Water and drought planning topic of Resilient Archuleta meeting

2019/09/RA-public-meeting_john-shepard-300x173.jpg Photo courtesy John Shepard
Brent Newman, from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), talks to the audience at a Resilient Archuleta meeting on Sept. 4 about the structure and role of the CWCB and its involvement in planning to meet water needs now and into 2050.

By Gabrielle Dorr

Special to The SUN

On Sept. 4, Resilient Archuleta welcomed Brent Newman from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) as a speaker in an ongoing public speaker series and discussion.

Newman, visiting from Denver, talked about the structure and role of the CWCB and its involvement in planning to meet water needs now and into 2050.

Key takeaways from Newman’s presentation included a discussion about the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and how it impacts Colorado’s water supply and a feasibility study that the board is currently conducting for demand management.

Touching on the IBCC, Newman discussed enforced agreements that upper basin states have with lower basin states to provide a particular amount of water for their use. At this point, Colorado as an upper basin state is meeting all of the requirements. He cautioned that if there was a severe drought in the future, we may not be able to meet those needs.

“To be more proactive in our water planning, the water board is now exploring the feasibility of a demand management program which would compensate water users who are voluntarily participating in water conservation,” Newman said.

The idea is that through voluntary water conservation measures, Colorado could send more water to lower basin states to fulfill its agreement now and bank some for the future. One of the caveats for this program to be successful is that lower basin states, like California, have to agree to conserve water as well. The lower basin states are already conserving water following an agreement signed earlier this year. The other advantage of a program like this is that it could prevent a future scenario where Colorado would be under a nonvoluntary and non-compensated water conservation program.

“I want to emphasize that the water board is only exploring the demand management idea at this time and we are not implementing any programs. The best way to be involved with local water issues like this one is to participate in basin roundtable discussions in your region,” said Newman.

The water board is holding workshops around the state right now to hear from stakeholders about this program and it has received some very thoughtful comments so far.

Also during the public meeting, the audience heard from representatives with the Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP) and the Growing Water Smart Work Group.

The WEP is a community-led, voluntary process to understand local water supply needs in the San Juan River Basin. The WEP also engages in collaborative projects that benefit all water users.

Likewise, the Growing Water Smart Work Group is made up of local government organizations and other interested groups within Archuleta County that are planning for future water needs based on population projections.

The meeting concluded with a public discussion centered around opportunities for water conservation in Archuleta County and how to increase public involvement. The idea of water storage was brought up several times by different members of the public. Other ideas were rebate programs for low-flow toilets and holding workshops about water efficient landscaping. Some meeting participants mentioned working with homeowners associations and realtors to distribute education materials about water conservation, especially to second-home owners.

About Resilient Archuleta

Resilient Archuleta is a voluntary committee of citizens, government officials and state representatives who are working to create a resilient community in Archuleta County.

Robin Young, CSU Extension director, is facilitating the efforts. The goal of the committee is to identify current and future threats to Archuleta County, like fire, and work with local organizations to plan for mitigation of their impacts and to improve safety, economic viability and growth.

For more information, email Robin.Young@colostate.edu.

About the CWCB

The CWCB is made up of 15 members with eight voting members that represent the eight water basins in Colorado, including the Southwest Basin, and an additional member that represents the city of Denver. Board members are appointed by the governor and serve three-year terms. The basins were created based on the location of major river basins in Colorado. To learn more, visit www.cwcb.state.co.us. If you would like to make a public comment about demand management, you can send an email to demandmanagement@state.co.us.

To learn more about the WEP, email Aaron Kimple (akimple@mountainstudies.org) or Mandy Eskelson (mandy@mountainstudies.org). For Growing Water Smart Work Group information, email James Dickoff (jdickhoff@pagosasprings.co.gov).