Colorado’s Budget can afford to restore and protect our water needed to support a growing population. So why does our budget not go towards this conservation effort?
Water, food, and shelter. The 3 entities needed for survival. Why would we, as Colorado residents, not want to protect them? Water pollution is a problem in the United States. Specifically, in the west of the country, mining and fracking regularly cause drainage that pollutes water. It is estimated that there are 23,000 abandoned mines in the state of Colorado. Hundreds of these mines create non-point source pollution in the waterways when snowmelt or water pick up the contaminates and bring them to bodies of water. Agricultural runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus can lead to eutrophication. Industrial waste is point source pollution, large companies are blatantly dumping waste into waterways. Human waste such as plastic and litter can end up killing wildlife and destroying aquatic ecosystems. The construction of roads creates erosion. Clearly, water contamination is prevalent in our great state. Colorado should work to fund water conservation. Water is what we and the world around us need to survive, and we have a responsibility to keep it safe. Especially during a time period in which humans are the ones creating this runoff and pollution, it is our responsibility to protect our water sources from the harm we have created.
Colorado recognizes this issue. In 2015, the Colorado Water Plan was created. This is a 30-year plan, outlining exactly what needs to be done in order to keep Colorado’s water supply healthy, as well as not run out. Colorado’s population is growing rapidly. The state’s population rose by 4 million people from 1930. If this trajectory continues, Colorado’s population could reach 10 million people by 2060. People and businesses need water to survive. If we use water faster than it can replenish, 1.5 million homes could be in a water shortage by 2050. The Colorado Water Conservation Board states that “our current statewide water trajectory is neither desirable nor sustainable”. Therefore, the plan was created. This plan wants to increase recycling to reduce pollution in the waterways, use irrigation water in farmland, as well as implement restoration projects in waterways that are already damaged. These projects require funding. It is estimated that $100 million per year is required to keep the necessary projects afloat (pun intended). Colorado’s state budget is $32.5 billion. $12.2 billion goes into a ‘general fund’, a fund in which lawmakers can decide to spend on an array of projects. Colorado’s water plan should be funded by the general fund. Last year, the Colorado Water Project only received $30 million, and this was the highest funding it has received since its creation; this is only .2% of the general fund. More money needs to be allocated to this project in order to accomplish the positive impact it intends to make. Natural resources in Colorado only get 1% of the state’s funds.
This graphic displays how Colorado’s state budget is allocatedSource: http://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/19lbnarrative.pdf
Climate change is political. Water protection should not be. According to “How Culture Shapes the Climate” author Hoffman dives into “the 6 Americas”, which is a range of American’s attitudes on climate change. 32% of Americans fall into the disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive section. Conservatives tend to see climate change initiatives as an economic burden and believe climate change is a hoax. However, water conservation efforts should not be falling into this debate. No politics can deny the fact that we need water to survive, and if we use the water faster than it can replenish, we would be in a shortage. This problem must be addressed. Money must be allocated to this project. Before politicians and voters get scared away by the $100 million annually to keep this project alive, Coloradans need to understand that this is only .8% of the general fund.
Without water protection and conservation, our rivers will be dry, destroying ecosystems and habitats. Habitats give us clean air from plants absorbing carbon in our atmosphere. Agricultural lands can run dry, ceasing production. Without agriculture, food production will slow down. Agriculture is needed to feed livestock. Without water, the meat industry would suffer. If the water becomes scarce, the cost of water will increase. Only those who can afford this basic human right will benefit. Marginalized communities with low-income families will be the first to suffer from a water crisis. This is inhumane, water is a basic human right that every person should have access to. Colorado must put funding towards the water project to avoid the unsustainable treatment and exploitation of our water supply.
This all comes down to Coloradans voicing their opinion and exercising their right to vote. Colorado’s decision-makers must prioritize the Colorado Water Plan. The first step is to use your voice through a vote. Vote for politicians who will endorse the Colorado Plan. Call your state representatives and demand for funding to be put aside for water conservation. If you have the means, donate the conservation Colorado, a non-profit organization committed to sustainability in Colorado. The people’s voices will be heard. Coloradans who care about their land, water, and community must band together to take the action for supporting this initiative. It is time to fully fund the Colorado Water Plan.