Paul Stettner: Water use plan needed | SteamboatToday.com

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Paul Stettner: Water use plan needed

Water is a critical resource in Colorado. It is important to all of us in many ways.

Over time, there is only a limited amount of water produced by watersheds. This amount can vary greatly in both the short term and also over longer periods of either above-average precipitation or drought.

The number of water users is growing and the demand on this limited resource is increasing — in some situations leading to curtailment of use.

Colorado's potential future water shortfall and the need for a water plan was outlined in Jay Gallagher's commentary, "Protecting Colorado's water future," in the Oct. 10 issue of the Steamboat Today. In the commentary, he identifies state water organizations and authorities, explains the water planning process and encourages the public to learn about it and to participate in it.

Nine river basin roundtables (BRT) were established. Each is tasked with assessing the availability of and future needs for water in their basin and with developing their basin water plan. Basin water plans will be submitted to the Interbasin Compact Committee for analysis and consideration. The Yampa/White River Basin Roundtable is the BRT for the Yampa River.

Two primary documents that guide the planning process are the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act (The Act) of 2005 and the Governor's Executive Order D2013-005. Both documents set forth key values to be incorporated in the water plan. These are: a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities; viable and productive agriculture and a robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry; efficient and effective water infrastructure promoting smart land use; and a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams and wildlife.

Overall, we, the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, agree with these values, but are concerned that healthy watersheds, rivers and streams might be sacrificed for the other values.

In our comments to the Yampa/White River Basin Roundtable, the Community Alliance encouraged members of the roundtable to ensure that the value of a healthy river system is given high priority in the Yampa/White Basin Plan. Our full comment may be found on the http://www.cayv.org website under the Yampa Basin tab.

Various sources tell us that the Yampa River is under-allocated, has surplus flows and therefore is targeted by some for more development and higher utilization. This can have many meanings, and effects — some detrimental to the health of the river system. The Community Alliance does not agree with the idea of unmitigated higher utilization and thinks that as one of the remaining free-flowing rivers, its natural hydrograph has value now and in the future and should remain as such. Approval of any proposed project should only be given after a rigorous analysis shows no negative impacts on existing water users or on the health of the river system.

Water organizations and individuals in other basins are submitting their comments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Anyone interested in the Yampa River basin may also wish to provide input regarding the Yampa/White BIP to the roundtable or to the Colorado Water Conservation Board at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com.

Paul Stettner for the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley Board of Directors

Rodger Steen, Rich Levy, Jack White