By Tom Lucero
Candidate for the Republican nomination Congressional Dist. 4
“Out West, God provided plenty of whiskey to drink, and just enough water to fight over.” — Mark Twain
Colorado is a desert. In addition, Colorado is one of only two states that depend exclusively on Mother Nature to supply all of its water; the other is Hawaii. Those two facts form the foundation for water in Colorado.
As a native Coloradan I remember many droughts over the years and recurring battles over water rights and storage. Water generally only makes headlines when there is a reason; typically that reason is drought. When water levels are low, attention is raised in urban areas because of watering restrictions, headlines are made when water for irrigation is limited and access to wells is shut off, and recreation in reservoirs and rivers are hampered.
Debates about the future of water rage when it is in short supply, but when the rain and snow return, the debate shifts to other political priorities. During those times when water is plentiful some things never change: demand for water continues to increase as the population increases, agriculture still needs water to grow the food we need, the forests that protect our water continue to be mismanaged, and we put off the tough decisions regarding quality water storage projects.
Colorado’s future economic prosperity, quality of life, and ability to produce food for our own population, other parts of the country and the world are dependent on our ability to preserve this critical but finite resource: water. Yet, the future of water in Colorado is also determined by the priorities we are willing to establish.
We must focus on at least two key goals regarding water as we move forward: building additional quality water storage projects and better forest management. As our reservoirs begin filling in this time of plentiful rain and snowfall, we find ourselves yet again lacking adequate storage facilities. Northern Colorado has built very little water infrastructure during the past 15 years; it has been more than three decades since we built a new storage reservoir. So, when the next drought comes, our existing reservoirs will deplete. Here in northern Colorado we have the opportunity to support the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). Such projects are critical to our future along the Front Range and to our agricultural future.
The second goal we need to pursue is to increase our water yield through more efficient forest management. Mountain snow provides 75 percent of Colorado’s water. Having healthy, well-balanced forests will lead to additional water yield in our rivers and reservoirs. Government laws and regulations along with radical environmentalists impede proper forest management. We need a balance.
Further, U.S. law has always favored the states controlling their own water, but recent efforts have been directed at more federal control. I am a staunch supporter of state’s rights, and would fight against infringements on our rights to control the precious resource.
We need responsible, common sense water management solutions for Colorado; our future depends on it.
Tom Lucero is a small-businessman who has owned restaurants in Northern Colorado. He has been twice elected to the CU Board of Regents where he has championed fiscal responsibility and accountability. Lucero is an avid sportsman, father of three, and lives in Berthoud.