Daily Camera (Boulder)

Experts discuss flood mitigation, water scarcity

- By Andrea Grajeda Prairie Mountain Media

Water is a valuable, scarce resource that provides people with food and life. Yet, according to one panelist at a Longmont water conservati­on presentati­on, some people do not know where their water comes from, beyond turning on the tap.

The Longmont Museum hosted a panel about the future of Colorado’s water supply during the Climate Action Sunday: Our Water, Our Future event Sunday.

Casey Davenhill, the executive director of the Colorado Watershed Assembly, said that water has always been a scarce resource in Colorado. She said that the rapid growth in population that the state has experience­d could create problems between the Front Range and Western Slope. Davenhill said that the majority of Colorado’s population lives on the Front Range, but most of the water comes from the Western Slope.

Hillary Rosner, the moderator for the panel and assistant director at the Center for Environmen­tal Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, said water supply and climate change are linked.

“Clean and reliable water is arguably our most precious resource,” Rosner said.

Gabriela Galindo, an assistant program coordinato­r at CU Boulder and a Colorado Water Fellow, said that water is valued as a resource to some and as a source of life for others. She said that for some big corporatio­ns water is a means to an end. She said that those large corporatio­ns may purchase water rights from smaller communitie­s and not be held accountabl­e for the damage that a water shortage may cause.

“Government­s and corporatio­ns value water when it’s convenient for them,” Galindo said.

She said that there are also many Native Americans and indigenous groups who respect and honor water, and protect water for the health of the earth.

Watershed Center ecologist Matt Bitters said that forest restoratio­n and clean water are also intertwine­d. He said that wildfires are not going away, due to climate change and drought. He said that soil can become hydrophobi­c after a fire, which causes sediment and ash to wash into the rivers. He said that forest restoratio­n groups are looking at ways to stop ash from entering the water supply.

Bitters said that September will be 10 years since the 2013 Colorado floods and that many rivers were not in good shape after the flood. He said that many watershed managers in Colorado took on many projects after 2013 to create

more resilient rivers. He said that any future restoratio­n projects need to be based on climate adaptation.

“If you just restore the river to how it was before, there’s going to be another flood,” Bitters said.

Galindo noted that making communitie­s flood resilient is just as important as restoratio­n. She

said that education about emergency preparedne­ss should be supported by the government. She also said that there are some ecological solutions to flood mitigation. Galindo said that planting native plants where appropriat­e can help, as roots hold water and well maintained soil and other vegetation retain water.

“We got to shift from ‘This water is mine, this water is ours’ to ‘What can I do for the water and how can I be of service to water and nature?’” Galindo said.

She said that finding natural solutions and solutions that benefit entire ecosystems for water shortage problems is essential. She said that if a short-term solution to drought causes damage to another environmen­t, then it would all be for nothing.

Davenhill said that people should know where their water comes from and learn about water policies in their area. She said that water in Longmont mostly comes from surface water from the St. Vrain watershed and the Colorado River. She also encouraged people to reach out to their local government leaders to let the city know that residents care about the water system.

Bitters encouraged people to take it one step further and provide public input on water projects.

“You don’t need to be a scientist, you don’t need to be a government employee to be a water advocate. We all drink water and we all use water,” Bitters said.

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