HB 10-1159: Mitigation for water exports and HB 10-1188: Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Pace’s House Bill 1159 would apply to water imports of more than 1,000 acre-feet – enough for a few thousand suburban families. Anyone who wanted to import water would have to strike a “mitigation agreement” with the water conservancy district in the wet basin. The idea would put the water importer at a disadvantage because the water district has no incentive to negotiate, said Rod Kuharich, head of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Kuharich’s district serves Douglas County, and it is scouring the state for water supplies. “I think it’s just another hurdle – adding more cost to providing water service,” Kuharich said. The Southwestern Water Conservation District hasn’t taken a position on HB 1159, said vice president Steve Fearn. But the district – which serves the area from Pagosa Springs to the Dolores River – has opposed past bills. Water commonly is transferred among Southwest Colorado’s many river basins. That’s why the conservation district opposed a previous bill…

The Water Congress’ legislative committee voted overwhelmingly to oppose the bill earlier this year. The bill is scheduled for its first hearing Wednesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee…

Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison, has introduced [HB 10-1188] to allow river rafters to touch the riverbank or portage around hazards, even if the land is private property. Colorado courts have ruled that the rivers – which belong to the public – are open to boating, as long as boaters don’t touch the ground or the riverbed on private property. Curry’s bill would slightly expand the rights of boaters. She introduced it after a landowner near Gunnison moved to block rafting companies from the Taylor River, which flows through his land. The bill is scheduled for its first hearing Feb. 8 in the House Judiciary Committee.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress’ 52nd Annual Convention: Front Range Water Council presents study of the relationship between water and the Colorado economy

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A study by Summit Economics, working in conjunction with Tucker Hart Adams’ group, was commissioned by the Front Range Water Council to explain the relationship of water to the Colorado Economy. The council is made up of the state’s largest water providers, who are also importing most of the water from the Western Slope. Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Twin Lakes and the Northern and Southeastern water conservancy districts are members of the council. “The trade between regions operates like gravity,” economist Tom Binnings told the Colorado Water Congress this week, describing the report, Water and Colorado’s Economy. “The larger two regions are and the closer they are means the more likely they are to trade.”[…]

With 82 percent of the population and 86 percent of income, the change has been readily apparent in the past 50 years. According to the state demographer, the Western Slope will grow faster than the Front Range in the next 40 years, but in sheer numbers, the Front Range will continue to put on more bulk and will still make up 78 percent of the population.

Perhaps the most alarming computation in the report was the economic output of a region divided by the amount of water diverted. By that yardstick, the Front Range showed a value of $132,268 per acre-foot, with Central Colorado (the Upper Arkansas Valley, Huerfano and Park counties) at $12,326, and the Western Slope at $7,200. The two areas most dependent on agriculture fell behind distantly: the Eastern Plains, $3,342, and San Luis Valley, $1,209. The study admits agriculture is more dependent on water for value, while other sectors of the economy use relatively little water for the value of their output. In Colorado as a whole, agricultural water diversions are 91 percent agricultural, and 7.5 percent municipal-industrial, Binnings said. That proportion is more or less the same everywhere, except in the Front Range counties where one-third of the water is now used in municipal-industrial operations…

The Front Range accounts for 85 percent of the state’s 1.1 million acre-feet of annual municipal withdrawals, with about 72 percent of that coming from the Colorado River basin…

Members of the Front Range Council on the Water Congress panel said the study brought home the idea of interdependence in the state. “We live in a great state with a strong economic base and a bright future,” said Bruce McCormick, water services chief for Colorado Springs Utilities. “The industrial and municipal uses have high productivity, but it’s not the intent of this study to put one use against another. Our planning has to include agriculture, the environment and the lifestyle. What we learned is that we’re more interdependent than we thought.”

More Colorado water coverage here.