Colorado Establishes Water Equity Task Force

A coalition of agricultural groups announced their support today for Proposition DD, which asks voters this fall to tax casinos’ sports-betting profits to help conserve and protect the state’s water supplies

Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, has announced a Water Equity Task Force to understand better-existing equity, diversity, and inclusivity challenges in state water issues and inform the Colorado Water Plan.

The 2005 Water for the 21st Century Act (HB 05-1177) ushered in a new regionally inclusive and collaborative water planning area. This was further codified in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, which ensured that all water uses are interconnected and of equal value.

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“In Colorado, water is the lifeblood of our state and critical for our economy, agriculture, wildlife, and environment,” said Governor Polis. “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,” Governor Polis said.

The Water Equity Task Force is managed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and will bring together a group of 20 diverse stakeholders to meet over the course of the next year to draft a set of concepts for consideration in the Colorado Water Plan update by the end of March next year. The group will plan and develop a public workshop set for the end of this year to incorporate additional partners and voices into this effort.

“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,” Dan said.

Members of the appointed Task Force are as follows:

  • Mike Weber
    • Affiliation: Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District 
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Victoria Obregon
    • Affiliation: CSU Pueblo
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Abby Burk
    • Affiliation: Audubon of the Rockies
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Andrea Lopez
    • Affiliation: Ute Water
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Sonja Chavez
    • Affiliation: Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Dr. Alina Luna
    • Affiliation: Western Colorado University
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Barb Biggs
    • Affiliation: Roxborough Water and Sanitation District
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Ernest House
    • Affiliation: Keystone Policy Center
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Barbara Vazquez
    • Affiliation: North Platte Roundtable
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Dr. Lynette Telck
    • Affiliation: Jackson County Public Health
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Mike Roque
    • Affiliation: Community Foundation of San Luis Valley
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Rio de la Vista
    • Affiliation: Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Fatuma Emmad
    • Affiliation: Front Line Farming
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Deb Daniel
    • Affiliation: Republican River Water Conservancy District
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Manuel Heart
    • Affiliation: Ute Mountain Ute – Chairman
    • Seat: TRIBE
  • Mel Baker
    • Affiliation: Southern Ute – Chairman
    • Seat: TRIBE
  • Lee Bitsóí
    • Affiliation: Fort Lewis College
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Mely Whiting
    • Affiliation: Trout Unlimited
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE
  • Jerry Hernandez
    • Affiliation: Integrated Community
    • Seat: COMMUNITY
  • Kelly Romero-Heaney    
    • Affiliation: City of Steamboat Springs
    • Seat: ROUNDTABLE

The 20-person Water Equity Task Force geographically represents the legislatively defined nine basin regions across Colorado (representing each of the eight major river basins and the Denver metro area). The membership includes nine water-experienced stakeholders with insights into Colorado’s current water planning efforts and basin roundtable structure. Two members represent 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.

“The Colorado Water Plan update will build on lessons learned, be more accessible, and will identify bold actions,” said Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director. “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,” Rebecca said.

For more information regarding the Water Equity Task Force, visit