Fight for Water Heats Up as Statewide Plan Comes Together — #COWaterPlan

CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring  a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.
CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.

From (Taylor Kanost):

By 2050, Colorado’s population is expected to jump from 4.5 million to approximately six to eight million people. Meanwhile, Colorado’s water supply isn’t growing.

“Everybody woke up to the fact that if we’re going to grow our state, we have to take a serious look at water supply,” said Jim Pokrandt, Chair of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable.

Through a series of roundtable meetings in each of Colorado’s nine water basins, officials are attempting to formulate a plan that meets the needs of several entities – Municipal, environmental, recreational, and agricultural.

Historically, when Colorado’s water supply has fallen short, the state will buy the water rights from local farmers to fill the void. The problem is this “Buy and Dry” strategy has devastated Eastern Plains communities in the past. On top of that, global warming is requiring farmers to use more water than they have ever had to use before.

“Under hotter temperatures, all plants take more water,” said Holm.

Ultimately, water leaders want to avoid this strategy.

“It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Colorado, whether it’s fruit security or other things agriculture provides like wildlife habitat and environmental benefits,” said Carlyle Currier, Colorado River Basin Representative on the Inter-Basin Compact Committee.

Another option being considered is adding even more water to the 500,000 acre feet sent from our side of the state to the Front Range.

Even though most of Colorado’s river water is on the Western Slope, additional diversions would put a lot of stress on the Colorado River Basin, an area that is already obligated to divert water to other western states.

“Our obligation is to let at least 75 million acre feet flow downstream from Lake Powell over each ten year period,” said Holm.

If the Eastern Slope ends up taking more water, it will be tougher for the Colorado River Basin to meet these obligations.

“That water will have to come from somewhere, and if we take more from the river we will have to add more back to the river primarily by drying agriculture,” said Pokrandt.

Even in this hotly-debated topic, the one constant among the majority of Western Slope leaders is the focus on conservation.

“They would like to see the Front Range cities do as much as possible on the conservation and reuse front as they can before they come looking to the West Slope for water,” said Holm.

Other solutions being tossed around range from cloud seeding to proper forest management to reducing city water use.

The public comment period on the first draft of the plan ended at the beginning of May, but the public will have the opportunity to place further comments once the second draft is released on July 15th.

The final Colorado Water Plan will be submitted to the Governor on December 10th.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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