Colorado Establishes Water Equity Task Force

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources announced today the establishment of a Water Equity Task Force to better understand existing equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) challenges invovling Colorado water issues and inform the Colorado Water Plan.

“In Colorado, water is the lifeblood of our state and critical for our economy, agriculture, wildlife and environment. This Task Force is another important piece in creating a Colorado for all and will inform our Colorado Water Plan by ensuring that future efforts in planning for Colorado’s water future are increasingly inclusive. I want to thank Director Gibbs and the Water Conservation Board for their leadership on these efforts and look forward to the work ahead.”

The 2005 Water for the 21st Century Act (HB 05-1177) ushered in a new area of regionally inclusive and collaborative water planning. That spirit was further codified in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, which ensured that all water uses in Colorado are interconnected and of equal value. At the same time, Colorado has a broad and diverse populace who are not always represented in local stakeholder groups and who need to be engaged in the forthcoming Colorado Water Plan update (set for completion in 2022).

“2020 has highlighted the need to fundamentally address deeper societal issues – including equity in water policy decisions,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department Natural Resources. “This Task Force will build on the Governor’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Executive Order and efforts to build a climate equity structure; it is time to similarly create a water equity framework that can inform the Water Plan update.”

The Water Equity Task Force, managed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will bring together a group of 20 diverse stakeholders to meet over the next year to draft a set of concepts for consideration in the Colorado Water Plan update by the end of March 2022. The group will plan and develop a public workshop tentatively set for late 2021 to incorporate additional partners and voices to this effort. Details will be posted on the webpage. 

“The Colorado Water Plan update will build on lessons learned, be more accessible, and will identify bold actions. I strongly support including equity considerations into our water planning to ensure that our efforts become more inclusive, welcoming, and communicative on a range of issues,” added Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director.

Members of the appointed Task Force include:





Mike Weber

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District


Victoria Obregon

CSU Pueblo


Abby Burk

Audubon Rockies


Andrea Lopez

Ute Water


Sonja Chavez

Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District


Dr. Alina Luna

Western Colorado University


Barb Biggs

Roxborough Water and Sanitation District


Ernest House

Keystone Policy Center


Barbara Vasquez

North Platte Roundtable


Dr. Lynette Telck

Jackson County Public Health


Mike Roque

Community Foundation of San Luis Valley


Rio de la Vista

Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University


Fatuma Emmad

Front Line Farming


Deb Daniel

Repbulican River Water Conservancy District


Manuel Heart

Ute Mountain Ute - Chairman


Mel Baker

Southern Ute - Chairman


Lee Bitsóí

Fort Lewis College


Mely Whiting

Trout Unlimited


Jerry Hernandez

Integrated Community


Kelly Romero-Heaney

City of Steamboat Springs



The 20-person Water Equity Task Force geographically represents the the legislatively defined nine basin regions across Colorado (representing each of the eight major river basins as well as the metro area). The membership includes nine water-experienced stakeholders with insights into Colorado’s current water planning efforts and basin roundtable structure, two members representing Colorado’s federally recognized Native American Tribes, the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute tribes, and nine members representing community leaders not traditionally engaged in water issues. 




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