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.


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.

Code Title Credits Description
BIOL 130 Environmental Biology (GT-SC2) 3 View
BIOL 135 Environmental Biology Laboratory (GT-SC1) 1 View
BIOL 476 Aquatic Ecology (with laboratory) 4 View
ECON 215 Environmental Economics 3 View
ECON 216 Statistics for Business and Economics 3 View
ECON 370 Natural Resource Economics 3 View
ENVS 100 Introduction to Environment and Sustainability (GT-SS2) 3 View
ENVS 200 Writing the Environment 3 View
ENVS 301 Science of Sustainability and Resilience 3 View
ENVS 350 U.S. and Western Environmental Politics 3 View
ENVS 360 Global Environmental Policy 3 View
ENVS 370 Water Policy and Politics 3 View
ENVS 373 The Water Planet 3 View
ENVS 375 Seminar in Water Topics 3 View
ENVS 376 The Colorado Water Workshop 1 View
ENVS 390 Environmental Monitoring 4 View
ENVS 400 Applied Sustainability 3 View
ENVS 410 Environmental Ethics 3 View
ENVS 420 Natural History of the Gunnison Basin 3 View
ENVS 499 Internship in Environmental Studies 1-6 View
GEOG 340 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems 3 View
GEOL 101 Physical Geology (GT-SC2) 3 View
GEOL 105 Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1) 1 View
HWTR 200 This Is The Headwaters 1 View
HWTR 398 Headwaters Conference 1 View
MATH 113 Statistical Thinking (GT-MA1) 3 View
MATH 213 Probability and Statistics 3 View
PHYS 125 Energy and the Environment (GT-SC2) 3 View
ROE 293 Outdoor Pursuits Education- Water Based (with laboratory) 1-20 View
SOC 211 Quantitative Research Methods 3 View


Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.


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 15 for 2021. An Alumni selection committee, appointed by the Alumni Advisory Board, 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 freshman 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 here (click). 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 freshmen.

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

Dean, School of ENVS

John C. Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Dean, School of Environment & Sustainability

Contact Information



Campus Location

1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81230