Here’s a guest column about the urgency behind the Colorado Water Plan, written by Diane Hoppe running in The Greeley Tribune:
The recent flooding in northeast Colorado has drawn our attention to the importance of planning for uncertainty, especially when it comes to water. Whether one lives on the Western Slope or the Eastern Plains, water is what makes Colorado’s productive farms and ranches, our thriving recreational industry, our beautiful environment and our vibrant cities possible.
Despite the recent floods, water is predicted to be in short supply in the future. In the coming decades, there could be a gap between supply and demand of as much as half a million acre-feet per year or more. This scenario is particularly threatening to Colorado’s rural communities. Unless we plan our water future, more agricultural water will be bought to supply our growing cities, drying up hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farmland and jeopardizing the economy and livelihoods of rural Colorado. Northeastern Colorado alone is expected to lose about 20 percent of agricultural land currently under production.
This future is unacceptable. We must have a plan that provides a secure water future for all Coloradans.
The governor recently issued an executive order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop the Colorado Water Plan. This is an unprecedented undertaking for Colorado, but fortunately much of the work to develop the plan already is done.
During the drought of 2002-03, the state Legislature commissioned the most comprehensive study ever done of Colorado’s current and future water demands and supplies, the Statewide Water Supply Initiative. In addition, in 2005 the state Legislature created the Interbasin Compact Committee, a group of 27 water leaders representing every major river basin and water constituency. It also created nine Basin Roundtables, groups of water leaders in every major river basin that have been taking an in-depth look at their basin’s water challenges. For the last several years, these groups have been engaged in thoughtful dialogue while working hard to understand Colorado’s water challenges and ways they can be addressed.
Colorado’s Water Plan will not be a top-down plan full of state mandates and requirements. Instead, it will be built on the foundation of the work of the Basin Roundtables, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Interbasin Compact Committee. That is a strong foundation. Through their work, these groups have reached consensus on a variety of actions that will lead to a better water future, including support for alternatives to permanent buy-and-dry of agriculture, conservation, projects that meet certain criteria and more.
Each basin is in the process of developing water plans for their region. Until these are completed, we won’t know all that Colorado’s Water Plan will include. What we do know is the plan will be balanced and reflect Colorado’s values. The governor’s executive order specifies that the plan must promote: a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, viable and productive agriculture, and a robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry; efficient and effective water infrastructure promoting smart land use; and a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams and wildlife.
The water board will deliver a draft of the plan to the governor by Dec. 10, 2014, and then work with the governor to finalize the plan no later than December 2015.
To provide your insights and perspectives, please participate in the next meeting of your South Platte Basin Roundtable. To learn who the members are and when they meet, visit http://www.cwcb.state.co.us and go to the Interbasin Compact Committee and Basin Roundtable link. You can also submit your comments to the water board by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, go to Colorado’s Water Plan online at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.