This mid-November marks the 2nd anniversary of the Water Plan, a popular one that we heartily celebrated when first established because it set a strong path to secure clean, reliable drinking water for our communities, protect our state’s rivers, and preserve our agricultural heritage. On this 2nd anniversary of the Plan one has to ask: “how good a job has Colorado done in implementing efforts to protect rivers, ensure reliable water supplies, and preserve agriculture?”
Over the last two years, the state has made good progress funding grants to advance water projects and increase funding for stream management plans. The state now offers up more than $10M per year for Water Plan Implementation grants.
But we don’t have time to lose in getting real-world water solutions on the ground and going. The challenges identified in the Plan are getting worse. A swelling population is stretching our water resources, and anyone paying attention to the news in 2017 knows that climate change is having disastrous impacts already. Several recent studies have shown that climate change increases in heat are already reducing flows on the Colorado River. We urgently need to work faster in implementing all of the Plan’s water solutions if we are to reach our goals of securing clean reliable drinking water, preserving our agricultural heritage, and protecting our rivers.
In the year ahead, we need the CWCB and Colorado legislature to implement improvements in public reporting so that we can be assured progress is being made on all major goals in the Plan, and on a timeline that addresses the urgent challenges our state is facing. This year we started to evaluate progress on the Plan’s measurable objectives – and had a heck of time finding good data to measure real progress in areas we all care about. For example, there is a lack of quality data on urban water use, making it tough to know who is using water, how much is being saved, or where it’s being lost across the state.
Government should always be accountable to its citizens. We need improved, publicly available data and clear, quantitative accountability on how all Water Plan goals are being met. We should not arrive at the 3rd anniversary without clear data to evaluate measurable progress on all major Water Plan goals.
We need to see the state equitably fund all of the Plan’s strategies – especially cost-effective and river-friendly projects like water conservation, water reuse, and flexible water-sharing agreements – as well as projects that enhance and protect rivers. The last two years have seen state funding disproportionately focus on costly structural projects while undervaluing and underfunding the cost-effective and river-friendly tools mentioned above.
State funding is especially important for environmental and recreation projects, which benefit ALL Coloradans. Yet, environmental and recreation water projects have no dedicated public funding sources, unlike structural projects that have both rate-paying customers and other loan programs to gain funding. These environmental and recreation projects are vital to our state’s $9 billion recreation economy.