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Greg Johnson
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Nonconsumptive Needs
(Environmental and Recreational) 

Recreation and tourism are vital to Colorado. Millions of people within the state participate in outdoor recreational activities that are connected to Colorado’s water resources. Water-related activities, such as fishing, paddling, commercial rafting, wildlife viewing, camping, skiing and other snow sports, together infuse between $7 and $8 billion into the state’s economy and employ about 85,000 people across Colorado. The state’s recreational opportunities and natural environment continue to draw in businesses and new residents to Colorado, further underscoring their importance to the state’s economy.

Meeting and Assessing Colorado’s Nonconsumptive Needs
Many CWCB programs, including the Instream Flow and Watershed Protection & Restoration programs, are critical to meeting the state’s nonconsumptive (environmental and recreational) water needs.

In addition, the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act requires each basin roundtable, groups of stakeholders who provide input to the state on water issues, to develop a nonconsumptive needs assessment (NCNA). This involves identifying the area’s nonconsumptive water needs as well as the projects and methods to meet those needs.

With assistance from the CWCB, the basin roundtables completed Phase I, which included a comprehensive stakeholder-driven mapping effort of environmental and recreational focus areas throughout Colorado. Phase I also included a pilot of the Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool (WFET), which tests the applicability of a course quantification methodology.

Phase II of the NCNA process seeks to identify projects or methods to address the basins’ nonconsumptive needs identified in Phase I. During Phase II, the roundtables, with assistance from the CWCB, will explore the following topics:
  1. Existing protections/efforts for priority areas
  2. Areas without protections that need further study
  3. Strategies needed to support nonconsumptive priority areas
  4. Areas where new flow or water level quantification is appropriate
  5. Areas where a project, whether structural (e.g., river restoration) or nonstructural, can be identified and implemented
  6. Areas where no action is needed at this time
To address the first topic area, a technical memo was developed that outlines existing and planned nonconsumptive projects and methods. The identification of these projects and methods will inform each basin roundtable in how to proceed with the other topic areas. Some basins may focus first on nonconsumptive quantification, and others may put their efforts directly into identifying projects or methods for meeting their nonconsumptive needs.

Ultimately, the NCNA information will merge with the results of the Consumptive Needs Assessments and provide guidance to water resource managers on issues related to environmental and recreational uses of water.