For Immediate Release: November 19, 2015
CONTACT: Stephen Koenigsberg, 303-915-7301
Nuestro Rio Applauds Final Colorado Water Plan Announced Today
Urges greater Latino representation in water decisions going forward
Denver, Colorado -The final version of Colorado’s first-ever state water plan, the blueprint for how water will be managed in Colorado for the foreseeable future, was released today by Governor John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Water Board (CWCB). The plan was ordered by the Governor in May 2013 to address the state’s many water challenges including a looming water supply and demand gap, the effects of persistent drought, protecting Colorado’s interstate water rights, and other challenges that could adversely affect the lives of Coloradans. Of major concern to Latinos in Colorado is the protection of the Colorado River system, the primary source of water for Colorado and the southwestern U.S. and a significant part of southwestern Latino culture.
“We appreciate what the Governor and the CWCB have forged in Colorado’s new state water plan,” said Nuestro Rio Colorado State Director Nita Gonzales. “The plan includes an unprecedented emphasis on sound conservation measures and pays close attention to keeping the Colorado River healthy and flowing. For Latinos living in the Southwest, protecting the river is more than just smart water management; it is honoring part of a rich cultural heritage.”
Over two years in the making, the plan was achieved through input from the nine water Basin Roundtables in Colorado, the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee, established to facilitate conversations among Colorado’s river basins, and from 30,000 public comments.
The final plan includes key priorities directly in line with western Latino values for water management:
- a productive economy that supports agriculture, recreation and tourism,
- an efficient and effective water infrastructure
- and healthy watersheds, rivers, streams, and wildlife
Nuestro Rio has consistently urged maximizing existing storage systems over costly and controversial new diversions, which harm rivers and local communities, by investing in efficient use of our current reservoirs and delivery systems. Today’s announced plan makes diversions an unlikely scenario.
The plan is also strong in its recommendations for funding to preserve and restore the state’s rivers and streams that play an important role in Latino history and daily life. The plan proposes that Colorado invest in unprecedented stream protection and restoration, starting with stream management plans for 80% of the priority list of rivers and streams Colorado’s basin roundtables have prioritized.
Latinos make up a sizeable percentage of the 40 million people in the Colorado River basin who rely on the river for drinking water; in fact, one out of every three people living in the states around the Colorado River is Latino. While the CWCB was open to meetings and discussions as it developed the plan, Nuestro Rio believes the Latino community should be more involved in planning and helping to determine Colorado’s water strategies going forward.
“Managing water in Colorado is one of our top priorities and the Colorado Water Plan is a good first step to making smart decisions that will help grow our state,” said Nuestro Rio Regional Water Caucus member and Colorado State Senator Leroy Garcia. “The hard decisions will come next as we implement key recommendations. Those decisions cannot be made without more community voices at the table and I look forward to working with Governor Hickenlooper and other leaders."
Nuestro Río is an organization representing Latinos living in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada working to educate elected officials and Latino youth about the many ways Latinos are connected to the Colorado River. The organization’s work includes a 34-member Regional Water Caucus made up of bipartisan Latino local elected officials and a Latino Youth Leader Program that helps educate Latino youth about the value of the Colorado River.
Regional Water Caucus Members in Colorado include State Senator Leroy Garcia, State Senator Minority Leader Lucia Guzmán, Denver City Councilwoman - At Large Deborah Ortega, Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez, and State Representative Joe Salazar.
“The large Latino population in Colorado relies on the Colorado River for drinking water, jobs, outdoor recreation and crop irrigation,” said Nuestro Rio Colorado State Director Nita Gonzales. “As the Colorado Water Plan is implemented, Nuestro Río is committed to working for Colorado Latinos to ensure their voices are heard and that the conservation values included in the plan to protect our rivers, outdoor recreation industry, agricultural heritage, businesses and thriving cities are upheld.”
For more information about Nuestro Rio: www.nuestrorio.com