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Take Two Of Colorado’s Water Plan Released, Amid Criticism

Jeffrey Beall
Flickr-Creative Commons
Blue Mesa Reservoir stores snowmelt near Gunnison. The Colorado Water Plan has been criticized for failing to address the tensions between Eastern and Western Slope water needs.

The second draft of the Colorado Water Plan is out. It includes plans for all nine of Colorado's water basins and will serve as a roadmap for future water storage and use.

The plan has been in the works for over two years. It was kickstarted by an executive order from Governor John Hickenlooper, with the goal of helping the state’s water basins come to the table and discuss their varying interests and ideas for water use. 

Over the course of the process, the state’s nine roundtables, representing eight different water basins (the Metro and South Platte roundtables are in the same basin), have outlined their ideas for state water use. As usual, the Front Range water districts are calling for more water from the Western Slope, with predictable outcry from those on the west side of the mountains. 

It's the failure to make firm decisions on this sort of contentious issue that has led to criticism of the plan, which does not have binding authority and has not required participants to iron out where future water will come from.

The participants in the process acknowledge the document lacks teeth, but Joe Frank, chair of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, said that’s deliberate.

“It is a planning document, it's not a law, it's not a mandate, but these are more recommendations that hopefully people can actually follow up on and really start to do some real things,” said Frank.

Yet those outside the process, including famed water expert Pat Mulroy -- who led the desert city of Las Vegas’ water planning for decades, spurring the city to unprecedented levels of conservation while also shoring up its water supplies -- told the Colorado Independent that a plan that doesn’t force anyone to make tough decisions isn’t much of a plan.

The public can comment on the planuntil Sept. 17, 2015. The final draft will be submitted to Governor Hickenlooper in December of the same year.  

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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