Gov't Affairs, Govt - Northeastern Colorado

How Can the South Platte Basin Meet Future Water Needs?

A plan to address the predicted future water supply deficit in Northern Colorado calls for reuse of water among other recommendations. Northern Colorado is part of the South Platte Basin. A group of state House and Senate lawmakers and members of the public met to discuss the South Platte Basin’s Water Plan, which will be incorporated into the State’s Water Plan.

The Colorado Water Plan is a future-oriented project implemented by Gov. Hickenlooper. The State faces an estimated 428,000 acre-foot domestic supply shortfall by 2050 due to demands from a growing population. Colorado currently has an annual supply of 736,000 acre-feet for domestic use. (An acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons, which serves the needs of 2.5 households in a year.)

83 percent of Colorado’s water is currently used by agriculture but that is projected to decrease as cities buy more agriculture water rights. The Water Plan recommends a number of steps, from reuse of water, use of water not known to be tied to any surface water systems (“nontributary groundwater”) and taking more water from the Colorado River for use in the South Platte River Basin, which would entail the construction of new water storage reservoirs.

The South Platte meeting drew 100 participants, more than any other public meeting to date. While farmers at the meeting advocated for greater water storage capacity to ease pressure on agricultural allotments, Fort Collins residents expressed concern that tentative reservoir plans such as the Northern Integrated Supply Project would diminish the beauty and value of the Poudre River. Unsurprisingly, Save the Poudre, the Fort Collins-based environmental group, says the plan should emphasize water conservation, efficiency, recycling and water-sharing agreements with farmers instead of new reservoir projects.

The plan being developed by the South Platte Basin Roundtable is due to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) in April 2015 and will be included in the Colorado Water Plan. The CWCB is still accepting comments from the public, which can be mailed to: cowaterplan@state.co.us. All comments become part of the public record. More information about the Water Plan, including the draft plan for the South Platte Basin, is available here: http://www.coloradowaterplan.com.

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