South Platte ag producers to discuss future of water

Photo provided by Stephen Smith

The Colorado Ag Water Alliance, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University are holding the second in a series of regional workshops to engage agricultural producers in examining the future of water for agriculture in the state.

A workshop for producers in the South Platte River Basin is scheduled for Wednesday, July 13 at the Morgan County Fairgrounds, 750 Ellsworth St., Brush. The workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Event Center. Registration for the event, which is free and includes lunch, is available online.

Inform, gather reactions

“We at the Colorado Water Institute – part of CSU’s Office of Engagement – focus the water expertise of higher education on the evolving water concerns and problems being faced by Colorado citizens,” said MaryLou Smith, CWI policy and collaboration specialist. “We work closely with the Colorado Ag Water Alliance to help ag producers make sound water decisions, and to highlight for the public the issues producers face regarding their water. These workshops are being held not only to inform, but also to help us gather from producers their reactions to these opportunities and challenges and to hear their ideas.”

The recently released Colorado Water Plan calls for preventing permanent dry up of farm lands. Alternative transfer methods, called “ATMs,” are being investigated by agricultural, environmental and municipal groups as a means of keeping water on agricultural land, while at the same time attempting to address the anticipated gap in future water supplies as the result of Colorado’s projected population growth.

Attendees will hear about a recently released report from Colorado Water Institute and the State Engineer’s Office on “Use it or Lose it” concerns, about a statewide water leasing survey of ag producers, and an update on the status of proposed storage projects in the basin.

Photo provided by Stephen Smith

Water sharing practices

A panel with representatives from Ducks Unlimited, Western Water Partnerships, Fort Morgan Ditch Company, and the cities of Aurora and Brighton, will discuss what they are doing in the realm of ag, urban and environmental water sharing. Included will be information about the newly enacted Colorado Ag Preservation Act, which was passed in the state legislature this year. In addition, John Schweizer, a farmer from the Arkansas River Basin, will discuss his experience as a shareholder in the Catlin Canal, which leased water to the town of Fowler through a rotational fallowing program.

“Colorado Ag Water Alliance is made up of about 25 statewide agricultural organizations, coming together to insure that the ag community has a voice in all the water discussions going on in Colorado,” said Carlyle Currier, a Western Slope rancher and chair of CAWA. “We are putting on these workshops to be sure agricultural producers know what’s in the new Colorado Water Plan, and about the water they depend on to grow their crops and feed their cattle.”

More workshops in other basins

Additional workshops will be held in other basins throughout Colorado during the fall and winter months. The first workshop, held in May in the Gunnison River Basin town of Delta, drew 60 producers. Colorado Ag Water Alliance will be compiling what they hear from these workshops to present in November to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and to the statewide Interbasin Compact Committee that is made up of representatives from all the basins in the state.