From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
One of the outcomes of the Colorado water plan has been to draw new voices to talk about a question that’s older than the state itself: How can a sparse resource be used to meet the needs of a growing population?
So, a group primarily concerned with the Colorado River recently reached out to Pueblo to gather perspective.
Nuestro Rio — “our river” in Spanish — invited Puebloans to talk about water on the last day for comments on the final plan recently.
“My concern was that people could become more familiar with it and to make sure Southern Colorado knew it has a voice,” said state Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, who helped set up the meeting.
About 50 people, ranging from elected o_cials to farmers, attended. Also present was state Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, a member of the Interim Water Resources Review Committee.
“One of the goals of Nuestro Rio is to remind people of the importance of the river but to also involve more young people,” Garcia said.
While Nuestro Rio formed to emphasize the importance of the Colorado River to Latinos, a series of statewide outreach meetings showed there are concerns common to all rivers in the state, said Nita Gonzales, Colorado director for the organization.
“The main thing we heard was that diverting water cannot be the only solution,” Gonzales said. “Rivers are critical to Latino families, and before we move to big projects, we have to ask how do you protect the rivers.”
That includes maintaining agricultural uses that are the foundation for the economic wellbeing of many Latinos, Gonzales said.
“The other thing we heard is that elected officials are not as involved in water, but it is so important to the communities to make sure it is addressed in policy and budgets,” she said.
“My own colleagues have to see this as one of the most important issues in the state,” he said. “We talk about transportation, education and economic development, but none of those things happens without water.”
On the state water plan, Garcia said he favors some of its openended approaches.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding on water issues,” he said. “The plan is very basin specific.”