James Eklund


Denver, Colorado

Phone: 303.299.8088


[email protected]


  • Senior Executives in State & Local Government Program, John F. Kennedy School of Government (2016)
  • J.D., University of Denver Sturm College of Law (2003)
  • Stanford University (1998)
    • Political Science

James Eklund leads the Water & Natural Resources practice where he is a strong advocate for smart water infrastructure and a recognized authority on water management in the American West.

James works with sovereign governments, multi-state authorities, state agencies, and private interests to deliver critical water infrastructure projects and to design policy regarding water law, natural resources, infrastructure, and environmental protection. He uses his depth of policy-making experience and notable connections with federal, state, and local decision makers to assist clients on a wide variety of matters including environmental, regulatory and legislative issues, and matters involving the use of public-private partnerships.

He served as Colorado’s lead negotiator and signatory on the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan and as director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board where he built a reputation as a leader in negotiation and diplomacy. He is recognized for bringing together numerous stakeholders with opposing goals to collaboratively craft binding solutions to common problems. James was the architect of Colorado’s Water Plan, the largest civic engagement process in state history, and served as legal counsel to Colorado’s Governor.

James teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs, and the University of Denver. He has made several media appearances discussing the water rights of the Colorado River, water conservation, and water scarcity. To watch or listen as James Eklund shares his insights on water in the West, click here.


  • Served as Colorado’s lead negotiator and signatory to the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, the first water management plan to confront climate change in the United States.
  • Served as Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, where he was the architect of Colorado’s first strategic water plan and implemented what has become the “gold standard” of water plans in the West.
  • Under James’ leadership the Colorado Conservation Board managed approximately $1 billion in assets and deployed an average of $100 million a year as the primary lender to Colorado water projects.
  • Helped lead Colorado’s state response to record flooding, drought and wildfire by administering a multi-million dollar FEMA flood response program, including $2 million for LiDAR mapping, an estimated $45 million floodplain mapping and, $65 million National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper to serve as the Colorado River Commissioner for the state of Colorado in 2016 where he fought to protect Colorado’s rights to water on the river; worked collaboratively with downstream states in pursuit of a successful outcome for the 40 million people who rely on the Colorado River.
  • As Colorado River Commissioner, worked to craft and shepherd critical Colorado River legislation through the U.S. Congress and testified in the House of Representatives.
  • Along with other state representatives, signed the Drought Contingency Plan which ensures the near-term sustainability of the Colorado River.
  • Served as legal counsel to the Governor of the State of Colorado.
  • Served as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Colorado specializing in interstate and international water issues.

Publications & Presentations




  • Agricultural Perspectives: Views from the Upper and Lower Basin
    Law of the Colorado River Annual Conference | May 7, 2024
  • Panel Discussion: Resiliency in the American West
    2023 Water Leaders Summit | September 14, 2023
  • First Fridays: 50 Years of Colorado Environmental and Water Issues
    University of Colorado Denver’s First Fridays with the School of Public Affairs | April 7, 2023
  • 2022 Symposium: Living With Uncertainty
    The Institute for Science & Policy | December 6-7, 2022
  • Annual Meeting
    Action 22 | October 17-18, 2019
  • Colorado River Symposium
    The Water Education Foundation | September 19-20, 2019
  • Presenter
    Ecological Restoration Business Association | September 12, 2019
  • 92nd Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) Symposium
    Water Environment Federation | September 2, 2019
  • 2019 Annual Conference
    Smart Water Networks (SWAN) | May 14, 2019
  • Water in the West Symposium
    CSU Spur | May 13-14, 2019
  • “Wednesday Newscast”
    KRCC | March 20, 2019
  • “Colorado Water Plan and Funding Initiative Update”
    2019 Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture | February 28, 2019
  • “Colorado River Basin’s Drought Plan”
    Infrastructure Committee of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce | January 18, 2019
  • “Water As a Business Risk…and Market Opportunity”
    Colorado Governors Fellowship | January 10, 2019



  • Time’s right for U.S. Senate Colorado River Caucus
    Colorado Politics | January 10, 2024
  • “Saving the Colorado River”
    The Water Report | April 15, 2021
  • “Wall Street Eyes Billions in the Colorado’s Water
    The New York Times | January 3, 2021
  • “Colorado voters deciding if the state should allow gambling on sports”
    Denver7 ABC | October 31, 2019
  • “Sports Books And Water Boards Are Strange Bedfellows in the Push for Prop DD”
    Colorado Public Radio (CPR) News | October 10, 2021
  • “Above-average snowpack ‘doesn’t mean the drought is over”
    E&E News | August 16, 2019
  • “Wet winter doesn’t end climate change risk to Colorado River”
    Associated Press | August 15, 2019
  • “Colo. may go all in on gambling to fund conservation”
    E&E News | July 10, 2019
  • “With help, Congress OKs ‘win for West'”
    Grand Junction Daily Sentinel | April 10, 2019
  • “Will Congress leave the Colorado River high and dry?”
    High Country News | April 4, 2019
  • “To Finish Drought Plan, Colorado River Water Managers Ask Congress for Approval”
    KRCC | March 20, 2019
  • “Colorado, Western states finalize landmark drought plan to voluntarily use less Colorado River water”
    The Denver Post | March 19, 2019
  • “Reclamation drought plan would nix environmental reviews”
    E&E News | March 13, 2019
  • “Colorado River Drought Deal on the Line as Deadline Looms”
    Bloomberg BNA Energy & Environment Report | January 30, 2019
  • “Arizona lawmakers under pressure to approve seven-state Colorado River drought plan before federal deadline”
    The Colorado Sun | January 11, 2019

Professional Activities

  • Douglas County Water Commission (2023 – present)
  • Colorado Lake and Reservoir Management Association, board member (2022)
  • Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on water, hosted by the Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program, participant (2016 – 2018)
  • Western States Water Council, executive committee member (2012 – 2017)
  • Colorado Foundation for Water Education, board member (2011 – 2017)
  • Forum on Commitments to Action on Building a Sustainable Water Future, The White House, Executive Office of the President (2016)
  • Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Leadership Foundation, leadership Denver (2013)
  • Governor’s Amendment 64 Task Force, local authority & control committee (2012 – 2013)
  • Governor’s Appointee Colorado Wildfire Review Team (2012)
  • Academy of Urban Learning, Denver Public Schools, Founding Board President, (2005 – 2008)
  • Norse Sky Cattle Ranch, member (1975 – present)