Managing the Mighty Colorado

The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the Southwest, providing irrigation and drinking water to millions of people and driving mighty hydroelectric installations that provide power to major cities and communities. Many entities are involved in the proper management and use of this invaluable resource, including the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other federal agencies, states and municipalities, trade groups, and others. 

In our cover story, we speak with Leslie James, who has been the executive director of the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association (CREDA) for more than 20 years. Ms. James tells Hydro Leader about CREDA’s advocacy on the federal level for the firm power customers of the hydroelectric facilities of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Storage Project. 

Next, we speak with Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, under whose leadership the agency has taken important steps in the Colorado basin, particularly the 2019 signing of the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), an ambitious agreement designed to reduce risk on the Colorado River and sustain the river system into the future. 

We also speak with U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tim Petty about the October 2020 Executive Order (EO) on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure and its formalization of a water subcabinet. 

Dr. Terry Fulp, the retiring director of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region, tells Hydro Leader about his work over more than three decades in public service, and Reclamation historian Dr. Andrew Gahan tells us about the last century and more of Reclamation’s activities on the Colorado. We also speak with Carly Jerla, an operations research analyst for the Lower Colorado Region who is stationed at the University of Colorado’s Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems, where she contributes to research, modeling, and forecasting activities. 

John Etzel, the deputy director of the Army Corps’ Hydroelectric Design Center, tells us about the center’s role in supporting the Army Corps’ biggest-in-the-nation hydropower fleet. 

Finally, Paul Meeks of Worthington Products tells us how his company’s barrier systems are keeping major dams safe from wildfire debris after the devastating 2020 fire season. 

With proper management and care, the Colorado River will continue to provide critical clean energy supplies for decades to come. We salute and thank the professionals who work every day to make this possible. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at