Community Agriculture Alliance: CAWA to hold water workshop in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Community Agriculture Alliance: CAWA to hold water workshop in Steamboat Springs

Greg Peterson/For Steamboat Today

Community Agriculture Alliance

— By 2050, Colorado's population will almost double to 10 million, bringing with it a water shortage of more than 500,000 acre feet per year. Municipalities will look to agricultural water as a source of supply.

Much of the Colorado Water Plan directly and indirectly discusses agriculture, and the Colorado Ag Water Alliance is hosting a series of meetings around the state to give agricultural producers the opportunity to take an active role in the implementation of the Water Plan.

CAWA is comprised of leaders across the state representing major industries of production agriculture. Their goal is to preserve Colorado's irrigated agriculture through education and constructive dialogue.

One meeting will be held for producers in the Yampa, White and Green River basins on March 22 in Steamboat Springs at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. The workshop will include discussions on the Colorado Water Plan, alternative transfer methods to "buy and dry," how farmers can participate in such programs, new developments in Colorado Water Law and other topics.

Alternative transfer methods include interruptible supply agreements, rotational fallowing, water leasing and banks, reducing crop consumptive use and the purchase and leaseback of water rights. According to the Colorado Water Plan, these methods are supposed to supply 50,000 acre feet per year by 2050.

Some speakers will focus on the how these programs relate to current Colorado Water Law. The CSU Colorado Water Institute put together a stakeholder group on misconceptions and myths relating to "use it or lose" and water law. Deputy State Engineer Kevin Rien will be presenting on the results of this stakeholder group and what that means for agricultural water users.

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Division Engineer Erin Light will also present on "Water Waste — Does It Really Occur and If So Who Cares?" Understanding the significance and differences between diversion and consumptive use can lead to a better understanding of how the value of a water right is determined.

It is CAWA's role to provide the best information available to Colorado's agricultural water users, and it is important to have an understanding of one's own water rights, especially in light of limited water supplies, population growth and the deficit in the Colorado River Basin.

There will also be presentations on larger issues within the Colorado River Basin and what efforts are underway to address them. The past few years, the federal government, municipalities and agricultural producers have been working to mitigate the impact of drought under the System Conservation Pilot Program. Agricultural producers have also been working with other entities to address environmental concerns and those projects will be discussed.

Other presentations discussed motivations among producers to conserve their water for other uses, the results and a survey on producers' opinions of ag water leasing, and the process and difficulties for producers to rehabilitate their ditch infrastructure.

This workshop was only a part of a much larger conversation. These ideas take time and multiple discussions, but agricultural producers provide invaluable knowledge and necessary input if these ideas are to become more widespread.

CAWA is hoping that these workshops will give Colorado's agricultural users the opportunity to take part in and take ownership of these issues.

Greg Peterson currently works with Colorado Ag Water Alliance and has been a research associate at the Colorado Water Institute. He has a masters in political economy of resources from Colorado School of Mines.