Colorado: Proposed water deal could end decades of fighting

Summit Voice
By Bob Berwyn

Conservation groups did not have a seat at the table during the negotiations, which were dominated by traditional water interests, but Trout Unlimted director David Nickum said the agreement is encouraging. He praised several innovative provisions in the deal, including a Denver Water pledge that future West Slope water diversions must be approved by the host counties, and a “Learning by Doing” management plan to monitor and evaluate restoration efforts.

“While recognizing that much work remains, we join in celebrating what this agreement does accomplish:  putting new resources to work to improve the health of the Upper Colorado River, and offering a new model for greater cooperation between the Front Range and Western Slope,” said Nickum.

“Denver Water brought a great deal of creativity and collaboration to this deal,” added Mely Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project. “It deserves credit for a good-faith effort to meet the concerns of West Slope communities.”

TU leaders said the collaborative agreement offers a template for tackling other complex Colorado River water issues.

“The Colorado River faces a host of challenges, from population growth to climate uncertainty,” said Whiting. “Solving them won’t be easy. This settlement provides some hope that all sides can work together to do the right thing for the river.”

While praising the settlement, TU emphasized that significant outstanding issues remain unresolved.

“Some have called this deal a ‘global solution,’ but it certainly isn’t global in scope, as it does not address the future impacts of the pending Moffat and Windy Gap expansion projects,” said Nickum. “Nor does it involve the single largest user of Upper Colorado River water—the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.”