Community Agriculture Alliance: Take an active role in water plan
January 12, 2017
By 2050, Colorado's population will almost double to 10 million, bringing 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 who represent 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 March 22 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. The workshop will include discussions about the Colorado Water Plan, alternative transfer methods, or ATMS, to "buy and dry," how farmers can participate in such programs, new developments in Colorado Water Law and other topics.
ATMs 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, ATMs 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 about misconceptions and myths relating to "use it or lose" and water law.
Deputy State Engineer Kevin Rien will give a presentation dealing the results of this stakeholder group and what that means for agricultural water users.
Division Engineer Erin Light will give a presentation titled "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 how the value of a water right is determined.
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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 about larger issues within the Colorado River Basin and efforts to address them.
The past few years, the federal government, municipalities and agricultural producers have worked 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 about producers' opinions of ag water leasing and the process and difficulties for producers to rehabilitate their ditch infrastructure.
This workshop was only 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 hopes these workshops will give Colorado's agricultural users the opportunity to take part in, and ownership of, these issues.
Greg Peterson works with Colorado Ag Water Alliance and has been a research associate of the Colorado Water Institute. He holds a master's degree in political economy of resources from Colorado School of Mines.