Making Waves on Water Issues
Becky Mitchell ’02, MS ’07 is the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, looking to take on Colorado water supply and demand issues and the preservation of agriculture.
For Becky Mitchell, water is how she can make a difference in the world.
“Water touches everything,” she said, capturing the magnitude of her calling. Mitchell is the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a state government board that represents each major water basin in the state and works with other state agencies.
After Mitchell received a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and master’s degree in environmental sciences and engineering, she started her career doing engineering consulting work and then landed in Nebraska to work on an endangered species program. But Colorado and water planning kept calling her name, so she refocused her work back to Colorado, and a few local gigs led her to her newest position. As the conservation board’s director, she will work with a variety of constituencies to provide statewide policy direction on water issues and the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan.
“I’m hoping the future is collaboration, whether that’s within the state or beyond the bounds of the state, with all of our Colorado River states or internationally with Mexico. We’re not going to be able to do that without looking at it together and figuring out what the best solutions are and how to meet the needs and work with the desires of all of those parties involved,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell was enthralled with how original water compacts were created in the early 1900s to preserve this precious resource and likes to keep that history in mind as she’s thinking about the future of water in Colorado and across the West.
She points to two big topics she’s ready to tackle: supply and demand issues as Colorado grows, and preserving agriculture. Neither is a small feat in a part of the country that has long dealt with water fights, rights and usage. Mitchell is confident, though, that she has the background to chip away at these large problems.
“One of the things that has been key and relevant to everything was the ability to know that most problems can be solved and that sometimes it just takes harder work and dedication,” she said. “I think that was one of the biggest things I learned at Mines.”
Mitchell is excited to work with Mines and other universities across the state that are focusing on innovation and solution-based strategies when it comes to water and hopes to engineer social connections while also supporting the technical aspect of the research.
She said, “I have the technical background to make a positive difference and the skills to logically speak to people about the impacts of actions and use those two things to drive how we move forward.”