Biggest water idea in decades?
Aaron Millions idea to pump water from Utah and Wyoming to the Front Range was the first major new water idea in several decades in Colorado. The reception has been polite, if in some cases skeptical. The water committee for Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy group, gave Million a friendly reception this winter. In May, The Denver Post lent an editorial pat-on-the-back.Without mentioning Millions project, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregg Hobbes agreed with the concept of additional storage as an answer to global warming-induced drought.But Millions plan has also been met by what Ed Quillen, publisher of a Salida-based magazine called Colorado Central, calls hostility. He believes that major water organizations see Million invading what they consider to be their turf. Nearly all water projects of the last century were conceived by public or quasi-public agencies. Millions is essentially a private venture.I think there is a lot of hostility to a private project, says Quillen, who also writes columns for The Denver Post.Doug Kemper, executive director for the Colorado Water Congress, a consortium of water interests, agrees that few people in the contemporary era are familiar with private, non-government organizations benefiting from delivery of public water resources.That said, precedents abound. The states first major transmountain water diversion project, the Grand River Ditch, located north of Grand Lake, was done by Fort Collins-based company, Water Supply & Storage. Private companies delivered water to Denver for the first 60 years of the citys existence. The Homestake water diversion project began as a private enterprise in the 1950s that then paired with two municipalities, Colorado Springs and Aurora. More recently, ski companies from Winter Park to Vail have partnered with local governments to create water storage projects.In sheer volume, Millions project is ambitious. The Bureau of Reclamation believes the reservoir has 165,000 acre-feet available, and possibly less, depending upon downstream needs of endangered species, says Dave Truman, head of resource management division at the Salt Lake office. Million believes the Green River system could, without harming other needs, accommodate a withdrawal of 250,000 acre-feetBy comparison, the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which was specifically enabled by federal largesse, diverts 213,000 acre-feet annually.