Rep. Dylan Roberts: Protecting our water for generations to come
Here on the Western Slope, water is life.
Farmers and ranchers need a steady, dependable source of water to irrigate their crops and keep their livestock alive. Water powers our multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry and thousands of jobs. And, Colorado families rely on access to safe, clean drinking water simply to survive.
But water is also an increasingly scarce resource here and across the West. Climate change and sustained drought has made our water supply less reliable as water tables shrink, stream flows drop and annual precipitation totals reach record lows. Further, the recent news from the federal government regarding the Colorado River and the potential forced curtailment of use in Colorado should alarm all of us — it certainly has me concerned.
Preserving our water should not be a partisan issue. That’s why I have been hard at work at the Capitol with Republicans and Democrats alike to address this pressing challenge. We must act now to save our state’s water — and our livelihoods. In the last few years at the legislature, we have done just that: helping lead the fight to secure Colorado’s water for generations to come through legislation that protects our precious water resources.
As we look back on the recently-concluded legislative session, I am glad that several of my water-related bills passed with broad bipartisan support and were signed into law. This legislation, along with work over the last few years will help conserve and protect water on the Western Slope and across Colorado.
HB22-1151: Turf Replacement. This was a bill I sponsored with Republican Rep. Marc Catlin of Montrose that directs the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a statewide program to help property owners — including local governments, special districts and nonprofits — voluntarily replace non-essential irrigated turf with water-wise landscaping. Leveraging native, drought-resilient landscaping this way is a win-win: it not only helps protect and conserve critical water resources, it also saves Coloradans money on their water bills and ensures that the larger metro areas play their fair part in conservation, not just relying on agriculture and industry to do all the work.
Protecting our state’s water from other states: I also ran the bipartisan bill to establish the Groundwater Compact Compliance Fund (SB22-028), which invests federal pandemic relief funds in essential projects that will help water districts manage groundwater use and ensure that agriculture producers are fairly compensated when out-of-state demands strain our supply.
In previous years I’ve championed legislation that allows water-rights holders to temporarily loan their water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s instream-flow program to ensure viable stream flows, and I fought to protect groundwater sources from pollution.
That’s not to mention the millions of dollars in funding I’ve cosponsered to help prevent wildfires and conserve Colorado’s watersheds through mitigation, watershed restoration and flood mitigation grants, as well as a sustained source of funding and record investment into Colorado’s Water Plan.
And now, my work to defend Colorado’s water is continuing as I serve on the interim Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee. This is a bipartisan committee that meets when we are out of our regular session to study the conservation, use, development and financing of the water resources of Colorado, and turn ideas into action to further preserve water and promote agriculture in our state. Next month, I will return to the Capitol for our first meeting of the year, and I look forward to bringing the urgency of our Western Slope water concerns to the table.
Water conservation is complex and we need thoughtful solutions, which is why we’re conducting site visits at water facilities, meeting on-the-ground with stakeholders and water users of all stripes, and using their feedback and expertise to work together and craft future legislation that will address this challenge head-on in a way that works for all Coloradans.
This work could not be more important. To truly ensure the security of Colorado’s water, we must be proactive and stand up to out of state and special interests that want to use our water. Our Colorado way of life — from family farms and ranches to outdoor recreation, and everything in between — depends on a safe and stable supply of water.
This summer and fall I will continue fighting to conserve and protect West Slope water, be our region’s voice on the state’s Water Resources Committee, and work day in and day out to ensure that every Coloradan can access the water they need for generations to come. As always, I welcome input and questions at Dylan.Roberts.House@state.co.us or on my cell 970-846-3054.
Rep. Dylan Roberts serves Routt & Eagle Counties in the Colorado House of Representatives
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