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Water Studies Certificate and Courses

Climate change is, and will continue to, significantly impact our freshwater resources throughout the world. In the American West, over 40 million people depend on the Colorado River. Water is a finite resource in an ever-growing population and changing world.

MSU Denver’s Water Studies Certificate is designed for professionals who want to protect this valuable resource and teaches students the history, law, management, and trends of water in Colorado and the American West.

Knowledge about water issues is relevant to various professions, including small local farming operations, gravel pit operators, wastewater, manufacturing, building construction, risk management, utilities, hospitality, green and sustainable industries, law, and engineering.

The certificate presents an opportunity to increase your skillset and broaden your marketability during this unknown time. Since the courses are entirely self-paced, you can complete the certificate while working through adjustments at home. These include unpredictable work schedules, home learning for children, or care of a loved one.

Four classes (with an optional capstone) make up the certificate. Students can take one class or combine to receive the certificate.  

  • Flexible schedule – the self-paced and online nature lets students control their schedule
  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs) – each class is eligible for three CEUs, with up to 12 eligible CEUs if the full certificate is completed
  • One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry
  • Real-world applications – develop a capstone project that applies what you have learned to real-world situations
  • Career opportunities – Upskill your resume and find job demand in a growing industry

Registration opens July 1, 2020. Students have between September 8 and December 14, 2020 to complete a class.

Students have enhanced their professional roles in many walks of life, including serving on community water boards, environmental settings like urban water providers or forest service work, fire fighters, and even a water sommelier. The water certificate will also benefit your personal life as you think about your use of water.


There are three required courses: Water Law, U.S. Water Concerns, Colorado Water, and the American West, and an optional capstone class.

Water Law

Water law class being instructed for a lab outdoors

Surveys early water use and development, water rights, administration and management of water in Colorado, and interstate and federal laws and agreements.

U.S. Water Concerns

stock photo of a flooded agricultural crop field

Water is examined as a natural and societal resource using local and national examples, including water contamination, water infrastructure challenges, and industry-related water pollution. Additional study of water and wastewater management and processes in the U.S., and future challenges in the U.S. due to global climate change.

CO Water & American West

a stock photo of a river in the Southwest

Students will study the rich history of water in Colorado and the American West, with a look at how ancestral Pueblo and other native communities used water, Hispanic water management, and the American approach to water management. 

Capstone (Optional)

Professor instructing a class outside at the South Platte river

The optional capstone provides an opportunity for students to actively integrate and apply what they have learned to a real-world project, problem, or organization.


Dr. Elizabeth R. McVicker, Colorado Water Law and Capstone Course

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.


 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.


 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.

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.


Photo - Tom Cech - Co -Director OWOW

Tom Cech - Co-Director, OWOW Center

Tom Cech was born and raised on a farm near Clarkson, Nebraska, graduated from Kearney State College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Math Education, and later received a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He was Executive Director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, taught water undergraduate and graduate level water resources courses at the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University, and is now the Director of the One World One Water (OWOW) Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at MSU Denver.


“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
Co-Director of the OWOW Center



1 Retrieved from the World Health Organization (WHO)

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