What’s in a name?

– Pat Wells

In the brave new world of social media, internet chat rooms, and text messaging, forms of short hand or slang have evolved which allow us to quickly get a point across, describe something, or make an association, simply by tapping a few tic-tac sized keys on a smartphone and pressing the “send” button.  Time tested phrases like “be right back” have been shortened to “BRB”.  When you need to quickly inform someone that you’ve spent too much time fooling around on the computer and the water on the stove is about to boil over, you can just type “TTYL” rather than going through the painstaking effort of typing out the full phrase “talk to you later”.  Although this new vocabulary scores big points for its brevity, some people would have a better shot at understanding the language spoken at the Mos Eisley Cantina on the planet Tatooine than trying to decipher the latest Twitter post from Ashton Kutcher.

The Colorado water business has its own unique “dialect” that is used by those in the profession to quickly and effectively communicate with each other.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that Colorado’s water professionals’ mastery of acronyms, abbreviations and short hand would make even the world’s biggest “tweenage texter” quake in their boots.  On the surface, mastering the language of the Colorado water world seems relatively straight forward.  It’s a piece of cake, for instance, to take the first letter from each word from the title of an organization, water project, or professional society and create an “instant acronym” that can be used in water meetings, conferences, and seminars to demonstrate your mastery of the secret language of Colorado water.

This method works well for shortening the names of the three organizations celebrating their 75th anniversaries in conjunction with Water 2012: the Colorado River Water Conservation District (CRWCD), the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (NCWCD), and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).  However, it isn’t always effective for keeping pace with the many rapid fire, highly spirited discussions that occur in most water forums.  Spelling out the acronym C-R-W-C-D, for instance, takes just as much time as saying the full name.  Along these lines, it’s not always the best idea to simply turn an acronym into a word: NCWCD as a word would likely be pronounced something like NIC-WIC-DEE.

This is where a new form of short hand enters the picture. In many water circles, the Colorado River Water Conservation District is simply referred to as the “River District” and the Northern Water Conservancy District often times is referred to simply as “Northern” or “Northern Water.”  The layperson not versed in Colorado water lingo may think that the “River District” is a new reality series that follows Pawn Stars on the History Channel, or that “Northern” is simply a brand of super soft and absorbent paper products, but these two organizations have been instrumental in laying the foundation for water resource protection, development and management in Colorado and have a critical role in maintaining and enhancing the quality of life we enjoy here in Colorado.

To the best of my knowledge, Rosetta Stone has not released a “Colorado Water” edition of its language learning software, so the only way I’m aware of to become fluent in this language is through full immersion.  Although it may have seemed like busy work at the time, one of the first tasks assigned to me when I started working in the Colorado water business was to compile a list of water related acronyms so that those people who are just entering the business, or who aren’t involved with water on a day to day basis (e.g., accountants, customer account managers, Information Technology staff, etc.) could attempt to follow a conversation should they somehow get trapped in a meeting of water geeks.

At first, I thought my supervisor had forgotten my start date and had whipped up something to keep me occupied until he could think up something meaningful for me to work on.  I quickly learned, however, that this was a clever way to introduce me to the many people, places, things, groups, companies and models that I would be interacting with on a daily basis.  Over time, I found that this acronym list would have an important place at the front of every binder I carried with me.

Unfortunately, Little Orphan Annie does not have a “Secret Decoder Ring” for understanding the secret language of the Colorado water business.  Fortunately, though, I have shared some of the “intellectual property” from my now infamous acronym list below as a public service to assist the general public in understanding the basics of Colorado water lingo.  Feel free to post your favorite water acronym, short hand, or story about the secret language of the “Colorado Water World” (not a Kevin Costner movie, by the way) in the Comments section below.  TTYL!

The Slam Dunks

C-BT = Colorado-Big Thompson Project

Denver Water = Denver Water

SDS = Southern Delivery System

The “A.K.A.s”

The Colorado River Water Conservancy District, a.k.a., The Colorado River District, a.k.a., The River District

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, a.k.a., NCWCD, a.k.a., Northern Water

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, a.k.a., SECWCD, a.k.a., Southeast District

The United States Bureau of Reclamation., a.k.a., Reclamation., a.k.a., USBR., a.k.a., “The Bureau”

Don’t Get ‘Em Confused

CSU is both a four service utility (Colorado Springs Utilities) and a school that produces top notch water resources engineers (Colorado State University)

IBCC = Interbasin Compact Committee, not to be confused with IBC, the tasty root beer that comes in a glass bottle.


Chuckle Inducers

PPWPP (pronounced PEE-PEE-WEE-PEE) = Pikes Peak Wildfire Prevention Partners (not a medical condition)

SPWRAP (pronounced ESS-PEE-WRAP) = South Platte Water Related Activities Program (not a type of aluminum foil, tortilla, or musical genre)

CoCoRaHS (pronounced Co-Co-Raz) = Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (not a mix of Cocoa Puffs and Frankenberry cereals)

Acronyms that Became Words (or Plays on Words)

SPEB = South Platte Enhancement Board (not to be confused with “spud”)

CRWAS = Colorado River Water Availability Study (don’t call it the “Car Wash” study)

NISP = Northern Integrated Supply Project

SWSI = Statewide Water Supply Initiative (pronounced SWAH-ZEE)

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