Tag Archives: CWCB

Weather Modification-Cloud Seeding Data

IceNucleiGenerator

Silver Iodide is burned using a ice nucleus generator.  Courtesy of CWCB

Think Mother Nature is the only one that can control the weather? Well think again. During times of drought and as we look toward an uncertain climate future, water managers and scientists are relying on cloud seeding to bring snow to ski resorts and a more reliable water supply along the Colorado River. Cloud seeding is increasingly popular in southwestern Colorado as a way of making snow as it’s becoming more accurate and less of a gamble thanks to research and weather data collection. However, with data comes accuracy, and there is still a need for more data.

Cloud seeding is used as a way to boost the amount of snow falling in the winter as well as the amount of runoff in the spring by increasing moisture levels in the clouds. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has agreements with water providers and states throughout the Colorado River Basin, including the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the California Six Agency Committee, and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. These agreements provide funding for cloud seeding in Colorado’s mountains to encourage hearty snowpack and ample water to flow out of state and downstream. The goal for the lower basin states is to increase water levels at Lake Mead as climate change may present some unknown challenges in the years to come. Many organizations in the southwestern United States have money tied up in seeding programs and rely on the extra 3-4 percent of Colorado River water for drinking and agricultural use. Ski resorts seed simply because they need the snow for their business. No snow, no skiers, no revenue. Those businesses and funding look to data to optimize the results of their cloud seeding efforts. If done at the wrong time or place, it will not be successful and thousands of dollars will dissipate into the Colorado sky

Cloud seeding, a method of weather modification, works like this:  vaporized silver iodide is sent up into the clouds from a ground-based generator. The silver iodide forms an artificial nuclei that attracts water to form snowflakes. Then, the cloud releases the excess water over the desired region. According to Ken Curtis with the Dolores Water Conservancy District, the optimal location to start the cloud seeding generator is anywhere from five to 15 miles away and takes about 30 minutes for the snow to form and fall.

“It depends on storm and radar coverage to pick up on moisture,” Curtis says. Data plays a large part in deciding where to seed and whether or not it will be successful. Seeders use high resolution models to collect data on temperature, elevation and weather forecasting to know when and where to seed. A 10-year cloud seeding study out of Wyoming suggests that there is a potential for a 5-15 percent increase in precipitation. However, not all storms are the same and only about 30 percent of storms meet the criteria for seeding.

Joe Busto, the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s weather modification specialist, says that cloud seeding will have different results in different areas. “In Gunnison it is simply too cold to seed, but in Steamboat Springs the conditions are much more favorable for seeding.” Since every location is different, it is necessary to have data specific to your location and conditions in order to know if seeding is appropriate.

Scientists use four pieces of equipment to collect data for cloud seeding:

  1. High resolution weather research forecast model
  2. Model graphs and displays to show the conditions
  3. Forecast soundings
  4. Radiometer

The high resolution weather research forecast model provides information about when to expect a storm in the area. The graphs and displays provide data about wind speed and direction, height, temperature and precipitation totals. A forecast sounding is a digital version of a weather balloon and simulates a weather balloon launch. In Colorado, the National Weather Service launches weather balloons twice a day in Grand Junction and Denver. Forecast soundings provide data for 119 locations in Colorado. The radiometer is used to collect atmospheric data every five minutes. In addition to these pieces of equipment, Winter Park uses a ceilometer. It sits on top of a parking garage in the town and produces data about cloud density and height by sending a laser high into the atmosphere.

Even with all this data and instrumentation, there is still uncertainty involved in cloud seeding. Although data is important in seeding, it doesn’t mean that having accurate data is a 100 percent guarantee of success—there’s still some guess work involved . Cloud seeding has proven useful in providing an increase in snowfall for ski resorts and in providing additional runoff flows in the spring, and many businesses, water providers and state governments are financially betting on it, but there’s no guaranty of success.

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Successful Implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan Requires a Data-Driven Mindset

nicolebc2014webNicole Seltzer, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s former executive director moved on last week from her position at CFWE to pursue a personal goal of spending more time enjoying Colorado’s mountains. While working at CFWE, Nicole led the organization through a period of growth by doubling staffing levels, diversifying programs, and increasing the budget by over 60 percent. She has become a strong voice and leader for Colorado’s water community. Although she hasn’t gone far to her new home on the West Slope, we’ll miss Nicole at CFWE. Before leaving, Nicole wrote a number of letters to impart some of her wisdom—read some thoughts from the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s December newsletter, on data-driven water education:

In the 15 years that I’ve conducted water education and outreach in Colorado, I’ve learned that the conversation never stops at water. To have an intelligent conversation about water, I also need to understand western history, ecology, forest health, economic development, recreation management and so much more. There are thousands of public policy issues you can connect back to water.

I think this is why I’ve so appreciated my time as the executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. As someone who enjoys making connections between people and issues, CFWE is the perfect home to explore meaningful topics through a lens of water. Even seemingly disconnected topics like leadership skills or behavior change are absolutely relevant to water conversations.

I’ve recently had the pleasure to work alongside Colorado Water Conservation Board staff to discuss implementation of the education and outreach strategies in Colorado’s Water Plan. The conversation initially focused on the actions outlined in Chapter 9.5 to examine current gaps in water education, and use that information to support dedicated funding for outreach activities statewide. This is sorely needed, and will be a great starting point.

The plan contains much to be proud of, from goals around municipal water conservation to integration with land use planning to stream health to funding mechanisms. While they are wide ranging and diverse, I believe there is a common thread that connects them. None, in my opinion, are achievable without dedicated outreach and engagement strategies that have clear goals and metrics to measure success.

Good water education increases awareness of the severity and complexity of water issues, creating concern and the desire to get involved. Good water education broadens perspectives and helps us walk a mile in another’s shoes, developing compassion for other viewpoints and a willingness to explore rather than disengage in the midst of disagreement. Good water education widens the number of people invested in our water and river systems, producing collaborative solutions that meet multiple needs. Good water education promotes uncommon alliances by connecting people around common interests instead of dividing them with their differences.

How, as the Colorado water community, can we support the CWCB as it seeks to implement these goals we’ve adopted together? From my vantage point, I see one fundamental priority that would put us on the right path. Adopting a data-driven mindset about water education would immediately increase the amount, quality and effectiveness of these programs, which is a backbone of water plan implementation.

Our profession is driven by and beholden to numbers: gallons per capita per day, milligrams per liter, pounds per square inch. But we rarely apply the same logic to outreach and education programs, or if we do, it is through proxies like the number of people at an event or how many factsheets were handed out. What if we began to hold ourselves to a higher standard? Instead of collecting no or loosely relevant data, we clearly identified the outcomes we sought, and developed robust mechanisms to track them?

Two actions would help us move in the right direction, both of which are currently being considered by CWCB as they work to prioritize implementation of water plan goals.

First, the development and funding of a centralized, regularly repeated statewide survey of public knowledge, attitudes and values. We need a baseline as a state against which we can measure the success of education and outreach programs. There are numerous surveys that have been completed in the last 5 years, but most seek to answer a narrow set of questions, are limited to a certain geography and are never repeated. Just like we track the water quality in a stream before, during and after a project, we should measure shifts in public opinion and knowledge on water. To be truly useful, this undertaking must be a statewide partnership that is developed, funded and used by a wide variety of entities. And it must be repeated on a regular basis to have lasting value.

Second, we must create a set of consistent metrics that water education professionals could opt to use to gauge their effectiveness. You cannot understand that which you do not measure. A standardized set of metrics that can be used by all outreach and education programs in Colorado will help us set collective goals, hold ourselves accountable to meeting them, and create an ethic of outcomes-based success that does not currently exist.

CFWE has already taken several strategic steps that align well with water plan goals. These include fostering our Water Educator Network to increase the amount, quality and effectiveness of water education programs in Colorado, developing our Water Fluency program which empowers community leaders who are not currently engaged in water to critically think about these issues, and focusing our print and online content to examine a wider array of public policy issues through a lens of water. We also collect a large amount of both quantitative and qualitative data on the impact of our work, and use that to regularly reflect and improve upon our programs.

As Colorado’s leader in water education, CFWE is excited to be CWCB’s partner in the planning and execution of these important and far-reaching goals. Though I will step down as executive director in December, CFWE will remain committed to its core values of maintaining an unbiased, objective viewpoint that encompasses diverse perspectives on water resource issues and producing high‐quality educational tools and experiences. We will use our expertise to help lead the way in implementing Colorado’s outreach and education goals, and foster the conversations necessary to get there. And of course, we’ll do all of this while also having a good time.

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Go Time for Colorado’s Water Plan: Meeting the Plan’s Land Use Goals

By Meagan Webber

go time bugThe final draft of the Colorado Water Plan (CWP) was released in December 2015. As is part of our mission, The Colorado Foundation for Water Education seeks to help keep you up-to-speed on how the plan’s action steps are progressing on the ground in order to meet Colorado’s water needs. This is our third installment of the 2016 Headwaters series on the plan’s implementation. You can find the previous two installments in the Winter 2016 and Summer 2016 issues of Headwaters magazine. You can also check them out on the Your Water Colorado blog via these links: Conservation Goals; Environmental and Recreational Goals; Storage Goals; Funding Goals; and Outreach, Education, and Public Engagement Goals. In this blog post, we will take an in-depth look at another one of the plan’s nine measurable outcomes: land use planning.

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Highlands Ranch_flickr

Highlands Ranch, home to 93,000 people in south metro Denver, relies on a combination of South Platte River water and groundwater.

Go Time for Colorado’s Water Plan: Meeting the Plan’s Land Use Goals by Ensuring Colorado’s Development is Water-Smart

Colorado’s population is projected to increase from 5.4 million in 2015 to approximately 8 million by 2050, which will require plenty of new development in addition to remodeling and replacing old housing. Although the connection between land use planning and water conservation may seem obscure at first, the former is important for the latter. Increasing housing density in cities will mean smaller lot sizes which means less Kentucky bluegrass turf drinking up water in our semi-arid state. This is just one example of how efficient land use can help reduce the gap between Colorado’s future water supply and demand. “We think there could be a big impact on water demand if we grow Colorado differently,” says Kevin Reidy, state water conservation technical specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).  

Colorado’s Water Plan has already taken this into account, setting “a measurable objective that by 2025, 75 percent of Coloradans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning.” The water plan outlines a five-step action plan and describes several initiatives that are already underway to work toward this goal. The specifics can be found in section 6.3.3 of the water plan.

The first of these action steps is to encourage local governments to use local development tools, such as “creating more stringent green-construction codes that include higher-efficiency fixtures and appliances and more water-wise landscapes.” This is one example of a development tool that will be the focus of voluntary trainings for local governments hosted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) in 2016. These trainings are based on Pace University’s Land Use Leadership Alliance (LULA) training program. The CWCB has been working closely with LULA to develop its own training modules. Several trainings are coming up later this year, and several modules have been completed in the past nine months. In addition to the trainings, the CWCB will also host five webinars starting this September and continuing into October. So far, “ten communities have completed land-use and water trainings through the LULA process.” However 80 communities and water providers (in Colorado) will need to complete the training by 2025 in order to reach the 75 percent population objective, according to the water plan.

The CWCB is also working to incorporate municipal system water loss into these trainings. That is, water loss via leaks in the pipes that deliver water to our homes and businesses. “This is a low-hanging fruit that we should be going after,” says Reidy. “We are working to show people that this is a problem.” If these damages are repaired and piping infrastructure updated overall, it will save a lot of water and money for water providers and customers.

The second step is to examine barriers in state law for implementing the local development tools that local governments are encouraged to use in the above-mentioned trainings. At this point, the CWCB is waiting to learn about barriers in feedback from the trainings. Local governments and communities have more in-depth knowledge of the specific ordinances in their areas and will know what sorts of legal barriers will prevent them from using certain development tools.

The first two action steps build up to the third, which aims for incorporation of land-use practices into water conservation plans. Aurora Water is a great example of a water provider that has been integrating land use planning and water conservation. Aurora Water has been working with the Aurora Planning Department to run computer models that project how different city densities and land use patterns will affect water supply and demand into the future. These models and data were used to inform Aurora Water’s 2013 Water Management Plan, which includes outdoor watering rules for different landscapes under different conditions of water availability and encourages the installation of Xeriscape landscapes. They are currently running more of these models (as is Denver Water) to predict how land use changes could impact water demand in different scenarios. They are still working on crunching numbers and will have results soon. These figures will be important to initiatives like the Water and Growth Dialogue, which seeks to “explore and demonstrate how the integration of water and land use planning should be utilized to reduce water demand.”

The Water and Growth Dialogue brings different stakeholders together to discuss water conservation opportunities in land use planning and is an example of the fourth action step in action. Strengthening partnerships with all possible stakeholders at this nexus of land and water is important to the success of the initiatives described above. Historically, “land use planning and water development have often been overseen by entirely different agencies or local governing boards,” according to an article by Allen Best in the Summer 2015 issue of Headwaters magazine. This is an issue that coordination and collaboration between groups will help address. In addition to the partnership with local governments across the state and Pace University’s LULA program, the CWCB has also been working closely with the Department of Public Health and Environment; The Sonoran Institute; The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; and The Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment, along with many other stakeholders. “We want to reach a lot of communities to integrate land use and water planning by 2020. There is a lot of work to do and these partnerships are going help us achieve that,” Reidy says.

The final action step is the allocation of funds to various projects that will further all of the goals described above. Funding from the CWCB’s Water Efficiency Grant Program (WEGP) will support smaller, more localized efforts, while the CWCB’s Water Supply Reserve Account (WSRA) grant funds will be allocated toward larger, regional efforts, according to the plan. This will be a bit trickier this year, given the ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court on the BP America vs. Colorado Department of Revenue case, which means WSRA will not receive additional funding in the 2016-17 fiscal year. “Since we are looking at shortage of funds, we are pulling back on certain projects in order to prioritize everything in the water plan,” Reidy says. “A big part of that is helping local water providers gain capacity to manage water systems better. We still have those kinds of initiatives going because we want to help them achieve those goals.” The CWCB has been working to come up with alternate sources of funding, many of which are in the CWCB Water Projects Bill that the Colorado Legislature will decide upon in 2017.

hw_sum_2015_coveroptIf you would like to stay up-to-date on the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan, keep an eye out for the rest of our articles in this series and sign up to receive the bimonthly CWCB Confluence Newsletter. You can learn more about the nexus of land use and water at 1:30 pm today in a session, “Linking Water Supply with Land Use Planning,” at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference. Also, check out the Summer 2015 issue of Headwaters magazine.

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Go Time for Colorado’s Water Plan: meeting the plan’s conservation goals

 

By Nelson Harvey, excerpts pulled from an originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of Headwaters magazine

go time bugWhen Gov. John Hickenlooper triumphantly hoisted the final water plan at a mid-November ceremony in Denver, the hundreds of Coloradans who contributed to its formation paused to take a congratulatory breath. Yet even then, questions were swirling about how the voluntary plan would work—how the state’s utilities, businesses, advocacy groups and individual water users would internalize its recommendations and take responsibility for its goals—and whether they would, by the plan’s own measurement of success, be able to close the municipal water supply and demand gap without compromising other values.

Here, we turn those questions on one of the plan’s nine defined measureable outcomes: water conservation.

iStock_000079530373_SmallWater conservation: Stretch now to avoid strain later

The water plan sets an ambitious “stretch” goal of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water annually by 2050. That level of conservation would go a long way toward closing Colorado’s projected gap between water supply and demand—about 560,000 acre-feet per year in 2050 under a business-as-usual paradigm—and sharply reduce the need for new water supplies procured through controversial measures like new transbasin diversions or the dryup of irrigated agriculture.

Drew Beckwith, water policy manager for Western Resource Advocates, says achieving the goal will mean reducing per-capita water demand by about 1 percent per year between 2010 and 2050, so that each Coloradan’s demand 35 years from now will be 35 percent lower than it is today. “We’ve been achieving that rate of conservation over the last 15 years in Colorado, and water providers have told the state that they plan to continue doing it in the future, so there is lots of evidence that it’s possible,” Beckwith says.

Getting there will require long-term collaboration between state agencies and water utilities and their customers, whether those customers are motivated by their environmental ethos or a hefty water bill. To reach the goal, utilities will have to implement measures outlined in the “high conservation” scenario laid out in the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative report by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the agency that oversaw the water plan’s creation.

That scenario, which CWCB water conservation specialist Kevin Reidy calls “difficult but not impossible” to achieve, involves things like at least half of all utilities introducing individual water budgets for their customers, where water use targets are set and financial penalties imposed for above-average use. Other possibilities: Between 70 and 100 percent of municipalities might adopt conservation-oriented plumbing and building codes, and at least half of the water-hungry turf in the state might be replaced with low water-use plantings.

Much of the responsibility will rest on the shoulders of water providers and customers, but the water plan pledges that the state will also take steps to encourage conservation. One is to make comprehensive water resource planning by utilities a pre-condition of any state support of—or funding for—new water projects, thus requiring utilities to show they’re on track with conservation before receiving state funds. (Although utilities delivering at least 2,000 acre-feet of water per year are already required to submit conservation plans to the CWCB, the new mandate would require they integrate those plans with other aspects of their operations.)

“We believe that we can use incentives to push people in the right direction,” says Jacob Bornstein, CWCB program manager for the basin roundtables and Interbasin Compact Committee.

The water plan also recommends exploring a new state law that would require all outdoor irrigation equipment sold in Colorado to meet federal WaterSense efficiency standards.

Compared to the challenge of achieving the conservation goal, keeping tabs on progress will be relatively easy, thanks to a 2010 state law—House Bill 1051—requiring water providers (those that sell 2,000 acre-feet of water annually) to report their annual water use and conservation data to the CWCB to aid in water supply planning.

“Going forward we’ll have data that we can use to monitor our progress,” says Beckwith. “Also, if individual utilities are doing well with conservation we would expect them to publicize that. Maybe through a combination of record keeping and self-promotion, we will get there.”

 

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Filed under Colorado's Water Plan, Headwaters Magazine, Water Supply

A statewide conversation on Colorado’s Water Plan: tune in on the radio or online this Sunday

Join radio listeners around Colorado for a statewide conversation on Colorado’s Water Plan during a live call-in discussion this Sunday January 25th from 5-6 pm. Hear from James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Jim Pokrandt with the Colorado River Water Conservation District; and Chris Woodka with the Pueblo Chieftain. Listen online or on the radio with KGNU, KRCC, KDNK and other community radio stations across the state. Your calls and questions will be welcome at 800-737-3030, engage online by emailing water@kdnk.org or join the discussion on Twitter using #cowaterplan.   Hear about the basics of the water plan, how you can get engaged, what input is still needed and phone in to ask your questions and direct the discussion. Don’t forget, that’s this Sunday January 25th from 5-6 pm, part of Connecting the Drops, a collaboration between the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and Rocky Mountain Community Radio Stations.

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To Gov’s Office with Colorado Water Plan

CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring  a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.

CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.

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.

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CWCB director James Eklund hands Colorado’s Water Plan over to Governor John Hickenlooper.

“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?

 

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Ask Questions About Colorado’s Water Plan

Colorado’s Water Plan will provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need while supporting healthy watersheds and the environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.

So it says on the homepage of the Colorado’s Water Plan website, and so many across the state are working to achieve. This Wednesday 3/5,  listen to Denver and Boulder’s community radio station KGNU (or tune in online) from 8:35-9:30 am for a panel discussion and call-in show on Colorado’s Water Plan. Listen to and ask questions of the Colorado Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund, Sean Cronin Chair of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, and Abby Burk Colorado Western Rivers Action Network Coordinator for the National Audubon Society.

Have a question for the experts? Call in at 303-442-4242 this Wednesday morning!

Interested in getting involved in Colorado’s Water Future? Check out our last blog post on Colorado’s Water Plan and visit your next Basin Roundtable meeting.

 

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