From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
Colorado’s anticipated completion of a water plan in 2015 might be viewed as a starting point rather than an end point for its state water planning process.
That’s one takeaway lesson that might be learned from similar efforts in nearby states, judging from presentations Wednesday at this week’s Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum, hosted at Colorado Mesa University by CMU’s Water Center.
Representatives from New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah all described how existing plans in those states have been updated over time — in Wyoming’s case, every 10 years, to incorporate new data.
“It’s sort of an evolutionary process and never stays the same,” said Jodie Pavlica, an engineer with the Wyoming Water Development Office.
In Wyoming, basins currently are revising their plans in preparation for revision of the statewide framework.
“We’re always adding things to our plans. We don’t want them to become stagnant,” Pavlica said.
Colorado is one of the last states in the West to develop a state water plan, something designed to project future needs and how they can be addressed. New Mexico first completed a state plan in 2003, following completion of regional plans within the state, said Amy Haas, acting director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. The impetus for the plans was New Mexico’s battle with El Paso, Texas, over attempts to export New Mexico water, and a Supreme Court determination in a Nebraska case that exports can’t be banned outright but some restraints are appropriate if the state that’s home to the water shows a need for it.
Last year a comprehensive review found that New Mexico’s state plan and regional ones needed full-scale revisions, something now being undertaken.
“They are in dire need of updates,” Haas said.
Todd Adams, deputy director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, said the first Utah state plan he can find was published in 1990, but the state has been doing such planning since the 1960s. Its most recent plan was completed in 2001, and is being updated now, including to address issues such as climate change and tar sands and oil shale development.
James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said in an interview that New Mexico’s experience shows that Colorado will want to keep its plan from becoming stale and revise it regularly enough to avoid the need for massive overhauls.
“If the hydrology changes vastly or your population estimate changes up or down vastly then you have to recalculate the whole thing, figure out if you can get there from here” in terms of fulfilling anticipated water demand, he said.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Colorado River basin residents must prepare for the worst of events combining population growth, climate change and increasing demands, the former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority said Wednesday in Grand Junction.
“Take nothing off the table,” Patricia Mulroy told more than 50 people at the 2014 Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum at Colorado Mesa University. “All options have to be on the table.”
The year 2014 has so far been a wet one and there will be wet years in the future, but water managers — and individual residents — can ill afford to depend on nature to rescue them during dry years, Mulroy said.
Surviving in dry years will demand ingenuity and foresight, Mulroy said.
“The solutions won’t be found in nature,” she said. “They’ll be found in ourselves.”
The only option that’s unavailable is limiting growth, she said, adding that the key to making the most of the Colorado River is in how it’s used.
The overarching issue, however, is preparation for the most arid of times.
“We do not know how bad, “bad” is,” she said.
Mulroy, now the senior fellow for climate adaptation and environmental policy for Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said water managers will have to think several steps ahead to prepare for the inevitability of drought years and she urged states and water agencies to develop strategic partnerships.
Colorado River Basin issues have long been exacerbated by differences between the upper and lower basins on the river, not least of them the desire by many in the lower basin to see more water in Lake Mead, the main source of water for many in Arizona, California and Nevada.
The lower basin, however, has to bear that responsibility, Mulroy said.
At the same time, it’s up to the upper basin states, including Colorado, to make sure they meet their obligations, Mulroy said.
How the upper basin can do that is up to it, Mulroy said.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.