Cache la Poudre River administration in wet and dry years


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Poudre River Commissioner Mark Simpson knows that better than anybody. It’s his job to keep track of water rights for the various groups who’ve sometimes paid roughly the price of a new car for each share of water to irrigate their crops, power their businesses and provide to their residents.

Technically, the people of Colorado own the water flowing in Northern Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River. If you want to put the water, to use, though, you have to buy a water right. That can sometimes be as simple as going to the state’s water court, paying a fee and filling out some paperwork…

If you want to use water during a dry year, you need an old water right — some date back to the 1860s and 1870s. People sell older, senior water rights for astronomical prices.

For Simpson, the last several years have been a relief because the Poudre’s flow has been higher than average. The amount of water that runs through the Poudre varies wildly annually, from 100,000 acre feet during dry years to 700,000 acre feet during historically wet years.

The average is about 300,000 acre feet, almost enough to fill Horsetooth Reservoir twice.

During dry years, when everybody wants water but few can get it, Simpson works months without a day off.

“You’ve really got to be paying attention,” he said. “You don’t want a dry-up in town because you shorted somebody. I make it a big point for myself to always be watching the river when it’s on its way down.”

Simpson estimated about 85 percent of the Poudre’s water is diverted for agriculture — mostly corn and hay — and about 15 percent is used for municipal water supplies and industry.

Some of the biggest industry users of Poudre water include breweries, microprocessor factories and other industrial manufacturers. Municipal users of the Poudre include Fort Collins and Greeley. Recreational users have an important place at the table, although their use is classified as “non-consumptive” and is free.

Click through to read the whole article. Ms. Marmaduke talks to users of the river’s water.

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