STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – As four members of the Colorado congressional delegation left the stage before a Colorado Water Congress audience, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis bounded on stage to exchange handshakes and hugs on Wednesday.
The governor praised the four as a “great team” to work with in Washington D.C.
He then said he’d just been enjoying the peak of the Palisade peach crop the night before, when 38 peaches were brought into appetizers, salads, main entrees, and desserts for a dinner with friends and staffers.
Polis said it is no wonder that agriculture is the state’s biggest economic sector. The state’s agriculture industry is facing numerous threats and challenges, internally and externally, he added, from thirsty suburbs and the thirsty states of California and Arizona. His administration is working to protect Colorado water and thus agriculture, by finding connections between water and housing, industry and more, he said.
Polis said de-turfing Colorado yards can help reduce urban/suburban water use by 30-50 percent. Smaller yards for duplexes and townhomes will also help, with water-smart plants and trees.
“We face a real challenge because at the same time we’re looking at more people coming to our state, there will be less water,” he said, citing drought driven by climate change and water use reductions for every state in the Colorado River Basin.
Polis praised work by legislators at the federal and state levels, bringing more tools and money to address water-related issues and problems.
Polis said he’s issued executive orders to integrate smart water management into virtually every aspect of the state’s economy, local and regional government. He’s directing his cabinet leaders and department heads to cut red tape and facilitate water-smart policies, grants, and loans whenever possible. He’s directed state water negotiators to protect Colorado’s interests and to make sure that California and Arizona make important cuts and concessions before Colorado has to make those decisions.
“Our greatest strength is our ability to communicate and collaborate,” he said. “I am very much an optimist because I foresee a smart growth future for Colorado citizens.”