Gov. Hickenlooper discusses state's water future at Colorado Water Congress

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John Hickenlooper

— The Colorado Water Congress’ summer conference this week at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort brings together a wide group of people interested in the state’s water future and with a vast amount of experience with its past.

As Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed the attendees, some had doubts about the state’s role in water plans, but Hickenlooper stressed there were ways to reach solutions to Colorado’s water worries.

If you get parties to broaden their definitions of what’s in their own self-interest, Hickenlooper said, it’s easier to get to an alignment of self-interest.

Using anecdotes from his time spent as mayor of Denver and experience with federal agencies as governor, Hickenlooper sought to persuade the crowd that his goals were attainable.

“The truth is Colorado is facing a water crisis,” he said.

The West is growing, he said, and Colorado is among the states with the highest population growth rates, of which the top five are Western states.

“We know it’s essential not only to quality of life but our economy,” Hickenlooper said. “You know what it means because you all live it. You can feel it.”

This May, he said, he signed an order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to come up with a broad plan of action. It will be the most comprehensive look at Colorado’s water, he said, and it was the hard work and leadership of many across the state that has put Colorado in a position to formulate this plan

“We know today more than we ever have and have more detail about what our future water demands will be,” Hickenlooper said.

In the next year, he said, that information will be brought to a practical, actionable point.

“It’s not a top-down, imposed policy,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s not going to be one size fits all.”

Instead, each basin will develop a plan that takes into account its resources and needs, he said, and the strategies will be compiled to form the Colorado water plan.

Hickenlooper said that in his position as the chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, he’s trying to forge a regional plan.

He said he’s under no illusion this will be easy but wants to do whatever he can to make sure the people who were in the audience are empowered to make a plan “that the entire state can invest itself in for decades to come.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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