“Here is a land where
life is written in water…”
Colorado’s water is our lifeblood, our most valuable natural resource, and is essential to our very brand as a state.
Eighteen downstream states, and Mexico, receive water that starts here in our snowpack. Our nine interstate compacts and two equitable apportionment decrees mean that we have access to roughly one third of the water that accumulates in our state annually. Moreover, our water is under stress from both a warmer climate and growing populations. We must strategically plan for such a critical aspect of Colorado’s economy and environment. I support the first Colorado’s Water Plan developed under Governor John Hickenlooper, and, as your Governor, will strive to implement, fund, and update that plan, including conservation measures for the benefit of our economy and environment.
As Colorado’s Water Plan states, “People love Colorado.” People want to grow their families and businesses here because of our high quality of life, productive economy, vibrant and sustainable cities, innovative spirit, viable and productive agriculture, access to locally grown food, strong environment, robust outdoor recreation opportunities, and healthy watersheds, rivers, and streams.
Water touches or runs through what we love about Colorado. As your Governor, I will protect our right to use water that originates here, while planning for a warmer, drier, more populated future. Colorado’s Water Plan was built from the grassroots up with the many voices of Colorado’s water community… Let’s face it, we’re all stakeholders when it comes to water.
Gone are the days when one part or industry of our state runs roughshod over another when it comes to water. As our history has shown, water can divide Colorado. But, as Colorado’s Water Plan demonstrates, water can also unite us. This is hard but rewarding work. We must harness our grassroots structure to implement smart water infrastructure and conservation measures that attack the forecasted gap between supply and demand.
Here is my policy roadmap for water in Colorado:
Implement Colorado’s Water Plan
Our state’s water plan calls for the conservation of 400,000 acre feet of additional water storage, and 400,000 acre feet of additional water conservation, as well as conservation of 50,000 acre feet of alternatives to the buy-and-dry of our irrigated agricultural lands. I will work to do even better by our state’s water system by leveraging new technology and best practices to prioritize conservation.
We will also ensure that we meet our goal to have 80 percent of locally prioritized rivers and 80 percent of critical watersheds covered by stream management and watershed protection plans. We can’t accomplish any of this without responsible funding of municipal, industrial, environmental, and recreational water infrastructure, as well as prioritizing the integration of local land-use and water planning.
Update Colorado’s Water Plan
It will be up to the next Governor to upgrade our water funding, financing, and investment mechanisms to take advantage of new revenue streams and partnerships to fully fund the water plan.
We will prioritize refreshing our water data with recent drought and hydrologic information, and our policies will reflect updated Basin Implementation Plans from our Basin Roundtables across the state. This will allow us to identify regional water opportunities where integrated water systems, and water management, can produce a more resilient water supply. Additionally, we can advance our water reuse capability by removing regulatory barriers and incentivizing water reuse without injury to downstream water rights.
Safeguard Colorado’s Water Quality and Quantity
Under my leadership, Colorado will resist federal efforts to dictate water decisions. Management of Colorado’s water is best left to Coloradans, and we will resist attempts to export our water to moneyed interests outside of our state. I will continue the work of formulating interstate contingency plans that benefit Colorado and which can be implemented as we face warmer temperatures, reduced precipitation, and diminished reservoir levels. Finally, we can make the permitting process more efficient and effective for water projects. We must be able to address changing water supply and demand with more agility than we currently demonstrate.
Colorado is ready to apply its brand of innovation to its water challenges. We can and will lead the nation on water policy, management, and innovation as the headwaters state. When other states face water stress or need to solve a critical water challenge, Colorado can and should be the model of how to succeed.
Collaborative Approach to Transmountain Diversions
To many Coloradans in the high country and on the Western Slope, future transmountain diversions pose an existential threat to the health of our rivers and our agriculture economy. Meanwhile, the towns and cities of the Front Range are rapidly growing, and so are their water needs. Our state currently diverts between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water from the Western Slope to the Front Range each year. We must adhere to a collaborative process that results in balanced approaches to solving this issue in the future.
That’s why I support the conceptual framework agreed upon by our state’s Western and Eastern basin roundtables to manage the consideration of any proposed future diversions. I will enforce its use should the need ever arise. The seven principles of this agreement include: conservation; storage; agricultural transfers; alternative transfer methods; environmental resiliency; a collaborative program to address Colorado River system shortages, already identified projects and processes (IPPs); and additional Western Slope uses. This should provide context for any discussion regarding future diversions.