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B7100907167B52A5872582E1006B4BAD Hearing Summary


Date Aug 6, 2018      
Location HCR 0112

Alternative Transfer Methods Success Stories - Committee Discussion Only

01:31:59 PM  

Mark Harris, Grand Valley Water Users Association (GVWUA), introduced himself to the committee and discussed the GVWUA and the association's conserved consumptive use pilot project. Mr. Harris explained how the GVWUA conserves consumptive use, which is the practice of intentionally foregoing consumptive use of a water resource and potentially making the conserved volume for use for a different purpose or at a different time. A portion of the water that had an original use of agriculture is instead used for other uses, otherwise known as water banking.  The GVWUA pilot project seeks to identify and explore ways to deal with potential water supply shortages that do not require separation of water from the land and that support agriculture.  Mr. Harris explained the details of the project -- 10 farmer cooperators participated, with a total 1,252 irrigated acres, which used approximately 3,000 acre feet of water each season. Mr. Harris stated that the goals for the pilot project in 2018 include increased accessibility, allowing farmers to utilize water savings, and continuing to learn about the process.

01:43:03 PM  

Mr. Harris discussed the lessons learned from the pilot program and stated that he believes the program to be a success. He also discussed the criticisms the association received. He stated that the association has benefitted from this program and that farmers have seen an increased profitability within the program.

01:48:45 PM  

Mr. Harris responded to questions from the committee regarding the GVWUA pilot project and how many farmers were interested in participating in the program. Mr. Harris stated that more farmers wanted to participate than the program could support.  Mr. Harris also responded to questions regarding the priority of the GVWUA water rights. He further discussed the system requirements and due diligence on delivering water to Lake Powell in compliance with interstate water compacts.  Mr. Harris responded to questions regarding the types of farmers selected to participate in the program.

02:11:51 PM  

Dr. Perry Cabot, Colorado State University (CSU), introduced himself to the committee.  He stated that he became involved in the Colorado Water Bank Workgroup, which was created to explore conservation efforts to prevent the buy-and-dry of agricultural water rights.  The workgroup consists of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Nature Conservancy, Southwestern Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Front Range Water Council, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.  Dr. Cabot discussed the makeup of the irrigated lands in the western slope and stated that he completed larger field studies to determine the effects and success stories of alternative transfer methods in conserving water.  Dr. Cabot discussed the concept of conservation by partial harvesting and rotational fallowing and the yield and crop production in the workgroup's research.  In some cases, farmers experienced a greater yield after restricting irrigation for part of the growing season.

02:29:58 PM  

Dr. Cabot responded to questions from the committee regarding the fallowing of high mountain pastures and the possibility of an mpact to crops, such as alfalfa, due to fallowing.

02:32:52 PM  

Gerry Knapp, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District (LAVWCD), introduced himself to the committee and began his presentation on the Catlin Leasing-Fallowing Pilot Project. The project was approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) in 2015, under House Bill 13-1248, to test leasing water as an alternative to permanent irrigated agriculture dry-up.  The Catlin Canal is responsible for irrigating approximately 19,000 acres in the La Junta area.  The project consists of six Catlin Canal farms, comprising 902 irrigated acres, that agreed to fallow up to 30 percent of the land each year for 10 years.  This would guarantee up to 500 acre-feet of water per year to municipalities, such as Fowler, Fountain, and Security.  The project uses a lease-fallow tool, developed by the State Engineer's Office, to calculate historical consumptive use.  The tool standardizes the method for calculating historical consumptive use and return flows and helps to protect non-participants from potential injury.  Mr. Knapp discussed the benefits and challenges of lease-fallowing.  Benefits include providing farmers with a new cash crop, hedging against low crop prices, and providing opportunities for improvements and a reduction in buy-and-dry practices. Challenges for lease-fallowing include a lack of water delivery mechanisms for conserved water.  He also discussed the lessons learned from the project, including recharge ponds being an effective tool to maintain return flows.

02:46:55 PM  

Mr. Knapp responded to questions from the committee regarding the Catlin Pilot Project.

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