Colorado Water Plan
Chapter campaign kick-off! Can you help?
By Matt Reed
RMC Conservation Programs Coordinator
Arkansas River in Brown's Canyon
Photo by Michael Ace
In 2013 Gov. John Hickenlooper directed the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to develop the first state-wide water plan, initiating an important course for future water use and management throughout Colorado.
The development of the plan is, in theory, a public process. The CWCB is seeking comments from the public, hosting public meetings and forums, and shaping a water plan that is responsive to the needs and recommendations of the citizenry. In practice, however, the plan is at risk of catering to Front Range municipalities, wasteful trans-mountain diverters, and other water buffaloes—all at the expense of river health and West Slope communities.
Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter (RMC) must hold Gov. Hickenlooper to his word that “every discussion about water should start with conservation.” To help steer development of a plan that champions conservation and efficiency, the RMC will be initiating a campaign to engage and galvanize our members and supporters, guide and generate public input, and pressure the CWCB and the Governor to set a positive course for water use for ourselves and future generations.
Why you should care
Why should you care about the Colorado Water Plan and Colorado rivers? Our rivers support a $9-billion economy and over 80,000 recreation-based jobs. Rafters, kayakers, fishermen and other recreationists contribute to a thriving tourism economy because of clean waters and adequate river levels.
When polled, 82 percent of western voters said that “low levels of water in rivers” ranked as a significant issue, making it their number two concern, second only to unemployment. Approximately 78 percent of Coloradans reject the idea of diverting water from less populated areas to more populated areas. Trans-mountain diversions deplete water from rivers, damaging watersheds and impacting wildlife. Healthy rivers are the foundation of Colorado’s environmental and economic health.
As such, it is essential that the Colorado Water Plan be done right. RMC urges a path forward that conserves water, demands efficiency, protects and enhances Colorado’s environment and economy, and promotes greater cooperation among all water users.
In developing the plan, the CWCB has a critical opportunity to set a positive course for future water management and use in Colorado. The heart of the plan should include four conservation actions:
- Restore and protect rivers (top priority)
- Call for meeting demand through increased efficiency and conservation
- Provide mechanisms for modernizing agricultural and water-sharing practices
- Avoid large trans-mountain diversions
New supplies, as needed, should be built incrementally and developed within the basins of demand. If changes of use are needed, they should only occur after the full range of impacts are acknowledged and mitigated.
How you can help
The Chapter’s involvement in the Colorado Water Plan is a tremendous opportunity for individual volunteers throughout the state, as well as a chance for meaningful Group participation over the next year and a half. Whether you live in Denver, Durango or the Eastern Plains, you and the rivers you love stand to be affected by the Colorado Water Plan.
Are you interested in joining a team of fellow river enthusiasts and conservationists to guide Chapter and Group participation in the Plan? We’re looking for volunteers who can spend time on strategy, messaging, coordination, issue analysis and public outreach. If your time is limited, there are still numerous opportunities to submit comments, give oral testimony, and influence development of the plan.
To join the team or get more information, contact Matt Reed at (303) 454-3361 or Kirk Cunningham at (303) 939-8519. For more information please visit http://www.coloradowaterplan.com/ and http://waterforcolorado.org/.
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