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The Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee of the Colorado Legislature on Wednesday issued the following press release on moving forward with water and milk resource bills sponsored by Frisco Democrat Dylan Roberts in the next legislative session:
The Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee today advanced bills to preserve water resources, build more efficient water systems, and ease restrictions on the sale of raw milk.
Outdoor watering of landscaping uses about half of all municipal water, with much of this being on non-native turf grass. The state has supported turf replacement as a key tool for water conservation, and now this new bill focuses on restricting its initial installation. Sponsored by Chair Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, Vice Chair Rep. Karen McCormick, D-Longmont, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Sen. Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa, Bill 6 would promote water-wise landscaping by prohibiting local governments and homeowners’ associations from installing or planting nonfunctional turf, invasive plant species, and artificial turf on commercial, institutional, and industrial properties. Nonfunctional means areas like medians or parking lot perimeters which are seldom used; the policy makes no changes to the use of turf in functional areas like yards, sports fields and playgrounds. Additionally, the bill would impose the same restrictions on state facilities.
“We have been hard at work this interim looking at ways to address Colorado’s water crisis and develop a number of solutions to conserve water and create more efficient systems,” said Roberts, sponsor of Bill 6. “Our new bill makes a simple change that will have major ripple effects. By restricting the installation of grass turf in new developments and nonfunctional areas, we can significantly cut down on nonessential water use and ensure we’re using our water as efficiently as possible.”
“Water is our state’s most precious resource, and this legislation encourages conservation and natural landscapes,” said McLachlan, sponsor of Bill 6. “This bill would not allow local governments and HOAs to install new water-intensive lawns, artificial lawns or invasive plant species in nonfunctional areas, such as parking lots, to protect Colorado’s ecosystem and cut back on water usage. We must all do our part in addressing the water crisis and promoting more natural spaces that mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
“Native landscapes are important for supporting Colorado’s ecosystem, which is teeming with plants, insects and animals,” said McCormick, sponsor of Bills 6 and 9. “This bill would prohibit local governments and HOAs from installing invasive species, turf and astroturf in nonfunctional areas which would help encourage water-wise landscaping. Together, we’re working to save Coloradans’ money, water and preserve natural landscapes. Another policy we passed today explores using green infrastructure for traditional wastewater systems, which could include anything from planting more native plants and trees to protecting our state’s wetlands. Green infrastructure is just one of many tools we have to improve wildfire mitigation, boost water quality and encourage natural cityscapes.”
Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Arapahoe County, Rep. McCormick, Sen. Simpson, and House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, Bill 9 would require the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in collaboration with the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, to study the feasibility of substituting green nature-based infrastructure for traditional centralized wastewater and drinking water treatment systems. The study would determine if green infrastructure, a planned and managed network of natural green spaces, is a feasible alternative for water providers, would attract new sources of environmental-focused funding for water quality compliance and for water infrastructure projects, and would create cost savings for CDPHE and local water providers.
The study would be completed by December 31, 2025. After completing the study, CDPHE would establish at least one pilot program to demonstrate the use of green infrastructure as an alternative compliance program supported with environmental-focused funding.
“Why use chemicals to treat wastewater if nature can do it just as well?” asked Bridges, sponsor of Bill 9. “Today’s bill will give water experts the resources they need to see if we can naturally improve water quality enough to keep our residents safe while cutting costs for our communities, especially our small rural towns.”
The committee also advanced Bill 15, sponsored by Roberts, Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, and Sen. Byron Pelton, R-Sterling, which would legalize the sale of raw cow or goat milk when it is sold directly to consumers at the point of production, the consumer’s residence, or at a farmer’s market or roadside market. To sell raw milk, a raw milk producer must be registered with the state and comply with handling, storage, labeling, and transportation requirements for the sale of raw milk issued through rulemaking. Raw milk producers may face a civil penalty or embargo for violations of the program’s requirements.
The bills will now go to the Legislative Council for approval before being introduced next session. Once introduced in the 2024 session, interim bills will follow the legislative process in the same manner as all other bills.