Water Banking on the West Slope

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

From Colorado Public Radio (Rachel Estabrook):

Ten farmers in the Grand Valley won’t plant some of their fields this summer as part of an experiment that could help them — and other users along the Colorado River — prepare for future water shortages.
Grand Valley water manager Mark Harris is leading the water banking pilot program. He says current forecasts about the effects that population growth and climate change could have on the Colorado River require him and others to prepare for “what if” scenarios, like extreme or prolonged drought.

Participating Grand Valley farmers will fallow fields that otherwise would have grown corn, wheat, alfalfa and other grains. Together, they expect to keep about 3,500 acre-feet of water in the Colorado River and Lake Powell. That amount of water supplies about 7,000 households each year. Farmers will be compensated with money raised from the state, organizations like The Nature Conservancy, and water providers like Harris’ group.

Harris cautions that even if the 2017-18 program is successful, it would take a lot more work to scale it up to achieve the kinds of water savings the area may need in the future.

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