#COWaterPlan: Aurora comments submitted — conservation stretch goal of 400,000 hasn’t been “verified”

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Aurora, Mount Evans in the background

From The Aurora Sentinel (Rachel Sapin):

“A statement implying that the efforts that cities and water suppliers have used to plan for water supply projects is based on ‘blind hope’ instead of careful analysis is misleading and unacceptable,” wrote Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan to Gov. John Hickenlooper in response to the second draft of the plan, released in September.

The plan — which says that the state will run out of water for a fast-growing population by 2050 — presents a dizzying array of solutions for more water that include improving the permitting process, funding more storage and reducing the state’s projected 2050 municipal water demands by 400,000 acre-feet through conservation. That equates to a nearly 1-percent annual reduction in water use for the state’s cities and towns, according to the advocacy groups Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.

Joe Stibrich, a water resources policy manager with the city, said the plan also discourages more water diversions, stating Colorado watersheds and ecosystems cannot handle any more of them.

“In fact, new diversions and storage will be needed to develop collaborative, regional projects,” Stibrich and other Aurora Water staff wrote in a response to Hickenlooper about the plan.

Stibrich said Aurora Water is also concerned about the 400,000 acre-feet stretch goal because the number could overly burden Front Range cities.

“The concept itself is good but it’s a number that hasn’t been verified,” he said, adding that the stretch goal will not likely be achievable under current policies and with existing technology. Stibrich said he would like to see experts work with legislators to come up with an achievable range rather than a specific number.

A hearing on the plan in its second draft drew mostly advocacy groups to the Aurora Municipal Center in September. Those who testified at the meeting had concerns similar to those expressed by city officials.

Barbara Biggs, chair of the metro basin roundtable, also questioned the 400,000 acre-feet goal put into the plan at the meeting.

“Applying it in a one-size-fits-all goal makes us nervous. We think the stretch goal needs to recognize what different communities are going to be able to accomplish different things in their water conservation efforts,” she said…

Anne Castle, an expert with the University of Colorado’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment, testified that the second draft of the water plan remained too vast in its goals and vague in its action plan.

“We’re recommending the hundreds of action items in the plan be prioritized,” she said. “We need to prioritize those actions in order to have a practical implementation strategy. We can’t do everything at once.”

Castle recommended that the state’s water conservation board come up with a criteria for funding water projects and programs. Right now, the plan says the state will need $20 billion to pay for necessary water projects in the coming decades without specifically describing what those water projects are.

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