The David Getches Flowing Waters Award

The David Getches Flowing Waters Award is presented in honor of David Getches’ inspirational, collaborative and innovative spirit and determination in restoring and protecting healthy flows in Colorado’s rivers.

The award will be presented at our annual RiverBank event in each year the Board of Directors identifies a person or entity whose contributions to Colorado’s rivers and streams demonstrate some of David Getches’ exemplary characteristics.

David GetchesDavid Getches helped found the Colorado Water Trust and served on the Board of Directors for a decade until his passing in July 2011. His passion for the environment, his creativity, and his quiet, thoughtful approach to complex problems were a strong influence during Colorado Water Trust’s formative years and guide the way we operate in our community.

During his life, David served as Dean of the University of Colorado, School of Law. He also served as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and as an advisor to the Interior Secretary during the Clinton Administration. David authored a number of books and publications on western water issues. He graciously gave his free time to a number of causes in which he deeply believed, including the Colorado Water Trust


Award Recipients

 

2021: Kevin Terry and Nathan Coombs

Kevin Terry is the Rio Grande Basin Program Director with Trout Unlimited. He has worked with water users in the Conejos River basin for more than five years to support healthier winter flows in the Conejos River. Nathan Coombs is the Manager of the Conejos Water Conservancy District and became an unlikely ally in Mr. Terry’s early efforts to restore winter flows to the Conejos.

Beginning in 2016, Mr. Terry and Trout Unlimited launched the Conejos Winter Flow Program in collaboration with the Conservancy District and Mr. Coombs, after much back and forth. The Program sought to compensate water users who were willing to retime their releases from storage to maximize benefits to aquatic species, while still delivering on the basin’s compact obligations. Historically, storage releases in the Conejos River basin were focused only on the irrigation season (April-October), with little or no water released for other uses during the winter months.

Mr. Terry and Mr. Coombs’ collaboration led directly to an extraordinary outcome for a gem of a stream, as well as a community of agricultural producers focused on resiliency. Through years of trust-building and recognition of the mutual benefits generated by the Program, these two Rio Grande Valley residents have created a lasting partnership that benefits the Conejos River’s ecology as well as its water users.

The Program has varied in size over the past five years, but in winter 2019-2020, it restored nearly 5,000 acre-feet of water to the Conejos River. Mr. Terry and Mr. Coombs fit squarely into the criteria laid out for the David Getches Flowing Waters Award – and their project work on the Conejos Winter Flow Program will undoubtedly inspire others to reexamine the status quo for reservoir operations.
 

2020: Nancy Smith and The Nature Conservancy

Nancy Smith led a diverse group of local stakeholders in the Yampa River basin in the creation of the Yampa River Fund – an innovative new funding mechanism that will support boosted flows and the ecological health of the Yampa River for generations to come.

The work done in the last decade to keep the Yampa River flowing required nearly annual, ad hoc funding searches. From the reservoir water purchases needed to maintain flows, to the restoration and infrastructure work along the length of the river, it became clear that a consistent source of sustainable funding was needed to support the river.

The solution came from The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) international work, through which they had developed methods and standards for local “Water Funds,” which could be used for whatever the highest priority might be on the local river. TNC jumped into the Yampa River program in 2016, and within three years had created and raised over $3m in commitments for an endowed fund, sufficient to cover reservoir releases as needed, as well as for other improvements along the river. The Yampa River Fund, notably, is governed by local stakeholders, and held in a local institution (the local Community Foundation). The Yampa River Fund was formally launched in August, 2019.

Throughout the process of creating the Yampa Fund, one TNC staffer has stood out for her persistent, tireless, and effective work to make it happen: Nancy Smith. Now at the Conservancy’s Colorado River Program, she was then the Water Director at the state chapter. But her enthusiasm, and at times, simple refusal to let the idea fail, made the Yampa River Fund the success it is.

The Yampa River Fund is a shining example of what a community can do for its local river, with enough energy and determination. Without Nancy Smith and her TNC colleagues, it would not have happened.

2019: The Colorado River District

The Colorado River District was created in 1937 “to lead in the protection, conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River basin … and to safeguard for Colorado all waters of the Colorado River to which the state is entitled.” Since it’s inception, the River District has played a substantial role in protecting and assisting water users in developing water supplies in the Colorado River Basin. In recent years however, the River District has also created new water supplies and opportunities to protect or restore flows to rivers.

Following passage of SB13-19 in 2013, the River District became the first entity in the state to establish an application and approval process for the newly created Water Conservation Programs. The Water Trust and other conservation organizations have used the River District’s process to restore flows to many local streams in Water Divisions 4 and 5.

In 2018, the River District plowed new ground by creating a new “in-channel use” category for their water marketing program, allowing 3,500 acre feet of water to be leased for instream flow use in the Fryingpan River, improving habitat for macroinvertebrates and trout fry and alleviating creation of anchor ice in the river bed.

We are thrilled to honor the River District, which has become a leader in innovative thinking on water. They are exploring opportunities to use the doctrine of prior appropriation in creative ways, embarking on collaborative projects to preserve or restore flows to rivers while protecting agricultural water supplies, and inspiring others to think more broadly about how they might use their water – all characteristics embodied by the David Getches Flowing Waters Award.


2018: Jeff Shoemaker and The Greenway Foundation

The accomplishments of the Greenway Foundation, which Jeff Shoemaker serves as executive director, are the stuff of legend in Denver. The Foundation has been involved with the creation of over $500 million of improvements in the South Platte watershed, which not too long before Jeff took over the Foundation was a forgotten, dead river. Through their vision Denver has turned to face its backyard river once again. And the Greenway Foundation’s many educational programs will ensure that future Coloradans enjoy the river as much or even more than today.

On September 1, 2016, Denver Water, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Colorado Water Conservation Board, and The Greenway Foundation announced they had secured 2,100 acre-feet of storage for water to boost streamflows in the South Platte. With Denver Water and CPW, Jeff was a major driver in securing that storage space for water dedicated to streamflow restoration, and exemplifies the spirit of the Getches Award in this work.

2017: Lurline Underbrink Curran

As Grand County Manager, Lurline Underbrink Curran’s job description ranged widely, from dependency and neglect issues, to road and bridge, to jails, etc. But she’s best known as a West Slope leader for the protection and enhancement of the Colorado River’s water resources. Through Ms. Curran’s leadership efforts, streamflows in Grand County will be supplemented by up to approximately 10,000 ac-ft per year of added environmental flows; flows that will be critical to sustaining the fishery habitat in the upper reaches of the Colorado River and its tributaries during some of the most critical times of the year.

Those closest to Ms. Curran, including water users on both sides of the negotiation table, will say she changed how water resources on the West Slope are protected. Instead of court battles, Ms. Curran got to know her Front Range colleagues and found solutions that exemplify David Getches’ approach to water challenges: a creator of new alternatives to old stalemates and a collaborative reformist.

2016: Larry Clever

Larry Clever has been the general manager of the Ute Water Conservancy District for the past 21 years. Prior to that, he was CPA and Controller for the City of Grand Junction and Eagle County. He has served on the District 51 School Board and the Town of Palisade Board of Trustees and just completed 16 years on the Colorado Ground Water Commission. Larry served as an officer in the United States Army from 1970-1975 and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Utah State University. Larry and his wife Connie have been married for 45 years and have three children and six grandchildren.

In 2015, the Ute Water Conservancy District, under Larry’s leadership, entered into a 1-year lease with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, renewable up to 4 additional years, for between 6,000 AF and 12,000 AF of water stored in Ruedi Reservoir to benefit the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River. That year, Ute and the CWCB released and protected 9,000 AF to benefit endangered fish; and this year, the parties are discussing operations for 2016.

2015: Cindy Medina

Cindy Medina’s roots in Colorado’s San Luis Valley run deep – her family has lived there since the 1800s. Cindy co-founded the Valle del Sol Community Center. In response to the Summitville mining disaster in 1992, she helped to found Alamosa RIVERKEEPER® and the Alamosa River Foundation. The work of these organizations combined remediation and reclamation efforts at the mine with flow restoration solutions designed to bring about a healthier Alamosa River watershed. Over the years, Cindy has been a relentless advocate for the river and was instrumental in devising an innovative way to restore flows to the river. She was an integral player in developing the Alamosa River Watershed Master Plan, finalized in 2005. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave her a “Friend of EPA Award” in 2006, as recognition of her outstanding environmental stewardship and education in a rural setting. She has identified unique funding sources, collaborated with Terrace Irrigation Company for a donation of reservoir storage space, challenged calculations by the State Engineer, and completed water rights acquisitions for instream flow benefits – working tirelessly to restore flows to the Alamosa River. Cindy exemplifies all of the traits of this award by improving environmental, water resource and recreational values for the river through collaboration, innovation, determination and inspiration. In 2014, she realized the fruits of her efforts and wet water flowed in a formerly dry segment of the Alamosa River for the first time in decades!

2014: John Stokes

Now serving as the Natural Areas Department & Poudre River Sustainability Director for the City of Fort Collins, John Stokes has been working to improve the City’s natural areas for over a decade. Through his role as the Poudre River Sustainability Director, John is responsible for keeping the best interests of the Poudre River at the forefront of the City’s thinking and planning any time a city department’s activities affect the Cache la Poudre River. John is constantly scanning for ways to improve the Poudre River corridor and keep more water flowing instream. He is an integral part of The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group serving on both the Steering committee and the Flows committee working to address agricultural, municipal, and environmental interests to create a healthier yet still hard-working Poudre River. John and his colleagues at the City have implemented a number of first-ever large-scale habitat restoration efforts on the Poudre in Fort Collins, including the removal of a non-operational diversion structure in collaboration with CWT.

2013Kevin McBride, the Gates Family Foundation, Sandra Postel

Collaboration is a keystone in successful streamflow projects. With this in mind, we are honored to present The David Getches Flowing Waters Award to three recipients:

  • Kevin McBride, General Manager for Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, offered up water to help a drying stream. Kevin got word of a program that could add water to the Yampa River in what was shaping up to be a hard, dry year. He invested his time and effort to navigate a pilot program utilizing a legal mechanism that had never before been tested to, hopefully, produce multiple benefits for his community. His perseverance and willingness to try something new resembled David’s indomitable spirit, the spirit in which we give this award.
  • The Gates Family Foundation, a luminary in Colorado philanthropy, invested early, generously, and venturously in a new program. Recognizing potential in Request for Water, they brought their Board together outside of their normal grant cycle in order to fund the program. The Gates Family Foundation is known to be a cautious, strategic investor. Their support of the Request for Water 2012 program brought visibility and credibility to a new method for adding water to streams and catalyzed additional contributions, making the pilot program possible.
  • Sandra Postel, founder of the Global Water Policy Project and Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, shared a pilot streamflow restoration program’s story far and wide. Through her work with National Geographic, Sandra covered the very first short-term water lease to utilize Colorado’s 2003 state statute. Her coverage of the Stagecoach Reservoir/Yampa River project gave this project relevance in the grander scheme of streamflow restoration work and with her international audience. Water leasing is one of many tools that can help remedy flow issues in Colorado and in the Colorado River Basin.
2012: Colorado Water Conservation Board

The inaugural David Getches Flowing Waters Award is presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for their tremendous efforts in restoring and protecting healthy Colorado streamflows. Since its inception in 1937, the CWCB has provided policy direction on water issues, striving to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations. In 1973, Colorado’s Instream Flow Program was established to preserve and improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree. Without the help, hard work, and dedication of our friends and colleagues at the CWCB, our work to legally protect streamflows within Colorado’s Instream Flow Program would not be possible. Each day we are grateful for the CWCB’s tremendous efforts on behalf of Colorado’s waters in general and our rivers and streams specifically.