Northern Colorado Regional Issues Summit recap: More storage, conservation taken too far will kill the tree canopy

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Colorado’s population is expected to increase from 5.1 million people to nearly 7.2 million by 2030. Most of that growth will occur on the Front Range, including Northern Colorado. As a result, water use will surge from 511,800 acre feet to 630,000 acre feet, said Andy Jones, a water attorney for Lawrence Jones Custer Grasmick. An acre-foot of water is the amount required to fill one acre, one foot deep. That means the state must build even more reservoirs than are now planned if it hopes to address the projected 118,200 acre-foot gap in water supply, Jones said…

The panel addressed the situation as part of the Regional Issues Summit on Wednesday at the Embassy Suites in Loveland…

Water storage is particularly important for Northern Colorado considering the intense use of the resource by industry, including agriculture and brewing, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute.

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

If everyone stops watering their lawns, they will jeopardize their green grass, but “you’re also jeopardizing the tree canopy,” Wilkinson said. “Deep percolation off lawn water keeps trees alive.”

Experts at the summit agreed that there’s no way for water conservation alone to solve the region’s water supply challenges as the state endures extreme drought conditions and Colorado’s population is expected to explode to more than 7 million by 2030…

Though water conservation isn’t enough, the area needs to take water conservation more seriously so that the city can reduce water demand to from the current 155 gallons per person per day to 140, said Fort Collins Poudre River Sustainability Director John Stokes.

Bobby Magill was live-Tweeting the event at #nocoissues along with many others.

More coverage from Grace Hood writing for KUNC. From the article:

“With the water we have in agriculture in Weld and Larimer counties, we have plenty of water to sustain any population that you’d want to have in this area. It’s a question of how much agriculture do you want to dry up?” [Eric Wilkinson]

This problem doesn’t have easy solutions. Part of it could come from lowering Front Range water use by 10 or 20 percent. However reusing and recycling water more could present other problems according to Andrew Jones, an attorney who specializes in water issues.

“When we talk about conserving, we have to introduce that concept into the discussion that we may also be reducing flows in the river and changing the river regime,” he says…

Ultimately, Northern Water’s Eric Wilkinson says the region needs to become more protective of its water supply, particularly when it comes to Denver Metro expansion. And that could come from creating a so called “water bank,” which could buy water rights from retiring farmers, preserving and leasing them back to agriculture and northern cities…

“We will be pursuing a resolution from the legislature in support of NISP in order encourage its forward progress more swiftly given the dynamics at play,” [the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance’s Sandra Hagen] says.

More coverage from Craig Young writing for the Loveland Reporter-Herald. From the article:

[Eric Wilkinson], as head of a water conservancy district engaged in planning and building water storage projects, joined other panelists in urging the construction of reservoirs to capture water the region has rights to. He said the Denver metro area already has demonstrated its willingness to come north to obtain water for its burgeoning population…

“Satisfying Denver’s thirst is probably one of the more important aspects to look at,” he said.

Leaders in Northern Colorado “need to consider a protectionist attitude in regard to the water supplies in this area.”

One way to do that, he said, would be to tie up the water here in a cooperative arrangement between farmers and local entities “so it’s not a candidate for going south to Denver.”

Wilkinson suggested the formation of a water bank as something officials here should consider. Through a new tax, the bank could buy water from retiring farmers, “bank” it and lease it to young farmers and other users…

Panelist John Stokes, the city of Fort Collins’ director of Poudre River sustainability, made the strongest appeal for conservation. He acknowledged that Northern Colorado needs more water storage but said, “I agree we can’t conserve our way out … but we can be a lot more aggressive about conservation.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

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