Here’s a recap of the Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel’s keynote on the first day of the Arkansas Basin Water Forum, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Water for energy – whether that means hydroelectric, biofuels, oil shale or power plant cooling involves choices for Colorado in a time when shortages are nearing critical points, a top water official said Tuesday. “When you are dealing with water, you are dealing with our future. It’s going to take choices, and it’s going to take trade-offs,” Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel said. Gimbel made her comments during the keynote speech of the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum being held at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The event continues today with the topic “Water to Fuel Our Future.”[…]
the state’s population is expected to triple by 2050, and climate change will mean warmer temperatures, a longer growing season, decreased flows in river, more rain, earlier runoff and increased variability in the weather, Gimbel said. Conservation and reuse will go only so far to meet anticipated shortfalls, she said. “We need to continue building infrastructure,” Gimbel said. “However, the infrastructure we do have needs to be managed collectively. That means more multiuse projects.”
Construction of dams, given a black eye in the public consciousness, benefits rivers by moderating flows and improving fisheries, Gimbel said. Her primary example was the Arkansas River voluntary flow agreement – made possible by balancing water accounts between dams – that created sufficient flows for the Arkansas River Headwaters State Recreation Area, which draws more rafters that any other American stretch of river.
New water projects are increasingly more difficult during tough budget times, however. About $45 million has been cut from CWCB construction funds to make this year’s state budget balance and deeper cuts could be looming in the future, Gimbel said. Other forms of energy development have varying impacts on water supplies. Wind farms use little water, but could impact birds; solar power may use more water than previously believed; ethanol production of 7 billion gallons annually eats up 19 million acres of farmland; oil shale has the potential to use more than double the amount of water imported into the Arkansas Valley each year; and coal-bed methane produces poor-quality water that state law deals with uncertainly.