Thu January 27, 2011

Water Report Casts Dim Future for Colorado

Another state report is out giving dire predictions about the future of water supplies in arid Colorado, even as the state's population continues to boom. The report shows that unless more conservation and other water projects move forward, up to 700,000 acres of farmland could be dried up in the state by 2050.
The release of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative comes as water managers from around the region are meeting for a Colorado Water Congress summit.
The updated study looks at how much water is being used now by farmers and cities and just how intense the competition for remaining water will be as the population grows.
"There is no silver bullet," said Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which endorsed the initiative.
"There is no one strategy that is going to solve the whole problem," she said. "We have to have a mix of strategies, water conservation alone will not do it."
Gimbel says the board believes that several, pending - and controversial - water storage projects will need to move forward if the state expects to meet future demand.
State Representative Randy Fischer's district lies near one of those proposed projects to divert water from the Cache Le Poudre River near Fort Collins. Fischer says the era of major water storage projects is coming to an end. Only a handful across the West have even passed the approval or permit stages.
"I believe we need to start looking more in terms of sharing the water resources that we have right now," Fischer said, after participating in a panel at the summit. "I think our ability to develop new water supplies is extremely limited."
Fischer has introduced a bill in the Colorado General Assembly that would give farmers more flexibility to lease their water rights, but not sell them outright to cities.
It's an idea aimed at preventing the further dry up of farm land. The bill gets its first hearing early next month.
The Colorado Water Congress summit wraps up Friday with an address by Governor John Hickenlooper.