Attendees at the final lecture, Reaching For Common Ground: Sharing Perspectives & Possible Solutions for Regional Water Supply Challenges, in the series Wringing Water from the Rocks, were treated to a recap of the first four lectures along with some new ideas that had not been mentioned before. We also witnessed a bit of the rancor that exists between the players in the Front Range water world (along with a bit of desperation from those depending on the Denver Basin aquifers).
The President and CEO of the Museum of Nature and Science, George Sparks, started out the evening by saying that he and his staff strive to do good science. He then introduced Mayor Hickenlooper.
The Mayor stated that when he was thinking of running for office he looked around and saw that Denver was at odds with most of the other municipalities in the metro area as well as with the Western Slope. Since Denver is competing for talent and industry on a worldwide basis he thought that the entire metro area needed a greater sense of urgency for cooperation. He called infrastructure the "skeleton of collaboration" and noted that Denver's success is intrinsically tied to the entire region, including the Western Slope. The mission then is to find sustainable water supplies while at the same time protecting the unique heritage of Colorado. The Mayor spoke of the West Slope as providing "world class recreation and world class animal habitat."
Mayor Hickenlooper mentioned that Denver Water had become a "fair witness" and "instigator of collaboration" in the region.
Next up was Ken Wright the sponsor of the series. He introduced environmental consultant Dan Luecke.
Mr. Luecke poured a glass of water saying, "Make sure you take some Denver water when it's available." He read from a Wallace Stegner work dealing with aridity and how that shapes the character of the West. He mentioned that some of the water problems in the West come from the, "capricious overlay of political boundaries."
Next Dr. Bob Raynolds gave us short recap of the other four sessions in the series. His slides included a map of the major river systems in Colorado, the sources of water for the Front Range along with highlighting the troubles to come for the communities south of the metro area that depend on ground water.
Next up was the panel discussion with Chips Barry (Denver Water), Peter Binney (Aurora Utilities), Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs, Dan Luecke, Eric Kuhn (Colorado River Water Conservation District), Steve Boand (Douglas County Commissioner) and Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation). All of the panel members gave a short intro and named future goals or efforts.
Chips Barry told the attendees that unpredictability in water supply had become his primary worry. He thinks that global warming is causing a change in precipitation patterns. He wants Colorado to look at efficiency statewide, find a way to preserve agriculture and open up Green Mountain Reservoir to help with Front Range water needs.
Peter Binney recommends more construction of dams on the West Slope and on the plains. He, of course, stresses conservation. He says that the West is at a "cross over point for water management."
Justice Hobbs' recommendations centered on consolidation of the smaller districts so that planning can take place regionally, including smart growth. The courts can only take one case at a time so the real work must be done by, "settlement and cooperation." It should be noted that later during the Q&A Chips Barry said he was in favor of a Greater Metro Denver Water Board.
Dan Luecke thinks that all the big supply systems need to be tied together. The movement of agricultural water will happen - the economic forces are "unstoppable and irreversible."
Eric Kuhn reminded the audience that Colorado's water problems are largely a Front Range problem. He says that from his perspective the, "situation over here looks unstable." He recommends conversion of agricultural water, conservation and reuse and possible new diversions of West Slope water in the future.
Frank Jaeger is hoping (tongue-in-cheek) that Denver Water will, "come down and take care of us." He reiterated the successes he's had in Logan County.
This series was well attended and the audience asked great questions. Coyote Gulch wants to thank Beth Conover, Mayor Hickenlooper, Ken Wright and the museum for putting on the show.
Here's the Coyote Gulch coverage of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
Category: Colorado Water