Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting recap #COWaterPlan

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A series of community meetings on the development of a state water plan appears to be raising some lingering water issues. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is sponsoring the meetings throughout the area in an effort to encourage more people to participate in a statewide water planning process.

Although the roundtable has met nearly every month since 2005, with ample opportunities to participate, there has been concern from the state Legislature that meetings have not been inclusive enough statewide. More than 20 non-members typically attend the Arkansas Basin Roundtable meetings.

In March, the roundtable redoubled its efforts to reach out, and already has held a dozen meetings, including the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum in April. At least six more meetings are planned, including one in Pueblo — no date or place have been set. Information can be found at the website, http://arkansasbasin.com.

Meetings so far have attracted anywhere from a handful to 60 people. The largest was at Primero during a snowstorm. Reactions have ranged from acceptance to resistance by some who believe the water plan will mean more regulations.

In Lamar, the biggest issue seemed to be the impact of a dam on Fountain Creek on downstream water rights, said Henry Schnabel, Prowers County commissioner. The dam is favored by some in Pueblo to contain increased flood flows caused by development in Colorado Springs. Farmers in the eastern part of the state fear that would change the timing of flows that reach the Arkansas River and reduce the amount of water they receive from Fountain Creek storms.

“A lot of times, we feel like we’re left out,” Schnabel said. “If you stop the water on Fountain Creek, we need to come up with a solution.”

Roundtable members were grateful for the turnout witnessed so far.

“It’s good to see the level of involvement, because we’ve reached out,” said Alan Hamel, former chairman of the roundtable and the basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Urban water conservation measures could be difficult to measure in the Arkansas River basin, where size and scope matter. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable confronted the issue Wednesday as it continues toward developing a basin implementation plan by July. The basin plan is part of a broader effort to develop a state water plan.

Most roundtable members resisted a preliminary approach by consultant Mark Shively that sought to create a “point system” that would identify best practices to save water.

The only part of the proposal that truly resonated was the statement: “One size does not fit all.”

“The conservation plan does not take into account things like our wise use campaign or economic forces within communities,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “Demographics make a difference. I believe each community has the obligation to define good, better or best.”

Pueblo’s per capita water use has dropped as much as other Colorado communities with aggressive conservation campaigns since 2002. Some of that is because of the downturn in the economy, but a 2007 survey found customers’ habits have changed as well.

In Crowley County, the per capita use is higher because domestic water supplies overlap with water for horses or other livestock, said Rick Kidd, who represents the county on the roundtable.

Communities that already have lowered water use could be penalized under a point system, said Dave Taussig, who represents Lincoln County.

The danger of voluntary guidelines is that they could, over time, become mandatory, said Joe Kelley, superintendent of La Junta water.

“The first thing you know, everybody’s regulated,” Kelley said. “Then you have to spend money you don’t have to get money for grants.”

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