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Denver Water, Western Slope Near Water Agreement

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(credit: denverwater.org)

(credit: denverwater.org)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – Denver Water is nearing a deal aimed at easing concerns of western Colorado water users over the utility’s ability to divert more Colorado River water to the Front Range.

The emerging deal includes a provision for Denver Water to contribute about $22 million for water plants and to maintain mountain ecosystems, The Denver Post reported. It obligates the utility to leave sufficient water in Dillon Reservoir for recreation in Summit County, share and re-use mountain water within the Denver area, and limit future diversions by Denver-area suburbs, The Denver Post reported.

Nearly 30 parties have worked on the agreement for several years.

Colorado River Water Conservation District spokesman Chris Treese told The Daily Sentinel that negotiations on the agreement are still ongoing and more details will come Thursday.

Generally, the agreement says Western Slope organizations won’t challenge Denver Water’s plans to divert more water from the Winter Park and Dillon areas or how Denver is using the Blue River, Treese said. It also addresses the cumulative impacts of water projects and the Colorado River’s current and future needs, he said.

“The proposed agreement establishes a new approach to managing water in Colorado,” Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead said in a written statement. “It embraces a partnership to manage water for the benefit of the state as a whole.

“It would provide Denver Water the operational flexibility necessary to manage our system and develop additional water resources in the face of drought and climate change and also would provide a number of enhancements to the environment, water supply and water quality on the West Slope.”

The most important parts of the deal are “that it looks at the Colorado River Basin from the headwaters to the state line as a whole,” said Colorado River District general manager Eric Kuhn, who represented Western Slope communities.

Ken Neubecker, executive director of the Carbondale-based Western Rivers Institute, said he is concerned the deal doesn’t involve the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which also takes water from the Colorado River.

It also doesn’t address Denver Water’s proposal to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County or the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap proposal to build a 90,000 acre-foot reservoir southwest of Loveland, The Daily Sentinel reported.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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