Cooperative agreement subject of watershed partnership meeting |

Cooperative agreement subject of watershed partnership meeting

This week, the Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership continues its seminar series with Chris Treese of the Colorado River District discussing the background, content and regional implications of the proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, May 20, at the Re-2 school district building in Rifle, 839 Whitewater Ave., and is open to the public.

Tensions between water users on the Front Range and West Slope have existed for years, so whenever those interests can find a piece of common ground on water policy, it’s reason to take note. The proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, mediated between the Denver Water Board and more than two-dozen interests from the West Slope – including the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs – aims to fairly address challenges surrounding increasingly scarce water supplies from the Colorado River Basin, and perhaps end century-old water disputes between the regions.

The proposed agreement is the result of five years of negotiations between Denver Water and several West Slope water users. It aims to balance trade-offs between competing uses including the health of the river, recreational uses, agriculture and growth both within and outside the basin, including cities on the Front Range.

“This is a unique agreement between 34 parties. It looks at the Colorado River Basin as a whole and tries to balance many different needs and trade-offs,” said Treese, who helped create the Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership and is also a member of the Partnership’s steering committee.

Western Colorado has long been wary of Denver because the city owns the legal rights to redirect Colorado River water east over the Continental Divide – through what are known as trans-mountain diversions.

In the proposed cooperative agreement Denver agrees to work more cooperatively with West Slope communities on future water projects, and devote some of its supplies to West Slope communities in concert with greater storage, conservation and reuse within its own service area. These concessions are made with the idea that those communities will withdraw opposition to certain water diversion projects.

To become effective, the proposed agreement must now be approved by towns, counties and water entities across western Colorado.

“The agreement focuses on Denver and the Colorado River headwaters including Eagle, Grand and Summit counties,” notes Denis Reich of the Colorado Water Institute. “The next order of scrutiny will be for downstream uses such as those in the Middle Colorado. This seminar represents an excellent opportunity for Garfield county residents to learn more about the agreement.”

The Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership meets monthly in Rifle. For more information call you can visit email or call John Lavey at (970) 384-4364 or Chris Treese at 945-8522.

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