In the Colorado water world, recreation usually is lumped together with the environment as a “non-consumptive” use since both seek to keep water in the stream. But signatories to the letter say that grouping overlooks the importance of recreation to the economy.
That divisiveness reveals the tension between traditional water users like agricultural producers, who take water out of the rivers, and recreational and environmental water advocates, whose goal is to keep water in the river.
Cities have long dictated water policy, even as river recreation represents a growing segment of the state’s economy.
The proposal is an attempt to carve out a spot for — and recognize the importance of — Colorado’s outdoor-recreation economy in the hierarchy of water uses, which prioritizes the oldest water rights, usually belonging to agriculture and cities.
Water rights for natural river features would represent a shift in a state where putting water to “beneficial use” has traditionally meant taking water out of the river for use in agriculture or cities.