Southern Colorado Water Forum recap: Steve Vandiver — ‘We’ve issued too many well permits, and now we’re trying to unscramble the egg’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve issued too many well permits, and now we’re trying to unscramble the egg,” Steve Vandiver, manager of the Rio Grande Conservation District, told the Southern Colorado Water Forum Tuesday. More than 6,000 high-volume irrigation wells have been drilled in the Rio Grande basin in the rich farmlands around Alamosa, Center and Monte Vista over the past 50 years. “These wells have had an impact that was not recognized by anyone when they were drilled,” Vandiver said.

Part of the problem is that one-third of the water in the San Luis Valley has to be sent to New Mexico, in an arid region that gets only about 7 inches of precipitation annually. Since the 1940s, wells have improved and expanded agriculture in the Rio Grande basin.

The greater harm is to senior surface irrigation rights, which date back to the 1850s in the Rio Grande basin. The valley is economically dependent on agriculture, and the farmers themselves have taken up a solution which they hope to implement before the state imposes rules, Vandiver said. “Six subdistricts are being created as a market-driven approach,” Vandiver said.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

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