Water-plan wariness

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday directed state water officials to draft a statewide water plan by December, 2014, and the reaction from water experts on the Western Slope was something less than unbridled enthusiasm.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Too many people on the Front Range view a statewide water plan as a means of coercing people in western Colorado to give up more of their water for the growing cities east of the Continental Divide.

Or, as has often been the case when others pushed for statewide plans, impressively thick documents are produced that are quickly consigned to languish on dusty back shelves.

Hickenlooper’s goal is laudable — to produce a plan that will protect water for agriculture in rural parts of the state while accommodating population growth. And there is certainly a legitimate concern for the future, based on predictions that demand for water in Colorado could exceed our supply by 500,000 acre feet each year by the middle of this century.

But some wariness is warranted. New agreements are in the works — between Front Range and Western Slope water interests — to help meet future needs. The notion that state water officials can craft a plan to deal with all the uncertainties and changing realities of water is not one that inspires confidence.

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