Warning of persistent threats to Colorado’s water supply, Gov. Jared Polis, along with other state leaders, on Wednesday launched a year-long campaign aimed at raising awareness and ultimately conserving the state’s most precious natural resource.
The campaign, called Water ’22, seeks to challenge Coloradans to adopt 22 ways — a play on the new year — to save at least 22 gallons of water per day, which translates to 8,000 gallons a year for every resident or 48 billion gallons across the state.
To put that into context, Jayla Poppleton, Executive Director of Water Education Colorado, noted that 48 million gallons equate to roughly 150,000 acre-feet, the same amount as the Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling or the Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins.
“Many people don’t know what they can do, and that can produce a sense of apathy,” Poppleton said at the campaign’s launch in Aurora, adding the Water ’22 campaign attempts to combat that emotional nonchalance by encouraging residents to, among other things, know where their water comes from in order to foster a sense of connection and engagement.
“Awareness is the first step to engagement, and Water ’22 will be a meaningful campaign to highlight the challenges we face and also celebrate the opportunities,” she said.
Polis pointed to drought conditions in the Southwest, devastating weather and climate events, as well as increasing demand as population grows, as factors that have strained Colorado’s water supply. Dry conditions, in particular, have magnified the dangers that populations, including those in urban areas, face from wildfires, he said.
“It’s no longer a fire season. It’s a year-long fire risk,” he said after mentioning the devastation brought about by the Marshall fire, which tore through neighborhoods and burned down more than 1,000 homes in Boulder County.
Polis pledged his administration’s support behind conservation efforts and added that recent federal legislation also means Colorado is poised to get between $800 million and $1.2 billion for water and other infrastructure projects.
He called the amount a “game-changing opportunity.”
The governor also pledged to fight any “downstream threats to lawful use of Colorado’s water resources.”
“And we will continue to aggressively assert all of Colorado’s water rights,” he said, reiterating that the state will comply with existing inter-state water compacts.
Polis earlier said he would “protect and aggressively assert” Colorado’s water rights after Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled a proposal to spend $500 million on a canal and reservoir project that includes claiming access to land in Colorado under a 99-year-old compact between the states.
Colorado and six other Basin states reliant on the Colorado River — Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — are also preparing for tough negotiations ahead over management of the dwindling Colorado River water.
Last year, the federal government declared the first-ever water shortage at Lake Mead, which triggered drastic cuts in water supply for Arizona, and small reductions for Nevada and Mexico.
About 40 million people rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and livelihood.