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May 3, 2024

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

DENVER, CO – The House 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. SB24-197 passed by a vote of 63 to 0.

“By implementing recommendations from the Colorado River Drought Task Force, we’re taking steps now to secure Colorado’s water future,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “Drought conditions in the high country have jeopardized our way of life, and this bipartisan legislation addresses some of the challenges facing our water supply while preserving it for agriculture, outdoor recreation and household needs. To protect our water for generations to come, we need to tackle supply challenges head-on, and this bill works alongside community and industry leaders to protect this vital resource for all.” 

SB24-197, also sponsored by Representative Marc Caitlin, R-Montrose, 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.

In response to drought conditions, 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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