The South Platte is key to the #COWaterPlan — The Fort Morgan Times

February 25, 2015
South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

From The Fort Morgan Times (Sara Waite):

The South Platte Basin and Metro Roundtables, which collectively represent the South Platte River Basin, collaborated on a Basin Implementation Plan (BIP). The draft BIPs from each basin were released last summer; the final drafts are due in April.

The two organizations have been seeking public input on the draft South Platte BIP, offering a series of meetings and webinars in various locations throughout the basin.

A video produced by the group to give an overview of the water plan and BIP explains, “A good Colorado plan is a good South Platte plan.” The South Platte basin is a key economic driver of the state, with seven of the state’s top 10 agriculture-producing counties, as well as the Denver metro area and growing communities like Loveland, Greeley and Fort Collins that together account for over half of the state’s economic activity. The basin’s economy is also enhanced by environmental and recreational tourism — skiing, boating, fishing, wildlife viewing and hunting — and is home to the most-visited state parks and the eastern half of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The South Platte Basin is a leader in water conservation efforts. “Long-standing efforts to conserve and reuse water in order to get the most benefit from available supplies has meant that by the time water flows out of our state, each drop has been used multiple times for different purposes,” the video states.

But a growing population base in the basin and statewide means municipal and industrial water demand could double before 2050, and outpace the state’s current water supply. Following current trends could mean drying up over half of the basin’s irrigated cropland in that time, a practice that, if overused, is “not in the best interest of the Basin nor is it in the best interest of the State.”

The South Platte plan calls for pragmatic solutions that are consistent with Colorado law and property rights. These include a wide range of strategies that could be used in various combinations to meet the gap: conservation and reuse; multi-purpose water projects that include municipal, industrial, recreational and environmental components; agricultural transfers, including alternative transfer methods; Colorado River Basin supplies; and storage projects.

The competing needs present enormous challenges, the BIP notes, and those challenges drive the solutions. Joe Frank, chair of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, has called for public feedback on the solutions outlined in the draft plan to meet current and future water needs.

To learn more about the South Platte BIP and Colorado Water Plan, as well as give feedback on the plan, visit

Arkansas Basin Roundtable recap: Focus on agriculture

February 25, 2015
Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While its purpose is to find ways to fill the municipal water gap, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable wants to elevate the importance of agriculture. That was apparent in several actions at its monthly meeting this week.

The most obvious was the adoption of a statement proposed by Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher and board member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, that stresses the irrigated agriculture to tourism, food production, recreation, environment, general well-being and the economy.

The roundtable also selected a rural advocate rather than a water utilities manager for a vacancy on its executive committee.

Finally, it demanded more details from El Paso County interests seeking a state grant to determine if it would ultimately encourage more dry-up of agriculture.

“I would like to give my thanks to the roundtable for supporting agriculture. This is an important issue,” Brown said.

Support came without objection after Gary Barber, a consultant who chaired the roundtable until becoming a consultant for it, detailed years of projects that aimed at reducing buy-and-dry of farmland for municipal supply.

Some of those projects included : A 2005 Colorado State University study that assigned per-acre economic value for farm crops.

A 2008 template for community considerations developed by roundtable members.

An economic report that pegged farm losses from the 2011 drought at $100 million in the Arkansas Valley. That was followed in 2012 by a roundtable project that estimated the value of agriculture in the valley at $1.5 billion.

A 2013 workshop hosted by the roundtable that brought national speakers to discuss how ag water is valued.

The roundtable selected Sandy White, who touted his upbringing on a Wyoming Ranch and his desire to preserve agriculture, for vice president over Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities. The vote was not close, 26-5.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Ciruli: It’s Colorado’s move on water planning #COWaterPlan

February 23, 2015
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Here’s a guest column about the Colorado Water Plan written by pollster Floyd Ciruli that’s running in The Denver Post:

Colorado’s statewide water planning is overdue. California and Texas, the nation’s two largest states and users of Colorado headwaters, have moved well ahead of the state in planning and investment.

Both downstream states are facing major shortages. Texas voters, using a rainy-day fund, approved a $2 billion bond with 20 percent reserved for conservation, 10 percent for rural areas and the remaining funds for investments in reservoirs, recycling aquifer recharge and other supply infrastructure. California, which experienced gridlock for more than a decade among its perennial competitors — farmers, environmentalists and municipalities — and a horrendous divide between north and south water users, managed to craft a $7 billion conservation and infrastructure bond initiative that passed last November by 65 percent with help from serious drought and a very popular Gov. Jerry Brown.

Colorado, after more than a decade of discussions — river basin by river basin — has finally produced a draft plan, making 2015 potentially the year for making progress on water. But the state faces forces similar to California’s contentious factions. A continuing division exists among east and west slopes, environmentalists who argue for conservation measures to the exclusion of most other options, and basin parochialists who want to protect only their water and support strategies that send it out of state rather than storing and reusing it.

One of the most useful aspects of Colorado’s planning effort has been conducting two scientific studies of the state’s water needs and supply. The first took place in 2004, during Gov. Bill Owens’ administration, and the second was completed in 2010, near the end of the Bill Ritter’s term. Both studies confirmed a water supply gap up to 600,000 acre-feet by 2050, and that figure assumes a host of projects and programs will be in place within the next few decades — including conservation, storage and reuse.

Fortunately, Colorado voters have prioritized water supply and conservation and strongly support addressing the supply gap. A statewide voter survey conducted for the Colorado Water Congress in the summer of 2013, as the water planning process was accelerating in preparation of the draft report, indicated that voters were strongly supportive of the assumptions and approach of the planning effort.

The poll of voters statewide showed Coloradans strongly support the planning process to address the supply gap; want to avoid the loss of irrigated agriculture in the state; believe meeting the supply gap will require the full range of approaches (including conservation, reuse, water storage and new supply); greatly prefer the cooperative approach that the state’s planning process has adopted and recognize that compromise will be necessary; and they encourage the collaboration among urban and rural and small and large communities.

Colorado voters were generally not supportive of extreme views. When asked if conservation alone would be sufficient to make up the water supply shortage, they strongly disagreed and said it would have to be accompanied by storage. And nearly 90 percent of voters want Colorado to claim its legal share of water rather than allow it to flow out of state, rejecting the view that any one basin has sole control of its supply and can choose to send it to Nebraska, California or Texas before allowing full use by Coloradans.

The identified water gap will require decisive action by the governor and Colorado’s other political leaders. After a decade of study and talk, time is running out. Taking measures to ensure Colorado maintains its strong economy and quality of life can no longer wait, and our downstream competitors have already made their moves.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

#COWaterPlan: An Important Step — James Eklund @EklundCWCB

February 13, 2015
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Washington Park Profile (James Eklund):

No single issue will have a more direct impact on Colorado’s future than our ability to successfully and collaboratively manage our life-giving water. Water pumps the beating heart of Colorado’s sublime appeal. It provides for thriving agriculture, the green hue of our forests, farm fields and, yes, even lawns, it courses through our wondrous landscapes and fills reservoirs and rivers cherished by anglers and rafters. It allows for more families and businesses to share in our state, entices tourists to visit and sustains our economies and environment.

But we only have so much of it. As our state continues to grow, how do we work together so that we continue to accrue all of these benefits water provides even as our supplies are limited – constrained both by what nature provides and what we’re obligated by law to send downstream, across state and national borders?

Further, how are we best to proceed and prepare when our finite supplies are subject to the volatility of Mother Nature as illustrated so starkly by recent drought, wildfire and flooding?

A statewide conversation to address these questions began in earnest in 2005, when roundtables, populated by people with myriad and often conflicting opinions and interests, convened in each river basin. Since then, these nine Basin Roundtables, along with a group that includes members from each roundtable (the 27-member Interbasin Compact Committee), have engaged in an unprecedented effort at consensus-building.

Those discussions bring us to today, when the Colorado Water Conservation Board – drawing on nine years of grassroots dialogue and more than 13,000 public comments through the roundtable and IBCC process – has released the first draft of Colorado’s Water Plan.

The water plan represents the consensus view from this process that unless Colorado takes a strategic, statewide approach to water, we will face a more difficult future and risk leaving the fate of our water to decisions and actions from outsiders, the federal government and other states within the Colorado River Basin.

Colorado’s Water Plan reflects agreement from water interests statewide on broad, near-term actions needed to secure our water future. These include efforts to conserve and store water, additional re-use and recycling of water and providing more options to agriculture to avoid the permanent dry-up of our farm and ranch land.

Colorado’s Water Plan doesn’t prescribe specific projects. Instead it outlines how various interests across basins can attain locally driven, collaborative solutions, and how balanced approaches can garner the broad support needed to accelerate projects and shorten the federal regulatory process often associated with water-related actions in Colorado.

With an issue as significant as water, it’s important to underscore what Colorado’s Water Plan does not do: In no way does it infringe upon water rights as a private property right; likewise is does not advocate for any kind of ban on buying and selling of those water rights among willing participants. It does not seek alternatives to our Prior Appropriation Doctrine that has guided water use since before our state’s founding; nor does it erode or in any way cede Colorado’s interstate compact entitlements.

But by creating a broad grassroots framework for how we, together, ought to approach and manage Colorado’s water, it gives us greater control of our destiny, sends a clear message of a unified Colorado vision to federal regulators and fortifies us against outcomes that could gradually be imposed upon us without a broadly supported path forward for our water.

The water plan published in December is not the end, but a beginning. We’ve published draft chapters online ( as we’ve assembled them as just part of our effort to maximize public participation beyond the public roundtable and IBCC process. This draft plan is now subject to more public comment, participation and revision, with a finalized version scheduled for submittal to Governor Hickenlooper later in 2015.

The plan itself will never be a finished one, however. We see Colorado’s Water Plan as an organic, living document, developed from the bottom up and shaped and shepherded by the public will and the evolving conditions and priorities necessary to maintain Colorado’s splendorous stature as a place to visit, explore, work and live.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

@ColoBIP — There is time to still get involved – Colorado Water Plan! Attend the Basin Roundtable meetings.

February 11, 2015

Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention recap #COWaterPlan

February 3, 2015

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The game plan is in place.

The team has been conditioned.

It’s been a rough season.

The quarterback got beat up a little bit, but seems to be on a winning streak.

OK, it’s not football. But that is one way to get a first down as the state marches down the field to score with the Colorado Water Plan.

The goal line is still 10 months away, but at least no one has punted yet.

Much of the 2015 session of Colorado Water Congress last week in Denver was spent chewing over the details of the draft plan and discussing how it might actually be implemented.

At one point, Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director James Eklund — the “quarterback,” if Gov. John Hickenlooper is the coach — showed up with a deflated football, hoping it would not become emblematic of how the plan is put into place.

From the sidelines, others chipped in on coaching strategy during a panel about “A Plan of Action or a Paper Plan?”

“We’ve so far relied on the assumptions of the past and projections for the future,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “We need to think in a totally different way. How do we manage supplies so there is not a crisis in the first place?”

For Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the themes of the water plan are basic: uncertainty, legislative or regional gridlock and the difficulty in reaching a solution.

“We have to identify unacceptable outcomes,” Kuhn said. “It would be unacceptable not to have agriculture (for instance).”

But it was an environmental consultant who pointed out that managing the risk of uncertainty and making a decision are different processes.

“We have a system based on risk management,” said Dan Luecke, an environmental scientist who has been involved in state water issues for three decades. “When we face an uncertain future, we get less rational.”

While each of the panelists stressed cooperation moving forward, each clung to closely held past positions.

Lochhead argued for a streamlined regulatory process for water projects, but cautioned the audience not to bank on storage alone to solve water shortage problems. Conservation is also not a total answer: “Denver Water last year had its lowest consumption since 1967, with 500,000 more people.”

Luecke told CWC to take projects that import water from one basin to another completely off the table: “We can’t go elsewhere to get our water. Set that aside.”

Kuhn, whose district was part of a historic agreement with Denver Water over increased exports, argued for more agreement: “When we don’t have consensus in a fight locally, the feds are most likely to step in.”

Funding also was a big topic at the convention, with one workshop concentrating on public-private partnerships as a way to pay the bills, since federal and state sources are drying up.

“What we agree to fund may be a lot of money, but it has to be cheaper than the alternative,” Kuhn said.

Lochhead favored a fiscal approach.

“We should allow economics to work,” Lochhead said. “We have a dynamic (in which) everyone thinks about the worst possible things that could happen.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Lower Ark pushes to make the value of agriculture more prominent in the #COWaterPlan

February 2, 2015

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water that grows food also protects wildlife and provides fun for humans.

So the district formed to protect water in the Arkansas Valley wants to make agriculture more prominent in the state water plan.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District will push for a plank in the Arkansas Basin Roundtable implementation plan to strengthen its commitment to farms.

“It’s been a struggle to increase the awareness of the value of water,” said Beulah rancher Reeves Brown, who sits on both the Lower Ark board and the roundtable. “We’re emphasizing that the values of ag water go beyond just the economic value. It’s also water that you can raft, boat and fish on.”

Brown said the roundtable just last week received the long-term plan from the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, which includes finding more water from the Arkansas River over the next 50 years.

“The threat is out there,” Brown said.

“There are benefits of ag water to recreation and the community, not just making food,” said Lynden Gill, chairman of the Lower Ark board.

Jay Winner, general manager of the district, said a proposed statement should be accompanied by a way to measure the benefits of ag water to recreational and environmental uses.

“There are a lot of warm and fuzzy statements (in the water plan),” Winner said. “We’re trying to make a statement that’s precise.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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