State of the West Symposium 2022

Tales of Two Rivers
Mon May 9th 2022, 12:00 - 2:00pm
Event Sponsor
The Bill Lane Center for the American West
The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
Admission Information

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The State of the West symposium is a gathering at Stanford to take stock of the economic and fiscal health of the western region. It features academic researchers, business and investment practitioners, and other stakeholders concerned with the well-being of the millions of Americans who dwell on the sunset side of the Hundredth Meridian.

The ninth iteration of the symposium address issues related to two unique river basins in the region, the Colorado and the Rio Grande. 


Monday, May 9, 2022

May 9
12 - 1 pm

Climate Change and the Future of the Colorado River

One hundred years ago the seven states of the Colorado River Basin entered into the Colorado River Compact. The signatories declared that:

The major purposes of this compact are to provide for the equitable division and apportionment of the use of the waters of the Colorado River System; to establish the relative importance of different beneficial uses of water, to promote interstate comity; to remove causes of present and future controversies; and to secure the expeditious agricultural and industrial development of the Colorado River Basin, the storage of its waters, and the protection of life and property from floods.

The Colorado has ever since arguably been the most managed river in the United States, possibly in the world. Its waters are crucially important to some 40 million people in the American Southwest.  On this centenary year, we will examine the viability of the Compact – and the health of the River -- in the face of unanticipated population growth, as well as the looming challenge of region-wide meta-drought.


Anne Castle
Senior Fellow, Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment, University of Colorado Law School

Anne Castle is a senior fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment at the University of Colorado Law School, focusing on western water issues, including Colorado River policy and management.  She is a founding member of the Water Policy Group.  She has authored papers on a variety of water policy topics including a legal and hydrological risk assessment in the Colorado River Basin, a roadmap for integration of land use decisions with water planning, and other arcana that the world of water wonks specializes in. From 2009 to 2014, Castle was the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the U.S. Department of the Interior where she oversaw water and science policy for the Department and had responsibility for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.


David Wegner

David L. Wegner is retired from the U.S. House of Representatives where he was a senior staff specialist on water, energy, climate change and science applications.  His portfolio while working in the House included the USGS, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, Public Power agencies, transportation, and tribal water settlements.   He has over 25 years of experience working for the Department of the Interior on western water and science issues in the Colorado, Columbia, and Missouri river basins along with extensive knowledge in water law, remote sensing and satellite data collection.  His expertise in public policy and legislative process continues to be used by legislators and agencies.  He has multiple publications on the use of science in decision making and is on the board of national and international scientific and non-profit organizations and is an appointed member of the National Academy of Scientists, Water Science and Technology Board.



Patrick Shea

Patrick Shea has had a very varied career. He’s a lawyer in private practice today in Salt Lake City, with an emphasis on land management practices and emerging biotech companies. He is a research professor of biology at the University of Utah, where he is teaching a graduate seminar on water and an undergraduate course on the biology of  urban streams. He has been National Director of the U.S Bureau of Land Management and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. He has worked with the Senate Intelligence Committee and was counsel to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the President’s Commission on Aviation Safety, Security, and Air Traffic Control. He holds degrees from Harvard Law, Oxford, and Stanford and went to Dilworth Elementary School.

May 9
1 - 2 pm

Envisioning a Healthier Rio Grande Valley

This session will lay the groundwork for initiating multi-sector action to improve health and wellness in rural America, focusing on the Rio Grande Valley, Texas

We will begin with the demographics of the Valley, including data on health, education, employment, housing, and economic development.

Against that background, we will address health and wellness challenges in the region with its recent tremendous growth and infrastructure expansion, as well as the impact of the Covid pandemic, which exacerbated already chronic health issues. We will explore multi-sector, collaborative, innovative initiatives in urgent need of implementation if this community and others like it in the Rural West are to achieve resilience and sustainability.


Angelina Esparza, MPH, RN
Associate Vice President, Jurisdictional Support & Health Equity, The CDC Foundation

Ms. Esparza supports the Foundation’s workforce capacity efforts by promoting health equity initiatives and building capacity of jurisdictions to address health disparities and create healthier communities for all.  Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as the Chief Program Officer at the Houston Health Department, serving the population of the fourth largest city in the nation. In this capacity, Ms. Esparza was responsible for strategic partnerships, community capacity building, community and program planning, quality assurance, and cultural competency.


Ivan G. Melendez, MD, FAAFP
Medical Director, Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department
Hidalgo County Health Authority

Dr. Melendez serves as the Hidalgo County Health Authority and medical director for the Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department.   As Chief Physician, Dr. Melendez is responsible for providing and maintaining the medical license under which all medical activities for the Health Department take providing medical services, ad establishing protocols and practices all with the support of the dedicated staff of the department.  His voice as an advocate to improve health conditions along the border and dedication throughout the pandemic have been highlighted in various news outlets at the local, state, and national levels. 



Phillip Polakoff, MD

Phil Polakoff, MD, MPH, M. Env. Sc.
Founder, CEO, A Healthier WE

Dr. Polakoff’s distinguished career in health and health care spans forty-five years and includes clinical services, product innovation, network development, care management, organizational and business enhancement, policy formulation, communications and financing. He is a health transformation advisor, and previously has worked in product and network development, care management, organizational and business development, policy formulation, communications and financing.