Avista continuously invests in the health of our communities and our resources. When we can combine these priorities, great things can happen. The Waters of the West program at the University of Idaho is one such example.
Saundra Richartz grew up in Colville, WA. where she had a passion for reading, writing and all other intellectual pursuits. A year after she graduated with a political science degree from Whitworth University, she applied for law school at the University of Idaho for a particular reason.
“I saw the information about the Waters of the West program, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Saundra.
The program is unique in that it teaches graduate students to integrate the economic, scientific, legal, social and other aspects of a water basin when working with leaders to solve water resource management problems. It is the only joint law and water resources master's or doctoral degree in the United States.
“As a hydro-based utility, we rely on water for about half of our power generation,” said Regional Business Manager, Paul Kimmell. “Because of that reliance, our tradition of environmental stewardship, commitment to social responsibility and sound management of our watersheds are important to us.”
Avista has pledged $5,000 or more each academic year to fund a scholarship for one or more full-time graduate students in the interdisciplinary program. The students' research project must be in one of the watersheds in Avista's service territory, which covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and parts of southern and eastern Oregon.
“I finished law school in three years but needed funding for the fourth,” said Saundra. “Thanks to Avista’s scholarship and a research assistantship, I was able to complete my master’s degree without incurring a fourth year of debt.”
Saundra is now working as Staff Counsel for the Senate Republican Caucus staffing the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks committee as well as the local government committee.
“My research and the contacts I made during my tenure as a masters student are still assisting me in serving our senators well and in developing creative solutions to water policy issues across the state,” said Saundra. “Without the Waters of the West program and the Avista scholarship, I likely would not be able to serve in such a capacity.”
This flagship program will bring the communities we serve long-term value and will help us understand, manage and solve all kinds of issues around water.
Together, Avista and the Avista Foundation have given more than $1.5 million in charitable gifts across all five states in our service area this year, and the The Waters of the West program at the University of Idaho is one of them.