Colorado SWSI (CO)

SWSI: Colorado's Statewide Water Supply Initiative.

Water allocation has always been - and always will be - a major issue in the arid West. Colorado has long struggled with how to best use and share the wealth of water its mountains provide. Recent and ongoing efforts will chart the future of water diversions and could radically impact whitewater paddling as we know it in the state - unless whitewater paddlers step up and represent their interests. Perhaps the most crucial effort for paddlers to be involved with is the Statewide Water Supply Initiative.

The 2003 Big Straw Referendum A would have given the Colorado legislature $2 billion to build dams and divert more water to the Front Range. After it lost handily, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) created SWSI. SWSI Phase I determined that Colorado will have 20% less water than the amount needed (the 20% Gap) based on projected population growth.

“SWSI's findings so far have bolstered Western Slope concerns about possible new attempts at water grabs by the Front Range. It is projecting that Colorado's cities and industrial users will need an additional 708,000 acre-feet of water by 2030, as the state population grows from 4.3 million in 2000 to an estimated 7.1 million people.” Aspen Times, August 27, 2004

SWSI Phase II created four technical roundtables that now meet regularly:

1) Water Efficiency (Agricultural, Municipal, & Industrial (M&I), 2) Alternative Agricultural Transfers to Permanent Dry-up 3) Prioritize and Quantify Recreation and Environment Needs 4) Addressing the 20% M & I Gap.

In addition to these technical roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) was created. The IBCC organizes nine additional roundtables to meet and negotiate diverting water between basins. Critical decisions will be made within these roundtables that will determine whether many rivers and streams in Colorado have sufficient flows for paddling and other river recreation, fish, wildlife, local economic benefits, and municipal needs. Currently the paddling community is unrepresented or underrepresented on these roundtables. American Whitewater is seeking paddlers willing to thoughtfully represent the paddling community and AW on these roudtables.

Watershed Contact Phone Location Details
Colorado Dave Merritt 970-945-8522 Glenwood Springs Colorado
Yampa-White Tom Sharp 970-879-1482 Yampa
Gunnison Michelle Pierce 970-944-2333 Montrose Gunnison
Dolores-San Juan Steven Harris 970-259-5322 Cortez Delores
North Platte Kent Crowder 970-723-4660 Walden North Platte
Arkansas Alan Hamel 719-584-0221 Pueblo Arkansas
Denver Metro Doug Scott 303-789-2541 Denver Area Denver
Rio Grande Mike Gibson 719-589-2230 Alamosa Rio Grande
South Platte Bille Jerke 970-336-7204 Longmont South Platte

Please attend these meetings and contact AW if you are interested in formally participating as a representative for the paddling community.

For details on the meeting locations, dates, and times, please call the contact person listed above. We encourage paddlers to attend these meetings whenever possible, and if you are willing to be involved in a more formal capacity please contact Kevin Colburn (kevin@amwhitewater.org) immediately. Senate Bill 06-179 allocates $10/million year from 2006 and 2010 for water projects and to do needs assessments in the basins. The IBCC Roundtables are now determining how that money should be spent. This is a one-time opportunity for boaters to obtain money to study and protect recreational river flows. If we do not clearly define the rivers that are important to us, and the flows we need, then our interests and the higher flows critical to recreation and to the rivers' ecological health will be lost.

For more information, please visit the State of Colorado's website on these issues at: http://dnr.state.co.us/Home/ColoradoWaterforthe21stCentury/IbccHome.htm

AW Meets with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

posted June 30, 2011
by Nathan Fey
article photo 1

Washington DC - American Whitewater and Colorado River Oufitter representatives traveled to Washington DC to meet with Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of Interior today.  The Secretary's leadership on water issues in the Colorado River Basin, and opportunities for Public-Private partnerships were among the topics discussed.

Hearing canceled for Moffat Collection Project

posted December 8, 2009
by Nathan Fey
article photo 1

Due to the current weather predictions, the US Army Corps of Engineers has cancelled the public meeting scheduled for Summit County (December 8). The meeting will be rescheduled for January 2010. Stay tuned for meeting anouncement.

Paddlers Identify Recreational Water Needs in Colorado

posted July 24, 2007
by Nathan Fey
article photo 1
American Whitewater is working with paddlers to advocate for river recreation in Colorado, and to assist nine river-basin roundtables with identifying and protecting recreational and environmental water needs. Each Roundtable is charged by the Colorado Legislature to determine how much water is "unused" in their basins, that could be trasported to areas that are in need of additional water to meet current and future demands. Now is the time to protect your favorite rivers in Colorado, or risk losing them forever!

The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.

projects - Colorado SWSI (CO)

Title Name City
Kevin Colburn Missoula MT Details...
Nathan Fey Longmont CO Details...


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  • Colorado SWSI (CO)
    Colorado's Statewide Water Supply Initiative may very well determine the fate of Colorado's whitewater rivers by dictating how much water can be removed from rivers to serve a growing population.