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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

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Water Education Colorado

New Report Promotes ‘Smart’ Water Use and Supply

BOULDER—Conservation, efficiency, reuse and water sharing between cities and farmers are higher priorities than building new reservoirs, concludes a new study just released by a consortium of Colorado environmental concerns. Their detailed report Facing Our Future: A Balanced Water Solution for Colorado takes an alternative look at how to satisfy the state's growing demands for water.

Conceived by Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates and the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the report recognizes that some new water storage facilities will be necessary, but expects projects to meet ‘smart’ storage criteria before they can be endorsed by the environmental community. It also offers a unique strategy for future water management by placing a higher value on conservation and environmental protection than other existing approaches.

Some principles of ‘smart’ water management include more public input, full protection of endangered species and expansion of existing reservoirs before developing new ones. In total, the report supplies 10 main criteria that smart water supply or storage projects should meet. For the two river basins in the state facing the greatest population pressures—the Arkansas and South Platte—they suggest specific alternatives.

Next to lists of the proposed water development projects in each river basin are lists of the ‘smart storage’ issues that need to be resolved. In regard to the Halligan and Seaman reservoir enlargement projects in northern Larimer County, they recommend that project beneficiaries (Fort Collins, Greeley and others) ‘become more water efficient before the enlargements are initiated.’ For the Gross Reservoir enlargement and proposed Leyden Gulch Reservoir west of Arvada, one recommendation is to ‘avoid/offset impacts to Fraser River instream flows.’ Water conservation, temporary transfers from agriculture and industry to cities, and reuse (e.g., reuse of wastewater) are also considered in detail.

And it adds up to significant amounts of water available for our growing needs, they assert. According to their calculations, water reuse projects alone in the South Platte Basin could free-up as much as 120,000 acre-feet of water each year—enough to supply at least that many new households, if not more.

In the South Platte Basin, they estimate that if 100 percent of the households converted to moderate xeriscaping (low-water-use landscaping) by 2030, the region could save 224,646 acre-feet of water each year. That is just less than the holding capacity of Dillon Reservoir, one of Denver Water's main reservoirs.

The state's projections are somewhat different. A recent state-funded study called the Statewide Water Supply Initiative predicts an average statewide water supply shortfall of 20 percent by 2030. And although it concluded that water conservation will be ‘a major tool for meeting future demands,’ its calculations only include so-called ‘involuntary conservation.’ This is the conservation that occurs over time as a result of federal requirements for all new plumbing fixtures to be more water use efficient.

But the authors of Facing Our Future are convinced there can be more than one blueprint for the state's future water management.

Bart Miller, a lawyer for Western Resource Advocates and co-author of the report, says he hopes ‘all the material and analysis will both inform water planning across state, and have conservation groups become more involved in the water planning process.’

As an example he cites the South Platte Basin, which the state study projected would produce approximately 400,000 acre-feet of new water demand. According to Miller, ‘Our conservation numbers alone could cut that demand in half over the next 25 years through more efficient [plumbing] fixtures or converting landscapes to more efficient types. This report does not say we have to suffer. It's about real solutions that take into account our values as a society.’

Downloads of Facing Our Future are available on the following Web sites: www.cotrout.org, www.ourcolorado.org, www.westernresourceadvocates.org If you would like to purchase a hard copy call Kevin Natapow at the Colorado Environmental Coalition, (303)534-7066 x1514.

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