Forum helps Roaring Fork residents get involved in water-use issues
By 2030, Denver is projected to have 2 million more people using showers and toilets, watering their lawns and washing their cars.Amid what some experts say is the worst drought the West has seen in 300 years, where will the water come from?Protecting the Roaring Fork River basin from the rapacious thirst of the fast-growing Front Range and getting residents involved in water issues were the focal points of a meeting Thursday night in El Jebel.The meeting was hosted by the American Leadership Forum, which helps residents play leadership roles in civic matters. Louis Meyer, a Glenwood Springs engineer, told the 60 or so in attendance that the forum’s goal was to implement better relationships between residents and water officials at the policy-making level.He said because water-diversion issues are so complex, there is little opportunity for residents to get involved and debate what’s happening to the valley’s watershed.When water gets diverted, Meyer said, “it’s lost.”No one doubts Front Range cities are coming for more water. They have to. The Colorado River basin, of which the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers are a part, is by far the state’s largest.Meyer said the state’s big cities will be trying in the near future to “firm up their water rights, meaning they will use their senior water rights and take more water.”To ensure that the cities bring mitigation plans to compensate Western Slope towns, a bill has been introduced in the state House. State Rep. Kathleen Curry, whose district includes Pitkin and Garfield counties, is asking residents to e-mail her with their thoughts on House Bill 1296. Her e-mail is mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.Chris Treese, of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, lobbies for Western Slope water interests in Denver and Washington, D.C. He told the group his district has the conflicting roles of protecting water for the entire state and the valley itself.He said the best ways to sate the Front Range’s thirst is to prepare now and to work with the Eastern Slope. He also said utilizing existing projects and reservoirs more efficiently, expanding water re-use and improving conservation efforts would also go a long way toward finding an amicable solution.Brian Davies of Basalt said he was glad he attended.”Water rights are so complicated. We have to rely on the guys like the speakers tonight to really help us understand it,” he said. “I think it was a great start.”Helping residents understand the complexities and ramifications of water diversions, and getting residents involved, will likely play a huge role in what rivers look like in the future.As Treese said, water officials “would much rather hear from you than me.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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