Water: Through pros and poets

Discussion tonight at Arts Center set to feature diverse panel

Whitehead Enlarge photo


The fourth of six presentations titled “Water in the West,” scheduled tonight, brings together a poet, a historian, an archaeologist and an on-the-ground water issues expert.

They will speak starting at 7 p.m. at Durango Arts Center, 802 East Second Ave. Admission is $5.

Sharing the lectern will be Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs, Alice Outwater, James Judge and Bruce Whitehead.

Hobbs, perhaps as well known for his water poetry as for his judicial opinions, will describe the history of water law in the West, the cultures that have developed around water sources and examples of his water poems are found in his Colorado, Mother of Rivers.

Outwater, who serves on the Durango Water Commission, will describe the water cycle, Colorado biomes and river drainages.

Outwater, who has a master’s degree in civil engineering from MIT, has written three books about the environment.

Among them are Water: A Natural History, which has been translated into nine languages, and The Cartoon Guide to the Environment, a college-level work, in 19 languages.

Whitehead is executive director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District.

Whitehead will discuss water issues and projects such as in-stream flow; Lake Nighthorse, a reservoir to provide recreation as well as a source of drinking water for three Native American tribes and nonribal partners; and the Longhollow dam to store water for ranchers in the southwest corner of La Plata County and help meet the state’s obligation to share La Plata River water with New Mexico.

Judge is an archaeologist who specializes in the relationship between humans and the environment.

The message he will present: Don’t make the same mistake as the ancestral Puebloans who didn’t adapt to a changing environment.

Modern inhabitants of the Four Corners must stabilize the population and change their lifestyle so as not to exceed the region’s carrying capacity in the face of climate change, he says.

The concluding events in the series will be Tuesday and Sept. 10.