‘Future Horizons for Irrigated Agriculture’ tour recap: Greeley and other Weld County Communities are gearing up for population growth

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Here’s an in-depth look at efforts by northern Colorado cities to water the expected growth in population from The Greeley Tribune. Click through and read the whole article and check out the photo gallery. Here’s an excerpt:

Water storage for the future is viewed as so vital to the northern Front Range that the 15 participating municipalities and water districts of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, have spent about $10 million during the past seven years just to plan and analyze the endeavor. But there is no guarantee that NISP — a project that includes the construction of two new reservoirs in northern Colorado — will ever take shape. The federal government continues to analyze the Environmental Impact Statement…

Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department, said the city’s current supply will meet the needs of the community for only 25 more years, maybe less. In preparation, Greeley officials want to expand the Milton Seaman Reservoir, one of six high-mountain reservoirs from which the city draws its water. The reservoir holds about 5,000 acre-feet of water, and the proposed project calls for it to be expanded more than 10-fold to 53,000 acre-feet. The expansion would allow Greeley to pull 7,800 acre-feet of water off the reservoir annually, up from the 750 acre-feet it can pull now. Greeley uses about 45,000 acre-feet of water per year; demand is expected to grow to about 65,000 acre-feet by 2050. After initiating efforts in 2004, the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project is expected by 2013, and a final EIS is expected by 2015. Afterward, construction would take two years and filling the reservoir could take another five to 10 years…

Another water storage effort is The Windy Gap Firming Project. The 25-year-old Windy Gap Project near Granby diverts water from the Colorado River to the Front Range via the Colorado-Big Thompson Project on a space-available basis. According to Monson, during wet years when water is available for Windy Gap diversions, Lake Granby is often full with little or no space for the water. During dry years, the water right can be too junior to come into priority, so no water is available to pump. Greeley is allotted 4,400 acre-feet of water annually from the Windy Gap Project, but that supply hasn’t always been available. The Windy Gap Firming Project was proposed to ensure reliable future deliveries. Nine other municipalities, including Evans, participates in the project, along with the Central Weld County Water District and two other districts. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is expected to publish the final Environmental Impact Statement for the Windy Gap Firming Project in November.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

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