Colorado Water Conservation Board workshop tackles supply gap

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Here’s a recap of Monday’s workshop seeking solutions to Colorado’s supply gap, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The state water board is looking at a few big water projects, new ways to share water and conservation as ways to address the impending gap between future municipal water supplies and identified projects to meet the gap. But there are no good numbers on how much water could be conserved, whether lease-fallowing programs will work the way they’re intended or which project to bring Western Slope water to the Front Range could be pursued.

The board has been looking at the gap in the state’s water supply since 2002, and its latest estimates show that water demand will begin to outpace known projects to meet that demand as soon as next year. By 2030, there could be an 18 percent shortfall in water supplies and the number will only get bigger as the state’s population doubles by 2050. The search for an answer brought out a variety of viewpoints from board members, who reflected some of the attitudes about water and growth that were shared at a meeting of Front Range roundtables last week…

The big elephant in the room, however, was the limited reach of the water board. Urban conservation measures saving up to 40 percent of water could be easily obtained without drastically altering how Coloradans take showers, wash clothes and water their lawns, said CWCB drought planning chief Veva Deheza. But she was unable to estimate exactly how much water that would save without full reports from state water users. “We need 100 conservation plans, but we only have a quarter of them,” Deheza said. “Without those plans we can’t run the numbers.”

The board would have little authority for cities to set conservation goals, added Dan McAuliffe, deputy director of the CWCB. “We can’t say you need a conservation plan, much less set a goal,” he said.

The board also is limited in which major project could be used to help fill the gap. Front Range roundtables last week identified three projects last week that would provide 50,000 to 250,000 acre-feet of water each from the Colorado River basin: Green Mountain, Yampa pumpback and Flaming Gorge pipelines. While all would apparently fall within Colorado’s entitlement from the Colorado River Compact, it’s not clear who would provide the impetus to actually build projects. Roundtable members last week accepted those concepts, while rejecting the Big Straw plan to pump back water from Grand Junction. A Blue Mesa pumpback also was discussed by the roundtables, but did not appear to have much traction…

The board also looked at ways to minimize the pain to rural economies if agricultural water sales continue, the default option for Colorado. While CWCB Director Jennifer Gimbel told the roundtables last week there is no silver bullet to avoid the dry-up of ag land, the board and its staff will continue the hunt for proper ammunition. “No strategies rose to the top last week,” said Eric Hecox, who directs in-state water concerns for the CWCB. “A couple fell to the bottom.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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