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Hannah Holm

Emerging Leader Award Honoree by Justice Greg Hobbs Hannah Holm, coordinator of the Mesa County Water Association, organizes water education activities in Colorado’s Grand Valley. “Taking over the role of the legendary Ruth Hutchins was no easy task,” says Greg Trainor, utility director for the city of Grand Junction. “We had only a couple of months worth of association funds to pay Hannah when she started in 2008, but she took it on and she’s been highly persistent ever since.” In service of public outreach, Hannah ranges that great stretch of country from Grand Mesa to the Book Cliffs and Palisade to the Colorado National Monument. She currently spearheads formation of the Water Center at Mesa State College, co-facilitates the lower Gunnison Wild and Scenic River discussions as a consultant, writes a monthly e-newsletter, and arranges water courses and tours for citizens. Many new subdivisions have sprung up in the Grand Valley in the past two decades. Homeowners typically water their landscapes from irrigation canals and receive their drinking water from one of four area water utilities. Hannah has helped bring together residents, water managers, water efficiency experts, and local, state

state climatologist for Colorado had taken a better paying job in Canada. “This is what I’d been waiting for!” Nolan came to work as assistant to State Climatologist Tom McKee at Colorado State University. It was the drought year of 1977. “My job was to collect the data from 200 weather stations around the state and plot the figures on a map.” Plotting the maps then took him into the field, to such places as the potato research center at Center, on the border of Saguache and Rio Grande counties, and the Gunnison Valley’s weather station. “McKee said, ‘Go visit and listen, don’t say much. Especially don’t say ‘drought.’” The cautionary lesson sticks. Named State Climatologist in 2006, Nolan peppers his enthusiastic talks across the state with carefully arrayed statistics and graphs that paint a picture of Colorado’s climate. “I’m not much of a futurist,” he says, “I consider myself an historian, and I think religion and climate are pretty much interrelated. Like the Anazasi.” What most amazes him? “The physical properties of water: Liquid, solid and gas can co-exist at the same time. The ocean currents move huge amounts of energy across the globe. I like wild asparagus along the ditch banks.” He and his wife, Kathy, a soils scientist,

and federal agencies in her additional role as facilitator for the Wise Water Use Council. “She helped us get irrigation standards in place with developers. She’s even-handed and understands policy and people issues,” Trainor observes. “She’s a self-starter.” Hannah grew up in a farming family south of Olympia, Washington. She graduated from Macalester College in Minnesota, with a dual major in anthropology and international studies. She then got a joint master’s degree in community and regional planning and Latin American studies from the University of Texas in Austin. She and her husband, David Collins, who is a professor at Mesa State, have two young children. Hannah previously worked on air quality, water quality and floodplain legislation for the North Carolina Legislature and then job training programs for the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After a time with the Western Colorado Congress, where she gained respect in the environmental community, she helped revive the nonprofit Mesa County Water Association by gaining funding support from businesses like Grand Junction Pipe, EnCana, Chevron, Xcel Energy and Williams Energy. The Colorado River District has also been an important working partner and financial supporter. “Water is the lifeblood of our community!” says the persistent Hannah, same as the peppery Ruth before her. q

have a place with a big garden outside of Fort Collins and two grown children. “She’s got me looking at the ground—whether it’s healthy with microbes—and communitybased food.” They irrigate off the 1862 Pleasant Valley Lake and Canal Company where Nolan serves as vice president. They’re at the end of their lateral, “where you know what the value of water is. Every inch counts. It’s a civics lesson.” Nolan recently led the American Association of State Climatologists as its president from 2008 to 2010. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has honored him with its Environmental Hero award for creating a nationwide amateur precipitation monitoring program. Known as CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network), the program organizes more than 15,000 volunteers nationally—1,000 in Colorado—to gather climate data that could make a difference in people’s lives. Nolan began this project after an illdetected storm in Fort Collins caused a devastating flood in 1997, killing five people. He also publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, “The Catch,” on the Web and generously credits his staff for the meticulous work needed to keep up with a rapt and growing audience that includes farmers,

rafters, water managers, scientists, teachers, and student “backyard and down-thecreek” weather watchers. Nolan mourns the loss of Odie Bliss who worked with him at the Climate Center for thirty years before her unexpected illness and death in 2008. “She didn’t want the credit or the visibility, but she personified ‘climate service’ as she helped thousands of individuals and organizations find and use the climate information they needed.” For the 2012 year of water celebration throughout Colorado, Nolan would like to see a rain gauge in every school yard. Rain, hail and snow data from each location will be mapped daily and made immediately available to the public. “Historically, we’ve had somewhere between 200 and 300 data points each day to observe and map the vagaries of Colorado precipitation, but as a part of Water 2012 this may grow to between 2,000 and 3,000 points, allowing for a much more elegant and accurate view of our climate in action.” The schools will also be able to use the data to compare their local climate and precipitation resources with previous years and with other parts of the state, the country and the world. Nolan is still a kid at heart, as big as the sky dreaming. q

Headwaters | Summer 2011


Profile for Water Education Colorado

Headwaters Summer 2011: The Mighty Colorado  

As the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agri...

Headwaters Summer 2011: The Mighty Colorado  

As the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agri...

Profile for cfwe