Streams of funding will become important to keep streams of water flowing in Colorado in the coming decades, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top water adviser said.
“We are looking at the appropriate revenue streams,” said John Stulp, the governor’s adviser. “One of the key questions is: How do you build certainty that new methods don’t dry up agriculture?”
Stulp, whose home base is a farm-ranch operation in Prowers County, will speak at the 2018 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 11-12 in La Junta. This year’s forum is dedicated to the issues facing the Lower Arkansas Valley. Water lawyer David Robbins, who defended state interests in the Kansas v. Colorado speaker will open the conference, while Stulp will offer closing remarks.
Colorado’s Water Plan, completed in 2015, calls for $3 billion new state investment in water projects from 2020-50, or about $100 million annually. Much of Stulp’s time, working with the state Interbasin Compact Committee, has been spent figuring out just how to do that.
“We looked at 110 possibilities, then narrowed that to about 12. About four of those rose to the top,” Stulp said.
Those ideas included:
- An excise tax on water activities, including recreation.
- A tap fee on all water users’ bills.
- A bottle fee on beverage containers.
- A one-time tap fee on new construction.
In addition, a bill introduced late in the 2017 legislative session proposed a 0.1 percent sales tax to fund water.
“None of the ideas have been implemented,” Stulp said. “It’s been a very general discussion.”
Funding also is a very real issue at present. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has borrowed $10 million from its construction fund to fund Basin Roundtable projects that formerly would have been funded through mineral severance fees, which were curtailed by a court decision. Roundtables have been more selective in choosing projects that adhere to the Water Plan.
“I think it’s been a good refresher for the roundtables to look at their Basin Implementation Plans, and decide which projects to fund at the local level, and which to take to the state level,” Stulp said. “The Arkansas Basin Roundtable has been very active, and has come up with good ideas for the valley, and to take back to the rest of the state.”
Next month’s water forum at Otero Junior College in La Junta will include a series of presentations on agriculture, municipal water supply, environmental concerns, water quality and watershed restoration.
For information, please visit arbwf.com.