Combined Metro, Colorado, Arkansas, Gunnison and South Platte roundtables meeting recap: East Slope conservation was a hot topic

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

With the state’s population predicted to nearly double to about 10 million people by 2050 — the bulk of that on the Front Range — “basin roundtables” of stakeholders around the state are trying to reach consensus on a statewide plan to meet this new water demand. How much should come from agriculture? How much from the Colorado River system? And how much from conservation?

Conservation was the focus of a four-hour meeting in Montrose Monday night between members of the Gunnison, Colorado, Arkansas, Metro and South Platte Basin Roundtables. Western Slope roundtable members have been making the case for ambitious Front Range conservation strategies in order to minimize losses to agriculture and the Colorado River system, while Front Range representatives have expressed reluctance to build high yields from conservation into planning scenarios…

Some key informational points set the stage for the discussion:

• Per capita water use is expected to decline significantly due to replacement of old, worn-out appliances with newer, more water-efficient ones.

• Front Range cities, spurred into action by the 2002 drought, spend more and employ more people on their conservation programs than Western Slope communities — but efforts are building on this side of the hill, too. Measures include rates that increase with increasing use; leak detection programs; and education.

• Since the 2002 drought, Front Range water providers have seen per capita demand decline about 20% — but they don’t fully understand why and if this will persist.

• Despite per capita savings from conservation, population growth is expected to lead to additional aggregate demands, requiring the development of additional supplies.

Participants aired the following views (among others):

• We should all use water wisely: East Slope and West Slope — not just drinking water providers, but all water users.

• We need a statewide conservation ethic that outlines a reasonable and achievable level of conservation for the whole state.

• What is “reasonable” depends on the level of crisis perceived — actions that seem too expensive now could seem like a bargain in 20 years.

• Colorado headwaters communities are already paying a steep price for trans-mountain diversions, in the form of damaged fisheries and curtailed development. Is that fair?

• High conservation scenarios may not be achievable without regulatory action. Regulations may not currently be feasible or desirable, but a crisis could change this picture.

More IBCC — Basin roundtables coverage here.

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