Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap: Many eyes are on the spot market for water


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

That was the theme of a far ­ranging meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday. About 40 people from well augmentation groups, ditches and other farm interests attended the meeting. State Engineer Dick Wolfe and John Stulp, water adviser to John Hickenlooper, also attended the meeting.

While the state officials were there to talk about the high level of scrutiny for a Super Ditch pilot program which failed to get off the ground this year, the discussion quickly changed to increased competition for water on the spot market, which is drying up as the drought deepens.

Scott Lorenz, manager of the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, asked the Lower Ark board to adopt a resolution supporting cooperation and refraining from competing for the same sources of replacement water. The Lower Ark district provides replacement water for farmers under state surface irrigation rules.

“We’re asking the district to refrain from taking water from some farmers and giving it to others,” Lorenz said.

Lower Ark board members said the district’s goal is to help all farmers, and cited instances where the district has assisted well groups.

“The spot market may not even be there in the future,” said Lynden Gill, Lower Ark chairman. “We appreciate your efforts to bring these things to our attention.”

“Why don’t we take a step forward, and put on a positive attitude?” said Reeves Brown, a Pueblo County director.
The well groups first met with the Lower Ark board in February to address the issue, but no follow­up meetings have occurred. Recently, Lorenz publicly accused the district of trying to undercut its water sources, which the district denied.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A time­out from Arkansas Valley surface irrigation rules is unlikely, even though farmers say they’re paying for water they’re not even using.

At this week’s meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Dale Mauch, a Lamar farmer on the Fort Lyon Canal, asked State Engineer Dick Wolfe if the 2010 surface irrigation rules could be suspended until a study of pond leakage is complete.

“Dick, we’d like to have the state help us, because sometimes it seems like you’re the enemy,” Mauch told Wolfe at one point.

Mauch explained that under 2010 surface irrigation rules, he was required to purchase replacement water to augment his pond­fed sprinklers, even though he hasn’t been able to irrigate since mid­June because of the drought.

Mauch is among farmers trying to loosen up state water­replacement requirements by trying to prove that irrigation ponds that feed sprinklers leak more than presumed by a state formula.

The state presumes 3 percent leakage, while farmers say it’s closer to 20 to 25 percent.

Wolfe replied that the state’s actions are bound by court­decreed rules that make it difficult to alter or suspend any of the provisions.

“Dale, the state’s computer model doesn’t agree with you,” another farmer joked. “I live in reality,” Mauch laughed.

Pueblo County farmer Tom Rusler, who farms on the Bessemer Ditch, asked if the accounting for the rules could be done after the irrigation season, rather than in advance.

Wolfe said the rules require a plan prior to the irrigation season and can’t be altered without a change in the court decree. Wolfe said the rules could be amended to reflect the results of the pond study. Additionally, the Lower Ark district, which administers a group plan for water replacement under Rule 10 of the rules, can amend its report.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

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