Farmers discuss water issues Monday in Hayden

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— Amid the realities of continued drought, the Northwest Colorado Farmers Union met Monday to discuss water issues.

Water-related legislative issues proposed in the state's General Assembly and a list of water principles adopted by 58 of the state's 64 counties were the focal point of the meeting.

"The state of water is again in dire needs," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said to the dozen or so people in attendance Monday. "We have to be wiser with our water issues or acquire more (water), if we can. We have exorbitant demands on water."

The list of 10 water principles includes statements that all state water users must share in solving the state's water resource problems, that water rights owners have the ability to market their rights and that there must be a concerted effort to educate state residents on the importance of water and the need to conserve, manage and plan for the water needs of current and future generations.

Conservation and management is a key issue, particularly when some Front Range communities have covenants in place that require the use of precious water to maintain residential lawns, Monger said.

"We're sacrificing agricultural water that we can put to beneficial use so it can be put to lawns. How many farms do we have to dry up (so some people can maintain) lush lawns?" Monger asked.

Monger and NCFU President John Allen also discussed a number of water-related legislative issues that have been proposed in the General Assembly.

The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union supports or has taken a neutral position on most of the proposed bills, which include improvement of water use efficiency, increased flexibility in the use of water resources and creating conservation easements for water rights.

Developing aquifers instead of above-ground water storage units should be a high priority for the state, Monger said.

An untold amount of surface water is lost each year to evaporation and underground water storage will generate more water supplies for state users, he said.

"(Aquifers) are where we need to figure out how to store our water," Monger said.

Christi Ruppe, representing Western Colorado Congress, also spoke at the meeting.

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