Colorado Water Congress 2011 Annual Convention: Balancing Water Supply and the Environment

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Moderator, Joe Frank asked the closing general session panel to relate what they had learned from the discussions, sessions and informal conversations that took place over the course of the convention.

Brad Udall repeated his belief that Australian water policy in the Murray-Darling basin shows that markets can be utilized to distribute water effectively and fairly. “We need more people at the table, not just lawyers and engineers,” he said.

“How can we turn our back on the most powerful tool we have?”

He listed some of the things he has been thinking about lately. First, he said, “We have to think long and hard about the number of water providers we have in our urban areas…We need to make sure that we get environmental issues right.”

Conservation is the “least heinous solution out there,” he said, and he favors a, “national water commission,” that will look at the problems and , “incorporate science into policy.”

Udall is also looking for ways to institute transmountain and trans-state markets.

Peter Sutherland (Water Resources, GHD, Sydney) said that Australia is, “still grappling with the same issues you [Colorado] are, how to get things right for the environment and the economy.”

“The water cycle doesn’t recognize state boundaries,” he said.

Mark Pifher (Aurora Water) cited the similarities between solutions in Australia and Colorado. Both, “have made a significant investment in facilities,” he said. Pifher praised Australia’s use of free markets.

I asked Scott Ashby about their market after the session.

He told me that allocations are based on historical diversion practices. Water owners can sell permanently or temporarily.

For example, the government can use the market to acquire environmental water for streamflow or wetlands protection.

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