John Perusek was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in February 2018 representing Division 8, the City of Gunnison. John currently serves as the Secretary of the Board and serves on the Executive, Finance and Projects board committees. His current term expires in 2022.
As a local boy, John has been engaged in water issues his whole life. John comes from three generations of area ranchers and learned early on the importance of water for irrigation purposes. As a teenager, John started working in the summers at the Mt. Emmons mine near Crested Butte. John said they “liked his skill set” and he was hired on full time in 1984. He continued to work at Mt. Emmons mine in the wastewater treatment plant for 23 years before being transferred to the Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville, where he served as the Maintenance Planner for industrial wastewater treatment for 10 more years. John also earned his earned his Bachelor of Arts degree while working as a contractor at the Mount Emmons prior to being hired full time by the project. He earned his degree in science with a minor in geology from what was then Western State College in Gunnison.
“As a long-term resident of this District, I have seen a gradual shift in our local economy from being agricultural and mining based to more tourism and second-home development based,” said John. “I believe agriculture will always be important for our economy, so I would like for our irrigation systems to be optimized so that those with water rights are able to maximize their beneficial use.”
John credits the District’s grant programming and watershed management planning initiatives in helping optimize irrigation systems and improve water quality for the area. “It takes a lot of planning and engineering to ensure that such projects are going to be successful and benefit the water users and this is where the District can provide funding and expertise,” said John. He encourages individuals and organizations in the District to reach out to the staff and board when considering a water improvement project.
“I think Sonja (Chavez, general manager for the District) is doing an awesome job of partnering with individuals, organizations and other funders to get water optimization projects off the ground,” said John. “The Upper Gunnison River Restoration & Irrigation Infrastructure Improvement Project featured in this edition is a perfect example of this.”
John also says, “We have to take steps to make sure what water we have will last and to ensure that it is of the best quality it can be.”
When not working on water issues, John enjoys golfing and fly fishing and is a big supporter of Western University’s sports program. He particularly likes following the wrestling program and basketball program, as he started wrestling when he was just 8-years-old. John and his wife of 38 years, Colette, are both Western alums so they often enjoy Western sports and activities together. They are also parents to one grown daughter and enjoy spending time with their grandson. John has also been a member of the City of Gunnison’s Planning and Zoning Commission since 2017.
“With his 33 years of experience in water quality management, John brings significant expertise to the Board which is really beneficial,” said UGRWCD General Manager Sonja Chavez. “I really appreciate the knowledge he has of our watershed and the understanding he has of the issues that affect all water users in the District.”