In-person State of the River Meetings welcomed nearly 1,000 local residents

Spring of 2022 brought the Colorado River District back to our communities with the return of an in-person State of the River event series. This was the District’s most States of the Rivers events to date, with 11 meetings held across the District’s 15 counties.

State of the River events provide our constituents with opportunities to learn more about regional, statewide, and local water issues impacting their communities. With Lake Powell and the West’s multi-decadal drought making national news, West Slope water users were eager to learn more about the issues facing the greater Colorado River Basin, the effects of those issues locally, and how the River District is working to represent and protect West Slope water interests.

A public ready and willing for information showed up in force, with nearly 1,000 people attending events from March through June. The River District worked with local partners in each region to ensure the unique issues and efforts across our diverse group of counties were represented at each event, helping to drive record attendance. We’re grateful to these groups for their partnership, including the Community Agriculture Alliance, Colorado Mesa University, the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, Grand County, the Blue River Watershed Group, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, and American Rivers.

The Summit County State of the River featured a special presentation from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who addressed the recent announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton regarding Colorado River Basin states’ need to  reduce Colorado River uses by up to 4 million acre feet in order to protect critical levels at Lakes Mead and Powell. . Attorney General Weiser stressed his and his office’s support for protecting West Slope water and the importance of Colorado as a headwaters state.

“Right now, we’re one of the few states in the nation who manage their water rights according to the availability of water,” Weiser said. “Going forward, this is the foundation that we are going to build. We’re going to continue to invest in efforts to better measure and manage and provide infrastructure here in the Upper Basin states.”

Weiser’s comments reflected the River District’s position that the two greatest drivers of diminishing Colorado River flows and plummeting reservoir levels are climate change and overuse by the Lower Basin state. As an Upper Basin state with no major federal reservoirs like Mead or Powell upstream, Colorado and its water users are bound by our hydrology, taking uncompensated reductions when snowpack and runoff are low. In the recent years of drought and aridification, the Upper Basin states have voluntarily reduced consumption by about 1 million acre feet, while the Lower Basin’s use has increased. See more in our newsletter article recapping the Interstate Colorado River discussions from the 2022 Third Quarterly Meeting by clicking here.

The River District’s 2022 Annual Water Seminar will dive even deeper into these topics, and we welcome the Colorado water community to join us on Friday, September 16th at Colorado Mesa University for more information and discussion. You can register for the Annual Water Seminar here.

Presentation slides from all State of the River events can be found here

A recording of the Summit County event and Attorney General Weiser’s presentation can be found here.