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PRESS RELEASE: Missouri River Pipeline Bill Highlights Fiscal Irresponsibility of Colorado Water Plan

For Immediate Release
February 17, 2015
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310


Missouri River Pipeline Bill Highlights Fiscal Irresponsibility of Colorado Water Plan

Denver, CO: On Wednesday February 18, the Colorado House of Representatives Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee will have a hearing on House Bill 15-1167 concerning the development of new water supplies for the growing areas of Colorado along the I-25 corridor from Colorado Springs to Denver to Greeley. Section 1-IV of the bill states, “Assess the feasibility of constructing a pipeline to import water into Colorado from the Missouri River basin; …”

Often called the “Missouri River Pipeline,” this idea was also proposed during the U.S. Dept. of Interior’s “Basin Study” back in 2013 and dismissed by Secretary Ken Salazar 10water-map-popupas “impractical and not feasible” amid cost estimates of $8.6 billion. However, now just a little over two years later, a draft of the “Colorado Water Plan” (which doesn’t include the Missouri River Pipeline) indicated that the plan would cost up to $20 billion to achieve many of the same goals and likely require a multi-billion dollar statewide tax increase to pay for it.

“This Missouri River Pipeline bill highlights the fiscal irresponsibility of the Colorado Water Plan,” said Gary Wockner, E.D. of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. “Just two years ago everyone said $8.6 billion was a ridiculous amount of money, and now the state agency in charge of the Colorado Water Plan suggests that $20 billion is reasonable. This Colorado Water Plan is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle to destroy Colorado’s rivers – it has been completely taken over by the water buffaloes in the state.”

The extremely controversial process around the Colorado Water Plan has dragged on for eighteen months and will continue through the end of 2015. The plan is proposed to be a policy guide to provide water to new population growth, much of which would take place in sprawling suburbs along the Denver megalopolis. In Colorado and throughout the Southwest U.S., fifty percent or more of municipal water is used in sprawling suburbs to keep Kentucky blue grass green in semi-desert environments.

“The Colorado Water Plan highlights how ridiculous and expensive it is to use precious water to grow grass,” said Wockner. “But, to be sarcastic, if we’re going to use the water to grow Kentucky bluegrass, then why not import water from around Kentucky to keep it green – it could be a lot cheaper than the Colorado Water Plan, right?”

The Missouri River Pipeline concept is still moving forward whether Colorado participates or not. (See Circle of Blue news service article.) In fact, a report on the Pipeline concept was just released by the Army Corps of Engineers in January 2015. The proposal in the Basin Study was to divert 600,000 acre feet of Missouri River water to Colorado, which is about 1% of the 60 million-acre-foot average flow in the Missouri River.

However, both the Colorado Water Plan and Missouri River Pipeline bill highlight why cheaper, faster, easier alternatives should also be studied and implemented first. Save The Colorado urges state agencies to study a “Healthy Rivers Alternative,” much like what was prepared for the Cache la Poudre River of Northern Colorado. Called “A Better Future for the Poudre River,” the reported indicated that the water needs of one proposed dam/reservoir project to support new growth could be satisfied by focusing on water conservation, recycling, reuse, growth management, water transfers from farms that growth will occur on top of, and water-sharing agreements with farmers (so-called “Super Ditch” concepts). In fact, the Basin Study report put out by the U.S. Dept. of Interior supported a similar proposal, that “Conservation is the cheapest, quickest solution to the West’s water woes.” The report calculated these water supply costs for comparison:

  • Ocean desalination: $1,500 to $2,100 per acre foot of water, 15 to years to see first water
  • Missouri River pipeline: $1,700 – $2,300 per acre foot, 30 years to first water
  • Towing icebergs down from Alaska: $2,700 – $3,400 per acre foot, 15 years to first water
  • Municipal conservation – $500 – $900 per acre foot, 5 years to first water
  • Agricultural conservation – $150 – $750 per acre foot, 10 years to first water

“Will Colorado waste billions of dollars on plans and pipeline schemes, or will Colorado focus on the cheapest, fastest, easiest path to new water supply?” asked Wockner. “In addition, a Healthy Rivers Alternative protects rivers in Colorado and in neighboring states.”

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