Throughout the West, the availability of water is a defining issue that can become contentious - or more - when communities that need it pressure those that have it to share. Colorado is certainly no exception to the western water debates and an atrophied state budget is putting the squeeze on the state's water managers to trim spending. As with all things water-related, that prospect is not pleasing all involved.
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources is proposing both to increase fees for some wells, dams and water-supply plans, and suspend overtime for the state's water commissioners. While the amounts in question are negligible in proportion to the budget shortfall Colorado is facing, it is real money to the individuals affected. Fees for many wells would increase from $100 to $665 - a significant jump, to be sure, but one that could be appropriate in a water-sensitive state, regardless of budgetary issues. That there is a need to trim expenditures and increase revenues wherever possible throughout state government makes raising well fees a logical proposal.
Suspending overtime for the commissioners charged with administering water rights and ensuring that water is delivered to its owners is not an ideal way to ease the state's financial burdens, but then no cutbacks are without ramifications - and few departments will avoid such unpleasantness. Lawmakers crying foul over the proposals, claiming water is the lifeblood of the state's economy, have merit in their arguments. The same is true for many other programs and resources facing cuts. Water is vitally important to Colorado and all communities across the West, but now is not the time to fight about it.