DENVER – A water-efficiency bill from Southwest Colorado lawmakers narrowly survived Wednesday, providing a hint of the debate Coloradans will have this year about how they should use their water.
The brainchild of Durango water engineer Steve Harris, Senate Bill 17 originally would have limited the size of lawns in new suburban developments. That idea proved highly controversial among home builders and local governments, so the sponsor, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, rewrote it to remove the lawn mandate and instead call for a study of water conservation by the Legislature’s summer water committee.
Even so, the plan narrowly survived the House Agriculture. Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, passing on a 6-5 vote. Four Republicans and a suburban Democrat, Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton, voted against it.
A sponsor, Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said he wants to make sure farmers got water as cities grow.
Lobby groups for cities and home builders fought against the original bill but now support it. Kevin Bommer of the Colorado Municipal League took the opportunity to defend cities.
“There is a big misperception that municipalities aren’t doing anything – or perhaps aren’t doing enough – on municipal water conservation,” he said. “I think that could not be further from the truth.”
The bill has touched a nerve among Colorado’s water experts, and municipal water conservation is likely to be a hot discussion topic as the state prepares to write its first-ever water plan.
The bill now goes to the full House.