Two dwindling river basins, one solution: Pay farmers and ranchers to use less #water — #Colorado Public Radio

Colorado Rivers. Credit:

From Colorado Public Radio (Michael Elizabeth Sakas):

Farmers and ranchers in two different river basins in Colorado are facing rapidly approaching deadlines to reduce their water use. The reductions are necessary to maintain interstate river agreements preserve underground water supplies.

The state wants to pay farmers and ranchers to stop irrigating some of their acreages to help keep more water in the ground. Gov. Jared Polis’ budget proposal for next year includes $15 million of COVID relief funds to fund such a program.

These river basins have their own legal arrangements and are managed by different rules. State agriculture commissioner Kate Greenberg said the solution for both areas is fewer irrigated acres.

Greenberg said the northeastern region needs to stop irrigating 10,000 acres by the end of 2024 and a total of 25,000 acres by the end of 2029 to stay in compliance with the agreement. So far, only 3,000 acres have been retired, she said.

Farmers and ranchers in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado also need to stop irrigating to preserve that region’s aquifer, said Kevin Rein is the director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources…

For both river basins, taking no action to reduce agricultural water use would mean “dire” consequences, said Kelly Romero-Heany, the assistant director for water at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. In the San Luis Valley, thousands of well users could face water cuts if the river basins don’t meet their goals. Those cuts could include local water utilities.

Greenberg, the state agriculture commissioner, supports the funding outlined in Polis’s budget. But she doesn’t want the water cuts to hurt agricultural production.

Greenberg says some of that funding could also be used to teach, train and equip farmers and ranchers to use drought-resistant crops and other techniques to farm and raise livestock with less water.

6 thoughts on “Two dwindling river basins, one solution: Pay farmers and ranchers to use less #water — #Colorado Public Radio

  1. Adding my two cents’ worth here. I have reached a conclusion about the upper basins of these rivers, that they were severely de-forested from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, and the forests haven’t grown back due to a drier climate, farming, and pasturing. Forests evolved to stimulate rainfall (Mollison and others). By removing them, we have dried out both South Park and the San Luis Valley. My meager effort —
    has been focused on the Buffalo Creek and Hayman forest destruction, but I realized that fires haven’t been the only dramatic forest destroyers. The timber industry in South Park was huge. And, to borrow a phrase, we can build the forests back better. And help restore the aquifers, by collecting more water from the air. It’s what forests do. Where rainfall is plentiful, a little forest loss is not that significant, but out here on the edge of aridity, it makes a significant difference. It’s a big infrastructure project that we can afford.
    Thanks as always for your service on a vital resource.

  2. And with RWR attempting to export the alleged unlimited water in the San Luis Valley aquifer (the estimated quantity in this reservoir has NEVER been accurately measured), San Luis Valley farms turn to dust.

    Tulare Lake (CA)- drained by individuals who wanted the land to grow cotton…

    Out of sight.. out of mind? Today, it is “out of their minds” The power players behind the RWR have a couple things on their side-

    – politically & financially well connected

    – water? I don’t see no water…

    whatever water residing in the aquifer is out of direct view- they plan to take 19 MILLION GALLONS / DAY – 6.9 BILLION GALLONS PER YEAR … all for profit and all to the detriment of the farmers & wildlife of San Luis Valley.

      1. CG- There are two aquifers within the San Luis Valley. It is an extremely unique geological / hydrodynamic environment, where the water does not (naturally) leave the valley.

        The volume present has only been tracked since the 70s, but since then, the trend has been consistently on the downward.

        There was a WILD A$$ GUESS made decades ago about the volume of water in the aquifer- without any technical analysis, studies or any other means to objectively confirm the value, a bar(?) discussion with a note on a napkin became the foundation for RWR and others prior to assert that there is over 1 BILLION acre feet of water in the aquifer.

        Regardless of its specific location, extraction of any volume of water must be based on science and sustainable practices (I know I am stating the obvious). Developers need to be held responsible for housing projects that do not have sufficient natural resources. There is nothing natural about building in a drought-stricken area!

        Many western states are now investing in toilet-2-tap technology. Before others freak out- for anyone who has consumed water via a river or the like, they need to realize that your tap water was someone else’s flush, way way upstream. If Douglas County is without water, then this is the route they should go.

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