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"When I moved to Castle Rock in 2000, there were 18,000 people in Castle Rock. Now there's 85,000."

Castle Rock is one of four cities in Douglas County, Colorado. The water source designated for the township was the Denver Basin, a series of aquifers that span a major part of the front range. But because of population growth, the water is being pumped way faster than it can be replaced. Now efforts are underway to capture excess water and secure additional water rights hundreds of miles away from Douglas County.

But in order to support a massive infrastructure project like this, trust between communities and water providers is key.  

 

"Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting."

As one of the fastest growing (and wealthiest) counties in Colorado, providing water to Douglas County is fundamental to whether that growth can continue. Proposals have been flooding in to help solve some of its water needs, including the highly controversial one proposed by Renewable Water Resources (RWR) to pump water from the San Luis Valley to the front range. But is water from the San Luis Valley really the only solution? 

A clash of values.

Water to farmers can be like a 401k, particularly for the ones with senior water rights in the San Luis Valley. For these farmers, water is an asset that is passed from generation to generation that guarantees some kind of financial future for a family. If there ever comes a time when a farmer wants to get out of the farming business – and cash out that 401k, so to speak – selling to a company like RWR could be one way to do that.

But while we all value water, we value it differently. So how can we re-think these differences and the tradeoffs that inevitably come with change in a way that doesn’t pit urban cities versus rural communities?

Harold Smethills, Founder, Sterling Ranch
Ron Redd, District Manager, Parker Water & Sanitation District
Rebecca Tejada, Director of Engineering, Parker Water & Sanitation District
Abe Laydon, District 1 County Commissioner, Douglas County
James Eklund, Attorney, Sherman & Howard
Greg Brophy, Political Activist and Farmer

Further Reading

"Colorado outlines its plan for how the state will deal with water shortages worsened by climate change and population growth." Colorado Public Radio, July 6, 2022.

“Study: Colorado River water crisis could dry out Front Range, West Slope cities and farms.” Water Education Colorado. November 19, 2019.

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