A Watershed Moment for Colorado

Yampa RiverKelly Brough, September 24, 2015

In December, our governor will finalize Colorado’s first ever water plan. Some might call it a watershed moment for Colorado.

And, if the plan delivers what we hope, it’s truly the moment when the critical work begins. The moment when we put our commitments where our mouths have been these past few years. Where we prove the West Slope and the Front Range can solve the most challenging of issues by working together.

We want to keep these conversations going, and so we are hosting the State of Water on Oct. 8. There you can learn more about the state plan and the future of this resource from leaders in water, business and agriculture, including former Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) Director James Eklund, Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn, Denver Water CEO and Manager Jim Lochhead and Eastern Plains farmer Robert Sakata.

This panel of experts will explore innovations in water use and conservation—the most critical issues that must be addressed by the plan—and the many decisions being made each day that impact our future water needs and usage.

How we grow matters. Colorado’s population is forecasted to double by 2050—and our water needs are projected to double with them. At the same time, our reservoirs are declining and compacts require that we send 87 percent of the water leaving Colorado to feed nine states and one country downstream. Like most western states, Colorado faces the possibility of very real shortages that will impact how we live and do business. But, how we grow also affects our water needs—more dense development (which is happening today and should continue to be encouraged) means more efficient water use for municipalities.

We get more done when we work together. There have been countless meetings held across the state to get people talking about water. The CWCB, which has taken on this challenge of drafting a plan, has received some 26,000 comments from the public. (So, yes it appears you are the ONLY person in Colorado who didn’t send comments in.) Water serves many needs that on their face can appear to be in conflict—the challenge we must take on is to work through strategies and goals that don’t put us in conflict but build trust and get us working more closely together to meet all our water needs. We’re already seeing examples of approach when the CWCB approved funding this month for the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) project, which will allow Aurora Water, Denver Water and South Metro Water Supply Authority to combine their supplies and system capacities to create a sustainable new water supply.

We have to be bold. Every single Coloradan uses this precious resource. We support putting bold and measurable goals in the plan to ensure we achieve the future we all envision for Colorado.  You can hear more about our priorities for the water plan at State of Water.

I hope we’ll see you on Oct. 8 and raise a glass of clean, clear Colorado water with us.

Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.