Community Agriculture Alliance: Focusing on the Colorado Water Plan
Community Agriculture Alliance
Water is in the news almost daily. Knowing that we cannot live without water, the attention and related information should be of concern to all of us.
We can start with the fact that Colorado is a headwater state, meaning that much of the water for the entire Western U.S. starts here. Colorado is made up of eight major river basins and has nine compacts, or obligations to outside water users, to fulfill. There is a 740-thousand-acre foot municipal gap in the water supply and additional risks to agriculture and the environment. To meet this gap between supply and demand, the state must take a collaborative process to meet these challenges.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board has released an updated Colorado Water Plan and released the initial draft of the plan to the public June 30. This plan would not be possible without the Colorado water users and stakeholders developing strong relationships across regional divides. These relationships were built on decades of evolving water policy and collaboration.
The 2023 Water Plan is based on four core water values that includes:
1) A productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, agriculture, recreation and tourism;
2) An efficient and effective water infrastructure systems;
3) A strong environment with healthy watersheds, river streams and wildlife;
4) An informed public with creative, forward-thinking solutions that are sustainable and resilient to changing conditions.
With these four values the water plan developed action areas that connect cities, farms, streams and people. The action areas are vibrant communities, robust agriculture, thriving watersheds and resilient planning. These action areas are integrated, interconnected, interdependent and need equal support.
To meet the challenges, the water plan will require the whole state pulling together, with stakeholders working at the local level on projects and CWCB providing support through tools and grant funding through the Colorado Water Plan Grant Program.
CWCB listed 50 actions the agency and collaborating agencies will take to support local projects, conservation and wise-water development in the plan. CWCB has also listed a range of ideas that local agencies and nonprofits could participate in that could be supported by the water plan grants, but the actions of partners could be limitless.
Locally, the Yampa River is part of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable, which is one of the nine local roundtables that drive collaborative solutions to water issues. This roundtable is made of 36 members from each of the three counties that make up the basin of Northwest Colorado and represent all the water users.
They updated their basin implementation plan, which was released in 2022 and has eight goals to reduce the water supply gaps. The Community Agriculture Alliance, other nonprofits and agencies are working together to implement those goals of the YWG BRT, like the Yampa Integrated Water Management Plan and to identify and improve agricultural diversion structures that will meet multiple benefits.
Knowing that water impacts all of us, there are many opportunities to get involved and learn more. Review the Colorado water plan, share comments and your story, or commit to action at the EngageCWCB.org website. Attend one of the listening sessions on the plan (details on the website). Attend or become a member of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable (more information at YampaWhiteGreen.com). Or become a member of one of the many nonprofit organizations in the Yampa Valley that support the collaborative water management process.
Patrick Stanko is the public education outreach participation liaison for the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable.
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