South Denver-metro areas propose new district to secure water supplies
DENVER – Hoping for an end to a water war in the booming south Denver suburbs, about 20 Douglas and Arapahoe county water districts Monday asked state lawmakers for permission to form their own conservation district.Supporters say the district would be large enough to build major water projects but not big enough to intimidate other water providers.Still, a lawmaker from the Western Slope, which provides much of the water to Front Range cities through trans-mountain diversion projects, was skeptical.”They just think the water wars have ended,” said Sen. Ron Teck, R-Grand Junction.Rep. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said the proposal, House Bill 1298, is a compromise between the water districts and the counties competing for Colorado’s limited remaining water supplies.Last year, geologists said cities and towns south of Denver are pumping water out of the ground three times faster than previously estimated, raising questions about how much water remains.Douglas County Commissioner Steven Boand said the district needs secure sources of water in order to attract new businesses.Harvey said the new district will search for renewable water sources, such as snow-fed rivers and streams, instead of competing for limited and declining underground water supplies.”It’s not so big that we can go out and take over the state. It’s not so big that the rest of the state will feel intimidated,” Harvey said, trying to reassure residents of the Western Slope and the South Platte River valley who might suspect the new district of targeting their water.Harvey said a unified district will help metro area water districts avoid bidding wars that are driving up the cost of water.”The biggest thing is that this will let them speak with one voice,” Harvey said.Boand agreed the district would provide solid funding for long-term projects.”This is the first time we’ve been able to bring 20 water districts together at the same time,” he said.Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, endorsed the plan as a way to find a guaranteed water supply for the south Denver area.”This will be the first step to trying to quell the water wars,” Grossman said.The new district would include all of Douglas County, except areas that get their water from the Denver Water Board or its distributors, and the city of Aurora. It also includes portions of Arapahoe County in the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority and a portion of Inverness Water and Sanitation District.The district could later be expanded to include all of Arapahoe County.The district would have no right to control water or facilities owned by water providers and no right to condemn water or property and it would not be permitted to retail water.
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