Denver Mayoral Race 2019

Denver's Mayor Will Impact Grand County

One TU Board Member’s Thoughts on Denver’s Mayoral Race

By Jerry Nissen

Denver will vote for a new mayor on May 7, 2019. As of this writing, there are ten candidates vying for that job. One of those candidates, Penfield Tate, reached out to me to talk about his thoughts on the environment and water diversions from Grand County in particular. Other candidates are welcome to do the same.

I was fortunate to meet Penfield at one of our local Trout Unlimited Banquets at Devil’s Thumb Ranch. At that time, he was on the Denver Water Board. That evening, we had a very positive discussion about the relationship between Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and the importance of protecting the environment (particularly the rivers) west of the Continental Divide. I was encouraged by what I heard. 

I was also encouraged by what I heard in our recent talk. On March 1, I was happy to take a call from Penfield Tate to hear his thoughts about water, the environment and his run for mayor. 

He emphasized his understanding of the direct relationship between the diversion of water for urban use and the health of our rivers on the West Slope. Tate stressed his belief in the importance of finding the right balance between diverting water for urban use and keeping the rivers and environment healthy.  He expressed his belief that serious, honest, frank conversations between diverters and environmental groups like Trout Unlimited would produce better results than litigation. Tate praised TU’s legal representative, Mely Whiting, for her hard work and constructive approach to a difficult set of problems and the resulting successes for our rivers.

Bullet Points from our talk:

  • Denver needs a secure, reliable water supply and cooperating with and responding to  environmental organizations like TU will help make that possible.
  • Denver Water will be pushed to conserve more and become better stewards of our entire state’s environment. 
  • Denser development and reducing sprawl will help reduce water use and benefit the environment overall.
  • Agrees with TU that expanding existing reservoirs rather than building new ones is preferred and storage increases can help reduce diversions in the long run. 
  • Evaluating water use and enhancing the efficient use of water in urban and rural areas (including agricultural uses) can yield positive results.
  • Push for conservation is critical.

Tate talked about his support for the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement as a positive “big picture” step to protecting the future of our rivers and stressed his belief in the need for Denver and the west to keep expanding their conservation efforts. The need for Denver to simply use less water per capita and the reality that water is a limited and precious resource is something Tate clearly believes.

He talked about his goal of reducing water use, particularly for outside irrigation and was interested to learn more about how Las Vegas has actually reduced its Colorado River Consumption by 28 billion gallons since 2003 despite its population increase of 660,000 in that time.  

Here in Grand County, we can’t vote for Denver’s next mayor but we will surely be impacted by Denver’s choice.