Denver — A recent proposal by Renewable Water Resources (RWR) plans to divert 22,000 acre feet of water annually from the San Luis Valley to Douglas County through a transbasin diversion over Poncha Pass. Douglas County would utilize federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stimulus funds to partially pay for the acquisition and development of water rights in the San Luis Valley. In response, Water for Colorado has issued the following statement:
“This controversial proposal threatens the economy and way of life for those who live in the San Luis Valley, and demonstrates a harmful use of federal funds. Water for Colorado and its nine partner organizations representing diverse interests across the state stand with the residents of the San Luis Valley and Protect our Water Coalition and join state leaders, including Governor Jared Polis, in strong opposition to the proposal and encourage the Douglas County Commissioners to reject it. Our coalition urges collaborative solutions to Colorado’s water supply concerns that do not irrevocably harm one community in favor of another.
Water is the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley — from supporting the potato crops and grains that have grown on family farms for generations, to providing essential refuge for wildlife, to bolstering recreation at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and across the Valley. Water is everything to the Valley and its people.
With an average of only 7 inches of rain a year, there is no renewable water in the Valley to export. The proposed diversion hurts both the communities from which the water is taken and the sources from where the water comes. There are also no requirements for the cities that receive the water to apply more stringent water conservation standards in recognition of the valuable water resources being taken from the Valley.
Using ARPA funding to sap water from a region that plays home to countless species of wildlife including pronghorn, mountain lion, black bear, beavers and pika; supports over 300 bird species and 119,330 acres of wildlife habitat; and provides critical runs for Rio Grande cutthroat trout, is deeply harmful.
Additionally, the price tag could well exceed $2 billion, which would be borne primarily through water ratepayers. We know that we’re facing extreme water challenges now and in the future, but we must prioritize more cost-effective and immediately available conservation and sustainable water use over diversions. Proposals like this mark an irresponsible use of federal funding, and set a dangerous precedent. The recently-released State of the Rockies poll shows 81% of Westerners oppose these kinds of water diversions preferring, instead, projects that utilize water conservation, reduction in use, and increased water recycling.
It’s incumbent upon us all to use every drop wisely, and for every community in Colorado to achieve the highest conservation and water reuse standards possible. Colorado’s locally-based, collaborative approach to water management relies on us all working together rather than pitting basins against one another. When we start approving dangerous water proposals and short term investments like the ones discussed above, we’ve already lost the battle against drought and climate change.”
Scroll below to see what partners are doing to protect San Luis Valley Water: