Every water interest in the state must give something to get something from Colorado’s first comprehensive water plan, three people with a stake in the outcome told The Durango Herald editorial board Monday.
As it stands, Colorado no longer has enough water to satisfy unlimited wants of growing Front Range urban areas, farmers and ranchers and environmental and recreational interests – not to mention states with legal rights to Colorado water, they said.
There is still time to reach compromises, which is the reason the Colorado Water Plan is vital, said Bart Miller, water program director with Western Resource Advocates, Amelia Whiting, the Colorado Water Project counsel with Trout Unlimited, and Katie Greenberg, the Western contact for the Young Farmers Coalition.
Whiting is a member of the Southwest Basin task force, which has scheduled four public meetings in Southwest Colorado during the next two months to educate residents on the issues.
The first draft of the plan – the result of an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper last year – is expected to be unveiled in December. Each of seven major basins in the state is defining goals.
“As the plan rolls out, it’s conceptual at this time,” Miller said.
Certain issues are flash points.
Nothing raises hackles on the Western Slope as quickly as talk of transmountain diversions, a fancy way of describing the emptying of Western Slope water sources to support the Front Range, where most urban growth is occurring.
Miller said Front Range basins have not committed to specific targets.
The three stakeholders said urban water conservation, advanced agricultural practices, recycling, storage projects and soil stewardship can play a role assuring everyone of water.
If enough moderate measures are taken, large transmountain diversions won’t be necessary, Miller said.
Miller said major changes may well require legislative action.