When I was growing up in Minnesota, this was not a question that ever crossed anyone’s mind. However, here in Colorado this is a legitimate concern.
The 2012 State Water Supply Index projected that, as a result of climate change and population growth, there would be a water shortage equivalent to the amount used on an annual basis by 1.1 million households by 2050. While this doesn’t necessarily mean 1.1 million households would not have access to water, it does mean there will be challenges ahead if we don’t begin to take a proactive approach to managing this precious resource. Thankfully our previous Governor, John Hickenlooper, issued an Executive Order to devise a plan on how we would meet the future water needs of our state.
Governor Hickenlooper’s executive order kicked off a two year process of public comments that led to the creation of the Colorado Water Plan. This plan develops a path to address the future water needs of our state. With 80 percent of our precipitation falling west of the Continental Divide and 90 percent of our population living to its east, all Coloradans need to work together to address this looming problem. This means the path put forth in the Colorado Water Plan has municipalities and industry (including agricultural producers) working together toward the sustainable use of our water resources. However, in order to ensure we have ample clean water to meet future demands, we will need to identify an estimated $100 million a year to implement this plan. While this is a substantial amount of money, it is an inexpensive fix for one of the state’s most pressing issues. For example, estimates to fund our state’s transportation challenges could cost as much as $900 million a year.
This year our State Legislature made strides toward funding the Water Plan by allocating, for the first time ever, general fund dollars to assist with implementation efforts. Additionally, the legislature also passed HB 19-1327, Authorize and Tax Sports Betting Refer Under Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, allowing voters to decide whether sports betting should be permitted in Colorado, with a portion of the tax revenue being allocated toward implementation of the Water Plan. While these are great strides, they only act as a down payment, since millions of dollars are still needed to fully fund the Water Plan.
Although this wet year alleviated some of our short-term water needs, one wet year is insufficient in addressing the long-term drought our state has faced over the past 19 years. To address this crisis, we need cities and communities throughout the state to follow the Plan’s outline for adoption of water conservation measures, including incentivizing customers to use less, establish water sharing agreements, and increase reuse opportunities. Doing so will ensure we have ample clean water to meet future needs, while also maintaining healthy, flowing rivers that are the lifeblood to supporting our state’s vibrant economy.
I am asking our State Legislators to make this a priority as we look toward the next legislative session.
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