Ag to urban transfers

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Last year a subcommittee of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable presented a report detailing a blueprint for transfers of agricultural water to urban use. Chris Woodka (Pueblo Chieftain) has written a detailed analysis of the model’s application to current projects in the basin, well actually, the non-application of the model to current projects in the basin. From the article:

The model, Considerations for Agriculture to Urban Transfers (pdf), was developed by a committee of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable over two years of meetings…

The roundtable, in its review of the report, was divided on whether it should have “teeth” or remain a voluntary document. Whether the teeth should be the sharp fangs of state enforcement or the grinding molars of county review was also debated. If the document remains voluntary, it could just be a set of quaint dentures on the shelf. At the Colorado Water Congress meeting in January a water project developer – Aaron Million, who wants to bring water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to the Front Range – asked a water provider who served on the roundtable committee – Wayne Vanderschuere of Colorado Springs Utilities – why the Front Range Water Council had not adopted the document. The council comprises the major importers of Western Slope water, including Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Twin Lakes and the Northern and Southeastern water conservancy districts. Vanderschuere said the report was too preliminary to actually be used…

[Last Wednesday the Arkansas Basin Roundtable]…talked about how to get more water from the Western Slope, how to increase municipal water conservation; how to protect the investment value of ag water rights; how to meet environmental, wildlife and recreation needs; and even why the impacts of SDS on agriculture were not more fully discussed. “We need to put in projects to give alternatives to water rights owners besides a sale,” said Beulah rancher Reeves Brown. All of those questions are addressed in the water transfers document, which was virtually ignored in the discussion…

Gary Barber, chairman of the roundtable and an agent for El Paso County water interests, said the way deals are going forward is like the situation described in the Tragedy of the Commons, a 1968 scientific paper by Garrett Hardin that dealt with population problems. Hardin basically described how unbridled self-interest could destroy a shared resource. “I think what’s happened is that the environmental and recreation communities have entered the conversation, and we have to find an equitable way to satisfy that interest,” Barber said. There are other efforts to incorporate outside interests, even those who may not know they have a stake in the decisions being made today.

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