South Platte Basin water plan approved for submission | TheFencePost.com

South Platte Basin water plan approved for submission

Kayla Young | Editor

winter sunset over river

Moving one step closer to achieving a statewide water plan, Colorado's most populated river basins approved regional proposals last week to help establish a water-secure future.

At a meeting in the Plaza Event Center in Longmont, Colo., on April 15, the South Platte Basin and Metro roundtables unanimously decided to submit their final implementation plans to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The proposals seek to address the state's looming water supply gap, estimated by the conservation board to reach 428,000 acre-feet a year by 2050.

Following review of public comments and proposed modifications, the roundtables submitted water management plans for their respective basins April 17 for consideration in the statewide Colorado Water Plan, scheduled for final submission to the governor Dec. 10.

As a leader in agricultural production and home to the state's largest population centers, water management in the South Platte Basin, in conjunction with metropolitan users, the South Platte is critical for the state's larger water goals, explained presenter Britta Strother, environmental management and planning director for water and industrial design firm HDR.

Strother and Laurel Stadjuhar, principal for West Sage water consultants, outlined recent changes made to the South Platte and Metro implementation plans. The South Platte plan includes considerations for conservation and reuse, minimizing buy-and-dry of agricultural lands, and maximizing in-basin use of South Platte supplies.

Revisions to the plan added considerations for climate change and promotion of multi-purpose storage projects that focus on creating statewide benefits.

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The revised plan also will incorporate additional discussion on the impacts of conservation and reuse of return flows on water rights holders, said HDR water resource engineer in training, Kara Scheel.

Such considerations should serve to protect users throughout the basin, whether downstream or upstream, added Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District.

Allotment of conservation water savings dedicated to the state's pending supply gap has been increased to 50 percent for both the South Platte and Metro basins. Previously, 10 percent of such supplies from the South Platte and 36 percent from the Metro basin would have been dedicated to the supply gap.

Regarding cohesive management of surface and groundwater supplies, water consultant Bob Longenbaugh questioned whether the plan had fully considered the topic. He indicated that at times, much of the excess flow leaving Colorado for Nebraska comes from groundwater flow. Frank disagreed.

"This plan should look at how it is going to manage ground and surface water together," Longenbaugh said. ❖

Colorado Water Plan timeline

April 17 – Final basin implementation plans submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board

May 1 – Public comment deadline for first draft of Colorado Water Plan

May 20-21 – Final basin implementation plan presentations to CWCB

July 15 – Second draft of Colorado Water Plan released for public review

Sept. 17 – Public comment deadline for second draft of Colorado Water Plan

Dec. 10 – Final submission to governor

• • •

For more information about the South Platte Implementation Plan, visit http://www.southplattebasin.com.

Source: Colorado Water Conservation Board