Colorado Water Plan Update Improves Focus on Recreation
The Colorado Water Conservation Board finalized the first update to the state water plan at the end of January. American Whitewater submitted detailed comments on recommended changes to the draft plan that was released in the summer of 2022. Recreational considerations were included in both the original 2015 plan and the draft. However, our comments were focused on stressing the importance of river-based recreation to the economy and way of life of many communities in the state. About 50% of our comments generated some positive change to the final plan. We are grateful to the CWCB board and staff for their careful consideration of over 950 comments.
A number of our recommended edits were directly copied into the plan including those asking to better highlight the magnitude of the recreation economy. Importantly, the final plan now includes Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry office as a partner agency and identifies opportunities for river-recreation based projects to look to the office for funding.
A small but vital change was made to better illustrate how personal experiences, like floating on or walking beside a river or stream, have a real impact on people’s connection to water and increased interest and awareness of water issues. American Whitewater strongly takes the position that we protect the places we know and love. It is a success for the state’s water plan to recognize that connection to water and interest in its problems can be fostered in all residents and visitors, not just relegated to a narrow few who are steeped in water policy.
Other American Whitewater comments focused on the need to improve and enhance streamflows to address impacts already realized for low flows and high stream temperatures on rivers around the state. Some of those comments were excluded from the final plan as they were too prescriptive in nature. Those comments were incorporated to identify opportunities for more flexible management of reservoirs or through cooperative water sharing agreements. We still have work to push those efforts forward but are encouraged by the general tenor and description of recreational needs.
While the update to the state water plan was a monumental undertaking, now is when the real work starts. American Whitewater is committed to continuing to push for changes in the state - be it policy, staffing, funding, etc. - that will protect and enhance the vibrant communities and high quality of life or river systems support. We are requesting Water Plan funds this year to continue that work and encourage our community to seek those funding opportunities to implement projects on the ground.
Photo Credit: Jessica Marsan