Water meeting in Craig

Transbasin diversions will be discussed at future roundtable

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Diversions from the Yampa River and other Western Slope waterways will be scrutinized during upcoming statewide water discussions.

Last year, the Colorado Water Conservation Board held roundtable discussions with representatives from each basin as part of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative. The initiative's intent was to look at future water demands and supplies.

The CWCB found that by 2030, the state's population could increase by 2.8 million. In concordance with the population increase, planned water projects would meet 80 percent of Colorado water needs. The study found that as a result of the increased residential demand, the state could see a greater reduction in irrigated agricultural land.

Essentially, water rights that had been used for agricultural purposes would be transferred to municipal or industrial purposes.

The next phase of the CWCB initiative is to look at how to close the gap without reducing irrigated agricultural land.

On Thursday, environmentalists, recreationalists, water board members and elected officials from the Yampa, White and Green river basins met in Craig. They talked about the findings from the last round of discussions and what could be expected in the upcoming discussions.

Rick Brown, project manager for the water conservation board, said the discussion about transbasin diversion was left out of the last series of roundtables because it was such an emotional issue. The CWCB feared representatives would be reluctant to talk about their needs if transbasin diversions were up for discussion.

He said transbasin diversions will be among topics for the second round of talks.

Colorado Water Conservation Board member Tom Sharp asked whether those from the Yampa Basin, which has more water than it uses, would be on the defense against those looking to divert its water.

"You are not going to have anybody who wants to see our supply of water in the Yampa Basin go to the Front Range," he said.

The roundtables could be a chance to explain the difficulties of diverting water from the Yampa Basin to the Front Range, said Dan Birch of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Future water storage projects were discussed Thursday.

Sharp discussed a water storage project on the Little Snake River. Wyoming has received significant amounts of money in mineral funds, some of which are being put to water construction projects.

Discussions have occurred about sharing the cost between Colorado and Wyoming to build water storage on the Little Snake River.

One of the advantages of storage, Sharp said, is that it could release flows in the Little Snake River in the late season and deliver water to the lower reaches of Dinosaur.

John Fetcher of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District said another new storage site could be Morrison Creek near Stagecoach. The storage water primarily would go to support residential development in the Stagecoach area, which has a projected build out at 2,000 units.

For the past 30 years, Morrison Creek Water District has been drilling wells to supply the homes with water. But Sharp said the district has been spending a lot on drilling wells without coming up with much additional water.

A more sensible solution might be to build a reservoir.

"Just like Oak Creek has the Sheriff's Reservoir and Steamboat has the Fish Creek Reservoir, that is likely to be necessary at some point in time," he said.

Fetcher said Steamboat Springs' request for a recreational water right, which is downstream from the proposed storage area, could affect that project.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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