Buy and dry: ‘Agriculture has a big target on it’ — Jim Pokrandt

Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch
Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch

From (Maeve Conran):

Jim Pokrandt with the Colorado River District doesn’t mince words in describing where growing cities are finding new water supplies.

“Agriculture has a big target on it,” said Pokrandt. “There are willing ranchers and farmers who are willing to sell their water to the cities.”[…]

Agricultural water rights in some parts of Colorado can fetch thousands of dollars per acre-foot. As Jim Pokrandt explains, for some farmers struggling to make ends meet, it’s a bittersweet deal that’s often too good to pass up.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Pokrandt. “The rancher wants to be able to sell his or her water right but then there’s also the concern in the ranching and farming community that we need to keep land in production.”

It’s that long-term impact on farming that has many people concerned. Buy and dry has been more prevalent on the Front Range where most urban development is happening…

[Brian Werner] and others advocate for increasing water storage in the state as an alternative to buy and dry. But reservoir expansion in Colorado has prompted opposition by many environmental groups. Werner says if municipalities don’t get the water from storage, they’ll buy it from the farms, drying up the land.

“We’re not going to stop buy and dry, that isn’t going to happen, but what we hope to do is make sure that that’s not the only alternative for our future growth.”

Other alternatives include creating conservation easements, to help protect water supplies. Also, instead of selling outright, some farmers are leasing a portion of their water rights to local cities. But water suppliers contend owning the rights is really their only supply guarantee. Water managers and farming advocates throughout the state do agree that long-term solutions must be sought if the state’s farming industry is to be protected, and the state’s growing population is to have enough water.

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