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What's the Plan? Gov. Hickenlooper Receives CO Water Plan Draft


Thursday, December 11, 2014   

DENVER - The Colorado Water Plan has been two years in the making by the state Water Conservation Board, and it's now in the hands of Governor John Hickenlooper. The governor received the draft Wednesday in a ceremony at the State Capitol. Nathan Fey, Colorado Stewardship Director with American Whitewater, says while the plan discusses the importance of healthy rivers for wildlife and recreation, it doesn't include specific strategies on how to improve them.

"We are concerned also that the plan is inconsistent in recognizing the value of river recreation to the state economy and in establishing some common frameworks for us to protect recreation," he says.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates more than $13 billion in consumer spending. Public comment will be taken on the draft, and a final version is expected a year from now. But supporters of the current draft say because the state's population is expected to double by 2050, water-efficiency efforts won't be sufficient to meet the demand.

The plan's critics already are saying it would further damage water supplies on the Colorado River system by constructing more dams, diversions and pipelines. Gary Wockner, executive director with the watchdog group Save the Colorado, warns the current draft falls short on water conservation efforts.

"Dams and reservoirs have extremely bad environmental impacts on rivers," Wockner says. "In addition, they're also extremely expensive. Water conservation efficiency is usually the fastest, cheapest way to get water."

Eighteen conservation groups provided input before the draft was delivered to the governor, but in Wockner's view, they were largely ignored. He says it's now in Hickenlooper's hands.

"About 60 percent of the river is already diverted and so, the river is already in bad shape," says Wockner. "Other rivers in the state of Colorado are in bad shape, too. This plan, in our opinion, is heading in the wrong direction, but the governor still has a chance to turn the corner and make it better."

According to a recent survey by Water for Colorado, 90 percent of the state's voters say it is a extremely or very important priority to keep Colorado's rivers and streams healthy.

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