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Bennet Vows to Be A Voice for Upper Basin in Washington, D.C. in Remarks at 2023 Colorado Water Congress

Amid critical Colorado River negotiations, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today addressed the Colorado Water Congress during it’s annual meeting on January 25-27 in Aurora, Colorado stressing the urgent work ahead to secure the future of the Colorado River Basin.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet

“You don’t have to be a water expert to know that we’re in a five-alarm crisis in the West and the Rocky Mountain West. The West hasn’t been this dry in 1,200 years. That’s when Vikings were marauding throughout Europe from one end to another – and even beyond that,” he began. “Last summer, we saw parts of the Rio Grande Basin dry up for the first time in 40 years … we’ve got a Colorado River in peril, governed by a century-old Compact that no longer reflects reality.”

Bennet called on the audience to define a new vision for the Colorado River, celebrating Colorado’s example on water conservation, and vowing to champion the interests of the Upper Basin in Washington, D.C. Among his messages; he  urged Coloradans to tell their stories to help the American people understand the urgency of addressing the Western water crisis.

“I strongly encourage the seven states to come to a joint proposal on the cuts that are needed. If the states can’t find a way to work this out, we will be handing this decision to the Department of the Interior. No one wants that. Let’s resolve this right here at home, in the West,” said Bennet. “We have to live within what the river can provide, and that’s what we’ve done – what we have always done — in Colorado.”

In his remarks, Bennet highlighted examples of Colorado ranchers and farmers, local governments, and Tribes who have changed their practices to adapt to the worst drought conditions in 1,200 years. Using stories from across Colorado, Bennet demonstrated how Coloradans are leading, adapting, and innovating to meet these challenges, and urged others to follow their example.

Bennet serves as the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources. He says he plans to use this year’s Farm Bill to address the Western water crisis and make new investments in conservation, forests, and watersheds.

Last year, Bennet secured $4 billion to address the Western drought in the Inflation Reduction Act. In his remarks, Bennet called this funding a “good start” and urged the federal government to do more to address the situation in the Colorado River Basin.

“2023 may be the most important year for Western water since the Colorado River Compact came together a century ago. The choices we make this year will shape the Basin for the next 100 years,” noted Bennet.

“We have the opportunity to lead… and to tell this story, and to define the future of the Colorado River – not based on fear about the future, or bitterness over the past – but on creativity, collaboration, and a commitment to leaving the Basin in better shape than we found it,” he concluded.

Video of the Speech is Available HERE