Colorado’s future depends on Water. The next four years are critical for implementing the Colorado Water Plan and closing the supply and demand gap by 2030. As a steward for the environment, our economy, and Colorado’s future, I will use an all-of-the-above approach to water. I believe we can close the supply-demand gap and protect Colorado’s water resources in a financially and environmentally responsible way.
To achieve this we need to both improve conservation and build more storage to prepare for more variable precipitation.
Today, despite a growing population, Denverites use about the same amount of water we used 30 years ago. But Denver only uses 2% of the state’s total water. The real savings are coming from the cutting edge work in our agricultural community.
Agriculture accounts for approximately 89% of Colorado’s annual water usage, and I believe that Colorado’s reputation as the Silicon Valley of agriculture, farming, and ranching, will shine in regards to water. Our continued investment in agricultural technology and best practices will pay outsized dividends in the areas of water conservation and efficient usage.
We have made good progress in conservation, but ultimately we are not going to reduce and save our way out of this problem. We also need to focus on storage and funding mechanisms.
We need to build large storage projects and new reservoirs, but we also need to focus on dynamic and medium-sized projects that help us store water in innovative ways and balance environmental protection with our needs to build out storage.
A key part of getting this storage on line is to improve the permitting process. In many cases we will need to engage the federal government. We will coordinate to get the state agencies permitting process streamlined so that our steps in the process can be faster, unified, and orderly when we approach the federal government. Likewise, when we have multiple agencies with jurisdiction, I will support designating a lead agency to spearhead the process.
The Colorado Water Plan calls for an additional $100 million a year to adequately fund infrastructure projects. I support directing more financial resources to water projects, but do not believe this should come in the form of new taxes. A key part of this will be utilizing public private partnerships. Because of the finite nature of water and return potential we are on the cusp of recognizing more valuable ways that the public and private sector can work together.
Local water companies and developers have the ability to raise capital and fund projects through capital markets at low rates, which will help spur development. A key role for the state government is to help enhance creditworthiness and attract best terms for these borrowers who are developing water projects and infrastructure.
On a state level, I will defend our rights, making sure we are getting every drop we are entitled to under our inter-state compacts. On an individual level, water rights are property rights. I will protect these rights for our citizens.
As Governor, I will be charged with making appointments to the Inter-basin Compact Committee. In addition, I will follow in the footsteps of my predecessor and make sure that water has a place at the table. I will expand the authority of my cabinet level appointee on water to work with all stakeholders to get our water agenda implemented.