Colorado’s first-ever #COWaterPlan should be ‘bold,’ Denver chamber leader says — Denver Business Journal

From The Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Colorado’s first-ever formal water plan needs to offer specific, actionable, measurable goals that the state’s leaders can use to fill a massive gap in the amount of water the state will have to support a growing population, business leaders were told Thursday.

And it needs to be a bold plan, said Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Brough spoke at the chamber’s “2015 State of Water” forum held Thursday at Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. Speakers included Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water, former Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament, Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn and Robert Sakata, owner of Sakata Farms in Brighton…

…the chamber would like to see more attention to innovative and market-based solutions to filling the gap.

Brough referred to one idea as “buy and grow,” a twist on the “buy and dry” scenarios common across Colorado — in which cities and towns buy water used by farmers, shift it to the city, and let the field dry out due to lack of irrigation.

A buy and grow concept might make cities an outside investor for farmers who want to conserve their water but don’t have the financial means to buy expensive, new equipment to do so. The cities could provide the money, and the farmer could share the water that’s saved with the city, Brough said.

Such an arrangement also ensures that the water right, which is a property right in Colorado, remains in the hands of the farmer, she said.

“The current draft plan calls for 400,000 acre feet of new water through conservation, that’s nice but we don’t think it’s enough,” Brough told the business leaders assembled at the forum.

“Colorado needs to do so much more, and move to a future — beyond conservation — to maximum economic use of this precious resource,” she said.

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

Business leaders Thursday said they hope to replace the practice of “buy-and-dry” with “buy-and-grow,” a plan that would allow farmers to share their water rights with municipalities.

The idea was proposed at a meeting in Denver with state and local water officials, hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Kelly Brough, chief executive of the chamber, said “buy-and-grow” could usher in a new wave of water policy. The new plan could overshadow conversations about other controversial issues, such as transmountain diversion.

“By implementing measures that will streamline flexible water sharing between ag and urban areas, in ways that allow ag to continue to grow through using efficiencies, protect their water rights and reducing the transitional cost, while delivering water to an urban area,” Brough said of the plan…

“Buy-and-grow” would essentially boil down to sharing between urban and rural communities. Governments and private interests could help farmers with investments into water-conservation technology and other equipment, thereby helping farmers grow. The farmers would then turn around and share the water that they don’t need anymore because of the savings.

“They’re still growing, still producing, they’re more efficient and they don’t lose their water right,” Brough said.

Robert Sakata, owner of Sakata Farms in Weld County, who spoke at the meeting, acknowledged the reality of ag dry-up, pointing out that millions of acres stand to dry up by 2050.

“In order to feed the world, we’re going to need water,” Sakata said.

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

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