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Water Lines: Help plan Colorado’s water future

Hannah Holm & Angie Boyer
WATER LINES
Free Press Weekly Columnists
The gap between Colorado's developed water supplies and growing urban demands could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050.
Submitted photo |

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, Governor 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.

What does our water future hold for us?



Governor 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 two to three 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 trans-mountain 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” which 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 Governor Hickenlooper has ordered to be completed by December 2015.

LEARN MORE

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.

1. Visit the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan website at http://www.coloradobip.sgm-inc.com.

2. Answer a quick survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoBasinPlanValues.

3. Attend a meeting. Planning meetings are being held twice a week at the Community Center in Glenwood Springs and presentations are being given across the basin. Upcoming events include a Grand County Town Hall meeting Feb. 12, a seminar in Grand Junction Feb. 17, and a “Waterwise Wednesday” event in Avon Feb. 26. See the website above for an up-to-date schedule.

4. Facebook: You can find the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan page here: http://www.facebook.com/ColoradoBasinImplementationPlan or you can search “Colorado Basin Implementation Plan.”

5. Twitter: Follow the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/colobip.

6. Questions? If you have any questions or comments, please submit your inquiries to Angie Fowler at angief@sgm-inc.com

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. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or Twitter at Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.


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