Water bosses fish for good ideas in 24,000-plus #COWaterPlan comments — the Colorado Independent

May 22, 2015
cwcbmeetingsterling0520115

Colorado Water Conservation Board meeting, by Bob Berwyn

 

From the Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

Thousands who commented on Colorado’s draft water plan will be surprised to learn that their letters, postcards and emails may be discounted by at least one of the 15 water bosses working on the issue.
The water plan has been hailed by Gov. John Hickenlooper as an unprecedented grassroots effort to end the state’s long-running water feuds and to avoid a looming water crisis. The plan will determine if Front Range cities with booming populations will suck up more water for growth, threatening farms on the eastern plains and mountain streams.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board asked for everybody’s input – from farmers and ranchers, to city-dwellers, CEOs, water companies, kayakers and anglers. But everybody’s voice won’t hold equal weight. The question the board is discussing is whose voices should count and how much should each perspective matter?
“I am not moved by the form letters. I’m much more interested in the thoughtful comments from individuals,” said Travis Smith, representing the Rio Grande River Basin at the CWCB’s May 20 board meeting in Sterling.
Smith was referring to over 22,000 comments generated by groups like Conservation Colorado that sent out action alerts to members, asking them to weigh in on the plan’s first draft.

pamassarocommentcoloradowaterplan052015coloradoindependent

Many of those form letters featured John Fielder photos of mountain streams and short, often passionate personal notes about how the plan should conserve Colorado water for fishing, farming and play.
Smith, speaking for farmers and ranchers, said quantity of comments shouldn’t outweigh quality. It’s not a majority-wins process.

“I don’t sign form letters. The ag community in general will show up at the first few meetings and say their piece. Then they go back to work, confident that the entity will carry the weight of those comments,” Smith said.

In all, the draft-plan garnered about 24,000 comments. Approximately 22,906 of those were classified as form letters.

Board members questioned how to judge the relative weight of the different comments, but nobody other than Smith suggested that the form letters shouldn’t count.

A majority of the public wants Colorado to conserve water for the recreation industry and agriculture. But not everybody agrees how water should be used, and the diversity of opinions challenge planners balancing competing and growing demands for water from cities, farms and wilderness.

The comments will be used to shape the second draft of the water plan, due July 15. That draft will recommend ways to divvy up water over the next few decades. It will likely recommend that new laws and regulations get passed – some of which might have a hefty price-tag.

The comments have already spurred “real changes” to the second draft. CWCB will rewrite the section on finding money to help pay for water projects, study which streams may need more environmental protection and add more information on climate change.

“The data show the environment is an important part of Colorado’s water plan, but we need more input from the ag community,” he said. “The environmental groups participated in this process in a big way,” said CWCB director Jim Eklund. “But just because we didn’t hear from the ag community doesn’t mean that’s not an equally important value,” he said.

The most important thing is to mine the comments for really good ideas, nuggets that will help the state move the needle on water issues, Eklund said.

It appears Colorado could cut water use by 30 percent in the next 35 years with simple conservation measures taken by industry, agriculture and individuals, said CWCB staffer Becky Mitchell.

The challenge is finding ways to make that happen – which includes convincing lawmakers to make funds available for water-saving measures, said CWCB director Russ George.

Once planning is done, he said, the hard political work will begin.


Garfield County Commissioners hope West Slope says “Not one more transmountain drop” #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

May 21, 2015
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Click through to listen to an interview with Jim Pokrandt from Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krinoven). Here’s an excerpt:

The commissioners are organizing a meeting of Western Slope elected leaders to draw up a unified message ahead of the completion of Governor Hickenlooper’s statewide water plan. Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky:

“You take Pitkin County and Garfield County – they’re miles apart philosophically on how things should be done. But, when it comes to transmountain diversions, we have the same mindset: no more water to go to the east slope.”

Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

Some water officials in the state have endorsed what’s called the “7 points of consensus.” It includes consideration of new transmountain diversions that would move Western Slope water east. Already, 13 major diversions move water through the mountains.


Colorado’s Water Plan and WISE water infrastructure — The Denver Post

May 19, 2015

WISE System Map September 11, 2014

WISE System Map September 11, 2014


From The Denver Post (James Eklund/Eric Hecox):

The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) project is a partnership among Aurora Water, Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority to combine available water supplies and system capacities to create a sustainable new water supply. Aurora and Denver will provide fully treated water to South Metro Water on a permanent basis. WISE also will enable Denver Water to access its supplies during periods when it needs to.

All of this will be accomplished while allowing Aurora to continue to meet its customers’ current and future needs.

Aurora’s Prairie Waters system will provide the backbone for delivering water from the South Platte when Aurora and Denver Water have available water supplies and capacity. The water will be distributed to the South Metro Denver communities through an existing pipeline shared with Denver and East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District, and new infrastructure that will be constructed over the next 16 months…

WISE is a key element to this plan. With construction agreements in place, we will break ground in coming weeks to begin connecting water systems throughout the Denver Metro area. When WISE begins delivering water in 2016:

• The South Denver Metro area will receive a significant new renewable water supply;

• Denver will receive a new backup water supply;

• Aurora will receive funding from partners to help offset its Prairie Waters Project costs and stabilize water rates; and

• The Western Slope will receive new funding, managed by the River District, for water supply, watershed and water quality projects.

More WISE Project coverage here.


How will the #COWaterPlan address the big questions? — the Colorado Independent

May 18, 2015

Colorado’s Growth Brings A Call To Link Water And Land Planning — KUNC

May 18, 2015
Sprawl

Sprawl

From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

“The 2040 forecast for Colorado is about 7.8 million people, increasing from about 5 million in 2010,” said Elizabeth Garner, the state demographer. “How will we deal with it? Where will we put them? How will we provide water resources and other resources, whether it takes 20, 30, 40, 50 years to get there?”

The bulk of Colorado’s growth will happen between Pueblo and Fort Collins, said Garner, putting increased pressure on the state’s already tight water supplies. That population surge is why many groups who are concerned about water resources in Colorado are calling for land planning to play a greater role in the state’s water plan.

“Half of our drinking water on the Front Range is going to outdoor water use,” said Drew Beckwith, a water policy manager with Western Resource Advocates.

For Beckwith, the state water plan should encourage growing cities to incorporate water conservation in their land planning decisions. Relatively simple measures like requiring increased density in new housing developments will have big water savings.

“If you put houses closer together and they have less lawn, they’re going to use less water,” Beckwith said.

More and more municipalities are already recognizing the need to use less irrigation water. In 2004, the City of Westminster established landscape regulations requiring a maximum of 15 gallons per square foot water use per year. Stu Feinglas, the city’s water resources analyst said the results have been dramatic.

“We found that Westminster single family homes are using about 70 percent of the water we project[ed] they would need for their yards,” Feinglas said.

Since 2001, Westminster has added about 12,000 people, yet the water demand has stayed the same or gone down slightly. Feinglas credits better water efficiency in plumbing fixtures and a reduction in outdoor water use. That’s on an individual household basis; changes are also happening at a larger planning level…

Drew Beckwith with Western Resource Advocates said the state could play a significant role in encouraging more municipalities to conserve water through similar kinds land planning practices. For him, the first place to start is the Colorado Water Plan.

“In Colorado, we have a law that says in everyone’s comprehensive land use plan, you have to consider tourism,” Beckwith said. “In Arizona, for instance, there’s a requirement for you to have a water element of your comprehensive plan. Perhaps something like that would be appropriate in Colorado.”

Currently, developers must show they can provide water for their projects, but master plans aren’t required to include water as a consideration.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board said the upcoming water plan won’t mandate land use policies for local government and planning agencies, but the state legislature is getting a head start on linking land planning and water use. Governor John Hickenlooper has signed into law a measure [.pdf] that allows municipalities free training in water-demand management and water conservation.

More conservation coverage here.


The Ouray County Water Users Association hopes to score $50,000 in grant dough for engineering #ColoradoRiver

May 17, 2015

Ouray

Ouray


From the Ouray County Plain Dealer (Sheridan Block):

Making an effort to be prepared for the state’s uncertain water future, Ouray County water users are taking necessary measures to protect their supply.

In a joint discussion on the state of local waters last month, local water user groups left with a general consensus of pursuing a water engineering analysis, which would analyze data for the Upper Uncompahgre Basin and ultimately provide options for solutions to future water needs.

The analysis is estimated to cost about $50,000, and last week county attorney and representative on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, Marti Whitmore, submitted a grant application for a joint project to the Roundtable.

“In talking with other people in the region, including people in the Colorado River District, everyone is supportive of such a widely supported and cooperative effort among many water users in Ouray County,” Whitmore told the Plaindealer. “This cooperative effort will benefit everybody. It’s a positive step in a positive direction and I’ve gotten a lot of favorable feedback.”

According to the grant application, the county (which for the project will also include the City of Ouray, Town of Ridgway, Ouray County Water Users Association and various Log Hill water user entities) is requesting $25,000 from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable and $25,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More Uncompaghre River watershed coverage here.


Colorado Corn weighs in on Water Plan — High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal #COWaterPlan

May 17, 2015
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From Colorado Corn via the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal:

Colorado Corn representatives sent a letter to state officials recently, weighing in on the current draft of the Colorado Water Plan to help make sure agriculture is appropriately represented in this critical conversation.

In its letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Corn endorsed the recent input of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance.

In a six-page document sent to the CWCB back on March 31, CAWA leaders asked that the Colorado Water Plan emphasize to the general public the critical role ag plays in the economy and overall well-being of the state, and delineate what’s at stake in terms of lost food and energy production, wildlife habitat and other forfeited environmental benefits if production dwindles due to water shortages.

Like others, CAWA and Colorado Corn representatives want to make sure the common Coloradan realizes that ag is a $40 billion industry in our state, and that we’re also on pace to see as many as 700,000 acres of irrigated farm ground dry up by 2050.

Altogether, CAWA leaders—consisting of representatives from about 20 ag organizations across the state—made 18 specific recommendations in their letter, covering an array of topics that are critical in preserving Colorado’s ag industry, including water-storage projects, groundwater and aging infrastructure, among others.

Colorado Corn board member and Merino-area farmer Charlie Bartlett serves as president of CAWA. Colorado Corn Executive Director Mark Sponsler is also heavily involved in CAWA, and, like Bartlett, helped draft CAWA’s recent input regarding the Colorado Water Plan.

In a separate letter, Colorado Corn representatives attempted to bring added attention to CAWA’s recommendations.

A second draft of the Colorado Water Plan is expected to be complete by July 15, with a final version due to the governor in December.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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