Listen to John of Gunnison County talk about how an AG can lead on water

Colorado is a headwater state. This means surrounding states look to us for their water, but I believe it can also mean they look to us for inspiration and innovation when it comes to managing this resource.

Last week, we wrote to tell you of the situation on the Yampa River—a tributary to the Colorado River that’s facing historic lows, throwing local communities into crisis mode as they deal with drought conditions. As a result of the low levels, water users are facing new limits on their supply.

Leading on water management will be one of the most urgent challenges I face when entering the Attorney General’s office. An overarching goal of mine is to bring innovation and creativity into government, which often means finding inspiration in local communities who currently lead in these areas. When it comes to water management, we should all be inspired by the City of Steamboat Springs’ foresight when developing a contingency plan for drought conditions and their strategic reliance on alternative sources of water.

By talking to those who represent the City of Steamboat Springs in a continuing effort to listen to and learn from people across the state, I discovered that the City of Steamboat Springs long ago put alternative supply arrangements in place, allowing the City to adapt to the limits imposed on the Yampa River supply. That foresight is a real credit to the City.

Unfortunately, with respect to the possibility of forthcoming reduction of our Colorado River water supply, we are not in as good a situation. Managing the Colorado River demands smart and proactive leadership here in Colorado–as well as working with surrounding states, many of whom receive water from the river. With decreasing water levels, we need to continue to engage in the sort of far-sighted planning that Steamboat Springs did.

As I travelled to rural areas of the state that have suffered from “buy and dry” situations, it is crystal clear to me what the costs of failure to plan are–the ending of communities and a threat to local agriculture. We simply cannot wait for disputes to arise—between surrounding states or between parts of Colorado—to act. If we do, we will have already lost.

I am optimistic that we will meet the challenge of managing the demands on our water. We’re Coloradans, and we rise together — with creativity and collaboration — to the challenges that face our state. As our next Attorney General, it will be my job to help lead on making these arrangements. My background, including as founder of the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, is in innovation. I’m excited to bring a fresh perspective, energy, and creativity to the AG’s office to lead on water.

This week is Denver Startup Week, which is a great showcase of the innovative spirit we have in Colorado, just like we see in the City of Steamboat Springs. It’s what we need to be able to lead on managing water, addressing the opioid epidemic, improving our criminal justice system, and on a range of other topics. With your help, I will bring that spirit to the Attorney General’s office.