From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Marianne Goodland):
SB 17 created some odd bedfellows at the state capitol Thursday, drawing support from environmentalists, cattlemen and farmers. The bill has bipartisan support in the House and Senate, where it is carried by Sen. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) and Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).
SB 17 prohibits local governments from approving new developments unless they also pass an ordinance that limits the amount of irrigated lawn to no more than 15 percent of the total area of all residential lots. The limit applies when the developer or municipality plans to use water that has been purchased from agricultural land and converted to domestic or municipal use, the so-called “buy and dry.”
During testimony on SB 17 in the Senate Ag Committee, witnesses noted that similar plans are already in place in Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Antonio, Texas. One witness estimated that a 15 percent limit would mean grass would be planted in the backyard of a home and none in the front yard.
Opponents of SB 17 complained the bill flies in the face of local control and may violate private property rights. Even Hodge noted that she has long championed local control, and that carrying the bill caused a bit of strife in her home, given that her husband is a former mayor of Brighton.
The Colorado Homebuilders Association opposed SB 17, as did the Colorado Municipal League. Kevin Bommer, representing CML, indicated the bill may be premature and that they should wait for the completion of the Colorado Water Plan. He also complained that not all stakeholders were involved in the bill-drafting process.
Testifying against the bill, Donna Brosemer of Greeley Water said the bill is about land use, not water, and that land use is the provenance of local government. “We have no real ability to apply this, and no way to know if it has worked,” she said.
Testifying in support of SB 17, Conservation Colorado’s Theresa Conley said that while they don’t want to impact private property rights, “this is the arid West” and the bill ties water use to land use. Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association also support the bill, as does the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.