DENVER – Droughts come and go, but the state government has been trying to find ways to cope with them for more than three decades.
Colorado was just the third state in the country to come up with a statewide drought plan. Former Gov. Richard Lamm requested it to be written, in response to dry years in the late 1970s. The state kept the plan, even though the next two decades were wetter than average.
The last decade, however, has been a much different story. Eight of the last 11 years have been drier than usual, including 2002, which ranked as the driest year in Colorado’s recorded history. The Colorado Water Conservation Board updates its drought plan every three years, and the latest revision is due this fall. The board is soliciting public comment on the 700-plus-page document.
The plan specifies what state agencies and local governments should do to prepare for a drought, respond to one when it starts and monitor its effects.
As of this month, 100 percent of Colorado still is suffering from some level of drought, which has blanketed the state since the summer of 2012. It’s mildest in the Front Range foothills and worst on the southeastern plains, which are in the throes of an “exceptional drought” – the worst category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Although it’s common for parts of Colorado to be in a drought, it’s rare for it to affect the whole state, according to the drought plan.
The Drought Mitigation and Response Plan is available for review on the Water Conservation Board’s website, cwcb.state.co.us.