades, many CSU alumni – a large number from the College of Engineering – have taken prominent positions across the globe, delving into water resource and management issues on every continent.

water summit
An international water and climate summit, June 13-14, drew engineering alumni and other dignitaries to campus.

Many of these alumni were welcomed back to campus for the 2016 Water and Climate Initiative, June 13-14. Over the two-day summit, they pooled their expertise and vision, and provided a comprehensive list of suggestions and needs to guide water resource management globally. They also provided a slate of recommendations to Colorado State University to further refine research goals around water and climate issues.

The initiative took place at the Durrell Center at CSU. It was hosted jointly by the College of Engineering, the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA, a partnership between CSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and Riverside Technology, Inc., a Fort Collins-based science and information technology company.

Keynotes underscore wealth of expertise

Keynote presentations ranged from climate and hydrologic forecasting and water crisis management in Asia and South America, to best practices for regional water management and observation of water resources. A focus on education needs in particular fostered debate and brainstorming. Participants, the majority of whom studied or worked at Colorado State University, came from around the country, as well as from four continents including dignitaries from Iceland, South Korea, Brazil, Egypt, and the Gulf Region of the Middle East.

Participants, many of whom hold high office in governmental or international water councils and agencies, broke into focus groups to craft position statements on the needs and suggestions of critical topics, including hydrologic uncertainty and extreme events; politics, people and governance; and water management and planning.

Suggestions and needs ranged from technical improvements in utilizing climate model outputs for hydrological modeling, and improvements in statistical analysis and investigation of major flood events, to integration of a country’s workforce and economic sectors to better influence management and infrastructure. Also discussed were philosophical and practical ways to balance financial sustainability and social justice, and how subsidies and distribution of water resources are administered, with a special interest in low-income regions.

Five-point recommendation

The initiative was facilitated by the dean of CSU’s College of Engineering, David McLean, along with Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute; Chris Kummerow, CSU professor of atmospheric science and director of CIRA; Larry Brazil, president and CEO of Riverside Technology, and Neil Grigg, CSU professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Dignitaries and workshop participants, including three CSU graduate students, presented a summary five-point recommendation to CSU Provost Rick Miranda, proposing that CSU research efforts in water and climate should:

  • focus on integrating knowledge across climate, water, ecology and humans;
  • focus on research in climate forecasting and early warning tools related to hydrologic processes;
  • exploit global data and information to promote integration and decision support;
  • advance the university service and outreach mission through vigorous international scientific cooperation;
  • hire faculty using joint appointments, and allow graduate students to obtain interdisciplinary degrees in “water” to further integrate across disciplines.

Summary remarks by Miranda reiterated CSU’s commitment to leading the world in water resource and climate research expertise. Needs identified during the summit are critical, he said, in continuing the university’s tradition of excellence in teaching, research and outreach.

water and climate summit
CSU Provost Rick Miranda addressed the group, and accepted a set of recommendations for furthering water and climate research.

During his opening remarks, Miranda said: “Of everything good about Colorado State, we are most proud of you, our grads. It is amazing what you have done in the world of water. Your group includes cabinet-level ministers involved with water, as well as grads on the front lines of national, state and local water agencies, consulting firms, research programs, and private sector innovators.”

Participants headed home with new information, a set of collaborative ideas, a shared vision for improving the state of water and climate research globally, and a deeper appreciation of their shared connection to Colorado State University.