From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A final draft of Colorado’s Water Plan will be released next week, triggering a few more months of activity before reaching its completed form in December.
The plan is moving toward its final version after Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered it in 2013. The first draft was completed last year by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The state’s nine roundtables also have completed basin implementation plans that will become a part of the completed plan.
The draft of the final plan is scheduled to be released on July 15, with public comments accepted through Sept. 17.
The plan seeks to ease the strain increased urban population will put on the state’s water resources, with particular emphasis on preserving agricultural and the environment. It has been driven by public comments through numerous meetings over the past two years.
“We don’t want to get in the same situation where California is in,” said John Stulp, Hickenlooper’s top water adviser. “We want a plan in place before there is another drought.”
The plan will have more concrete solutions to state water needs than the draft submitted to the governor last year, Stulp said.
There is, for instance, a target for municipal conservation savings — 400,000 acre-feet as a “stretch goal” — along with some steps that could be taken to get there.
“There are no ‘thou shalts’ in it. For one thing, we don’t as a state have that authority. It’s more about education and timing,” Stulp said.
“The municipalities have done a great job since 2002-03, with about 20 percent less use. That’s been done through incentives and education.”
The plan also talks about how future water projects could be financed, again without committing state funds to any project.
“It talks about general concepts, and publicprivate partnerships,” Stulp said. “It gives wider latitude to the CWCB for drinking water projects and to the Colorado Water Power and Development Authority for other types of projects.”
The two agencies are the major public lenders for water projects, but their roles have become stratified.
“We want to work more cohesively so folks won’t have to be shopping for loans,” Stulp said.
The plan also will talk about removing state and federal bureaucratic hurdles that have slowed down the construction of water projects.
“There will be more emphasis on multipurpose projects, and groups working with each other rather than trying to gain leverage,” Stulp said.
“We’re hoping we can get state agencies involved early on and address concerns earlier in the process.”
There are also suggestions for policy changes and future legislation, based on the activities of the past 10 years among roundtables and the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee. Among those are demonstration projects, such as the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, which seek to create ways to share agricultural and municipal water. The legislative interim water resources review committee, co-chaired by Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, and Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, is planning a series of hearings in each basin to hear comments on the plan. The Arkansas basin hearing will be 6-8 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Salida Community Center, while the Rio Grande basin meeting will be 6-8 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Inn of the Rio Grande in Alamosa.
Specific projects are well represented in the basin implementation plans.
The Arkansas River basin plan alone has about 500 projects listed, with roughly 50 of those in Pueblo County. Not all of the projects will be funded or built, but are included for future consideration as the state meets future water challenges.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.