2012 article - crd not protecting western slope water

Colorado River District Board of Directors meeting summary - January 2012 page 8

 

Deputy General Manager Dan 

Birch said work continues on study-

ing a water bank that would help 

forestall or meet a curtailment under 

the Colorado River Compact. Phase 

I of the study can be found on the 

Colorado River District 

website.

Phase I investigates various cur-

tailment scenarios and estimates of 

pre-1922 water rights that might be 

suitable for the bank. It also esti-

mates the post-1922 uses that might 

be covered by the bank. The year 

1922 is critical as that is the year the 

Colorado River Compact was signed. 

HOLLY: The compact does not affect water in 

use before 1922.  This is why the East Slope and billionaire water                                             marketers wants our water!

Much of the pre-1922 use is in 

agriculture. Initial thoughts were that 

the fallowing of row crops such as 

corn would supply the bank. But the 

study has already indicated that only 

75,000 acre feet of consumptive use 

could be gained in this category, not 

enough to make the bank effective. 

“So realistically, that is not a very 

viable alternative for us,” Birch said. 

“On the other hand, there is 800,000 

acre feet of consumptive use in hay, 

alfalfa and pasture grass.” 

These perennial crops cannot be 

fallowed without destroying the plant 

life and bringing about a four-to-five 

year recovery period. Ranchers 

learned this during the 2002 drought, 

according to Board Member Bill 

Trampe. 

Birch said this predicament 

raises the issue of whether deficit 

irrigation can achieve consumptive 

savings for the bank while allowing 

the plant life to survive. Another chal-

lenge is developing ways to measure 

the water savings. 

Trampe noted that some ranch-

ers own a portfolio of water rights 

that include both pre- and post-1922 

rights. He said that if most of their 

rights are post-1922 and are cur-

tailed, the water they have that is pre

-1922 won’t be enough to be effec-

tive. He said people in this category 

might participate 100 percent in the 

water bank if they can be compen-

sated. 

Partners in the water bank study 

will determine how to move it for-

ward. Partners include the South-

west Water Conservation District, the 

Colorado Water Conservation Board, 

The Nature Conservancy and the 

Front Range Water Council.