From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
State Engineer Dick Wolfe gave his approval Friday to a plan to mitigate the impacts of groundwater pumping this year in the north-central San Luis Valley.
Wolfe’s approval, issued at the close of business Friday, confirms Subdistrict No. 1 has sufficient water to cover the depletions caused by the 3,412 wells inside its boundary.
The subdistrict, which must get annual state approval for its plan, must replace an estimated 3,655 acre-feet in depletions that well pumping is expected to cause to the Rio Grande this year.
Those wells are projected to pump 238,000 acre-feet of groundwater this year, which impacts surface water given that the two are hydraulically connected to varying degrees around the valley. The subdistrict has a pool of 20,115 acre-feet it can use to replace depletions, drawing off transbasin diversions coming into the basin, reservoir storage and a federal reclamation project that pumps groundwater on the east side of the valley.
The subdistrict also has nine forbearance agreements with ditch companies that will allow it to pay for damages in lieu of putting water in the river.
While mitigating the harm to surface water users is a court-ordered priority, the subdistrict’s other aim is to reduce groundwater pumping through the fallowing of farm ground.
This year, through a federal conservation program, just under 4,000 acres will be taken out of production, a savings to the aquifer of roughly 7,800 acre feet.
Unlike previous years, the subdistrict will no longer have a financial guarantee by its parent organization — the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, which draws property tax revenue from five of the valley’s six counties.
Instead, the subdistrict has placed $3.85 million in escrow to ensure well depletions are replaced in the event the subdistrict dissolved.