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April 22, 2024

McCluskie’s Bipartisan Bill to Protect Colorado Water, Combat Drought Passes Committee

DENVER, CO – The House Agriculture, Water & Natural Resources Committee today passed bipartisan legislation to protect Colorado’s water supply. Sponsored by Speaker Julie McCluskie, SB24-197 would implement several recommendations made by the Colorado River Drought Task Force, including tactics to address the worsening drought conditions on the Colorado River.

“Securing Colorado's water future is paramount. This bill strategically implements recommendations from the Colorado River Drought Task Force to protect the Colorado way of life,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “Drought conditions have jeopardized Colorado’s water future, and this bipartisan legislation works to address some of the challenges facing our water supply while preserving it for our state’s agriculture, outdoor recreation and household needs. I’m committed to tackling Colorado’s water supply challenges head-on, while working alongside our agriculture and coal-transition communities, to protect our water for generations to come.”

SB24-197, also sponsored by Representative Marc Caitlin, R-Montrose, passed committee by a unanimous vote of 10-0. This bill would implement some recommendations made by the Colorado River Drought Task Force including:

  • Expansion of the Environmental Instream Flow Temporary Loan Program to allow the owner of a decreed storage water right to loan water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to preserve or improve the natural environment.

  • Expansion of Colorado’s Agricultural Water Rights Protection Program which creates opportunities for agricultural water rights holders to make water temporarily available for other uses while maintaining water in agriculture.

  • Protection of Industrial Water Rights for Hayden & Craig’s Power Generation Systems through 2050, which will allow the electric utilities or another entity to look into the viability of future energy generation technologies that could advance Colorado’s clean energy and greenhouse gas emission goals while keeping energy-producing jobs in the region.

  • Improved access to Water Plan Implementation Grants for Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Nations which would allow the CWCB to waive or reduce matching fund requirements for grants to Tribal Nations and enterprises.

The Colorado River is in the midst of a three-decade drought, the worst in over 1,200 years, and water supplies are decreasing across the state as a result. These diminishing supplies are threatening resources for drinking water, agricultural uses, and environmental and recreational opportunities.

In response, lawmakers passed SB23-295, which created the Colorado River Drought Task Force. Last summer, the task force worked to develop water policy recommendations to be a guideline for new legislation, including SB24-197. 

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