Basin Roundtable Summit: An interview with John Stulp

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“For the last five years, we’ve [Basin roundtables, IBCC, CWCB] been doing a slow dance, but I think the governor’s message is that time is of the essence, and we need to push forward,” said John Stulp, water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We’re understanding each other better than we did five years ago…

“One of the big unanswered questions is how to finance projects and if there is a place for the private sector in developing them,” Stulp said. “There probably is a role for the private sector, especially because there increasingly is no federal safety net as there has been in the past.”

Finding the real costs of water should be an issue for the state, Stulp said in addressing some comments about the ability of even large communities to pay for water projects, but that should also come with better explanations to the public about why water projects are needed.

Meanwhile, Chris Woodka takes a look at the real costs of water in this report from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Has anyone thought beyond the reports to find ways of convincing the public about how we’re going to fund projects in the future?” asked Reed Dils, of Buena Vista, and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

“We’ve talked about the concept of full-cost pricing, that people may be paying less for water than it’s worth,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. He explained that money from local communities is often leveraged against funding from other sources, so the capital costs are not onerous…

“Don’t forget that the country is spending only 7.5 percent of its income on food,” said T. Wright Dickinson, a rancher from Northwestern Colorado. He said the cost of food is held low, although farmers’ costs are rising.

There was also a question about the relationship of water and power. Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Conservation District, noted that most water projects in Colorado have been built using gravity flow, but more energy intensive projects like Southern Delivery System in Colorado Springs and Prairie Waters in Aurora are being built to pump back uphill.

More analysis of the IBCC Strategy from Alissa Johnson writing for The Crested Butte News. From the article:

…the IBCC, created by the 2005 Water for the 21st Century Act, is determined to change the nature of the fight, turning disagreement into cooperative discussion. In a December report to then-Governor Ritter and Governor-elect Hickenlooper, the IBCC outlined a four-part approach to creating a statewide framework for solving Colorado’s water gap. On February 28, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Board (UGRWCD) presented the report to the public on behalf of the Gunnison Basin Round Table. Representatives took that public input to the IBCC at the Statewide Roundtable Summit in Westminster, Colo. on Thursday, March 3. It marked the beginning of a long process, one that goes beyond individual basins to look at the health and vitality of Colorado as a whole…

The IBCC’s recommendations are simple in concept: complete already identified projects and processes (IPPs), find new water supplies, rethink agricultural water transfers—the old “buy and dry” philosophy that removes agricultural lands from irrigation—and implement greater water conservation. But there is nothing simple in the recommendations’ implementation. As the IBCC report outlines, each approach must be enacted simultaneously, and even then success isn’t guaranteed. UGRWCD general counsel John McClow explained that calculating the impacts of IPPs is a complex process. “The methodology for calculating these numbers is to begin with county demand, supply and IPPs,” McClow said. “It then expands to the basin [level], then to statewide, so the math is difficult to follow because of rounding and because the projected success rates for IPPs differ among the basins. In addition, the success rate varies in terms of its impact.”

For example, 100 percent successful implementation of Gunnison Basin IPPs would have far less impact than in the Metro Basin. The increase in demand for the Gunnison Basin is projected to be 16,000 to 23,000 acre-feet per year (AFY), while Metro Basin new demand is projected to be 180,000 to 280,000 AFY…

Part of the challenge in addressing water issues comes from the need to meet statewide demand when water rights are managed locally. Trans-mountain diversion of water is sensitive enough, but add to that the component of conservation and it gets even trickier. “When you have a drought, everyone is willing to get on board to get through the rough spot,” said UGRWCD board secretary George Sibley, “but when we are asking people to start conserving in order to enable more water to be freed up to feed more people moving into state, there’s a little less willingness to do that.” But for Sibley, the issue at hand shouldn’t be conservation—it should be demand reduction, and it should include support from the state. “Conservation is where you need people to use less of something,” says Sibley. “Demand reduction is something else, and you won’t find it mentioned much at all in this document. Demand reduction is when you say we aren’t going to let people form bad habits that need to be conserved. We will… develop good habits with the water that’s available, from the start.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

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