A water-wise move

We’re all familiar with the anticipated water supply gap that gave rise to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s executive order calling for the formulation of a state water plan.

That plan has been completed and the Colorado Water Conservation Board has sketched out an implementation measures with cost-effective ways to make the most of every drop.

The Legislature can do its part by passing a bipartisan bill that would embed urban water conservation into land-use decisions — something the staff at the Colorado River District has advised the Sentinel’s editorial board as a key to reducing pressure to divert Western Slope water to the thirsty Front Range.

HB1273 is sponsored by Reps. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Hugh McKean R-Loveland, and Sens. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Matt Jones, D-Louisville.

The bill essentially requires that all new development be built “water-smart” from the start. It closes a loophole that allows new home developments to be less water-wise than they’re capable of.

This idea fits squarely within existing attitudes among Westerners about water conservation. A recent Conservation in the West Poll conducted by Colorado College as part of its State of the Rockies Project shows 77 percent of Colorado voters surveyed favor using water supply more wisely by encouraging conservation, reducing use and recycling. In contrast only 15 percent favor diverting water from rivers in less populated areas of the state to communities where more people live.

Colorado’s population is predicted to double by 2050, which means communities throughout the state will need more water than they currently have. As Western Resource Advocates points out, building new homes water-smart from the start is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most politically viable ways to reduce water needs — yet current law does not require new developments to even list the water-wise actions that are planned to reduce use.

The bill changes current law to require new developments to describe the water-conservation and demand-management actions that will be implemented, and makes a review of those actions an explicit part of the permit approval process. It prohibits local governments from approving permit applications unless applicants demonstrate that appropriate water conservation and demand management measures have been included in the water supply plan.

Common-sense strategies available to new home developers include low-water toilets and showerheads, efficient irrigation and xeriscaping. Local governments would decide which strategies for new development work best in their communities.

The bill would help fill the state’s water-supply gap, which will stifle economic development if not properly addressed. It will keep more water in Western Slope rivers for recreation and tourism.

Throughout the West, nine in 10 voters are willing to reduce the amount of water their households use. This bill helps meet that enlightened view.

The bill has passed the House and awaits a committee assignment in the Senate. We urge senators to support it and help the state continue to make strides toward eliminating the supply gap.


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