Colorado Water Congress 2011 Annual Convention: Ag dry ups were part of the converseation

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Former Gov. Bill Ritter “was always concerned about the loss of agricultural lands, and Gov. (John) Hickenlooper is concerned about the loss of agricultural lands,” said Alex Davis, the state’s assistant director of natural resources. “Do the energy companies end up buying most of the water? Do the municipalities end up competing with the energy companies for water? Could we have a South Platte River without agricultural production? The population is growing. Demands will increase and there’s not enough water to meet all the demands. There will be trade-offs.”[…]

“We’re losing the ability to produce food in this country,” Family Farm Alliance president Pat O’Toole said at a water congress session aimed at exploring options for water sharing. Environmental advocacy groups point out that recreation and tourism-related activities, which in 2009 injected $8.6 billion into Colorado’s economy, require healthy rivers and natural beauty, not new diversions for farming or cities…

Water squeeze

16 million: Number of acre-feet of water that Colorado’s rivers, on average, generate each year. Colorado is obligated, under various legal compacts and decrees, to let about two-thirds of that flow out of the state.

Where the water comes from

Yearly production of significant river basins:

South Platte: 400,000 acre-feet
Arkansas: 164,000 acre-feet
Colorado: 4.5 million acre-feet
Rio Grande: 320,000 acre-feet
Yampa: 530,000 acre-feet…

About 80 percent of Colorado’s river water flows on the western side of the state, where about 20 percent of the people live. About 20 percent of the water flows on the eastern side of the state, where 80 percent of the people live. The Western Slope contains 562,000 people and about 918,000 acres of irrigated agricultural land, where food is produced. The eastern half of the state contains 4.5 million people and about 2.5 million irrigated agricultural acres.

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Meanwhile, the Henrylyn Irrigation district is gearing up to automate their system. More from Finley’s article:

Installation of a $220,000 system of measuring stations and computer controlled gates by the Henrylyn Irrigation District is slated to start this spring in the South Platte basin. Financed in part by the federal government, the automation is designed to save 4,000 acre-feet of water a year…

“What’s in it for us?” asked Rod Baumgartner, manager of Henrylyn’s network of 140 miles of canals and ditches, which irrigate 33,000 acres northeast of Denver. “If we can be more efficient, it means we’ll have that much more water for the farmers we serve.”