October 30, 2015--Land use must consider water supply, speakers say (Durango Herald)

Land use choices and water use are connected. So how come water people and land use planners don't work together as water supply becomes more at risk and state population keeps growing? That was the focus of a water and land use forum on Oct. 23 at the La Plata County Administration Building. It was organized by the Durango-based Water Information Program (WIP). Denise Rue-Pastin, the director of the program, cited predictions that global population will reach 10 billion by 2050. "Some of the information being presented is kind of a downer," she warned. "Hopefully you (participants) will be armed with the information you need to make really good decisions." She showed maps of global water shortage areas, including in the U.S., areas of growing food demand, and regions where wars are being fought over water. Water quality is another issue. Rue-Pastin also cited statistics for the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to parts of seven states plus Mexico. A 1922 compact governs how water is shared among the seven states. Back then, the Colorado delivered around 16.5 million acre feet per year to around 5.5 million people, she said. Now it's delivering around 13.5 million AF to 40 million people. She cited the Colorado Water Plan aimed at addressing water supply gaps as state population grows to a predicted 10 million. The final plan must be presented to the governor by Dec. 10. She cited the familiar statistic that 80 percent of state population is on the Front Range while 80 percent of the water is on the West Slope, and 80 percent of water use in Colorado is for agriculture. Drew Beckwith, water policy manager for Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, said, "On the Front Range, we talk a lot about sprawl," with the poster child being the huge Highlands Ranch development near Denver. "We can't keep doing that if we want to have a Colorado that we want to live in." The Colorado Water Plan "doesn't say a lot about what we should be doing," although it lists ideas such as development that does not increase water demand, referred to as net zero, Beckwith said. "The divide between water planners and land use planners is sometimes a challenge." There are efforts to come up with estimates of how increased density might affect water use, he said. The Water Plan will tout a goal to have 75 percent of state population living in communities that have incorporated water saving actions, Beckwith said. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.