Congressman: Water a key to economic vitality

Rep. Cory Gardner delivers keynote address at Colorado Water Congress



Cory Gardner

Even if the state could afford to build every water project on the books today, funds would still fall well short of future water needs.

That was one of the points raised Wednesday by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., during the keynote address at the Colorado Water Congress gathering in Steamboat Springs.

Gardner, a Yuma native, represents the state’s fourth district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and three subcommittees including energy and power, environment and economy, and oversight and investigations.

State Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, introduced her friend and former colleague in the state legislature.

Gardner conceded Wednesday he knew little about water issues during his upbringing in Yuma.

However, since serving five years in the legislature and now a term in Congress, Gardner is considered in some circles to be one of the foremost authorities on how job creation ties into the water and energy industries.

“Gardner started in the House of Representatives and was a success right from the start,” White said. “He is a man of integrity, a proven and capable leader, defender of agriculture and rural values, friend of the water committee, and supporter of our energy economy.”

Gardner believes Colorado’s water infrastructure can play an important role in bolstering the state’s economy, but only after the size and influence of the federal government is reduced.

“The federal government hires 250,000 people whose sole job is to write regulations,” Gardner said. “It is my goal and it should be all of our goals to help Coloradans maintain the ability to make their own decisions when it comes to water policy.

“And it can only be done when we have a federal government that realizes instead of taking the lead away from the state and away from the state’s water suppliers and users, it should follow their lead.”

Gardner said he helped pass H.R. 2018, or The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, in July.

The legislation preserves the authority of each state to make determinations on its own water quality standards and limits Environmental Protection Agency controls that undermine state and local water authorities concerning water management.

“I know that some people oppose this legislation,” Gardner said. “But I just happen to believe that Coloradans know best when it comes to their water.”

In an effort to take the fate of the economy out of the hands of the federal government, Gardner asked the audience to take part in the “One More Job” initiative that he launched last week.

“Improving the nation’s economy isn’t going to happen by following leadership in Washington, but by learning from job creators in Colorado and across this country,” Gardner said.

As part of the proposal, Gardner said he is accepting suggestions from his constituents to learn what lawmakers in Washington, D.C. need to change to the regulatory environment and the tax structure to allow businesses to hire more employees.

He is accepting suggestions via email at

“If just a fraction of the businesses in Colorado could afford to create just one more job, that would result in thousands of jobs throughout the state and start growing the economy,” Gardner said.

Gardner believes the water industry plays a pivotal role in reshaping the state’s economy because it’s not just the agricultural industry that relies on water to thrive. Every business needs water, he said.

Gardner pledged to fight for Colorado by abiding to his three-prong strategy that focuses on water storage, water conservation and creating critical partnerships when necessary, without sacrificing Colorado as the leader when it comes to its own water and economy.

“Because of limited storage, good Colorado water is flowing out of the state,” Gardner said. “This water could have been and should have been stored right here, growing our farms and our businesses.

“And, as (State Rep.) Jerry Sonnenberg said, ‘We didn’t even get a thank you note from Nebraska.’”

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Scott Ford 5 years, 8 months ago

Mark Twain is attributed as saying, "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over." How true.

At the core of Representative Cory Gardner comments about water, is the question of who actually owns the water he makes repeated reference to. Representative Gardner. would emphatically say that the water that was created in Colorado belongs to the people of Colorado.

I would agree with this philosophy if the citizens of Colorado actually did something to create the water itself. What individual or collective effort can any of us in Colorado point to that created last year's record snow pack? The answer is absolutely nothing! It just happened; Colorado's water is a result of geography, prevailing winds weahter systems and geography.

Rep Gardner is quoted as saying , ‘We didn’t even get a thank you note from Nebraska.’ It is silly to make this statement and have this kind of discussion. It may represent great coffee shop rhetoric but if followed to its logical conclusion it results is very poor government policy.

As a freshman Representative from the 4th District of Colorado his idea on this particular topic are sophomoric. In his position as an elected member to the US House of Representatives he has great responsibility. We can only hope that he matures. It is important for the State of Colorado that he does.


Scott Ford 5 years, 8 months ago

Hi Ranger520 - You bring up some interesting points and I thank you for the thoughtful exchange. You would not be the first person that thought I was wrong about something. I am not so strident in my opinions that I do not change my mind. So I may need a little help in understanding this topic better.

I am not sure that the examples used of seaports to energy natural resources fully apply here because there were people that made efforts to develop these resources to make them useful. Their efforts added something of value to the resource that allowed the resource to be developed. The location of a possible seaport has no value until folks construct the infrastructure necessary to capitalize on the favorable geographic location.

If we take the argument of ownership of water resources to its extreme, would it not be the logical that the state of Alaska should claim ownership of northwest Colorado's snowpack because the major winter storms originate in the Gulf of Alaska?

Without question, we have a stewardship responsibility, toward the resource of water; however, claming ownership of the resource is silly. My issue with Representative Gardner's comments is the claim of ownership of water resources just because of the blessings of geography


JamesBowen 5 years, 8 months ago

Congressman Gardner has always been long on opinion and short on facts to support his opinions. The notion that all the snowmelt coming from Colorado somehow belongs solely to Coloradans is plain sill as the supreme court has verified. The notion that the excess is unclaimed and we should claim it first is dumb given how prone to wasting water Coloradans are.


Ray Cartwright 5 years, 8 months ago

Scottford, You talk about getting your facts straight. I have lived in this area for over 30 years and as an old farm boy have studied weather patterns and we don't get our snow pack from Alaska, our weather comes from the Southern United States. You can set your watch by watching the weather in Phoenix, if it rains we will have either snow or rain in exactly 2 days. Feel free to watch it and let me know how it works out for you..


cag81625 5 years, 8 months ago

At the risk of deviating from idealogy and into the realm of reality, the truth is that SOME of the water that falls on Colorado belongs to Coloradans and SOME water belongs to other states. That's the law. I'm not as familiar with the eastern side of the divide, but the 1922 Compact (as imperfect as it may be) clearly allocates Colorado River Basin water to the states in which it flows through. It is true that Colorado does not use it's full allocation under the Compact, and that is certainly an issue worth exploring, but Las Vegas and Phoenix simply could not exist without this Compact that allocates water originating in our state to those fine desert dwellers to the south. Does anyone remember the phrase "Flush twice, California needs the water"? That's pretty much the idea.

Also, Scott does have a point about the Gulf of Alaska thing. Nearly all of our winter storms originate in the northern Pacific. Watch the satellite loops in the winter, it's pretty simple. I don't think that we send Phoenix so much water that it returns to us as blizzards.


aztek 5 years, 8 months ago

The water that comes from Colordo mountain snowmelt doesn't originate in this state - - it comes from ocean evaporation elsewhere and just condenses over Colorado. The snow that melts is largely from federal land, not private. Furthermore, Colorado, as a particapant in the Colorado River Pact, has agreed to a specific allocation and is legally required to release water in excess of that amount to the lower basin states, so building more dams/reservoirs will not increase the Colorado allocation. Also, more lower Colorado River water originates in Wyoming (Wind River Range) than in Colorado.

Several years ago, California Imperial Valley farmers, where much of the nation's Winter vegetables are grown, were using more than their allocation. Then Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, gave them 15 years to wean themselves from their excess useage. When they refused, she cut off the excess use immediately. Today, their exist many abandoned farms and ghost towns in that area. Continued unrealistic attitudes and actions by NW Coloradans could result in a similar action.

It would be wise to think and act rationally about this important water resouce - - it doesn't "belong" to you!


calvinhobbs 5 years, 8 months ago

Colorado River Basin water law is complicated. Lawyers have made careers arguing it.( If you have a kid that wants to be a lawyer, have them study Colo. River water law). The law essentially states, first to use it has priority, as long as the continue to use it. In a nutshell the compact took the average flow of the river over 3 years, and divided it up. Problem, those three years were abnormally high flow years, with inaccurate measuring devices. The three way division goes this way, 45% upper basin, 45% lower basin, 10% mexico. But order is lower basin gets their 45% first, then upper, then Mexico. Storage does give the basins more to use as it adjusts for the highly diverse flows in the rivers, so more dams, do give you more water. BUT most of the big dams are in the desert areas where evaporation loss is huge! In terms of where most of the upper basin water (Lees Ferry AZ and above) comes from, 36 % on average is from the Green River(Wind River Range and Wasatch) 21% is from the upper Colorado, the original Grand River. The original Colorado River was at the confluence of the Grand and Green. 13% from the Yampa/White basin, a little over 7% from the Gunnison, and just under 21% from the San Juan Basin. The rest is small desert tributaries in Utah. A book that talks about the water in the Southwest is Cadillac Desert. It goes into water law, water use and the history of water in the SW States. Like said above posts, we do not use all of Colorado allotments, the Yampa is under allocated, that is why some have proposed the pumpback units out by Maybell, the Green is also under allocated. The Million Project is looking at taking Green River water that Colorado has a right to out of the Green and pumping it to the front range.


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