Water is critical to Colorado’s economy, lifestyle, and identity. It fuels our cities and agriculture and it supports our vital recreation industry. But increasing demands on our existing supplies and the looming threat of drought and climate change put our water supplies at risk. We are in the midst of what the Colorado Water Conservation Board calls a physical and fiscal crisis—Colorado’s statewide snowpack reached near-record lows this Spring, with one of the earliest peak run offs ever seen. The current state budget for water investment and conservation is insufficient to address these challenges.
Colorado’s future depends on the reliability of its water supplies, and it is critical that our next governor provide leadership in order to preserve Colorado’s natural beauty and world-renowned quality of life. This must start by fully funding and implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. The final Plan was shaped by more than 30,000 comments submitted by citizens and water users across the state, and as a result, it rightfully prioritizes protecting water resources, increasing water conservation and efficiency, and improving our rivers and watersheds.
As Coloradans mark their ballots for the primary on Tuesday, June 26, we encourage all voters to consider the following principles that should guide how Colorado’s leaders plan for our water future.
Dedicate long-term funding for Colorado’s Water Plan: Colorado needs long-term funding to conserve, maintain, and restore our water supplies, rivers and stream flows, and economy in the face of long-term drought and rising temperatures. Existing public funding resources are insufficient to address current and future needs, and we know that further investment is needed to fully implement the Water Plan. Doing so will help ensure that Colorado continues to be known for its healthy rivers that support clean drinking water for cities and reliable water supplies for farms and ranches across the state. We hope Colorado’s next Governor will act swiftly to ensure adequate funding is available.
Reduce stress on our over-allocated Colorado River: Our next governor must ensure that growth on the Front Range doesn’t lead to more water being taken from the Colorado River Basin. Instead, they should prioritize proactive drought management planning in Colorado and work with our neighboring states in the Colorado River Basin.
Support smart water use for Colorado’s cities: We need a Governor who will adopt policies that enable our cities to increase municipal water use efficiency and conservation. This includes directing funding and technical assistance towards expanding municipal conservation, efficiency, and reuse programs to help us thrive with the water supplies we already have.
Preserve Colorado’s agricultural economy and heritage: We’re proud of our strong agricultural heritage, its contribution to Colorado’s economy, and the irrigated open space that defines many Colorado landscapes. But unless we take action, drought and reduced water supply will dry up farms and ranches, hurting families, eliminating rural jobs, and stifling our agricultural economy and local food supply. It is critical that the next governor directs resources to modernize the agricultural sector. They should also prioritize implementation of flexible water management strategies that preserve our agricultural legacy. Our next governor can safeguard our agricultural heritage by incentivizing and funding flexible and efficient water use.
Protect Colorado’s rivers and watersheds: Our next governor should make it a priority to conserve, maintain, and restore Colorado’s high mountain forests, streams, and wetlands, which capture annual snowfall and release this clean water each spring. Years of fire suppression and pest invasion have left our forests vulnerable to the kinds of catastrophic wildfires that we’re already seeing near Durango and Silverthorne this summer. Our rivers also need help and direct investments should be made to improve flows for fishing, boating, and wildlife. All Coloradans rely on the clean, safe drinking water that our rivers provide and they also support our agricultural sector and thriving outdoor recreation economy.
To thrive, Colorado must have a secure water supply. We urge voters to send a clear message to their representatives in government that this crisis must be addressed by immediately by implementing and fully funding Colorado’s Water Plan.