Water Workshop 2005

 Conference Addresses


compiled from the Water Workshop “Test Run”
of the HB1177 Roundtable Process

Friday, July 29, more than 200 Colorado water leaders and interested citizens participated in a “test run” of the HB1177 Roundtable Process at Western State College's 30 th Water Workshop in Gunnison. Russell George, Executive Director of Colorado 's Department of Natural Resources, and now the Director of the Interbasin Compact Committee, led the exercise, with background presentations by Rick Brown, Director of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative/Investigation, and professional facilitator MaryLou Smith of Aqua Engineering in Ft. Collins .

For the “test run,” the participants broke into Roundtable-size groups (around 30) and spent an hour discussing a hypothetical “situation” for a Colorado river basin that is anticipating an invitation to the “Interbasin Compact Negotiation” committee concerning another basin's desire to divert some of its water. They were asked to follow a process outlined by Delph Carpenter , Colorado 's legendary interstate compact negotiator – a process that basically asks people to work back from their own consensual vision of where they would like for their community(ies) to be at the end of some time frame. These questions were used to guide the discussion:

1) What outcomes, end result or vision do we want for our basin in 2030?

2) What do we have, and what do we lack, for achieving our end result/vision?

3) What would we have to give up to get what we lack to achieve our end result/vision?

4) Are we willing to give up that much, or do we need to modify our end result/vision?

Following an hour of discussion guided by those questions, the groups were asked to analyze their own efforts – what problems they found, and how they thought those problems might be dealt with my basin roundtables applying this process. On the positive side, most individuals, even some who came skeptically, found the exercise interesting and full of potential for inserting a more creative and potentially fruitful step into the existing water righting process. But several significant challenges were obvious.

These are the major lessons suggested by that exercise:

A good clear set of ground rules for guiding the discourse needs to be developed, adopted, and adhered to from the start. Who gets to speak, and how often and at what length? How can the participation of every member be ensured? The ideal of hearing everyone's vision was balanced by the awareness that some people are shy by nature, and that some participants will bring a potentially intimidating level of expertise to the table. And is it possible, or even desirable, to maintain a civility to the discourse? (Or is it good to get the “venting” out on the table too?)

A professional facilitator may be necessary, at least for the initial stages of Roundtable work. Just adhering to the ground rules, and keeping the group focused and on task may require the skills – and objective distance – of a professional. This need especially arises given the size of the Roundtable groups, and the “us vs. them” attitudes that have prevailed in water issues historically. Does the HB1177 allocation afford this? Should the entities represented on the Roundtables be asked to contribute to such expenses? (over)

An imposingly large base of reliable, trusted information is absolutely necessary – both background information inhering or instilled in the individuals on the Roundtable, and current information for all the members to work with in common. Do all Roundtable members really understand the body of water law that has to be foundational to all their ideas and suggestions for equitable water use? Is the SWSI information base adequate for supporting local and regional water decisions? Is it trusted?

It is difficult to separate water issues from other issues, especially in trying to develop a common vision for the future. John Gunther's statement, “In the West, touch water and you touch all” haunted the Roundtable trial runs. How do you consider water needs for an envisioned future without getting deeply into population and growth issues, land use issues, the values associated with different water uses, and the like. To a certain extent, Carpenter's process appears to require a well developed regional vision that goes well beyond specific water issues. How should the groups maintain a focus on water while trying to create a vision for where they want to be a quarter century down the road?

Don't expect quick results. Two big “learning processes” are involved: 1) learning how to work together as a large group on historically contentious issues, and 2) learning everything that needs to be known about a basin's water resources as well as the existing procedures and laws for allocating and using those resources. Both will take time.

Creation of Roundtable subcommittees may be necessary to take on aspects of the information-gathering. The Roundtables will probably need to develop smaller groups with expertise in certain areas, not only for initial information-assembly but for subsequent updates of information.

Some effort should be made to have all Roundtables “on the same page,” both in terms of operating models, and in terms of a common set of basic data about water resources across the state. Should all the Roundtables use similar methods for decision-making (i.e., simple majority versus consensus)? Can the process work at all if different Roundtables have different data about, say, the amount of potentially unappropriated water in any basin, or about the potential for water conservation in a basin? And who will be trusted to put together an acceptable set of basic data for all the Roundtables to work with?

Barry, Chips


Chips Barry, Manager, Denver Water
30 th Colorado Water Workshop, July 28, 2005


George Sibley and I had a short exchange over the topic and title for this presentation. I told him to choose any suitable title and I would either make it fit, or make fun of it. I guess I'm going to do a bit of both.

When you have only one eye, typos appear more frequently. Actually, they are often not typos, but just visual misperceptions. When I first saw the proposed title here, I thought it was "The Manuring Metropolis". I thought that was a bit over the top, even for someone from the West Slope. I was preparing to talk about e-coli, and water quality problems in general, when I realized that I failed to see the "t" in maturing, and my eye put an "n" in its place.

Now that I know the topic is "The Maturing Metropolis", we can proceed to discuss at the outset the perceived difference between "maturation" and "aging". In my vernacular, maturation means a slow process of acquiring wisdom and understanding; aging reflects decreasing functionality and a rigid approach. Obviously, as one grows older, we would prefer to mature, as oppose to age.

I'd like to think that Denver Water is a maturing institution, and that the Denver Metropolitan area is, as George suggests, a maturing metropolis. My purpose today is an attempt to demonstrate that maturation by looking back - and looking forward - at water development efforts for the Denver Metropolitan area.


The internet has made the dissemination of humor nearly instantaneous, and certainly ubiquitous. Thus, I assume most of you have seen an amusing little chart that describes conditions, "then" and "now". A couple of examples:

  • Then "hoping for a BMW"; now, "hoping for a B M".
  • Then "looking for a new hip joint "; now, "looking for a new hip joint"

In an effort to catch your attention, I'm going to try to do the same thing with water development, as an introduction to the contrast between conditions in 1976 when this conference first began, and 2005:

  • Then, "water development"; now, "the water development process".
  • Then, "land survey stake"; now, "stakeholders".
  • Then "trash fish"; now, "endangered fish".
  • Then "1040 (as in IRS form)"; now "1041 permits".
  • Then "firm water yield"; now, "Yield!"
  • Then, "potentially dry streambeds"; now, "minimum stream flows".
  • Then "compact cars"; now, "compact issues".
  • Then "Freida Poundstone"; now, "Paula Poundstone".

I'm sure this list could go on in a more amusing and clever fashion than I have presented. The point is that the environment for water development is now very different than conditions 25 or 30 years ago.

In the late 1970s, when the real planning for Two Forks began, "water conservation" still meant for most of Denver Water the construction of water storage reservoirs. We had not yet metered all our customers, although meters were required for new construction beginning in 1957. We sold water on a flat rate basis, and tap fees for new hookups had only been in place for about five years. Although the Poundstone Amendment limiting Denver 's annexation authority was passed in 1974, Denver Water believed its system was still the keystone for Front Range water supplies. Denver Water had absolute water rights, and numerous conditional water rights yet to be developed. There was plenty of water on the West Slope to be appropriated and developed. From 1910 through the mid 1970s at least, the water development paradigm was more or less as follows:

  • File on as many water rights at you could in a variety of locations;
  • Design storage projects to store the water for which you had rights; don't tell anyone else what you are doing, and certainly don't cooperate.
  • As demand grows, bring additional storage projects on line to meet that demand. Keep your hydrology data and your water rights data as secret as you possibly can.
  • Develop your system in isolation from others and defend it against any attack; and attack other systems whose projects, storage, water rights, return flows, etc. might adversely affect your yield.

All this helped to set the scene for the drama of Two Forks. Denver Water proceeded down the Two Forks development path without fully understanding that the rules, perceptions and paradigm had changed.

Although in retrospect it seems clear that Denver Water did not fully understand how things had changed by the mid 1980s, it is also clear that the proposal to build Two Forks did not follow the historic Denver Water model. All previous ten Denver Water Board reservoirs had been built without great fanfare, little study of alternatives, no participation of others, and few compromises. Denver was accustomed to a "design it, finance it, and build it approach".

From the outset, the Two Forks project was different. In one sense, it was not designed as a water storage project, but as a catalyst for metropolitan government in the Denver area. The underlying assumption was that Denver would share its valuable senior water rights, and its extensive water treatment and distribution system with other metropolitan entities in return for their cooperation and participation in solving various metropolitan problems. For this reason, and because demand would develop over two decades, Denver envisioned Two Forks as a project with a 25-year "shelf life".

The project was unusual in other ways also. Denver accepted a compromise for environmental evaluation which was an unprecedented "system-wide" environmental impact analysis. The system-wide analysis was several times more extensive than a standard site specific EIS with which most project proponents are familiar. The system-wide EIS looked at all the alternatives for water supply development for the entire metropolitan Denver area, whether or not the area was to be served by the Denver Water Department or even by the participants in the Two Forks project. Denver Water also compromised its historic exclusivity, and granted partial ownership and control over the project to 42 suburban partners. Finally, contrary to historic Denver practice, the Water Board joined in landmark treaties with West Slope water users and agreed to provide certain benefits to the West Slope in return for support, (or at least neutrality) on the issuance of the Two Forks permit.

The point of all this is that while some may view the Two Forks project as the last and dying vestige of a "pour concrete" dam building mentality, Denver actually tried to do it differently. We didn't succeed, but we learned a lot in the process.


One of the things we learned in the Two Forks planning, EIS, and veto process, is that conflict surrounds most water development schemes in Colorado . We learned about the following conflicts.

  • Denver - with water rights - versus suburban entities, without the same kind or quality of rights. It could be argued that Denver acquired water rights in anticipation of annexation of additional territory. When the annexation was stopped by the Poundstone Amendment, the water rights stayed with Denver Water.
  • East Slope versus West Slope. This is of course the traditional Colorado water rivalry. Eighty percent of the water is on the West Slope, but 80 percent of the people are on the East Slope. This has meant diversions of water from the West Slope to the East, leaving those on the West Slope feeling ignored, deprived, or victimized. There may be a moral basis for complaint from those in the Basin of Origin , but under Colorado Water Law, there is no legal basis for complaint.
  • The environmental community versus the development community. This conflict illustrates a large divergence of values. The environmental community believes in conservation, limitations and controls on growth and "saving" rivers. The development community of course believes that economic health requires continued growth. Individual developers want a level playing field, in order that no other development or town has an advantage due to water supplies.
  • Fisherman versus "urban mowers". This is a conflict between trout on one hand, and bluegrass on the other; between the elite fly fisherman using the stream and Joe six-pack who is drinking it. Is the highest and best use of water to leave it in the stream for a fish, or divert it from the streams so grass, trees and flowers and people can flourish in an urban setting?
  • Colorado versus Nebraska . A great deal of noise was made about the alleged affect of the Two Forks dam on flows in the Platte River in central Nebraska . It was alleged that Two Forks would damage the habitat for endangered whooping cranes or for sand hill cranes that feed along the Platte in the spring. Denver had great difficulty in believing that Two Forks would have any affect 300 miles away in an area that is down stream from both Lake McConaughy , and the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers. Today, many in Nebraska acknowledge that Two Forks would have had little impact on Nebraska .
  • EPA versus the Corps of Engineers. The conflict between these two agencies became apparent when the Corps agreed to apply the public purpose standard after mitigating measures had been agreed to. EPA disagreed and alleged that the public purpose of the project should be measured prior to application of mitigating measures. I remain incredulous that this important disagreement did not surface until the Two Forks project came up for review.

Thus, we learned something about conflict, and I will talk later about our current proposals to minimize or mitigate conflict. But we learned some other things as well. Among them:

  • The idea of a water project as a metropolitan government catalyst was never appreciated by EPA or anyone outside the metropolitan area. This failure was certainly a major reason for the EPA veto.
  • On perhaps a related point, the jurisdictional boundaries between water entities in the Denver metropolitan area are invisible when viewed from Washington , D.C. Denver 's argument for reserving water supply to serve DIA, Lowry and the Central Platte Valley made no headway with those in Washington who viewed the entire area as homogeneous and without jurisdictional lines.
  • When EPA says "there are less environmental damaging practicable alternatives" they do not necessarily mean that any of those alternatives are actually permitable.
  • Big water storage dams are dead, at least until California , Texas , or Washington , D.C. needs one. California did get a big new water storage project, Riverside Reservoir, built with some difficulty and great expense, but it is off channel and no one, even in Washington , has ever questioned the need for additional water supply in Southern California .
  • There can be no water crisis until there is no water. This is consistent with the standard operating principles of American politics and crisis management.
  • The environmental community is technically and politically sophisticated. They raise good tough questions that developers and pro-growth advocates often cannot adequately answer.
  • Public values have changed in the last 25 years. The environmental fringe of 1968 is the environmental main stream of 2005. The public now appreciates and values water in the stream and no longer feels required to adhere to the age old western tradition about the necessity to divert water from the stream to have a "beneficial use".
  • Water conservation is a precondition to issuance of a permit for any project involving water.


I have tried to describe above the context and setting for Denver Water's application for a Two Forks permit in the 1980s, and the lessons learned from the subsequent veto of that project. From all of this is slowly developing a new paradigm for water development along the Front Range , at least as perceived by Denver Water. The essential features of this new paradigm are:

  • Cooperate rather than litigate. As a lawyer, I know that litigation has its place, but it is also a last resort. Rather than producing yield, litigation usually consumes money. Litigation begets polarization, and that makes cooperation and negotiation impossible. Obtaining more water for Front Range development does not have to begin in an adversarial mode. For utility managers, litigation is an easy, but wrong approach. Cooperation takes a lot of work.
  • Share your hydrology data rather than hide it. There was a time, perhaps 15 years ago, when Denver declined to share our considerable hydrology database and hydrology models with others. That made people distrustful, and led to endless argument about the quality of the data being used for whatever analysis was at hand. By sharing our data and describing how and when it was acquired, people have come to trust and rely upon Denver 's data. When we begin negotiation from a common data standpoint, arguments about the data are nonexistent. Sharing data means we can proceed to a discussion of real issues more quickly.
  • Help other communities and water utilities with their water problems, if we can do so without diminishing our yield or flexibility. Denver Water may have a robust and extensive water collection treatment and distribution system. But if the communities near us have less complete or reliable system, it is of no economic, political or moral benefit to Denver to leave those systems at risk if we could help. Normally the condition for our help is that we retain the yield and flexibility of our system. But even with this standard, we have been able to assist Grand County , Summit County , the City of Aurora , Arvada and Thornton in very substantial ways in the last several years. Partly this is recognition that, like it or not, we are all in this together.
  • Consider water conservation and water recycling as supplies that are often equivalent to construction of new storage or acquisition and development of new water rights. The old paradigm was that the only way to develop a water supply was to acquire water rights and store high spring flood flows. But over the last 25 years Denver has ramped up our water conservation efforts both because of the drought, and because long-term water efficiency is absolutely necessary. I am on a personal campaign to eliminate the over-watering of bluegrass, and to eliminate rules that require bluegrass in places where it need not be, like highway and street medians. The enemy is not bluegrass per se, but bluegrass in the wrong place and the over-watering of it by our customers. It is possible to foresee a 15% permanent reduction in water demand by insistence on greater water efficiency. Insistence comes in the form of rebates, higher water rates or surcharges, and public education.
  • Obviously, most people know that Denver Water has spent more than $100 million in construction of a water recycling plant which utilizes Denver 's reusable water emanating from the outflow of the Denver Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Plant. Our recycling plant is by far the biggest in Colorado , and, will contribute about 20,000 acre-feet of water per year that would otherwise come from additional West Slope diversions.
  • In the old paradigm, only large projects were deemed worthy of our attention. In the new paradigm, we need to look at all types of system refinements that are small, but when taken together can amount to hundreds or thousands of acre-feet. In this fashion, Denver has changed the operation of the City Ditch and the Highline Canal to add yield to its system; we have installed pumps to capture fish flows below the stream reach of interest; are in the process of quantifying lawn irrigation return flows for use in augmentation plans, lined lakes to reduce seepage; are trying to install a pump station at Chatfield Reservoir to fully use our water supplies in that reservoir, etc.
  • Denver Water and other metropolitan providers have learned that gravel mining in the South Platte below Denver has a water supply benefit. Gravel pits which once inadvertently stored water, and were admonished for doing so by the State Engineer, have now become valuable water supply reservoirs, once they are lined to prevent hydraulic connection to the river. Denver has acquired or is in the process of developing 20,000 acre-feet of storage below Denver. This storage is useful for exchange purposes, and as a supply reservoir serving the water recycling plant.
  • The point is that we have discovered that there are water storage options other than those 15 miles on either side of the Continental Divide. They are not always as good, and they don't serve exactly the same purpose, but we are no longer overlooking them.
  • Finally, let me put the new paradigm into perspective by referencing the offers we have made to Summit and Grand Counties in the last year, and their response to our overtures. We know that Summit and Grand Counties can solve their water supply problems best with assistance from Denver Water. We have made some suggestions as to how this might occur. Grand and Summit Counties have now added Eagle and Mesa Counties to the discussion, and made a counter proposal. While not everything in the counter proposal is doable, everything is properly the subject for discussion. Such discussions could not have occurred in 1976 when this conference began. It is a measure of our success, and the increasing sophistication and maturation of all the individuals involved that such discussions can now occur.

Cables, Rick D.

The View from the Headwaters -- The Forest Service at its Centennial  

Rick D. Cables, Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region, U.S. Forest Service  

It is more than a pleasure to be here today. I am honored to address the subject of water resources in this centennial year of the U.S. Forest Service. In July 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt created the Forest Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and conservation of the nation's watersheds and water resources was at the heart of our mission. In most of the United States , the national forests are where the water starts.

I'd like to address the issue of water conservation in the 21 st Century. Let me begin with a question: are there incentives to make water conservation work? Colorado and much of the West have been in an extended drought. During that time, people have begun to conserve water. At first, it was not voluntary, driven by imposed water restrictions – but lately, folks are conserving water on their own.

This April, Denver Water announced that they expect a 24 percent drop in water use, mostly due to less lawn watering. The lost revenues may mean a rate hike this fall. In other words, people have reduced water use by one-fourth, but they may not see savings in their water bill. I'm not picking on Denver Water. We've done some great work with them, and they are in a tough spot with other water providers – but can't we look for ways to reward people for conserving water? I think the answer is yes.

Personal Reflections

Let me take a minute to talk about my background. I was born in Colorado and am a second-generation Forest Service employee. I can remember spending time in the Wet Mountains as a kid. I caught my first fish below Lake Isabel with my grandmother. Like most regular people, I grew up thinking that water on public land was a public resource – I had no idea that water users have an ownership right to that water. Now, many years later as Regional Forester in the Rocky Mountain Region, I know what a huge issue water is in the West – but many people don't grasp the finer points of water supply, water use, and water law. I would guess that most people who use public lands think the water in a stream or river is a public resource.

Every region has its own set of key issues and challenges. The Rocky Mountain Region is the headwaters for much of the United States – so our history has centered a lot on water. Not too many years ago, we were embroiled in one controversy after another over water. Hearings with legislative committees at the State Capitol were not especially pleasant experiences for some of my predecessors. We – federal and state governments, water providers, and conservation groups – spent a lot of public and private resources asserting authorities and paying lawyers. How fruitful was that ? Did we really achieve any lasting solutions? I am convinced there is a better way – the time is ripe for us to work together and write a new chapter in our history.

The people have given us in the Forest Service the charge to manage their national forests and grasslands for balanced multiple uses that leave a light touch on the land. We share a common vision with many Americans to leave the land and resources in better shape than we found them. And we have passion to be good stewards of public lands and good servants of the people who own them.

As our Chief, Dale Bosworth, says, what we leave on the land in the long run means much more than what we take from it now. The core of our mission is to conserve the basic resources of air, soil, and water upon which all life, all habitats, and all uses ultimately depend. Let's pick up the story there.

Historic Context

Water has been at the core of the Forest Service mission from the start. In the late 1800s, early conservation leaders saw growing evidence of forest abuses in the United States . Timber barons typically moved in to take the best timber as fast and cheaply as possible, and left chewed-up forests and churned-up soils in their wake. The results were extreme floods and droughts, rivers choked with logging debris, and water too foul for downstream use.

These people had vision. They looked out beyond the instant gratification of conquering the frontier and getting rich quick to imagine the kind of country they wanted to leave their children and grandchildren. They passed the Creative Act of 1891, the Organic Act of 1897, and the Weeks Act of 1911 to allow the creation of national forests and spell out their primary purposes – and conserving water by conserving forests was the heart of it all .

They saw the connection. An abused forest sheds water like a tin roof – the runoff erodes the soil, enlarges floods, and is long gone later on when it is most needed. A healthy forest acts like a sponge – good plant and litter cover absorbs water into the soil, where it fills the soil pores to be released to streams later in the season. As our first Chief, Gifford Pinchot, said, “The relationship of forest to river is like that of father to son – no forest, no river.”

Here we are 100 years later, and the need to conserve water resources is more vital than ever. The population of the United States has tripled since 1905 – and people are moving to arid states like Colorado where water is already scarce. The amount each person uses has also multiplied. Water shortages are becoming more common even in humid regions. I believe that water will be the defining national conservation issue of this century.

Why do I believe that? Well, there are some wonderful things about our public lands – wild forests and grasslands, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, diverse recreation, wilderness, and more. The people value these things and they improve our quality of life. Water is more than quality of life – it is life itself. Denver Water is going have a grand celebration of Cheeseman Dam, also 100 years old this year. Their brochure says “no water, no Denver .” We can all just as surely say “no water, no life” – and “no forest, no water.”

The world has changed over the last 100 years, but water has never diminished in importance. The last 35 years has wrought big changes in the way we do business. New environmental laws have called on us to protect natural resources like water, air, wildlife, and plants and to analyze and disclose the effects of our actions. These laws were sorely needed and helped us to better fulfill our mission – but over time, we have found that applying the many laws and regulations can sometimes lead to more conflict as competing interests exploit the fine print to achieve their own ends. We found ourselves at odds over projects like Two Forks and Water Division One, fighting appeals and lawsuits, struggling with shrinking management options and the creeping drag of more planning, more analysis, more litigation – and less opportunity to care for the land and water.

But we have begun to get out of the rut. New tools like the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, streamlined environmental analysis, and the new planning rule will help us get on with our core mission – if we use them wisely. And a spirit of cooperation that began with joint efforts like those with States to protect water quality has taken root. I'll say more on that in a minute.

The Illusion of Increased Supply

As a nation, our traditional approach to water issues has been to work on the supply side. The early 20 th Century was the era of big dams built, among other things, to store water for use during drier seasons. Reservoirs will always be part of the water supply equation, but they are not enough by themselves.

Many other supply-side ideas have sprung up over the years as demand for water has grown. One was to float icebergs down the coast from Alaska . Another was to build huge trans-regional diversions, like one proposed to bring Snake River water to southern California . Cloud seeding is still being seriously considered by some state governments in the West. Many of these ideas have lost their luster as people came to understand their benefits and costs.

One idea re-emerges frequently that hits closer to home – removing trees to create more water. Some call it “logging for water.” Over 80 percent of the water people use in the West originates on national forests. Since trees and plants use water, simple logic suggests that we can make more water by cutting trees. Some people propose that national forests be cut aggressively to create more water. Let's look at that idea:

  • Potential water yield increases are greatest in high-altitude forests with the snow pack.
  • Intensive forest management is hard to apply in those forests due to the rugged terrain.
  • The need to protect soils, streams, habitats, and scenery further shrinks our options.
  • Most increases would come as high spring runoff in wet years when it is least needed.
  • Research like that by Chuck Troendle for the North Platte river basin shows that the most we could realistically increase water yield over large areas would be one percent – like adding a shot glass to a keg of water.
  • Trying to maximize water yield through aggressive tree removal would impact other multiple uses – perhaps exceeding what the people would accept.

So what can the Forest Service do, if not large-scale, high-altitude tree cutting? The best way to secure dependable supplies of clean water from the national forests is to sustain healthy forests. I say this for two reasons. First , caring for the sponge will allow the natural reservoir of the soil to hold the most water for the longest time – the asset that Gifford Pinchot saw so clearly in the early days. Second , healthy forests will be more resilient to extreme wildfires that are sure to come – thinner undergrowth will mean less heat damage to soils and faster vegetation recovery after the fire. Over the long run, forest health is a sustainable solution that should reduce severe effects like those of the Hayman and Buffalo Creek fires.

I'm not suggesting that we totally discount supply-side options – but the benefits of large-scale vegetation treatments, for example, are limited and short-term at best. The idea that we can substantially increase water supply, with minimal costs, is an illusion – and illusions can be dangerous. We have a finite resource – water – and a potentially infinite demand. There is only so much fresh water on the earth and in the sky. So where can we make a real difference in water conservation? The answer lies in a collective effort on the demand side.

The Promise of Community Conservation

The old slogan goes that whiskey is for drinkin' and water is for fightin'. Well, we're in a new day now with new problems, and we need a new ethic. Success demands that we lay down our swords and work together. We must refuse to fix our eyes on the rear-view mirror that reflects past problems and solutions and tackle the long-run issues of the future head-on.

We need a new attitude about working together. We need to see water not as something to be fought over but as a precious resource to be sustained into the future. We need to know that water conservation is an issue bigger than any agency or interest. We need to realize that there is more than one right answer to almost any problem – and that my B-grade answer with everyone on board is always better than my A-grade answer with no one on board.

A remarkable forward-looking report has just been released by three environmental groups. Facing the Future – A Balanced Water Solution for Colorado argues that future water supplies depend on a mixture of conservation, use efficiencies, and storage. The Denver Post editorial of July 18 agrees that there isn't any single answer, so we need a package of affordable and sustainable actions and must cooperate to find solutions.

Some promising steps have already been taken. A big breakthrough for us came in the late 1990s, when we initiated a wild and scenic river study for the South Platte River – yes, the same river of Two Forks. We worked with partners like Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, the State, counties, and landowners to develop a joint solution that provides more water than wild or scenic designation. Key elements are:

    • A cooperative river management plan with an endowment fund for projects in the river corridor to protect its wild and scenic values;
    • A 20-year moratorium on water developments in the main stem; and
    • A flow management plan with minimum flows, gradual rising and falling flows, and thermal controls.
    • Denver Water agreed to withdraw its storage rights at the Two Forks site as part of the package.

Meanwhile, on the West Slope, our forest folks started the Pathfinder Project on the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison National Forest . In this pilot program, we are working with the State, local water managers and users, and others to apply various tools to protect instream flows with everyone on board. We are striving to replace confrontation with cooperation and negotiation – and it is working.

A historic milestone was the memorandum of understanding we signed with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in April 2004. We have agreed to explore creative ways to protect water resources and manage water uses on national forests in Colorado and to resolve conflicts by cooperating together. We all want the same thing – healthy water resources and balanced water uses into the future, while respecting water rights and both state and federal law – so why not get out of the courtroom and out on the ground together resolving water issues? Russ George – Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources – and I think that is a great idea.

Meanwhile, cooperative water conservation efforts are springing up all around us. This April, Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver unveiled a new sustainable development initiative focused on regional cooperative efforts to solve water problems. It includes water conservation measures in four public gardens, improved water quality efforts for the South Platte River , and a lecture series on best ideas in western water at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Mayor Hickenlooper says that we need to talk to each other and hold each other accountable. I agree.

In May, the Colorado legislature passed a law that resembles an intra-state water compact. It created nine roundtables representing the state's seven river basins and two major sub-basins to pursue joint solutions, encourage conservation, and protect minimum stream flows. In June, Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed a water conservation law that provides grants to water utilities and organizations for three years to pursue creative solutions on water use.

The non-profit Colorado Water Trust has bought 800 acre-feet of water from a private ranch to shore up instream flows in Boulder Creek and the lower Blue River , and will then resell the water for use farther downstream. Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District have funded two reservoirs in the upper Colorado River but share storage rights with west slope users. Front Range water users have crafted an intricate plan to enlarge Pueblo Reservoir and improve use of other facilities.

Even in other countries, neighbors are cooperating to put their economy to work to conserve watersheds and water resources. In their book The New Economy of Nature , Gretchen Daily and Katherine Ellison cite the example of city dwellers in Costa Rica who pay upstream forest owners to conserve their watersheds and provide more dependable supplies of clean water to the towns below. In other words, part of the city dwellers' water bill goes to conserving the forests in the headwaters. Therefore, the forests have a tangible economic value as healthy standing forests – quite an idea!

Raising the Stakes : Incentives for Conservation

All these examples are excellent steps in the right direction. The time is ripe for us to build a shared vision for the new century, and it must include working together. Governments and interests at the federal, state, and local levels have an opportunity to work together on a grand scale to literally change the playing field we are on and chart a new pathway to future water use and conservation. The sooner we move together, the more options we will have.

Let's consider a few general facts. About 80 percent of the water used by people in the West is for irrigating crops. In our cities and towns, about 80 percent of the water used is for watering lawns – most of which consist of eastern grasses. Finally, very few of our diversion ditches are lined or covered, so leakage and evaporation cause major losses in transit.

So let me ask this question: how much water could we save if farmers had real incentives to convert from flood and spray irrigation to more efficient measures, if home owners and golf courses had real incentives to convert to native grasses and xeri-scaping, and if water providers had real incentives to line and cover their transmission ditches? I sure don't have the answers, but I think they are out there for us to discover together.

If governments and community interests at all levels can discover how to provide such real incentives, think about how much water we might free up to benefit our grandchildren and the country that we bequeath to them. The technology is there. The obstacles are economic and legal. We would need to find ways to fund the technical answers. We would need to creatively adapt water law and policy to the realities of the future so that we truly reward conservation. Only by doing so will we strike at the heart of the issue instead of nibble at its margins.

Our times call for wise and courageous leaders who will challenge our generation to look beyond the present to our long-run legacy. Are such leaders among us? Are they willing to step forward, just as conservation leaders like Roosevelt and Pinchot did 100 years ago? As I said at the start, I think the answer is yes. The risks are high, but the stakes and the payoffs are higher.


Delph Carpenter’s Method for Compact Negotiation

By Russell George, Executive Director

Colorado Department of Natural Resource (2004-2007)

Delph Carpenter was Colorado’s representative in 1922

In the negotiating process that led to the Colorado River Compact

Delph Carpenter focused as much on the method of negotiation as on the goals. It is clear that the process was essential to the success of the compact negotiations. This interstate process appears equally applicable to negotiations between basins within the state. Many of the factors present in 1922 when he helped negotiate the Colorado River Compact also exist today. Basins are attempting to gain advantages over others, and litigation is being used as the method of achieving their goals. Those involved must picture what they see as the end result of any negotiation. At that point, they can begin to decide what they are willing to give up to attain that result. Negotiated compacts between the states were seen as working better than litigation in part because of the efficiency of devising compacts and the chance of a negative outcome if left up to the courts. This model exemplifies a win-win solution in which each party is forced to give something up, but also receives something it wants in return. Once both sides realize that they must give something up to attain the result they want, negotiations can begin. Successful compact negotiations require a critical role played by the formal leader/leaders of the groups involved in the process. These leaders are needed to expand traditional thought processes beyond parochial squabbles and demands, and encourage open discourse to disclose elements of each party’s agenda for diligent consideration as a factor. This process was successful in 1922 to negotiate the Colorado River Compact, and 13 of the 16 compacts negotiated between 1922 and 1971 followed this format. It can be successful within Colorado too.

An Arizona Water Buffalo looks at Arizona Water Development

Grady Gammage, Jr. 

The headquarters of the Central Arizona Project sits in obscurity at the far north end of the City. Since 9/11, the security fencing, entry procedures and out-of-the-way approach make it feel like the fortress of some James Bond villain who feeds failed henchmen to his pet piranha. Inside, a map of the canal system covers an entire wall, like a connect-the-dots painting, where LED's glow red or green to display the status of the pumps which move Arizona's water from the Colorado River, through Phoenix and on to Tucson.

I am driving back down into the City, having just left my last meeting after twelve years as a member of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (“CAWCD”) Board of Directors. I got lost the first time I tried to get there and then walked into a room of strangers. The boardroom itself is a simple, unpretentious chamber with a large U-shaped table and an audience of 60-70 people. That first board meeting, I recognized almost no one. Today it feels like I am leaving a lot of old friends: the community of water buffaloes.

I do not know who started calling the few dozen people who make (and hopefully understand) Arizona 's water policy “water buffaloes.” Originally, the name probably referred to the fact that the group was mostly middle aged, male, and somewhat overweight engineers, lawyers and farmers who alike and spoke in acronyms. That is not true any more—there are a number of women, younger faces, even people of color. But the name sticks, maybe because water buffalo are slow moving, stubborn, and like wallowing in mud. I like to think of myself as a water buffalo, and consider it an earned honor.

Twelve years is a long time. Besides being able to sling acronyms with the best of them, what did I learn?

Of Drought, Crisis, Indians and Las Vegas .

Shortly after I was elected, the Secretary of the Interior declared the CAP canal “complete.” That declaration tripped a requirement that the price of water increase in order to recover the multi-billion dollar cost of construction. As a result, demand plummeted and we were awash in extra water we could not sell. For a time, it looked like Arizona would not use its full Colorado River allotment for decades. But as a result of lowering the price to encourage farming use, and inventing creative mechanisms to pump water 300 miles and then let it seep slowly underground, we managed in the last few years to use our full share.

We moved very quickly from a period where we seemed to have too much water to a time when we fret about not having enough. Such is the nature of life in the desert. Today, we are in the ninth year of what may become the record historic drought. But that does not mean we are in crisis. Our routine condition would be considered a catastrophic drought anywhere else in the country. We have built and maintain a sophisticated, elaborate water supply based on multiple sources precisely because we live in such a dry place. More than any other arid city in America (maybe in the world), metropolitan Phoenix has done a capable job of dealing with persistent aridity and the cycle of wet/dry years. This reality does not mean we have the luxury to waste water, but it does mean that we should not overreact and behave as though there is a desperate crisis when there is not. We should not turn off the decorative fountains at Phoenix

City Hall and elsewhere. We should not be telling people to turn off the water when brushing their teeth. The justification for these kinds of measures is that it is useful to create a psychological reminder of drought conditions, even though the actual “savings” are essentially meaningless. But what we communicate by such messages is that we are in a severe crisis. The public then does not understand how we can continue to approve new subdivisions. Token gestures, shallow slogans and manipulative public messages do not well serve the cause of understanding water issues. We need to thoroughly explain to the public the sources and quality of our water supply and speak in detail how we are dealing with drought in a way that keeps it from becoming a crisis.

Within the last month, Arizona has struck two extraordinary, complex and important deals: one with the Gila River Indian Community (“GRIC”) and the second with Las Vegas . Both represent creative water management at its best, and are the latest pieces of a long line of important actions by Arizona dealing with the big picture of Western Water. But it is hard for the public to grasp why we would be “giving” our water to keep the fountains on at Bellagio when we stopped running the ones in downtown Phoenix . Or why a relatively tiny population of Native American Arizonans should control nearly half of our Colorado River water.

The GRIC settlement, now signed into law by the President, resolves decades of litigation over the rights of the tribe to the waters of the Gila River . Under federal law, when the U.S. government created the reservations, it “reserved” enough water to the tribes to farm the irrigable land. The claim against the Gila (which we dried up to create the Salt River Project) was arguably huge—it hung as an unquantified threat over all water management in Central Arizona . Theoretically, if finally adjudicated and demanded for delivery, that claim would have required taking back water from metropolitan Phoenix cities. By using CAP water to settle the claim, we ended the uncertainty, reduced our repayment to the federal government and resolved the litigation. Until the GRIC can actually take delivery of the water, the CAP will resell it for recharge to our depleted aquifers. In the future, the GRIC will either use it to farm (which is a good thing) or lease it back to Arizona cities that need additional supply.

The Las Vegas deal involves a fraction of the amount of water in the GRIC settlement, but it is enough water to tide that city over until a time when their in-state resources are developed. Because Las Vegas has no agricultural heritage, they are decades behind Arizona in water development. The 40,000 acre feet per year we have guaranteed to Las Vegas is a commitment we can satisfy without jeopardy to our needs. In exchange, we receive serious money, but more importantly we gain an ally in the great game of western water. We may call upon that allegiance in revisiting our low priority in times of shortage.

Water is a Special Commodity .

When I first got on the CAWCD Board, like many private-sector, free-market capitalists, I saw no reason why water should be different from other commodities. It seemed clear that with a few exceptions, markets should be allowed to operate, prices should be uncontrolled, and the highest bidder should be able to obtain the most water. Bob Robb recently articulated a similar view in his thoughtful column of December 19.

After twelve years of observing the unusual little bastion of American socialism that is water policy, I have come to the realization that water is unique. Like air, water is absolutely necessary to sustain life. But water is also a resource that can be contained, hoarded, and transported. Its use evolves over decades. Its price cannot be subject to extreme volatility. The infrastructure costs to develop water in this kind of climate are huge, and not easily subject to a hard nosed investment analysis. Water is the ultimate communal commodity. It must be shared among a large enough group to pay for the infrastructure to manage it. That group becomes our tribe—“us”—those outside who want our water become “them.”

Water also is not just the single fluid substance you hold in a plastic bottle. An essential component of water is not just what you have, but your right to get more in the future. Water that has high delivery reliability is worth a lot more than water that can be cut off. Water that is used for drinking, cooking, bathing, showering, needs to be cheap enough for any family to afford. Water that is used for aesthetic and decorative purposes should be priced higher. Water that is wasted should be priced in a way that discourages waste. Water that can be taken away from a user (like a farmer) in times of severe need should be priced more cheaply. This kind of complex pricing function is not easily accommodated by purely private markets. There is a stronger role for pricing in water management. Water is too cheap in metropolitan Phoenix . There is a role for private water markets, but there is an inherent community role in managing the price and delivery of this unique commodity.

Government is Not All Bad.

Arizonans deeply believe in the American perspective that the less government, the better. We sometimes interpret that to mean that no government would be best of all. There are some things that only government can accomplish. Government can spread societal costs more broadly than any private enterprise. It can think longer term than any profit-motivated actor. Sometimes only government can manage negative externalities like environmental impact, structuring ways to avoid the “tragedy of the commons,” where individual rational action leads to collective damage. Water management is one of these primarily governmental activities.

Water management is rooted in social evolution. Every society treats the handling of water as part of the function of some kind of governmental unit. Indeed, a case can be made that government may have been first created in the arid regions of the Middle East precisely because of the need to manage water distribution systems and resolve water disputes.

Just before Christmas, the Colorado River Water Users Association met in Las Vegas to talk about how the Colorado River is shared, managed and allocated. Some private interests were at the table, but by and large the conversation is between seven individual states, the United States , and a series of local governments including cities and special districts. Even within a single state like Arizona , the handling of our share of “The River” is a discussion among dozens of different governmental entities.

It looks like a confusing, overlapping, redundant example of government inefficiency. That's why it works. Decisions unfold slowly after being vetted in the crucible of chaotic democracy. Change happens in small increments, but then mistakes happen in small increments, too.

Water management is our State's greatest governmental success story. It is a success because we have been able to cooperate about water management for more than a hundred years. It has been—and must continue to be—recognized as a legitimate function of government where we should raise and spend the collective revenues necessary to do a good job. The federal government repeatedly helped us make it a success: the “Feds” are not always the bad guys. Most of all, it is a success because generations of Arizonans have regarded it as a matter of common public interest. Policy has prevailed over politics. That continues to be true to this day.

Water buffaloes are ponderous, slow moving, stubborn, jealously guard their turf and usually move as a herd. Our public policy has benefited from those qualities. Long may they wallow in the mud.

Hobbs, Greg

The Great Divide Community

What Lessons Do We Learn From Our Water Courses ?

Justice Greg Hobbs
The Water Workshop, Western State College
Gunnison, Colorado, July 29, 2005  

Becoming One of the World's Great Lands

The great western writer, Wallace Stegner, said: "Adaptation is the covenant that all successful organisms sign with the dry country.. [W]ater is safety, home, life, place. All around those precious watered places, forbidding and unlivable, is only open space, what one must travel through between places of safety."

Stegner's calling was to write about the joy and scarcity of the watering holes. He showed us how to relate our kinship to each other and to every other living thing that depends on water for a living. He softened no blows about our wasteful habits and busted hopes. "The town dump" is "our poetry and our history" he said in Wolf Willow , his reminiscence about growing up as the child of homesteaders on the plains of southern Saskatchewan, very near Montana's border.

What a concept, by our garbage are we known! What Stegner found in the dump as a kid was every sort of trace of what westerners prize and discard in trying to perch a toehold. What he meant to say-as always-he said tartly and wisely: "The lesson they preached [from all these throwaways] was how much is lost, how much thrown aside, how much carelessly or of necessity given up, in the making of a new country."

Stegner match-paired his critical eye with his hopeful eye. Optimism and community he thought to be the West's future legacy:

Angry as one sometimes gets at what heedless men do to a noble human habitat, one cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is where optimism was born. And when the West learns more surely that co-operation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and most preserves it, I will seize the harp and join the boosters, for this will be one of the world's great lands.

Heritage of Water Scarcity, Water Works in the Americas

The study of ancient water works in the Americas-Paleohydrology-reveals a 2000+ year history of community organization based on good public-works water supply and drainage practices.

In Peru and the Lake Titicaca region, the Pukara, Wari, Tiwanaku, and Inca peoples constructed canals and aqueducts to carry water for growing food and feed fountains and cisterns for drinking water and ceremonial rituals-at such sites as Tiwanaku, Pikillacta, Chokepukio, Machu Picchu, Tipon, and Moray.

On the limestone caprock of the Yucatan Peninsula within Guatemala, twelve small reservoirs encircle Tikal. The causeways into and out of this great Mayan ceremonial center doubled as ditches to fill them.

The Hohokam constructed hundreds of miles of canals for growing crops in Arizona's Salt and Gila River drainages beginning as early as 300 B.C.

In Colorado's Mesa Verde, ancient Puebloans operated four reservoirs between 750 and 1100 A.D. Upstream diversion ditches fed the two canyon-bottom reservoirs. Water obtained from intermittent storm runoff was so precious it was used for drinking only, not irrigation. These early Coloradans were dry land farmers.

The Hispanos of northern New Mexico had nearly 400 acequias in place by the 1800s. These direct flow ditches were the centerpiece of community livelihood. To have a share of water for your fields, you had to help maintain the Mother Ditch and her laterals.

In 1858, Lieutenant Joseph C. Ives of the United States Topographical Engineers saw how the Hopi on their mesas, dating back centuries, were growing peaches, watering sheep, tending gardens, and supplying drinking water from springs through strategically-placed stone conduits and reservoirs. The oldest continuously-operating water right in Colorado is the San Luis People's Ditch of 1852, constructed by Hispano settlers soon after the 1848 Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo brought the great Southwest into the United States.

Recent tree ring studies show that each generation faced recurrent drought cycles, some of seemingly impossible duration. How to survive in the Americas is how to cope with water scarcity. Smart soil and water management has always been the key to community possibility.

Colorado's Response to Recurring Drought and Ever-Increasing Population

In its very first session, the Colorado Territorial legislature in 1861 set forth an irrigation water law (not a mining water law, contrary to popular legend, although customs of the miners in making claims probably had an influence). It contained two fundamental features: water could be taken from any "stream, creek or river . . . to the full extent of the soil, for agricultural purposes" and any person with land removed from the water source "shall be entitled to a right of way through the farms or tracts of land which lie between . . . above and below him" for the construction and operation of "water facilities . . . to irrigate his land."

Water and ditches-the right to beneficially use water in priority, combined with the right to cross the lands of others with water structures-reside at the core of Colorado's 1876 constitution. Over the course of 145 years since Territorial days, many decisions of the Colorado Supreme Court and statutes of the General Assembly have reinforced Colorado's dependence on its greatest treasure, the public's water resource.

In 1879 and 1881, the legislature assigned to state courts the responsibility for adjudicating water use priorities, and directed the State Engineer, division engineers, and local water commissioners to administer them, curtailing junior uses in times of short supply. In 1903, the legislature provided for the adjudication of all other types of water rights, in addition to agriculture. In 1919, the General Assembly required that all water rights be adjudicated in the courts; if not, they would not be enforced.

By the start of the 20th Century, the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande river basins were interlaced with ditches. Reservoir construction to capture spring runoff and manage direct flow diversions within ditch systems was well under way. This was the era of private water development centering on mutual ditch and reservoir companies. A share of a mutual company represents a pro-rata ownership in the water right and the water facility assets it owns. These organizations of landowner water users pooled their money and muscle to develop and maintain water facilities for ranching and farming.

From the commercial impetus and the food supply the mutual ditch and reservoir company owners provided sprang the cities, while mining camps and towns came and went. For-profit water and land companies attempted to gain a toehold; most failed. Commerce and industry tied itself mostly to municipal water suppliers.

The Great Divide's Influence on Coloradans

Coloradan Thomas Hornsby Ferril warns about getting lost in Colorado's magnificent landscape. His worry? In looking at the "blue wall" of a mountain range, we might forget the "something happening" all around us. He urges us to consider "better tilth" and "higher yields of grain, alfalfa, and sugar beets."

Ferril worked for the Great Western Sugar Company. He was also a poet. He knew how water and well-prepared soil can siphon sugar to a poem and sugar beets. He wrote Two Rivers about the confluence of the South Platte and Cherry Creek, from which Denver sprang as a result of a gold find in 1858. This poem brings forth the wagon people who came here and the invitation running water continues to sing to us: "If you will stay we will not go away."

Living through the 1930's Dust Bowl, Ferril worried about life-giving soil being lifted into gigantic dust clouds and billowing away. So, he warns of drought's recurrent visitation, "Hear how the wagons crack/ In the copper drouth of the prairie" ( Drouth-1824 ).

Ferril lived in downtown Denver. In his "celebration" of one hundred years of statehood in 1976, he warns about losing our vistas to air pollution, "Off to the west/ I see the Rocky Mountains/ Trying to shoulder up/ Above the violet-ochre smog/ I can taste it" ( Stories of Three Summers, Colorado 1776*1876*1976 ).

Transporting us to the Great Divide, Ferril asks us to take on the persona of the water bug, "Look how that struggling waterbug is pushing sundown/back on golden ripples of the lake." Up there we do not know "which ocean" we shall "blunder to" beneath "the wonder of the blue bandanna sky" ( Waterbug ).

A little lower in the watershed, Ferril takes his father's ashes back to one of their favorite fishing streams, "Under that sad but warming sky/ I was precise as casting a fly/ In where I let your ashes fall." With springing rod-tip and Gray Hackle-whip, we give "that day to the river more/ Of us than it had known before" ( Fishing Upstream With My Father ).

As Ferril reminds us again and again, we are blessed to live in the Land of the Great Divide. Surely, it's a place of poetry, nature, men and women, words, passion, spirituality, delight, tragedy, insight, wit, brevity, discipline, melody, a profound sense of passing, and so a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be here, at this time, in this place, with this person, this bird, this tree, this flower, this river, that hill, the one behind it, so on up to altitudes and attitudes, where oceans gurgle from snow seeps, in multiple directions, drawn by gravity to destinies far and near.

Ferril's poetry also reminds us of this. Water, necessity, opportunity, community, these are characteristic Colorado experiences. Despite our go-it-alone pretensions, enduring amidst this magnificent and capricious landscape has always meant pulling together. Those who get greedy and cannot cooperate will be exposed by the land and their neighbors for what they are, destructive of community and themselves.

The Graces

We are yet settling into this great land. We are marked by what we take, and what we give back, to the land and to each other. We are contemporaries passing through what has been, what is, and what shall be. We are tenured to this place of boom and bust hopefulness. We must see and hold on to what we value most.

We are part of developing this country, a country of law, justice, love, individual rights, and community rights. This is a work of duty and the public interest forged of humility, hard work, and the friction of conflicting voices and ideas which ignite the spark, induced by the oxygen of inspiration, that lights the way.

When we look at those we truly admire, isn't it their grace, their judgment, their kindness, their practicality, their intellect, their skill and craft, their unique madness and magic, their counsel and wisdom, their art, their passion, and their generosity that fills us with gratitude and profits us to the core? Practicing humor and honesty, the Graces re-invent Colorado and the West.

The Graces are those in our lives who have watched over us. By their guidance, their gentle correction, their constant vigor, their teachings, and mostly by the way they have lived and inspire us, the Graces set us free by setting us forth to go our various ways.

The Graces are those among us who practice courage, patience, plain speaking tolerance, grit, passion, wit to believe our own special insignificance. The Graces are those we look up to, those who said go to it, those who let go greatly when they just knew it was time to. The Graces are those who say to us, Yes you can, Yes you will, I'm so glad I could help, Yes I believe you've got to see in your own way through.

As Ferril suggested in Waterbug we are united and divided by the greatest of all mountain spines, the one in our own backyard. What we use and what we preserve, of the land and for each other, will continue to sing and do its work long after we are gone.

Digging In

Colorado is the Mother of Rivers, falling sweet and soft and slow to berry bog and high meadow. She holds us in her lap and coos the willow roots, the gaining pools. Calls us through bright dappled grass, plays the flute so high and clear. When young and full of fight, she goes roaring here and roaring there, pouring torrents in the air. She calls the green-backed cutthroat trout, she calls the nymph and hellgrammite, she calls the hatch to catch a wind, she calls upon the mountain track. She calls the scarlet to the jaw as morning calls her own hatchlings, calls Yampa, White, the Rio Grande, San Juan, the Platte, the Arkansas.

When you get to sleep in a tent along the singing waters of any Colorado wilderness stream, you take to heart the work of those who helped to set aside nearly 4 million acres just to be itself forever.

It's a wonderful story, full of contention and compromise, how the 1964 Wilderness Act came into being. A key player was Wayne Aspinall, the western slope Congressman, who was instrumental in the 1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act that authorized construction of Lake Powell. Because of citizen opposition to building dams in Dinosaur National Monument and Marble Canyon, now within Grand Canyon National Park, Aspinall surrendered those water projects to secure the much larger Glen Canyon dam. Aspinall was still the Chair of the House Interior Committee when the Wilderness Act successfully came through after many years of wrangling. He voted for it.

From the earliest days of Colorado territory, Coloradans have made use of the creeks and rivers for farming, mining, cities, and businesses. More recently, the Colorado General Assembly has added instream flow protection and kayak courses to the list of beneficial uses for which water rights can be obtained.

As Aspinall's work demonstrates, beneficial use of natural resources and the preservation of them reflect the two chambers of our western heart, the two lobes of our western brain. The explorers who mapped the west, Powell, Hayden, Wheeler, and King, brought with them sketchers, photographers, and landscape artists, among them Holmes, Jackson, Bierstadt, Moran, and Egloffstein. They portrayed the book of the western wilderness, magnificent, savage, alarming, and alluring.

The business of settling into the West has also been the business of setting aside, here in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park. The desire of Coloradans to restore their mountain views led directly to citizen initiatives to clean up the notorious Brown Cloud that blanketed the Front Range and many mountain towns in the 20 th Century.

Throughout the 20th Century, a multitude of local governmental entities came into being-cities and water conservancy, water conservation, and water and sanitation districts-whose job it was to supply water for growth through water infrastructure financed by tax levies and bond issues secured by user fees.

The federal government, through the reclamation program in cooperation with local sponsoring districts, assisted with the construction of large storage and delivery facilities that others could not or would not finance. The Uncompaghre and Grand Valley Projects came into existence on the Western Slope first. The Colorado Big-Thompson in northeastern and the Fry-Ark in southeastern Colorado, later provided supplemental water imported from the Colorado River basin to existing farms, growing cities, and new businesses along the Front Range.

From 1861 to 2005, that's the expanse and limitation of our Territorial and Statehood experience with water. Here is my poem about some of that experience:


At the confluence of the Poudre and the Platte
the Union Colony grew into Greeley,
1870 a sagebrush plain,
2005 a broad and shaded canopy for citizens
to grow into being Coloradans. 

Some of those who first arrived turned away
almost immediately. The work unsettling-
hard, and hope it seemed so far away
and back home where they started out
many, understandably, returned.

But those who remained dug in.
They built a failed ditch then trenched-out
two that were long and sturdy enough to bring home
the life-sustaining water for the harvest
and the table, and others came.

They grew laws, too, for settling disputes
between neighbors,
1874 when the Poudre dried up
they walked up-river searching for the cause,
more settlers at Camp Collins had intercepted all the flow.

Who would prevail? Those who might leapfrog
go to a higher station on the stream
although but later arrived,
or those who planned and built
in reliance on the earlier furnishing work?

Prior appropriation Colorado's 1876 Constitution,
"The Colorado Doctrine" its Westwide moniker,
first in time/first in right became the measure of effort
and vision startled to reality by recurring scarcity,
and so surviving in the arid lands

Puts men and women to the task of securing community.
Smart conservation an enduring precept,
also engendered by experience,
took to the hills for building reservoirs to store the
renewable treasure in time of plenty for the time of want,

Use only what you need, beneficial use, no waste.
How like Joseph and the Pharaoh prayers and action
must, in solution and allegiance, meet to muster the waters,
faith and charity, for the good of all the people
government in service to what needs to be done!

The people's representatives assigned to courts the task of Decreeing water rights, to State and Division Engineers, Water Commissioners, duty to enforce them. Son of Union Colony settlers, Delph Carpenter, pioneered the 1922 Colorado River Compact, eight more, to share high mountain vitality with downstream states.

1954 brought the headwaters of two great oceans together
through the Great Divide, C-BT they called it
C for the source the Colorado River, BT for the Big
Thompson eastern slope receiving stream,
Green Mountain Reservoir on the Blue

For the Western Slope. Congressman Ed Taylor
saw to that in the 1937 pact making resolution possible
once again! Accord is a process for giving your word
and preserving what is best in the land and the people.
The 1986 Poudre Wild and Scenic River Act guarantees

No more dams in a 75 mile stretch of free-flowing heritage,
and now a river greenway/walkway/heron rookery
from Greeley to source in Rocky Mountain National
is a near and growing possibility, the joy of open space
always a requisite for becoming a Coloradan.

The customs and values of the people change, adapt,
Accommodate, shape the water law. Today, Colorado's
Law of beneficial use includes water for fish, for wildlife,
Rafting, kayaking, making snow for skiing, celebrating the
Heart of the Continent joining the Great Divide Community.

Greg Hobbs 7/2005

Hard Lessons From New Growth and Over-Appropriation

Water scarcity and the need for smart water conservation in all its forms has been an enduring lesson and heritage of the Americas. Colorado has grown from two million residents in 1970 to 4.6 million today, with an additional 2.5 million expected by 2030.

Much of this growth has been made possible by a steady change of water rights from agriculture to municipal use that started one-hundred and fifteen years ago with Strickler v. Colorado Springs , 16 Colo. 61, 70, 26 P. 313, 316 (1891)(holding that water rights, as property, may be sold and transferred to another type and place of use, so long as the rights of others are not injuriously affected). But, the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande basins are over-appropriated river systems. Ready Mixed Concrete Co. , 2005 WL 1384360 at *4 (" practically every decree on the South Platte River, except possibly only the very early ones, is dependent for its supply, and for years and years has been, upon return, waste and seepage waters"); Empire Lodge Homeowners' Ass'n v. Moyer , 39 P.3d 1139, 1144 n.3 (Colo. 2001)(" The natural surface water and groundwater system of th e Arkansas River is severely over-appropriated") ; In re Rules & Regulations Governing Use, Control, & Protection of Water Rights , 674 P.2d 914, 918, 931 (Colo.1983) (stating that by 1900, the Rio Grande system and all streams in the San Luis Valley were over-appropriated).

At the start of the 21st Century the most severe drought of recorded history-combined with the over-appropriation of Colorado's interstate share of Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande River waters, remind us that (1) junior rights are subservient to senior rights in the priority system of water administration, and must be curtailed in times of short supply unless juniors replace their depletions to the stream by augmentation plans; (2) the most valuable water rights available to serve Colorado's population growth in the coming decades are the existing senior water use rights of the mutual ditch and reservoir companies; (3) efficient water use and water conservation practices are indispensable to stretching the available water supply for all the uses we now recognize as beneficial, including recreation and the environment; (4) Coloradans must find a way to use for municipal and instream flow beneficial uses whatever Colorado River basin water is still available under the 1922 and 1948 compacts; and (5) this magnificent state and its people probably cannot sustain themselves into the future unless municipal water suppliers can continue to acquire the use of mutual ditch and reservoir company water rights through leases and/or purchases.

How the water right holding farmers and the water right needing cities-the urban, suburban, and rural people-get along will largely shape Colorado's way of life, look, and feel.

Renewable Opportunity -Temporary Agricultural Water Transfers

The 2002 drought and growing concern across the state about wholesale permanent transfer of agricultural water to municipal use has prompted the General Assembly to become quite creative in allowing leases of agricultural water under arrangements that do not require water court adjudication. The current statutes provide for a variety of means by which changes can be made on a temporary basis with approval by the state and division engineers. §§ 37-80.5-104 to -106, 37-83-104, 37-83-105, 37-92-309, C.R.S. (2004).

So, in addition to permanent changes of water rights, Colorado water law now allows for a variety of means by which the type or place of use decreed to a water appropriator may be changed temporarily. § 37-80.5-104 to -106 (allowing for creation of water banking programs for leasing, loaning, exchanging and temporarily making changes to water rights; administered by the state engineer); § 37-83-104 (providing for exchange of water between reservoirs and ditches approved by the state engineer); § 37-83-105 (allowing agricultural users to loan all or a portion of their water right to another agricultural user in the same stream for up to 180 days in a year approved by the division engineer); § 37-92-309 (providing for interruptible water supply agreements between decreed owners for three out of ten years approved by the state engineer).

The legislative declaration to the water bank program reflects legislative support for temporary transfers from agriculture to other types of use at other places of use:

The water bank program created by this article is intended to simplify and improve the approval of water leases, loans, and exchanges, including interruptible supply agreements , of stored water within each river basin, reduce the costs associated with such transactions , and increase the availability of water-related information. It is also the purpose of the water banks to assist farmers and ranchers by developing a mechanism to realize the value of their water rights assets without forcing the permanent severance of those water rights from the land. The general assembly affirms the state constitution's recognition of water rights as a private usufructuary property right, and this article is not intended to restrict the ability of the holder of a water right to sell, lease, or exchange that water right in any other manner that is currently permitted under Colorado law.

§ 37-80.5-102, C.R.S. (2004)(emphasis added).

The statutorily authorized temporary changes of use proceed through the state or division engineer, with review by the water court on questions of injury; the court may review the applicant's initial estimate of the historic consumptive use of water and the state or division engineer's determination that no injury to other users will result. § 37-80.5-104.5(1)(c), C.R.S. (2004)(for deposit into water bank, state engineer requires proof of "legal parameters of the water for use" and must administer any water withdrawn from a bank "[w]ithout causing material injury to the owner of or persons entitled to use water under a vested water right"); § 37-83-105(2)(b), C.R.S. (2004)(for temporary agricultural loan, applicant must submit "reasonable estimate of the historic consumptive use of the loaned water right" and division engineer must ensure that no injury will result from the loan); § 37-92-309(3)(a) and (b), C.R.S. (2004)(applicant for interruptible water supply agreement must submit report evaluating "the historical consumptive use, return flows, and the potential for material injury to other water rights"; state engineer approval based on prevention of injury to other users).

Each of the temporary changes requires particular submissions to the state or division engineer regarding the timing, duration, purpose and volumetric measure of the temporary change made and approved. § 37-80.5-104.5(c), C.R.S. (2004)(defining state engineer's duties for administration, including duty to "[p]ublish a summary of each water bank's transactions, including the amounts of water subject to such transactions"); § 37-83-104, C.R.S. (2004)(requiring those exchanging reservoir and ditch rights to build measurement devices so the engineer "may readily determine and secure the just and equitable exchange of water"); § 37-83-105(2)(b)(I), C.R.S. (2004)(requiring applicant for temporary agricultural loan to supply proof of decreed water right, duration of plan, description of diversions and return flows and a reasonable estimate of historic consumptive use); § 37-92-309(3)(a), (4)(a), C.R.S. (2004)(requiring applicant for interruptible water supply agreement to submit written report estimating historical consumptive use, return flows, potential for injury; state engineer provides copies of approval or denial to all parties).

A "Noble Habitat"-Will the Roundtables Assist?

The 2005 session of the General Assembly has now chartered statewide and local basin roundtables to pursue the worthy work of planning for Colorado's future and making accords to secure it.

Can there be agreement on agricultural water transfers that combine limited permanent changes of water rights with pooled, rotating water leasing and land fallowing programs? Can the Front Range urban area, particularly fast-growing Douglas County water suppliers that are now 90% dependent on non-renewable Denver Basin bedrock aquifer water, combine with each other and cities like Denver and Aurora to make water supply agreements that keep agriculture in business and rural communities viable, while bringing needed water to the cities? Will Colorado's new statewide water needs and water supply assessment process, with the aid of the roundtables, harness durable vision to well-chosen action? Will the agricultural users who wish to continue farming be protected from protracted absurdly expensive war-like litigation?

These and other questions are at the heart of the roundtable discussions as each basin looks to meeting its own future water needs and those of state citizens as a whole, consistent with Colorado's noble habitat.

As non-farmers join ditch and reservoir company boards because of changes in share ownership, the most important conversations about these and other questions concerning the lay of the land and waters may occur along the ditches and the laterals, on the shores of the reservoirs, and in the meeting rooms where the members of the board of directors and mutual company shareholders meet and vote-and wherever buyers and sellers, lessors and lessees, of mutual ditch and reservoir company shares confer to contract with each other.

The perpetual agricultural democracy envisioned by Jefferson and Powell and many of the multi-racial settlers who became Coloradans before us has become the great residential democracy of the plains, rivers, canyons, mesas, and mountains of this the great headwaters state.

Where Coloradans want it to go is where water will go. Because contemporary citizens value fish and wildlife, parks, recreation, and open space, water will go there also through public and private investment. We are dependent on the rivers and interdependent with each other. To put our money, muscle, minds, hearts into this community work of cultivating the fruit of the public's water resource is Colorado's enduring heritage and its praiseworthy destiny.

Bibliography of Sources

Justice Greg Hobbs, In Praise of Fair Colorado, The Practice of Poetry, History, and Judging (Bradford Publishing Company 2004)

Colorado Mother of Rivers, Water Poems by Justice Greg Hobbs (Colorado Foundation for Water Education 2005)

Robert C. Baron, Stephen J. Leonard, and Thomas J. Noel, eds., Thomas Hornsby Ferril and the American West (Fulcrum Publishing Co.)

Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Water Heritage (Colorado Foundation for Water Education 2004).

Foreword by Justice Greg Hobbs, "How Water Ditches Help to Invent and Reinvent Colorado," DARCA Handbook for Mutual Ditch and Reservoir Companies (Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, forthcoming 2005).

Kevin Darst, "Taking the Initiative," Headwaters 10, 12 (Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Winter 2005).

Wallace Stegner, Living Dry , in Marking the Sparrow's Fall: Wallace Stegner's American West 226-27 (Page Stegner ed., 1998).

Wallace Stegner, Wolf Willow: A History, A Story, and A Memory of the Last Plains Frontier 36 (Penguin Books, 1990) (1962).

Id .

Id. at 35.

Wallace Stegner, The Rocky Mountain West , in Marking the Sparrow's Fall: Wallace Stegner's American West 259 (Page Stegner ed., 1998).

The Gunnison Tunnel, diverting Gunnison River water into the Uncompahgre Valley, six miles long with a carriage canal another twelve miles long, came on line in 1909 .

Draft Population Forecasts by Region, 2000-2030, Colorado Dep't of Local Affairs, at http://dola.colorado.gov/demog/Population/PopulationTotals/For

ecasts/Substate.pdf). The Colorado Water Conservation Board projects an approximate fifteen percent shortfall in water requirements by the year 2030 across the state that may need to be filled by temporary or permanent agricultural transfers of water; this assumes that presently contemplated projects of local government water suppliers are actually built. Kevin Darst, "Taking the Initiative," Headwaters 10, 12 (Winter, 2005).

For a review and description of water right transfers along Colorado's Front Range, see National Research Council, Water Transfers in the West: Efficiency, Equity, and the Environment 137-161 (1992).

 Kuhn, Eric

“If the Lower Basin is Venus, the Upper Basin Must be Mars, or Maybe Europa”

by Eric Kuhn

Western State College Water Workshop, Gunnison, Colorado, July 28, 2005  

I. Colorado and the Upper Basin: Thirty Years Ago Versus Today

A. The major changes that affect our lives today occurred prior to 1976 and not during the last 30 years.

1. The era of “Reclamation” was over by the mid 1960s, perhaps even the 1950s.

•  Remember that water development was the means to achieve the goal of Reclamation, not the end. The primary purpose of the 1902 Reclamation Act was to encourage the settlement of the West by providing reliable water supplies to reclaim lands and promote stable agricultural based communities.

•  By the early 1960s there was no policy reason for the Federal Government to encourage settlement of the West. California was overtaking New York as the nation's most populus state and people were flocking to the western urban centers along the Colorado Front Range, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City for economic, weather and quality of life reasons.

•  All of the major Reclamation projects had been authorized by Congress. Many of those were completed in the last 30 years and the Animas La Plata Project is still under construction.

•  Virtually all of what we call the “law of the river” was in place - 1922 and 1948 compacts, Arizona v. California decree, the 1956 and 1968 acts, Mexican Treaty, NEPA, ESA and the original salinity control legislation.

•  Indeed, many of the core problems we face today concerning the unresolved legal and technical issues on the Colorado River were well recognized and had been cussed and discussed at length. The Upper Basin's obligation to the Mexican Treaty, California's over use of Colorado River water, the Central Arizona Project's junior water rights and ESA related train wrecks are four such examples.

2. The economic forces driving Upper Basin growth remain similar but have matured.

•  Colorado was experiencing a boom in the 1970s - after a brief slowdown in the 1980s, the boom continues today.

•  Colorado's last major new ski area opened in 1980 - Beaver Creek.

•  There was an energy boom in the 1970s - there is today as well. It was oil and oil shale then, today it is natural gas and coalbed methane.

•  In the 1970s, the Baby Boom generation was moving into Western Colorado for jobs, to have fun, to raise families. Today, those that arrived in the 70s are new grandparents or are sending their children off to college. But demand for second homes by boomers is fueling the economy with the labor force to build and maintain the boom being provided by immigrants.

•  Finally, in the late 1970s transmountain diversions to meet growing Front Range demands were a “hot” issue. The River District and Denver were litigating Denver's post Dillon rights. We were fighting over the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District was concerned with the conversions of agricultural supplies the municipal uses. Windy Gap was the solution.

•  Today, the transmountain diversion issue has not changed. Instead of Denver, the problem areas are Parker, Aurora, Highlands Ranch and Broomfield. The River District, Denver and others are still fighting over the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir. The Northern Board is still alarmed by the accelerating pace of agricultural to municipal conversions and the Windy Gap Firming Project is the answer.

B. Water development in the Upper Basin has continued. We've filled in.

1. The remnants of the Reclamation era are being completed:

•  The Dolores Project, Dallas Creek Project, the Navajo Irrigation Project in New Mexico, the Central Utah Project in Utah.

•  Animas La Plata is being completed as a project to meet the needs of the Native Americans, not to reclaim arid lands.

2. A number of non-federal projects proceeded: Windy Gap Project, Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Spinney Mountain Reservoir, Ute Water expansions, High Savery in Wyoming.

3. Probably more important than what has been built is what has failed:

•  The major failure of course is Two Forks Reservoir.

•  Also, Homestake II, Juniper Cross Mountain Reservoir system, the Narrows Project (on the South Platte).

4. Environmental issues have largely become mainstream.

•  The Upper Basin Recovery Program is functioning well.

•  Economic realities are driving conservation perhaps beyond the dreams of young environmentalists from the late 70s.

•  Reuse is common - Denver Water's recycle plant.

•  San Diego's so called “toilet to tap” project.

•  John Keyes quote from Desert News, July 20, 2005. The agency has looked at the feasibility of new dams in California, but Keyes warned “we must be realistic about costs,” noting that steel, fuel and concrete have all experienced dramatic cost spikes.

“In many Western river basins, the water needs of today are too great to simply await the development of new storage, which can take decades to complete,” he said.

Keyes encouraged an expansion of cost-sharing partnerships, environmental innovations to find ways to conserve water and protect wildlife, and better legislation that helps rural water users.

 II. Convergent Issues in the Colorado River Basin

A. While you heard me say that the water business in the Upper Basin has aged a bit and filled in, it has not changed that much. I do believe we are in for some possible difficulties in the next 10-30 years, especially on the Colorado River system as a whole.

1. When we consider the combined effects of growth in the Upper Basin and Lower Basin the impacts may be significant.

•  In 1975, the Upper Basin was consuming in the range of 3.3 to 3.8 maf/year.

•  In 2005, it was about 4.3 to 4.8 maf/year.

•  Including groundwater overdrafts and system losses, Lower Basin uses in 1975 were about 12 maf/year. Today they are about 12 maf/year.

•  The Mexican Treaty obligation remains the same; 1.5 maf/year plus 200K in “surplus” years.

2. Thus, according to the consumptive-uses and losses report, uses have gone from about 16.8 to 17.3 maf in 1975 to 17.8 to 18.3 maf in 2005. (NOTE), Reclamation data includes system losses and groundwater (Gila) overdrafts.

•  Uses only up 6 to 7%?

•  This is misleading, mainstem deliveries in Arizona have gone from 1.2 maf/year to 2.8 maf. Accompanied by a decrease in tributary use (groundwater overdrafts) from about 4.0 maf to 2.0 maf/year.

•  Nevada's uses have tripled (including tributaries) from 150K to about 450K per year.


A.  Demands on the Colorado River below Lake Mead have gone up by about 2 maf/year and inflows have gone down by about 1.0 maf/year. A 3.0 maf/year change.

•  Have we gone from having a small surplus in most years to having a deficit?

•  It depends on future hydrology.

B. Differences between the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin (Venus v. Mars stuff).

1. Geography - the Upper Basin is upstream of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the Lower Basin is downstream of Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

•  The Upper Basin supplies are variable based on nature. In dry years we use less - the physical supply is not there. We rely on local “carry over” storage. In wet years we might use more or less depending on summer rains. The Upper Basin's largest demands are in average or wet years following dry years.

•  The Lower Basin supplies on the mainstem are below 50 maf of storage. Supplies are very stable unless reservoirs are full and spilling or so low as to require shortages (never happened).

2. Water Use - The Lower Basin may be using far more water than allocated under the 1922 compact, 8.5 maf/year is apportioned, but 11.0 to 12.0 maf is being used. The Upper Basin is underdeveloped; 7.5 maf/year is apportioned, 4.3 to 4.8 maf being used.

3. Institutional Relationships - The Upper Basin States signed a compact in 1948. There is no formal compact in the Lower Basin. Mainstem apportionments are allocated in accordance with Arizona v. California. There are major unresolved legal issues.

C. Thoughts on the Three Major Questions

•  Is there any way to determine whether the Upper Basin and, more specifically, the State of Colorado actually have any Colorado River water left to develop? And, if so, where is it?

Short Answer: NO!

Embellishment: Conventional wisdom is that Colorado has about 500,000 a.f. left to develop.

Even if the Mexican Treaty interpretation goes against the Upper Basin . About one half of this will be used by existing or projects under construction.

The big question is: what will the future hydrology look like? I'm betting it will not look like the past due to changes in the climate.

I see no reason why Colorado and the other Upper Basin States shouldn't continue to develop as needed, especially with the Lower Basin overdeveloped.

As Jim Lochhead says, “the Upper Basin will not curtail a drop of water until the Supreme Court tells us we have to. That will take decades.”

•  It's been shown that finite water supplies haven't had a limiting effect on population growth in the Colorado River region - partly because so much of the water supply can be converted from agricultural use, with only incremental decreases in ag use supporting substantial numbers of new people. But is there a point beyond which ag conversions in the Colorado River region would begin to too seriously impact the national food supply? Is there a point at which the water supply will begin to limit population growth? And how will limiting process - or how should it - be carried out?

Short Answer: NO

I don't see a point in our future at which the water supply will begin to limit population growth or a point at which conversions impact national food supplies.

These questions are all relevant to the interbasin process now underway to develop a Drought Plan for the Colorado River. Do you have any advice for those attempting to negotiate this Drought Plan?

My concern is that the development of shortage criteria or the Drought Plan is simply dealing with a way to manage the symptoms of the problem, not address the underlying problems.

Lamm, Richard


Richard Lamm, Colorado Water Workshop, July 27, th 2005  

Thank you so much for your invitation. It was a trip down nostalgia lane to review what we had written 20 years ago. It was like visiting an old lover, you can still see what you were so passionate about, but both of you have gone different directions, and your views and opinions have changed subtlety over time. It is entirely appropriate that this is so: public policy is a kaleidoscope that time changes, and constantly presents us with new and different patterns.

THE ANGRY WEST was a cry of pain. I hated to see what was happening to my West. The rest of the nation was using our resources and not paying for the impact. We were already using our natural resources and our limited clean air to generate California's energy and much more was on the way. The M-X missile system was in final stages of planning, and it would have been one of the largest construction projects in U.S. history. Oil shale, with the then planned methods of extraction and production, was the mother of all environmental disasters. Colorado was told to get ready of a half a million newcomers to work that industry and the industry wanted us to issue bonds to pay for the needed infrastructure. The environmental impact was gargantuan; there is less than a barrel of kerogen in a ton of mined shale and we would have to dig a new panama canal every six months if we were to produce the hoped-for million barrels a day production. The coal and molybdenum industry was taking our natural resources and not paying any severance tax and precious little corporate tax. I challenged the President of Climax Molybdenum to show me that they had paid a cent of taxes to the state (as opposed to the local) and they refused my request. All of these impacts were taking place simultaneously, and on top of it, many of them were outside state control. We quoted Bernard de Voto who lamented that the westerner has never “been able to borrow money or make a shipment or set a price except at the discretion of a board of directors in the east.” Let me read to you from THE ANGRY WEST:

“All oil shale companies operating or planning to operate in the state are non-Colorado companies. All of the major coal companies are as well. Colorado's major uranium production is almost exclusively by out of state companies. So is its molybdenum production. The Denver Post is Los Angeles owned and the Rocky Mountain News is Cleveland-owned. Eight of ten of Colorado's major newspapers are owned from out of state. Non-Colorado companies own all of Denver's major commercial television stations. Nine public televisions stations exist in Colorado, six and a half of them owned from a distance in other states. Of Colorado's ten largest employers, only four even have corporate headquarters in the state… (Colorado) will grow. Perhaps it will prosper. But, as in the days of the Guggenheims and Rockefellers, it will not belong to itself . It will not control its own destiny.”

Where are we 23 years later? I fear the thrust of the book is still true. The M-X missile system that we (let me acknowledge my co-author, Michael McCarthy) wrote so passionately against is dead and buried. The name “Sagebrush Revolution” is dead, but the idea is very much alive and actually in power in Washington. The idea of giving states more power over federal land, has even converted some environmentalists like Dan Kemmis, but I think that is a serious mistake. I couldn't imagine what this state would look like if our state legislature (or local governments) had more control over disposing and developing federal lands.

Oil shale has been dormant, but like Frankenstein, oil prices are giving it the dynamics to become one of the environmental monsters of our future. On the issue of water, we were just dead wrong when we said that the west “must stand aggressively against federal ‘reforms' in water law.” and to preserve the state's right to establish its own water policies and allocation system. Though politically I could do no different, I am embarrassed to think how aggressively I fought against President Carter's hit list.

So let me use the “colonialism” issue to reflect part of my ANGRY WEST odyssey. I think we were largely correct in our analysis and our solutions. Tragically, the life and death issue of sustainability has now replaced these serious issues. Today our writing sounds too parochial. Let me illustrate this point by using the metaphor of river issues and boat issues. River issues are the large issues that involve the sweep of history: capitalism vs. communism, democracy vs. Authoritarian philosophies, the role of religion of society, etc.

Boat issues would be issues like we were writing about: energy impact issues, who pays for growth, energy impact, oil shale, how do we work out our relationship with the federal government who owns 50% of the west, how/should we economically control our own destiny. I me tell you three parables to illustrate my thinking on the river issues facing America and the west.

First parable: the Archbishop of Lima. (Story not included) We warned in our book about the avalanche of change that was hitting the west. We underestimated the magnitude of that change. No society in history has ever had to think about and make decisions about such things as –

•  The global economy,

•  The Internet,

•  The ethics of transplanting a baboon's heart in a human being,

•  Cloning and asexual reproduction,

•  Global warming,

•  The question of how do you raise sextuplets?

Modern day life is a rock rolling downhill gaining momentum and speed. We are sailing on uncharted waters moving at unprecedented speed. Our navigational instruments are all old-fashioned and out of date. We have lost our anchor and we are not sure that everything we learned about sailing in the past is applicable to the future.

And however fast it has been moving, it will move even faster. The rate and pace of change itself has become a river issue. Ray Kurzweil says the 20 th century wasn't 100 years of progress at today's rate of progress, it was only 20 years. At today's rate of progress, we will see change equivalent to all the 20 th century in 14 years, and then 7, and the pace will continue to accelerate because of the explosive nature of exponential growth. The 21 st century will see 1000 times the change of the 20 th century, which was no slouch for change. History is a rock rolling downhill and there is a real question whether our institutions, or even the human mind, is equal to the challenge to manage or even adapt to change this fast.

Second parable The Housekeeper. (Story not included) Let me state unequivocally my concern. Our book is filled with history lessons from the West. But I believe that history has become of significantly reduced usefulness for human wisdom and for guidance in the management of the future. We constantly referred to this history of the West in our book. Boom and bust cycles, exploitation, environmental pillage. I believe today that many of the great and wise sayings concerning the importance of history, like Santayana's statement that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” or Harry Truman's quote to the effect that the only surprises in the future are the history you don't know --while perhaps still true for human events, do not give us guidance on our major environmental public policy challenges and can be downright dangerous as we face the next generation of public issues. In some ways history has become a trap because it prevents us from recognizing the full seriousness of the problems we are faced with. An Old World is dying and a New World in which history is of limited use, is struggling to be born. Heretical words but let me make my case.

History does teach us much about human nature, about humanities, ambitions, cruelties, follies, about the seduction of power, the temptation of riches and lust. We enlarge our know-ledge and enrich our soul by the study of history. History has been an important part of my life.

But history does not teach us about Mother Nature; it does not allow us to properly evaluate something like global warming, environmental degradation, or the growth of human numbers. It is likely that we are entering into a new era of sustainability. A study of history would not have predicted the renaissance, or the industrial revolution, and I don't believe it is of much help in the search for the new world of sustainability or what may exist on the backside of the Hubbard curve.

The past gives little guidance to the next generation of problems because we are living on the upper shoulder of some unprecedented and dangerous geometric curves.  We ignore Al Bartlett's wise words that the greatest human failure is our inability to understand the exponential function.  I believe the next sequences of geometric growth in human numbers and environmental impact are unsustainable, and are thus by definition without precedent.  The relentless cascade of geometry is giving us a world beyond historical precedent. History teaches us of human limitations, but not of nature's limits. History gives us little guide to a world that needs to turn from “growth” to “sustainability.” some guidance, of course, but not where it really counts. We are sailing on uncharted waters.

I believe that we are surrounded with evidence that increasingly shows that something is fundamentally wrong with our historic ways of looking at the world. Yesterday's solutions have become today's problems, and these problems are of a different scale and coming at us with increasing velocity. The growth paradigm that allowed us to create wealth, reduce poverty, and increase living standards is becoming obsolete. Those human traits which allowed us to prevail over the ice, the tiger and the bear -- in a time of an empty earth continue to operate long after we are no longer an empty earth. 

Reg Morrison in his book, The Spirit Of The Gene, suggests that those genes that saved a species now are on course to destroy us.  We are hard-wired by survival traits that now, unless controlled, will drive us into oblivion. Evolution moves too slowly to correct the dilemma that evolution put us in by its past slow progress.

Our globe is warming, our forests are shrinking, our water tables are falling, our icecaps are melting, our coral is dying, and our fisheries are collapsing. Our soils are eroding, our wetlands are disappearing, our deserts are encroaching, and our finite water more and more in demand.   I suspect these to be the early warning signs of a world approaching its carrying capacity.  We cannot call upon the lessons of history to help us evaluate the seriousness of these problems because it is an entirely new paradigm.  Ecologically we are sailing on uncharted waters while moving at unprecedented speed. We have lost our anchor and our navigational instruments are out of date.

When I entered high school in 1950, there were 2.6 billion people on earth, and there were 50 million cars.  Now there are over 6 billion people on earth, and our car population has increased ten-fold to 500 million; and within 25 years it is projected there will be 1 billion cars on the world's roads. (Youngquist)

Nothing in our past prepares us for the environmental problems that we are faced with.  We cannot grow our way out of these problems; we cannot use history to put them into perspective.  The lessons we have learned living on an empty earth teach us the wrong lessons.  We are still trying to “be fruitful, multiply, and subdue” an earth that now needs saving. Contemporary life is a rock rolling downhill, gathering speed.  It presents us with a series of problems of nature, for which the lessons of history are not only useless, but teach us the wrong lessons.

Kenneth Boulding said that the modern human dilemma is that all our experience deals with the past, yet all our problems are challenges of the future.  The lessons we have learned in the past do not help and in many ways are counter-productive in solving the problems of sustainability. Our economic models have become ecologically unsustainable.

But the burden of persuading people of this is gargantuan. We live with a frontier mentality. In the rest of the world frontier means finitude. You go until you get to the frontier and then you stop. Only in America does frontier mean absence of limits and constant growth and movement. My love affair with the west teaches me the wisdom of the second culture. Modern growth curves are not sustainable. No trees grow to the sky. No growth can be expediential for long.

3 rd parable: the Kaufman diamond. (Story not included) Is growth a diamond or a curse? We warned of the growth pressures on the west. Again we understated. But we did try to demystify “growth” as an unmitigated good. I believe the environmental movement is committing “public policy malpractice” by not taking on the issue of population growth. I am proud that we had this one exactly correct.

The argument about growth around the country, and particularly in the west, is a dialogue between the blind and the deaf. One group still points to Colorado state university where they are developing salt resistant rice so countries will be able to grow rice in salt infested land and that group says confidentially "technology will save us."

The other group goes a little farther north to Wyoming and says, "Look, you can still see the wagon wheels of the Oregon trail." They are still there 140 years after the wagons have passed. They point out that we live in a desert. We are an oasis civilization that must come to grips with limits . Now if history is a teacher, what is the lesson we are to learn from the history of the west? Both sides find support for their sides in the history of the west.

Civilization has triumphed in the west because it refused to accept limits and our ancestors overcome a myriad of obstacles. This area was called the great American desert on the early maps. Our ancestors pushed aside the doubters and made it a garden. The culture of “full speed ahead” teaches that ingenuity and imagination can prevail over any obstacles and that there are no limits -- only lack of creativity. As one author put it, "the world is full of things patiently waiting for our wits to sharpen."

This is the west of irrigation canals, transmountain diversions, pivot sprinklers and other adaptations that allow us not only to live in a semi-desert, but also to enjoy green lawns and prosperity. The culture of the infinite suggests the future is a logical extension of the past, that all problems have achievable solutions: “go forth and multiply and subdue the earth” and “go west, young man.”

It is the optimism of “Not to worry: God gave man two hands and only one stomach.” It reflects a devout belief in limitless economic development, progress and the perfectibility of the human condition. It is the world of green revolution that has given us the potential to eliminate hunger, and of technology that some say has repealed the law of supply and demand and discovered seemingly endless and unlimited wealth. This is the world built around unlimited people and unstated consumers.

The supporters of this viewpoint may be modern prophets or may be modern alchemists -- but to date they say they have been stunningly successful in solving the problem of population and poverty. And in their minds their approach will continue to be successful. Desalinating oceans can solve aridity, and wealth (computer chips) can be created out of sand.

The second culture is the culture “slow down and change”. The west also teaches that we must adapt to nature, and be acutely aware of nature's fickleness and limitations. It teaches us that there is such a thing as “carrying capacity” and we must respect the fragility of the land and environment. It argues that nature teaches us that we never can or should rely on the status quo, that climate is harsh and variable, and that the price of survival is to anticipate and prepare. It questions the proposition that growth, population or economic, can go on forever. This is the world of conservation, national parks, wilderness legislation, crop rotation, Planned Parenthood, Malthus, Aldo Leopold, the great naturalist who says the west should teach us “intellectual humility.”

Only one of these cultures can ultimately prevail. They didn't conflict when the west was young and even when I was young. But your generation must make a choice between these two cultures. My generation could mourn Glen Canyon while we kayaked the Green and the Yampa. We could endlessly brag, “Watch Us Grow” and still maintain our quality of life and fragile landscape. But even though the west is no longer young and unsettled, we are still acting as if it were.

Our industrial civilization is built upon the assumptions that there are no limits, technology can solve all, and that the world will not reach any sort of carrying capacity. It assumes infinite resources, where scarcity is caused by want of imagination. Civilization in most of the world supports this assumption of the infinite.

The “go slow and become sustainable” culture, with fewer adherents, but equally passionate, contends that the first culture is making “empty earth” assumptions that cannot be sustained. They want to move now to stabilize U.S. population and help the rest of the world do likewise. They do not believe that there can be endless and unlimited consumption.

They feel that we cannot and should not have a Colorado of eight or ten or twelve million people, or an America of 500 million living our consumptive lifestyles. They contend that we live in a hinge of history where society must rewrite the entire script. If they are correct, then our basic assumptions about life, our great religious traditions, and our economy are conceptually obsolete. So far, those who sing this song are failed prophets.

But what if -- just what if -- the culture of sustainability was only a temporary victor? What if nature bats last? What if the real lesson we should have learned in a place with only 13 inches of rain was the need to appreciate that limits could be pushed and extended but never eliminated? What if the rain forests, the dying coral, the rising temperatures are trying to tell us something? What if shrinking fisheries melting ice caps, eroding soils were harbingers of a planet approaching carrying capacity?

The lessons I have learned from my love affair with the west support this second culture. I believe that we wrote a good book for the time, but that some new issues have hit us in the face which trump those issues for my limited time and efforts. I believe we have to stabilize the population of the U.S. and reduce its consumption. I believe we need to transform society from an earth-consuming technological civilization to a sustainable and more benign civilization. I'm impressed with Aldo Leopold's “land ethic” which teaches that human fate depends on our ability to change the basic values, beliefs and aspirations of the total society. My life's experience confirms Charles Darwin's belief that “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

I believe that the fate of our children and grandchildren depends on our ability to know when to abandon the growth culture, and shift to the sustainability culture.

Marston, Ed

The Life, Death and Potential Resurrection of Environmentalism


Ed Marston, Publisher Emeritus of High Country News

Colorado Water Workshop, July 27, 2005


        When I moved from the New York City area to then rural western Colorado , I was not an environmentalist. Paonia, a coal mining and fruit-growing town of about 1,400 made me one. Not because I saw that rural land uses were damaging the land. Far from it. To my city boy's eyes, Paonia and the surroundings looked great. I joined the greens because Paonia in the 1970s was like the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union .

        Former Congressman Wayne Aspinall, who built the West's dams, still moved around his former congressional district like a god. Gunnison National Forest Supervisor Jimmy Wilkins ruled his forest like a total dictator. And the voice if not the vote of one rancher, or of one long-time resident, was worth 100 voices like mine.

        Paonia gave me a hint of how a black person might feel in the more tolerant parts of the United States. So I became opposed to most of the things the rural westerners were doing: building dams, logging and grazing, paving dirt roads, bulldozing new dirt roads through forests, irrigating meadows and orchards, spraying against pests.

        I knew almost nothing about what they were doing, but I knew it was being done by people who excluded me politically and socially from what I naively thought of as the public sphere. They even excluded me ­ and continue to exclude me ­ from serving on juries.

        Was there any particular event that made me feel this way? There were hundreds of such events. There was the time Forest Supervisor Wilkins, sitting in the audience, ended a public hearing on a proposed molybdenum mine in Crested Butte by drawing his forefinger across his throat. The staffer running the meeting ended it in mid-sentence.

        There were hundreds of times I heard someone open their remarks at a meeting with the phrase: I have lived here for…, or I was born here,  or my parents came here in a covered wagon.

        There was the time in the mid-1980s when a member of an audience in Montrose got angry at some remark I had made, and asked me: "Why did you people move here anyway?" (It was during the energy bust, and my response showed I'd learned a thing or two: "Because you people don't know how to make a living here anymore.")

        About two years ago, High Country News, the paper I once published, ran a letter-to-the-editor from a rancher in the Cortez area. He said that in retrospect, he wished he and his fellow ranchers had greeted the newcomers who came pouring into the area in a more welcoming way.

        That letter spoke to me because I have wished since the early 1990s that those of us who came here from the cities and suburbs had turned aside the slights directed at us and behaved with more maturity and forbearance and wisdom.

        But if regrets and remorse were water, everyone in this room would be drowning. The question is: Where to from here?

        I can only speak from the environmental side of the fence. And I can only speak from my experience on that side of the fence. I think we greens got off on the wrong foot at Echo Park , where the Yampa and Green come together in the remotest corner of Colorado .

        When I first floated that corner in the early 1980s, there were wooden ladders spiked into the vertical canyon walls. When I came back a few years later, most of the ladders had been removed, probably by the National Park Service. All they left were the four-inch boreholes drilled into the canyon walls.

        The agency's actions destroyed the physical evidence that the United States had wobbled on its axis where it looked as if nothing had ever happened or could ever happen. But it was here in 1956 that the late David Brower and his environmental allies avenged John Muir's defeat at Hetch Hetchy by stopping two dams ­ Echo Park and Split Mountain . He even came close to derailing the entire Colorado River Storage project Act, which authorized Flaming Gorge, Glen Canyon, Navajo and other dams.

        In 1968, Brower and his team did it again, this time stopping two dams planned for the Grand Canyon , and almost defeating the Central Arizona Project. I think that Brower understood for the rest of his life that he and the environmental movement were at the peak of their powers during the 1950s and 1960s, and that it was to be downhill from there. He never admitted that, so far as I know. Instead, the berated himself in public for having turned victory into defeat by allowing Glen Canyon Dam to be built. From it, he drew the lesson, which he drummed into environmentalism, that you never compromise. You always go for the jugular.

        But he taught it too late. And it was a dangerous, self-defeating, destructive lesson for a movement in decline.

        Brower's 1950s and 1960s victories had two roots. First, the dams were planned for in or near units of the national park system. In those prosperous and secular days, threats to the national parks were as close as one could come in America to sacrilege. Americans had not yet abandoned secular gods to return to traditional gods.

        But if sacrilege is committed and no one knows about it, then it doesn't matter. David Brower made sure the part of the nation that counted ­ those who read its big city newspapers ­ knew that national parks were being threatened. He invented the kind of media war and issue spinning that we are now immersed in, and that the opponents of Brower's beliefs have especially mastered.

        Brower bemoaned his victory at Echo Park because it led to the inundation of Glen Canyon . I bemoan his victory because, combined with the passage of the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Superfund act, and other pieces of legislation, it created a path for the environmental movement that has ended in the present disaster.

        In the internet circulated article titled "The Death of Environmentalism" (Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus), the writers point out that the modern, well-funded environmental movement, with more members than every, has spent the last 15 years attempting to control climate change through the general path pioneered during the 1960s and early 1970s: public pressure exerted  to produce legislation, to be followed by agency rule making and litigation to make the legislation work. Their efforts failed, which to the writers say means that the environmental movement's core approach to issues has failed.

        In the West, we can see environmentalism's failure on the ground, in the form of the enemy's flags, drill rigs, flying everywhere over the public and private lands. A movement that in the 1950s and 1960s could force major compromises on the Colorado River Basin Project and the Central Arizona Project is today so weak that drill rigs can go literally anywhere.

        This weakness has existed since the 1980s, but was masked first by George HW Bush's old guard Republicanism moderation, and then by Bill Clinton's political genius. George W. Bush has revealed our impotence.

        Shellenberger and Nordhaus say we have become losers because  environmentalism has become just another special interest, failing to connect with the larger and more general needs of the population. Their cure is an Apollo II project, in which we create jobs and wealth by weaning the energy from oil.

        It's a good idea, but suffers from the old question: Who will bell the cat. Environmentalism didn't accidentally stumble into this fix. It came about because of the way in which the people who are part of the environmental movement approach not issues but life. The class of people who staff and back the environmental movement are almost without exception, people for whom making a living has not been a problem for at least two generations. They are therefore out of touch with the concerns of an increasing number of Americans: those who just get by, or who worry about getting by.

        It is a truism that those who attend environmental meetings and who belong to environmental groups are almost always white. What can't be seen is that they also tend to be comfortable themselves, or the children of the comfortable. Because of this background, the West's environmental movement felt no compunction about making war on blue collar people: loggers, illworkers, ranchers, dam builders and the like.

        Andy Kerr or the Oregon Natural Resources Council was more outspoken than most when he said that loggers should turn to making cappuccino. But no one rose from within environmentalism to oppose him. The zero cut and cattle-free movements were not opposed from within the movement as a form of economic and class warfare. The environmental constituency simply didn't see things that way.

        The only social sensitivity I have seen within the movement comes in the form of traditional liberal mores. The Sierra Club membership soundly defeated a measure to involve that organization in controlling illegal immigration. Ethnic sensitivity trumped in environmental concerns on this issue.

        My board at High Country News was fairly typical of environmentalism: a mix of excellent people who were racially sensitive but didn't have a clue when it came to class issues. It was never suggested that we seek out miners or loggers or millworkers as board members, but we were forever seeking Native American and Hispanic board members. The best we did was to have a few ranchers, a couple of whom were people who depended on the ranch for their livings.

        The time I felt closest to being summarily fired came when I told the board that it had proven impossible to attract minority interns to Paonia as interns, but that on a few occasions we had succeeded in finding interns from Anglo working class families.  The fact that I had drawn an equation between minorities and the Anglo working class enraged several board members.

        For other evidence, take a look at the cover of the book Welfare Ranching. It is supposedly a critique of ranching's land use practices, but it is really an assault on the people who ranch. The cover photo shows some very healthy looking land. But riding through that land on a four-wheeler is an overweight, self-satisfied looking rancher. The cattle-free movement was and is a war against people as much as it is a war for healthy land.

        So the fact that the movement adopted David Brower's initially successful tactics at Echo Park and in the Grand Canyon was not totally the blind following of a charismatic leader. It had to do with the hostility and arrogance of the political and economic class that dominated the rural West in the 1960s and 1970s coming up against the ignorance of the land and the class bias of those of us who moved here.

        I do not know why constructive leadership did not emerge on either side until very recently. I suspect leadership is like seeds: it can only take root in fertile soil. And on my side of the divide, writers like Edward Abbey were the most popular. On the other side, "real" westerners elected senators like Larry Craig and Wayne Allard and who pandered to them rather than attempted to lead them to a workable center piece.

        In general, I think the almost total defeat of environmentalism in the West is an excellent thing. I mourn the wholesale destruction of land that the gas industry is visiting upon the West, but to me that is a relatively small price to pay for putting the responsibility for the West into the hands of Westerners.

        I see signs that Westerners are beginning to take on this responsibility now that it is clear that the Sierra Club, et al, are no longer players in the region. I see those signs in the growth of organizations like the Quivira Coalition, River Network, Oregon Natural Country Beef marketing co-operative, the countless watershed groups, and ­ it is possible ­ the land conservancies.

       [  Rest of the talk: I will describe a few of these groups, and why I think they are signs of hope. I will express concern about the land conservancies because they are doing private, wealth-based land use planning and seem to take no responsibility for forcing up the cost of housing .]

        Finally, I will say that a major hope must lie with the ranchers. Private land ranchers control 170,000 square miles of the interior West, and the assault upon them by environmentalism has had some good results, which I will briefly describe.

        I will say that the environmental movement did many wonderful things, like protected wilderness and rivers, expanded national parks, raising the prominence of wildlife predators and fire. Even more important, it forced Westerners to think about what they were doing to the land as a whole, and built that awareness into the region.

        The weakness of the movement was that it always depended on distant allies, of the liberal persuasion, who did not understand the region. It was the weakness of the British style of colonialism: not brutal, but arrogant. It is unfortunate but inevitable that the open mindedness it initially brought to the region should have so soon degenerated into mindless orthodoxy.

Miller, Bart 

FACING OUR FUTURE: A Balanced Water Solution for Colorado

Bart Miller, Water Program Director, Western Resource Advocates  

•  Facing our Future provides a comprehensive, balanced, and affordable approach to satisfy Front Range water demands without harming the West Slope or the environment .

•  The traditional approach for meeting water demands (just building more dams that store water often taken from other river basins) simply won't work for the future—it's too expensive, slow, and controversial. Facing our Future offers a new path forward, a balanced portfolio of water supply strategies that is a “smarter” way to meet Front Range water demands .

•  The blueprint in Facing our Future differs from the “old formula” in two critical ways :

  • it makes urban water conservation and efficiency the top sources of water to meet increased urban demand, and
  • it recognizes the need for water supply projects to conserve, protect and restore rivers for their environmental and recreational benefits.

•  The new toolbox for increasing water efficiency and meeting future water needs includes :

  • greater focus on water conservation, i.e., reducing each person's water demand;
  • more “sharing” of water between existing users—for example, between farmers and cities, through temporary transfers;
  • conjunctive use of ground and surface water supplies;
  • cooperation between water providers, including the joint maintenance or operation of water supply infrastructure;
  • reuse of already developed water supplies;
  • expansion or rehabilitation of existing dams, reservoirs, and diversion structures.

•  The report analyzes a dozen new storage proposals and concludes that several have potential to be consistent with “smart” principles if designed and developed properly and may be appropriate to supply additional water needs.

•  Future water development should avoid harming communities and economies of the West Slope. The West Slope has a huge stake in the outcome of Front Range water planning. Through focusing on meeting Front Range water demands, Facing our Future offers a solution that benefits all of Colorado .

•  Many of Colorado 's rivers and streams are impaired as a result of low flows due to existing diversions. Rivers are too important to Colorado 's economy and quality of life to allow continued degradation and de-watering. When developed, new supplies must help conserve, protect and restore our rivers .

Conserve : Maintain healthy rivers that have consistently good quality and stream flows.

Protect : Maintain or improve the condition of rivers that are mostly healthy today, but are threatened by projects that will result in low flows or poor water quality.

Restore : Improve rivers suffering from low flows, dewatering, and/or poor water quality.

•  The key is conservation . Our analysis reveals there is huge untapped potential for curbing per capita urban water demands. Using just single family residential savings as an example (see table next page), over the next 25 years we expect savings could reach over 200,000 acre-feet, enough for over 1 million new residents.



Indoor Use


Outdoor Use


South Platte Basin


48,131 – 106,314 acre-feet/year


19,969 – 112,323 acre-feet/year


Arkansas Basin


10,920 – 23,910 acre-feet/year


4,711 – 26,501 acre-feet/year


•  Choices regarding proposed new dams and diversion projects should be guided by a set of 10 “smart water supply” principles . These principles will fully integrate public opinion and economic, environmental, and recreational needs into the water planning and development process:

  • Make full, efficient use of existing in-basin and imported water supplies, and reusable return flows, before increasing transbasin diversions.
  • Invest in the most cost-effective and least environmentally damaging water supply options first. All costs should be considered in the analysis of new supply options.
  • Fully integrate conservation, water reuse, and demand management into the water supply planning process.
  • Ensure that new and refurbished water projects do not increase the risk of extinction of native species nor adversely modify designated critical habitat.
  • Before taking more water out of rivers, adopt interruptible supply agreements (where feasible) between agricultural water users and other water users.
  • Improve use of existing water supply infrastructure and sharing of resources between water users to avoid unnecessary new diversions and duplication of facilities.
  • Ensure public involvement in the planning process to ensure that project developers understand and minimize environmental and socioeconomic impacts.
  • Use incremental approaches to providing new water supplies, to facilitate adding, changing, ending, accelerating, or delaying new supply strategies as demands change.
  • Expand existing storage and delivery before building new facilities on undeveloped sites.
  • Ensure that new projects provide multiple benefits, satisfy the greatest possible range of needs, and use the most effective methods for minimizing environmental damage .

•  The balanced portfolio in Facing our Future can deliver these results:

South Platte : Average Annual Yield in Acre Feet

Conservation, Temporary Transfers, Reuse, System Refinements 80,000 to 542,000

5 reservoir enlargements with native water 46,000

2 conjunctive use proposals 19,000 to 100,000

2 increased trans-basin diversions, with new reservoirs 48,000

Total 193,000 to 736,000

Arkansas : Average Annual Yield in Acre Feet

Conservation, Temporary Transfers, Reuse, System Refinements 30,000 to 69,000

1 set of reservoir enlargements (native and trans-basin water) 70,000

1 new pipeline carrying mostly native water (plus 2 reservoirs) 51,000

Total 151,000 to 190,000

•  The bottom line is that Colorado has enough water to meet its needs, now and in the future . Using our balanced approach, citizens, water providers and government can work cooperatively to meet growing Front Range urban water demands without harming Colorado 's rivers or quality of life.

Get a copy by emailing FacingOurFuture@ourcolorado.org , calling 303.534.7066 x1514, or visiting any of the following websites: www.westernresourceadvocates.org , www.cotrout.org , www.ourcolorado.org.



I missed the first Water Workshop entirely, in 1976. This is partly because, like most Westerners, I was not paying as much attention to water as it deserved. But I was on hand for the second one in 1977, in part because a lot had changed between the summer of 1976 and the summer of 1977.

The winter of 1976-77 had happened, for one thing, or had failed to happen: we had almost no snow at all until February. There had been dry winters in the Southern Rockies before, but never with so much of the regional economy dependent on that snow. As the second Water Workshop was going on, the ski resort up the valley, along with most of the other ski resorts in Colorado , was installing snowmaking equipment and a new water use was born.

If nature had again demonstrated its changeable nature that winter, so did culture demonstrate its changeableness that spring: the Carter administration changed the bookkeeping rules for water projects, and the western water establishment was reeling from the “hit list” of long-promised Upper Basin projects that would no longer be considered for funding.

One of my strongest Water Workshop memories, in fact, came out of that second session. Present for that second Water Workshop were some of the legends of western water: the former Mr. Congressman, Wayne Aspinall; former Lt. Governor and big West Slope booster Johnny Vanderhoof; and the quiet little man most hated and feared in the West Slope's mountain counties, Glen Saunders of the Denver Water Board. During the Water Workshop itself, the second shoe fell when the Carter administration issued another new ruling on western water projects, and Cliff Barrett, an assistant director of the Bureau of Reclamation and a very decent man (none of the arrogance associated with some Bureau leaders over the years), was here for the Workshop, and was asked to tell the assembly what was going on. And I remember him … well, just standing there for a long minute, and not saying anything, kind of shaking his head, and no one else said anything either, and I was aware that the times were in fact a-changin'.

For the three decades that followed, the Water Workshop has followed those changes, helped articulate them – and provided the kind of open forum that may have had some role in formulating those changes. A look at the listing of conference titles on the next page reflects both the changes in thinking, and the constant thread that runs through it all: humans trying to figure out how to build a stable functional society in a wonderful but very challenging region, where enough water was the growing challenge as the population grew 170 percent.

I was here for at least part of most of those Water Workshops, occasionally even invited to display my opinionated ignorance on some panel or another. For the past three years, I've had the interesting task of organizing the event – learning a lot in the process, not just about water but also about human nature. And as the event completes its third decade, through one of the more interesting periods in Colorado's history, it seemed entirely appropriate to do this session around that question – “Thirty years ago, who would ever have imagined

Stencel, John

Irrigated Agriculture - A Viable Industry?

How has irrigated agriculture fared over the past 30 years,

and what has to happen if it is to survive the next 30?

John Stencel, President, Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union  

I.        Thank you for this opportunity to lead off on the discussion of irrigated agriculture.

a.        Colorado Water Congress annual meeting.

b.       George Sibley, director of the Colorado Water Workshop.

c.        Rocky Mountain Farmers Union .

i.       Division of NFU.

ii.       RMFU Water Task Force.

d.       Due to the drought the last 5-6 years, our farmer/rancher members have expressed great concern about recent water issues - we wonder how much importance do the business and political leaders of the state give agriculture?

e.        And then you read the statewide water supply initiative issues nine months ago and you are told that by the year 2030, another 2.8 million people are going to call Colorado home - a 65% increase!

i.       How much water will Colorado need in 2030, basin by basin?

ii.       What is being done to address our water needs, statewide and by basin?

iii.       How much we are short, and where we are short, and

iv.       What is being done and what more can be done about this shortage.

f.         What will we do to address the impact of losing more than 400,000 acres of irrigated farmlands that will be taken out of production as water is transferred from agricultural to municipal use?

g.        What will we do about the dozens of smaller, rural water providers that don't have the financial and planning resources they require to plan and build much needed projects? What steps can be taken to protect the rapidly depleting and non-renweable groundwater upon which many Colorado communities rely?

II.                  Recent Legislative Initiatives.

a.        This last legislative session, legislation was considered that could change the beneficial use order of how we use water in this state - we wonder what proactive steps can farmers and ranchers take to help meet the rapidly growing M&I water demands, new recreational and environmental demands?

b.       And we wonder how agriculture will fare with the passage of H.B. 1177 - with negotiations of interbasin compacts regarding the equitable division of the state's water? (Do water transfers have to be permanent?)

c.        And will we be able to mitigate the effects on the water area of origin of a diversion of water from the area?

d.       To what extent is the fate of farmers and ranchers water in other hands?

  i.       Will constitutional priorities for water allocation change?

  ii.       Will there be water-law conditions on "injury" from water transfers?

e.        Should more Ag Water be spared?

i.       Leasing versus permanent sale?

ii.       Water banking?

iii.       Fallowing?

f.         Water Compacts.

i.       Is there excess water in the Colorado Basin available for transfer?

ii.       What economic assistance should be available from the state when a large percentage of the wells are shut down - like the Republican River drainage area? And others?

III.      Uniting Agriculture - Be Active, Not Reactive.

a.        RMFU Water Task Force initiatives

i.       Co-operation and communication.

ii.       Creation of agriculture water forum - have ag water summit meetings annually.

iii.       Develop a communication tool for exchanging information.

b.       Cooperation in enlarging present reservoirs and maintaining and raising dams.

c.        Building new storage facilities - small, non-traditional, at high altitudes?

d.       Research on new irrigation practices and drought tolerant crops.

e.        Additional conservation practices.

IV.      Irrigated Agriculture, a Viable Industry!

a.        Yes, if we address the questions I have raised and found ways for the general public in the state to feel comfortable with the solutions.

b.       Communicate and cooperate.

i.       Municipal and industrial groups.

ii.       Recreational and conservation groups.

c.        Proactive for irrigated agriculture.

This is going to be fun....

2005 Legislation 




BACKGROUND FOR SESSION – HB 1177 AND "THE SPIRIT OF '77": Eleven score and eight years ago, in 1777, our forefathers sat down on this continent to develop a set of processes whereby a free, independent and often ornery people could collectively govern themselves. The result of their efforts was called the Articles of Confederation. And it didn't work very well.

A decade later, they sat down and tried again; the result that time was the Constitution of the United States, which worked better but is still much debated in its interpretation, and occasionally changed. They knew that self-governance is not easy.

That "Spirit of '77" -- the capability for sitting down to develop the processes of self-government -- is a good exemplar to keep in mind for the "1177 process workshop" Friday morning of the Colorado Water Workshop. This year, the Colorado General Assembly passed HB05-1177 which establishes a grassroots democratic process for setting up a new mechanism in Colorado for addressing water issues, both within and between the river basins that make up the state.

To say that another way – the General Assembly said that it is time for Coloradans to develop a new process, more democratic and more affordable, for working out water issues, both within and between basins – but then said that it was important for the people of Colorado themselves to create the particulars of that process, rather than having it dictated to them.

George Washington, James Madison, Ben Franklin et al would have jumped right into it, not being accustomed to waiting to be told what to do, then exercising the right to complain about it. HB 1177 asks us to stop complaining and get back to self-governance from the ground up.

What HB 1177 specifically asks of us:

  • HB 1177 begins with a clear statement that it does not replace any existing processes for allocating or adjudicating water rights in Colorado -- that nothing in the bill supercedes or otherwise interferes with any water rights established under the auspices of Colorado Water Law. It's purpose is to insert a new process for exploring possibilities between the perception of a need and the ultimate filing for and adjudication of a water right.
  • HB 1177 establishes nine Roundtables -- one for each of the seven Colorado Water Resources Divisions plus one for the concentrated Front Range Metro area and one for the portion of the North Platte that flows out of Colorado – each charged with setting up its own bylaws, operating procedures, goals and objectives in the pursuit of the overall goals of encouraging locally driven collaborative solutions to water supply challenges and more generally negotiating the equitable distribution of the state's waters. Aside from some guidelines for ensuring that all interests in each basin are fairly represented, the law leaves the development of the processes for achieving the goal up to the people directly involved.
  • Because it is legal to move water from basin to basin in Colorado , HB 1177 also establishes an Interbasin Compact Committee, with two representatives from each of the nine Roundtables and several governmental appointments, charged with developing and implementing processes for negotiations on water transfers between basins.
  • The first task of the Interbasin Compact Committee (and, by extension, the first task of the individual Roundtables that make up the majority of the ICC) is to develop an Interbasin Compact Charter (to be completed by July 1, 2006 ) that will principally:
    • Create a "negotiating framework and foundational principles to guide voluntary negotiations between basin Roundtables,” and

<!--[if !supportLists]-->§  <!--[endif]-->Develop procedures for the ratification of compacts or other agreements between basin Roundtables, and procedures for making such compacts or agreements legally binding.

The full text of the bill -- signed into law early in June – will be in our Conference Proceedings, but it can also be found on the General Assembly website: www.leg.state.co.us. On the home page, under “House,” click on “Bills”; on that page, go to the “Select Bill Range” box at the top of the page and click on “House Bills 1151-1200”; on that page scroll down to, and click on, “HB05-1177.”

THE PURPOSE OF THE FRIDAY MORNING “WORKSHOP”: HB 1177 has been much discussed over the past several months, but this Water Workshop session will be the first effort to “walk the talk” – to see if some of the most knowledgeable water people of Colorado can begin to envision this new process for more collaboratively working out water situations.

Specifically, we will break up into groups to consider a typical-enough set of situations in a typical-enough Colorado watershed, from the perspective of members of that watershed's Basin Roundtable. The intent will be apply "Delph Carpenter"s process for negotiation" to that typical- enough set of situations. Carpenter was Colorado's negotiator when the seven Colorado River states created the Colorado River Compact in 1922. Essentially, his process can be described in four straightforward but difficult questions:

  • Can we all agree on the result, the outcome we want?
  • What do we have that will help us achieve our desired outcome?
  • What do we need that we don't have to achieve our desired outcome?
  • What are we willing to give up to achieve our desired outcome?

Through this process, we should be able to identify and thus anticipate both some of the possibilities and challenges the Roundtables and Interbasin Compact Committee are likely to encounter.


Imagine yourself to be a citizen of the Chipeta River Basin (see map) , a tributary of the Colorado River in Western Colorado – a citizen interested in, but maybe cautious about, serving on the Chipeta Basin Roundtable as established under the “Colorado Water for the 21 st CenturyAct” (HB 1177).

The Chipeta Basin is primarily “rural,” but has a typically mixed Western Colorado economy.

  • It has an large coal mine operating well up in one tributary stream, with a community of miners and artists (Lewistown, pop. 700) just downstream from the mine.
  • High in another tributary is a medium-size ski resort (500,000 skier-days/year). Mount Beavaria, a base-area community, has many large and beautiful homes but a stable population of only 250.
  • A few miles below the confluence of those two tributaries, where the streams form a large floodplain with a lot of irrigated hay land and a few ranches, is a larger town, Chipeta Falls (pop. 3,500), which is the service and supply center for the upvalley mining, ranching and resort economy – supplying most of the labor too for the resort community which is unaffordable for most service workers.
  • Below the 7,000-foot contour, the valley is primarily agricultural, with “mountain ranching” giving way to crop farming and, lower still, orchards. There are two cities in this part of the valley: Conflute (pop. 15,000), near where the river has gathered all its significant tributaries, originally a farm town but now also a regional shopping and medical center; and Thunder Junction, a fast-growing city (pop. 50,000 yesterday) where the Chipeta River flows into the Colorado – shopping and medical center for an even larger region, as well as an agricultural center, transportation hub, et cetera.


  • More than 80% of the perfected water rights in the valley are agricultural.
  • The two older upvalley towns, Lewistown and Chipeta Falls , both have more than enough water rights for any anticipated future needs, unless the coal-mining were to expand significantly above Lewistown.
  • There are some water quality problems below the coal mine, but it is an improved situation.
  • The resort town of Mt. Beavaria has an increasingly stressed water supply, needing more water both for municipal growth and for snowmaking in the winter; its leaders are exploring possibilities for trans-valley diversions within the basin.
  • The downvalley cities of Conflute and Thunder Junction both appear to be on growth trajectories that will begin to stress their water supplies in a couple decades if the growth continues.
  • There are ESA issues with fish in the lower reaches of the basin.

The basin has three storage reservoirs (see their numbers on the map):

  1. A small 10,000 af high-altitude reservoir above Chipeta Falls , on a tributary between the mining valley and the ski resort's tributary. The reservoir is on public land, and is owned by a local irrigation district -- it could be enlarged to about 20,000 af. Something needs to be done because the dam has been declared of marginal safety.
  2. A 100,000 af reservoir built by and for Arapahoe, the central city in a metropolitan area in another basin adjacent to the Chipeta Basin . The reservoir is on public land; a tunnel takes water from the reservoir to the city's basin. This reservoir could be enlarged to 200,000 af with a high dam.
  3. A 500,000 af reservoir lower in the basin with a power plant and lots of flatwater recreation, part of the Colorado River Storage Project. Aside from its power use, as much as half of this water might have no direct beneficial uses claimed.

FUTURE NEEDS: The SWSI study estimates that, given the long-term average flows in the basin and the growth projections over the next quarter century, the basin could fall short of water to meet demands by about five percent – most of which arguably could be met through efficiency measures and moderate conservation by users. There are some future “wants,” however:

  • Recreationists in the valley want a whitewater park near Chipeta Falls .
  • The Mt. Beavaria ski area wants to expand, and needs new water resources for snowmaking, as well as more municipal water.
  • Spooked by the recent drought, farmers and ranchers up and down the valley want more storage.
  • The endangered fish in the warm end of the basin need water at inconvenient times.
  • Energy development – both coal and oil shale – is a “wild card” with potential national-priority implications.

Meanwhile – Arapahoe Water, over in the next basin (predicted to be 20% short of water by 2030) is launching a campaign to double the size of its reservoir in the Chipeta Basin, and wants to initiate an Interbasin Compact Committee negotiation with the Chipeta Basin and other potentially affected basins.

Think about what you would do as a Roundtable member, and come join the fun Friday morning, July 29, in Gunnison!

Vandenbusche, Duane 


30 yeas ago when the water workshop was started at Western State College water was, as it had been for 100 years, the most important issue in Colorado and the West. It was then great to be in the company of such great minds on water as Glenn Saunders and Wayne Aspinall.

With the same amount of water today and a population that exceeds 4 million in Colorado, 2 ½ million in Phoenix and over a million in Las Vegas it is not just an important issue today it is a critical issue.

Stephen Long, Zebulon Pike, John Wesley Powell and Walter Prescott Webb early declared the West to be an arid land, but few have ever listened.

Los Angeles today has a local water supply capable of supporting about 10% of its people. Las Vegas , Phoenix , and Tucson have much less. All have an impact on Colorado .

Here are some realities about water in Colorado and the West today:

1) The Western Slope of Colorado has about 10% of the population of the state, 33% of the land area and 70% of the water.

2) John Love, ex-governor of Colorado 's famous comment: "Water runs uphill towards money."

3) Nothing but great amounts of money spent, much time wasted, many water lawyers made rich and little gained has come from water litigation between Western states such as in cases like Kansas v. Colorado - 1907, Wyoming v. Colorado 1922, and the fairly recent fight between Kansas and Colorado involving the Arkansas River .

4) The Colorado River Compact of 1922 which estimated that the Colorado River produced an average of 20 million acre feet of water a year was wrong. The actual amount produced since 1922 has been 13.7 million.

5) Few people in the West and in Colorado accept that we live in a near desert - water is cheap, blue grass lawns continue and very little conservation exists, while the population continues to rise dramatically.

6) Attempts to divert Western Slope water to eastern Colorado by Denver , Colorado Springs and the Arkansas Valley have been ongoing for over 100 years and show no signs of abatement today.

7) Colorado and the West have one of the highest population growth rates in the nation and yet there is a finite amount of water. What is the inevitable final result?

8) Western Colorado needs its water for its future - recreation, industry, agriculture, protection of the environment and our future is every bit as important as that of the Front Range .

9) The "Great Eastward Movement" is only about 25 years away as water problems multiply. With regard to water, I quote President Gerald Ford who once said: "Education is expensive but ignorance costs a lot more."

10) Once again some legislators in Colorado want to talk about water and pass bills. Western Colorado regards much of this as a harbinger for water diversion. We believe that the Front Range accepts the premise that "What's mine is mine, and what's yours in negotiable."

11) The only thing that will stop growth and ensuing greater use of water is economics. When water bills get to a certain level (and they are incredibly low now), then population will stop moving into an arid region. (Aspen home example)

12) The problems of water in Colorado and the West are enormous and must be solved sooner rather than later. Men and women of vision and fairness representing every section of the state and especially all water users of the state must get together and act.

Links to additional PowerPoints and PDFs:

Brand (ppt)

Brown (ppt)

Carpenter (pdf)

Conflict Resolution (ppt)

Kenney (ppt)

Shier (ppt)

Stenzel (ppt)

Topper (ppt)

Udall (ppt)