From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
State water officials are hoping early next year to roll out a draft demand management proposal to help in evaluating the concept as a possible response to managing Colorado River water supplies in times of drought.
Creating a framework of what the program could look like isn’t meant to tie hands and say what the Colorado Water Conservation Board thinks it should look like, CWCB staff member Amy Ostdiek told the board in its meeting earlier this month. Rather, it’s aimed at giving everyone involved the ability to have something to respond to, with the hope of perhaps creating a better draft or a new concept, she said…
The CWCB, which sets state water policy, says demand management would involve temporary, voluntary and compensated reductions in consumptive use of Colorado River Basin water. This is expected to entail use reductions in municipal, agricultural and other uses, with agricultural cuts resulting from measures such as short-term fallowing of fields.
The idea is drawing particular scrutiny from entities such as the Western Slope’s Colorado River District due to concerns about potential economic impacts on agriculture-based communities. A recent study commissioned by a work group including the district found that the secondary economic impacts of paying western Colorado farmers to temporarily fallow fields could be similar to the secondary benefits from the spending of those payments. But it said the dollars from payment spending would flow to different businesses, perhaps shifting to larger towns and cities from smaller, ag-based towns.
Among other criteria for going forward, a demand management program would have to be found to be feasible by every Upper Basin state. This means looking at things such as availability of funding, whether a program would comply with state and federal laws, how it would be administered, etc.
The CWCB began evaluating the concept by establishing work groups involving experts and stakeholders from around the state looking at issues surrounding demand management.
With their input now in hand, the agency is taking the next step in investigating the concept. That will entail considering if it is achievable in terms of things such as funding, worthwhile when it comes to questions such as how much water would be stored, and ultimately advisable to pursue in Colorado.
CWCB plans to continue its evaluation in a public, collaborative way, involving water users, tribal entities, nongovernment organizations and other stakeholders in commenting on the draft proposal, Ostdiek said.
Becky Mitchell, the CWCB’s director, told the board at its meeting that fires and drought affected every Coloradan this year.
She said that with the climate changing and drought becoming more frequent and intense, it would be irresponsible for the CWCB not to look at every tool available to respond, including demand management.