From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The game plan is in place.
The team has been conditioned.
It’s been a rough season.
The quarterback got beat up a little bit, but seems to be on a winning streak.
OK, it’s not football. But that is one way to get a first down as the state marches down the field to score with the Colorado Water Plan.
The goal line is still 10 months away, but at least no one has punted yet.
Much of the 2015 session of Colorado Water Congress last week in Denver was spent chewing over the details of the draft plan and discussing how it might actually be implemented.
At one point, Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director James Eklund — the “quarterback,” if Gov. John Hickenlooper is the coach — showed up with a deflated football, hoping it would not become emblematic of how the plan is put into place.
From the sidelines, others chipped in on coaching strategy during a panel about “A Plan of Action or a Paper Plan?”
“We’ve so far relied on the assumptions of the past and projections for the future,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “We need to think in a totally different way. How do we manage supplies so there is not a crisis in the first place?”
For Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the themes of the water plan are basic: uncertainty, legislative or regional gridlock and the difficulty in reaching a solution.
“We have to identify unacceptable outcomes,” Kuhn said. “It would be unacceptable not to have agriculture (for instance).”
But it was an environmental consultant who pointed out that managing the risk of uncertainty and making a decision are different processes.
“We have a system based on risk management,” said Dan Luecke, an environmental scientist who has been involved in state water issues for three decades. “When we face an uncertain future, we get less rational.”
While each of the panelists stressed cooperation moving forward, each clung to closely held past positions.
Lochhead argued for a streamlined regulatory process for water projects, but cautioned the audience not to bank on storage alone to solve water shortage problems. Conservation is also not a total answer: “Denver Water last year had its lowest consumption since 1967, with 500,000 more people.”
Luecke told CWC to take projects that import water from one basin to another completely off the table: “We can’t go elsewhere to get our water. Set that aside.”
Kuhn, whose district was part of a historic agreement with Denver Water over increased exports, argued for more agreement: “When we don’t have consensus in a fight locally, the feds are most likely to step in.”
Funding also was a big topic at the convention, with one workshop concentrating on public-private partnerships as a way to pay the bills, since federal and state sources are drying up.
“What we agree to fund may be a lot of money, but it has to be cheaper than the alternative,” Kuhn said.
Lochhead favored a fiscal approach.
“We should allow economics to work,” Lochhead said. “We have a dynamic (in which) everyone thinks about the worst possible things that could happen.”
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.