At the beginning of this year, Governor Polis declared 2022 the “Year of Water.” It is easy to see why — this year
marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact, and the release of a draft update to Colorado’s critical Water Plan.
But 2022 became the year of water in even more ways than expected. From the outpouring of resistance to a deeply misguided water diversion proposal to historic drought-resilience investments at a federal level, this year kept the Water for Colorado Coalition and our partners busy.
Join us in taking a moment to look back at just some of the highlights from 2022. This year we…
Supported the San Luis Valley in successfully defending their water
The Coalition was proud to stand with residents of the San Luis Valley in protecting their water from a proposal by Renewable Water Resources that sought to divert water from the Valley to the Front Range. The Coalition was vocal in its opposition to the proposal, publishing our first-ever Coalition-wide OpEd in the Colorado Sun on the importance of more sustainable water-shortage solutions: “Sending SLV Water to Douglas Co, Only Postpones the Inevitable.” Douglas County commissioners ultimately voted in May not to direct funds towards the proposal.
Worked together for significant water wins at the Colorado Capitol
All three of Water for Colorado’s major, legislative priorities passed at the Capitol. Groundbreaking HB1151 charts a pathway for a statewide program incentivizing the replacement of thirsty turf grass with native, water-smart alternatives. Meanwhile, HB1402 built on the success of 2019’s Proposition DD by ensuring water benefits from the full scope of funding made available from tax revenue associated with sports betting — initially increasing it by 50%. And finally, Wildfire Prevention Watershed Restoration Funding (HB1379) allocated $15 million to protect rivers, wildlife, and drinking water supplies from the threats and impacts of wildfires.
Celebrated new federal funding sources flowing to Western water
We started this year still reveling in the allocation of once-in-a-generation federal funding for Western Water from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Then, in August, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law by President Biden, creating significant funding to address the climate crisis, with money specifically earmarked for Western drought. This federal funding adds to significant statewide funding initiatives that were supported by Water for Colorado. Going into 2023 and beyond, it’s incumbent on the state to capture this federal funding through grants and other proposals to ensure that Colorado’s communities, rivers, and watersheds benefit from this landmark funding.
Engaged extensively in the Colorado Water Plan update
This year, a draft update of the Colorado Water Plan was released for public comment, and Water for Colorado made its voice heard, from OpEds to sign-on letters. Having played an integral role in soliciting public feedback during development of the first plan, the Coalition was thrilled to once again have the opportunity to help ensure the plan prioritizes rivers, streams, and watershed health. The Coalition and our partners distributed petitions across the state, asking Coloradans to support requests for greater accountability, identified funding sources, healthy rivers, and equity in the plan. Over 5,000 Coloradans supported these ideas, which we submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Governor’s Office when the plan’s public comment period closed on Sept. 30.
Recognized the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact
On Nov. 24, the Colorado River Compact — the first document to lay out apportionment and management of the Colorado River — marked its 100th anniversary. The anniversary provided an important moment to reflect on how the effects of climate change coupled with increased demands from a growing population within the Colorado River Basin have intensified the challenge of meeting all of the Basin’s needs; and also emphasized how we must work together to adapt. It further provided a critically important opportunity to reflect on the fatal flaws present in the compact from the beginning, especially its failure to include tribal nations.
These represent just some of the Coalition’s major moments and milestones this year, but there were so many more — from a campaign of water funding Letters to the Editor across river basins to legislative workshops on the importance of protecting these natural resources to our first (but certainly not last) Spanish language content pressing for deeper equity in the state’s water plan, the Coalition was privileged to engage with communities and stakeholders across the state on a daily basis.
2022 may have been a declared year of water, but this momentum can’t stop in 2023. Not only will the state’s new, final Water Plan be released in January, but the months ahead will surely see new manifestations of drought and crisis along the Colorado River, and demand greater collaboration, resilience, and adaptability than we could have predicted even a year ago. We hope you’ll continue to keep up-to-date with Water for Colorado as we work to keep our rivers healthy and flowing, and thank you for your monumental support in 2022.