Alan Krause traveled a great distance from his home in Steamboat Springs this month to give away $50,000.
Krause is president of natural resources, industry and infrastructure for MWH Global, an environmental engineering firm with clients on six continents. Krause was in Pakistan this month to hand deliver a $50,000 check for earthquake relief to President Pervez Musharraf.
MWH has been working in Pakistan for more than 50 years. The company is working today on several reservoirs, for hydroelectric power and irrigation, that figure prominently in President Musharraf's vision for meeting his country's water needs for decades to come.
Krause guesses that most Americans, focused on news stories of Islamic extremism, grossly underestimate the sophistication of Pakistan and its leaders, as well as its rapidly growing economy.
"It's a strange place to work -- it's a crossroads for (American interests)," Krause said. "The U.S. is an incredible supplier of everything for them right now.
"Our company is going to continue to invest in Pakistan -- we have through a number of governments."
Krause's primary office is in MWH's Chicago headquarters, where he oversees a $250 million budget and 2,000 employees in 53 offices around the world. Yet, the company maintains a growing office in Steamboat, and Krause is happiest when he's in his office in the Pine Grove Center. It's a location that allows him to spend the lunch hour training for Nordic ski races.
"This office had a turn down after 2001, but it's growing again, and we're looking for engineers," Krause said. "We have about 30 people right now."
John Redmond is manager of the Steamboat office of MWH. Pat Corser, who oversees global mining work for the Steamboat office, recently returned from a visit to a gold mine in Romania. Engineers in the Steamboat office also are consulting on projects in Peru, Indonesia and Australia, Krause said.
The story of how one of the country's largest engineering firms (it did $1 billion in revenues last year) came to have a presence in Steamboat is a little different from the now familiar saga -- "corporate executive buys vacation home in ski town, begins to commute electronically." Krause came here about 15 years ago to assume leadership of a much smaller engineering firm, ACZ Inc. The company changed its name to TerraMatrix in 1993 and was subsequently merged with Montgomery Watson and, finally, Montgomery Watson merged with Harza Engineering Company -- thus the name MWH.
Krause, while remaining in Steamboat, took on increasingly bigger roles and more responsibility with the engineering giant that had acquired his little company. MWH employs more than 6,000 engineers and scientists in civil, structural, mechanical and geotechnical engineering. The company was ranked first in the world for consulting engineering services in the hydropower field by Engineering News Record magazine.
Harza joined two British engineering companies in 1957 to work on the Mangla Dam in Pakistan. The company's relationship with Pakistan's version of Americans Bureau of Reclamation has continued since.
The Web site of the Pakistani government reports that the country has significant water resources but insuffi-
cient storage capacity. Out of 77 million acres of irrigable land, just 44.4 million acres are being irrigated.
Krause said the country has very little oil and is nervous about its dependence on foreign energy. Musharraf has set a goal of flipping Pakistan's reliance on petroleum for 60 percent of its energy and on hydropower for 40 percent to 60 percent hydro and 40 percent petroleum by 2020.
Pakistan has ample opportunity to create new reservoirs on tributaries of the Indus River, Krause said. However, the Pakistani government's Web page says it has not built a new dam in 30 years.
"We are moving from a water-abundant to water-scarce country," Musharraf's Vision 2020 plan reports. The Pakistani president thinks his country must add 18 million to 20 million acre-feet of storage by 2020 to avoid severe water shortages.
MWH is consulting on two dams, Kalabagh (due to be completed in 2012) and Bhasha (due to be completed in 2016) that would help realize that goal.
Krause said his company is committed to building water storage and resource extraction projects around the globe in sustainable ways. He doesn't argue that new dams on tributaries of the world's great rivers, such as the Indus, don't negatively affect watersheds. But before you can understand the incredible thirst for resources in developing nations, you have to visit them, he said.
"You've got to go there and see it," he said.
When the effects of renewable water projects are compared with those of burning low-quality coal, for example, large hydroelectric projects look more desirable, he said.
In every country where it works, MWH prepares detailed environmental impact statements for its clients. Large, publicly held natural resource extraction companies are more interested in sustainability, both resource and social sustainability, than most people give them credit for, Krause said.
"They understand that they can make a lot of money today, but it will disappear down the road if they don't deal with sustainability up front," he said.
To be sure, those publicly held companies are driven by the quarterly earnings report and the goal of performing for shareholders, but if those goals lead to sustainable projects, it's beneficial to society, Krause said.
One of his clients is working to find ways to spread the wealth of a copper mining project in Peru to indigenous people, he said. And it isn't an easy problem to solve.
Globally, half of MWH's employees are natives of the countries where they work. The company's goal in Pakistan is to have a Pakistani staff so that it isn't perceived as an American company.
MWH manages a philanthropic arm called the MWH Caring Foundation.
When Krause learned the unofficial death toll in last year's earthquakes in northern Pakistan was 87,000, but the unofficial count was 120,000, he decided to ask his company to make a donation. He was determined to ensure the money went to earthquake relief. For that reason, he sought a meeting with Musharraf.
The two men discussed natural resources policy and MWH for about 30 minutes, Krause said.
At the end of their conversation, President Musharraf offered assurances that the $50,000 from MWH would go to its intended cause.