Water for Colorado

About Us

The Water for Colorado Coalition

Water connects us and everything we doit is essential for our health and survival, for recreation and wildlife habitat, for businesses that operate in our state, and for productive farms and ranches. Healthy rivers can also help safeguard our most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change. But Colorado’s rivers can’t meet all of these needs. With a drying climate and increasing demands on our waterways, our coalition recognizes the importance and urgency of working to keep our rivers healthy and flowing to support Colorado’s diverse needs. 

The Water for Colorado Coalition is dedicated to ensuring our rivers support everyone who depends on them, working toward resilience to climate change, planning for sustained and more severe droughts, and enabling every individual in Colorado to have a voice and the opportunity to take action to advocate for sustainable conservation-based solutions for our state’s water future.

The community of organizations that make up the Water for Colorado Coalition represent diverse perspectives and share a commitment to protecting Colorado’s water future to secure a reliable water supply for the state and for future generations.


Coalition Partners

Organizational support is provided by results-oriented groups, including American Rivers, Audubon, Business for Water Stewardship, Conservation Colorado, Environmental Defense Fund, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and Western Resource Advocates.

The Story of the Coalition

 

The Water Plan

Our partner organizations came together seven years ago with a shared objective: to build a coalition to address Colorado’s increasing water scarcity and secure its water future. The Water for Colorado Coalition’s first goal was to participate in and influence the development of Colorado’s first state water plan to ensure that conservation and the environment were considered priorities.


The Water Plan

Our partner organizations came together seven years ago with a shared objective: to build a coalition to address Colorado’s increasing water scarcity and secure its water future. The Water for Colorado Coalition’s first goal was to participate in and influence the development of Colorado’s first state water plan to ensure that conservation and the environment were considered priorities.


The call to create a water plan for Colorado came from former Governor John Hickenlooper by executive order in 2013. After the initial order, the Colorado Water Conservation Board got to work gathering ideas from across the state to develop the plan, including holding over 800 public meetings, and collecting 30,000 public comments. It was the largest civic engagement process in state history.


The call to create a water plan for Colorado came from former Governor John Hickenlooper by executive order in 2013. After the initial order, the Colorado Water Conservation Board got to work gathering ideas from across the state to develop the plan, including holding over 800 public meetings, and collecting 30,000 public comments. It was the largest civic engagement process in state history.


Colorado’s Water Plan, issued in 2015, was developed largely according to local needs via input from community leaders and residents throughout the state. The plan outlines solutions to address the gap between water supply and demand. The plan estimated that implementation of the projects and strategies necessary to close our water supply gap would require a $20 billion investment over the next 30 years—yet there was no identified source of funding for $3 billion, or $100 million annually, of that amount.


Colorado’s Water Plan, issued in 2015, was developed largely according to local needs via input from community leaders and residents throughout the state. The plan outlines solutions to address the gap between water supply and demand. The plan estimated that implementation of the projects and strategies necessary to close our water supply gap would require a $20 billion investment over the next 30 years—yet there was no identified source of funding for $3 billion, or $100 million annually, of that amount.


Five years after it was approved, the plan still lacks a sustainable long-term funding source. In November 2019, voters approved Proposition DD, which legalized sports betting and will devote most of the tax revenue from sports betting to the water plan. The revenue created might one day contribute up to $29 million a year, but in the near term, it will generate less than half of that. Even if sports betting eventually generates the annual maximum revenue, it would still amount to less than one-third of the unmet need for plan implementation.


Five years after it was approved, the plan still lacks a sustainable long-term funding source. In November 2019, voters approved Proposition DD, which legalized sports betting and will devote most of the tax revenue from sports betting to the water plan. The revenue created might one day contribute up to $29 million a year, but in the near term, it will generate less than half of that. Even if sports betting eventually generates the annual maximum revenue, it would still amount to less than one-third of the unmet need for plan implementation.


Governor Jared Polis has voiced
his support
for the plan:

We must commit to a bipartisan and sustainable funding source for the Colorado Water Plan. Governor Hickenlooper…did extraordinary work bringing together a coalition of Coloradans from all corners of our state to create the Water Plan. Now we’re going to do our part by implementing it.

 

Governor Polis has since advanced that commitment by allocating additional funding to ensure its implementation—in addition to supporting water conservation
efforts throughout the state.


Governor Jared Polis has voiced
his support
for the plan:

We must commit to a bipartisan and sustainable funding source for the Colorado Water Plan. Governor Hickenlooper…did extraordinary work bringing together a coalition of Coloradans from all corners of our state to create the Water Plan. Now we’re going to do our part by implementing it.

 

Governor Polis has since advanced that commitment by allocating additional funding to ensure its implementation—in addition to supporting water conservation
efforts throughout the state.


Beyond the Water Plan

The Water for Colorado Coalition is dedicated not only to finding revenue sources that would fully fund Colorado’s Water Plan implementation, but also to improving the health of Colorado’s rivers and streams, and as a result, Colorado’s economic well-being.


Beyond the Water Plan

The Water for Colorado Coalition is dedicated not only to finding revenue sources that would fully fund Colorado’s Water Plan implementation, but also to improving the health of Colorado’s rivers and streams, and as a result, Colorado’s economic well-being.


The Coalition collects and shares insights and expertise from our partner organizations that research,  study, and promote water conservation efforts to support healthy rivers and communities. Coalition partner organizations advocate for smart water policy at the state level that supports  healthy rivers and communities. The Coalition also works with communities and local organizations to improve water conservation and the health of local waterways, as well as with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Basin Roundtables, and local organizations.


The Coalition collects and shares insights and expertise from our partner organizations that research,  study, and promote water conservation efforts to support healthy rivers and communities. Coalition partner organizations advocate for smart water policy at the state level that supports  healthy rivers and communities. The Coalition also works with communities and local organizations to improve water conservation and the health of local waterways, as well as with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Basin Roundtables, and local organizations.


Ongoing Coalition Efforts

The state of Colorado manages its water by river basin and each river basin has its own Basin Roundtable (BRT). Colorado’s nine BRTs were created by state legislature in 2005 and are each comprised of water managers and stakeholders who work together to solve water-related needs for the future of their respective basins and the state.

As part of the process of drafting Colorado’s Water Plan, the Basin Roundtables across the state completed Basin Implementation Plans (BIPs) in 2015 to address local water needs. Those plans are now being revised, and the projects identified in these revisions will influence the broader process of updating Colorado’s Water Plan, which is expected to be completed in November 2022. We are working to ensure these plans represent conservation priorities, such as increased water efficiency, advancement of recycled water, improved wildlife habitat, and enhanced recreation opportunities.

How will the coalition participate in the Colorado Water Plan revision process?

2020-2021

→ The Coalition will work together with the Colorado Water Conservation Board to influence its direction to the Basin Roundtables in an effort to ensure that each BIP update includes appropriate coverage of, and commitment to, conservation, environment and recreation goals.

→ The Coalition will engage directly with Basin Roundtables to offer guidance and technical support on environment and recreation needs.

2021-2022

→ The Coalition will focus on the Water Plan revision and ensure the full integration of the updated BIPs into the Water Plan.


The Water for Colorado Coalition will always keep you informed of upcoming opportunities to participate and ways to take action to protect Colorado’s rivers. Sign up for our email list to be the first to know when your voice is needed for our rivers.

Coalition Achievements

These examples from the last five years highlight what you have helped Water for Colorado accomplish by being part of this movement!

We all have a role to play in using our water resources more efficiently; when it comes to water, we all need to live within our means. Greater cooperation, modern technologies, conservation programs, and proven best practices will enable Colorado to continue to build prosperous communities and support vibrant wildlife habitat, thriving outdoor recreation, agriculture, tourism, and industry—all while keeping our rivers healthy.

2015: Colorado’s Water Plan is finalized

We gathered 28,000 signatures encouraging conservation priorities to be included in the state’s first-ever water plan. This public outreach effort enabled thousands of Coloradans to have their voices heard. They sent emails, petitions, phone calls, and shared stories of their favorite times on the river. This grassroots engagement ensured that Colorado’s Water Plan supported healthy rivers and thriving ecosystems, outdoor recreation, and abundant wildlife, in addition to growing cities, prosperous businesses, and productive agriculture.

2018: Funding is established

Water for Colorado members took action to encourage former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to help fund protections for rivers outlined in Colorado’s Water Plan, resulting in a bill signed by the Governor that allocated over $4 million for increased water conservation to benefit our rivers, communities, recreation, and wildlife. Specifically, this money funded projects to:

  • Increase water flowing down Colorado rivers;
  • Clean up streams;
  • Restore habitat for fish and other wildlife;
  • Improve recreational opportunities for anglers, boaters, and all who recreate;
  • Help communities conserve water, taking the pressure off of rivers.

2018: New Governor commits to funding the Water Plan

During Jared Polis’s campaign for governor, he promised to put Colorado’s Water Plan back at the top of the state’s priorities and work toward fully funding it—ensuring the plan was more than just a collection of ideas and intentions. The Water for Colorado Coalition activated members to sign a petition encouraging Governor-elect Polis to uphold his commitment to prioritize fully funding the Water Plan. 

2018 – 2019: Funding is allocated to the Water Plan

Water for Colorado Coalition members supported successful efforts to increase local funding sources to improve river health.

2019: Sports betting is legalized—tax revenue goes to Water Plan implementation

Colorado voters passed Proposition DD to legalize sports betting and use the resulting taxes to fund the state water plan. This was only the third statewide tax increase approved by voters in 27 years and it marks the first voter-approved effort to fund the 2015 Water Plan.

Proposition DD places a 10 percent tax on casinos’ profits from sports wagers, up to $29 million annually. The majority of the revenue will contribute to the water plan’s implementation.

The passing of this measure showed that Coloradans value water and planning for their water future.

2019-2020: Governor Polis expresses support for the Water Plan

Water for Colorado raised awareness among the public and elected officials about the importance of funding and implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. These efforts led Governor Polis to emphasize the need to prioritize the plan and water conservation efforts to ensure a secure water future for Colorado. 

>  2019: In his first State of the State address, Governor Polis confirmed his support for Colorado’s Water Plan, stating:

“We must commit to a bipartisan and sustainable funding source for the Colorado Water Plan. Governor Hickenlooper…did extraordinary work bringing together a coalition of Coloradans from all corners of our state to create the Water Plan. Now we’re going to do our part by implementing it.”

>  2019: Governor Polis allocated an additional $10 million to Colorado’s Water Plan to support water projects.

>  2020: In his second State of the State address, Governor Polis again declared his support for and his intention to fund Colorado’s Water Plan, stating:

“In addition to the future revenues that we’ll derive from [Proposition] DD, I’ve called for another $10 million investment in the Colorado Water Plan and look forward to meeting those commitments.”

2020: Colorado Water Plan Grant Projects Map is launched

Water for Colorado launched a new multimedia tool to demonstrate the benefits of state-funded local water projects along our rivers and to show elected officials the ongoing need for more funding for these types of projects that benefit rivers and enhance the surrounding communities. The Colorado Water Plan Grant Projects Map is an interactive map with dynamic storytelling components, beautiful videos, photos, and blog posts. 

2020: Water smart policy is passed

Governor Jared Polis signed two bills into law that will help Coloradans conserve water and ensure our rivers can support everyone who depends on them.

  • HB20-1157 extends Colorado’s successful instream flow program to allow farmers, ranchers, and other water rights holders to temporarily and voluntarily choose to allow water to stay in rivers to help sustain them during dry periods.
  • HB20-1095 authorizes local governments to include a water element in their master plans. This enables Colorado municipalities to pursue growth strategies that conserve limited water supplies and lead to more water efficient development. It also provides an opportunity for local residents to have a say in decisions regarding water and growth, as developing and updating master plans involves input and buy-in from residents.

Coalition partners retain the option of deciding whether to participate in specific programs, policies, and activities. Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program Director for Western Resource Advocates, and Matt Rice, Director of American Rivers’ Colorado Basin Program, are the co-chairs of the Coalition.