Conservancy district meeting features Colorado Water Plan update

Officials with the Colorado Water Conservation Board presented an overview of the recently updated Colorado Water Plan at the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting Thursday in Salida.

The draft Water Plan is available for public comment through Sept. 30 at

Nora Flynn, CWCB agricultural water planning specialist, stressed the importance of communities, individuals and organizations contributing to implementation of the Water Plan.

The CWCB, she said, “can help with grants, loans, tools, studies and other support.” The CWCB can also provide technical experts and will have four new regional coordinators in place by fall to support local communities and organizations in implementing projects that produce local and regional benefits.

Flynn’s overview of the Water Plan highlighted four action areas: Vibrant Communities, Robust Agriculture, Thriving Watersheds and Resilient Planning.

The CWCB will hold four online “listening sessions” via Zoom with each session corresponding to one of the four action areas, beginning with Thriving Watersheds from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 27.

The Resilient Planning session is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, followed by the Vibrant Communities session, 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1. The final session will focus on Robust Agriculture, 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28.

For Vibrant Communities, Flynn highlighted the need to “identify a set of benchmarks for water-saving communities, support strategic expansion of water re-use and support water-smart land-use planning.”

For Robust Agriculture, she emphasized “support for peer-to-peer learning between farmers and ranchers,” facilitating collaborative water-sharing agreements and helping local leaders “understand secondary impacts” of agricultural water use.

Resilient Planning, Flynn said, will “help advance the science and the solutions; support education, outreach and engagement; and work to be more inclusive and broad-reaching.”

To ensure Thriving Watersheds, Flynn said the Water Plan stresses the importance of providing “a framework for watershed planning” and supporting “mapping tools and wildfire planning” as well as “in-stream improvements.”

Flynn said Chapter 6 is “the guts of the Plan” and suggested focusing on that chapter, especially for anyone with limited time who wants to participate in the public comment period.

After the public comment period ends, the CWCB expects the updated Colorado Water Plan to be completed at the end of 2022 and adopted in early 2023.

In other business, the Upper Ark District board:

  • Approved an application for a $500,000 CWCB grant to support construction of a reservoir in Custer County in partnership with the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District.
  • Heard a reservoir storage report from District Hydrologist Jord Gertson showing that the district currently stores 5,042.4 acre-feet of water in various Upper Ark Basin reservoirs.
  • Learned that the District’s 2022 allocation of Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water totaled 773 acre-feet.
  • Welcomed an offer of assistance in securing federal funding for water projects from Erin Minks with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office.
Joe Stone