From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A water banking bill being considered in the state Legislature would help farmers keep their water rights while increasing the range of uses.
“Farmers always get the short end of the stick. The state likes to pick on farmers,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.
Farms face a policy of “use it or lose it” that means if water can’t be used on a specific parcel of land, it flows downstream. Water banking could mean about 5-10 percent more water could be put to use each year, according to some estimates.
“Once a farmer deposits the water in this water bank, he can use it in any way within the Arkansas Valley,” Winner explained.
The bill, HB16-1392, is sponsored by Reps. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, and Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, and Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa. The Lower Ark district is backing the bill as a way of improving on the 2013 legislation, HB1248, that established a pilot program now being used by the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch.
Winner spoke about the bill Thursday with The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board.
Winner expects the water bank to succeed where others have failed because it will be useful to farmers. It allows for short-term leases, either to cities or other farms, that are now possible, but expensive and complicated to execute. No change in water right is required, since the leases would be made under administrative rules under the supervision of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
“This is a way to bring some land back into production,” Winner said. “The water rights decree never changes, but it provides more options to the farmers.”
The legislation also could advance concepts such as deficit crop irrigation, supplementing sprinklers or well and or partial irrigation of a parcel.
Farmers would be limited to putting water into the “bank” every three years in 10 or using no more than 30 percent of the total consumptive use water supply over that time. Water would not be able to leave its basin of origin. [ed. emphasis mine]
“It makes the water more valuable to farmers,” Winner said