From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A state water plan probably won’t make anyone’s wildest dreams come true, but it could provide a framework to get things done.
“It’s a way for us to cross boundaries and work together,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation board. “We have worked with the Rio Grande and South Platte basins. We need to reach across the Continental Divide as well.”
Hamel’s comments were among many heard by the state Legislature’s interim water resources committee as part of a statewide listening tour on the water plan. The panel spent three hours at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library, hearing strong messages about regulation, conservation and storage.
“We represent an extremely wide variety of water users and water issues,” said Betty Konarski, chairwoman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. The roundtable has met since 2005 to sort out water issues in the basin. “We are both a (water) importing and exporting basin, and we have the second-highest gap in the state. But it’s not uniform.”
Hamel and Konarski highlighted the need for the roundtables. There have been 22 public outreach meetings on the state water plan alone, generating hundreds of comments. Hamel lauded the $56 million in state Water Supply Reserve Account grants that, coupled with CWCB loans, have already gone a long way toward completing projects that will reduce the looming water gap.
The legislators participated in small-group discussions and heard testimony that generated a flood of water-related suggestions.
Some of the key points included:
Gary Bostrom, chief of water services for Colorado Springs Utilities, talked about a 50-year water plan now under development by Utilities that mirrors the state water plan. Future water projects must look at regional cooperation rather than just filling urban needs, he said.
“We need to support alternative water transfer methods,” Bostrom said. “They won’t be successful if the regulations are as difficult as permanent transfers.”
Marge Vorndam, of Trout Unlimited, said water for farms needs to be preserved because it supports flows in the upper reaches of the Arkansas River system.
“The state water plan should be addressing the limits of growth,” she added. “What is the maximum population that can be served?”
Kiera Hatton of Pueblo suggested that the state needs to be more proactive in supporting urban conservation measures such as graywater reuse and rainwater collection that could reduce the amount of water usage. Bob Leach, a Pueblo developer, told the committee that local regulations should not be one-size-fits-all, and emphasized the need for local control of projects. Sean Chambers, manager of the Cherokee Metro District near Colorado Springs, said the state should remove barriers to groundwater storage.
A draft state plan is scheduled to be completed in December, with adoption of a final plan scheduled one year later.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.