Appointed water boards in Colorado make crucial decisions about managing water, with impacts to rivers across the state. However, appointed board members frequently fail to reflect the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the communities they represent.
Research shows that having diverse perspectives leads to more-innovative solutions to our most pressing problems. Climate change and water resource challenges benefit from having diverse and inclusive teams working to solve these complex issues.
In 2021, Western Resource Advocates commissioned a report, prepared by Dr. Violeta Garcia at Ecosistema Design LLC, to gain a deeper understanding of the current status of diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion of five appointed water boards in Colorado and to propose recommendations for improvement.
The report identifies best practices for water boards who are aiming to be more inclusive, such as increasing representation, adopting more inclusive policies, expanding mentorship for new members, and promoting accessibility.
It also makes recommendations for advocates to begin balancing inequities, including the following:
- Meet each board where it is by listening to board members, responding to their needs, and taking each board’s unique circumstance into account. This is important because of the wide variation in the current status of diversity and inclusion among boards.
- Advance policies that allow a wider range of community members to serve on water boards and remedy the historical exclusion of people of color from boards and commissions.
- Create resources to make information about water boards more widespread and easily accessible.
- Invest in a diverse leadership pipeline, and recruit and develop diverse candidates for water boards.
Going forward, WRA will work to amplify the report’s important findings and collaborate with partners to advance its recommendations. As water boards across Colorado become more representative and inclusive and better reflect the diversity of Colorado’s residents, we will all benefit from innovative solutions to address our most urgent water challenges.