In a state where the competing demands for limited water resources are enormous and continually growing, building political support for instream flows is critical. The CWP provides analysis to decision-makers, the media and the public regarding the importance of instream flows, the current state of Colorado's rivers and streams, possible improvements to Colorado's water allocation system, and ways in which growing demands for water can be satisfied without adversely impacting coldwater fisheries. CWP efforts create public concern over low stream flows and an impetus for decision-makers to take action to address the problem.
For example, in 2002 the Colorado Water Project released a report entitled "A Dry Legacy: The Challenge For Colorado's Rivers." The report, which highlighted the issue of low stream flow in Colorado rivers and suggested policy solutions for addressing the problem, received widespread media attention. With the report as background, later in 2002 the CWP was instrumental in convincing the state legislature to expand the state instream flow program to allow the Colorado Water Conservation Board ("CWCB") to acquire water rights not only to preserve the environment, but also to improve the environment on streams suffering from flow impairment. We are now working with the CWCB to achieve the highest level of protection possible under the existing instream flow framework while simultaneously building support for additional legislation that would further expand the program.
To identify rivers and streams where flow protection efforts should be concentrated, the CWP is building political support for a statewide assessment of instream flow demands . After the 2002 drought, Colorado's legislature approved a major statewide water planning and analysis initiative, known as the Statewide Water Supply Initiative ("SWSI"). During the first phase of the SWSI, we led the group of environmental and recreation interests engaged in the planning process and helped the state to recognize the legitimacy of demands for instream flow uses. As part of the second phase of the planning process, the CWP is now the motivating force behind an effort to have the state perform a comprehensive and detailed instream flow needs assessment for every river basin in the state.
Colorado Water Project Reports: