The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District recently finalized acquisition of a new source of water in the Wet Mountain Valley.

Attorney Kendall Burgemeister with Wilderson, Lock & Hill LLC reported at the district meeting Thursday that the judge had issued a “final signed decree” in the district’s water court case to change the use of water purchased from Hermit Basin Lodge in Custer County.

The district will use the water as a source of replacement water under its augmentation plans, and engineer Ivan Walter said, now that the decree has been signed, his goal is to complete the engineering work so the district can use the water this year.

Walter said for the district to use the water, it will need to install gauges, and he recommended including satellite uplink equipment for real-time access to gauge data.

The gauges and real-time data will allow the district to manage the water efficiently, an important factor, Walter said, given the limited supply of Hermit Basin Lodge water – 70-90 acre-feet of consumable water per year.

With the Colorado Legislature in session, consultant Ken Baker reported on several bills under consideration, including Senate Bill 41, which would expand the beneficial uses of water to include storage. Baker said the bill is likely to pass.

Baker also reported on SB 19, sponsored by District 5 Sen. Gail Schwarz, who has described the bill as a way to “encourage farmers and producers to take water efficiency measures or upgrade their irrigation technology.”

Baker pointed out that a provision of the bill would allow senior water-rights holder to curtail their water usage without losing credit for beneficial use of the water. This would allow junior rights holders to use water that they could not otherwise use, allowing them to expand their beneficial use of the water, which would affect future water court cases.

In other business, district directors:

  • Learned from hydrologist Jord Gertson that the district currently stores 2,050 acre-feet of water in various reservoirs.
  • Learned from Walter that the district continues to maintain a 5-year supply of water in storage.
  • Heard a report from Gertson indicating precipitation continues to lag behind last year’s measurements, leaving the Arkansas basin with snowpack at 74 percent of average.
  • Heard an augmentation report from District Manager Terry Scanga indicating short-term leases have increased, which is to be expected given current limited supplies, he said.
  • Viewed soil moisture data indicating 28 percent of saturation for the basin as a whole.
  • Learned of an April 26 Colorado Agricultural Meteorological workshop to be hosted by the district about an electronic irrigation tool developed with state funding.
  • Heard an update from Walter on the development of the district’s lease fallowing tool.
  • Learned that all opposers except for state entities have stipulated out of the Trout Creek exchange case.
  • Heard a report from Director Tom Goodwin, who attended the Family Farm Alliance Conference in Las Vegas and said the alliance considers the Endangered Species Act the source of most problems for agricultural producers.
  • Learned from Goodwin’s report that Earth’s population is projected to reach 9.3 billion by 2040, requiring substantial increases in agricultural productivity, a requirement at odds with the Colorado trend of transferring agricultural water to municipal and industrial uses.
  • Adjourned to executive session to determine legal and engineering positions related to extension of augmentation services and implementation strategies.

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