Water is important to all of us. Some of us just drink it, some of us rely on it to grow food and livelihoods, and others of us raft, fish, kayak, surf, swim or ski — or build our businesses around people who do. Most of us appreciate the beauty of healthy streams and rivers.
Many of us also take the water we rely on and enjoy for granted. In May of last year, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered his administration to develop a statewide water plan, and said that “Colorado’s water plan must reflect its water values.” This is a call to stop taking water for granted and start defining what our water values are.
Our water future
Gov. Hickenlooper issued his order because the state of Colorado is facing the prospect of significant water supply challenges in the future. The gap between the state’s developed water supplies and growing urban demands could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050 (an acre foot is about enough for 2-3 families for a year at current usage rates). The biggest gap is anticipated on the Front Range, home to Colorado’s largest cities, but there’s a projected gap in the Colorado Basin as well.
The options for filling this gap all involve trade-offs. If cities buy more water from irrigated farms and ranches, it has negative impacts on rural communities. Taking more water from the Western Slope to the Front Range would be very expensive and could worsen environmental impacts from existing transmountain diversions. Conservation seems easy, but conserving enough to eliminate the need for other water sources could require the broad application of land-use and landscaping restrictions that may not be politically palatable.
In order to sort through these challenges, the governor has directed his administration to work with “basin roundtables” of stakeholders to help bring forth the perspectives and values of the citizens living in each of the state’s eight major river basins (plus an additional roundtable that focuses on the Denver Metropolitan area). These nine basin roundtables are in the process of developing “basin implementation plans” that will identify solutions to meet water needs both inside each basin and statewide. These individual basin plans will serve as input into Colorado’s Water Plan, which Gov. Hickenlooper has ordered to be completed by December 2015.
Make your voice heard
What are your water values? What water uses and attributes do you want to see protected or enhanced? What project ideas do you have? The Colorado Basin Roundtable needs your input as it develops its basin plan. Working with SGM, the Roundtable has set up the following ways for you to learn more and provide input.
• Visit the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan website at http://coloradobip.sgm-inc.com/.
• Answer a quick survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoBasinPlanValues
• Facebook: You can find the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan page here: https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoBasinImplementationPlan or you can search “Colorado Basin Implementation Plan.”
• Twitter: Follow the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan on twitter: https://twitter.com/colobip
• Questions? If you have any questions or comments, please submit your inquiries to Angie Fowler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Angie Boyer is marketing coordinator for SGM, and Hannah Holm is coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.