Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium slated for Saturday

Photo courtesy of ASU The Annual Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium is slated for Saturday, March 20.

"Join the conversation"

ALAMOSA— The agenda for Saturday’s “Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium” sets a high bar for what participants can expect to gain and a slate of panelists and presenters with the experience and expertise to deliver.

Those who attend can expect to leave with a better sense of water challenges and the implication of those challenges on people’s lives, a clearer understanding of the threat presented by water exportation as well as the opportunity to explore solutions and how to participate in making solutions a reality.

Armando Valdez, a native of the San Luis Valley, will serve as the symposium’s Master of Ceremonies and Panelist. Valdez, who continues to operate Valdez Land and Livestock, LLC where he was raised, is not only passionate for agriculture, he is also an assistant Professor of Manager and the director of the Health Care Administration program in the School of Business at Adams State University.  He also played an instrumental role in developing the Agribusiness programs and the new Water Studies Minor at ASU. Valdez represents Conejos County on the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and serves as the board’s Vice President

Rio de la Vista, Director of the Salazar Rio Grande Del Norte Center at ASU, will host the symposium. With a background that includes 20 years working with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust helping to develop and implement the Rio Grande Initiative, Rio will share her experience with local regional and international nonprofit organizations, land and water issues community groups and landowners to help “grow the next generation of conservation and water leaders.”

The symposium will open with the “Current State of the Rio Grande Basin and Forecasts for 2021” presented by Craig Cotton, Division Engineer with the Colorado Department of Water Resources.

That will be followed by “Now We’re Talking”.  Presented by Dan Birch with the Consensus Building Institute, “Now We’re Talking” will focus on “Navigating Difficult Conversations.”

The “Now We’re Talking” Panel will follow up by addressing some of the most pressing questions being asked today:  Who’s Buying Water? Who’s Selling Water? For What Purpose? For Whose Benefit?”

Panelists will include Colorado State Representative Jeni Arndt, George Whitten of the San Juan Ranch in Saguache, James Henderson of 711 Ranch in La Jara, Kelsea MacIlroy of CSU and Armando Valdez, operator of Valdez Land and Livestock in Capulin. 

The panel discussion will be moderated by Dan Birch.

John Shepard of the Sonoran Institute will present  “Growing Water Smart – an Overview and plans for 2022 SLV Workshop”.

The symposium will culminate with a Keynote address, introduced by former United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, co-founder of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University.

Secretary Salazar has had a distinguished career, spanning almost a quarter century that includes serving as a U.S. Senator, Attorney General of Colorado, Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor of Colorado and Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. While in this position, Salazar authored the Great Outdoors Colorado Amendment, which served as a model for President Obama’s landmark legislation America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

The Keynote will be delivered by Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. Gibbs, respected for building collaborative relationships across agencies, nonprofits and private-sector organizations, brings with him legislative accomplishments including securing funding for wildfire mitigation and forest health, supporting watershed initiatives and increasing environmental protections for wildlife from oil and gas development.

The symposium, available via Zoom, runs from 9am to 1pm on Saturday, March 20. Anyone interested in attending should email [email protected] for more information.

To register, visit