Western Slope water users want conservation from rest of state

Efforts to forge a state water plan to bridge the anticipated gap between supply and demand should focus on enhanced conservation efforts on the Front Range and shun any new transmountain diversions, according to a group of primarily Western Slope residents.

In a meeting this week with The Daily Sentinel editorial board, Adventure Bound River Expeditions owner Tom Kleinschnitz, Silt Town Trustee Aron Diaz, Western Resource Advocates Program Director Bart Miller, Bruce Talbott of Talbott Farms, Mesa Park Vineyards co-owner Brooke Webb and Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said they want to see river basins in other areas of the state call more for reducing water usage. Some of them also pitched the ideas of investing in improving existing infrastructure and building smaller storage projects at higher elevations.

“Conservation and cooperation is the new paradigm,” Acquafresca said.

Colorado’s population is expected to double by 2050, one of the reasons why Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order calling for the development of a statewide water plan by 2015. The state’s eight largest river basins will present draft plans to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Western Slope water stakeholders say arguments that the majority of Colorado’s water should be used on the Front Range because the vast majority of the population resides there ignore usage of the river by the entire basin. The Colorado River Compact requires the Upper Basin states to deliver no less than 7.5 million acre-feet of water to the Lower Basin states during any 10-year period.

“My biggest fear is we will get a call (on the river) from the Lower Basin,” Talbott said.

Members of the group applauded Clark County, Nevada, and its county seat, Las Vegas, and organizations like Denver Water for their conservation efforts. Las Vegas has redesigned its golf courses to be more water-efficient and pays residents to rip out their lawns, while Denver Water has dramatically reduced municipal water usage over the last several years. As a result, Western Slope water users say they enjoy a good relationship with Denver Water. That relationship, though, doesn’t yet exist with entities like the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Aurora Water and Colorado Springs Utilities, group members said.


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