Arkansas Valley Superditch update: Three year pilot program will move 500 acre-feet annually from the Caitlin Canal to El Paso County


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Under the three-year program, 500 acre-feet of water would be sold each year under a lease agreement to Fountain, Security and Widefield at a cost of $500 per acre-foot. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has paid the legal and engineering bills for the Super Ditch so far, and heard an update on the proposed program at its meeting Wednesday. The Super Ditch board, made up of representatives from seven canal companies, heard the proposal earlier this week.

Under the plan, 400 acres of the 1,200 acres enrolled in the program would be dried up, earning an average of $945 per acre. The Catlin Canal irrigates more than 18,000 acres. Water would be taken at the Catlin headgate and either exchanged to Lake Pueblo during high-flow periods or placed into recharge ponds along the canal, consulting engineer Heath Kuntz explained…

A dozen farmers will set aside 100 acres each and fallow one third of that ground each year to refine engineering questions about the ditch. The rest would be farmed as usual, but farmers would have the opportunity to make improvements on the fallowed ground. So far, all of the participants have indicated they would rotate acreage, although Kuntz would like at least one to fallow the same ground for three years, for the sake of the engineering study. Some of those in the program own more shares than are needed to irrigate their acreage, while others are water short. Flood irrigation, sprinklers, drip irrigation and even some who mix well and surface irrigation sources have signed on. The amount of water credited to dried up ground varies from farm to farm, according to the shares per acre, cropping pattern and method of irrigation. Farms were chosen to represent as many scenarios as possible…

The water would be exchanged or traded into Lake Pueblo under a substitute water supply plan, rather than a court decree, during the pilot program. The Super Ditch plans to get approval for the plan by December. Exchanges would likely be available only during a few weeks during spring, and the Super Ditch could also move water through trades with other water users who have storage accounts in Lake Pueblo. All of the water used in the program would first flow through the Catlin Canal headgate and allowed to pass through the ditch, if it is being traded or exchanged, or moved into recharge ponds. The recharge ponds would slowly release water back to the Arkansas River over several years, mimicking the way return flows make their way back into the system. Flows that are exchanged can be measured at augmentation stations.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

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