July 28, 2008

Another Perspective on Water

By Chris Treese

The "Water Worries" story in the July 19 edition of the Rocky Mountain News provided an excellent update about how Colorado is addressing its water future. The topic of water is complex, with many moving parts. On that note, the Colorado River District offers a few more details to add to the article.

While Dillon Reservoir and Blue Mesa Reservoir certainly were landmark projects of the 1960s, significant projects have been built since or put under construction. There was not a complete void of work or progress.

Not to be forgotten after years of negotiations, the Bureau of Reclamation is completing the Animas-LaPlata Project near Durango to settle Native American water rights and provide a new water supply for the southwest region. In 1996, the Colorado River District completed the 66,000-acre-foot Wolford Mountain Reservoir in Grand County on the strength of cooperation and collaboration with Denver Water and Northern Water.

In 2006, the Colorado River District completed work that doubled the size of Elkhead Reservoir on the Moffat-Routt county line. A significant aspect of both projects is that a portion of both reservoirs has dedicated water for endangered fish in the Colorado and Yampa rivers, as well as water for people and industry.

We beg to differ with the suggestion by former Colorado Water Conservation Board staffer Rick Brown that we have yet to figure out how to develop water for people and the environment. Additionally, recreation - another big, modern-day issue with water development - is an important component of all three reservoirs.

We offer these details to support the premise of the story. There are other water projects as well, some of which did not require construction of a dam, but instead invested in water management improvements and more efficient water uses (e.g., Grand Valley salinity control and irrigation efficiencies, and several Front Range water reuse treatment and distribution facilities).

Certainly, many challenges remain and much remains to be done in balancing water development to meet population demands with environmental and recreational values.

Originally published by Chris Treese.

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