Water Information Partner Spotlight
Q&A with Mardi Gebhardt, recent past President of the La Plata West Water Authority.
The Water Information Program (WIP) spoke with recent past President, Mardi Gebhardt, La Plata West Water Authority, and we are so grateful for their participation and contribution to the program.
For those who aren’t familiar with La Plata West Water Authority, tell us a bit more about your organization:
The La Plata West Water Authority is an independent political subdivision created by the Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District and the La Plata Water Conservancy District. The Authority will continue a long history of work to provide a domestic water supply in rural southwest La Plata County. Many area residents have worked on this project as part of the ALP project since the 1940s. Federal government and local water districts have also been contributing to the effort for decades.
The Authority has worked closely with the Bureau of Reclamation and other government agencies to ensure that the project was appropriately reviewed and complies with all appurtenant regulations. The rural water system was evaluated as a viable use of ALP waters in the Animas La Plata Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The intake structure project was issued all necessary permits and environmental approvals prior to construction on BOR land.
What is the role or mission of La Plata West Water?
To provide safe and reliable drinking water to southwestern La Plata County that has historically been known as the Dryside due to poor quality and quantity of their water wells.
You have been working on a few projects, can you share some of the accomplishments and what are some projects you are still working on?
Some of our major accomplishments have been made possible due to the support of our Board members of LPWWA, Tribal Partners, Lake Durango Water Authority, multiple funding agencies, and the local community. Projects consisted of the construction of major infrastructure including portal & intake facility, pumping and booster stations, over approximately 36 miles of pipeline, a domestic water system that serves over 150 subscribers and a water fill station. The infrastructure is a consecutive
system with Lake Durango Water Authority, who treat the water. The service area includes SW La Plata County to Montezuma County, from US Highway 160 south to the New Mexico Stateline.
We are currently in our campaign for Phase 2 of the domestic water system extension, hoping to serve an additional 100 subscribers. We have hired a successful lobbyist in our basin to help us with funding.
LPWWA began its endeavors in November 2007 and $16,410,000 later, LPWWA extends its gratitude to the funding partners. The participation of the Ute Tribes has made these projects possible. Additionally, many individuals have worked diligently to make this project a reality.
What are the biggest water challenges facing southwest Colorado?
The unpredictability of Climate Change that precipitates droughts, high winds, low mountain snowpack. The deterioration of existing infrastructure to our local agriculture’s sustainability.
What are three aspects of southwest Colorado’s watersheds that you find unique/intriguing?
The diversity of Microclimates, wetlands, high deserts and natural hot springs and geological resources.
Why does La Plata West Water Authority value water education?
With the influx of new residences from non-water critical areas we feel it is important to provide accurate and beneficial knowledge regarding valued water sources, such as water consumption and use, and water conservation practices.
How long have you been with La Plata West Water Authority and what has been your role there?
I began this water trip with LPWWA’s in 2009 and was appointed to the La Plata West Water Authority Board of Directors by La Plata Water Conservancy District on December 6, 2010. It began with being the record keeper for the Water Users Commitment Holders, then served the Board as the Treasurer. In December 2019 I was elected as Board President, and it’s been like a white-water rafting trip intermingled with lovely float trips.
There are some changes coming up for you, can you share that with us?
I stepped down from the President’s seat this September and handed the gavel on to Frank Smith who was Vice President. I have assumed the position as a Board of Director. I will formally resign from the Board this November, allowing for retirement. I hope to continue to support the water world in our southwest basin.
What question do you wish we had asked you?
How would you implement a Support System amongst our local Water Authorities/Districts at a management level, within our watershed, on a smaller scale? (Rotating, in-person and informal, networking)
For example. Would be great to meet with smaller groups of stakeholders to talk about success and challenges on a more intimate networking basis. The larger water meetings don’t really allow for that.