Downstream Neighbor 2012 Symposium: Keynote speaker Maude Barlow remains optimistic for her cause and diametrically opposed to water markets


Update: here’s the link to the audio for Ms. Barlow’s presentation.

Maude Barlow managed to end a dreary tour through the world’s water supply problems on an optimistic note. She hammered home the point that real science, statistics and information interchange, will carry the cause in the day.

Water for basic needs and sanitation is a human right in her view. She laments the lack of respect for nature in our economy. She advocates for changes that will lead to a sustainable future for all.

I came to know Maude Barlow a bit after reading Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water her 2005 book about the disasters of privatization in the global south. She’s since released Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Ms. Barlow has been active lately, standing with the protestors that surrounded the White House, to help end the nonsense of the Keystone Pipeline.

At a Keystone protest in Canada she got cuffed by a reluctant mountie. Apparently he was apprehensive about facing his wife, a Barlow fan, when he got home.

Barlow advocates against water markets and can cite instance after instance where they have failed. This includes driving the poor in some areas to rely on surface water infused with waterborne disease.

Of Colorado, she maintains that we will inexorably move to a water commons model — she cited riparian law in Vermont as an example. She understands that western water law is mostly founded on the doctrine of prior appropriation. She doesn’t favor someone being able to divert, “…just because they got there first.”

On the subject of privatization I line up pretty well with Barlow. No surprise since I’ve read her work and she can make a point.

I do want to remind readers however that the water market in Colorado operates pretty well.

Prior appropriation is a good mechanism for allocating water in times of scarcity.

Colorado Water law prevents speculation in water rights acquisition. Recently the Pagosa Springs Water and Sanitation District lost big in water court over their planned Dry Creek Reservoir. In essence one of the judge’s findings said that they were trying to appropriate more water than projected customer growth would warrant.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District recently filed comments to a proposed permit for private water developer Aaron Million’s Flaming Gorge Pipeline. The project is speculative in nature they say.

The environment has a seat at the table in the Colorado water market. The Colorado Water Conservation Board is allowed by state statute to hold instream flow rights. Working with the non-profit Colorado Water Trust they’ve secured flows in critical reaches across Colorado.

Tax policy contains provisions for conservation easements designed to keep appropriated water with the land traditionally irrigated.

Finally, there is little enthusiasm amongst water providers to switch their operations to a for-profit model. Most ditch and reservoir companies also operate as non-profits.

The Downstream Neighbor Symposium is part of the Colorado Water 2012 celebration being spearheaded by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

The keynote event was a hoot. Things kicked off with a Denver/Boulder folk singer. During one song she invited us to sing along. A big crowd is my perfect place to sing. No one can hear me.

A graphic artist was on hand to capture the keynote address in words and picture while Ms. Barlow was speaking. The artist did an impressive job. I want to hire her for any meeting I facilitate from now on.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

U.S. Representative Scott Tipton pens letter to Congress asking for hearing about water storage


Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

Stressing the important role that water plays in western economies, jobs, and food security, Congressman Tipton (R-CO) has requested a Congressional hearing to examine issues surrounding water storage in the West.

In a letter to Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock, Tipton wrote:

“The uncertainties of annual water availability can imperil those communities which are hindered by an unwieldy regulatory framework that hinders the ability to store water for vital purposes. Through prudent supply management and the ability to store much needed water, communities can support jobs that depend on the availability of water, protect food security, control flooding, ensure continued recreation opportunities, provide water for the development of hydropower, and meet environmental protection needs.

“Among the immediate concerns regarding water storage is this year’s relatively low snow pack levels in Colorado. Streamlining the regulatory permitting process can help better prepare those communities that rely on snow pack to support local economies.

“I respectfully urge the Water and Power Subcommittee to take up this issue in a hearing so that we can identify the hurdles to water storage and work towards regulatory reform that will support Western communities that rely on the ability to store water.”

View the entire letter here.

Tipton recently spearheaded a bipartisan effort to stop the U.S. Forest Service from implementing a permit condition to require the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government as a permit condition on National Forest System lands. Tipton expressed concern over the impact the requirement would have on water rights held by ski areas and ranchers in particular. The U.S. Ski Industry Association is currently suing the U.S. Forest Service over the matter.

Thanks to the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper) for the heads up.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: David Robbins receives the Aspinall Water Leader Award


Robbins was honored for his longtime service to water interests in the state, including his yeoman work on Kansas v. Colorado. Click on the thumbnail graphic for my photo of Robbins and some of the past recipients.

When accepting the award Robbins underscored the need to keep all of Colorado’s entitlements under the various compacts in Colorado for future generations of Coloradans to be put to use as they see fit.

Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

David Robbins, president and co-founder of the Denver law firm of Hill & Robbins, was awarded the Wayne N. Aspinall water leader of the year award at the 54th annual CWC convention…

“We should not give away a drop of water that this state needs,” Robbins said, upon receiving the award. “We owe it to future generations.”[…]

In the Arkansas River basin, he was the attorney for the state of Colorado during the 24-year Kansas v. Colorado U.S. Supreme Court case involving the Arkansas River Compact. He also represented Colorado Springs through a contentious permitting process for the Southern Delivery System

While with the attorney general’s office, he defended the state’s in-stream flow program that protects water for the environment.

More Colorado Water Congress coverage here and here (Twitter).

Frank Jaeger: ‘The CWCB, in the face of a high-profile, professionally orchestrated lobbying campaign, kept its promise to consider all options,’ with the Flaming Gorge pipeline


I caught up with Mr. Jaeger at this week’s Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention on Thursday. He told me that the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition has the customers signed up for the water so that there is little question that the group will meet the “can and will” provisions in the permitting process. He also says that the coalition’s estimates of costs for building the project are between two and three billion dollars. In addition they plan to use existing storage in southeastern Wyoming with their partners there.

I got to chat briefly with Aaron Million as well. He is positive that the project, now modeled after the Lake Powell Pipeline to the St. George, Utah area, is on track and will pass environmental muster.

Here’s a report Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado- Wyoming Coalition this week wrote to state water officials confirming its interest in a Flaming Gorge pipeline. The group represents 550,000 people in five Colorado and three Wyoming cities or water districts…

“The CWCB, in the face of a high-profile, professionally orchestrated lobbying campaign, kept its promise to consider all options, including new projects that have some level of support and appear worth examining,” Frank Jaeger, manager of Parker Water and Sanitation District, wrote…

Jaeger said a pipeline project could help both Wyoming and Colorado develop what is left of each state’s allocation under the compact. “This project is a bi-state effort that provides an approach for two upper basin states to develop a portion of our compact entitlement in a collaborative manner,” Jaeger said.

More Colorado-Wyoming Coalition coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: U.S. Representative Tipton says the federal environmental reviews have put costs out of range


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“One thing we need to recognize is the regionalization of the United States,” [U.S. Representative Scott Tipton] said, noting that he has received support on both sides of the aisle from Western states on water issues. “People in the Northeast don’t see the need for water projects because they have plenty of water.”[…]

[CWC Board member Chris Treece] asked the congressmen what role the federal government should play in smoothing the way for water projects in Colorado. “There should be a state-based review and the federal government should get out of the way,” [U.S. Representative Cory Gardner] said.

Tipton said federal policies requiring expensive environmental reviews of projects have put costs out of range. “It’s unnecessary,” Tipton said. “We could do that at the state and local level instead.”

More Colorado Water Congress coverage here and here (Twitter).