Study Session with Andrea Lopez

Water Educator Network Member Feature – March 2019

Name and Position: Andrea (“Ahn-dray-uh”) Lopez, External Affairs Manager
Organization: Ute Water
Became a WEN Member: January 2018
Watershed: Colorado River
Favorite River in CO: Colorado River
Favorite Water-Based Activity: Snowmobiling and Skiing. 
Our Favorite Quote from Andrea: 

“I think one of the areas of expertise I have on this job is knowing how to relate to the younger students and connect with them on a level that makes sense to them. To see someone like me who is new to the water industry will help them relate and hopefully inspire them to some day have a job in the water industry.”

Interview with Andrea:

Where are you from? I am from the Grand Valley. I grew up in a small town called Palisade.  I was born and raised here on the western slope – stayed here for college and found a great job!

What are the primary duties of your current job? That’s one of the greatest things about my position. Every day is so different. It is strange for me because I am a planner. We do everything from public relations to media relations.  We do education for youth. We are in charge for marketing for our district.  We are also admin to our board of directors. 

What are your main areas of expertise? This is my first “big girl” job. After graduation, this is the first place that I got hired on.  I think my expertise has to be the education aspect. In college, I taught dance lessons.  That was one of the harder aspects of leaving college. I think one of the areas of expertise I have on this job is knowing how to relate to the younger students and connect with them on a level that makes sense to them. To see someone like me who is new to the water industry will help them relate and hopefully inspire them to someday have a job in the water industry.

Describe the coolest project that you’re currently working on. I feel like I have to say the water festival. It definitely is. The largest in the state status is a big challenge as well. I think the coolest aspect of the water festival is the community behind the water festival. It is the donors that make the festival possible. It is the presenters that volunteer their time and their staff. I always knew that we had a strong community.

I attended the first water festival that Joe Burtard organized. I went to the 3rd water festival when I was in 5th grade. It is a lot like it is now in terms of the education. Watching it from the community member aspect, it definitely has its own brand and image. As a community member, people look forward to it. It is almost its own event that is not associated with a water district. People ask me: ‘When are you releasing your new logo?’ ‘Who will be taking pictures?’ It has this really great professionalism associated with it, which I think gives us a good reputation as well as establishes our credibility.

How many years has your water festival been going for? This is the 26th year [of the water festival]. So, I think Greeley have us beat by a couple of years. Not that it’s a competition or anything….

How long have you been a WEN member? I have been a WEN member since I started in June ’17. It is actually one of the first things that Joe [Burtard] had me do, was sign up as a WEN member.

What made you want to become involved in the Water Educator Network? He [Joe Burtard] talked a lot about the value in the network. I think it is one of those things that he saw grow over his time here. The sense of other people doing our job across the state. The materials and resources provided not only for us as educators but for our community. We knew that we wanted to do a rain barrel workshop. For us to have that safety net of an organization that will help us be better educators in our community was something that was really valuable.

What does being a Water Educator Network member mean to you? It means that by being a member, I am going to be as educated as I can be to share my education with my community. Things are always changing in the water community, following a major drought statewide, it is important for us as water educators to keep growing.

 What is your favorite Water Education Colorado workshop or event that you’ve attended? It has to be the water festival coordinators meeting last year. It is really refreshing to see others going through the same things that you are and being open about strengths and weaknesses. I found it surprising how open people were. At that meeting, everyone wanted everyone’s festival to be successful. I know that I will definitely lean on them this year and hopefully I can be a valuable member within that community as well.

Describe your proudest water-related accomplishment? I want to say it was surviving the drought of 2018. It was a difficult year in my position. It was my first year here in Ute Water. Not only were we focused on educating our community about the drought, but that we had to push out some marketing. For me it was a great learning year. I think that being able to manage the education aspect as well as the marketing and communication aspect in a stressful time. It is people’s livelihood. I am glad we are having a good year this year and am hoping for many more.

What is your favorite river in Colorado? I have to say the Colorado River. It is such a lifeline for everybody. It is just a river that we should be really proud of. It runs right through our backyard.

What is your favorite water-based activity? I like to play more in the snow than I do in the water. Snowmobiles and skiing is definitely something that I like to do. I like to take advantage of the snow-pack.

What else do you do in your free time? I used to dance for 20-some years growing up. I really like to do event planning in my free time. I am teaching myself how to hand-letter (typography). I am currently in grad school – that takes up a lot of my free time.

What is your biggest goal for the next year, professional or otherwise? This year, professionally and personally, I would like to grow to be more flexible with things in terms of being able to handle whatever comes my way with grace and professionalism, as well as knowing I have the confidence to handle it. I am a planner. I am super Type-A. It used to drive Joe [Burtard] crazy – he is not that at all! Being able to handle the curve-balls that come my way would definitely help me, especially in this role.

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