#COWaterPlan: The latest issue of “Colorado Water” is hot off the presses from the #Colorado Water Institute

McInnis Canyon National Recreation Area via the BLM
McInnis Canyon National Recreation Area via the BLM

From the Colorado Water Institute:

Director’s Letter (Reagan Waskom):

The release of the Colorado Water Plan ushers in a new era in our water management, where environmental and recreational values are given the same sense of urgency as traditional water development. As communities look for ways to get involved in Water Plan implementation at the local
level, Stream Management Plans (SMPs) are an excellent place to get started.

The concept of the SMPs is still new, with only a few communities having completed or in the process of working on their plans. So, there is plenty for everyone to learn, and the existing plans that are featured in this issue of Colorado Water provide inspiring models for how the plans can
go beyond previous efforts and help to bring communities together.

The Colorado Water Plan highlighted the need for SMPs as a tool to protect watershed health, the environment, and recreation in Colorado. It stated an ambitious goal to “cover 80 percent of the locally prioritized lists of rivers with SMPs by…2030.” SMPs are stakeholder-driven management plans that shepherd environmental and recreational goals and values into actionable projects aimed at “maintaining or improving flow regimes and other physical conditions,” for localized environmental and recreational water uses. Per the Water Plan, SMPs “can provide a framework [to basin roundtables, local stakeholders, and decision makers] for decision making and project implementation.” This special issue of the Colorado Water newsletter is intended to serve as an initial resource guide with topics including an overview of what SMPs are, the steps of the process, available tools, and shared lessons learned from select case studies around the state. The case studies here, alongside others we were unable to include, provide a foundation of water management collaborations that have involved professionals and committed staff who are working on similar issues in every major river basin. Special thanks goes to CSU alumna Claudia Browne from Biohabitats for spearheading.

Two workshops supported by the Colorado Water Conservation Board provided forums for many of the contributors to gather and share these resources in August and October 2016. Workshop presenters included: representatives from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Colorado Water Trust, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Open Water Foundation, American Rivers, CSU, the City of Steamboat, and consultants, among others. Bridging the gap between academia and practitioners, CSU students, faculty, alumni, and partners are bringing integrated science, engineering, and social tools to the table. The process should yield better outcomes for Colorado’s streams and rivers as SMPs are implemented.

SMPs are one part of the many approaches outlined in the Colorado Water Plan to secure future water supplies while protecting the environmental, social, and economic values held by Colorado citizens. The academic and research community has an important role in bringing objective science and education to the implementation process for the Water Plan. As the SMP process evolves, there will be room for many more creative minds and voices to help shape the future of wise water management for both humans and the environment.

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