#UpperColoradoForum Day 2 recap #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Colorado River water use, data courtesy USBR. Graphic via John Fleck.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Gary Harmon):

A social contract on water use in the Colorado River Basin is needed — this time one between cities and rural areas — as the Colorado River Compact approaches its second century, a University of New Mexico professor said Thursday.

“We need to rethink the social contract on how we manage the (Colorado) River,” John Fleck told more than 100 people at the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum at Colorado Mesa University on Thursday.

Despite being based on “bad science,” the original contract is the 1922 compact among seven states and the federal government that shaped the way the southwest has developed, Fleck said.

Fleck studies the workings of science and political and policy processes and is the author of the 2016 book, “Water is For Fighting Over and Other Myths About Water in the West.”

The authors of the 1922 agreement relied on estimates that oversold the amount of water in the Colorado River system, Fleck said.

“We built a lot of stuff based on old, bad science,” Fleck said.

Science, however, also is changing the how water use is understood, he said.

While it has become more clear over decades that the water available in the 108,000 square-mile basin, it’s becoming clear that the demand for water also was overstated, Fleck said.

Even as the population of the basin has grown — the river is now a source of water for 49 million people — economies and populations also have grown.

That trend is evident from Albuquerque to Denver and Los Angeles to Phoenix, Fleck said.

“Everybody is using less water,” even as gross regional products are on the rise, he said, noting that water use in the upper Colorado River basin is lower now than its was in the 1980s.

“This suggests that (growth in the face of scarcity) is a real phenomenon,” Fleck said.

That’s true for agriculture, as well as municipal and industrial use, he said.

It’s important to better understand the realities of how water is used, especially in the face of scarcity, Fleck said, noting that fights already are breaking out in California between rural and urban water users.

“Otherwise, the risk is that rich and politically powerful cities” such as Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix and others “will start throwing sharp elbows” at rural water-rights holders as the cities search for water to meet the supposed needs of growing populations, Fleck said. “That sends a really wrong and dangerous message.”

Any new social contract use on water management also should take into account the segments of American society that were ignored the last go-round, he said, pointing to the Navajo and other tribes whose water needs weren’t included in the 1922 pact.

Detailed Colorado River Basin map via the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

#ColoradoSprings: Is Issue 2A a springboard to outsized government spending?

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

While Mayor John Suthers touts stormwater fees as a route to financial stability for Colorado Springs, others see them as a symptom of the city’s insatiable appetite for cash.

Some worry the city will inevitably raise the fees, which appear on El Paso County’s November ballot as Issue 2A.

According to the ballot language, the city can raise the fees if ordered to do so by a judge, to come into compliance with state and federal laws or to abide by any intergovernmental agreements preceding June 1, 2016.

A high-profile lawsuit filed against the city by state and federal governments or an intergovernmental agreement the city entered into with Pueblo County last year are the two most likely causes of future fee increases.

Suthers argues that any increase from the agreement with Pueblo would be minimal and 2A is a proactive effort to mitigate high-dollar judgments against the city in the ongoing lawsuit.

If passed, the fees would charge homeowners $5 a month and nonresidential property owners $30 per acre each month. The fees would last 20 years and are expected to raise as much as $18 million a year for the city’s stormwater obligations, which currently are met using the general fund.

With a dedicated stormwater funding source in place, money freed in the general fund would be spent hiring new police officers and firefighters, Suthers said. If 2A passes, the city will be in good financial shape for the next two decades, he has said.

But Councilmen Bill Murray and Don Knight, who oppose 2A, are dubious.

Knight said the city’s wants will always be greater than the budget allows. The general fund has increased in recent years and the city can afford to continue paying for stormwater that way.

And Murray said new police officers and firefighters serve a “Trojan horse” and open the door for fee increases.

In April 2016, the city entered into a $460 million, 20-year agreement with Pueblo County to complete 71 stormwater projects. The city’s annual investments in those projects increase
every five years and average $20 million a year over the life of the agreement. The investments currently sit at $17 million a year.

If 2A passes and revenue hits the $18 million estimate in 2019, the first full year the fees will be in effect, the city can cover the $17 million investments. But in 2021 the city’s scheduled investments increase to $19 million a year, leaving a $1 million deficit.

Suthers said he expects growth to help cover the increases, but money from the general fund can also help.

$6 million water pipe on tap for Highland neighborhood – News on TAP

Once a pipe is identified for replacement, careful planning is needed to ensure no surprises are lurking underground.

Source: $6 million water pipe on tap for Highland neighborhood – News on TAP

Speed dating for science – News on TAP

Six of Denver Water’s female leaders met with Denver-area high school young women, providing insights into STEM careers.

Source: Speed dating for science – News on TAP