3 CSU-sponsored water programs for conservation, education

Serena Bettis

If you’ve never been to the Cache la Poudre River, can you even consider yourself a Colorado State University student? 

As a centerpiece for the City of Fort Collins’ new whitewater park, a main source of water for the City and a destination for hikes, camping and exploration, the Poudre River is an integral piece of the Northern Colorado community. 


The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group hosted its seventh annual Poudre River Forum at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Loveland, Colorado, on Feb. 28 as a chance to bring together citizens, whose lives center around the river, to learn and collaborate. 

“Today is about learning, relating, connecting and acting,” said Sean Cronin, the event emcee and executive director for the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District.

The one-day event consisted of short lectures about water quality, economic impacts of the river and collaborative opportunities in the Poudre River Basin

Here are three CSU-sponsored programs that study and work along the Poudre River. 

1. The Colorado Water Center

Part of the CSU Office of Engagement, the Colorado Water Center is one of 54 Water Resources Research Institutes created by the Water Resources Act of 1964. Over a period of 136 years, CSU has seen 44 water organizations on campus, 17 student clubs and groups and five water labs.  

The CoWC primarily conducts research and provides education and outreach to address complex water-related challenges inside and outside of Colorado, according to its website. 

Recent projects funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board include “Investigating Major Influences on Groundwater Levels in the LaSalle/Gilcrest Area (Year 1)” by Ryan Bailey, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at CSU, and “Review of Published Studies of Floodplain Storage Capacity and Changes Associated with Flooding” by Ellen Wohl, a professor in the department of geosciences at CSU.

(We are) using the resources we have, working with folks, collaborating — which I think is the Colorado way — to try to come up with solutions that work not just for one, but for all.” -Pat Pfaltzgraff, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Water Quality Control Division director

2. Colorado State Forest Service

Established in 1955, the Colorado State Forest Service is an outreach agency of CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. 

According to its website, CSFS treats 20,000 acres of forestland each year and assists nearly 6,400 landowners to help improve forest health. 

“(Trees) act as filters for pollutants and things going into the water,” said Danielle Ardrey, the conservation and youth education specialist and coordinator for Project Learning Tree at CSFS. “They help keep some of that stuff we don’t want in our watersheds from the water.”


CSFS provides communities with resources for forest management, wildfire mitigation and urban and community forestry. CSFS also advocates for the utilization of wood from Colorado.

“The work that we do is really important because we help land owners manage their forest to have a healthy, more resilient forest, so when a threat like fire does come through, they’re more able to sustain that,” Ardrey said.

3. Colorado Ag Water Quality 

Funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and produced by CSU Extension, Colorado Ag Water Quality provides nutrient management resources for agricultural producers.  

According to a fact sheet put together by the CAWQ, “In Colorado and across the United States, agriculture is being identified as one source of nutrient pollution. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus run off farmlands and accumulate in surface waterways, causing water quality issues.”

Colorado passed Regulation 85 in 2012 to reduce pollution in lakes, rivers and streams, but agriculture is not currently regulated. Regulation 85 and CAWQ recommend voluntary agriculture regulation now to avoid future regulation. 

CAWQ’s website provides lists of nutrient and fertilizer, soil and erosion and manure and irrigation management practices to help with this. 

“(We are) using the resources we have, working with folks, collaborating — which I think is the Colorado way — to try to come up with solutions that work not just for one, but for all,” said Pat Pfaltzgraff, director of the Water Quality Control Division at CDPHE. 

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.