State of the Rockies Project: Governor Hickenlooper names conservation as a major part of the solution to Colorado’s supply gap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While talking about the ongoing efforts to find statewide solutions through the more traditional route of roundtable meetings, Gov. John Hickenlooper suggested the answer to projected water shortfalls could be found in social media — the favored means of communication and sometimes creative solutions for today’s young people. Hickenlooper spoke Tuesday at Colorado College as part of the release of the 2012 State of the Rockies report…

As mayor of Denver, Hickenlooper witnessed conservation reduction of nearly 20 percent after 2002, largely because of creative messages crafted by Denver Water to encourage saving water.
“We now have collaboration and a conservation ethic,” Hickenlooper said. “The next step is to take those frameworks and drive conservation to another level.”[...]

One student asked Hickenlooper what the state is doing to “combat more pipelines across the Continental Divide.” “Conservation, where we take as little as possible from the West Slope,” Hickenlooper replied. Saying the whole state is better off with a healthy Colorado River, he urged both urban and agricultural conservation techniques to reduce transmountain diversions.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Denver’s done better than most U.S. cities, with residents reducing use by 20 percent since 2002 to 160 gallons a day, but “we can make dramatic additional efforts,” Hickenlooper said. “Our self-discipline in the amount of water we use is going to be the foundation of everything we will do,” he said.

Yet further drawdown of the over-subscribed Colorado River is continuing as state officials support two major projects that would divert more river water across the Continental Divide to sustain Front Range urban communities…

Beyond conservation, “we’re going to need some more dams, ways to manage water,” Hickenlooper said.

Two rival pipeline projects would divert an additional 100,000 acre-feet or more of water from the upper Colorado River basin in Wyoming to the Front Range. A state-backed task force is exploring the idea. State planners calculate that Colorado could be entitled to as much as 900,000 acre-feet of unallocated river water under the 1922 interstate compact that governs use of the river. Hickenlooper declined in an interview to rule out a Wyoming diversion, saying that “we have to let that process run its course.”[...]

“‘The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.’ Colorado has to find a balance so that rivers can live alongside our human culture,” Save the Colorado coordinator Gary Wockner said. “The next year or two will be pivotal. Every water project on the table is proposing to drain more water out of our river.”

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More coverage from Ben Noreen’s column running in The Colorado Springs Gazette. He writes:

As many other water users have pumped their share of the Colorado and we’ve learned more about the river’s annual flow, it is becoming apparent that Colorado Springs’ share of the river is a bit tenuous. That’s the central theme of this week’s conference at Colorado College, “The Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability for the Next Generation.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper joined in Tuesday, re-stating something that has become increasingly apparent since the 1970s: “Bigger and better dams are not going to be the solutions.”

More coverage from Debbie Kelley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

The remark: Denver wouldn’t be Denver without Western Slope river water. Hickenlooper said what he meant was that all Front Range cities, also including Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Fort Collins, benefit if everyone uses less water. Because by keeping more water on the Western Slope and using less in urbanized areas, not only do skiing, white-water rafting and other tourism businesses succeed, but so do the ranchers and farmers. “There’s a direct benefit here. A home on the Front Range is worth more than a home in Kansas City or Indianapolis,” he said…

Hickenlooper says he advocates new creative ways of saving water and a commitment from every resident to do so. Front Range utilities companies now use about 60 percent of the water that originates in the upper Colorado River basin.

“A lot of it is our own self-motivation or discipline,” Hickenlooper said. “How we make it joyful and give people a kick out of it? I think that’s where the youth come in. If we can find ways of using that combination of youthful exuberance and optimism and technology, we have the formal framework to achieve changes.”

Hickenlooper also praised his Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which he helped create last year between stakeholders in the Denver area and on the Western Slope to improve management of future water projects.

But it does not address two additional proposed diversion projects that would further deplete the river. And unlike U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who spoke at CC’s conference on Monday, Hickenlooper did not mention the potential impact of oil shale development on the river, which some in Congress are pushing for, including U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs.

More conservation coverage here.

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