Water measure was a divisive issue

Western Slope water agencies applauded and environmental organizations jeered Gov. John Hickenlooper’s veto of a water-related measure aimed at keeping more water in streams and rivers.

The idea behind Senate Bill 24 was well-intentioned, Hickenlooper said in vetoing the bill.

The measure by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, would have allowed water-rights holders who reduce their use of water via conservation to allow the remaining right to remain in the stream.

The measure drew support from both sides of the aisle, but Hickenlooper said there was “a breakdown in consensus toward the end of the legislative session that divided the water community and, in our view, would make implementation of the policy more difficult.”

The Colorado River Water Conservation District had requested that Hickenlooper veto the measure after concluding it would be too costly and unlikely to work, the district said in a statement.

Environment Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith called the veto a “disappointing setback” that casts “serious doubts about (Hickenlooper’s) commitment to water conservation and his commitment to ensuring water resources for Colorado’s fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation are protected in the developing state water plan.”

The measure offered incentives to farmers and ranchers to include water-saving measures, but “there were deep concerns that this could potentially affect the water rights of other users along the affected streams,” state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said.

In vetoing the measure, Hickenlooper directed state agencies to work on a pilot program the Legislature can consider again.


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