Colorado Water Congress summer meeting: Message to legislators — lets see if the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch ag transfers work


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

That was the message to the Colorado Legislature’s interim water resources review committee Tuesday from Jay Winner, a member of the Interbasin Compact Committee and general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Winner outlined the plan of the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to sell water from the Catlin Canal, one of seven members of Super Ditch, to El Paso County communities next year under a substitute water supply plan. The three-year pilot program calls for 500 acre-feet to be delivered to Lake Pueblo by exchanges, with recharge ponds on the canal to deliver return flows at the proper time and location to augment depletions. Participating in the program will be 15 farms, each setting aside 100 acres. One-third of the acres from each farm will be fallowed in order to provide the water. The Lower Ark district is providing the Super Ditch with engineering to determine how well the plan works. The district sees the program as a way to avoid the permanent sale of water rights to cities.

“This isn’t just a study, but an actual project to see if this can work,” Winner said…

Winner said the engineering used in the three-year program could point the way to a model that would be acceptable to farmers, the cities and state regulators. Part of the goal is to build trust between farmers and municipal water providers who have historically insisted on owning their source of water.


Meanwhile legislators also heard about the drought in southeastern Colorado. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

About 39 percent of the state still is in drought, despite some relief from spotty summer rains. The most extreme drought is in the Southeastern corner of the state and in the Rio Grande basin…

Pointing to the most recent assessment by the National Drought Monitor, a multi-agency assessment of conditions, [Veva Deheza, of the Colorado Water Conservation board staff] noted that Colorado is only on the tip of a drought of historic proportions covering almost the entire state of Texas and much of New Mexico…

The dry conditions are hard to fathom for much of the state, where the problem has been flooding…

Imports to the Arkansas River from the Colorado River basin totalled more than 200,000 acre-feet, more than 50 percent above average. Deliveries from the Colorado River to Lake Powell brought its level of storage to 76 percent from 43 percent before runoff, said CWCB Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel, making a Colorado River Compact call by lower basin states less likely in the immediate future.

Finally, Governor Hickenlooper is seeking disaster declarations for Elbert and Douglas counties, according to this report from Catharine Tsai writing for the Associated Press (via the Houston Chronicle). Here’s an excerpt:

Hickenlooper’s request for Elbert and Douglas counties is awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Colorado Water Availability Task Force co-chair Veva Deheza told a state legislative committee Tuesday.

The USDA already has approved primary disaster declarations for 17 southern Colorado counties, making them eligible for aid and benefits. Those counties are: Baca, Otero, Crowley, Bent, Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Prowers, Pueblo, Saguache, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Costilla and Conejos. Twelve more counties that are next to them also can receive help…

Some southern Colorado ranchers are choosing to sell livestock while cattle and hay prices are both high, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Emergency grazing has been approved in Lincoln, Otero, Las Animas, Bent, Kiowa, Prowers, Baca, and Crowley counties on land that was supposed to have been set aside for conservation under the federal Conservation Reserve Program.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

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