Want to Develop? Find the Water First

Housing developers may have to prove they can provide a sustainable water supply before they can build, if State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, decides to move forward with her bill next year. Wouldn’t that be like waving a red cape in front of the Home Builders Association? But Curry isn’t afraid of controversy. During Curry’s first term in a Republican controlled legislature, she tried to get oil and gas reform bills passed and although she got pretty beat-up during that process, she said it has strengthened her resolve to face challenges and sponsor bold proposals.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket“I’m tired of poor development management practices on the Front Range,” she told the audience at the Valley Symposium in Glenwood Springs Friday. She believes it increases the pressure to divert water from the Western Slope.

If all developers had to secure a sustainable water source for their housing projects, perhaps it would avert the kind of water crisis in the Denver suburbs that has impacted farmers on the eastern plains.

Plus, demands to keep the water on the Western Slope are expected to dramatically increase. State demographer Jim Westkott estimated that in the three-county region of Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle alone, the rural population will grow to over 220,000 by 2025.

Energy development, especially oil shale, will also put a call on water resources.

“I heard it will take 80 to 90 million gallons of water to develop gas drilling on the Roan Plateau,” De Beque Mayor Don Cramer said at the Symposium. “That’s 400 to 500 truck trips to haul that water. Where is that water going to come from?”

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCramer is also worried about future water supplies for his town. If a proposed 1,500-unit housing development is approved, De Beque will about double in size. “Where are we going to find water and how will we afford to buy more water?” he wondered.

Curry was the manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District for over five years before she was elected in 2004 and is highly respected in the legislature for her water expertise. If she is questioning the supply of Colorado water sources to meet future growth demands, Coloradans may want to listen.

And perhaps the Bluegrass lawns in Highlands Ranch may someday have to be sacrificed to support a drilling rig or quench the thirst of an expanding Western Slope town.

Photo: Rep. Kathleen Curry
Bridge over the Colorado River near De Beque by Leslie Robinson