Arkansas Basin: The Arkansas Groundwater Users Association accuse the Lower Ark of competing for the same supplies

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A well augmentation group thinks the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is “picking winners and losers” in providing supplemental water.

Lower Ark manager Jay Winner says that’s not the case. The district is trying to protect all water rights — surface or groundwater — in the Lower Ark Valley.

“We have to scrape water together wherever we can,” said Scott Lorenz, manager of the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association. “We operate with the other two groundwater groups with mutual respect, and we don’t go after each other’s water.”

AGUA, the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association and the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association provide replacement water for well owners under 1996 rules, called Rule 14 plans.

The Lower Ark district operates a Rule 10 plan under 2010 surface irrigation rules.

AGUA fears the Lower District is attempting through its ongoing negotiations with Colorado Springs to lock up one of its main sources of replacement flows — return flows from the city. The fears stem from last year’s five-year lease from Pueblo Board of Water Works at more than double the going rate for one-year leases.

“We rely on that water,” Lorenz said. “I oppose taxpayer funds being used to pick winners and losers.”

Winner said negotiations with Colorado Springs will not create competition with the well groups for supply.

“My goal is to get the Rule 10 guys on surface water rights . . .

to be able to use their own water for replacement water,” Winner said.

Like the well groups, the surface irrigators have to pay for management of the program and the cost of water. While state grants helped set up the Rule 10 program, local taxes are not being used.

“It’s all pass-through costs,” he said.

The Lower Ark district provided more than 10,000 acrefeet of water to make up stateline deficits for overuse of water by wells in 2005-06. Otherwise, the burden would have been on well users, Winner added.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

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