Statewide water plan: ‘…no one is wise enough to say what we’ll need 40 years from now’ — Mike King

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Just as a river serves many uses, state water planners see an opportunity to meet many needs with a state water plan. “Everything is on the table,” said Mike King, Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director. “There are no thumbs-up or thumbsdown, and no one is wise enough to say what we’ll need 40 years from now.”

That means agricultural needs, projects to bring water into the state, environmental protection and quality of life issues will be given equal weight with the elephant in the room: municipal water supply.

The governor’s order, signed in May, seeks to prevent sacrificing agriculture and the environment to fill the needs of growing cities. “We’re trying to develop a unified vision for Colorado,” King said. “Talking about water on a statewide basis has been a quagmire.”

King, along with Alan Hamel, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and CWCB Director James Eklund met with The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board Thursday to discuss the upcoming water plan.

King said a task force on the Flaming Gorge project failed to weigh in on the benefits or harm the project might cause because it lacked any clear direction from the governor or any other political leaders. While the current direction is calling for more conservation, sharing water resources and getting current projects built, the new plan will map how new storage can be built and how agriculture can be preserved, King said. There could even be guidelines to use in looking at bringing in more water from the Colorado River, he added. “I think the plan even will look at new supply and the need to preserve the ag economy,” Hamel added. “I’m excited about the opportunity we have today.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper has ordered the CWCB and other state agencies to develop the plan by late 2014. It would be Colorado’s first comprehensive blueprint developed by the people in the state. Eklund said it would build on the basin roundtable and Interbasin Compact Committee process started in 2005 to get grass-roots consensus about what is needed. The CWCB will take a more active role in developing water leasing pilot projects under HB1248, which was passed this year, Eklund added.

There is a sense of urgency. “If we can’t do this now, we might as well quit talking about it and let water Darwinism take its course,” King said.

More Statewide Water Plan coverage here.

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