Published: June 5, 2024

The Getches-Wilkinson Center and Water & Tribes Initiative will be co-convening the 2024 Conference on the Colorado River on Thurs, June 6th and Fri, June 7th at the Wolf Law Building in Boulder, CO.

Next Chapters on the Colorado River: 
Short-Term Coping, Post-2026 Operations, and Beyond

For many years, full reservoirs on the Colorado River made for relative peace and stability among the basin’s major water users, despite lingering concerns over environmental degradation, unfulfilled promises to Tribal Nations, and the eventual consequences of water over-allocation and overuse.  That era has abruptly ended, challenging the authors of modern Colorado River policy to quickly draft new chapters stabilizing the system through 2026, directing post-2026 reservoir operations, and articulating the long-term vision and strategies for achieving a healthy, sustainable and equitable river system.  It is a formidable, multi-faceted agenda being addressed in many ways.

We hope you join us for what will be sure to be an engaging 2 day conference bringing together thought leaders from across the Colorado Basin.

Thursday, June 6 and Friday, June 7

8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)  

Colorado River

Photo by Len Necefer

Wolf Law Building, Wittemyer Courtroom

Breakfast, Snack and Lunch provided daily
Attendee reception provided on Thurs, June 6

10 General Colorado CLE credits are available


No conference registration refunds are available after Sun, June 2, 2024.

Conference Agenda

The conference program is available for download here. This includes the agenda and speaker bios for everyone participating.

Conference Recordings

The conference recordings can be found here. They are broken up into 7 viewing sessions as listed below.

Session 1, Parts 1 and 2

Welcome and Introduction

Session One: Sovereign Perspectives on the Post-2026 Management Framework A defining characteristic of the Colorado River is the large number of sovereign governments with legally defined water rights and responsibilities. How are the many parties working together to craft post-2026 rules?

Part 1: State of the Basin: The Federal Perspective - What is the federal government doing to manage the river through 2026 (under various hydrologic scenarios), to lead the states and tribes to new reservoir operating rules post 2026, and to advance US/Mexico cooperation?
Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Part 2: Reflections on the US-Mexico Relationship - Building on past (but expiring) Minutes (i.e., binational agreements), how is Mexico working with the US on a post-2026 management framework?
Roberto F. Salmon, former IBWC Commissioner for Mexico

Session 1, Keynote and States Panel

Keynote Address: Jared Polis, Governor, State of Colorado

States Panel: Despite current tensions between the Upper and Lower Basin, all the basin states remain committed to arriving at a consensus vision for new rules. Where does that effort stand?

Moderator: Shannon Mullane, Colorado Sun Tom Buschatzke, Arizona Department of Water Resources JB Hamby, Colorado River Board of California Becky Mitchell, Colorado’s Colorado River Commissioner John Entsminger, Southern Nevada Water Authority Gene Shawcroft, Colorado River Authority of Utah Brandon Gebhart, Wyoming State Engineer Estevan López, New Mexico Upper Colorado River Compact Commissioner and Governor’s Representative on Colorado River

Session 1, Tribes Panel and Session 2

Tribes Panel: How are the 30 sovereign tribal governments participating in ongoing negotiations?

Moderator: Daryl Vigil, Water & Tribes Initiative
Lorelei Cloud, Vice-Chairwoman, Southern Ute Indian Tribe
Stephen R. Lewis, Governor, Gila River Indian Community
Dwight Lomayesva, Vice Chairman, Colorado River Indian Tribes
Dr. Buu Nygren, President, Navajo Nation

Session 2: Other Perspectives on Post 2026 Management Beyond the sovereigns, many additional parties and viewpoints must be integrated into the NEPA process and, ultimately, into the new rules.

Stakeholder Panel: What do the “big 3” water using sectors – agriculture, urban, and environment – hope to see in the new rules?

Moderator: John Fleck, University of New Mexico
Karen Kwon, Colorado River Sustainability Campaign
Andy Mueller, Colorado River District
Adel Hagekhalil, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Pulling it All Together: Within the confines of the NEPA process, how does Reclamation integrate all the ideas and submissions into a decision?
Carly Jerla, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Session 3

Toward a Sustainable Future: Beyond 2026 While it is easy to find points of disagreement about future management alternatives, we all agree that any future regime must support a sustainable river system.

Visions of Sustainability: The Long View What can we take from past experiences, future projections, and thoughtful reflection to shape our thinking about the best road forward?
Timothy Nuvangyaoma, Chairman, Hopi Tribe
Jonathan Overpeck, University of Michigan
Daryl Vigil, Water & Tribes Initiative, Jicarilla Apache Nation

Session 4, Part 1

Moving from Vision to Action Crafting new reservoir operating rules is a necessary and important step forward, but a variety of management issues will remain. Presenters: What, if anything, would you add to the vision discussion, and what steps/tools are needed to make it happen?

Strategies to Achieve the Vision: Part 1
Forging an Equitable Process to Achieve a Vision of Sustainability. John Berggren, Western Resource Advocates
Translating the Trust Relationship in Colorado River Management. Jason Robison, University of Wyoming
Defusing Law of the River Landmines and Tripwires. Eric Kuhn, Author

Session 4, Part 2

Strategies to Achieve the Vision: Part 2
The Future of Ranching in the Upper Basin. Jim Howell, Grasslands LLC
Growing A Viable Future for Irrigated Agriculture. Will Thelander, Pinal County Farmer
Reshaping Cities to be Water Smart. Liesel Hans, Alliance for Water Efficiency

Session 4, Part 3

Strategies to Achieve the Vision: Part 3
Reviving a Living River. Jennifer Pitt, Audubon Protecting
Recreational Opportunities. Kestrel Kunz, American Whitewater
Building Resilience: Opportunities to Maximize Federal Funds Today and Post-2026. Alex Funk, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership


Thank you to our Conference Partners!


Water & Tribes Initiative 2024 Partners