In May of 2013, Governor Hickenlooper charged the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) with creating the first ever Colorado Water Plan (CWP). The overarching goal driving the CWP is to work towards a secure water future for Colorado by creating a plan to close a projected gap between water needs and developed supplies in coming decades. To that end, the CWP will outline projected water scarcity issues and identify projects and policies that can help close this gap. The current draft plan also touches on a range of other policy topics, evoking water quality issues, natural disaster management, watershed health, and much more.
The CWCB has released most of the initial draft of the CWP and has done a commendable job of outlining Colorado’s water supply challenges and diverse interests. However, at this point the CWP process has been criticized for failing to decide some of Colorado’s major water policy issues. So what are these contentious issues? Although there are many, transmountain diversions, the “buy and dry” of agricultural lands, delivering water to lower basin states during times of shortage, as well as conservation and efficiency standards make the top of the list. Perhaps the biggest point of contention during this process has been over whether or not the CWP should promote transmountain diversions. In this context, the term transmountain diversion generally refers to a diversion that would carry water from the Western Slope to be delivered east of the Continental Divide. Growth across the Front Range has continued to outpace available water supplies and has prompted developers to eye the Western Slope as a potential source of additional supplies.
Gunnison Basin Roundtable representative to the CWCB, John McClow, has reported that the CWP will not endorse or condemn any specific transmountain diversion projects. Indeed, although the CWCB recently released a draft “conceptual agreement” on how a proposed new transmountain diversion would be addressed, the document lacked specific guidelines for when and under what circumstances such a diversion would be endorsed.
HCCA is opposed to any new diversions carrying water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. The Gunnison Basin is also projected to face increased water supply challenges as we continue growing. Many of our streams and rivers are already in need of increased flows to restore degraded ecosystems. Positioned at the headwaters of the mighty Colorado River, the burden of meeting obligations to the lower Colorado River Basin states requires that we send water downstream to satisfy the requirements of the Colorado River Compact. Finally, shouldn’t the Front Range be meeting more stringent efficiency standards before they look to divert west slope water for lawns?
A complete draft of the CWP will be released by the CWCB on December 10th. HCCA will be providing general information on the CWP at a range of local events in the upcoming months. Our goal is to help get out basic information about the CWP, to provide an arena to discuss policy issues addressed in the CWP, and to promote public participation in the planning process. Please join us at Rumors on Monday, November 17th, from 5:00 to 6:30, to start the discussion. We’ll provide the coffee, you bring your questions!