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HW 2009 Basin

2008 South Platte Tour

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education conducted its annual river basin tour, two days focused on the South Platte Basin. Eighty-four attendees from diverse backgrounds, many of whom have a stake in the river's future, visited different places along the river, listened to the speakers and formed their own opinions about the myriad water administration issues of the basin.

The tour began at the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District's Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility. Metro officials Barbara Biggs and Steve Frank discussed the wastewater reclamation process and incumbent challenges of servicing 1.6 million people from 45 water and sanitation districts.

Tour participants learned about several issues of importance to the basin. From regulatory issues such as calls on the river, to large projects like the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch and the Tamarack project, the tour served as an introduction into the inner workings of the South Platte.

Much of the focus of the June tour was on adapting to changing water use patterns. In an area such as the South Platte, urbanization and population growth have caused a shift from agricultural to municipal use. This requires water administrators to rise to the challenges and study the best options available for dealing with the anticipated continuation of this trend.

Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District sees greater statewide and nationwide cooperation as one of the keys to protecting water rights. Providing people from across the state a ground-level view of the South Platte is a means of facilitating this cooperation.

‘The tour highlighted several different operations and areas of the South Platte and gave people a good overall understanding of what happens on a day to day basis in the basin,’said Frank.

The analysis of the impacts of shifting water resources from agricultural to municipal purposes extended beyond water administration. Larry Rogstadt of the Colorado Division of Wildlife spoke to urbanization's impact on wildlife, and Jerry Kenny of the Headwaters Corporation talked about the Platte River Recovery Implementation Plan.

According to Kenny, the program is designed to ‘resolve escalating conflicts between water use and endangered species protection’ within the basin. The program focuses on beleaguered species such as the pallid sturgeon and the whooping crane, but is also concerned with reducing the likelihood that other Platte species become endangered.

Tour participants also got to see the importance of the South Platte to energy generation with a trip to the Pawnee Power plant outside of Brush. Operated by Xcel Energy, the coal-fired plant can generate 500 megawatts, but is dependent on South Platte water rights and an on-site reservoir.

The tour concluded at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District's headquarters in Berthoud. There, regional planning and large scale projects that will shape the future of the basin were discussed by a panel of experts moderated by Reagan Waskom, a CFWE board member and the Colorado Water Institute's director.

Tour participants emerged with a clearer picture of the South Platte Basin. Given the diversity of tour presenters and participants—state legislators, farmers, lawyers, and water administrators, among others—the tour provided key decision makers with a greater and more nuanced understanding of the basin.

HWSPMultimedia Extras

 Scott Hummer

View photos and listen to Water Commissioners Scott Hummer and Brent Schantz describe their work.

View the water administration issue online.

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