April 1, 2016--At 75, Southwestern Water Conservation District looks back on lessons (Durango Herald)

Water – whether it’s supply, conservation or quality – has always been a challenging topic for Colorado, particularly for the southwest. On Friday, nearly 200 regional officials and water stakeholders convened at the DoubleTree Hotel for the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 34th annual water seminar, celebrating 75 years of existence and discussing the lessons learned. “There has always been the problem of not enough money,” said speaker Bill McDonald of McDonald Water Policy Consulting, pointing to the state’s history of water woes. But when President Franklin Roosevelt launched the New Deal, there was a heavy emphasis on public works programs. “In that, Colorado saw real opportunity to get some of the $3.2 billion budgeted for public works administration,” McDonald said. “Two million was earmarked for water projects.” But the state was unprepared and was divided by “sectional differences” over transmountain diversions between the east and west. So in 1934, Gov. Edwin Johnson proposed a state planning commission to identify statewide needs for natural resources, highways, recreation and other public works projects, and water development was high on Johnson’s agenda. In June 1935, the governor convened a meeting of water stakeholders at which an advisory group called the Committee of 17 was chosen to direct the state planning commission, which laid the groundwork for the establishment of conservation districts. Speakers on Friday credited the Southwest Water Conservation District for providing the support necessary for water quality improvement and local supply projects over the years. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.