Water meeting examines state’s water supplies, needs | PostIndependent.com

Water meeting examines state’s water supplies, needs

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Eastern Slope residents should make the most of the water they have before trying to divert more from western Colorado, several participants in a Colorado River Basin forum said Wednesday night.Front Range residents should be reusing water before they come looking to other basins for more, Glenwood water attorney Jeff Houpt said at a meeting held Wednesday at the Community Center. The meeting was part of the ongoing Statewide Water Supply Initiative being undertaken by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.Former Aspen mayor Rachel Richards agreed with Houpt, citing Aspen’s experience in which it inspected its water lines and found they were so old the city was losing 40 percent of its treated water.Front Range communities that conduct the same inspections “might find 30 to 40 percent more water already there,” she said.About 480,000 acre feet of Colorado River water is diverted to the South Platte and Arkansas River basins each year. This far exceeds transmountain diversions from any other area in the state, according to the CWCB. An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons, and is the water used in a year by a five urban residents.Area residents acknowledged Wednesday that they face plenty of challenges from within the Colorado River Basin as well as from without. Various interests are competing for the river’s water, while growth puts increasing demand on a limited commodity.Rick Sackbauer, a project manager for Vail Resorts Development Co., expressed concern that the region’s growing number of second-home owners may decide to take up full-time occupancy here.”What happens when all those second-home owners come and live here, and we built the church for Easter Sunday and suddenly every day is Easter Sunday?” he asked.Water planners said they already face a challenge of trying to meet drastically higher water demand at times such as Christmas, when many people visit resorts. Those visits come at a time of low wintertime river flows.More than 40 people attended Wednesday’s meeting. The Statewide Water Supply Initiative is a first-ever attempt in Colorado to develop a common understanding of existing water supplies and future water supply needs and demands throughout Colorado, and possible means of meeting those needs over the next 30 years.Meeting facilitators stressed that the undertaking is not affiliated with Referendum A, the water storage initiative on this fall’s ballot. The water initiative’s roots go further back, to a strategic planning process that the CWCB began to look at about four years ago, said Rick Brown, the project’s manager.Meetings are being held around the state to get public feedback on the initiative and on water issues. The eventual goal of the initiative is to identify potential solutions that could include, but aren’t limited to, conservation, rehabilitation of existing water supply facilities, enlargement and/or more efficient use of existing water supply facilities, and new water supply projects.”I think water storage is going to be inevitable,” said Ken Neubecker, an Eagle resident and Trout Unlimited representative.While conservation is important, “All it does is sort of push the problem past that 30-year horizon so that we don’t have to deal with it,” he said.Several participants also noted the increasing demand recreation is placing on water supplies. Sackbauer pointed out that water releases for ski resort snowmaking, for example, are now also being looked to for watering golf courses in the summer. “Do you release for your golf courses or do you release for your snowmaking for the winter? Tough choice,” Sackbauer said.Houpt cited the increasing debate occurring over providing instream flows for such recreational activities as boating.”Those are economically legitimate uses that need to be considered here. It’s a huge part of the economy on the Western Slope,” he said.Mark Fuller, executive director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, noted that sometimes current laws prevent imaginative solutions to water challenges, in areas such as recreational water rights.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com

for Information on the Statewide Water Supply Initiative-Rick Brown, 303-866-3514-www.cwcb.state.co.us.

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