Here are the comments that I've submitted on the Colorado Water Plan:
Thank you Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board for creating the state's first strategic plan for water. The Colorado Water Plan makes great strides towards addressing problems and solutions to our obvious water deficits in the arid western United States. However, the plan needs to be much stronger with urgent actions now. For example, the Introduction (page 4) section on "Why Do We Need a Water Plan?" gives the appearance that we have a future resource problem (rather than a current problem) by projecting shortfalls out to the year 2050 of 500,000 acre-feet/year statewide.
The truth is that the western U.S. and Mexico are in serious trouble now. Coloradans depend on food from California. Due to the 4-year drought, many crops are withering and our food supply is threatened nationwide. We also depend on reliable hydroelectric supply from Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Current water demand is greater than supply so as lake levels further decline this will have a greater impact on the Colorado River - I did not see these topics mentioned in the Colorado Water Plan.
When Governor Brown in California declared a statewide emergency this year with a call to action by reducing water use by 25%, I've closely watched the response here in the Western Slope. To my surprise many people complained about the wet May and abundance of mosquitoes and weeds. To my astonishment, the Daily Sentinel quoted the Grand Junction Rockies manager concerned the rains in July discouraged attendance with the headline "Rain, Rain Go Away!" It also appears the local legislators want to fight the plan rather than conserve.
I've taken videos of businesses watering lawns in the rain, watering during the hottest part of the day instead of the evening or early morning, and over watering onto streets. Can the Colorado Water Plan provide incentives and enforcement actions for proper water use?
This May, I started a website blog at www.conserve-prosper.com to promote educational awareness and eventually the hope of a productive business to facilitate beautiful xeriscapes, conservation with water audits, and improving water supplies and quality.
The Colorado Water Plan describes an action for Municipal Water Conservation and Efficiency as, "explore a tax credit for outdoor conservation practices..." Can the plan offer tax credits now? If not, by what date can we expect incentives to go into effect? Likewise, more metrics are needed to gauge accountability.
My neighborhood in the Redlands community of Grand Junction is on Ute municipal water supply with xeriscape requirements. However, there is no enforcement and most people still want to plant grass! At my home with our drip irrigation and native plants, we use about 3,000 gallons per month in the summer while people who've planted grass may use 30,000 gallons per month or more. If people are given the choice between lawns and food, I think most rational people would agree to plant less turf. The problem is that most people have an irrational fear of 'use it or lose it.' The Colorado Water Plan could provide a much better rational for the urgency of needing to work together to solve our common problems.
Previously, I've lived in Las Vegas and Albuquerque (working as a hydrologist) - both cities are models for water conservation programs. Can the Colorado Water Plan review and adopt some of the important lessons learned from other desert communities such as lawn buyback programs?
I will be happy to provide more ideas and insights!