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Community Agriculture Alliance: The Colorado Water Plan

You can’t watch the news today without seeing a story about the Colorado River and its low flows and water levels of the two major reservoirs in the United States.

The Colorado River’s systems provide water for 40 million people and the livelihoods of many farmers, ranchers, recreational athletes and tribes. Federal, state, and local governments are looking for solutions to the lower discharges and higher demands of the Colorado River.

The goal of the nine roundtables in Colorado is to advance solutions from the ground up for these and the other eight compact needs facing Colorado. To learn more about all of the Colorado Interstate Water Compacts, please visit WaterEducationColorado.org/publications-and-radio/citizen-guides/citizens-guide-to-colorados-interstate-compacts/.

Their local roundtable is the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable (YWG BRT), which brings together 36 local water users and stakeholders to advance local solutions at the state and federal levels. These stakeholders represent water utilities, municipalities and industrial, recreational, environmental and agricultural communities. They work together to find common solutions to water supply gaps through a committee structure.

The Big River Committee reviews the issues facing the Colorado River and how it would affect the Yampa, White and Green Rivers and provides positions and white papers to the entire YWG BRT. The grant committee reviews state of Colorado grant applications for projects that could help reduce water supply gaps within the basin. This funding has helped projects such as the Maybell Canal, the City of Craig’s White Water Park, the White River Algae Study, Walker Ditch Headgate, the replacement of the Crosho Simon Dam Outlet, and other projects. Please visit the YWB BRT website at YampaWhiteGreen.com.

The YWG BRT is pushing this bottom-up collaboration to the state level through the Basin Implementation Plan and the Inter-basin Compact Committee (IBCC). The Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) was published by the YWG BRT in 2015 and updated in 2021. The BIP has the eight targets of the YWG BRT to reduce water supply gaps in the basin.

Also included in this plan are the activities to achieve these goals, the changing challenges in the catchment area, and a list of projects that, if implemented, could reduce service gaps in the catchment area. A total of 84 projects are listed with an estimated cost of US$650 million. The IBCC is a committee composed of two representatives from each Round Table and the governors’ appointments to review and coordinate efforts to address water supply gaps and problems faced by the state.

All of this local collaboration has resulted in the update to the Colorado Water Plan, scheduled for release on January 24th. The Colorado Water Plan has four areas of action – vibrant communities, thriving watersheds, resilient planning, and resilient agriculture. CWCB has also identified in the plan 50 CWCB partner actions that can help support the water plan and 50 agency actions that CWCB and cooperating agencies will take to support local projects, conservation and water wise development.

To learn more about local and state water planning efforts, please visit the CWCB website at cwcb.colorado.gov.

Patrick Stanko is the liaison for the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable.

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