On November 3, Colorado voters passed two key ballot measures to help keep our rivers healthy and flowing. Together these measures will generate nearly $8 million annually to support critical water-related needs. This is a big win for Colorado water!
Voters approved a property tax increase for the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, which will provide $3.3 million a year to protect water quality, safeguard drinking water, maintain healthy forests, rivers and creeks, plan ahead for dry years, and continue to grow food locally.
On the West Slope, voters approved a mill levy increase for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which will bring in nearly $5 million a year to support healthy rivers, local agriculture, watershed health, and water quality in the 15 counties that make up the district.
Why is this week’s double win such a big deal? Local funding from both measures will support the types of solutions and water management projects outlined in Colorado’s Water Plan. Finalized in 2015, the Water Plan provides a blueprint to address the gap between water supply and demand across the state. It has been, and will continue to be, essential in managing Colorado’s water sources in a way that protects our state’s water future. But the plan lacks long-term funding.
It’s urgent that we support funding for Colorado’s rivers. The Interior West has been in a drought for over 20 years and Colorado’s West Slope is home to one of the largest climate change-driven hotspots in the nation. Additionally, Colorado experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons on record in 2020. Many of these fires happened in river corridors that provide drinking water for thousands of Coloradans. Voters showed us that they understand these threats to our rivers by prioritizing water this election. Every vote to approve these ballot measures was an investment in healthy rivers, clean drinking water, resilient agriculture, and a thriving economy.
This year’s double win marks another voter-approved effort to fund work that supports the Water Plan. In November 2019, voters passed Proposition DD to legalize sports betting and use the resulting taxes to help fund Colorado’s Water Plan.
Because of each of you, we have an additional $8 million per year for water in Colorado. But, as you know, more work lies ahead. It is crucial that we continue our efforts to find additional long-term funding for Colorado’s Water Plan. Even though these ballot measures will generate significant funding for water in Colorado, a larger funding gap for implementing Colorado’s Water Plan remains. Colorado’s Water Plan estimates that $100 million dollars per year is needed to protect scarce water resources to prevent future water shortages in the state and to prepare for a future with continued drought, wildfires, and stress on our water supplies.
This is a huge leap forward for water, but we won’t stop here. We will continue to work together to fight for additional resources to protect our water and educate Coloradans on the importance of healthy watersheds and rivers.