WATER LINES: Contemplating a ‘new normal’ at the Colo. Water Workshop next week | PostIndependent.com

WATER LINES: Contemplating a ‘new normal’ at the Colo. Water Workshop next week

Hannah Holm
Free Press Weekly Columnist

Water wonks, managers, scholars and officials — and various hybrids thereof — will gather at the Colorado Water Workshop in Gunnison next week to discuss “Planning for the New Normal.”

So what’s new in the new normal? Part of the workshop will be devoted to trying to answer that question. Both in hydrology and politics, two forces with powerful effects on water use, it can be hard to tell the difference between regular variability, short-term anomalies, and genuine trends.

On the theme of what nature has dished out so far and may serve up in the future, speakers will discuss our current drought and forest health problems, historical hydrology, and climate change projections. I haven’t seen the speakers’ presentations yet, but I have seen some of their past work. My prediction for their predictions is that they will say we are entering a future that will almost certainly be hotter and quite possibly drier, too, with attendant ecosystem challenges.

On the human factors related to water use, speakers will address changing demographics in agricultural communities and anticipated increases in urban water demands, as well as how our legal and policy tools for managing water have responded to changing public needs and values.

Besides discussing the changes that are happening to us, workshop participants will also hash out ideas about how to take an active role in shaping and responding to those changes. Colorado’s Legislative Water Resources Review Committee will hold a public discussion on what laws to introduce in the next legislative session. Representatives of Basin Roundtables from across the state, groups of stakeholders who are charged with “bottom-up” water planning, will also discuss their next steps in light of the governor’s recent call for the development of a Colorado Water Plan to comprehensively address a gap between anticipated water demands and developed water supplies.

The workshop promises lots of stimulating and enlightening discussion, as well as some fun — there are some social and recreational activities mixed into the agenda. If you would like to learn more, check out the workshop website at http://www.western.edu/academics/water. There is a cost to attend, but scholarships may be available if that presents a barrier to participation.

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.

Hannah Holm is coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

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