Water in the West Symposium will look globally for lessons and ideas

CSU Spur Water in the West Symposium. Global Successes and Solutions. November 2-3. Seawell Ballroom and virtual.

Five years ago, headlines around the world told of the unfolding crisis in Cape Town, South Africa, as “Day Zero” approached and officials faced the prospect of running out of water for a city of more than 4 million people. Images showed residents lined up at community spigots and then balancing plastic jugs on shoulders and suitcase trolleys to meet household needs for the coming hours or days.  

The crisis headlines—focused on Cape Town, at least—receded somewhat as the city managed to avoid the worst outcome. At next week’s CSU Spur Water in the West Symposium, Mike Webster, executive director of Cape Town’s Water and Sanitation Directorate, will share lessons from that period as part of a broad conversation focused on steps that policymakers, residents, and leaders from the agriculture, business, and non-profit sectors can take in response to the water challenges facing Colorado and other western states.   

“This year, we’re bringing in people with global expertise and from around the world to offer up lessons and ideas based on their experiences in a variety of settings and countries,” said Jocelyn Hittle, the CSU System’s associate vice chancellor for CSU Spur and Special Projects. “The idea is to get people thinking and talking about how those ideas could be applied here, regardless of whether they’re approaching water issues from a business, ag, government, or investment perspective.” 

Webster will join Ana Margarida Luís, from Águas de Portugal, and Jeni Arndt, Mayor of Fort Collins, for a city-focused panel discussion on the first day of the symposium, which will be held Nov. 2-3 at Seawell Ballroom in downtown Denver.  

The symposium will open on Wednesday, Nov. 2, with a keynote by Jay Famiglietti, a water researcher who leads the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan. Famiglietti will share insights from his research group’s efforts involving the use of satellite data to track and model global freshwater availability. Another panel that day will examine lessons from the Columbia River Treaty, which the United States and Canada signed in 1961 and governs the construction and operation of dams on a river that begins in British Columbia, flows through eastern Washington, and then turns west, defining the border between Oregon and Washington.  

Kate Greenberg, Colorado’s Commissioner of Agriculture, will moderate the first day’s final panel, a discussion focused on global solutions from the agriculture sector that will include Benny Chefetz, professor of soil and environmental chemistry at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who will bring insights based on advanced, water-conserving techniques developed in Israel.  

The first day will conclude with a reception at CSU Spur that will bring Symposium participants together with the ranchers, farmers, conservationists, land managers, scientists, and others attending Regenerate 2022, a conference focused on sharing knowledge and building a culture of resilience. 

Building under construction.

Future Water in the West symposia will be held at the Hydro building, which opens in January. Hydro is the third building at the CSU Spur campus in Denver, and it will house a range of programs and initiatives focused on water research, conservation, and education.

The program on Thursday, Nov. 3, will begin with a panel discussion on innovation and investment moderated by Karen Roter Davis, managing partner of Entrada Ventures. A second panel, focused on transboundary solutions, will explore solutions involving the United States and Mexico, both of which rely on water from two rivers, the Colorado and Rio Grande, that have their headwaters in Colorado. The program’s concluding keynote will be given by Maura Barry, Senior Deputy Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security and interim USAID Global Water Coordinator. 

The event will take place just weeks before the Spur campus’s third building, Hydro, opens in January. In coming years, Hydro will house the Water in the West Symposium and a range of programs and initiatives focused on water research, conservation, and education. Among these will be Denver Water’s new water quality compliance lab, which will serve to inform the public while providing capacity for more than 200,000 tests each year to monitor the quality of water before treatment and after it is prepared for distribution to customers across the metropolitan area.   

The deadline to register for the symposium is Sunday, October 30. Additional program details and registration information are available at csuspur.org/witw/.   

About CSU Spur   

CSU Spur is a new, free educational year-round public life-long learning destination in Denver focused on engaging PreK-12 students, families, and visitors around food, water, and health. CSU Spur showcases the work of the CSU System campuses: CSU, CSU Pueblo, and CSU Global, and offers degree programs that originate from the campus offerings. Spur is built upon the land-grant mission of access to education and the belief that students can be anything they want to be. To inspire learners of all ages to engage in important world issues, CSU Spur brings together scientists to collaborate, puts science on-display, and showcases career paths. The CSU Spur campus provides immersive learning experiences and cutting-edge research across three buildings: Vida, Terra, and Hydro. Learn more at CSUSpur.org.