Guest Opinion: Let’s invest in our water future | PostIndependent.com

Guest Opinion: Let’s invest in our water future

Wm Carey Shanks
Guest Opinion

You can't make liquor without water. That is why the team at Carbondale's Marble Distilling Co. sees it as our job to take care of this essential ingredient. As local business owners, we also feel a responsibility to support protection of the rivers that make this part of Colorado such a great place to live, work and play.

We are doing our part, but we can't do it alone. Marble Distilling Co. is the first distillery to capture 100 percent of its process water and harvest all the energy from the recapture. We save more than 4 million gallons of water a year and harvest 1.8B BTU of energy from that water.

We send all our stillage (which is more than 50 percent water) to local ranchers for feedstock. Nothing goes down the drain at Marble Distilling Co. We have seen a big movement in the beverage, hospitality and other industries to save water. But that's just a drop in the bucket of what's needed.

A booming population is driving up water demands at a time when Colorado is mired in a long-standing drought that this year's low snowpack will only deepen. All of this is straining the rivers that we rely on for drinking water and recreation. If we are to meet our water needs while protecting our rivers as a state, we are going to have to invest in on-the-ground restoration projects while expanding conservation, efficiency and reuse.

We know what to do, but critical projects that improve our rivers and invest in rural economies currently lack a clear and reliable funding source.

We have seen the benefits these investments can bring to small communities with recent funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board supporting the health and stability of the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers. These funds are much-needed and appreciated by the local community. But across our state there many more stories like this waiting for funding to come.

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The Colorado Water Plan holds the promise of protecting our state's rivers, and providing a clean and reliable drinking water supply for our communities and economy. The Colorado River supports a $9 billion recreation economy in our state employing about 80,000 people.

More than half of our gross state product depends on water from the Colorado River system. Leaders have made some progress implementing the Water Plan, but further action and investment is urgently needed to ensure that Colorado's rivers have enough water to support the communities, wildlife and recreation that depend on them.

In this legislative session, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been able to squeeze out $11 million to fund priorities from the Water Plan. This was a miracle since the funding source for river health has been a shrinking severance tax fund.

Despite this budgetary win, conservation objectives such as river health, municipal and agricultural conservation, and efficiency, reuse and water sharing arrangements are still not adequately funded. Businesses like ours that depend on our rivers for their livelihood need to know that the state is stewarding this resource wisely.

As business owners, we know that to succeed, we need to plan for the future. So we are asking lawmakers and state leaders to prioritize the rivers in our state as the economic drivers that they are and dedicate a funding source for water planning and conservation.

The Water Plan must not languish on a shelf while rivers continue to dwindle. People across Colorado came up with great ideas to secure our water future. To implement those plans, we must see a commitment to funding them.

Wm Carey Shanks and Connie Baker are co-founders of Marble Distilling Co. and the Distillery Inn located in downtown Carbondale.