CDPHE hires new director to lead the Water Quality Control Division

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CONTACT: MaryAnn Nason 
PHONE: 530-587-7296


(REMOTE) Sept. 1, 2021: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is excited to announce that  Nicole Rowan is the department’s new division director of the Water Quality Control Division. 

Previously, Jennifer Opila, director for the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division, served as the division's director under a dual appointment through May of 2021. Trisha Oeth, Environmental Health and Protection Policy Director for the department, stepped in to lead the division during the search and hiring of a new division director. 

“Nicole has led with her engineering and technical background as well as with her heart, and it’s clear that she is committed to improving employee morale and helping everyone transition comfortably into the future,” said Oeth. 

Rowan has been with the department since 2013, serving as Watershed Section Manager through 2015 and then as the Clean Water Program manager from 2015 through her recent appointment as director. Rowan originally came to the department from the private sector. Rowan’s depth of technical experience and leadership skills creates the perfect candidate for division director.

Rowan’s most recent project successes include:

  • Developing an innovative nutrient regulation and policy that incentivizes early nutrient reductions from Colorado’s wastewater facilities. 
  • Developing the 10-Year Water Quality Roadmap. 
  • Securing funding for testing of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater to assist in ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response.
  • Developing the Water Quality Control Commission policy to protect Colorado surface waters and groundwater from toxic chemicals from firefighting foam and other sources. 

Rowan has led teams and projects through complex technical problems, developing public policy, and has in-depth technical expertise in water quality and water supply planning. She received her Bachelors of Biological Systems Engineering from the University of Nebraska in 1995, and her Masters of Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado in 2004. 

“We are pleased to have someone as accomplished and informed as Nicole fill the division director’s role. She will continue to lead the division in providing thoughtful and equitable service to the residents of the State of Colorado,” Shaun McGrath, director of environmental programs. 

The department is thrilled to have someone that has and will continue to lead the agency’s water quality mission, to protect and restore water quality for public health and the environment.