The Rio Grande Basin Water Plan Addresses Water Needs

This is the third article from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.

Colorado’s population surpassed 5 million people in the summer of 2008, and it is expected to double to 10 million people by 2050. The majority of the growth will be on Colorado’s Front Range, but the fastest growth rates will occur on the Western Slope. The populations of the Colorado, Gunnison, Southwest and Yampa/White Basins are expected to more than double between 2005 and 2050. This makes Water Plan Development a necessity. The state water plan is meant to compile a set of workable solutions to the water crisis in Colorado. The draft plan that is due by end of the year will focus on all dimensions of water use.

According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), population growth will drive a significant need for additional water to meet future municipal and industrial (M&I) demands. Through the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI), which provided a comprehensive identification of Colorado’s current and future water needs, the CWCB initially projected water demands to the year 2030 and estimated that Colorado would need an additional 630,000 acre feet (AF) of water for M&I use by 2030. The CWCB recently updated these projections and now estimates that Colorado will need between 538,000 and 812,000 AF of additional water by 2050 to meet M&I needs with passive conservation included.

Many local water providers have projects or plans in place known as Identified Projects and Processes (IPPs) – they will address these increasing water demands. These IPPs include: growth into existing supplies, conservation, re-use of existing or future consumable water supplies, agricultural transfers, and new water supply projects.

Yet, even if water providers are fully successful in implementing all of their IPPs, they can only meet about 80 percent of the identified need, leaving about a 20 percent “gap” in water supply needs. Most of this gap is in the South Platte and Arkansas Basins, but significant gaps exist in every basin. The success of these IPP’s will determine if the water gap will be larger and will occur sooner.

Colorado’s recreation and tourism sectors also key players in the state’s water gap. Millions of people inside and outside of the state participate in Colorado’s outdoor recreational activities that are connected to the state’s water resources. Water-related activities, such as fishing, paddling, commercial rafting, wildlife viewing, camping, skiing and other snow sports, together infuse between $7 and $8 billion into the state’s economy and employ about 85,000 people across Colorado.

The state’s recreational opportunities and natural environment continue to draw in businesses and new residents to Colorado, further underscoring their importance to the state’s economy. These uses can be defined as nonconsumptive water uses.

Many of the Colorado Water Conservation Board programs, including the Instream Flow and Watershed Protection & Restoration programs, are critical to meeting the state’s nonconsumptive (environmental and recreational) water needs. The Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act requires each basin roundtable to engage groups of stakeholders to provide input on the state’s water issues. The hope is that this input will help develop goals that provide for the State’s environmental and recreational needs.

These goals will provide room for existing protections/efforts for priority areas, and give the state a forum to study other environmental concerns. The goals and outcomes will set up a platform of strategies needed to support environmental and recreational priority areas.

The nonconsumptive goals include preserving and enhancing the watersheds that produce the water that is available in the San Luis Valley. They will also, maintain and promote sustainable levels of wildlife populations across the Upper Rio Grande Basin and concurrently work to enhance and maintain wetland and riparian areas.

As the M&I and the recreational and environmental goals are formed the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable would like your input to be considered throughout the Basin Implementation Plan process. The most effective methods for stakeholders to become involved is in one of three ways: 1) attend the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable monthly meetings (These meeting are held the second Tuesday of each month at the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District office at 623 Fourth Street in Alamosa, Colorado.) or; 2) send your comments directly to us online at www.riograndewaterplan.webs.com and; 3) attend any one of the five BIP subcommittee meetings that can be found on the BIP website. The lead consultant and local liaison from DiNatale Water Consultants is Tom Spezze, Tom can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To be considered on time, it is suggested that your input be submitted to your Basin Roundtable by February 28, 2014.

Anti-discrimination Policy: The Rio Grande Watershed Conservation Education Program prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program.

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