Water storage bill advances in Colorado Legislature

Measure would authorize study, storage of South Platte River

By Peter Marcus Herald staff writer

DENVER – The Colorado House on Tuesday gave initial support to a measure that would require a study of water storage in Colorado.

Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, has pushed for the bill for several years, pointing to looming water shortages and pressure on agricultural communities.

The bill would require the Colorado Water Conservation Board to study the amount of water that has been delivered over 20 years to Nebraska from the South Platte River in excess of the amount allowed under the river agreement.

“The Front Range is depending on the Western Slope for water and there just isn’t any there to bring over,” Brown said.

The bill could receive a final vote in the House as early as Wednesday, before moving to the Senate for consideration.

Having survived an earlier appropriations hearing in the House, the bill stands its best chance yet of making its way through the entire legislative process. The $250,000 to pay for the study would come from existing severance taxes.

In addition to studying water leaving the state, the measure would examine possible locations for a reservoir along the river between Greeley and Julesburg.

Water officials would report back to lawmakers with findings.

The effort compliments a statewide water plan that aims to achieve 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water conservation by 2050.

Supply shortfalls are expected by 2050 or sooner, with results that could lead to agricultural dry-up and fish and wildlife extinction, as well as increased demands and pressure on municipalities.

There are 25 transmountain diversions across the state, in which water from rural Colorado is used for municipalities along the Front Range. Brown would like to avoid any more diversions.

“We cannot afford to go ahead and waste this water out of the state of Colorado,” Brown said. “There are all kinds of benefits to water storage, as we can see of the reservoirs all over the state of Colorado.”