2023 #COleg: #Colorado lawmakers “belly flop” on #water crisis, opting for further study of #ColoradoRiver over action, experts say — The #Denver Post #COriver #aridification

West Drought Monitor map April 25, 2023.

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado’s legislative leadership promised this year that the state’s water problems would be the “centerpiece” of conservation efforts but their keystone proposal focused on the Colorado River and widespread drought plaguing the West is to study the issue further. At such a late stage in the drying American West, water experts tell The Denver Post that creating another study group amounts to procrastination while time is running out. And, they say, it’s unlikely that evaluating the drought – exacerbated and made permanent by climate change – yet again will yield any new ideas.

Lawmakers introduced the bipartisan bill, SB23-295, late in their session. It is on its way to clearing the Senate and heading to the House of Representatives. Behind the measure are Western Slope Sens. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, and Perry Will, a New Castle Republican, Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie, and Marc Catlin, a Montrose Republican. The bill would create a 16-member task force, plus an advisory member, consisting of a cross-section of water users including representatives of the Department of Natural Resources, the Colorado Agriculture Commission, members of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes, water commissions and environmental organizations.

On a day in late May [2022] when wildfire smoke obscured the throat of an ancient volcano called Shiprock in the distance, I visited the Ute Mountain Ute farming and ranching operation in the southwestern corner of Colorado. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Officials in Colorado could be doing far more, though, than convening another task force, Dan Beard, a former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation commissioner, said. He lambasted the proposal.

“It isn’t a flop, it’s a belly flop,” Beard said.

Once formed, the task force would begin meeting by July and by December recommend ways Colorado could counter drought in the Colorado River Basin and related inter-state commitments. The group would have broad leeway for the types of recommendations it could offer…While Colorado isn’t the biggest water user in the Colorado River Basin, it could still contribute meaningful water savings, [Dan] Beard said. For example, lawmakers could work to curb the amount of water piped out of the basin, Beard said. Major urban centers along the Front Range (like Denver) draw water from the river and move it across the Continental Divide to their taps. Farmers and Ranchers east of the divide also rely on Colorado River water. Trans-basin water transfers like those are problematic because all the water taken out of the basin is lost to the Colorado River forever. On the contrary, water used within the basin to irrigate crops will ultimately flow back into the river if it’s not absorbed by the plants.

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

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