From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Conservation groups say the upcoming Colorado Water Plan has moved their concerns to the forefront, but more work is needed to ensure future water projects are environmentally friendly.
“What we don’t have are criteria for which projects the state will support and why,” said Drew Beckwith of Western Resource Advocates. “A $20 billion water plan is not a water plan, because we don’t have $20 billion to spend.”
Still, with each new version of the water plan, conservation groups are seeing more attention to ideas like urban conservation, land use planning and protection of the environment.
“There is more environmental resiliency,” said Theresa Conley of Conservation Colorado. “It makes a large water transfer less likely.”
The final version of the water plan is expected to be presented to Gov. John Hickenlooper by the Colorado Water Conservation Board on Nov. 19. It’s the result of two years of meetings launched by Hickenlooper’s executive order in 2013.
From the start, conservationists saw a better chance to incorporate their perspective into the document. Prior to the executive order, they were releasing competing visions for addressing the gap between a growing population and a finite water supply.
Throughout the process, new voices have been heard, Beckwith said.
“There were 30,000 comments. When’s the last time the CWCB got even 30 comments on a water policy issue?” Beckwith said.
Western Resource Advocates also supports voluntary, fairly compensated temporary transfers of agricultural water to meet urban needs.
“The default is that it’s too easy to go buy a farm and dry up the land,” Beckwith said.
Conley said the water plan must be a living document.
“We will be watching and mindful of what’s coming out of the Legislature,” she said. “There is still more that needs to be hashed out.”