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Coalition Seeks Federal Dollars to Help Protect Colorado Rivers

DENVER—Colorado watershed groups have joined together with similar organizations in Utah and Montana to help bring federal dollars into the Rocky Mountain West for the protection of headwaters rivers and streams.

In January the Colorado Water Conservation Board is scheduled to review a proposed resolution to support this federally-funded regional initiative to help watershed groups implement water conservation projects throughout Colorado.

Supporters of the plan note that although Colorado’s rivers supply water to 19 states and Mexico, there are scant resources available to protect and maintain that water supply. Similar coalitions throughout the country have been established to protect regional bodies of water such as the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, and are currently receiving federal funding.

However, building the necessary political momentum for what could be a more than $20 million funding request could be difficult for Western states because they lack the political clout of Eastern states and because the group would not focus on one specific water body, observers say. Existing bills still in committee in Congress, such as the National Drought Preparedness Act or Water 2025, could be used as a vehicle for this proposal. However, a variety of options are currently being investigated.

Colorado has more than 40 local watershed protection groups working side-by-side with government agencies and regional water districts to address a variety of issues including irrigation diversion improvements, stream and floodplain restoration, water conservation, habitat protection, water quality, acid mine drainage and community education and outreach. They receive some state and federal funding but need a higher profile and more money to be successful, supporters say.

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