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Throughout her childhood, Dena Egenhoff was surrounded by strong female role models from engineers to professors. She found them “capable of anything they set their minds to.”  

“My own mother instilled in me the belief that my gender should never limit my aspirations,” said Egenhoff.  

This mindset followed Egenhoff as she pursued her passions for public service and water conservation. As she advanced through her education, she acquired a bachelor’s degree in Water Science and a master’s degree from Colorado State University in Watershed Science. Her first career experience in the water world started at 20 years old as a summer seasonal at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan where she worked in the water and wastewater treatment labs but also as a custodian, cleaning and repairing the park buildings.    

Transitioning from federal and state roles to a local position allowed Egenhoff the opportunity to directly impact a community. For three years, Egenhoff has served as the Water Conservation Manager in the Water & Sewer Department at the City of Greeley.   

In the day-to-day, Egenhoff is involved in various tasks including participating in meetings and collaboration with leadership, staff members, and other organizations. She also serves as project manager for contacts, legal agreements, finances and more. There is a level of strategic planning associated with her job that includes ensuring continuous community engagement, making data-based decisions for short- and long-term water demands, and working to remove barriers and find solutions for her program to run smoothly.   

“Being a woman in this industry is a constant learning experience,” Egenhoff said. “It means utilizing your position strategically, leveraging your strengths to push past barriers and move forward.” 

Q&A with Dena Egenhoff

Q: What do you enjoy most about working with/studying water? 

“Providing community service while protecting the environment. All through both my undergrad and my graduate program, I’ve been passionate about water whether it’s in terms of watersheds, ecosystem services, conservation, protection from pollutants and other aspects too. Everything about H2O I’m in!” 

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job? 

“I emphasize continuous education and fact-based decision-making, recognizing the cyclical nature of public awareness. For instance, when the Colorado River issues hit the national stage, we witnessed a surge in interest and calls for water conservation. However, these trends often fade from public consciousness as the weather changes to a wetter season as noted in 2023. Public support may become almost forgotten until it resurfaces abruptly, prompting to question why things aren’t working as they should.”  

“Regarding water management, we all view it through different lenses—be it for environmental protection or practical use. This diversity of perspectives presents a significant challenge, yet we’ve repeatedly shown that collaboration is not only possible but a privilege. Continuing to work together remains both a challenge and an opportunity.”

Q: How are tackling the education challenge? 

“To address the diverse needs of our community, it takes multiple steps. Understanding the breadth of our Greeley community, we conducted a thorough analysis for water conservation program involvement in the City of Greeley. This involved evaluating all our existing programs and their reach across our community. What became evident was a significant gap, particularly among those who arguably need support the most—individuals from lower-income backgrounds, non-white communities, and those who may not speak English. Building a foundation for new water conservation program based on the needs of the community is how one can tackle part of the education challenge. For example, Greeley is the first to hire a bilingual water efficiency coordinator to help community members navigate methods for water conservation and other city actions.”

Q: What has your experience so far been like being a woman in this line of work?  

“My experience as a woman in this field has undoubtedly involved facing discrimination, as I believe many of us, regardless of gender. My own mother instilled in me the belief that my gender should never limit my aspirations. If a tire was flat, you didn’t wait for someone else to fix it; you applied physics, logic, leverage—all the tools at your disposal—to solve the problem yourself. The field of hydrology currently consists of only 13% women, but this number is rising with each new generation bringing a fresh perspective and outlook.” 

Q: What’s a project you have worked on in this field that you are most proud of? 

“One of my most fulfilling achievements since becoming the Greeley’s Conservation Manager has been the incredible team I’ve had the privilege to assemble over the past three years. Their dedication and expertise have not only elevated our work but have also greatly influenced my growth as a manager. Together, we’ve shaped the present and future trajectory of our program.”

“In terms of specific projects, a standout moment came when, just eight months into my role, I was tasked with writing a grant. I took on the challenge, submitted the proposal, and we were awarded the grant for a substantial sum of $2 million dollars from the Bureau of Reclamation. Being able to secure these funds has been a significant highlight for me in my work with the City of Greeley, as it directly impacts the people we are dedicated to serving.”

Q: What or who has been an inspiration to you throughout your work experience? 

“Throughout my career journey, it’s been the remarkable women who have left an indelible mark on me as I progress through different chapters of my career. At the young age of 20, I started working at the National Park Service. My co-worker was a former law enforcement and working as maintenance. She exuded a powerful presence while I was young and not confident. She provided the guidance that reaching to emotions and panic accomplishes nothing but focus and getting the job done is necessary.”  

“Since then, my career has been shaped by a collective of remarkable women who have served as my bosses and mentors. Along this journey, I’ve had the privilege of meeting true inspirations—individuals who have tirelessly advocated for equity and paved the way for women like me to succeed in fields beyond the traditional roles of nursing, teaching, or secretarial work. It’s difficult to single out just one person, as there have been many influential figures along the way. From my college advisor to the women I now mentor, each has imparted invaluable lessons and guidance, constantly reminding me that mentorship is a two-way street of learning and growth.” 

Q: What is something you have learned about the water industry that you didn’t know before you started your role? 

“One key lesson I’ve learned about the water industry since starting my role is the complexity of a water utility. The importance of collaboration, both internally and externally, extends far beyond major water supply projects—it’s essential for all endeavors. The formula for innovation, effective problem-solving, and adaption is seeking diverse perspectives and exploring solution not an as individual but as a collective unit.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women that may want to get into this type of work? 

“For women, my advice is to seek out a mentor if you’re already working. Having a mentor, especially one tailored to your specific goals, can provide invaluable leadership and guidance.”

“If you’re in the process of finding a job, I highly recommend attending career events, which are often open statewide, especially at the university level. Take advantage of these opportunities to network and hone your interview skills. Even if a particular job doesn’t immediately pique your interest, consider going for the interview. It’s a chance to learn more about the industry and build your professional acumen.”

“Lastly, don’t underestimate the value of internships. Many organizations, including the City of Greeley, offer excellent internship programs. We’ve had interns who started with us, worked their way up to part-time positions, and eventually secured full-time roles. These internships can truly be golden opportunities to gain hands-on experience and open doors to your career path.”