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DENVER — The future, everything we know and love about our Colorado - outdoor recreation, innovation, agriculture - all hinge on one thing: water.
"It would be irresponsible of us to develop this state without planning for the amount of water that we’re going to need," said Sen. Michael Bennet, (D) Colorado.
Bennet is among hundreds attending the first-ever 'Water in the West' Symposium in Denver this week, hosted by Colorado State University.
"We all acknowledge that no more water is being created,” Bennet said. “We have to find ways of using the water we have more efficiently, more responsibly."
By most accounts, the Colorado River is already over-appropriated, supplying water to 40 million people in seven states across the southwestern U.S.
And now, the four upper basin states, including Colorado, are accusing Arizona of wasteful practices.
“We have one water user who is basically operating for their own benefit to the detriment of everybody else," said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead.
One of the central issues this year is drought. A dry winter on the plains and low snow pack in the high country could be catastrophic, especially to lower basin states if the pattern continues.
"We are one year away from Lake Powell being at such low numbers that it can’t generate power anymore,” Lochhead said.
The central question along the front range: Do we have enough water to support the roaring pace of growth?
"If we’re not smart about it, the answer to that is going to be, ‘No,’" Bennet said.
This issue is pitting farms against cities, builders against environmentalists and city planners against neighborhood groups.
The symposium is an effort to bridge the gap between all sides, in hopes we avoid a water crisis.
"We rise or fall together as a state,” Bennet said. “That’s true with water, transportation, that’s true with rural and urban Colorado."