As drought persists, Colorado’s water funding arrives just in time
Despite some recent rains, almost half of Colorado remains in a drought and about a third of the state in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought. Urgent action is still needed.
Fortunately, the higher-than-expected sports betting dollars are just the first of a hat trick of three new funding streams that can complete vital water projects in the state. Here are the three big games:
1. Sports betting generated $ 6.6 million for water in its first year.
The first full year of voter-legalized sports betting in 2019 generated $ 6.6 million, and almost all of that goes to Colorado Waterfront.
That’s a huge number given that the COVID-19 pandemic has ended several in-person sporting events over the past year. Even before the pandemic, the Colorado Department of Revenue estimated that sports betting would net less than $ 2 million in the first year.
Now in its second year in Colorado, sports betting could provide $ 10 million in water funding, based on average monthly earnings of $ 830,000 from October 2020 to April 2021.
These funds will be transferred to the Colorado Water Conservation Board at the end of each fiscal year to provide funds for the following year for critical projects to implement the Colorado Water Plan and protect healthy rivers, l drinking water, productive agriculture and outdoor recreation.
2. Local measures adopted last fall provide funds.
In addition to public funds, Colorado River District and the St. Vrain Left Hand Water Conservancy District both have been successful and are now in the process of identifying and awarding grants to improve the resilience of their local water supply systems. The 4.9 million dollars of annual funds for the river district and the 3.3 million dollars for Saint-Vrain should be devoted to projects related to the improvement of agricultural and irrigation infrastructures, to the quality of the water. water, stream restoration, conservation, water efficiency and education.
This funding is also an essential complement to state and federal opportunities, creating multiplier effects to extend the impact of these local dollars.
3. Legislature considering $ 20 million in water stimulus funds.
President Alec Garnett (D-Denver) and a bipartisan team of state lawmakers are working on a $ 20 million stimulus injection from Colorado to roll out in water projects as soon as possible. This effort will send $ 15 million to revive the water fund for sports betting and $ 5 million to basin round tables – stakeholder groups created by the state to drive collaborative local water solutions.
So far, every vote in the legislature has won unanimous bipartisan support, signaling that water is a top priority for the state’s policymakers.
These three victories on the water will not solve all the problems caused by the drought. We need continued and increased investments to protect and conserve our water supply systems as droughts become more frequent and severe. But for now, a win is a win, and we’ll take them.