Roundtable focuses on ‘augmentation gap’ — The Pueblo Chieftain

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Agriculture has a $1.5 billion annual impact to the Arkansas Valley, but production hinges on the availability of water. So, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable is trying to turn the state’s thinking around from looking at the agricultural “water gap” as a shortage of irrigated acres to prevention of further economic erosion.

“When the state first looked at the agricultural water gap, it came down to the number of acres, but it really had to do more with the $1.5 billion impact of agriculture,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

“What we have is an augmentation gap.”

A study for the Lower Ark district and the Super Ditch showed that the amount of water needed to fill agricultural augmentation plans — methods to replace loss of return flows from pump­ing or surface irrigation improvements — could be as high as 50,000 acre feet (16.3 billion gallons) annually by 2050.

At the same time, traditional sources for augmentation water such as Colorado Springs Utilities or Pueblo Board of Water Works leases will diminish as the cities grow into their water supplies.

“A lot of the sources for augmentation water were double-counted,” Winner said.

Agriculture is not the only area that will be shorted. Mountain subdivisions, industrial users and cities are finding themselves under-subscribed when it comes to replacement water, said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.

“If growth continues, whether it’s outside or inside the communities, we will continue to see a wider augmentation gap,” Scanga said. “More storage and better use of it can mean an increase in supply.”

The only other ways to find new water will be to continue to take it from farms, for many years the easiest target in the Arkansas River basin, or the much more difficult task of bringing more water across the Continental Divide, he said. But the quest to find more water must be tempered by protecting what is already in place.

In stating its preferences, the roundtable agreed to recommend language in the state water plan that encourages the state to: “Prevent future water supply gaps from increasing by protecting water rights and adhering to the prior appropriation doctrine.”

Meanwhile, the roundtable elected Jim Broderick to lead them for the next term. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, was elected chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at its annual organizational meeting Wednesday. But the annual selection of the slate of officers, usually a routine formality, came with a minor ripple.

The roundtable also selected the proposed slate of officers on the executive committee, including vice-chairwomen SeEtta Moss and Betty Konarski, and Interbasin Compact Committee representatives Jay Winner and Jeris Danielson.

The lineup was challenged by Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, who pointed out there were no agricultural or municipal representatives on the executive committee.

Three of them, Broderick, Winner and Danielson, are water conservancy district managers. Moss, of Canon City, represents environmental interests and Konarski, a real estate agent, is the El Paso County representative.

“They have been there for several years, and represent one viewpoint, but not all the viewpoints on the roundtable,” Gracely said.

“What action are you proposing?” Broderick replied.

Gracely nominated Mike Fink, Fountain water resources engineer, to serve on the IBCC instead of Winner, whose term ended.

Broderick checked the bylaws and announced that Fink was not eligible to serve on the executive committee because he was not a member of the roundtable.

Colorado Springs Utilities already has a member on the 27-member IBCC, Wayne Vanderschuere, who was appointed by the governor.

Broderick then explained that the same people wind up in the leadership roles because they have the time to attend numerous meetings and the resources to do the work involved.

Winner, who also chairs the needs assessment committee, which screens grants, offered to step down from that job if others were interested in taking on the task.

“It takes a lot of time,” he explained.

Broderick invited other roundtable members to become more active in committees.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Leave a Reply