Western States Water Council: 2009 Symposium day one recap

A picture named johnwesleypowell.jpg

Update: From the Associated Press (Steven K. Paulson) via The Denver Post:

The council is an organization of representatives appointed by the governors of 18 Western states. The purposes are to promote cooperation, development and management of water resources. The theme of the meeting is “Water and Land Use Planning for a Sustainable Future.”

Here’s a recap of yesterday’s sessions, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

[John Wesley Powell’s] solution, offered to the territorial powers at the time, was to set up governmental jurisdiction based on watersheds and drainage basins, rather than the grid that had been used to divide the comparatively wet part of the United States up until that point. Trouble was, nobody listened to him. So, now with a few million people added and hundreds of water projects under its belt, the West will deal with linking water and land use the best it can…

Colorado is not alone in finding its water supply already stretched and looking at shortfalls in the future. Climate change could reduce precipitation by 10-20 percent, Tubbs said. “Yet this is the region where we’ve seen the highest growth and expectations are that it will continue once the economy improves,” Tubbs said. Tubbs, former water resources administrator for Montana, said the approach to water administration so far has been to divide water according to regions, geography and use. Now that scarcity is becoming reality, things must change. “New relationships will be built, if only by necessity,” Tubbs said.

Water quality also fits into the equation, said Bert Garcia, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 ecosystems protection program. Local land use decisions have an impact on national water quality, but there is little money available to deal with the consequences, Garcia said. For example, there are $500 billion in needs nationally for wastewater systems, but only about $6 billion was made available in federal stimulus funds. “Protecting the watersheds is not only the duty of federal managers, but local water departments as well,” Garcia said.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

In a conference that began Monday and concludes Wednesday, water experts from around the West are talking about how they will find enough water to serve the growing population of the West. Colorado’s population is expected to double to 10 million by 2050, and the state has no plan in place to deliver water to all the newcomers. Over the last few years, critics of Colorado’s growth policy – many from the Western Slope – have started to raise the question of where the water will be found. “What we decided is that we need to be talking, and that’s the purpose of this conference today,” said Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

Water and population recently has become a hot topic at Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee, a group chaired by Sherman that is supposed to find a bargain on water sharing between the Western and Eastern slopes. Compact committee organizer Eric Hecox presented data on the booming growth expected in the West. “That growth is driven by our strong economy. So we can’t really stop the growth,” Hecox said. But it will be possible to shape the nature of the growth. As much as three-quarters of the West’s housing units the next 20 to 30 years will be either new or rebuilt, Hecox said. That gives planners the chance to build denser housing that would need less water.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Leave a Reply