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Statewide funding opportunity supports local needs

by Terry Scanga and Chelsey Nutter, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

Are you aware that Colorado has a Water Plan?

Issued by Gov. Hickenlooper in 2014, the Colorado Water Plan was created as a road map to address Colorado’s current and future water needs, including those in our community. Development of the Water Plan was led by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and was a multi-year collaborative process rooted in extensive engineering analysis and local and statewide stakeholder input to identify what our water needs are and how to overcome those challenges.

Now that this inclusive plan has been created and put into action, the question remains: How does Colorado continue to fund its implementation, especially in light of the $100 million per year funding gap created by the reduction in severance tax revenue?

The Inter-Basin Compact Committee was created by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act to facilitate conversations between regional stakeholders represented by the state’s nine basin roundtables. Currently, the IBCC is working in partnership with the Colorado Cattleman’s Association and two predominant foundations to develop a new framework geared toward funding Colorado’s water future.

This leadership team – comprised of local and statewide water managers, officials and experts, including the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District – has identified healthy rivers, water quality, conservation and efficiency, sustainable agriculture, infrastructure and Colorado compacts, as the six primary categories for the fund.

There are common themes throughout these water priority areas with one being the need to improve forest health. By protecting forest health we do many things, including protect rivers and streams from sedimentation – a leading cause to the degradation of our water supply and quality. And with most of our water supply situated within national forest lands, protection and improvement of the forest is paramount to our water future.

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District has utilized and leveraged state funding over the years to actively address water challenges in our community and basin. Our forest and watershed health project on Monarch Pass is a great example of how statewide funds benefit all of us here in the Upper Arkansas Valley.

This new source of statewide funding would be under the jurisdiction of the state of Colorado and would provide the necessary financial resources to face our future water challenges together. It would have a broad and lasting impact on important needs in our own community and would disperse the responsibility of funding across the state.

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District supports funding of this effort based upon a statewide approach. The conservancy district looks forward to continuing its work in the upper basin and helping to create a clear path forward to funding important water and forest health projects at the state, basin, and district levels.