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Roundtable gives Coloradans a voice in state’s water planning

By Randy Fischer
Special to The SUN

“Water is essential to Colorado’s quality of life and economy, but our ability to maintain those values will be challenged by a growing population, increasing demands for water and limited supplies of this precious resource.”

These words appear on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website, describing the need for and purpose of the proposed Colorado Water Plan, which is to be drafted by the end of 2014 under an executive order signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013.

Our goal for the water plan is to provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need in the future while seeking to maintain such divergent values as healthy watersheds and environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.

Colorado’s water plan will build on eight years of extremely valuable water supply planning work by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the Inter-Basin Compact Committee and the nine basin roundtables, one for each of the major watersheds in the state.

In 2014, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 14-115, which also recognized the need to engage the general public in the water planning process by gathering input through a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado. SB-115 directs the legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee to convene these meetings, gather public input, and provide comment on the draft water plan by Nov. 1.

The next of these public meetings is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 6 p.m. at the Durango Public Library, 1900 East Third Ave., Durango. This meeting is for all Colorado residents of the San Juan drainage. I invite and encourage all residents of the southwestern Colorado, from Dove Creek to Pagosa Springs, to attend this important meeting.

The WRRC recognizes that water issues inherently involve competing values that cannot all be resolved through technological or technical fixes. Different groups bring different values to the conversation. There is no “right” way to balance these competing interests and values. Through SB-115, the WRRC is asking the public to help make Colorado’s water plan a better document that seeks to represent the values of all state residents.

The WRRC also recognizes that the Colorado Water Plan will identify difficult choices and tradeoffs that will need to be made to plan for and create a sustainable water future. SB-115 envisions a public process that lays out these choices and tradeoffs facing Colorado and seeks to find a way through public input to navigate the difficult issues that lie ahead.

Colorado Rep. Randy Fischer of Fort Collins is chairman of the Interim Water Resources Review Committee.

This story was posted on August 21, 2014.