2017 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: “Meet the Gap”

Here’s the release from ARBWF:

Retiring state engineer reveals all at Arkansas River Basin Water Forum

Those mystified about what the expression “use it or lose it” means to water rights will have the opportunity to hear Colorado’s State Engineer Dick Wolfe explain the myth and reality of the concept on April 26.

Wolfe, 55, is retiring from the position he has held for 10 years in June. But he agreed to explain how water rights can and cannot be abandoned at this year’s Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 26-27 at Hotel Elegante, 2886 S. Circle Drive, Colorado Springs.

“We started looking at what ‘use it or lose it’ really meant two years ago,” Wolfe said. “We wanted to sort out the issues for our stakeholders.”

What resulted was a special report from the Colorado Water Institute co-authored by Reagan Waskom, director of the CWI; Deputy State Engineer Kevin Rein; Wolfe; and consultant MaryLou Smith.

The report is written more like a conversation than an operating manual, and delves into the mistaken notion that every drop of irrigation water must be applied, or the owner of the water right will risk abandonment.

In practice, the owner of a water right must show the intention to abandon the water right for abandonment. However, the way in which water has been used affects the yield of a water right in change of use cases, according to the report.

The concept is important as the state moves into new concepts such as irrigation water conservation, rotational fallowing, and in-stream water rights donations.

Wolfe also plans to touch on his impending retirement, which he half-jokingly predicted when he told Gov. Bill Ritter in 2007 that he’d “like to have the job for 10 years and then retire.”

During his watch, there were major changes in administration of state water law in the Arkansas River basin.

The biggest change was the implementation of Surface Irrigation Improvement Rules, which were adopted to prevent expansion of water use by more efficient irrigation means such as sprinklers or drip tape. Wolfe addressed concerns by hosting months of meetings with irrigators and conservancy districts prior to filing an application in water court.

“The most unexpected thing was that we were able to address the concerns of 22 objectors without going to trial,” Wolfe said.

Another unexpected development was the rise of basin roundtables, which added new layers of review to already complicated water decisions.

Finally, filed under “unfinished business” is how water rights are administered for marijuana cultivation.

“That’s a statewide issue, but a lot of the activity seems to be centered in the Arkansas basin,” Wolfe said.

Registrations and information about this year’s forum are available at http://www.ARBWF.org or contact, Jean Van-Pelt, 719-251-2845, ARBWF1994@gmail.com

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