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Colorado State Publications Blog

Resources on Colorado’s Groundwater

Water is our state’s most important natural resource, and therefore the State of Colorado has published numerous resources on its use. One of the types of water used in Colorado is groundwater, which the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) defines as “water that occupies the pore spaces or crevices or fractures within soil or rock.” Colorado’s aquifer systems are used for storing groundwater, which the CGS says is used as the sole source of potable water in nineteen Colorado counties.

Our library collection includes numerous reports on Colorado groundwater; search our online catalog for titles. A few of the highlights include:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Ute Indian Water Rights

Animas-La Plata Project

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the federal government’s passage of the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 1988. Three years prior, in 1985, the US government, the State of Colorado, and Colorado’s two Ute tribes began negotiating for water rights for Colorado’s two Ute reservations in the southwest corner of the state. Colorado’s Ben Nighthorse Campbell sponsored the 1988 act in Congress. With the passage of the act, the Utes’ rights to surface streams and tributary groundwater on the reservations were upheld. Amendments in 2000 allowed for the construction of the Animas-La Plata water project, which had first been planned for the area in 1956.

In the years leading up to the 1988 act, the State of Colorado published several studies on the area watersheds and the Utes’ tribal water rights. These studies include:

along with several other reports for nearby watersheds. Search our library’s digital repository for more studies. Also in our library you can find the 2001 publication How Well Do You Know Your Water Well?: Groundwater and Water Wells in Southwest Colorado, which was prepared in cooperation with the Southern Ute tribe.

The Animas-La Plata project was not completed until 2013. To learn more, see:

At our library you can also view a 1988 geotechnical map of the project.

For the history of Colorado’s Ute tribes and reservations, see Southern Ute Lands, 1848-1899: The Creation of a Reservation and The Last War Trail: The Utes and the Settlement of Colorado, available for checkout from our library; and Ute Tribal Paths, an online exhibit from History Colorado. For additional resources, search our library’s online catalog. Finally, for background on tribal water rights – although predating the 1988 act – see the publication Indian Water Rights in the West: A Study (1983).

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Water and Growth

In 1999 the Colorado Legislative Council published an Issue Brief entitled Finding Water for One Million New Residents. It reported that in 20 years the population of the Northern Front Range – including the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, and Larimer – would grow to 3.5 million people, and that one of the major issues associated with this population growth would be how to supply water to all the new people moving in.

So before we get to the water issue, let’s take a look at the population figures. Were the 1999 predictions accurate?  Using population figures from the State Demography Office, we can see that in 1999 the combined population of those six counties was 2,311,420, and their combined population in 2016 (the most recent year available) was 3,066,923 – a difference of 755,503. Not quite a million. However, given the intense growth that has happened since 2016, if we look at the Demography Office’s projected populations for those counties in 2019 – the 20 years since publication of the Issue Brief – the six counties’ combined population is expected to be around 3,217,133. That’s 905,713 more people in the Front Range than in 1999. And if we count Boulder and Broomfield counties into the mix – which were not counted in the 1999 report, but today considered by most to be a part of the Front Range – we’re definitely on track to have a million new residents between 1999 and 2019.

Now to the water issue. David Beaujon writes in the 1999 Issue Brief that “of Colorado’s seven river basins, only the Colorado River Basin has a significant amount of surplus water that could be developed for use in the Denver metropolitan area,” but cites possible federal policy changes, water projects, and transbasin diversions as potential challenges to obtaining this water. Another possible source, the Denver Basin Aquifer, “offers protection against extended droughts and a temporary water supply for rapidly growing municipalities until other supplies can be developed.” However, water in the aquifer “is essentially nonrenewable, and well pumping can exceed the natural rate of recharge from rain and snow, which is often less than an inch per year,” cautions Beaujon. Finally, other options are discussed, such as water reuse and transfers of agricultural water rights. Both of these options, however, present challenges to the agricultural economy, either by reducing the amount of lands under irrigation, or by reducing streamflow, explains the Brief.

Colorado's Water PlanSo how has the state dealt with these challenges since 1999, and what does the future hold? In 2015, the state issued its official Water Plan. The nearly 600-page document (which you can also check out in print from our library if your eyes can’t take that much screen reading) discusses the supply and demand challenges for each of Colorado’s seven basins and how the state is planning to address future need.

Here are some other helpful publications that address the issues of water supply and population growth in the Front Range:

 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: "Mineral and Water Resources of Colorado," 1968

Fifty years ago Colorado’s two U.S. Senators, Gordon Allott and Peter Dominick, requested the State of Colorado and the U.S. Geological Survey to publish Mineral and Water Resources of Colorado“The importance of both of these vital resources to the economic well-being of Colorado cannot be overestimated,” Allott wrote in the report’s foreword.  “I requested its preparation for the purpose of making the significant data concerning Colorado’s mineral and water resources widely available to all.” Today, the report continues to be available to all, since it can now be read in digital format courtesy of our library.

Colorado Governor John Love, another sponsor of the report, wrote that “In offering this report to the citizens of Colorado, it is hoped that the report will be used as a quick reference for reliable information, and encourage greater development of our mineral and water resources.” This fervor for development of natural resources was challenged during the next few years as the environmental movement took hold. Candidates sensitive to environmental issues defeated both Allott and Dominick in the early 1970s.

A half a century later the report, prepared in cooperation by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Colorado Mining Industrial Development Board, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board remains a valuable reference listing out the natural resources of Colorado – the state’s geology and topography; the types of minerals that exist in the state; a history of oil and gas exploration; and more. The report is also an important primary source document regarding the history of natural resource development in Colorado. For numerous other documents on the history of Colorado’s natural resources, their development, and their conservation, search our library’s online catalog.

  

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Colorado State Publications Blog

What's In Your Drinking Water?

May 6-12, 2018 is National Drinking Water Week.  From lead to fluoride, from private wells to public water systems, there are many consumer issues related to the water you drink.  If you are interested in learning about drinking water in Colorado, start with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s Drinking Water: Consumer Information webpage.  Here you can find links to information about how drinking water is treated, regulated and tested, and what substances can be found in your water.  For more resources, search our library’s online catalog

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Citizen Science

Colorado State University’s Natural Resources Economy Lab (NREL), along with several other partners, has developed CitSci.org, a site where everyday citizens can go to contribute data and scientific research.  Using the site, researchers can create a project, collect data, and view the results.  For instance, one of the site’s projects is a the “Front Range Pika Project,” where volunteers log photos and data on sightings of this endangered mountain critter. Other projects include tree species mapping, water data, birdwatching observations, invasive species monitoring, beaver sightings, butterfly-plant interactions, an amphibian survey, and much more.  You can log in to volunteer for any of the projects, or access the data to learn about the natural environment in Colorado and other states.

CSU also sponsors another, separate but also citizen-driven scientific data collection site, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, or CoCoRAHS.  As suggested in its name, this site relies on citizen volunteers to collect meteorological data.  You can use their site to find maps and data on precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, and climate.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Parshall Flume

Water is a precious resource in Colorado, so its use and conservation have been extensively studied by scientists throughout Colorado history.  One of the best known scientists to study Colorado water was Ralph Parshall, who developed the Parshall Flume.

The Parshall Flume is “a device that, when placed in a channel, measures the flow of the water as it uniquely relates to water depth. Today, the Parshall Flume is still widely used to help gain more accurate measurements of water flow,” according to information in Colorado State University’s Water Resources Archive. Parshall conducted much of his hydrology research as a member of CSU’s faculty in the first half of the 20th century.  The Water Resources Archive has created an online exhibit about Parshall and the development of his flume.  Items in the exhibit include photos, drawings, and patents.

Parshall developed his flume as a modification of the Venturi Flume.  In the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s Parshall authored several publications about the flumes and their development.  These publications have been digitized and are available online from our library:

Parshall Flumes are still in use today.  See the State Engineer’s Office’s publication Parshall Flume: Instructions for Installation and Table of Discharge for more current technical information.

Ralph Parshall taking flume measurements in 1946.  Photo courtesy Colorado State University Water Resources Archive.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Water Study 1978

The 1970s were times of major growth in Colorado, and with it came an increased concern over the conservation of natural resources, as evidenced by Colorado voters’ rejection of the 1976 Olympics.  The natural resource that became the State of Colorado’s biggest conservation priority was water, and in 1978 Colorado conducted a major water study, the reports of which have been made available online by our library.  The Colorado Water Study:  Directions for the Future included an initial introductory volume, followed later by a nearly-800 page Legal Studies volume.  The study examined Colorado water rights, public interest, future demand, and conservation.  The 1978 study was followed up a year later with Water and Growth:  An Inquiry into the Potential Impact of Municipal Water Use Restrictions Upon Future Growth of the Colorado Front Range Urban Corridor, which is available for checkout from our library.

How much has changed in nearly 40 years?  An analysis can be made by comparing these documents with the major Colorado Water Plan issued in 2015, as well as other state documents produced in the intervening decades.  Because water is such an important issue in Colorado, our library contains hundreds of studies on our state’s water resources, which you can find using our library’s online catalog.  Some of the other studies from the 1970s era of growth, also available online, include:

The challenge of water and growth was not limited to the 1970s, of course; see 1999’s Finding Water for One Million New Residents and 2001’s Water and Growth in Colorado.  The information in these reports can be helpful for planning for the future now that Colorado is in the midst of another population boom.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Arkansas River Compact

The Arkansas River Compact is an agreement between the states of Colorado and Kansas to avoid disputes over water usage rights and to “equitably divide and apportion” the waters between the two states.  The agreement, signed in 1948, further specifies the use of the waters in John Martin Reservoir.  You can read a copy of the compact at the Colorado Division of Water Resources website, along with other compact documents.

After the compact was negotiated and signed by the compact commissioners in 1948, they forwarded their recommendations to the governors and legislatures of the two states for review ratification.  Our library has digitized the report sent to the Colorado lawmakers, which you can read here.  The commission included nine members, four from each state along with a federal representative, Gen. Hans Kramer, a retired Army Corps of Engineers Officer, to serve as chair. (Read President Truman’s letter appointing Gen. Kramer to head the compact negotiations here.)  Colorado’s representatives included former state Attorney General Gail Ireland; Charles Patterson of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Henry C. Vidal; and Harry B. Mendenhall.  The Colorado and Kansas legislatures approved the compact in 1949 and on May 13 of that year, it was approved by Congress.

The need for the Arkansas River Compact came after a long history of disputes and lawsuits between the two states.  The Colorado Water Conservation Board has put together a helpful timeline of the events leading up to the development of the compact.

For further resources on the Arkansas River, interbasin compacts, and water usage rights in Colorado, search our library’s online catalog.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Protecting Colorado's Groundwater

Pesticides and chemicals can have an unhealthy effect on groundwater, so the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado State University, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have teamed up “to protect groundwater and the environment from impairment or degredation due to the improper use of agricultural chemicals while allowing their proper and correct use.”

For further information, check out the program’s website, including reports and information on current investigations.  You can also find numerous reports on the topic available from our library, including

Search our library’s web catalog for additional reports.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Public Opinion on Water Quality

This week we’re only going back a decade, to 2007, but a lot has changed in ten years concerning today’s topic.

A decade ago, the State of Colorado’s Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) issued a report entitled Public Opinions on Water Quality Issues, which you can read online courtesy of our library.  The report contained the results of a statewide survey on water and environmental issues.  Recall, however, that in the decade since this report was published we have experienced events such as the Flint, Michigan water crisis, Colorado’s 2013 floods, the 2015 Animas River spill, and increased interest in fracking, all of which may have caused opinions to change.  For instance, according to the 2007 report, just 71{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of Coloradans surveyed reported that “the impact on public health is a very motivating reason to improve water quality.”  Further, 93{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of Coloradans believed their home drinking water was safe. 

How did opinion change over the decade?  In 2014, the WQCD issued a follow-up report that showed some moderately increased concern, although the percentage of respondents who believed their home drinking water to be safe only decreased from 93{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} to 90{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} (remember, the Flint crisis was just beginning in 2014).  However, the 2014 follow-up survey did show that water pollution had replaced air pollution as Coloradans’ top environmental concern.* 

Now, three years have passed since the follow-up survey.  Have recent events caused more concern in Coloradans?  Or have state and local governments’ recent efforts to improve water quality helped to bring back water users’ confidence? We’ll have to stay tuned for the next survey.

For many, many more reports and resources on water quality and other environmental issues in Colorado, search our library’s online catalog

*Survey respondents were asked to rate the following environmental concerns:  water pollution, air pollution, climate change, habitat loss, and threatened/endangered species.  In 2007, air pollution and water pollution were nearly tied, with 35{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of respondents rating air pollution as the top concern while 34{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} chose water pollution.  By 2014, the number of respondents rating water pollution as the top concern jumped to 42{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5}, while air pollution trailed in a distant second at 21{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5}.  The numbers for the other three concerns remained relatively stable.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Leadville Metals Exposure Study

Leadville is one of Colorado’s most historic mountain towns.  Though a small mountain town today, in the 1870s and 1880s Leadville rivaled Denver for the state’s most prestigious city and many millionaires were made through Leadville’s silver mines.  Following the Crash of 1893, most of Leadville’s silver mines were abandoned, although other mining activities such as molybdenum mining did continue in Leadville through the twentieth century.
Because of the sheer volume of mining near Leadville, the entire town is included in the 18-square-mile California Gulch superfund site.  While much of the site has been cleaned up, there is still continual monitoring of the site and cleanup of some areas is still ongoing.  Much of the cleanup work began after the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and federal partners undertook a major study of the area in 1990.
The Leadville Metals Exposure Study, available digitally from our library, reported that “soil surveys done in connection with a remedial investigation of [the site] found elevated levels of lead (Pb), arsenic (As), and Cadmium (Cd) in surface soils in residential areas.  A study of heavy metal exposure to individuals living in Leadville, Colorado is described in this report.”  The report especially focused on the exposure of children to toxic lead.  “Studies have linked lead in the blood of children to lead in dust on children’s hands to lead in floor and sill dust in houses and to lead in the soil outside the children’s houses.”  The study presents detailed data on the lead exposure to humans in Leadville, including comparisons to other places in the United States.
The following year, another study, this one by the Colorado Water Resources Research Institute at Colorado State University, measured the effects of the metal contamination on the water quality in the California Gulch site.  Entitled Fate and Effects of Heavy Metals on the Arkansas River, this publication is also available online from our library.
Twenty-five years later, the site is still undergoing remediation.  The EPA website reports that the “human exposure status” is still “not under control,” although the “contaminated ground water status” has been controlled.  For more documents relating to mining, hazardous waste, and public health, search our library’s online catalog.

The effects of mining are visible in this EPA photo of the California Gulch superfund site.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Water Law for Non-Lawyers

One of the most frequently checked-out books in our library’s collection is Colorado Water Law for Non-Lawyers, by P. Andrew Jones and Tom Cech (University Press of Colorado, 2009).  As implied in the title, it provides a succinct, easy-to-understand overview of Colorado’s complex water laws.  “Drawing on geography and history, the authors explore the flashpoints and water wars that have shaped Colorado’s present system of water allocation and management.  They also address how this system, developed in the mid-1800s, is standing up to current tests…”  —from the publisher

You can find many, many resources on water and water law in our library’s collection, including this and other books from the University Press, as well as from Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute; the Colorado Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Water Resources and Colorado Water Conservation Board; the University of Colorado’s Natural Resources Law Center; the Colorado Attorney General; and many more.  Search our library’s web catalog for resources. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Protect Yourself from Lead in Water

If you live in an older home, your water pipes may be made of lead, which is associated with significant health risks.  In response to the Flint, Michigan controversy, Denver Water has been testing older homes and replacing lead pipes with copper (see news story).  Other municipalities and water districts also have lead abatement programs and testing; check with your town or city to find out more.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which has numerous resources on lead abatement, publishes a Lead Services Directory which you can use to find information on your specific county/municipality or to find a professional who can test for or replace lead pipes.

CDPHE also publishes a number of other resources that property owners may find helpful — not only regarding lead in water, but also lead paint, contaminated soil, and other sources of lead.  See their Lead webpage for resources on the topics lead and your health; lead-based paint; lead in drinking water; working with or around lead; and lead waste management.  You can find additional resources by searching the keyword “lead” in our library’s online catalog

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Filing for Water Rights

In 1903 Colorado passed a law requiring

…every person, association or corporation hereafter constructing or enlarging any reservoir or reservoirs, constructing, changing the location of, or enlarging any ditch, canal, or feeder for any ditch or reservoir, for the purpose of furnishing a supply of water for domestic, irrigation, power or storage, or for any other beneficial use, taking water from any natural stream, shall, within sixty days after the commencement of such construction, change of location or enlargement, make filings in the office of the State Engineer for each specific claim in such form as shall seem sufficient and satisfactory to the State Engineer.

Three years later, the State Engineer’s office published a booklet explaining the requirements for filing maps and statements under the 1903 law.  This publication, available in digital format, explains in detail all of the specific requirements for maps, including size, scale, type of paper, and even type of ink (it had to be waterproof).  It then explains how the map should be titled, and information it should include — such as locations of headgates, ditch depth, carrying capacity, estimated construction cost, and the claimant’s signature.  Then, it gives the form for a statement which must be submitted with the map.

This publication can be very helpful to researchers who are looking at century-old filing maps, as a key to the information they provide.  It is also a valuable look at policies and procedures for establishing water rights in the early twentieth century.  For more publications on water rights, search our library’s web catalog.

An early-1900s view of De Weese Reservoir, Sangre de Cristo Range, Colorado


Photo courtesy Denver Public Library

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Water Law and Water Rights

Navigating through the complex water laws of our state can be a challenge.  However, our library can help.  Our collection contains a number of publications that can help Coloradans understand water law and water rights in our state:

This is just a sampling of the hundreds of documents in our collection relating to water law and water rights in our state.  Search our library’s web catalog for additional publications and resources.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Water Resources Archive

Water and the issues surrounding it — water rights, drought and climate, flooding, availability, etc. — is an important topic in our state where this diminishing resource must be found for millions of residents.  Colorado State University Libraries and the Colorado Water Institute have put together a Water Resources Archive that includes thousands of resources, both current and historical, regarding water in our state.  The site includes numerous digital objects including studies, reports, and theses and dissertations, but also includes some valuable historical content such as online exhibits, photographs, and, most recently, a collection of oral histories about the 2013 northern Colorado floods

This digital archive is a great place to start if you are researching water issues in Colorado — but also be sure to check out the State Publications Library’s resources, which also offers numerous reports and studies on water through our digital repository.  Our library also offers a large collection of print documents — search our online catalog for these as well as links to online serials and other documents.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Drought in Colorado, 1990

Back in 1990 Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Resources Research Institute (today known as the Colorado Water Institute) published a basic guidebook on drought in Colorado:

Water is very important to Colorado.  Because of its fickle climate, the state is subject to drought.  This brochure was prepared to explain why this subject is important, where Colorado’s water comes from, how it is managed, and what Colorado is doing to best deal with drought.  —abstract

Despite the passage of a quarter century most of the information in this booklet is still highly relevant as Colorado’s climate swings from extreme to extreme — this year saw one of our rainiest springs change into one of our dryest late-summers.  Other resources on drought available from our library include:

Search terms such as “drought,” “climate,” or “water” in our library’s web catalog for numerous other resources from various state agencies including CSU, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Division of Water Resources, and many others. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

More Information on the Animas River Spill

The State of Colorado has set up several new information sites where you can find out what is happening with the Animas River/Gold King Mine release.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a new webpage which includes up-to-date information on public meetings, water sampling and data, frequently asked questions, health recommendations, and GIS data.  Further, the Gold King Mine Release Unified Command Joint Information Center has started a blog that has current information on the status of the spill and any associated health risks.  Blog posts answer such questions as how the spill affects wildlife, and whether you can eat the fish caught in the Animas River. Check out these two resources for the most current information on the situation.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Animas River Spill Situation

Yesterday the governor issued an Executive Order declaring a disaster emergency for the release of toxic chemicals from the Gold King Mine into southwest Colorado’s Animas River.  The accidental spill by the EPA caused the river to turn an orangey-yellow, shutting down the river to tourists and potentially impacting the river’s aquatic species.  Further information on the spill is available from the Colorado Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management.

Our library collection contains several helpful resources on the impact of mine contaminants on water.  The following items are available for checkout:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Water Plan

The State of Colorado is currently engaged in the development of “Colorado’s Water Plan.”  The plan’s official website, coloradowaterplan.com, offers the following explanation of the plan’s goals and purposes:

This plan offers a strategic vision:  a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, productive agriculture, a strong environment, and a robust recreation industry. How can we achieve this vision for Colorado water? This plan provides the strategies, policies, and actions by which Colorado can address its projected future needs in a manner consistent with this vision. This plan will be accomplished through collaboration with basin roundtables, local governments, water providers, and other stakeholders. It represents a set of collaboratively developed policies and actions that all Coloradans and their elected officials can support and to which they can adhere. 

On July 15 a new draft of the plan will be available for public comment.  Visit the website now to read the plan as it as has been drafted so far, and check back on the 15th for the next draft.  Information on submitting comments can be found on the website.  On the site you can also find a calendar of important dates, Twitter feeds, podcasts, river basin information, and other states’ water plans.  For more resources on water in Colorado, search our library’s online catalog.