Governor John Hickenlooper unveiled a draft of the state’s first ever water plan on Wednesday. The goal is to create a comprehensive water strategy to protect rural farm economies and bring more water to millions of people along the Front Range.The plan has been a decade in the making and supporters say it will help the state meet water demands as the population grows.
“Water is too important for bickering and potential failure. It demands collaborations,” said James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which drafted the proposal. “This plan sets the stage for us to take the necessary next steps.”
The 400 page draft outlines several concerns including a growing gap between supply and demand, critical environmental issues such as a number of fish species that are at risk of becoming endangered, climate change, regulatory inefficiencies and the dry up of agricultural lands.
“How can we recognize the state’s going to grow but recognize how important agriculture is and that we don’t want another acre to be dried up? I don’t think anybody wants to see that continue to continue in Colorado,” said Hickenlooper.
He went on to add that the draft strikes a good balance between so many different interests and upholds Colorado’s values. He highlighted protecting the environment, vibrant cities, and promoting our recreational industry. But it comes with a hefty price tag, $20 billion in water projects by the year 2050.
“We’re looking at options that are creative and innovative that would allow an agriculture producer to get into a transaction with a municipality that keeps the water tied to the land in perpetuity,” said Eklund.
Public hearings on the draft will continue throughout next year. It won’t be until 2016 when the strategy will move to policy recommendations that would go before the state legislature.
“If you discuss the issues long enough and you listen to the other side you get an end product you’re pretty comfortable with,” said Hickenlooper.