Our Expert Staff

WRA’s team of policy experts, scientists, economists, engineers, and attorneys has three decades of working where decisions are made, sweating the details, creating evidence-based solutions, and holding decision makers accountable.

Orla Bannan

Healthy Rivers Strategic Engagement Manager

Department

Healthy Rivers

Office Location

Boulder, Colorado

Area of Focus

Orla Bannan joined WRA as the strategic engagement manager for the Healthy Rivers team in 2017. She works to address water scarcity issues in Colorado by encouraging regional water boards to adopt conservation-oriented management approaches, and by helping emerging leaders in local communities get more involved in water decision making.

Orla also helps develop and advocate for policy and programs that will protect and improve Western rivers, including working on the Colorado River Basin Interim Guidelines and Drought Contingency Plans. She approaches each challenge with a determination for climate resiliency, inclusivity, and a sustainable future for all our communities.

Background

A lawyer by training, Orla began her career in private practice as a transactional lawyer – first in Australia and then in the United States. She worked at a large law firm in New York on real estate transactions for many years and then transitioned to an in-house counsel role with Vail Resorts in Colorado. Here, she worked on a wide variety of environmental, water, and land use issues related to ski area operations on public and private lands. She also served as the lead lawyer on mixed-use resort development approvals, including land acquisition, title and zoning restrictions, and extensive negotiations with governmental authorities.

Accomplishments

During her time at WRA, Orla has been instrumental in advancing outstanding waters designations to protect water of high quality and exceptional recreational and ecological value from future pollution due to development, mining, oil and gas, and other uses. In 2022, she was part of a coalition that, after three dedicated years, secured the protection of 25 streams covering over 520 miles in southwest Colorado. Additionally, she worked to mobilize support for the Colorado River District 2020 7A measure to generate $5 million a year to support healthy rivers, local agriculture, watershed health, and water quality in the 15 counties that make up the Colorado River District.

Education

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney. She is also a LEED accredited professional.

Favorite thing about the West

Spending time in the mountains – enjoying the beauty of wide open spaces.

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