Colorado Rotary Water Symposium: Final Report

The Colorado Rotary Water Symposium was held on Saturday, October 13, 2012, at Denver Wastewater’s headquarters building, 2000 West 3rd Avenue,Denver. The agenda is below.

The Symposium was a success. We had a pre-registration of 108, plus ten walk-ins, and included Rotarians from all three Colorado Districts, 5440, 5450, and 5470. We had 14 exhibitors. We had Denver Water, Denver Wastewater, Jacobs, and Innovative H2O as sponsors. Expenses included some equipment rentals, a continental breakfast, lunches from Bistro Boys Catering, and complimentary meals for student speakers and assistants. With registration fees and sponsorship fees, the symposium came out in the black. The Water Task Force will discuss the disposition of the available surplus.

The symposium was a joint effort of Rotary District 5450’s Water & Sanitation Task Force (Peter Hughes, Chair), and Colorado Water 2012, a year-long initiative of the Colorado Water Education Foundation (Liz Gardener and Christel Webb). The organizing committee also included Reza Kazemian of Denver Wastewater, our generous and accommodating host for the day; Steve Werner from Denver Southeast and Bob Ashley from Summit County; Mike McHugh our time-keeper; Bev Mendel, our District Secretary, who acted as Registrar and Treasurer; Christy Honnen, Kelly Hinkle, and Blair Gifford.

Special thanks are also due to Reza’s staff at Denver Wastewater, who succeeded in making this a comfortable and successful venue. Rod Greiner, Carol Carper, and Barbara Novick helped to meet and greet the attendees. The attendees included past, present and future District Governors from our District.

Our morning session focused on Colorado water issues, with an excellent kick-off speech by water lawyer Kevin Kinnear, on “Why Whiskey is for Drinkin’ and Water is for Fightin’ Over.”  This was followed by a panel led by Liz Gardener on Colorado’s water future, looking at the next 50 years; the panel consisted of Laurna Kaatz of Denver Water, a climatologist who examined climate predictions and related water availability, and MaryLou Smith from CSU and Curtis Mitchell from the City of Fountain, who told us about further state and municipal water planning issues.

The program included sufficiently long rest and refreshment breaks to keep everybody comfortable, and to permit great interaction between the attendees and the exhibitors, who were set up in the lobby of the building, along with the morning’s continental breakfast.

Our lunch speaker was Christian Holmes, the Global Water Coordinator from USAID. Chris told us of USAID’s water projects around the world, dedicated to both providing clean water and sanitation and to related health improvement and poverty reduction. Chris was very complimentary about Rotary’s water presence, and specifically mentions the $6M H2O Collaboration between USAID and Rotary International for water projects in Ghana, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines. I had the opportunity to spend some private time with Chris during the program and over dinner, and learned even more about his respect for Rotary and what we accomplish.

Ron Denham, the Chair of WASRAG – the Water & Sanitation Rotary Action Group – was also asked to speak to Colorado Rotarians’ contribution to water and sanitation during the lunch break, and was similarly complimentary on what we are accomplishing.

The first afternoon panel showcased three signature projects of Colorado Rotary Clubs, illustrating different aspects of successful projects.

  • Steve Benscheidt from Longmont Twin Peaks discussed the Nicaragua village projects which several of the clubs from the northern part of District 5450 are engaged in; these illustrate a very effective multi-club collaboration.
  • This was followed by a video presentation from Arrow Sinha Roy of the Bombay Midtown Club in India, on “Harnessing the Monsoon” – the aquifer recharge and reforestation project 60 km north of Mumbai which is now morphing into a literacy, adult education, health, and community development project.  Irv Buck from the Parker Club, Rod Greiner from Denver 31, and Janet Greiner from Denver LoDo were recognized in the video for their contribution and support for the project, along withSeattle 4, and Irv Buck was able to add some additional comments to fill out the story.
  • Finally, DG Mike Klingbiel showed slides of Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, where Denver Southeast has installed eight “water kiosks” – sources of piped-in municipal water for the community, along with showers and other water-based amenities.  This is in a slum with open sewers running to the river, and where the traditional form of sanitation was “flying toilets” – plastic bags containing human defecation, thrown into high piles in the middle of the community.

The final afternoon panel was chaired by Bob Ashley of the Summit County club, and addressed the future vision of Rotary in water and sanitation.  His panel consisted of Prof. Melinda Cain from CU-Boulder and Reza Kazemian from Denver Wastewater, who addressed the recognition of important cultural differences and sensitivities in successful international projects.  It also included Shweta Maurya from the CU chapter of Engineers without Borders, who told us of EWB’s projects in Nepal, Rwanda, and Peru; Shweta represents the next generation of engineers and humanitarians who will have a great interest in health, water, and community development.  The panel concluded with extended remarks from Ron Denham of WASRAG, who addressed both Rotary’s current strengths in its approach to water and sanitation projects, as well as some areas which need improvement and refocusing, particularly issues of scale, club collaboration, and sustainability strategies.

One set of questions from the audience took us into the area of ethics and bribery in difficult countries. It generated considerable interest, some discomfort, and a significant discussion.  We will need to examine this question in more detail, and this is likely to be a specifically-addressed module in next year’s symposium.

The discussion of cultural sensitivities also drew favorable comments in the evaluation sheets which we received, and will be addressed further in the future.

Based on the feedback received from attendees, it is clear that the success of this symposium shows a demand for a repeat next year. One possibility to be examined is a joint program with Blair Gifford’s health initiative, and we will look into that.

Once again, I’d like to thank all who contributed to making this symposium a success! To our hosts, our organizing committee, our volunteers, and our speakers and panelists, a Big Rotary Thank You!



October 13, 2012

Denver Wastewater, 2000 West 3rd Avenue, Denver


Morning session: (Topic: Colorado’s Water)

7:30 a.m.    Registration & light refreshments

8:30 a.m.    Kick-off – Welcome – Reza Kazemian, Denver Wastewater as host; Safety Moment.

Peter Hughes, Chair, Rotary District 5450 Water & Sanitation Task Force

8:45 a.m.    Kevin Kinnear, attorney at Porzak Browning & Bushong in Boulder, Topic: “Colorado water story:  Why “Whiskey is for Drinkin’ and Water is for Fightin Over ”

10:00 – 10:30 a.m. BREAK

10:30 – 12:15 p.m.  Panel I – “The next 50 years”,

Panel moderator: Liz Gardener, Denver Water

Panel participants: Laurna Kaatz, Denver Water; MaryLou Smith, CSU, Ft. Collins; Curtis Mitchell, City of Fountain.                                            

12: 15 – 1:15 p.m.   Lunch speaker Christian Holmes, Global Water Coordinator, USAID

Acknowledgement of ColoradoRotarians – Ron Denham, Chair, WASRAG (10-year involvement of Rotarians in water projects)

Afternoon Session: (Topic: International Water Projects)

1:30 – 2:30 p.m.  Panel II – “Signature Projects in Water & Sanitation”

Panel moderator: Peter Hughes

  • Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya:  DG Mike Klingbiel,Denver Southeast
  • Indian Reforestation & Aquifer Recharge:  Arrow Sinha Roy, Bombay Midtown; Irv Buck, Parker; Blair Gifford, Denver Mile High, moderator
  • Nicaragua: Steve Benscheidt, LongmontTwin Peaks

2:30-2:45 p.m.    BREAK

2:45-4:00 p.m.    Panel III:  “Looking forward – Future Vision – Call to Action”

Panel Moderator:  Bob Ashley, Summit County

Panelists:  Melinda Cain, Professor, CU, & Reza Kazemian, Denver Wastewater, on Cross-cultural Sensitivities; Shweta Maurya, Engineers without Borders, CU Chapter; Ron Denham, Chair, WASRAG

(Water & Sanitation Rotary Action Group)

4:00-4:30 p.m.    Closing comments: Peter Hughes

About Linda Hanifin Bonner, Ph.D, Executive Operations Manager of Water Design-Build Council

With nearly 30 years of experience in the water/wastewater industry, Linda Hanifin Bonner provides a unique blend of organization, governance, and financial management experience to the Water Design-Build Council. Dr. Hanifin Bonner’s professional career has been dedicated to developing pragmatic and strategic oriented approaches through education to the factors influencing water and wastewater industry projects. Originally an environmental planner for Montgomery County, MD, her work over the years has been supporting federal, state, and local government agencies, the engineering community, and private industry.
Topics: Education, WDBC Admin.

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