Water Educator Network Member Feature – March 2018
Name: Joseph Burtard
Position: External Affairs Manager
Organization: Ute Water Conservancy District
Became a WEN member: March 2015
Watershed: Colorado River Basin
From: Carbondale, CO
Favorite River: Thompson Creek
Our Favorite Quote: “It takes a community to raise a child and that’s exactly what the water festival is doing. We are planting the seed and giving other water professionals a platform to expose these students to careers, water issues, water education, and more.”
Interview with Joe
What are the primary duties of your job? I’m the External Affairs Manager, so I do internal and external communication, media relations, public relations, educational programs, and outreach. I’m also responsible for the administration of our Board of Directors.
What’s your favorite aspect of your job? The diversity. I can come into work on any given day and have a general idea of what I’m going to be doing and the slightest thing can change that. We can have a water line break and then all of a sudden, we’re sending out press releases. One day I could be behind a computer and the next I could be in a 5th grade classroom.
What are your main areas of expertise? I would like to think that I’m a people person and so, one of my main areas of expertise is interacting with the different audiences— whether it’s a 5th grader or the historical society—I’m adapting to and engaging with those audiences.
Describe the coolest project that you’re currently working on. It’s definitely going to be, without hesitation, the Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival. It’s the state’s largest youth water education event and it’s kind of my pride and joy. It’s something that I’ve built from the ground up and it’s grown thanks to community and industry support.
How have you seen the Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival impact the community over time? In a wide variety of ways. For example, my new assistant was in attendance at the very first water festival that I ever coordinated. A lot of our retired 5th grade teachers come back as volunteers. A lot of our 5th grade students are now working in the water industry, so we’ve seen it make a complete circle.
What made you want to become involved with the Water Educator Network? So often on the Western Slope we are overlooked and we are doing some really neat and aggressive things over here. So, it’s giving me a platform to showcase those activities and those events. Also, it is a network of water educators and too often we are trying to reinvent the wheel. Having colleagues and counterparts that I can bounce ideas off or brainstorm with or borrow ideas from is important. It’s the leaders in water education, so being a part of that network is crucial to the success of what we’re doing over here.
What is your favorite Water Education Colorado workshop or event that you’ve attended? Wow, that’s tough. You guys do so many neat things. I’m going to say the basin tours. I feel like those are a very valuable resource for both those within the water industry and those outside of the water industry, especially elected officials. And it really opens up our eyes to different success stories and different issues that these basins are facing.
Describe your proudest water-related accomplishment. The water festival. I’m so proud of it and it’s often looked at as a template of how water festivals should be run. I’m very proud of what it has become and it’s not just on my shoulders. It takes a community to raise a child and that’s exactly what the water festival is doing. We are planting the seed and giving other water professionals a platform to expose these students to careers, water issues, water education, and more.
What’s your favorite water-based activity? I have to pick one? This is going to be really unique, but it’s actually irrigating my hay field. It’s my way of debriefing from the day-to-day stress. It’s just me and my dog and we go out there and irrigate. It’s my personal time to unwind and take everything in. It’s very peaceful.
What else do you do in your free time? What free time? I own a horse-drawn carriage company that operates throughout Western Colorado. The bulk of what we do is horse-drawn wine tours. We did over 1,500 of them last year. They start in Palisade and we go to 6 or 7 wineries. We go to a distillery and learn about the distilling process. We go to a lavender farm where we do balsamic and oil pairings and tastings. I am also the U.S. distributor for a Canadian carriage manufacturer.
What is your biggest goal for 2018, professional or otherwise? It’s to find a better balance in my personal and professional life. The main focus would be spending more time with my nieces and nephews.
Is there anything else you’d like to highlight? Never did I think that I’d be working in the water industry and it has definitely become a passion. There are so many great things and great mentors and leaders that really make Colorado unique. One cool resource that we recently acquired is the giant map of Colorado. It’s an interactive map and it teaches students of all ages, both youth and adults, about the value of water, the different river systems, the different watersheds, how population has shifted throughout Colorado over the years based on our history and industries (mining, recreation, etc.). It also helps us teach about elevations, transmountain diversions, and interstate compacts. So it’s a very effective resource for us to highlight.