By Ken Baker, Board Consultant - Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
The Colorado General Assembly convened on January 4, and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District is closely monitoring water-related legislation. I have highlighted in our January legislative update below, some of the issues being considered by state legislators that we are following.
In the coming months, I will continue to update you on their progress and in the meantime, I hope that you find our legislative updates beneficial and informative.
The State Plan
The Colorado Governor’s Office has promoted a bill called The State Plan. The plan is basically a theme to develop a water sharing program in which agricultural water rights would be changed to municipal use to be exported to the northern front range of Colorado to supply future water needs of an anticipated population growth. The plan does not contain specifics with respect to water uses to be changed, but at the same time does not specifically include water resources available on the northern front range.
Encourage Use of Xeriscape
In recent years the General Assembly has passed laws limiting the authority of homeowner’s associations requirements to plant lawns. A current bill will encourage the use of xeriscape in Common Areas. The Upper District will encourage such water rationing promotions. Water exports from rivers in Division No. 2 and Division No. 5 have historically been sources of the historic consumptive use of agricultural appropriations to be transferred to the northern front range. Rationing of water uses within the municipal uses may not represent a complete answer to resolution of water supplies under The State Plan, but it could represent some relief for water managers in the front range communities and in the mountain river valleys asked to satisfy the objectives of The State Plan.
Senate Bill 037 is being introduced to authorize the county commissioners or a private not-for-profit organization to clear the State or Federal lands, within the county, from materials that represent fire hazards.
The County of Chaffee has a voter approved tax revenue base to support this proposition. The bill as presented protects the County from liability, unless an employee is negligent or willful in creating damage.
The Upper District, through a blanket augmentation plan, provides water resources to address fire hazard prevention projects. The District supports the bill introduced in the Senate.
Concerning the Rights of a Water Rights Easement Holder
This bill is prompted by ditch owners who want to clear trees along the ditch right-of-way.
The bill provides a right to line the ditch to prevent seepage. This could include a pipe in the ditch. Some of the objections to the bill include Amended Rules and Regulations created by Court order to protect return flow rights of the State of Kansas in the Arkansas River under the 1948 Treaty Agreement.
A special committee of the CWC State Affairs Committee has been appointed to review and clarify language in the bill.
Concerning the Protection of Water Quality from Adverse Impacts Caused by Mineral Mining
This bill was presented last year and then withdrawn. The bill is complex. There should be continued discussion on bill language, the roles of water quality and mining entities need to be better defined.