Colorado Water Community Expresses Disappointment in Senate Bill 14-023 Veto

DENVER--()--Governor Hickenlooper today vetoed Senate Bill 14-023 (SB 23), an important water conservation bill crafted over the course of a year in close partnership with diverse water interests, including the Governor’s own water policy experts. SB 23 had support from many rural Coloradans, major water providers, Colorado’s leading conservation organizations and Colorado Water Congress, the state’s leading voice for water policy.

The bill was designed to bring investment to rural western Colorado to incentivize the implementation of irrigation efficiency improvements that would ultimately benefit agricultural operations and Colorado’s rivers and streams. Under the bill’s provisions, ranchers, farmers and other agricultural water users in western Colorado could voluntarily implement irrigation and water efficiency measures and ensure that water they save can benefit Colorado’s rivers without risking abandonment of their water rights or harming other users. The result would have been increased private investment in upgrades to and modernization of irrigation infrastructure, healthier rivers and streams, and more resilient farms and ranches.

“SB 23 was a chance for Colorado to demonstrate leadership among all western states struggling with a limited water supply and the balance between all-important human uses of water and the needs of our rivers and streams,” said Russ Schnitzer, agriculture policy adviser, Trout Unlimited. “This sends a signal that despite the Governor’s expressed commitment to water conservation, he is willing to bow to those who oppose change in any form. With this veto, innovative, common sense water efficiency solutions benefitting Colorado farms and ranches have been cast aside in favor of perpetuating the status quo locked in 19th century water management concepts. As an organization, we are committed to forging win-win solutions for agriculture and conservation, and SB 23 was just that. For the Governor to veto such a tool after his own water policy experts testified in support and following passage by the General Assembly is baffling and disappointing.”

According to a 2013 Colorado College poll, the vast majority of Coloradans agree that using the state’s existing water resources more efficiently is a priority. In fact, low water levels in rivers is a major concern of Coloradans, second only to unemployment. In addition, water managers agree that Colorado’s growing population is driving an imbalance between water supply and demand, which is jeopardizing the $9 billion recreational economy and Colorado’s natural mountain environment.

“Faced with a dry future and growing water use, Colorado needs innovative, collaborative policies to reverse the imbalance between water supply and demand and the increasing strain on our rivers and streams,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director, Conservation Colorado. "This legislation is precisely the type of collaborative innovative policy Colorado needs, so the Governor's action today is a disappointing set back. Given the opportunity to lead on conservation, the Governor instead chose to enforce the status quo. This flies in the face of his stated commitment to water conservation and ensuring water resources for Colorado's fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation are protected in the developing state water plan."

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.

Conservation Colorado is a statewide environmental advocacy organization with field offices in Denver, Craig, Grand Junction, and Durango, Colorado. Our mission is to protect Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. Connect with us at conservationco.org, Twitter, and Facebook.

Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.

Western Resource Advocates is a regional nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting the West's land, air, and water. Offices or staff are located in Boulder (CO), Phoenix and Tucson (AZ), Pocatello (ID), Santa Fe (NM), Carson City (NV) and Salt Lake City (UT). Go to http://www.WesternResourceAdvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @WRADV.

Contacts

American Rivers
Ken Neubecker, 970-376-1918
kneubecker@americanrivers.org
or
Conservation Colorado
Chris Arend, 303-908-7910
chris@conservationco.org
or
Environmental Defense Fund
Aaron Citron, 303-447-7212
acitron@edf.org
or
Trout Unlimited
Russ Schnitzer, 970-309-0285
RSchnitzer@tu.org
or
Western Resource Advocates
Bart Miller, 303-444-1188
bart.miller@westernresources.org

Release Summary

Gov. Hickenlooper vetoed an water conservation bill that had support from many rural Coloradans, major water providers, Colorado’s leading conservation organizations and Colorado Water Congress.

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Contacts

American Rivers
Ken Neubecker, 970-376-1918
kneubecker@americanrivers.org
or
Conservation Colorado
Chris Arend, 303-908-7910
chris@conservationco.org
or
Environmental Defense Fund
Aaron Citron, 303-447-7212
acitron@edf.org
or
Trout Unlimited
Russ Schnitzer, 970-309-0285
RSchnitzer@tu.org
or
Western Resource Advocates
Bart Miller, 303-444-1188
bart.miller@westernresources.org