Colorado is updating its Water Plan – Here’s how you can participate!

Jun 02, 2020

Five years ago, you and the Water for Colorado community helped craft a smart, common-sense, conservation-focused plan for our state’s water future in Colorado’s Water Plan. Now, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is beginning the process of updating it, and we need your help again to ensure the plan continues to protect our rivers, drinking water, communities, and local farms and ranches for generations to come.

Here’s the first way you can get involved: The CWCB is holding a series of webinars over the next two weeks, free and open to the public. The state wants to understand your hopes for the Water Plan update, and we hope you’ll participate. RSVP here to take part in the second phase of the development of Colorado’s historic Water Plan.

Sessions include:

  • June 3:      10:00-11:30am   →    Municipal & Industrial–View Recording
  • June 4:      10:00-11:30am   →    Forest Health & Watershed Health–View Recording
  • June 10:    10:00-11:30am   →    Agriculture–View Recording
  • June 11:    10:00-11:30am   →    Environment & Recreation–View recording

If you’re viewing the YouTube livestream, you can submit your questions to the following email, at any time: [email protected]

Wondering what can you do at these webinars to stand up for Colorado’s rivers and communities? Consider posing the following questions during the Q&A period of the webinars to tell the state what priorities you think need to be addressed in the update of Colorado’s Water Plan.


  1. New sources of water are important in Colorado, where climate change is expected to shrink the annual snow pack that serves as the state’s main source of water even as demographers predict the state’s population will grow by 54 percent, to 8.5 million people, by 2050. Colorado’s next big source of drinking water should be recycling and reusing water.  What are the state and basins doing to increase water reuse, including for drinking water?
  2. As municipal conservation and efficiency improvements progress, will those efforts translate to benefit environmental goals such as increased flows benefiting river health?
  3. Colorado’s Water Plan sets a measurable objective of 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial conservation by 2050. What steps are being taken to meet this goal, and can you help the public better understand how state dollars are being used to accomplish this goal via a public scorecard reporting on progress, actions and achievements?
  4. The recent technical update outlined that, since 2008, statewide individual water demand has decreased from 172 gallons per person / day to 164 gallons per person / day, with most Basins experiencing a decrease. This is encouraging and positive progress.
    1. How does this reduction translate into meeting the 2050 Municipal and Industrial goal set forth in Colorado’s Water Plan to date? Is it enough progress to meet the goal and, if not, what additional steps are needed? 
    2. In the past several years, some municipal water conservation efforts have made strides toward decreasing usage. However, with increasing population growth and impacts of climate change, how are the state and the basins planning to continue building on this momentum? Are there examples of scaling up local efforts to implement on a statewide level? 
  5. With the vast majority of residential water use in outdoor irrigation, is the state actively pushing outdoor water efficiency improvements such as native landscaping and xeriscaping practices? 
  6. One of the Water Plan’s objectives is to have 75% of Coloradans living in communities that have incorporated water-savings into land-use planning by 2025. The state and partners have made great strides in advancing this goal through coordinated trainings, dialogues, and workshops. Nonetheless, as Colorado continues to grow, the integration of water and land-use planning becomes increasingly urgent.
    1. What progress has been achieved to date toward this goal?
    2. What other metrics are being used to define success in meeting this goal and beyond?
    3. How can the Basin Implementation Plans and the Colorado Water Plan update process accelerate the achievement of this goal and what resources are being made available to, or are still needed by, the Basin Roundtables to help them incorporate such steps in their priority projects?


  1. The Water Plan has a measurable goal that 80% of watersheds will be covered by watershed management plans by 2030. Where is the state in achieving this goal? Will the process to update basin implementation plans require basins to report on their progress and actions on this goal in the next 10 years?
  2. How do abandoned mines, and the risks they pose to humans and the environment, play into watershed management plans?
  3. There are a variety of Forest Service planning efforts occurring such as the GMUG with several others planning to get started shortly, such as the Pike San Isabel and Arapaho Roosevelt. What steps is the state taking to coordinate with the various Forest Service planning efforts?
  4. Watershed and forest health plans are often centered around wildfire mitigation, which is a valuable and important goal. But, we also need to know: are natural infrastructure and protection of headwaters and source waters included in watershed health plans?
  5. What role can municipal water providers play in watershed health planning to ensure the protection of source waters?
  6. How is CWCB coordinating with the Colorado State Forest Service to advance forest health goals and objectives?


  1. How does Colorado’s Water Plan (CWP) incorporate the need for agricultural infrastructure improvements, which can reduce costs for producers and may reduce consumptive use or reduce transit losses to benefit localized river or aquifer conditions?
  2. How is the state progressing on the current goal of having 50K acre feet shared via alternative transfer methods (ATMs) among agricultural producers and municipalities? 
    1. Are there project examples that are scalable? 
    2. How can we encourage more municipalities to enter into ATMs instead of resorting to buy and dry?
  3. The Office of the State Engineer (SEO) has recently mentioned the need to improve water measurement statewide. How will improved diversion and water use data be used to inform the Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) update?
  4. How will the Water Plan update be coordinated with the ongoing demand management feasibility analysis? What is the timeline comparison between a possible demand management program decision and the CWP/BIP update process? 
  5. The agricultural community has had greater engagement in stream management planning. What are lessons learned from this engagement that could be applicable to the greater agriculture and environmental river health nexus? How do we work toward more multi-benefit agriculture-environmental projects?


  1. What work has the CWCB done, or is the CWCB planning to do for this update, to quantify Colorado’s environmental and recreational (E&R) water needs?
  2. Will the E&R BIP update include public engagement and comment opportunities to gather local knowledge and priorities for future stream management planning efforts? How can local citizens and organizations help in the creation and implementation of stream management plans to assist the state in reaching the 80% priority streams enrolled in a steam management plan by 2030?  
  3. To assess progress toward the 2015 Plan objective of having Stream Management Plans for 80% of priority reaches by 2030, Colorado must have a comprehensive list of the priority reaches. Identifying those requires local community knowledge and sensibilities, but also data and science. The Basin Implementation Plans (BIPs) Environment & Recreation (E&R) values maps included in the 2015 Water Plan were a start, but didn’t constitute an actual priority reach list. Without knowing where there are E&R water needs, one can’t know if the 2013 Basin Roundtable (BRT) maps captured all priority reaches, nor which mapped reaches are true priorities.
    1. Can you explain how the CWCB will help Basin Roundtables determine their E&R water needs or their priority reaches for the update? And what funding has the CWCB allocated for this purpose?
    2. The new flow tool is excellent, but can’t be used everywhere due to its associated cost.
      1. How is CWCB prioritizing where to use the flow tool during the Water Plan update process?
      2. Does each Basin Roundtable have a reserved funding to use the flow tool, i.e., for a set number of stream miles?
    3. The Rapid River Assessment, as done for the Poudre River, sounds promising, and perhaps less expensive than using the flow tool, in part because it can serve multiple purposes.
      1. Does the update contract allocate funding to deploy the Rapid River Assessment strategy more broadly across all basins?
    4. Water assessments being done for other purposes can generate data that may be useful to improve our understanding of flow needs – or could be tweaked to gather better information. Has the CWCB incorporated the idea of doing water assessments that satisfy multiple needs into the update contract, and if so, how?
    5. The revised agricultural water gap includes perpetually unmet water needs in addition to considering more traditional, annual shortage amounts. Could a similar metric be used to demonstrate not just annual shortages to baseline flows needed to maintain the environment but also the perennial environmental shortages from local “healthy” hydrographs against a more natural baseline?

We hope you’ll participate in these webinars to tell our water leaders that safeguarding Colorado’s water resources is a priority for you and your loved ones! RSVP here for the CWCB’s Colorado Water Plan Webinars.

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