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Coal fired power plants are being closed across the country in the arid west those plants use a lot of the region's scarce water supplies now with closure dates approaching communities are having sometimes contentious debates about how this newly freed up water should be used from K. U. N. C. and Colorado Luke Runyon reports it's snowing in downtown Craig Colorado when Jennifer Holloway walks into the local bookstore she runs the city's chamber of commerce and access the start of twenty twenty has been full of mixed emotions it's been hard to face the fact that okay we are needed in January Craig's dominant employer the company operating the nearby coal plant and mine confirmed the rumors it will shut down by twenty thirty because we've been providing electricity for millions of other people and that is a source of pride at first people worried about the loss of jobs at the plant now they wonder what's gonna happen to the sizeable amount of water it uses it's ten times more than all of Craig's nearly nine thousand residents use there is some discussion on this in the community and people have different views but my personal view is that that water needs to be safeguarded for long term environmental usage because Holloway says a healthy environment means a healthy local economy across the west more than thirty five coal plants have either closed recently or are slated for closure in the next fifteen years when you look at a typical call facility it uses an enormous volume of water between highly is CEO of tri state generation and transmission which operates Craig's plant coal plant closures will free up more than two million acre feet of water in western states about as much as the Phoenix metro area uses in a year and the fact that that will be liberated and available for other uses going to be significant significant because in this part of the country it's unheard of for large amounts of water to suddenly become available highly says tri state is already receiving calls from buyers interested in Craig's water drawn from the Yampa river part of the drought plagued Colorado River basin this is a big opportunity to you know make the other decisions more wisely cook Tricia I'm John researched coal plants in their water rights in a grad school project for the nature Conservancy it's one of a few environmental groups interested in buying water from plants slated for closure in Wyoming New Mexico and Arizona and keeping it in reverse it all comes down to who can negotiate with these clients owners and we can make it better claim or make a better