The Colorado Water Plan

CO river water plan

On May 14, 2013 Governor Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to commence work on the first ever Colorado Water Plan (CWP).  The plan is intended to help Colorado prepare for its water future. The first draft of the CWP was delivered to the Governor in December 2014. The final version is due December 2015.

At Trout Unlimited, we believe that it is important that the Colorado Water Plan reflect the values of Colorado’s West Slope.  TU’s Our Colorado River program has defined the following core values that are at the heart of western Colorado:

  1. Cooperation, Not Conflict: Work together to ensure the Colorado River is able to meet our diverse needs, from agriculture to recreation and tourism. Cooperation is the key to sustaining our economy and way of life.
  2. Protect Our Quality of Life: Maintain our open spaces through a vigorous agricultural sector and ensure that our rivers and streams are flowing and healthy.
  3. Modernize Irrigation: Upgrade our aging irrigation infrastructure systems to make them more productive, economical, and habitat-friendly.
  4. Innovative Management: Explore new ways to meet our water supply needs through innovative conservation and management practices.
  5. Keep Our Rivers at Home: Leave water in its home basins and oppose new, large-scale, river-damaging trans-basin diversions of water from the Colorado River to the Front Range.

These values are critical to the future of western Colorado’s citizens, businesses and communities, and the Colorado Water Plan should embrace them.

Getting Involved

The best way for concerned citizens, communities and businesses to influence the Colorado Water Plan is through their local citizens’ roundtable. Created several years ago for each major river basin in the state, the citizens roundtables continue to provide the grassroots forum that informs the state plan as each roundtable prepares a basin implementation plan for inclusion in the Colorado Water Plan.

Whether you are a farmer or rancher, a business owner, a sportsman or sportswoman, or a concerned citizen, the roundtables need to hear from you.  We encourage you to attend roundtable meetings to talk about the importance of healthy rivers and streams to Colorado’s West Slope.  You can obtain contact information for your local roundtable and learn about upcoming public meetings here.

And please be sure to sign TU’s Our Colorado River program core values. Signatures and comments will be presented to roundtables and CWCB throughout the process of preparing the Colorado Water Plan.

It’s our water plan.  Don’t leave the outcome to others.

Important Milestones

1937- Colorado General Assembly creates the Colorado Water Conservation Board to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations.

2002- Colorado experiences an unprecedented drought which highlights the widening gap between water supply and demand in the state.

2003- In response, the Colorado General Assembly authorizes the CWCB to begin the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) to investigate Colorado’s existing and future water needs. To facilitate this process, CWCB creates citizens’ roundtables in each major river basin in the state. Intended to bring a grassroot approach to the SWSI process, the basin roundtables (BRTs) are directed to identify in-basin water needs and supplies and projects and processes for meeting these needs.

2004-  SWSI-Phase 1 is completed and approved by the CWCB. The report summarizes each of the BRT’s water inventories, needs assessments and in-basin projects.

2005- The Colorado General Assembly enacts HB 05-1177, institutionalizing the BRTs.    HB 05-1177 also creates the 27-member Inter-Basin Compact Committee (IBCC). The IBCC is charged with overseeing the work of the roundtables and facilitating dialogue between the basins.

2007- SWSI Phase 2 is completed and approved by the CWCB.  Initiated at the completion of SWSI Phase 1, SWSI Phase 2 creates four technical roundtables (TRT’s) to investigate key areas identified in SWSI-1: conservation, agricultural water transfers, environmental-recreational needs and water supply shortages or the “gap”. The report (download it here. It is a large file Technical Roundtable Report Final Draft.pdf) provides water leaders with a detailed analysis of the future role of water efficiency, agricultural transfer and water development.

2011- The SWSI 2010 update is completed and approved by the CWCB. The report provides a comprehensive picture of Colorado’s water needs, now and in the future. It extends water supply and demand need projections from 2030 to 2050. The report (download it here. It is a large file SWSI-2010-report.pdf) is intended to complete the inventory and analysis phase of Colorado water resource planning and begin the transition to an implementation phase.

2013- Governor Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order directing the CWCB to commence work on the Colorado Water Plan with the goal of having a draft plan on his desk by December of 2014 and a completed plan one year later.