West slope ag producers, feeling pressure, are lining up to provide input to the #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Kathleen Curry):

For several months now a group of agricultural producers on the Colorado River have been meeting to develop their section of the pending Colorado Water Plan. Whether you are a wine producer in Mesa County or a cattle producer in Grand County, water is the key to success and survival. And even though the snowpack is looking pretty good at the moment, there isn’t enough water to meet all of today’s needs let alone new future demands.

Agricultural water users are feeling pressure from a number of directions. Looking upstream, they see a growing population on the Front Range of Colorado. Water users east of the continental divide have not minced words regarding their desire to transfer additional water from West Slope agricultural users to the Front Range. Looking downstream, agricultural water users on the Colorado watch the declining levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead and speculate as to how much of the water they are currently relying on to raise their crops will have to be bypassed to meet Colorado’s compact obligations. And last, but not least, population numbers within the Colorado Basin are on the rise, and pressure to sell agricultural water for municipal use is ever-present.

The agricultural section of the Colorado River “Basin Implementation Plan,” developed by the Colorado Basin Roundtable with help from the consulting firm SGM, will be incorporated into the statewide Colorado Water Plan that Governor Hickenlooper is seeking to finalize by year’s end. The Colorado Basin Roundtable, like its counterparts in other major river basins around the state, is a group of water managers and stakeholders charged by the state legislature with doing “bottom-up” water planning. SGM is working with agricultural water users throughout the river basin to determine what their needs are and what kinds of projects and methods would help them be more prepared for the future.

A number of themes have emerged during the roundtable discussions to date. These include a desire to address the existing shortage of water supply available to agricultural users, consensus by all that additional transmountain diversions would harm agricultural production, a desire to preserve the right of an individual landowner to do what he or she wants with their property and water rights, and general agreement that improved agricultural efficiencies would have limited water supply benefits in the basin. The discussion participants have also concluded that administration of the Colorado River Compact due to a failure to meet downstream obligations would have a negative impact on the viability of long-term agricultural production in the basin.

The Colorado Basin Implementation Plan agricultural discussion group will continue to meet in conjunction with the monthly meetings of the Colorado Basin Roundtable. Next on the agenda will be identifying individual projects and methods that could provide agricultural benefits in the Colorado Basin.

If you would like to join in on the conversation, we would love to hear from you. Meetings are held the third Monday of the month at noon at the Glenwood Springs Recreation Center. For more information, please feel free to contact Angie Fowler at SGM, AngieF@sgm-inc.com. To learn more about the Colorado Basin and statewide water planning processes, go to http://www.coloradobip.sgm-inc.com. You can also contribute your knowledge and opinions by taking a short survey a http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoradoBasinAg.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage from the North Denver News:

Residents of the Denver metro area and northeast Colorado – including homeowners, farmers, ranchers, business owners, environmentalists and recreationalists interested in knowing more about Colorado’s water – are encouraged to attend any of four public information and input meetings to be held in March and April in Denver, Longmont, Fairplay and Yuma.

The South Platte Basin and Metro Roundtables, composed of diverse volunteers representing agricultural, municipal, recreational and industrial water users and environmental interests from the headwaters communities to the Nebraska state line, were created by the state legislature in 2005, along with seven other roundtables representing each of the state’s river basins. They are charged with determining how to meet Colorado’s significant water supply shortfalls anticipated by 2050. Since 2005, the basin roundtables have brought together more than 300 representatives of these interests to discuss water supply planning and other water issues.

The roundtables are currently working under an executive order issued by Governor John Hickenlooper in May 2013, requiring the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a Colorado Water Plan by December 2015. This statewide plan will detail how Colorado will manage its diverse water needs in the future. At a local level, the roundtables are developing Basin Implementation Plans outlining how to meet predicted water needs for all uses.

Chairs of both Roundtables emphasized that the South Platte Basin represents a critical piece of Colorado’s water future and are encouraging all interests to participate in the process.

“Finding the correct balance and tradeoffs of water uses is vital to ensuring a sufficient water supply in the future. To find that balance, everyone needs to work together,” said Sean Cronin, chair of the South Platte Basin Roundtable. “Whether you live in Fort Collins, Sterling, Denver, or Idaho Springs, there is a meeting taking place near you and we want the public to attend and be part of the process.”

[Mark] Koleber, chair of the Metro Roundtable, reinforced the importance of public participation. “We are developing the South Platte Basin’s plan now. The public’s thoughts and suggestions will be vital to the success of our plan and we are urging all to provide input.”

The meetings will be held from 4-6 p.m. on the dates and at the locations indicated below. Roundtable representatives will also be available starting at 3:30 p.m. until up to 7 p.m. for informal discussions. The meetings are free and open to the public. More information about the South Platte Basin Plan is available at http://www.southplattebasin.com.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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