Dear Fellow Coloradan,
Water is our most precious natural resource in the West. It is also in limited supply. Therefore, it is often subject to conflict. (Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting, or so goes the old saying.) But thanks to the hard work of generations of Coloradans, we have been able to reap the benefits of our streams and rivers. That is something worth celebrating.
That's why this week I introduced a resolution, along with Senator Bennet, honoring 2012 as the Year of Water in Colorado. The resolution builds on Colorado Water 2012, a statewide celebration designed to engage all Coloradans in a conversation about the past, present and future of our water. My resolution recognizes the importance of water in Colorado and many of the organizations that have innovated and cooperated over the past century to develop, protect and conserve this scarce resource.
This spirit of cooperation was reflected in the agreement yesterday in Hot Sulphur Springs where Denver Water, and Grand and Summit counties came together to sign a historic accord about Colorado River water. When complete, this agreement will put to rest decades-old conflicts between Front Range and Western Slope water users. It is my hope that their cooperation will serve as a guide for future agreements that benefit all Coloradans.
Wallace Stegner wrote that "Water is the true wealth in a dry land." Here in Colorado, at the crest of the continent, water is central to our success, and our future prosperity depends on how we manage our limited water budget. It is easy to forget the importance of this resouce in times of surplus, but this year's drought conditions hammer home the need for deliberate, long-term water policy.
During the Year of Water and beyond, I will continue to push for smart policies for Colorado water. Please read below for two important updates on my efforts, and click here to sign up for future updates on water-related issues.
Good Samaritan Mine Cleanup
In the Senate, I am fighting for ways for Coloradans to draw greater benefit from limited water resources. For years I have been trying to pass legislation that would make it easier for groups to clean up toxic pollution from abandoned mines. These groups, which are not responsible for the pollution but want to clean it up anyway, are called, appropriately enough, Good Samaritans. Most recently, I have been working with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop additional tools that incentivize responsible Good Samaritan cleanup activities. And just last month, I toured several abandoned mine sites in San Juan County with a Good Samaritan group in the Animas River basin. See video from my tour here and video of a previous abandoned mine tour near Creede here.
The Next 50 Years of Water
The Bureau of Reclamation is currently engaged in a study of the Colorado River basin, in conjunction with the seven basin states, on water supply and demand over the next 50 years. The study will examine various steps Coloradans can take to have access to quality water supplies, even under a new set of challenges – our population is on pace to double by 2050 and climate change will continue to stretch water supplies. I have been closely monitoring the study, which should be finished this summer, as it will be an important opportunity to look for comprehensive solutions to existing and future water challenges.