December 10, 2014, that was yesterday, and it’s already history. At 1:30 pm, the draft of Colorado’s Water Plan was handed to Gov. John Hickenlooper. Colorado Water Conservation Board staff smiled proudly, along with CWCB board members, Interbasin Compact Committee members and others at the hand-off of their work. The plan reflects efforts to meet the water needs of a growing population, expected to double by 2050, in a semi-arid state, faced with a changing climate. The Statewide Water Supply Initiative estimates that Colorado will need between 538,000 and 812,000 acre-feet of additional water to meet municipal and industrial needs by 2050, and the plan looks at water portfolios, cooperative management of water, tools and other mechanisms to meet that demand. Find the draft plan here.
“This collaboration and delineation is a look at how Colorado can secure that water future,” the governor said, upon receiving a binder full of studies, recommendations and plans for Colorado’s future. “This is the first draft of the first state water plan, and it’s a great starting place,” Gov. Hickenlooper said.
And of course, though years of effort and thousands of hours of staff and volunteer time went into the draft, it is just a start. The water plan will be finalized next year, and before next December, multiple public comment periods along with public meetings by both the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Legislature’s Water Resources Review Committee (read about the meetings conducted last summer) are slated. Then, even in 2015, when the first water plan is finalized, planners will be looking down the road to 2019, the year Colorado’s Water Plan receives its first update.
Some have fresh comments and concerns already. From the Denver Post:
Critics were lining up, calling the draft plan a good first step that could help launch discussions but far too vague, lacking specifics that can serve as a basis for action.
State officials encourage all to review and submit their comments directly through the Colorado Water Plan website, and those with comments don’t have to wait until a deadline is looming, submit your feedback anytime.
From our most recent blog post on the water plan:
Whether or not this is the first time or the 100th time you’ve been invited to participate, it’s important to remain cognizant of what the plan is meant to do and why it’s so important to stay engaged. We’re talking about a tangible way to impact our collective future as Coloradans and protect the many things we hold dear, which all eventually wind their way back to water. To understand what’s at stake, simply look back at Gov. Hickenlooper’s May 2013 executive order directing the CWCB to prepare the state water plan. In it, he articulated a set of values the plan should support. These include:
- A productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities,
- Viable and productive agriculture,
- A robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry,
- Efficient and effective water infrastructure promoting smart land use, and
- A strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife.
“Colorado’s Water Plan is by Coloradans for Colorado,” said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. It might not be possible to involve every person in the state but the CWCB and Legislature are trying. Between September 2013, when work began on the first draft, through October 10, 2014, the end of the most recent public comment period, the CWCB received over 13,000 unique comments to be considered in the plan. Those comments included over 780 unique email submissions, 120 web forms through the water plan’s website, 121 handwritten comments and 322 typed letters containing input related to the development of Colorado’s Water Plan. The Water Resources Review Committee also submitted 164 comments to the CWCB, received through their public hearings last summer. CWCB staff has met with over 100 organizations, agencies, and other partners statewide regarding their involvement in the development of the plan.
Of course, those looking to learn more can visit the Colorado’s Water Plan website. And stay tuned to the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. CFWE will release a new issue of Headwaters magazine in February 2015 on Colorado’s Water Plan. It will dig into some questions about the past and future of Colorado’s water, planning in other states, Basin Implementation Plans, ways to get involved and more.
Can’t wait? Here on the blog, we’re running a series of posts featuring various water values and users in Colorado. See our first posts to read about the many tangible reasons why water is important across the state. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and gain a new perspective by reading this introduction to the series, with a reminder of why the water plan matters; and recreation on the Yampa. And of course, if you have unofficial comments on the water plan, share them here. What do you think?