IBCC strategy report

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Here’s the release from Governor Ritter (Alexandra Davis/Eric Hecox/Todd Hartman):

Gov. Bill Ritter today praised the work of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) in making great progress toward outlining a path forward for Colorado to achieve a sustainable water future. In a letter and accompanying report to Governor Ritter and Gov.-Elect John Hickenlooper released today, the IBCC called for shared responsibility and varied approaches to ensuring our growing state can provide the water needed to support agriculture, cities and homes, industries, recreation and our natural environment.

“I applaud the hard work of the IBCC as it begins to tackle the difficult challenge of planning how to ensure increasingly scarce water supplies are available to meet Colorado’s diverse and numerous needs,” Gov. Ritter said. “The IBCC’s collaborative, common-ground method asking all interests to share in the responsibility to map out a way forward is crucial if Colorado is going to maintain its economic and environmental quality of life.”

The IBCC’s report includes a summary of the past five years work by the IBCC, nine Basin Roundtables and the support of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The report results from a request by Gov. Ritter in January for the IBCC to add additional meetings in 2010 aimed at reaching agreements and report to him on its progress before the end of his term.

The report includes several key findings, including that a “status quo” approach to water planning will inevitably lead to the dry-up of significant agricultural land in Colorado and potential harm to the environment. To avoid this, the IBCC concluded that Colorado will need a mix of solutions, which include water conservation, the implementation of local water projects, agricultural transfers and the development of new water supplies.

The IBCC report also emphasizes that resources spent on various water interests fighting one another instead of working collaboratively will lead to further splintered, and ad-hoc decisions about water resources, one of Colorado’s most valuable assets. The IBCC considers the need for a mix of solutions an important part of this report, and understands that different stakeholders benefit from individual parts of this package and could take issue with other parts.

“We are looking for a more comprehensive policy approach through which to share the benefits – and burdens – across user groups,” said IBCC director Alexandra Davis. “This is the beginning of creating a framework within which more comprehensive decisions about water resources may be made. It’s a start to a broader grassroots conversation with roundtables and stakeholder groups.”

The report can be downloaded from the IBCC webpage. The Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) was established by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act in 2005 to facilitate conversations among Colorado’s river basins and to address statewide water issues. A 27-member committee, the IBCC encourages dialogue on water, broadens the range of stakeholders actively participating in the state’s water decisions and creates a locally driven process where the decision-making power rests with those living in the state’s river basins. For more information, click here.

I read the report over the weekend and a few things stand out:

– According to the recommendations it seems that recreation and the environment (non-consumptive needs) will get a seat at the table in the planning process:

…it is important that addressing non-­‐consumptive needs  becomes integrated into larger planning efforts on future water supply projects and processes, even though it may not be possible to protect and restore all environmental and recreational values. Providing proponents of water supply projects and processes with accepted methods to determine non-consumptive flow needs, sound information about stream flows in a larger geographic area, and reach-­‐specific data can help inform water supply project siting and design to facilitate the development of water supply projects and processes…

– The IBCC and all involved realize that ag to urban transfers are a way of life in Colorado’s water world. The goal is to minimize impacts to the ag sector and local economies from ‘buy and dry’ scenarios.

– The 800 pound gorilla in the room on the Front Range is the need to replace 35,000 acre-feet of non-tributary Denver Basin groundwater while also accommodating a few million more Coloradans.

– While being hard to quantify it is the IBCC’s hope that conservation make up a good share of the municipal and industrial water supply gap by 2050.

If only it was irrigation season so you could curl up under the cottonwoods down by the creek to read the report.

More IBCC coverage here and here.

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