The western United States is a region with a long history of water challenges. In the American West, over 40 million people depend on the Colorado River. At the same time, the effects of climate change are adding to the challenges.

MSU Denver developed the noncredit Professional Water Studies courses for people interested in safeguarding this precious resource. Students will learn history, law, management, and water trends in Colorado and the American West.

Many industries can benefit from knowing more about water issues and solutions. These industries include small farms, wastewater, manufacturing, construction, risk management, utilities, hospitality, green and sustainable industries, law, and engineering.

The courses have recently been improved, offering the same high quality, but shortened to meet your busy schedules. The course structure has been redesigned for each class to be one month long to improve the learning experience and accommodate the schedules of busy professional students.


What are Water Studies?
Water studies involve examining water treatment and management strategies, and the impact of human activities on water quality and availability for future use. 

This field of study also includes research about wastewater treatment and understanding the fundamentals of water law to ensure sustainable and responsible water practices on a state and federal level. 


Careers in Professional Water Management
Potential careers in professional water studies include:

  • Water conservation specialist
  • Water treatment plant operator
  • Environmental scientist
  • Water resource  and quality assurance analyst
  • Hydrologist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Water law attorney

Professional Water Studies Courses

Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Colorado River

Colorado Water & the American West

In this one month course, students will study the history of water in the American West, how native communities used it, and the U.S. approach to water management.This curriculum also covers crucial aspects of federal and Colorado water management, emphasizing research about water management and legal issues specific to Colorado.

Colorado Water & the American West
Older man teaching a small class in an outside setting

Water Law

MSU Denver students will survey the early stages of water use and development, explore water rights, explore the treatment and management of water, and study Colorado state and federal laws and agreements and how the law of water affects communities.

Water Law
Two women wearing protective gear testing water on a beach

U.S. Water Concerns

Students will explore water concerns, examining water as a natural and societal resource, water infrastructure challenges, industry-related pollution, and future changes due to climate change. Over the course of a month, participants in this certification course will assess environmental damage by examining the impact of Colorado water management, the wastewater treatment industry, and solutions in wastewater treatment.

U.S. Water Concerns

Class benefits

Students can take one class, or combine all three to receive the Professional Water Studies Certificate.

  • Flexible schedule – the self-paced and online nature lets students control their schedule
  • One-on-one networking and advisement – receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry
  • Real-world applications – enhance your resume with in-demand skills

Course dates

Students can take one class, or combine all three to receive the Professional Water Studies Certificate. Each course is one month long.


Fall 2024 Schedule

Colorado Water and the American West runs September 1 – October 1, 2024. Students must register by September 9.

Water Law runs October 1 – November 1, 2024. Students must register by October 8.

U.S. Water Concerns runs November 1 – December 1, 2024. Students must register by November 8.


Each course costs $475, with a $35 transaction fee per payment. No textbooks are required.

What do I receive after I pass the course?

You will receive a certification of completion after you successfully complete all three courses.

You may also request to receive a digital badge for each class that will be embedded with the competencies learned. This badge can be added to your resume, LinkedIn page, portfolio, or even share it with your current or future employer.


Dr. Elizabeth R. McVicker, Water Law

Elizabeth’s expertise in water law has her in great demand to serve on the board of three water-related Colorado entities: The Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Headwaters of the South Platte Water Enterprise, and the Coalition of the Upper South Platte. She serves as a guest speaker, panelist, and media expert for water-related events, and was instrumental in developing the One World One Water Center and the Water Studies Curriculum.

Elizabeth is a high-energy professor and brings enthusiasm and knowledge to her classes. She has a JD from the University of Denver, and a Ph.D. in Spanish Language and Literature from New York University. She teaches business ethics and sustainability courses for MSU Denver.

Her experience as a business owner and attorney allows her to bring a great deal of knowledge to the classroom. She is a recipient of the College of Business, Dean’s Overall Faculty Excellence Award.

Photo of instructor Elizabeth McVicker

Dr. Matthew S. Makley, Colorado Water and the American West

Matt is a professor of History at MSU Denver, where he has taught for almost 15 years. Previously he taught at Arizona State University where he earned a Ph.D. in Native American History, and the History of the American West. The University of Nevada Press published Makley’s co-authored book, Cave Rock: Climbers, Courts, and a Washoe Indian Sacred Place, in 2010. His more recent book, The Small Shall be Strong: A History of Lake Tahoe’s Washoe Indians, was published in 2018, by the University of Massachusetts Press.

Matt was born in Lake Tahoe, and has spent his life in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado. This has allowed him to explore the land, its people, its past, and its present. Each journey down a river canyon, up a mountain top, or upon a city street helps inspire and inform his professional practice.

Water in the west has become an area of particular interest for Makley. He recently helped produce a short documentary film about an Iris farm and its relationship with water in Boulder, CO called Long’s Gardens: An Urban Oasis.

Photo of instructor Matt Makley

Dr. Randi Brazeau, US. Water Concerns

Dr. Randi Brazeau, P.E., received her B.S. and M.E. degrees in Civil Engineering at the University of Florida. After working as an engineering analyst with Kimley-Horn and Associates for two years, she completed a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering – Environmental Water Resources from Virginal Tech under Dr. Marc Edwards. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at MSU Denver where she has been since 2012.

Randi teaches a variety of environmental science courses and teaches integrated science for pre-service elementary education students. In addition to advising Environmental Science students, she also serves as a primary advisor for Environmental Engineering. Her main research interests include decontamination of premise plumbing and public health after contamination events, surface water quality in response to mining and hazardous waste spills, urban surface water quality, and learner centered pedagogies in undergraduate STEM disciplines.

Photo of instructor Randi Brazeau

One World One Water

The One World One Water Center (OWOW) is a collaboration between Metropolitan State University of Denver and Denver Botanic Gardens. The OWOW Center strives to prepare an educated, empowered, solution-oriented Colorado citizenry to protect and preserve our precious water resources.


Nona Shipman, OWOW Co-Director

Before coming to the One World One Water Center, Nona had worked on the statewide Colorado Water 2012 campaign with Water Education Colorado. Originally from Northern Virginia, Nona moved to Denver in 2011 as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and loved the experience so much she decided to stay in Colorado and pursue further water education opportunities. She has a BA in Communications from Lynchburg College, an MA in Biological Sciences from Miami University, Ohio, and welcomes the opportunity to incorporate her degrees with her passion for raising the awareness of precious environmental resources.

“A good steward learns about our most precious natural resource – water, and reaches out to put that knowledge into action. Colorado’s future will be shaped by our students, and their stewardship will determine the fate of our rivers, lakes and groundwater.” – Tom Cech, Former OWOW Director


Please contact Brandy Schooler at 303-615-1234 or [email protected].

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Phone: 303-615-1234

Office Location:
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Mailing Address:
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Innovative and Lifelong Learning
P.O. Box 173362
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Denver, CO 80217-3362