South Platte Roundtable recap

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From the Fort Lupton Press (Rosalie Everson):

“There is virtually no new water left to develop in the South Platte River Basin,” Mike Shimmin, a member of the Interbasin Compact Committee said in a roundtable progress report [December 17] at the Larimer County Fairgrounds. There might not be any more water to develop, but there will be major population growth, perhaps double, in the basin, an area that includes the northeastern quadrant of the state. Closing the door to new residents, an option one member of the audience inquired about, would not completely solve the problem. Fifty percent of the increased water users will be the children and grandchildren of those who are already living in Colorado. They will need water for their basic needs, and they will also expect to fish, water ski, work and eat, priorities that can conflict with the water that will, or by 2050, will not, be supported by the existing water supply.

Agriculture in the South Platte River Basin is big business, with an annual value of more than $3 billion in crops sold. If water currently irrigating the 1,027,000 acres of cropland in the South Platte Basin is diverted to growing cities, then the average $3,102 of income per crop acre will evaporate, drying up not only farms but also the small town businesses and special district taxes-school, library, and fire protection, their profits support. Recreation, a huge generator to Colorado’s economy, could be affected if farms aren’t irrigated, Simmons said. “Much of sports and recreation environment along the river and streams is created by return flow from irrigation,” he added…

There’s also an impending double water whammy. Underground reservoirs used by municipalities are shrinking, so they are acquiring surface water rights to make up for the shortage. “We have data from South Metro Denver, and Northern El Paso County that they will need 110,000 acre feet,” said Eric Hecox, the section chief of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

The gap between available water and increased municipal needs should be accomplished without the destruction of the agricultural economy, the roundtable members said. “We need to look at every way we can to solve this gap,” Evans said. The solution most endorsed was increasing water storage, with several members noting that the proposed Glade Reservoir would have been filled to 60 percent of its capacity had last summer’s above average rainfall been “captured.”

More South Platte Basin coverage here and here.

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