Governor Polis Signs Multiple Bills Funding Critical Water Conservation Programs

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Following a busy legislative session for the Colorado General Assembly, which ended May 11, Governor Polis signed several bills directing funding to numerous programs administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).

“The Colorado Water Conservation Board is pleased by the support of the Colorado Legislative and Governor Polis for Colorado water issues in this past legislative session,” said CWCB Director Becky Mitchell. “This support is shown by the passage and signing of multiple bills that will do things like boost project funding for the Colorado Water Plan, help communities address watershed health issues and better prepare for future wildfires, and allow for so many other critical water programs to continue with needed funding.”

Below is a summary of signed legislation affecting CWCB in 2022:

Construction Fund Projects Bill
House Bill 1316, or the Projects Bill, annually supports multiple programs that fall within the Construction Fund. Programs supported through this bill, among others, include: floodplain map modernization, weather modification permitting (cloud seeding), the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, dam safety evaluations for reservoir enlargements, and the Colorado Water Plan Grant Program. This bill also for the first time includes funding from Proposition DD (taxes collected on sports betting in Colorado) to supplement Colorado Water Plan grant awards. Also unique to this year’s bill, it allows for CWCB to provide a low-interest loan to the Town of Breckenridge to rehabilitate the Goose Pasture Tarn Dam.

Wildfire Prevention Watershed Restoration Funding Bill
House Bill 1379 directs $10 million for post-wildfire watershed restoration and wildfire mitigation grants, as well as $5 million for technical assistance for local governments when applying for additional federal funding and for hiring support staff. 

Turf Replacement Program Bill
House Bill 1151 directs $2 million to CWCB to establish a new funding program to incentivize replacement of turf with water-wise landscaping. This voluntary program defines water-wise landscaping as a “water and plant management practice that emphasizes using plants with lower water needs.” Local governments, certain districts, Tribal Nations, and nonprofit organizations may apply to CWCB for funding to help finance their own existing turf replacement programs as well. More information about this pending program will become available in Spring 2023.

Groundwater Compact Compliance Bill
Senate Bill 028 creates the groundwater compact compliance and sustainability fund to help finance groundwater use reduction efforts in the Rio Grande River Basin and the Republican River Basin (such as buying and retiring irrigation wells and irrigated acreage in these river basins). Specifically, the bill appropriates $60 million to CWCB to administer the fund and its intended efforts in coordination with the Division of Water Resources, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and the Republican River Water Conservation District.

Species Conservation Trust Fund
Senate Bill 158 appropriates $6 million for conservation programs designed to protect threatened or endangered native species. Funding is allocated to programs through the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and this bill includes $1.9 million for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, $800,000 for upper Colorado River endangered fish recovery and San Juan River Basin recovery implementation programs, and $250,000 for Ruedi Reservoir water releases for environmental benefits on the15-mile reach of the Colorado River.

Polis signs water legislation
Governor Polis signs SB22-028 at the Rio Grande Conservation District office in Alamosa.
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