Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why did the state of Colorado create Colorado’s Water Plan?

We have learned through the work of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI), the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), and the Basin Roundtables (BRTs) that our current statewide water trajectory is neither desirable nor sustainable. We know that the state must take a hard look at Colorado's future water needs as a whole and plan for how they will be addressed. Building on a decade of grass-roots civic engagement, Colorado's Water Plan is able to showcase solutions with broad support that strategically address Colorado's most difficult water challenges.

2. What was the Governor’s Executive Order all about?

The Governor is concerned about the water challenges facing the state and believes it is imperative to have a plan if Colorado is going to have a secure water future. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the organization created by the state legislature and charged with creating and implementing state water policy, as well as staffing the IBCC, BRT, and SWSI processes, was the right entity to develop this plan in conjunction with other state water agencies (e.g. State Engineer’s Office, Water Quality Control Commission, Water Quality Control Division, Division of Parks & Wildlife).

3. Does Colorado’s Water Plan interfere with local control and authority?

No. Colorado water allocation and governance has always been guided by local users meeting local needs and Colorado’s Water Plan will not change that. Rather than diminishing local control or authority over water, Colorado’s Water Plan seeks to strengthen local decision-makers’ ability to achieve regional and statewide water solutions.

4. Does Colorado’s Water Plan include plans for a state water project?

No. Colorado’s water plan does not have plans for any specific project. However, the plan indicates that the state may act as a participant in projects that align with the values of Colorado’s Water Plan.

5. What is the role of the Basin Roundtables in the development of Colorado’s Water Plan and how do the Basin Implementation Plans fit into the plan?

The Basin Roundtables play a critical role in the development of Colorado’s Water Plan. Each Basin Roundtable delivered its own Basin Implementation Plan to the CWCB in April of 2015. These plans offer solutions for how each basin's future water needs will be addressed at the local level. These Basin Implementation Plans are incorporated into Colorado’s Water Plan so that we can understand at both the basin and statewide level how Colorado's water needs will be addressed.

6. What is the role of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative in Colorado’s Water Plan?

The Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) provides the technical foundation that describes Colorado's water challenges. Because of SWSI, we know more about Colorado's current and future water demand and supply than ever before. That analysis, which will be updated continually, forms the technical foundation for both the Basin Implementation Plans and Colorado’s Water Plan.

7. How was the legislature be involved? How was the state engineer involved?

The Colorado General Assembly and the State Engineer (Colorado Division of Water Resources) are critical to ensuring a secure water future for the state. The CWCB consulted with both entities and soliciting their input and guidance in the development of Colorado’s Water Plan. In addition, the Water Resources Review Committee hosted public forums in each basin in summer and fall of both 2015 and 2014. The CWCB was involved in presenting and answering questions at these events.
 
Learn more about the Water Resources Review Committee at: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/12422185....
 
And research the Colorado Division of Water Resources at: http://water.state.co.us/Home/Pages/default.aspx.

8. If a Basin Implementation Plan includes a project, does that mean it will receive state support?  

The Basin Implementation Plans will reflect a Basin Roundtable’s assessment of its consumptive and non-consumptive water needs. Many Basin Roundtables prioritized basin needs and describe preferred methods to meet those needs. State support will hinge on whether or not a project meets criteria set forth in Colorado’s Water Plan. Basin support is likely a good indicator of a project that will meet the water plan’s criteria, but does not necessarily guarantee that the project will ultimately receive state support. Colorado’s Water Plan will incorporate an iterative planning process related to this issue.

9. What are the consequences if a currently-contemplated project is not included in a basin's plan?

If a currently-contemplated project were not included in the basin’s plan, state support would be unlikely. However, a project may proceed as it has done so in the past and basin implementation plans will be updated periodically.

10. How does Colorado’s Water Plan work with counties and incorporate their input and concerns?  More specifically, how will the plan ensure that a project that meets state criteria does not interfere with a county’s ability to regulate that project through its 1041 powers?

Colorado is a local control state and Colorado’s Water Plan does not interfere with local government autonomy. Although the plan will strive for more efficiency and effectiveness in water permitting, these efforts do not circumvent or diminish existing 1041 powers.

11. How does Colorado’s Water Plan address the quality of the state's rivers and streams?

The Governor’s Executive Order spelled out fundamental values, including an environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife. Colorado’s Water Plan includes an objective to have stream management plans for 80% of Colorado’s important rivers and streams. The plan allocates $1 million or more per year to support this planning effort. In addition, the plan suggests developing a green bond program to help pay for projects, such as those coming out of the stream management plans, that protect or improve the health of our rivers and streams. Several other actions include the identification and implementation of near-term projects to address imperiled aquatic and riparian dependent species and communities, development of common metrics for assessing river health and resiliency, and supporting local stakeholder groups.

12. How does Colorado’s Water Plan address the long-standing differences between the Western Slope and the Front Range in terms of developing new transmountain diversions?

With regard to new transmountain diversion projects, the IBCC developed a conceptual framework which explores innovative ways to address this issue in a balanced manner. Scenario planning indicates that a new transmountain diversion may not be needed in the future, however some futures suggest that new transmountain diversions may be a necessary part of Colorado's water supply portfolio. Colorado's Water Plan does not include any specific transmountain water project, but it does discuss how we can move forward with this option should it be needed. The Conceptual Framework and related chapter were updated based on the draft that reached consensus at the IBCC and accepted by each basin roundtable.

13. Does Colorado’s Water Plan do away with the Prior Appropriation Doctrine or the status of water as a private property right?

No. These principles are fundamental to Colorado water administration and law and Colorado’s Water Plan requires them to succeed.

14. Does Colorado's Water Plan mandate land use policies for local government and planning agencies?

No. Land use is governed at the local level and Colorado’s Water Plan will not change that. There may are opportunities, however, where the state can provide incentives or benefits to encourage development to occur in a way that maximizes water efficiency and conservation. Colorado’s Water Plan sets a measurable objective that by 2025, 75 percent of Coloradans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning. Incentivizing development that is more water-sustainable is one of our tools that can help ensure that Colorado enjoys a secure water future.

15. Did the recent mine drainage issues on the Animas River change Colorado’s Water Plan?

Yes. Additional actions were added to Section 7.3 to address mining issues.

16. Does Colorado's Water Plan address the permanent ‘buy and dry’ of irrigated agricultural water rights?

Currently, allowing irrigated agricultural lands to permanently dry up is the only option for agricultural producers who are not able to continue their agricultural practices. Colorado’s Water Plan sets an objective that agricultural economic productivity will keep pace with growing state, national, and global needs, even if some acres go out of production. To achieve this objective, the State will work closely with the agricultural community, in the same collaborative manner that has produced agricultural transfer pilot projects, to share at least 50,000 acre-feet of agricultural water using voluntary alternative transfer methods by 2030. To assist this objective, Colorado’s Water Plan has several actions that support additional options for agricultural producers and municipalities so that they may better share agricultural water and make these transactions at least as easy, if not easier, than the traditional form of changing an agricultural water right to a municipal one.

17. Will future transfers between water sectors take place?

It will continue to be legal to transfer water between sectors in Colorado.

18. How was the public involved in the development of Colorado’s Water Plan? 

As the Governor made clear in his Executive Order, Colorado’s Water Plan must reflect the values and priorities of Coloradans. Comments received from the public and interested stakeholders shaped every single chapter and section of Colorado’s Water Plan throughout the development process. Members of CWCB’s staff read input the public submitted by email to cowaterplan@state.co.us or through the web form on Colorado’s Water Plan website. CWCB staff members then identified which section of Colorado’s Water Plan each comment addressed, incorporated where appropriate, and drafted a tailored response. CWCB cataloged all input and presented it at the subsequent CWCB board meeting, as well as posted it to www.coloradowaterplan.com under the “Get Involved” tab on the “Record of Input Received to Date” page. CWCB staff members considered public input as they prepared each draft of Colorado’s Water Plan and the final plan. The final public comment period ended September 17, 2015

19. What if I have questions or comments about Colorado’s Water Plan? 

You can find more information on the new Colorado’s Water Plan webpage at www.coloradowaterplan.com.  A calendar of events related to Colorado’s Water Plan is posted on the website. If you have additional questions, feel free to send us an email at cowaterplan@state.co.us. You can also find Colorado’s Water Plan on Facebook and follow @COWaterPlan on Twitter for current updates and information.