2016 #coleg: Third Saturday in May set aside to appreciate the state’s outdoors — The Denver Post #keepitpublic


From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

On this day a year from now, Coloradans will get to celebrate Colorado Public Lands Day, thanks to a bill that squeaked through the gridlocked legislature this year.

But in terms of better protecting Colorado’s public lands, that hat-tip is about all that got accomplished this legislative session…

And like most discussions of the increasingly politicized issue of public lands in the West, the commemorative day turned into a mountain-sized argument. Kerry Donovan, a Democratic state senator from Vail, introduced Senate Bill 21 during the first week of the four-month session in January, and it passed during the session’s last week in May.

Amendments in the legislature larded up the bill with partisanship and acrimony. Finally, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a strong conservative from Sterling, brokered a solution in a committee tasked to find a compromise.

The committee stripped out all the added amendments and preserved just the day and its name…

House Democrats killed another Republican bill this year that would have given local and state law enforcement more authority over federally managed lands…

In a West Vail diner this week, cradled by the high, green shoulders of the White River National Forest, Donovan reflected on the work that led to Hickenlooper’s signing her bill into law, making the third Saturday in May each year Colorado Public Lands Day…

Over eggs benedict and coffee, Donovan pulled out a letter her grandfather, Bill Mounsey, wrote to Gov. Dick Lamm in 1976. He compared the growing public push to preserve public lands to the American Revolution. Mounsey helped chart the boundaries for the Eagle’s Nest, the Flat Tops and the Weminuche wilderness areas for The Wilderness Society.

Her parents successfully sued the U.S. Forest Service in the early 1970s to prevent a timber sale in what would become the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Area, protections that were pending before Congress.

To Donovan and countless Coloradans, public lands are a lot more than trees and dirt — they’re a fight worth having.

“They’re one of the most beautiful examples of democracy, right?” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your station in life is or how much money you make or what your background is or anything. We all have the same ability to go to a trailhead, walk out and have the experience of enjoying those lands.”

Sonnenberg is in the camp that public-lands advocates such as Donovan and Scott Braden of Conservation Colorado fear most. He supports more state control over federal lands to allow more use of the economic resources and more access for the public. Sonnenberg thinks the federal government does a horrible job of it at Coloradans’ expense, citing wildfire prevention, pest control and over-regulation.

The cost for Colorado to control federal lands could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars each year, but Sonnenberg said the state could swing it by allowing more use with responsible management, the way it manages state lands.

“I’m afraid the issue has become too polarized on both sides,” he said this week. “We need to find something in the middle and cut all the rhetoric on both sides, to get down to what the issues are. Public Lands Day came together at the end, because people were willing to do that.”


“It’s easy to go inflammatory on this [state takeover of federal lands],” Donovan said. “Will the Maroon Bells be sold off? No. We’re not going to sell off these incredible vistas and the most valuable assets. But would public lands across the state start getting chunked off without a lot of people being able to keep track of it? Absolutely. And who’s going to be the highest bidder? Not some land-conservation nonprofit.”

2016 #coleg: Recap of Colorado Legislative Action for Healthy Rivers & Lakes — WRA


From Western Resources Advocates (Bart Miller):

2016 was a busy session for the Colorado legislature and conservationists. Western Resource Advocates and our partners had tremendous success shaping several bills that affect protection of Colorado’s rivers and lakes.

2016 was a busy session for the Colorado legislature and conservationists. Western Resource Advocates and our partners had tremendous success shaping several bills that affect protection of Colorado’s rivers and lakes. Partnerships we solidified at the Colorado state Capitol this year will help in 2017, where we hope many proposals from Colorado’s Water Plan will move forward to advance water conservation and water recycling. A recap of key 2016 bills includes:

  • Rain Barrels Are Legal!! HB 16-1005 will legalize the use of residential rain barrels for all Coloradans. The bill received a rainfall of votes in the House and Senate, passing 61-3 and 27-6, respectively. Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill at the Governor’s Mansion on May 12th. WRA was involved in crafting bill language, lining up supporters, testifying in committee, and pushing media coverage. Legalizing rain barrel use is part of our work, for more than a dozen years, to accelerate urban conservation as the cheapest, fastest, and most flexible water supply. Legalizing rain barrels will help build the water conservation ethic we need for all Colorado residents to implement Colorado’s Water Plan and its landmark urban water conservation goal.
  • Minimizing Water Loss: HB 16-1283 set out to decrease the water lost by municipal water providers from leaky pipes and faulty water meters. WRA worked on bill language, consulted with sponsors, and created legislative fact sheets. A concerted water loss management effort enabled through this bill could have added 20,000 acre-feet to our state’s water supplies each year, enough water for 200,000 people. Improved efficiency is a cornerstone of Colorado’s Water Plan, and water loss reduction is one of the single most effective efficiency measures we can undertake. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass out of committee. We will work to advance this bill next year after further refinements from a variety of stakeholders.
  • Protecting Flows for Fish: HB 16-1109—which addressed conflicts between state water law and certain proposed federal policies—passed after WRA Staff Attorney Rob Harris and our partners successfully lobbied for inclusion of language to safeguard existing laws that protect fisheries. We preserved “bypass flows,” an aquatic habitat standard that ensures enough water is kept in rivers for fish to survive. Our defensive efforts helped keep a political squabble between certain land users and federal agencies from accidentally hurting fish and other wildlife.
  • Adding Flexibility in Water Management to Benefit the Environment: Mixed Results: At least two bills aimed at increasing the flexibility of water management to achieve community, environmental and agricultural goals had mixed success. HB 16-1228, to enable temporary transfers of irrigation water rights to cities or other users, passed and awaits the Governor’s signature. This allows Front Range agricultural users to retain their water rights but share some of their water with other users in times of need. HB-1392, proposing to establish a statewide water bank – which would have enabled sharing water inside river basins and potentially dedicating some water for streams themselves – died in committee. WRA engaged with sponsors on both bills to help create beneficial alternative water transfer mechanisms, to enable providing water for the environment and recreation, while ensuring that the legislation did not create loopholes for unneeded and environmentally damaging water projects.
  • Legislative advocacy is essential. The nitty-gritty work at the Capitol is where aspirations meet reality and where hard won gains for our rivers and lakes must be defended. We are proud that we defended key protections and helped advance a better water future for all Coloradans.

    Northern Water Conservation Gardens Fair set Saturday —

    Weather station at the Conservation Gardens at Northern Water
    Weather station at the Conservation Gardens at Northern Water

    From Northern Water via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    Residents can learn about water conservation and native plants at Northern Water’s Conservation Gardens Fair on Saturday.

    The free event will be held 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Northern Water, 220 Water Ave., in Berthoud. It will feature seminars, tours of the conservation gardens and advice on water saving measures and technology.

    Expert advice will come from Associated Landscaper Contractors of Colorado, Fort Collins Utilities, Colorado State University Extension Office, Colorado master gardeners, Colorado Vista Landscape Design, High Plains Environmental Center, HydroPoint, L.L. Johnson, Loveland Water and Power and Plant Select.

    The first 400 people will receive a perennial and a chance to spin the prize wheel.

    Starting at 11 a.m., a limited number of free sandwiches will be available.

    More information, including a schedule of seminars and activities, are available at http://www.northernwater.org.

    2016 #coleg: The ins-and-outs of rain barrels — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Colorado residents will be able to collect rainwater from their roofs to use in gardens and yards when a new law takes effect on Aug. 10.

    Water officials expect that less than 10 percent of residents will use rain barrels, and each home is allowed to have two barrels totaling 110 gallons of water.


    The amount is small enough that it should not cause any measurable drops in the water feeding into rivers to supply cities, farms and businesses locally and downstream, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute.

    It won’t hurt utilities and those who hold water rights, and it will only help residents by supplementing the water available for their yards and promoting conservation, he said…

    Residents likely will have to supplement their rain barrel water for their yards and gardens. However, the amount needed varies upon the size of yard and the type of vegetation, for example native low-water grasses versus a typical lawn.

    Under the new law, each household can have two barrels to collect water from rain gutters or off the roof. That water must be used for outdoor landscaping, such as gardens or yards, and cannot be used indoors or for purposes such as filling a hot tub, according to guidelines from the Colorado State University Extension Service.

    “You need a surface you can gather it from,” said Waskom, and the new state law specifies that the water must come from a rooftop.

    The law also requires that the rain barrel have a lid that can be sealed to reduce evaporation but also to prevent mosquitoes from accessing and breeding in the standing water.

    Health officials also urge people to completely drain and clean the barrel weekly or at least every month also to prevent a mosquito hotbed.

    Home supply stores sell granules, called “Mosquito Dunkers” or “BTI granules,” that can be used to prevent any of the pests’ eggs from hatching, noted Katie O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the Larimer County Department of Health. These are commonly used in livestock water tanks and will not hurt wildlife or plants, she noted…

    Colorado is the last western state to adopt a law that allows residents to collect rain water for their yards because of the demands upon water and the complex water rights system in place, Waskom noted. Those who hold the water rights worried that they would lose precious water supply and lobbied against the new law to prevent that.

    However, water officials showed that the small amount of water diverted off roofs, which will likely be from a small number of homes, will not impact that water supply, according to Waskom.

    And larger utility providers testified that the use of rain barrels could positively promote conservation.

    Waskom added, “Hopefully it will make us more water conscious.”

    Rain barrel schematic
    Rain barrel schematic

    2016 #coleg: Rain Barrel Legalization — Worth the Effort — Western Resource Advocates

    On Thursday May 12, Western Resource Advocates joined others to celebrate HB16-1005, legalizing the use of rain barrels, becoming law.
    On Thursday May 12, Western Resource Advocates joined others to celebrate HB16-1005, legalizing the use of rain barrels, becoming law.

    From Western Resource Advocates (Jon Goldin-Dubois):

    On Thursday May 12, Western Resource Advocates joined Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, our colleagues at Conservation Colorado, Denver Water, the Colorado Farm Bureau and many others to celebrate HB16-1005, legalizing the use of rain barrels, becoming law. There was a party, there were speeches, there were toasts in celebration – and several rain barrels were autographed by the Governor. I was quoted as saying, “On this sunny day, I’m dancing in the rain!”

    But I know a number of my friends and colleagues scratched their heads at this news. I have heard some say that rain barrels and this legislative win were not very important. I want to tell you why I disagree.

    First, our opportunities to win legislative victories, in any state, on any issue, are too few and too far between. Getting legislation passed, of any kind, in our divided Western state legislatures is tough to say the least. Getting leaders to work across the aisle and achieve victories for both parties is a very difficult task. But this win was achieved in Colorado to gain final passage of rain barrel legalization after two years of effort.

    Second, don’t underestimate the power of symbolism. Rain barrels became a tangible symbol of work to fix a state law that was contrary to our desired water future. Everyone wondered why rain barrels were illegal in Colorado – and when they learned that it was because there are water interests who feared this would begin to unravel water laws from the 1800s, it became clear this was a battle over more than just rain barrels. This was a battle to get vested water holders to open up and consider new ways of doing business that help us advance water conservation. These interests are powerful and can be suspicious of change, and they successfully killed the bill last year. Passing the bill this year is a signal that Coloradans representing a variety of interests are committed to finding new, innovative strategies to manage our water resources.

    Third, Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado created a campaign that garnered interest from the press, brought attention to the issue, engaged citizens, and focused policy makers on an issue that, until two years ago, they hadn’t even considered. This was a well-organized campaign that took hundreds of hours of time educating reporters, editors, citizens and legislators. There were videos, tweets, blogs, and action alerts. This campaign represented what energetic commitment by the conservation community can achieve in the face of opposition.

    Finally, legalizing rain barrels illustrates that we can create our own future and be the catalyst for change. Theresa Conley, Water Advocate at Conservation Colorado, relayed to me a story of a conversation two years ago where Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado were dreaming up what we could possibly do to advance wiser water management in Colorado in a divided legislature. During that conversation, our own Drew Beckwith said, “What about rain barrels?” There are not many people out there who can claim an idea that becomes a concept, a plan, legislation, and then a law.

    I am so proud of our team, led by Drew, Bart Miller, and Maren McLaughlin-Klotz, who created amazing educational opportunities, captured people’s imagination, and changed a bad state law. I am grateful to State Representatives Daneya Esgar and Jessie Danielson and State Senator Michael Merrifield for leading on this issue. The Governor has once again shown he is a water leader and his support made the moment of “Now it’s Law” possible. I am also so proud of you and all our donors and supporters who participated in this effort and made this possible.

    We all should be very proud of our work together to legalize rain barrels. I certainly am. And we will and should rightfully claim this victory with our partners at Conservation Colorado, in particular the great work of Theresa Conley, Becky Long, and Kristin Green. Yes, there is much more work needed to conserve water, advance water reuse, and to further agricultural-urban water sharing — but this victory shows what we can do when we are committed and strategic, and when we work together to advance our vision for the future. Onward to implementing the Colorado Water Plan!

    Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.
    Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.

    CMU: 23rd Annual Children’s Water Festival recap


    From KKCO (Carly Smith):

    About 2,500 Fifth graders from all over Western Colorado flooded Colorado Mesa University for the 23rd Annual Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival.

    “Water is an important resource because we wouldn’t be here without it,” Micah Smidt, geotechnical engineer, said.

    Water conservation was a key subject at this year’s water festival.

    “While it may be a rainy season this year, five years from now, we could be in a drought,” water resources engineer, Tracy Onowen said.

    If Colorado is in a drought that means several other states downstream from our rivers are in trouble as well.

    “The kids are not only learning about the value of water here in the state of Colorado, but also downstream to our neighboring states,” Joseph Burtard said.

    Burtard is the Ute Water Conservancy District external affairs manager. He is the master mind behind the planning the event.

    He wanted to make sure the students had the opportunity to experience three key things, higher education, hands on learning, and water careers.

    The festival took place at Colorado Mesa so students as young as fifth grade can become excited about college.

    “The third goal that we utilize when planning this event is to kind of introduce the students to water related careers. Whether it’s a firefighter or a water resource engineer,” Burtard said…

    Water is an important part of everyday life. Organizers hope students leave ready to protect our greatest resource for the rest of their lives.

    “Information that I think they’ll remember in years to come because it is filled and blended with the fun,” Taylor Elementary teacher, Cindy Cooper said.

    Conservation can be as easy as turning off your faucet while you brush your teeth.