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Conservation Colorado Thanks Drought Task Force, Calls for More Action

DENVER — Conservation Colorado thanks Speaker Julie McCluskie and Senator Dylan Roberts for establishing the Colorado River Drought Task Force, and acknowledges the time and effort that the diverse panel of water users, providers and experts put into it. Meeting after meeting, people across Colorado spoke loudly and clearly that we need action to protect our rivers’ health and prevent future water shortages. The task force is recommending an important measure that will benefit the environment and help support healthy rivers.

“While we saw some good ideas come forward, and the task force passed an important policy to increase resilience to drought, unfortunately the final recommendations simply do not meet the urgency the moment requires – the impacts of prolonged drought conditions are real, and they are impacting Coloradans right now. More must be done to tackle the imminent threat all Coloradans face from drought and a changing climate. We strongly encourage the legislature to adopt the measures as approved by the Task Force, but also to reach further to protect our rivers and create a more secure water future,” said Kelly Nordini, Conservation Colorado’s CEO.

The drought task force included a key recommendation to protect the environment and increase resilience to drought: enhancement of the environmental instream flow program. This will be an important step toward boosting river flows in times of drought to avoid fish kills and benefit the environment.

Additionally, several important policy ideas came forward in the task force, including protecting water for interstate legal obligations and recommendations that would create the framework for a conservation program to reduce water usage, both of which deserve more time and consideration as they could have very positive benefits for Colorado.

Recent polling by Conservation Colorado found that nearly 80% of voters agree that Colorado needs more aggressive action to address the threat of drought and 76% believe that their state legislator should support strong action to conserve water and protect Colorado from drought.

Persistent drought conditions and growing water usage are putting Colorado on the verge of a water crisis – less water means fewer recreational opportunities, increased challenges for farmers and ranchers and potentially devastating impacts to fish and wildlife habitats.

  • Despite this being a wet year, Colorado is still in the midst of the worst historical drought that we’ve seen in 1,200 years.
  • This past July was the hottest in recorded history and a hotter, drier future poses real threats to everyone in Colorado.
  • The average flow of the Colorado River has declined 20% over the last
    20 years.
  • Demand for water from the Colorado River already exceeds the supply, and river
    flows are expected to decline another 20-30% over the next 30 years.
  • Healthy rivers support healthy farms, are the source for clean drinking water and support an outdoor recreation industry that helps drive our economy by employing nearly 131,000 people.
  • If we do nothing, our $47 billion agriculture industry, $19 billion outdoor recreation
    industry and the hundreds of thousands of hardworking Coloradans who are employed in both of those industries will all be put in jeopardy.