2015 Colorado legislation: Farm to farm leasing bill to be introduced

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):

A bill that would allow farmers to lease water to other farmers under rotational fallowing programs, such as the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, is being planted in the state Legislature.

The bill does not yet have a number, but will be co-sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and Rep. Ed. Vigil, D-Fort Garland.

“We think it’s going to help farmers in the Arkansas River basin solve their own problems,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The bill would modify HB1248, signed into law in 2013, to add agricultural, environmental, industrial and recreational uses to a state pilot program that allows 10 projects throughout Colorado. Three of those can be located in any one basin.

Pilot projects are overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and limited to fallowing only 30 percent of any given farm at a time for three years out of 10.

The bill allows only agricultural to municipal transfers, however. It passed in response to statewide concerns about a gap in future municipal water supplies.

The Lower Ark district funded a 2011 study that shows the agricultural demand for temporary water supplies — primarily water for augmentation of well- or surface-fed sprinklers — could be as much as 58,000 acre-feet (16 billion gallons) more each year by 2050.

There already is competition for supplemental water from traditional sources such as the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and Colorado Springs Utilities.

The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch formed in 2008 as a way to pool the resources of Arkansas Valley canals to keep them from getting picked off by cities.

The Super Ditch is the only applicant under HB1248. It plans to lease up to 500 acre-feet of water to Fountain, Security and Fowler by drying up parts of 1,128 acres on seven farms on the Catlin Canal.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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