Led primarily by the Foundation’s Programs Director April Montgomery, a long serving member of the Governor-appointed Colorado State Water Conservation Board, the Telluride Foundation co-hosted a retreat for Colorado foundation leadership in February, along with Colorado Governor Hickenlooper, the Gates Family Foundation, and the El Pomar Foundation. The goal of the Colorado Foundations Water Retreat was to engage foundation leaders by educating them on state water issues and how to take a more proactive approach in helping to protect and manage Colorado’s critical water resources.
The Telluride Foundation cares deeply about water for many reasons. Telluride is the headwaters of the San Miguel River that drains into the Dolores and eventually Colorado River, which supplies water to seven states and Mexico. Southwest Colorado has been in a prolonged 15 year drought, and one can just look at California and realize that we must think strategically about water to maintain our communities’ quality of life.
The retreat was an unprecedented private gathering of the top 60 thought and foundation leaders in philanthropy. Participants came to agreement on the following principles that surfaced during the event:
- Water is one of the most important issues to the state of Colorado.
- The well-being of Coloradans is linked to the condition and availability of Colorado’s water.
- Colorado’s water is vital to the state’s health, economy, and environment.
- Education and community development serve as tools to enhance and reflect the importance of water to the state.
- The foundation and philanthropic community will engage in supporting innovations, developing strategies, and implementing solutions to ensure a healthy and enduring water future for Colorado.
The Foundation is currently working with other water leaders to develop viable next steps for foundation engagement, possibly around the theme of innovation in water. Colorado is well-positioned to lead in water innovation and water solutions, and such work will require public, private, philanthropic, and foundation support. Water innovation is a broad goal, involving the need for data and data analytics, new technology start-up ventures, early stage investment, and innovation in water markets, e.g. how we buy, sell, trade, and move water.
The Foundation is pleased with the engagement exemplified by retreat participants and will continue to help shape a unified foundation/philanthropic effort around water, unique to Colorado.