Here’s a recap of Monday’s meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
[Harris] Sherman and the staff of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a part of his division in state government, presented daunting numbers to the Interbasin Compact Committee, which formed after the Statewide Water Supply Initiative identified a gap in municipal water supplies.
The first SWSI report in 2004 looked at needs to the year 2030 after shortfalls plagued the state in the 2002 drought. Five years later, the state is looking to the year 2050, with new draft reports giving updated numbers, and it’s not a pretty picture. The state demographer projects the population will double by 2050 to nearly 10 million people. Municipal needs – total diversion of water – will increase at least 830,000 acre-feet by that time, up from about 1.2 million acre-feet today. If projects don’t go as planned, the state’s climate changes or water is used for oil shale development, the additional water needed would be 1.7 million acre-feet.
The cities aren’t the largest users of water, as farms typically divert 85 percent of the water the state uses each year. In addition, the state’s recreation economy depends on flows being available in streams. Agriculture has been the easiest source of new water as cities have grown, and one purpose of SWSI was to slow down that trend…
While the IBCC has been meeting for years on the issues, little has been resolved, and Sherman framed Monday’s meeting as just the first step in addressing the needs.
The panel also heard a presentation on the study of a nonconsumptive needs – the water left in streams or added to benefit fish, wildlife and recreation – and learned that not all of the state’s nine basin roundtables are treating the information in the same way. “I’m a little distressed there’s no quantification of needs in some basins,” said Melinda Kassen of Trout Unlimited, representing environmental interests. “Are you suggesting it won’t be done in every basin?”
CWCB staffers explained the municipal needs were only the first to be addressed and the other needs will be considered as well, as required by the statute that formed the IBCC. Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said the CWCB report appeared to be heavily weighted toward traditional water projects that remove water from one area to use in another. She asked if the same amount of study would be devoted to land-use and conservation issues…
Jeris Danielson, representing the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, asked whether the state was looking at how ag rights on the Western Slope, which would yield cleaner water, stack up against ag rights in the South Platte and Arkansas river basins. He said the additional cost for treatment of water from the Front Range basins should be factored against the cost of building pipelines to move Western Slope water. That caused just about everybody from the Western Slope to bristle. “We have agricultural impacts as well,” Curry responded. “This is just a huge pressure on Western Slope agriculture.
Here’s an email announcement from the IBCC:
Water and Land Use Planning for a Sustainable Future: Scaling and Integrating
Western States Water Council
Colorado Department of Natural Resources
Western Governors’ Association
Red Lion Denver Central Hotel
September 28-30, 2009
Integrating water and land use planning at different scales is increasingly important as we strive to meet challenges related to growth, change and sustainability in the arid West. Land use impacts water demands and water availability limits land use options. Sound planning requires taking both into consideration. We can’t define and achieve sustainability without understanding the limits of our land and water resources, and the present and future demands on those resources.
As the Chinese aphorisms say, “Together we get smart. Together we work. Together we progress.” The purpose of this symposium is to bring together diverse participants from special districts, cities and counties, state and federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, including policy and decision-makers, planners, developers, and regulators to look at water and land use patterns, share experiences and concerns, identify problems and potential solutions, discuss obstacles and opportunities, and develop recommendations to better integrate and scale water and land use planning for a sustainable future.
More Coyote Gulch coverage here.