DENVER — To address Colorado’s most critical water challenges, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) unanimously approved the final 2023 Colorado Water Plan on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
The Water Plan, first released in 2015, provides a comprehensive framework for collaborative action by water partners, government agencies and Colorado residents. From securing safe drinking water supplies to improving agricultural irrigation and cleaning up streams, the 2023 Water Plan targets specific key actions to help build a stronger, more water-resilient Colorado.
“In Colorado, water is life,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. “The Colorado Water Plan sets a vision for vibrant communities, prosperous farming and ranching, thriving watersheds, and climate-resilient planning. I look forward to seeing how the updated plan supports a more resilient future here in Colorado for years to come.”
Governor Polis lobbied for approval of $17 million this year to boost implementation of the water plan at the local level, proposing $25.2 million, including $12.6 million from the general fund, for the Water Plan grant program, which supports statewide water projects by providing grants and loans in collaboration with local partners, in its fiscal year 2023-2024 budget.
The 2023 Colorado Water Plan builds on the achievements that followed the initial release of the Pioneer Plan in November 2015. For example, in recent years: water conservation efforts have reduced statewide per capita water use by 5 percent, water outreach and messaging reached 2.7 million people, and in 2019 Colorado voters passed Proposition DD to raise funds for the Provide Colorado Water Plan grant program.
“We are excited about this much-anticipated update. Seven years ago, the CWCB released the original water plan—and now, guided by cutting-edge data and innovative tools, Plan 2023 translates Colorado’s values into a series of actions that address our state’s unique challenges and opportunities,” said Becky Mitchell, CWCB director. “Plan 2023 will trigger the actions we need across sectors to build a better water future in Colorado and set the stage for future decision making and water resilience.”
Now, the 2023 update maintains the values and priorities of the original plan while reorganizing actions into four key areas: Vibrant Communities, Robust Agriculture, Thriving Watersheds, and Resilient Planning. Within these four interrelated areas, a list of approximately 50 actions for partners and 50 actions for the state aim to address issues such as equity, climate resilience, water conservation, land use, education and more. The Water Plan Grant Program welcomes projects and programs that fall into five major grant categories: Water Storage and Supply, Conservation and Land Use, Engagement and Innovation, Agricultural Projects, and Watershed Health and Recreation.
Colorado’s water issues are affecting everyone from local leaders to advocacy groups to families in their own backyards. The CWCB encourages people from all walks of life to get involved in Colorado’s water plan: whether it’s through practicing personal water conservation, getting involved in critical water initiatives — or applying for a water plan grant, or encouraging local organizations to apply for a grant, to advance projects that build water resilience.
Throughout the development of the Colorado Water Plan, public engagement has been critical to the CWCB. The team conducted a year-long public engagement period to engage all Colorado voices, hosted a public comment period, held workshops, and encouraged Colorado residents to share their own water conservation success stories and commit to action through a Water Conservation Pledge.
Overall, the public comment period resulted in over 528 pages of comments, 1,597 proposed changes to the plan, and more than 2,000 observations. Comments came in a variety of formats, including letters, emails, survey responses, feedback at events, and public listening sessions. About 60% of these comments have either already been incorporated into the plan or have been taken into account by modifying the draft plan.
“I congratulate the Colorado Water Conservation Board, staff and all Colorado water stakeholders who have contributed to the 2023 Colorado Water Plan,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The plan provides an important vision and roadmap for Colorado’s water future, which faces increasing challenges from climate change, population growth and changing water needs. But by working together, we can overcome these challenges and ensure that our Colorado communities, agriculture and environment will continue to thrive for generations to come.”
CWCB celebrated the release of the water schedule on January 24th. The celebration was public and honored 14 local water heroes who were instrumental in making the updated plan a reality. Basin Water Heroes include Garret Varra (South Platte Basin), Bob Peters (Metro), Carl Trick (North Platte Basin), Daniel Boyes (Rio Grande Basin), Ken Brenner (Yampa/White/Green Basin), Mark Shea ( Arkansas). Basin), Carrie Padgett (Southwest Basin), Jason Turner (Colorado Basin), Kathleen Curry (Gunnison Basin); and the following Community Water Heroes: Ronda Lobato, Ernest House Jr., Jared Romero, CREA Results, and Water Education Colorado.