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Responses to the New Normal Creative Partnerships for Innovative Water Solutions Colorado Water Workshop – July 17, 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Responses to the New Normal Creative Partnerships for Innovative Water Solutions Colorado Water Workshop – July 17, 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Responses to the New Normal Creative Partnerships for Innovative Water Solutions Colorado Water Workshop – July 17, 2013

2 Colorado River Program Restore healthy flows in the Colorado River Basin Bring people together to change how water is managed The needs of people can and must be met without sacrificing the health of the Colorado River system, upon which the region depends.

3 West Slope Water Bank & Yampa Alternatives to Ag Transfers New tools to help manage the increasing demand for a limited and variable supply of water. Avoid the permanent dry-up of agricultural lands and provide farmers & ranchers with a new income stream. Working through partnership to create tools that meet the needs of people and nature.

4 1981-2010 Million Acre Feet Lee Ferry Deficit Under Article III.c. of the 1922 Compact, the Upper Division states shall not cause the flows at Lee Ferry to fall below 75 MAF in any consecutive 10 years.

5 Could lead to a legal curtailment of water rights that could shut down post Compact uses such as municipal supplies, power plants, and reservoir storage - with serious economic consequences. Article VIII of the 1922 Compact: “Present perfected rights... are unimpaired by this Compact.” Although pre-compact water rights would not be directly impacted by a Lee Ferry deficit, they could be targeted for acquisition. Lee Ferry Deficit Impacts

6 West Slope Water Bank Avoid or mitigate the impacts of a Lee Ferry deficit under the Colorado River Compact. Provide risk management during drought times for “critical” junior water users like health and safety, power plants, vineyards and orchards, etc.

7 How does it work? Agricultural water users voluntarily use rotational fallowing or split-season irrigation on a temporary basis to make water available. Could work proactively to avoid a Lee Ferry deficit, or reactively to reduce impacts and allow critical junior uses to continue. 7

8 Benefits to Agriculture Rotational fallowing on a larger scale could avoid permanent dry-up and help keep agriculture and its associated infrastructure intact. New income stream for producers to “grow water as a crop.” Protects high-dollar crops that cannot be fallowed (fruit, vineyards). Increases certainty & security for farmers & ranchers. 8

9 Currently involved in a feasibility study looking at: (1)Supply & Demand (2)Test cases for on-farm feasibility (3)Regional economic and environmental impacts Water Bank Working Group: – Colorado River District – Southwest River District – Front Range Water Council – The Nature Conservancy – Colorado Water Conservation Board Advisors: – Southern and Mountain Ute Tribes – Irrigators – Bureau of Reclamation 9

10 10 Study Findings Grass hay and alfalfa represent over 90% of the irrigated acreage (~715,000 acres) in the study area and would provide virtually all of the Water Bank supply Post-Compact municipal and industrial water uses approximately 350,000 acre-feet (84% East Slope uses) Fallowing or split-season irrigation will be challenging for irrigators Calculating the amount of water saved and delivering those savings downstream will be difficult Getting participation may be difficult - the decision is about more than economics

11 Is it economical? Can fallowing & split-season irrigation create enough water to avoid & survive a Lee Ferry deficit? How would the water bank work with the numerous individual water users, ditch companies & irrigation districts? Can we protect banked water from other appropriators? What about secondary impacts to local economies and the environment? Colorado Water Bank: Next Steps

12 Alternatives to Ag Transfers in the Yampa Basin Use rotational fallowing and limited irrigation to make water available for other uses on a temporary basis Saved water would benefit specific stream reaches and be available for other downstream agriculture uses Promote common interests between agriculture, environment, and recreation

13 Focused on high elevation tributaries to the Yampa River. Like the Water Bank, this project would avoid permanent dry-up and create additional revenue for agriculture. Helps agricultural water users protect their water right in low drought years where cost to irrigate may be greater than crop proceeds, or when temporarily scaling back their operation.

14 Potential locations have been identified and we are continuing outreach to agricultural community. Answering technical questions related to where and when water would be available, and analyzing potential environmental flow benefits. Many technical, social, and economic questions remain, but moving forward with a pilot project to test the concept next summer.


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