Knights of the (Water) Roundtable

To most people the term “roundtable” often conjures thoughts of chivalric knights in shining armor.  Perhaps that explains the smirk I’ve seen while explaining Colorado’s roundtable process for water policy discussions to friends, family, and acquaintances.  However, this comparison of medieval legend with seemingly boring water policy meetings is more apt than many would suppose.  In fact, there are many parallels between the medieval roundtable in days of yore and today’s basin roundtables (BRTs) in Colorado, including their origin, process, goals, personalities, and even sometimes provision of food and drink (been to a South Platte BRT lately?).  If people only knew how fascinating and utterly entertaining water roundtable meetings can be.

Origin – The tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table originates in Arthurian legend in 1155, not far from “1177”, the origin, or authorizing legislation from the Colorado General Assembly for the “Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act” (HB 05-1177).  This legislation in part established the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) to facilitate dialogue among Colorado’s river basins through a locally driven process where decision-making occurs by those living within Colorado’s kingdoms (or… river basins) where nine permanent water roundtables assist local water users in addressing critical water supply issues and interests.  Each roundtable includes a diverse array of “knights” resolving their differences and addressing issues at each roundtable meeting.

Process – As lore describes, King Arthur and his Knights congregated about a round table with no head, implying that participants have equal status to enjoy open and honest dialogue.  Similarly, Colorado’s basin roundtables include unique and varied agricultural, municipal, industrial, environmental, and recreational “knights” who temporarily lay down their swords and, with the utmost chivalry, express diverse viewpoints to balance the interests of Colorado’s most precious resource.  The true brilliance of this grassroots process was the formation of an inclusive grant program (Water Supply Reserve Account) with a large degree of local control.  Every roundtable needs a little treasure to help its members continue the mission.

Goals – King Arthur’s Round Table included the “Siege Perilous”, a vacant seat reserved for the knight who would one day find the Holy Grail.  The members of Colorado’s roundtable process search for a different holy grail: balancing consumptive and nonconsumptive water needs.  As water interests dare accept the lofty responsibilities of membership they support the charge of the IBCC’s six primary roles.  One can only admire their courage to seek the never-ending goal of balancing Colorado’s water needs.

Personalities – History explains that King Arthur was careful to assemble his roundtable with knights of unique and varied status.  Colorado’s roundtables assemble many of the most committed and knowledgeable water folks in the state from unique and varied backgrounds.  But such diversity and intellect brings its quirks, and with it the flavor of the roundtables.  Every basin roundtable is shaped by the region and personalities of its members.  In a small attempt to honor each roundtable’s unique attributes informal awards were given at the first Basin Roundtable Statewide Summit meeting in March 2011.  Unfortunately, treasure was not included with these roundtable awards:

  • Yampa/White Basin: Night Owl Award (latest meetings)
  • Colorado Basin: Energizer Bunny Award (most meetings)
  • South Platte Basin: Epicurean Award (best food)
  • Arkansas Basin: Crowd Award (most members)
  • Metro Basin: Comfiest Chairs Award
  • Gunnison Basin: Most Improved Attitude Award
  • Southwest Basin: Pie in the Sky Award (longest list of planned projects, or “IPP’s”)
  • North Platte Basin: Participation Award (most members per capita)
  • Rio Grande Basin: Kumbayah/Choir Award (all singing the same tune)

The second Basin Roundtable Statewide Summit was yesterday (March 1st).  What roundtable awards would you recommend?

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