By Jill Beathard
Climate change is globally impacting natural resources, particularly water supplies, and that can't go unchecked, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said Wednesday in Snowmass Village.
Managing water supply is clearly a critical issue in the West, but it is also an issue of national and international security, Udall said to a crowd gathered for the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference at the Westin Snowmass Conference Center. Between now and 2040, the world's water supply will not keep up with demand without better management, according to a recent assessment by the director of National Intelligence, Udall said.
"Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and energy hobbling economic growth here and around the world," Udall said. "In turn, that will increase the risk of political instability, state failure and mounting regional tensions."
Global water consumption has tripled in the past 50 years, and furthermore, the supply is diminishing due to climate change, he said.
"Our climate is changing, and the only thing constant and predictable on the subject is science, which shows we can't ignore the problem," Udall said. "Despite the mountains of proof, the volumes of scientific and peer-reviewed articles, some lawmakers and many talking heads still refuse to recognize that climate change even exists, much less that federal and state governments have a role to play alongside the private sector in solving it."
"The stress levels are definitely rising for some employees."
Aspen City Manager
That stance is what sets him apart from his opponent in the upcoming Senate election, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, who also spoke to the Water Congress on Wednesday. Gardner doesn't acknowledge that climate change is occurring, Udall said.
Without looking at the facts, legislators will not be working toward a solution that "maintains our special way of life" in Colorado, Udall said.
The Colorado River reaches 40 million people, and as the headwater state, Colorado has to fight to protect its interests from being overshadowed by those of downstream users, Udall said.
That is part of the role of Colorado's representatives in Congress, by advocating to protect the state's water rights as well as educating senators from parts of the country that are not faced with the same tight resources, Udall said.
Udall, a Democrat, is up for re-election this November. Gardner is running against him as the Republican Party candidate.
Udall and Gardner were joined Wednesday by legislators from the interim Water Resources Review Committee. Sen. Gail Schwartz, the vice chairwoman of that committee and the Aspen area's outgoing representative in the Colorado Senate, said some of the topics at the conference that day were Bill 23, a bill she introduced to promote irrigation efficiency; mining activity in Crested Butte; and a report by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies on forest health.
"It was good for people to hear what our issues are here in this part of the state while they're here," Schwartz said.