In 2018, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (the CWCB) published the current version of the State’s Drought Mitigation and Response Plan (the DMRP). Originally prepared in accordance with the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-390), and adopted by the Office of the Governor, the DMRP is intended to provide State and local authorities with “effective and systematic” methods of combatting short- and long-term water shortages throughout Colorado. The DMRP contemplates a three-phase Drought Plan Implementation Cycle, with Phase 3 of the cycle activated in times of extreme or exceptional drought.
On November 30, 2020, for only the second time in history, Governor Jared Polis initiated Phase 3 of the DMRP, and activated the Municipal Water Impact Task Force (MWITF). According to the CCWB, the MWITF’s current objective is to “coordinate with water providers across the state to prepare for anticipated water challenges into 2021.”
Governor Polis’ decision to activate the MWITF arrives in the face of persisting severe statewide drought conditions. In August 2020, for the first time in eight years, federal officials designated 100% of Colorado as abnormally dry or in a state of drought, and as of November 3, 2020, drought conditions in nearly 25% of the State were classified as “extreme.” Current federal forecasting models project that similar drought conditions will persist throughout Colorado well into 2021. Coloradoans, as they so often do, will pray for increased snowfall throughout the remainder of the winter. However, if forecasts hold true, a proactive approach by the MWITF, CWCB, and various local governmental officials may prove vital to guiding Coloradoans through a drought-ridden 2021.