Polis seeks pledge for Colorado to save 48 billion gallons per year.
On Jan. 26, just less than a month after one of Colorado’s most destructive fires caused in part by drought, Gov. Jared Polis and Water Education Colorado launched Water ’22, a statewide, year-long initiative that implores Coloradans to take an active role in securing the state’s water future.
One of the key ways Water ’22 asks Coloradans to engage is by taking a pledge to engage in “22 Ways to Care for Colorado Water in 2022,” which includes simple actions that can save at least 22 gallons per day while keeping waterways clean. This amounts to 8,000 gallons a year for every Coloradan or 48 billion gallons a year across Colorado, which will help protect and preserve the state’s rivers, watersheds and water supplies.
The Water ’22 campaign was created to educate Coloradans about how the state’s water is one of its most important resources and to encourage conservation and protection in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change, which has which had led to persistent drought conditions over two decades.
Those conditions helped fuel the most damaging fire in the state’s history in late December, as well as the three largest wildfires on record which burned in 2020, causing degradation to forested watersheds where 80 percent of Colorado’s water supply originates. Increased water awareness is a fundamental step in helping Coloradans understand the risks to a sustainable water future and the need to work together innovatively to stretch scarce supplies. Some examples of how drought impacts Colorado include:
- The Marshall Fire, which raged through Louisville and Superior, is considered the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, and climate experts say drought, heavy winds, and recent warm weather created the atmosphere for the fire to flourish and that similar events will be more common in the future.
- Spring snowmelt, the primary contributor to Colorado streamflows and water supplies, is being sapped by ultra-dry soils in the state’s watersheds. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, though the statewide spring snowpack measured at 90 percent of average by late spring last year, streamflows were dramatically lower, registering below 30 percent in many of the state’s stream systems.
- Less water can be drawn from Colorado’s aquifers and pulled from rivers, of which 86 percent is used to grow crops and raise livestock. By 2050 drought may cost agriculture $511 million in damages annually in Colorado, according to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
- Reduced snowpack and runoff in the state’s rivers also impact the state’s tourism industries, including skiing and river recreation, both significant economic drivers. A 2019 study by Business for Water Stewardship found that river and water-related recreation contributes $19 billion annually to Colorado’s economy.
- More than two decades of drought has severely impacted the Colorado River, which supplies 40 million people and millions of acres of agricultural land across seven states and Mexico. Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest reservoirs in the U.S., both hold Colorado River water and fell to record-low levels last summer.
“From the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains to southern Colorado, our economy depends on water,” said Polis. “Together with Water Education Colorado, I’m asking everyone to conserve and protect Colorado waters for today and for future generations. Simple actions can make a big impact on our state’s most important resource.”
Water ‘22 encourages Coloradans to learn more about the state’s water, starting with knowing where their water comes from to foster a sense of connection to the source. Then, Water ’22 asks Coloradans to take a pledge to commit to engaging in 22 simple actions that can help conserve and protect water for future generations, resulting in savings of more than 22 gallons of water a day per person. Some examples of these actions include taking a shorter shower, operating dish and clothes washers only when they are full, fixing leaks and drips in faucets and toilets, and practicing smart outdoor watering on landscapes, such as avoiding watering during the heat of the day.
To give even more life to the campaign, Coloradans are asked to share a story or post of themselves taking one of the Water ’22 actions and use the hashtag #Water22.
Each month, five Coloradans who share their commitment to #Water22 on social media will be selected to win prizes such as gift cards, tickets to events, or Water ’22 branded gear. Statewide athletes, celebrities and officials such as Polis will also share videos of themselves taking action to help promote the campaign.
“Water ’22 is a year-long celebration of Colorado’s water, dedicated to the idea that ‘It all starts here,’ which highlights our sense of pride and responsibility as a headwaters state,” said Executive Director for Water Education Colorado Jayla Poppleton. “Our snowmelt flows to tens of millions of people in 18 other states and Mexico, and it’s up to us to be good stewards of this resource. This campaign is about Coloradans from all corners of the state recognizing the value of water and growing in understanding of how water connects us all through our shared reliance and appreciation. We’re encouraging more Coloradans to see themselves as water stewards who can take proactive steps in the face of drought and climate change to make sure our water can meet all of the needs of today and for future generations. We each need to do our part.”
Water ’22 will also provide opportunities for Coloradans throughout the state to engage with the campaign through a variety of planned activities including a statewide book club and author talks, volunteer days, film screenings, a student water awareness week in schools, a statewide watershed beer competition, on-the-ground tours, and much more. Water ’22 will also plan activities during major events like World Water Day (March 22) and National Drinking Water Week (May 1-7), as well as call attention to milestones like the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact (Nov. 24) – the fundamental agreement governing shared use of Colorado River water across the seven U.S. states that rely on the river’s diminishing flows, the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act (Dec. 2), and the release of the updated Colorado Water Plan for public comment this summer.
Coloradans can learn more about the state’s water, find events and activities, and take action to conserve and protect 22 gallons of water a day and 8,000 gallons of water a year by visiting www.water22.org and following Water Education Colorado at www.facebook.com/watereducationCO, www.instagram.com/watereducationco/ and at https://twitter.com/WaterEdCO.
In addition to being supported by Gov. Polis, Water ’22 has the support of numerous water-related organizations, businesses and industry groups across the state. The Colorado Water Conservation Board is a supporting partner, and Molson Coors Beverage Company, Wana Brands and Chevron are presenting corporate sponsors.