Colorado will launch a new round of public water talks in March to address such thorny issues as how to stave off projected urban shortages, protect farm water and ensure enough water in streams for fish and kayaks, the Rocky Mountain News reported.
The talks mark the start of Phase II of a closely watched $2.7 million study known as the Statewide Water Supply Initiative.
Launched in 2003 in response to the drought, the study is designed to help lawmakers understand how much water Colorado has and how much it's going to need by 2030, when the state's population will have grown by a projected 2.2 million residents.
Conducted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Phase I of the study, which was just completed, analyzed water supplies and future demands in the state's eight major river basins.
According to the report, water demands will soar some 53 percent by 2030, with forecast shortages of at least 126,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, enough to serve up to two families for one year.
During Phase II, the study will seek to help communities collaborate to share supplies, examine environmental and recreational needs, and monitor how well dozens of water fiefdoms across the state are meeting the needs of citizens.
Now nearly two years old, the controversial undertaking has raised some deep suspicions. Western Slope communities, which have seen vast amounts of water moved to the Front Range, worry that the process will lay the groundwork for new water raids by cities.
At the same time, cities, long accustomed to planning and developing water projects individually, worry that the state is assigning itself too large a role.
Dennis Steckel, a member of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Board, would like the study process stopped cold.
"It's never been truly representative," he said.
But for now, the water board has given its OK to Phase II.
"We do think the state has a meaningful role to play," said Rick Brown, a water board staffer and study manager. "If people think the process needs to be more (representative), then Phase II is their opportunity to tell us how to do things differently as we move forward."