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Water Lines: Water planning, public outreach continues

Hannah Holm
WATER LINES
Free Press Weekly Columnist
Colorado River near Grand Junction
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Over the past month, readers of this column have learned about several aspects of the Colorado Water Plan Governor Hickenlooper wants drafted by the end of this year. Articles have focused on the efforts of the planning group for the Colorado River Basin (in Colorado) that seek to address needs for community water supplies, agriculture, and streamflows to support the environment and recreational uses.

Here are a few of the points highlighted the series:

• Many headwater communities lack sufficient reservoir storage to weather a prolonged or severe drought.



• Many farmers and ranchers already suffer from periodic water shortages, even as they fear that additional Western Slope agricultural water will be demanded for urban uses or meeting downstream obligations.

• The health of many streams have already been undermined by diversions, and there is concern that the problem could get worse as water demands continue to grow, with consequences for the recreational economy as well as the environment.



Reconciling these competing demands for water even within the Colorado River Basin is no simple task, and the fact that water-short farms and cities east of the Continental Divide continue to seek relief from the comparatively wet western side adds another layer of complexity.

Nonetheless, the water managers and stakeholders that make up the Colorado Basin Roundtable are forging ahead with assessing potential projects and methods to enhance the security of water supplies to meet all of the basin’s needs. A few of these potential projects and methods include:

• Developing small storage reservoirs in the Upper Basin that can release water to support both community needs and fish needs in times of prolonged drought.

• Acquiring the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon, which holds a very senior water right that plays an important role in keeping water in the Colorado River to run through its hydropower turbines.

• Identifying land-use policies that could reduce the growth of urban water needs.

The Colorado Basin Roundtable is continuing to address these options at meetings every two weeks in Glenwood Springs and is seeking additional input from the public at town hall meetings held throughout the river basin.

To learn more and get details on upcoming meetings, go to http://www.coloradobip.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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