U.S. Water News Online
NORTHGLENN, Colo. -- With another year of drought looming,
officials charged with managing Colorado's tight water supply met to
find ways to share the increasingly rare commodity.
Meeting at the Colorado Water Congress' annual gathering in this
Denver suburb are one-time foes who have been forced to work together
to find solutions to the state's water woes.
Compounding the below-average snowpack and already low rivers and
reservoirs is the fact Colorado voters this fall rejected a statewide
referendum authorizing $2 billion in bonds for water projects.
The fight over that referendum was expensive and nasty, with many
western Colorado groups fearing the unspecified projects would amount
to nothing more than a water grab by the ever-thirsty Front Range,
the area east of the Continental Divide. Much of the Front Range
water is piped from the western part of the state.
``The people of Colorado spoke in Referendum A that you have to
give us a proposal that works for everybody, not just one side,''
said T. Wright Dickinson, chairman of Club 20, a powerful lobbying
group of Western Slope business and government leaders.
Now water experts are hoping that by working together they will be
able to guide the state through the drought and bring lasting
solutions to pressures created by scarce water and the demands from a
How that goal will be accomplished, however, is still open for
``We have to build storage,'' said state agriculture Commissioner
Don Ament. ``Granted, Referendum A obviously wasn't the answer, but
we have to find a way to store the water Colorado has rights to under
all these compacts.''
Increased storage would provide additional water to the Front
Range, ensure farmers and ranchers across the state have the water
they need to survive and replenish aquifers, Ament said.
He said a number of storage projects could start within a year,
including several along the South Platte River Basin, which is
currently at just 62 percent of average snowpack.
Melting snow contributes about 80 percent of the water in the
state's rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. Eight major Colorado
river systems also provide water to 10 western states.
Ament said capturing excess water in the good times would help
deal with dry times.
``I really feel a need to get going on this,'' Ament said. ``It's
just a waste of some precious time.''
But water storage is just one part of an equation that also
includes conservation and developing new sources of water for the
areas that are most in need, said Peter Binney, director of utilities
in the fast-growing suburb of Aurora.
Developing new sources includes capturing water from areas
currently untapped, or reallocating water already being used. Binney
said conservation alone won't provide enough new water.
Aurora will continue its water restrictions this year because of
the drought and low reservoir levels.
Agriculture uses 85 percent of the state's water, amounting to
about 15 million acre feet each year. The Front Range, including the
Denver area, will need only about 500,000 acre feet of that, Binney
Reallocating water from agriculture to metropolitan areas is not
the answer because farmers and ranchers are already struggling, Ament
The Colorado Water Conservation Board is studying how much water
municipalities will likely need in the future. The study should be
completed by the end of the year.
The board has already stated that the Front Range will need 60
percent more water in 2030 than it uses now, if growth projections
Dickinson said the Statewide Water Supply Initiative is a key
foundation in evaluating water projects as they come up and making
sure a solution is reached that benefits everyone involved.
He said it also makes sure everyone comes to the table.
``If you just talk to yourself, you're only going to get what you
think is the best answer,'' Dickinson said.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.