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With climate change decreasing water supplies by 20-30 percent and the population predicted to double by 2050 in the American Southwest, water is becoming an increasingly more valuable resource. Hydrologists and environmental scientists play the essential role of monitoring the supply and quality of water to ensure the survival of earth’s living organisms.


Program Overview

Find your purpose protecting life on earth.

The Water Studies emphasis provides a holistic approach to the history, politics, economics and science of water. To gain valuable hands-on experience, you’ll also have the opportunity to find a research assistantship at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, one of the premier biological research stations in the world. As one of the few undergraduate interdisciplinary water programs in the nation, the Water Studies emphasis is a unique opportunity to gain a broad foundation in this field. Through the program, you’ll acquire the knowledge and skills you’ll need to play an increasingly important role in scientific community as a hydrologist or water conservationist.

One-of-a-kind opportunities

Located at the headwaters of the most important rivers serving the American Southwest, Western is uniquely positioned to educate students on water science and management. It is also one of the few undergraduate interdisciplinary water programs in the nation.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Program Requirements

A minimum of 71 credits is required for the Environment & Sustainability Comprehensive Major: Water Emphasis. 

BIOL 130Environmental Biology (GT-SC2)3
BIOL 135Environmental Biology Laboratory (GT-SC1)1
ECON 215Environmental Economics3
ENVS 100Introduction to Environment and Sustainability (GT-SS2)3
ENVS 200Writing the Environment3
ENVS 250Environmental Justice3
ENVS 301Science of Sustainability and Resilience3
ENVS 350U.S. and Western Environmental Politics3
ENVS 370Water Policy and Politics3
ENVS 373The Water Planet3
ENVS 376The Colorado Water Workshop1
ENVS 375Seminar in Water Topics3
ENVS 390Environmental Monitoring4
ENVS 400Applied Sustainability3
ENVS 410Environmental Ethics3
GEOG 340Introduction to Geographic Information Systems3
GEOL 101Physical Geology (GT-SC2)3
GEOL 105Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1)1
PHYS 125Energy and the Environment (GT-SC2)3
Select one of the following:1
HWTR 200
This Is The Headwaters
HWTR 398
Headwaters Conference
Select one of the following:3
CHEM 101
Introduction to Inorganic Chemistry (GT-SC2)
CHEM 111
General Chemistry I (GT-SC2)
Select one of the following:3
ECON 216
Statistics for Business and Economics
MATH 113
Statistical Thinking (GT-MA1)
MATH 213
Probability and Statistics
SOC 211
Quantitative Research Methods
Select two of the following:6-7
BIOL 476
Aquatic Ecology (with laboratory)
BUAD 410
Water Law
ECON 370
Natural Resource Economics
ENVS 360
Global Environmental Policy
ROE 293
Outdoor Pursuits Education- Water Based (with laboratory)
Select one of the following:3-6
ENVS 420
Natural History of the Gunnison Basin
ENVS 430
Watersheds of the World
ENVS 499
Internship in Environmental Studies
Select one of the following:3
ANTH 230
Cultural Anthropology (with laboratory)
ANTH 320
Cultural Ecology
ENG 151
Borderlands: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality
POLS 250
Politics of the Environment
POLS 340
Politics of Social Movements
POLS 350
Human Rights
POLS 355
The Global South
POLS 370
Political Economy
PSY 308
Environmental Psychology
PSY 410
Multicultural Psychology
PSY 457
Social Psychology
SOC 150
Environmental Sociology
SOC 168
Social Problems
SOC 340
Social Movements
SOC 380
Social Inequalities
Total Credits71-75

Admission to Recreation and Outdoor Education courses for declared Water Emphasis students is based on instructor permission and available seats.

Capstone Course Requirement

The following course in the Environment and Sustainability Major fulfills the capstone course requirement: ENVS 400 Applied Sustainability.

Graduation Requirements

Undergraduate programs require a minimum of 120 semester credits for graduation.  Of those 120 credits, 40 credits must be in upper-division courses (those marked 300 and above).  Fifteen of these 40 upper-division credits must be earned in courses that are part of the standard or comprehensive major program being pursued. 

Students are expected to review all graduation requirements, which can be found in the Western Undergraduate Catalog: Graduation Requirements

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
BIOL 130
BIOL 135
Environmental Biology (GT-SC2)
and Environmental Biology Laboratory (GT-SC1)
CHEM 101
or CHEM 111
Introduction to Inorganic Chemistry (GT-SC2)
or General Chemistry I (GT-SC2)
ENG 102 Academic Writing (GT-CO1) 3
ENVS 100 Introduction to Environment and Sustainability (GT-SS2) 3
HWTR 100 First Year Seminar 1
COM 202 Academic Writing and Inquiry (GT-CO2) 3
Elective Elective or minor course 3
GEOL 101 Physical Geology (GT-SC2) (Area II Gen Ed) 3
GEOL 105 Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1) (Area II Gen Ed) 1
MATH 113 Statistical Thinking (GT-MA1) 3
PHYS 125 Energy and the Environment (GT-SC2) 3
Year Two
Elective Elective 3
ENVS 200 Writing the Environment 3
ENVS 250 Environmental Justice 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences 6
HWTR 398 Headwaters Conference 1
ECON 215 Environmental Economics 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences 12
Year Three
ENVS 301 Science of Sustainability and Resilience 3
ENVS 350 U.S. and Western Environmental Politics 3
ENVS 370
or ENVS 375
Water Policy and Politics
or Seminar in Water Topics
ENVS 370 and ENVS 375 are offered in alternating fall semesters.
ENVS 373 The Water Planet 3
Elective Elective 3
BIOL 301 General Ecology 3
Elective Elective 4
Electivechosen from selection of classes on cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, sex, sexuality, and/or class contexts 3
ENVS 390 Environmental Monitoring 4
ENVS 376 The Colorado Water Workshop 1
Year Four
Elective Elective 3
ENVS 370
or ENVS 375
Water Policy and Politics
or Seminar in Water Topics
ENVS 370 and ENVS 375 are offered in alternating fall semesters.
ENVS 410 Environmental Ethics 3
GEOG 340 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems 3
Water Elective ROE 293 or ECON 370 or ENVS 360 or BIOL 467 or BIOL 476 3
Elective Elective 6
ENVS 400 Applied Sustainability 3
ENVS 499
or ENVS 420
or ENVS 430
Internship in Environmental Studies
or Natural History of the Gunnison Basin
or Watersheds of the World
Water Elective ROE 293 or ECON 370 or ENVS 360 or BIOL 467 or BIOL 476 3
 Total Credits121


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Alumni Association Future Alumni Scholarship

The Alumni Association Scholarship is a one-time scholarship of $1,000 and is applicable for the student’s junior or senior year at Western.

Any child or grandchild of an alumni is eligible to receive the Future Alumni Scholarship.

  • This is a one-time non-renewable scholarship of $1,000.
  • Only one Future Alumni Scholarship will be awarded per academic year.
  • GPA must be 3.2 or above (college).

Due date has been extended to April 1 for 2022. An Alumni selection committee, appointed by the Alumni Advisory Council, will review applicants and select awardee by June 1.


Alumni Legacy Scholarship

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western (incoming freshman or new transfer students are eligible).

Do you have a son or daughter looking at college? Have they considered attending Western? As an alumni, your son, daughter and/or grandchildren are eligible for certain benefits distributed through this scholarship, as follows:

  • This is a one-time scholarship of $1,000.
  • Nominee must be an incoming first-year student or new transfer.
  • The cost of orientation is reduced by half (a $45 value).
  • The admission application fee is waived (a $30 value).
  • GPA must be 2.5 or above (high school or college of transfer).

The applicant must fill out the application form found below. Application forms are accepted year-round. If the applicant meets the GPA guidelines, the scholarship will be awarded.


Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

The Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western. This scholarship is not available to midyear transfers or students beginning in the spring semester.

Are you an alumni or employee of Western and know a prospective (or incoming) student who would be a great fit at Western? A recommendation from alumni and employees can support any new student and provide them a $500 scholarship their first year. (Western employees may not recommend a spouse or dependent receiving tuition benefits).

  • Any Western alumni/employee may nominate only one student per academic year to receive the $500 scholarship (distributed $250 per semester).
  • The scholarship is good for the first year only and is non-renewable.
  • The recommended student must be a full-time undergraduate student, attending Western for the first time.

The applicant must fill out the application form found here. The nominating alumni/employee must fill out the application form and submit the required documents by June 1. The recommended student must meet university admissions acceptance standards and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential Promise, visit our scholarships page.


The Western Presidential Honors Scholarships, established by the Jack and Marilyn MacAllister Foundation shall be an elite class of scholarships awarded to Western’s highest achieving and most deserving students, celebrating the ideals of academic excellence and service to the campus and community. Recipients of the Scholarships will be members of the Western Colorado University Honors Program.

There are eight Presidential Honors Scholarships of $2500 each. Each year two new Presidential Honors Scholarships will be awarded to two incoming first-year students.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit our scholarships page.

Get Involved

Take your education beyond the classroom.

Get the hands-on learning experience you need to apply your knowledge and launch your career.

  • Clubs & Organizations: Join the Organics Guild, Sustainability Coalition or Wildlife Society.
  • Coldharbour Institute: Experiment with sustainable building design, resilient food systems or community organizing in the Gunnison Valley.
  • Conferences: Attend the Headwaters Conference, the Colorado Water Workshop and Sage Grouse Spring Symposium.
  • Earthship Academy: Learn how to construct a self-sustaining building capable of producing food and saving energy.
  • High Country News: Check out the independent news source’s new satellite office located in Kelley Hall.
  • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory: Find a research assistantship at one of the premier biological research stations in the world.
  • Solar Energy International: Engage in the local, regional or global conversation about the renewable energy era.

Water studies

Western’s Water emphasis offers a strong foundation of courses in Biology, Environment and Sustainability, Geology, Math and Physics tailored around water science, policy and the humanities.

Additional Resources

ENVS Network

The ENVS Network documents people, organizations, and projects involved with the School of ENVS. Each year, Master in Environment Management students complete a 600 hour project, connecting people and organizations worldwide.

Learn More


John C. Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Dean, Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability

Program Facilitator

Lindsay Dolezal

Program Facilitator - Clark Family School

Contact Information



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Gunnison, CO 81230

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