Joint WRRC and IBCC Meeting
WATER RESOURCES REVIEW COMMITTEE
|Votes: View--> ||Action Taken: |
** Senator Isgar was no longer a member of the Committee at the time of this meeting
03:12 PM -- Overview of the Interbasin Compact Process
See Attachment A for the meeting agenda.
Harris Sherman, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Director of the Interbasin Compact Negotiations, welcomed the Water Resources Review Committee and explained that the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) was created in House Bill 05-1177, also called the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act.
Peter Nichols, a Governor appointee to the IBCC, explained that the IBCC was created in House Bill 05-1177 to address growing water demand and to overcome opposition to new water development. He referenced important events in Colorado's water history including the 1989 Homestake Conflict in Eagle County, the Two Forks Dam veto by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Delph Carpenter's Interstate Compact negotiations, and the State Water Supply Initiative in explaining the history that lead to the IBCC. He discussed some new significant water development projects in the state including Aurora's Prairie Waters Project, Windy Gap Firming Project, and the Northern Integrated Supply Project. Mr. Nichols outlined some of the accomplishments of IBCC and indicated that the process has lead to increased involvement among water users and other interest groups in the state and that there has been greater cooperation between water providers to identify mutually beneficial water supply projects. He emphasized that the IBCC treats all basin and users as equal participants, though he acknowledged that it is a time consuming process. He concluded by listing possible alternatives to meet future water demand besides agricultural water transfers.
Director Sherman provided some comments about the IBCC process and the future challenges of growth and water demand in the state. He discussed types of water supply projects that benefit both the basin of origin and the receiving basin.
03:29 PM -- Water Supply Strategies
Eric Kuhn, a Governor appointment to the IBCC and General Manager Colorado River Water Conservation District, provided some introductory remarks about water supply strategies. He explained that a variety of water supply strategies have been developed to meet the state's future water supply needs. He discussed the strategy developed in the Colorado Basin and some of the trade-offs in water development in the Colorado River. He also discussed some of the changing paradigms in water management as a result of climate change and technology. He indicated that the water supply strategies provide a variety of strategies for meeting future demand given uncertainties.
Eric Wilkinson, South Platte Roundtable, General Manager Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, spoke about the history of the State Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) and the information that was generated through the initiative. SWSI provided big picture information about the state's limited water supply, the impacts of agricultural dry up strategies, recreational and environmental water needs, and the role of water conservation. Mr. Wilkinson explained that the intent of House Bill 05-1177 was to create a vision for the state and then determine strategies for accomplishing that vision. He explained how these strategies will allow for the comparison of costs and benefits of water projects. He also discussed some of the challenges of the predicted increase in Colorado population and what this will mean in terms of increased water demand.
Eric Hecox, IBCC staff, referred the committee to handouts provided by IBCC staff concerning water supply strategies and the IBCC (Attachments B and C). Representative Curry asked for more specific information about the strategies.
Mr. Wilkinson explained that Colorado's population could potentially double over the next 40 years, which will lead to an increase in municipal and industrial water demand. He explained demand projection scenarios based on low, medium, and high population projections. He also discussed how this demand related to the Colorado Big Thompson Project, a large transmountain water diversion project that provides water to numerous cities and towns and is also used to irrigate farmland in northeastern Colorado.
Representative Curry asked what the IBCC might need from the Interim Water Committee in relation to the water supply strategies. Mr. Hecox responded that the IBBC wants the water committee to understand long term water needs, both consumptive and nonconsumptive, so that the committee is able to protect the processes needed to respond to those needs knowing that there may be resource reductions in coming years as a result of budget issues. He stressed the importance of preserving the ability to meet the state's water demands in the future.
T. Wright Dickenson, a Governor appointed IBCC member, provided some overarching comments about the purpose of the IBCC and the successes to date in bringing people together to talk about water management outside of court.
04:19 PM -- Basin Roundtable Needs Assessments
Jay Winner, Arkansas Basin Roundtable member, and the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District General Manager, explained that the IBCC process created a blueprint for how basins can determine what their consumptive, non-consumptive, and storage needs are. He described the process by which the Arkansas Basin Roundtable determined these needs and how information from the Statewide Water Supply Initiative was used.
Dan Birch, Yampa/White/Green Basin Roundtable, Deputy Director of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, discussed the approach the Yampa/White/Green Basin Roundtable took in their needs assessment. He explained that prior to the House Bill 05-1077, the Yampa/White/Green had not come together to consider a vision for its future and the role the basin might play in satisfying the state's water needs. He described the different needs of the upper and lower parts of the basin and how these differences created a unique dynamic for creating a unified vision for the basin. He discussed the findings of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative relating to energy development in the basin. He explained that the need for water in the basin is largely dependent on whether there is an effort to develop oil shale. Mr. Birch stated that they have completed the first phase of their nonconsumptive needs assessment and are in the second phase of their consumptive needs assessment, which he expects will be completed in a year. Mr. Birch also mentioned that the basin is working on an arable lands study.
Melinda Kassen, a Governor Appointee to the IBCC and the Managing Director of Trout Unlimited, discussed recreational in-channel diversions (RICD), which are water rights for recreational activities. She explained that while eight of nine roundtables have approved a first draft of a nonconsumptive needs assessment, almost every roundtable approached the assessments in a different way. These assessments resulted in a set of maps that classify each basin's stream reaches based on environmental and recreational attributes. She indicated that in next phase of the nonconsumptive needs assessments, basins will consider what these classifications mean and what approach they will take to manage these reaches. She further explained that basins may use funding from the Water Supply Reserve Account to quantify the flow on the reaches they identified, use money to get more information in reaches they know less about, or consider other conservation alternatives (e.g. alternatives to federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers). Ms. Kassen answered questions from the Water Resources Review Committee.
The Water Resources Review Committee and the IBCC discussed the doctrine of prior appropriations (commonly known as first in time first in right) and how this law affects Senate Bill 04-222. Senate Bill 04-222 authorizes the State Engineer to impose new regulations on ground water withdrawals in Water Division 3 (Rio Grande River Basin) to protect senior water rights and to ensure the sustainability of the unconfined and confined ground water aquifers. They also discussed the ability of the IBCC to help Colorado address future water needs in a maner that is consistent with the doctrine of prior appropriation.
Representative Baumgardner asked Ms. Kassen to discuss alternatives to Wild and Scenic River designations. She explained that this is a federal designation and that the Bureau of Land Management has been looking for reaches to designate in Colorado. Ms. Kassen continued that once reaches have this designation, actions cannot be taken that impair the values for which it was designated. However, if the state can devise alternative agreements and protections, the federal agency may decide that the reach is sufficiently protected and forego the federal designation. She explained that the community's preference is usually to have a state based solution rather than a federal designation.
Mr. Nichols provided additional comments related to the earlier discussion about the prior appropriations doctrine and Senate Bill 04-222. He explained that Colorado law specifies that nothing should be interpreted to repeal or amend the existing water rights adjudication system (section 37-75-102, C.R.S.).
Mr. Hecox described the operation of the Water Supply Reserve Account. The account is administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in collaboration with the Interbasin Compact Commission. Basin Roundtables request funding which is then submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Money from the account is distributed according to guidelines that are jointly developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the IBCC. See Attachment D for additional information on the Water Supply Reserve Account. The Water Resources Review Committee and the IBCC discussed reductions made to the Water Supply Reserve Account and the importance of the funding to the roundtables.
The committee and the IBCC discussed the need for legislation that would help maximize existing water infrastructure resources which may reduce the need for new transbasin water diversion projects and agriculture to urban water transfers.
The committee and the IBCC discussed the importance of the IBCC Roundtables and the ongoing needs assessment process. The committee also discussed the state budget shortfall and how it would affect the state's ability to address its long term water needs.
Mr. Hecox provided some closing comments and thanked the Water Resources Review Committee for their attendance.
The joint meeting was adjourned and was followed by a separate meeting of the Water Resources Review Committee.