2016 Colorado legislation #coleg: Implement alternative ag transfer methods with a water bank?

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The idea of a statewide water bank is being floated by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Coincidentally, they would be tied to ATMs.

Not automated teller machines, but alternative transfer methods, one of the key elements in the upcoming state water plan.

The state Legislature’s interim water resources committee heard the proposal Thursday from Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner and attorney Leah Martinsson, who are working with state Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, to draft a bill for the 2016 session.

“ATMs are in the state water plan, and the district has been a leader in these types of temporary transfers since it was formed in 2002,” Martinsson told the panel. “The district realized the old way of going to court to dry up the land was not going to work.”

Other programs to provide temporary transfers have not worked because they are tied to permanent water rights changes adjudicated in water court, Martinsson said. That includes flex marketing legislation Arndt sponsored in the last session.

“Farmers don’t trust the process,” she said.

The Lower Ark worked to form the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch in 2008. Under the 2013 law, HB1248, the group was able to operate a pilot program this year that leased water from the Catlin Canal to Fowler, Fountain and Security.

The concept of the water bank would build on that, limiting administrative transfers to just three years in 10 under the supervision of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Transfers from the Rio Grande and Colorado River basins would be prohibited, Martinsson said.

“The banks would be set up on a conservative model, so you don’t argue over 23 gallons of water,” Martinsson said, referring to water accounting challenges that doomed Super Ditch’s early efforts. “We’re proposing leaving 5-10 percent in the river above what was historically left there.”

That would provide environmental benefits, she said.

Winner said the goal is to keep water on the land by providing an option where water is not sold on a permanent basis.

“What we’re trying to do is have another tool for farmers,” Winner said. “I think this would prevent speculation both by water developers and farmers. It helps keep water on the land, but gives the water rights holders the opportunity to use the water.”

Spinney Mountain Reservoir
Spinney Mountain Reservoir

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