James Eklund utilizes his background as Colorado’s lead water official to advise a range of private and public entities on environmental, public policy, regulatory and legislative matters. He has significant experience in public infrastructure projects from both the public and private perspectives. James works with sovereign governments, multistate authorities, state agencies and private interests to deliver critical water infrastructure projects and policy.

    In his extensive career in public service, James set the water policy for the Headwater State (18 downstream states and Mexico receive water that starts in Colorado) and served as legal counsel to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. As Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James was the architect of Colorado’s first strategic water plan and is regularly consulted in implementing what has become the “gold standard” of water plans in the Western US. His agency also served as the lender-of-choice to Colorado water projects through a revolving loan fund that deploys an average of US$100 million per year and has approximately US$1 billion in assets and investments. During his tenure as director, James focused on innovation in water policy, project finance, data and management.

    In 2013, Colorado witnessed record flooding, drought and wildfire, all in an 18-month period. James helped lead Colorado’s state response to each with his agency administering a multimillion-dollar (US) FEMA flood response program (including US$2 million for LiDAR mapping, estimated US$45 million floodplain mapping and US$65 million National Flood Insurance Program).

    For several years, James served as Colorado’s principal representative on the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states and two countries in a basin that, if counted as its own country’s GDP, would be the world’s fifth largest. Appointed to this position by Colorado’s Governor, he was responsible for negotiating and signing agreements binding the seven basin states, the Republic of Mexico and the US federal government. In near record time, James successfully helped craft and shepherd critical Colorado River legislation through the US Congress and testified in support of the bill that was ultimately signed into law by the US President.

    He previously served as senior deputy legal counsel to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, where he monitored the state’s public-private partnership on a major turnpike that runs from Denver to Boulder. This concessionaire agreement for a managed lane is widely referenced in US P3 discussions and James was the Governor’s “eyes and ears” on the RFP, selection and award process.

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    Education

    • Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Senior Executives in State and Local Government, 2016
    • University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, J.D., 2003
    • Stanford University, B.A., 1998

    Admissions

    • Colorado, 2003

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    • Advisor Panel, Water Environment Federation 92nd Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) Symposium, Chicago, Illinois, September 21, 2019.
    • Presenter, Colorado River Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 19-20, 2019.
    • Presenter, Ecological Restoration Business Association, Denver, Colorado, September 12, 2019.
    • Presenter, Smart Water Networks (SWAN) 2019 Annual Conference, Miami, Florida, May 14, 2019.
    • Planning Committee, Water in the West Symposium, Aurora, Colorado, March 13-14, 2019.
    • Presenter, “Colorado Water Plan and Funding Initiative Update,” 2019 Governor's Forum on Colorado Agriculture, Denver, Colorado, February 28, 2019.
    • Presenter, “Colorado River Basin’s Drought Plan,” Infrastructure Committee of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver, Colorado, January 18, 2019.
    • Presenter, “Water As a Business Risk…and Market Opportunity,” Colorado Governors Fellowship, Denver, Colorado, January 10, 2019.
    • Presenter, “Upper Colorado River Contingency Plan,” Colorado River Water Users Association, Las Vegas, Nevada, December 12-14, 2018.
    • Attendee, Roundtable Dinner on Prioritizing Water Management, The Atlantic Water Summit, New York City, New York, November 28, 2018.
    • Presenter, “Water in the Western US,” Impact Denver, Denver, Colorado, November 8, 2019.
    • Presenter, “Colorado River Markets,” Valuation of Water Rights in Colorado, Denver, Colorado, October 3 - 5, 2018.
    • Presenter, “Drought Contingency Planning for the Upper and Lower Basins,” Upper Colorado River Commission, Midway, Utah, July 30-31, 2018.
    • Presenter, “Big River Issues,” Club 20 and Colorado River Water Conservation District Meeting, July 27, 2018.
    • Co-author, “Water Transfer Options: Alternative Transfer Mechanisms to Meet Changing Demands,” The Water Report, June 2018.
    • Panelist on the Nestle Waters North America Delegation, “Water Conservation for the 21st Century Business,” Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen, Colorado, June 21 - 30, 2018.
    • Moderator/Panelist, “Dry Weather: Triggering Sharing Agreements on the Colorado River,” American Water Works Association’s 2018 Annual Conference & Exposition: Innovating the Future of Water, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 11-14, 2018.
    • Presenter, 2018 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum, Washington DC, May 30, 2018.
    • Panelist, “Understanding Leading Indicators and Trends In Water P3s,” Water P3 Water Summit, San Diego, California, April 3-4, 2018.
    • Project Review Panelist, Colorado River Project Advisory Panel, Project Hyperion February Workshop, Hollywood, Florida, February 20-22, 2018.
    • Presenter, “The Upward Track for Water P3’s,” The Public-Private Partnership Federal Conference, Washington DC, November 29-30, 2017.
    • Presenter, “Alternative Transfer Mechanisms in the Western US,” Colorado Counties, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colorado, November 27-30, 2017.
    • Presenter, “Water:  Creating the Solutions, Now,” CG/LA Infrastructure, 9th North America Infrastructure Leadership Forum, San Francisco, California, October 25-27, 2017.
    • Keynote, “Water in the West and Globally,” Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce Leadership Foundation, Denver, Colorado, October 12, 2017.
    • Presenter, “A National Perspective on Water Reuse,” Florida Water Forum, Orlando, Florida, September 21-22, 2017.
    • Presenter, “Colorado Water Briefing,” Building a Better Colorado Executive Committee, Colorado Springs, Colorado, August 21, 2017.
    • Presenter, “Water Stewardship in the West and Globally,” Colorado Farm Bureau Elite Leadership Class, Denver, Colorado, August 8, 2017.
    • Presenter, “Implementing Colorado’s Water Plan,” Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce Access Denver Program, Denver, Colorado, August 4, 2017.
    • Moderator/Presenter, “Water Stewardship on the Colorado River,” HydroVision International, Denver, Colorado, June 27-30, 2017.
    • Presenter, “The Water-Agriculture Nexus,” National Potato Council, Denver, Colorado, June 28, 2017.
    • Keynote, “Implementing Colorado’s Water Plan,” 12th Annual Hydrologic Sciences Symposium, Boulder, Colorado, April 6-7, 2017.

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