Committee approves bills to spur innovation in water management, broaden stakeholder engagement and crack down on water speculation

DENVER, CO– The Water Resources Review Committee today advanced four bills to improve water management. If approved by the legislature next session, the bills would encourage innovation in water management, include additional stakeholder feedback in the Upper Basin States’ Drought Contingency Plan and study how the state can better enforce anti-water speculation statutes.

“From outdoor recreation to agriculture, our state’s water resources are critical for almost every aspect of our economy and daily life,” said Water Resources Review Committee Vice Chair Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Avon). “We have an incredible opportunity to pilot and deploy new technologies that could revolutionize and improve how we manage and conserve Colorado’s most essential natural resource, our water. The bills we passed today will guarantee communities across the state have a voice in discussions about water management and will ensure that we are using all the tools we have available to protect our water from out-of-state special interests and manage our water appropriately.”

1) The committee approved legislation to spur the deployment of new technologies that could improve water management. Innovative technologies, such as blockchain, telemetry, improved sensors and advanced aerial observation platforms can enhance monitoring, management, conservation and trading of water resources. The bill asks the University of Colorado-Boulder and Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University to conduct feasibility studies to pilot deployments of the new technologies. While not limited to specific technologies, the study will investigate:

  • Sensors to monitor surface and groundwater use
  • Direct or remote sensors to monitor water quality
  • Cellular and satellite telemetry systems allowing remote access to sensor data
  • Aerial observation platforms, including high-altitude balloons and unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Satellite-based remote sensing and water resource forecasting technologies
  • Blockchain-based documentation, communication and authentication of data regarding water use, trading and conservation

Colorado has become a national leader in developing innovative uses for blockchain and has become a hub for startup technology firms. Last session, the General Assembly passed a law to study how blockchain can be used in agriculture and also clarified the regulatory environment for digital tokens and cryptocurrencies, which are based on blockchain.

2) The committee also advanced legislation that would require the Colorado Water Conservation Board to broaden stakeholder engagement by using established procedures for public comment when adopting a final or significantly amended water resources demand management program. This year, the states of the upper Colorado River Basin, including Colorado, adopted the Colorado Upper Basin States’ Drought Contingency Plan, which necessitated the development of water demand management programs. Last session, the General Assembly passed SB19-212, which appropriated $1.7 million from the General Fund to the Department of Natural Resources for the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a water demand management program.

3) Legislation to study ways to improve the state’s anti-water speculation statutes also moved forward. Current Colorado law prohibits speculation in water rights, but lawmakers have heard concerns from Western Slope communities and from residents in other parts of the state that financial interests are purchasing water rights with the intention of holding them for a period of time and then selling the water for profit when the price increases. The bill requires the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources to convene a working group during the 2020 interim to explore ways to strengthen water anti-speculation laws.

4) The committee also approved a bill to increase the number of state water well inspectors. The bill also requires the state board of examiners of water well construction and pump installation contractors to create new rules to identify and prioritize the inspection of high-risk water wells.


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