The drought of 2012, on the heels of raging high water in 2011, was a wake-up call that we live in a dry land with highly variable weather. Our reservoirs buffered the impacts of this one-year (so far) drought, but another dry year or two could show the limits of their ability to protect us from our fickle climate. Given that both ancient tree rings and climate models suggest that longer and more severe droughts are quite likely in our future, what can we do to prepare?That question is the topic of next week's Upper Colorado River Basin Water Conference at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. The conference, organized by CMU's Water Center, will bring together water experts, policy makers and stakeholders from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada for presentations on how we can better understand and respond to drier conditions. Conference-related events begin Wednesday evening Nov. 7 and continue through Friday afternoon Nov. 9. All events will be held upstairs in CMU's University Center and can be registered and paid for separately - just go to www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter for full details. If you pre-register by noon Monday, Nov. 5, you'll get a free parking pass. • Nov. 7, 7 p.m. - Reception/Film screening - $15: Things kick off on an entertaining note with a reception and viewing of the "Remains of a River" film from the Colorado College "State of the Rockies" program. The film is about boating from the headwaters of the Green River to the mucky remains of the Colorado River delta in Mexico and includes great river footage as well as funny and sharp commentary from the filmmaker/adventurers. Your $15 lets you view the film, meet the filmmakers and have two complimentary drinks. • Nov. 8-9, beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day - conference panels plus networking breakfasts and lunches - $100: On Nov. 8, panels address the impacts of dust on snow and bark beetles; understanding and managing streamflows; agricultural efficiencies and water sharing; how to meet environmental water needs in cooperation with other uses; and household water conservation: how to do it, and its role in meeting future demands. On Nov. 9, leaders of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study (due to be completed next month) will discuss the analysis and conclusions in the study, and a panel of stakeholders and experts will provide their reflections on how the study was conducted and what it means for managing water into the future - from Denver to Steamboat Springs to central Utah. The final panel will feature top water planners from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah discussing their states' approaches to meeting future needs in the context of uncertain hydrology and obligations under interstate water compacts. Your $100 gets you into all the presentations as well as breakfast and lunch both days. • Nov. 8, 7 p.m. - dinner with keynote address by John Stulp, special policy advisor to Gov. Hickenlooper on water - $25: Stulp, a farmer and rancher from Prowers County and former state Commissioner of Agriculture, also chairs Colorado's Interbasin Compact Committee, which is seeking to work with stakeholders from each of the state's river basins to develop a statewide water plan by 2016. For more information on the conference and related events, check out www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter or call the Water Center at 970-248-1968. This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. Hannah Holm is coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.