Water policy proposed, draws a snort

Colorado can get some of the best of two water worlds, the head of the state agency in charge of water said Thursday.

A state water plan can protect private property rights and make it possible for state action, said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, at the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Conference at Colorado Mesa University.

West Slope water agencies, however, are likely to be skeptical about any effort ostensibly aimed at a statewide approach to water planning, Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca responded.

“We’ve been punched in the face repeatedly” in water fights, Acquafresca said.

Even now, the phrase “state water plan” is being interpreted on the Front Range to mean another transmountain diversion and West Slope water agencies will keep that in mind as they join in talks on a water plan, Acquafresca said,

Eklund, whose family settled in Mesa County in the late-1800s, conceded that skepticism is to be expected.

“I totally get that,” Eklund said. “But we don’t want to have the Bureau (of Reclamation) try to write a statewide plan for us” as it tried to do in 1974, Eklund said.

A statewide water plan, Eklund said, will be a flexible document, able to be adjusted every three to five years reflecting the changing dynamics of water in the state.

In any case, Colorado needs to get its house in order before it can confront the challenges of the other states whose water use is governed by the 1922 compact that outlined management of the Colorado River from Colorado high country to the Sea of Cortez.

Any water-plan mandate from Denver would be “anathema” to the rest of the state, Eklund said, calling for both sides of the Continental Divide to work cooperatively.

“We have to align our efforts to achieve the Colorado we want to see in 20 years,” Eklund said.


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