About Us


The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District is located in south-central Colorado in the headwaters of the Gunnison River Basin. The mainstem of the Gunnison River which forms at the confluence of the East and Taylor Rivers in Almont, picks up other tributaries on its way into Blue Mesa Reservoir. Seven tributary mountain watersheds make up most of the Upper Gunnison River Basin. These seven are Ohio Creek, East River which includes the Slate River, Taylor River, Tomichi Creek which includes Quartz Creek, Cochetopa Creek, and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison.

Approximately 82% of the lands located within the District are federal public lands. Agriculture accounts for over 97% of the current water diversions in the Upper Gunnison River Basin. The total amount of irrigated acreage in the Basin is over 66,000 acres, mostly irrigated hay and pasture. The Basin is also known for its recreational activities such as fishing, boating, skiing, hunting, and camping; and this is a continually growing part of the local economy.

UGRWCD staff

210 West Spencer, Suite B      Gunnison, CO 81230       970-641-6065

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Sonja Chavez

General Manager

Sonja joined the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District as General Manager in December 2019. Sonja received both her BA in Environmental Biology and an MA in Limnology (study of freshwater systems) from the University of Colorado. Her areas of expertise are in water quality, water resources management, funding acquisition, and environmental and natural resource sciences, policy and planning.

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General Counsel

John is a graduate of Colorado Law. He has represented the District since 1991, becoming full time General Counsel in 2006. His work has consisted, in part, of water court litigation, including basin-wide plans for augmentation, and legislative advocacy. John has served on numerous boards, commissions, and organizations involving Colorado water, including the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Upper Colorado River Commission, and Colorado Water Congress.

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Jill Steele

Office Manager

Jill has worked for the District since 1994. She received her degree in Accounting from Western State Colorado University and is the District’s office manager and accountant.

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Beverly Richards

Water Resource Specialist

Beverly has been with the District since 2005. Since joining the District, she went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Environmental Management and Planning. Beverly works as the water resource specialist for the District and handles augmentation contracts among her other duties. She is also a staff member of the Watershed Management Planning, Grant, Project, and Education Committees.

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Sue Uerling

Administrative Assistant

Sue Uerling joined the staff in September 2020 as the Administrative Assistant. She will serve as the front-line contact with the public and will assist with Board meeting preparation tasks and public relations. Sue has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has spent 30 plus years in a variety of administrative and managerial roles primarily for nonprofit organizations.

District Board Members

The UGRWCD is governed by a board of eleven directors who are appointed by the Chief District Judge and represent eight geographical divisions. The divisions include Hinsdale County – Michelle Pierce; Saguache County – Rebie Hazard; Tomichi Creek – Joellen Fonken; Taylor River – Don Sabrowski; Crested Butte – Rosemary Carroll and Julie Nania; Ohio Creek – Stacy McPhail; Gunnison River – Andy Spann; and, the City of Gunnison – Bill Nesbitt, John Perusek and George Sibley. A Director must reside and own real property within his or her division and must be knowledgeable in water matters affecting the Upper Gunnison River Basin.

Michelle Pierce


Division 1 - Hinsdale County
Term Expires 2023

McPhail No. 1_Preferred(1)

Stacy McPhail

Vice President

Division 6 - Ohio Creek
Term Expires 2022


George Sibley


Division 8 - City of Gunnison
Term Expires 2022

Nesbitt No. 2_preferred

Bill Nesbitt


Division 8 - City of Gunnison
Term Expires 2024

Hazard No 2(1)

Rebie Hazard


Division 2 - Saguache County
Term Expires 2023

Fonken No. 1_preferred

Joellen Fonken


Division 3 - Tomichi Creek
Term Expires 2023

Sabrowski No. 2_preferred

Don Sabrowski


Division 4 - Taylor River
Term Expires 2024

Nania No. 2_preferred

Julie Nania


Division 5 - Crested Butte
Term Expires 2021


Rosemary Carroll


Division 5 - Crested Butte
Term Expires 2023

Spann No. 2_preferred

Andy Spann


Division 7 - Gunnison River
Term Expires 2022


John Perusek


Division 8 - City of Gunnison
Term Expires 2022

General Inquiries

Contact Beverly Richards


Michelle Pierce was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in June 2015 representing Division 1, Hinsdale County.  Michelle currently serves as the President of the Board. Her term expires in 2023. Michelle describes herself as a “layman” when it comes to water issues even though she was instrumental in helping facilitate one of the most important watershed management projects in the history of Hinsdale County. Read more here.

Job Announcement

Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District

General Manager

Start date December 1, 2019

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