roaring fork

The Roaring Fork River near Aspen in July. 

Western Slope voters overwhelmingly supported a mill levy tax increase for the Colorado River District that aims to protect the region’s drinking water, rivers and agricultural heritage.

The first round of polling numbers Tuesday evening showed more than 75% of the electorate in favor of ballot measure 7A, which would raise nearly $5 million for the river district.

“Voting yes on 7A was the most important local decision voters made tonight,” Republican Colorado Representative Marc Catlin said in a Tuesday night statement. “We came together across party lines to vote to protect our water for current and future generations of water users on the West Slope.”

The measure will double the district’s taxing authority, from 0.25 mills to 0.5 mills, which will equate to $1.90 per $100,000 of home value per year. For the average home in the district, that means an annual $7.03 cost.

The district spans 15 counties across western Colorado: Grand, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Gunnison, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Routt, Moffat Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Hinsdale and Saguache.

As part of the ballot question, the Colorado River District states that the additional dollars will be used to safeguard water supplies for Western Slope farmers and ranchers; to preserve sustainable drinking water supplies for local communities in the region; and to protect fish, wildlife and recreation by maintaining river levels and water quality.

The more-than-80-year-old entity aims to lead in the protection, conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River basin and throughout the state.  

“West Slope voters stepped up for our water in this election in a big way. We know that the pandemic has had significant impacts on our communities here in Colorado, and we know that any tax increase can be burdensome,” Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said in the statement. “But voters also realized that not securing our water on the West Slope would be worse and they said yes on 7A.”

The pro-7A campaign uniquely boasted over 60 endorsements from organizations and local governments across the Western Slope, spanning from conservatives to conservationists, the statement noted.  

“Healthy rivers are critical for our communities, agricultural production, the economy and recreation,” said Colorado River Director Matt Rice. “Saying yes on 7A means we can protect all of these things we love about the West Slope.”

Erica Robbie is the editor-in-chief of Local Magazine and Local Weekly as well as the arts & culture editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at or on Twitter @ericarobbie.