Coloradans said “yes” to water in the 2020 election. Whether from deepening drought or historic wildfires, water is clearly a high priority for voters. In two multi-county water conservancy districts—the Colorado River Water Conservation District on the West Slope and the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District on the Front Range—voters showed willingness to increase property taxes to support water projects and programs that benefit the environment, conservation, communities, and agriculture.
Audubon and our partners joined forces to support these measures that together will generate nearly $8 million annually to support critical water-related needs.
Audubon Rockies worked with regional chapters (Black Canyon Audubon Society, Boulder Audubon Society, Grand Valley Audubon Society, and Roaring Fork Audubon Society) and unleashed powerful grassroots support for both of these local water funding measures. Audubon chapters provided feedback, helped fill information gaps, and publicly endorsed the funding measures which improved campaign visibility. Audubon leaders communicated a position of support directly to county commissioners and decision-makers. Chapters also wrote supportive letters to the editors in three newspapers, distributed yard signs, and participated in a texting campaign that reached more than 7,000 local voters.
“Everyone deserves a healthy river—people, birds, and the environment alike,” said Cary Atwood, president of the Grand Valley Audubon Society. “Grand Valley Audubon Society supported 7A because water is Colorado’s most precious resource. Sixty-five percent of the flow in the entire Colorado River Basin originates in the Colorado River District’s jurisdiction. When we work together, locally funded projects support local communities with far-reaching benefits for people and birds downstream.”
The new funds from Proposition 7A will provide St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District about $3.3 million per year to protect water quality, safeguard drinking water, maintain healthy forests, rivers, and creeks, plan ahead for dry years and grow food locally. The funds will be allocated using the District’s recently developed 5-Point Water Action Plan that will protect rivers, forests, and local water quality.
The Colorado River District 7A funds will bring in nearly $5 million per year to support healthy rivers, local agriculture, watershed health, and water quality in the 15 counties that make up the district. According to its Fiscal Implementation Plan, the District will allocate these funds through partnerships with water users and communities for priority projects identified by local communities and Basin Roundtables.
More Coloradans than ever turned out to vote in 2020. At multiple levels, Audubon engaged and leveraged our wingspan to help secure these local water funding wins. Soon it will be time to get to work on new projects—now possible with this new funding—to support birds, rivers, and people.