Community Agriculture Alliance: Water — where does it go from here?
August 14, 2014
The Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Roundtable gave preliminary approval to the first draft of their Basin Implementation Plan on July 23. The plan now will be submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which will consolidate plans from the nine Colorado water basins and develop a State Water Plan to be delivered to the governor by December 2015.
The BIP addresses our basins' responsibilities to balance current and future needs of our water resources. Development of this document has been a labor of love and concern by countless volunteers and a culmination of years of professional studies commissioned by the roundtable.
Our roundtable identified eight primary basin goals for Northwest Colorado:
• Protect existing decreed and anticipated future water uses in the Yampa-White-Green basins.
• Protect and encourage agricultural uses of water in the basins within the context of private property rights.
• Improve agricultural water supplies to increase irrigation land and reduce shortages.
• Identify and address municipal and industrial water shortages.
• Quantify and protect non-consumptive water uses.
• Maintain and consider the existing natural range of water quality that is necessary for current and anticipated water uses.
• Restore, maintain and modernize water storage and distribution infrastructure.
• Develop an integrated system of water use, storage, administration and delivery to reduce water shortages and meet environmental and recreational need.
The roundtable acknowledges long-standing discussions of trans-mountain diversions of West Slope water to the East Slope and are taking a position that prior to any development of a new trans-mountain diversion, the Front Range first must integrate all other water supply solutions including conservation and reuse plus maximize use of its own native water resources and existing trans-mountain supplies.
The BIP also states: "Before it could be considered by the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable, any proposed trans-mountain diversion out of the Colorado River Basin must undergo a full operational analysis to determine its impact on the entire river system. The analysis must recognize that, within the Colorado River system, the diversion of any ‘extra’ water available during wet years may occur under certain ‘trigger’ conditions of a full (or nearly full) supply in reservoirs designed to carry the Colorado River Basin through a drought. This analysis must be sufficient to determine that the risks of operating project(s) in a junior manner to identified Colorado River Basin needs are understood by all. Such a project should not be funded by the state of Colorado, but by interests, public and/or private, willing to accept such operational and financial risk.”
Future projects and agreements cannot impact existing legal compact obligations to provide water to downstream users.
The BIP includes needs assessments for consumptive uses such as agriculture, municipal and industrial and for non-consumptive uses such as environment and recreation.
The current BIP, as presented to Colorado Water Conservation Board, is a working document. The roundtable continually will update and refine it in response to the needs and demands of our region. It is available for public review on the Colorado Water Conservation Board website at http://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cowaterplan/yampa-white-green-river-basin.
Ren Martyn is a member of the Yampa-White-Green Roundtable and chair of the Public Education and Outreach committee. He also serves on the board of directors for Community Agriculture Alliance.
Marsha Daughenbaugh is the executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance.