Southeastern board scrutinizes new consumptive use rules for Arkansas Valley

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The board of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District was briefed on the new consumptive use rules that were filed by the State Engineer’s office in Division 2 Water Court last month. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The rules are meant to protect Colorado under the 1948 Arkansas River Compact with Kansas, Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte explained. They apply to improvements such as lining canals, putting pipe in off-farm laterals or using chemicals like PAM to reduce leakage. The most controversial part of the rules, however, applies to sprinklers fed by surface ponds. The rules apply only to 1999 improvements made after 1999, the last reckoning of water use by the two states. Witte has made a pitch for the possibility of depleting flows through the river with such improvements since 1996…

The difference is between ditches with adequate water supplies, like the Bessemer Ditch, and water-short ditches, like the Fort Lyon Canal. Improvements like sprinklers might result in more irrigated acreage or higher yields, hence more consumptive use, Witte said. “When we talk about senior rights with full supply, they may increase the flow to the river,” Witte said…

Witte said farmers are still welcome to use their own engineering to prove there is no harm to the river from improvements…

The rules also provide for compliance plans – the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Arkansas Valley Ditch Association are looking at possible versions – as a way to meet state requirements. There also are general permits for areas outside of the zone covered by a model developed for the Kansas v. Colorado U.S. Supreme Court case. That includes many tributaries and all pre-1884 water rights upstream of Lake Pueblo.

More Arkansas Valley consumptive use rules here and here.

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