Protecting and putting Colorado’s water to beneficial use has been a priority and a challenge since the state’s founding. It continues today in the face of significant growth in the West and the disruption of climate change.
Water Wars in the West
In 1977, my first task in Washington D.C. as a junior member of Congressman Frank Evans’ legislative staff was to organize opposition to newly inaugurated President Jimmy Carter’s budget cuts of Western water projects. Western states banded together to save funding and won the immediate fight, but it was clear that project financing from Congress was declining and regulations from environmental agencies was increasing. The change was reinforced in 1991 when the long-planned Denver metro region Two Forks project was stopped by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
But Western water leaders are adaptable and they focused on developing water storage and conservation projects with in-state financing and commitments to environmental negotiations, management and mitigation.
Water Projects of the 21st Century
The great Colorado drought of 2002-03 highlighted the need for action and launched a creative and collaborative series of projects. Built since were the Southern Delivery System project of El Paso County and adjacent areas, the Prairie Waters project of Aurora, the Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming and Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) of northwest Colorado, and Gross Reservoir expansion of Denver Water. They are examples of that represent $5 billion in investments, mostly from Colorado tax- and rate-payers.
NISP and Rueter-Hess Reservoir
Colorado Water Congress
Since the 1990s, we have been involved with the state’s primary water association, the Colorado Water Congress, specifically to monitor and educate the public on water ballot issues that could affect water laws and investments in Colorado.
Ciruli Associates and Water
The importance of protecting Colorado’s water and making effective use of it for citizens remains a state priority as it enters a new decade. This work was among our firm’s most valuable contribution to the state and highly professionally rewarding.