Statewide water plan taking shape — Pine River Times

Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

From the Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

Prospects are for the state’s population to double by 2050, while the state’s water supply does not increase – and it could even decrease with climate change.

That’s driving creation of the Colorado Water Plan, which was initiated in May 2013 by an executive order from Gov. John Hickenlooper. The draft plan is due in December, with the final plan in December 2015.

Eight drainage basin roundtables are creating their own implementation plans to be part of the statewide plan.

Members of the Southwest Basin Water Roundtable hosted a Nov. 19 meeting in Bayfield to give an update and take comments. They also hosted a meeting last week in Pagosa Springs. They will have meetings in Mancos on Dec. 1 and Placerville on Dec. 9.

The Southwest Basin has nine sub-basins, with eight rivers that flow out of state, including the Pine, Piedra, Animas, San Juan, and La Plata Rivers. They are all part of the multi-state Colorado River Basin…

“A significant part of the plan is to prevent buy and dry, to balance water needs around the state,” [Carrie Lile] said.

Roundtable member Bruce Whitehead said the state plan has focused on four things: water conservation (such as lawn watering); already identified projects and processes (IPPs) that could be completed (such as Front Range storage projects); “new supply,” which means more trans-mountain diversions; and buy and dry.

Whitehead said the Southwest Basin Roundtable and another entity called the Inter-Basin Compact Committee (IBCC) are pushing conservation and water projects to take pressure off ag and trans-mountain diversions. They also are adamant about preserving the state’s prior appropriation system and private water rights.

Whitehead cited consumptive use of water versus the preferred non-consumptive use where all or most of the water theoretically returns to the stream. From the West Slope perspective, trans-mountain diversions are 100 percent consumptive, he said. None of that water comes back.

“Our basin is more focussed on (the idea that) we can’t afford to continue to do business the way we have in the state,” Whitehead said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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