Gov. John Hickenlooper today directed the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to begin work on a draft Colorado Water Plan that will support agriculture in rural Colorado and align state policy to the state's water values.
"Colorado deserves a plan for its water future use that aligns the state's many and varied water efforts and streamlines the regulatory processes," Hickenlooper said. "We started this effort more than two years ago and are pleased to see another major step forward. We look forward to continuing to tap Colorado's collaborative and innovative spirit to address our water challenges."
An executive order signed by Hickenlooper directs the CWCB to utilize the work of the state's grassroots water process, the Basin Roundtables and Interbasin Compact Committee, in developing a draft report by December 2014. A final report should be completed one year later.
The Colorado Water Plan is necessary to address a variety of issues, including:
-The gap between water supply and water demand. The Statewide Water Supply Initiative forecasts that this gap could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050. Moreover, the largest regional gap is set to occur in the South Platte Basin, the most populous as well as the largest agriculture-producing basin.
-Colorado's drought conditions threaten to hasten the impact of the water supply gap. Indeed, the past two decades have been Colorado's warmest on record, dating back to the 1890s.
-Colorado's water quantity and quality questions can no longer be thought of separately. Each impacts the other and state water policy should address them conjunctively.
-Interstate water concerns are as pressing as ever and require Colorado to be vigilant in protecting its interstate water rights pursuant to its nine interstate compacts and two equitable apportionment decrees.
The Executive Order directs the CWCB to work with its sister agencies within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources as well as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the Colorado Energy Office, and other relevant state agencies as needed. Each of these agencies is directed to cooperate with the CWCB as needed on the Colorado Water Plan.
"Throughout our state's history, other water plans have been created by federal agencies or for the purpose of obtaining federal dollars," the order says. "We embark on Colorado's first water plan written by Coloradans, for Coloradans. Nevertheless, our past and current data and studies will aid in developing a plan for the future."