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Water Legislation: Colorado's Water Politics Ripple

Water Legislation: Colorado's Water Politics Ripple

Story and Photo by Lauren Hammond

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | Number of views (2528)


Both the federal government and Colorado’s state level government have been concerned with providing water for all citizens living in the Western arid and dry climate.  News and media have been concerned for decades now, as you can see in numerous articles, such as Durango Herald’s “No doubt: It’s a bad drought Southwest Colorado counties declared disaster areas” article here http://tinyurl.com/qyndtu8.



The federal and state government’s efforts to collaborate present challenges that range from creating not only a monetarily efficient policy, but also ensuring effective implementation that will soothe the suffering of the ongoing drought.  




WaterSMART Program -




“The WaterSMART program was started by former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar in 2010.  It was a direct response to the ongoing drought that the West is experiencing,” said Dr. Brad Clark, associate professor of Political Science and affiliated faculty of Environmental Studies at Fort Lewis College. For more on the WaterSMART program, click here http://tinyurl.com/qclzr4m.



Senator Mark Udall (D), one of Colorado’s biggest advocates for the WaterSMART program, hopes to maintain the federal government’s funding for the program until 2023.



Udall’s Communications Director, Mike Saccone spoke on the Senator’s behalf early last week.


“As Senator Udall has said, there’s an urgent need to make every drop of water count, here in Colorado and across the west.  We look at population growth and widespread drought particularly across the southern part of Colorado, this should be a no brainer,” Saccone said.


This is why Senator Udall has urged his colleagues to stand with him and support the extension for the WaterSMART program.



Senator Udall is still urging the community of Colorado, as a whole, to stay concerned with making every drop count.



Political Perspective -


The priorities of the WaterSMART program revolve around the attempt to creatively stretch our existing water supplies to meet the anticipated future demands.



The whole program is meant to increase support for local water management efforts in order to increase efficiency in conservation.  These local water management projects depend heavily on a large amount of federal funding Clark said.



As a political issue, the priority is, in short, the role of the federal government in state-level issues.  There are obvious signs of an increase in federal integration among more localized efforts and differing agencies.  



Both federal and state agencies are more focused on the integration of water programs, as opposed to just focusing on individual sectors of government, Clark said.



Clark said that when these agencies work together to consider the actual water supply, along with the energy it takes to supply the water, that’s how they maximize efficiency.



The WaterSMART program is authorized through the fiscal year 2023.



“It has a spending cap right now and what this legislation would do is that it would lift this cap to ensure the continuation of the work being done by local and district water managers to improve water conservation and water efficiency,” Saccone said.




Environmental Ethics -


When it comes to creating and implementing water legislation there is something to be said about humans having such a great amount of control over water flow.



Humans regulating and governing water is not a new occurrence.  Even in recent history the Colorado River Compact, 1922 (http://tinyurl.com/pbvxxkb) is an example of humans claiming ownership of a body of water.



As humans, even in the legislative synopsis of the Colorado water law (http://tinyurl.com/ppve6n6), there has been no water ethic to guide our water policy and therefore its implementation.



“We have definitely engineered and diverted excessively many of our naturally free flowing water sources.  Obviously to the detriment of non-human nature,” Clark said.   



Conclusion -


Mackenzie Harper, a student athlete at Fort Lewis College, spoke on the topic of water shortage in Colorado, saying that people draw too much water out of the Colorado river but that most of it is necessary.



“I turn the sink off when I brush my teeth but I’m not thinking about the environment as much as I am myself and saving water and the environment.  People water their yards when they don’t need to water their yards you know,” Harper said.



“It’s that whole debate between anthropocentrism versus eco or biocentrism and we’ve been so focused on maximizing benefits for the greatest number of humans that we’ve neglected the wider, broader, long term concerns,” Clark said.



From the politics to the ethics of water law in not only Colorado but across the West as a whole, it seems that there is a lot to accomplish.





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