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I_WRRC_2018A 08/06/2018 01:31:40 PM Committee Summary

Date 08/06/2018
Catlin X
Coram X
Crowder X
Donovan X
Esgar X
Jones X
Roberts X
Saine X
Sonnenberg E
Arndt X
Time 01:31:40 PM to 04:29:42 PM
Place HCR 0112
This Meeting was called to order by Arndt
This Report was prepared by Matt Becker
Hearing Items Action Taken
Alternative Transfer Methods Success Stories Committee Discussion Only
Republican River Issues Committee Discussion Only
Well Examiner and Inspection Programs Committee Discussion Only
Public Testimony Committee Discussion Only

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.

Republican River Issues - Committee Discussion Only

02:50:42 PM  

Kevin Rein, State Engineer in the Division of Water Resources, introduced himself to the committee.  The committee heard a previous discussion regarding the Republican River Basin on June 19, 2018.  During that presentation, Mr. Rein discussed the need for possible legislation to modify the district boundary and the need for rule-making concerning the basin.  Mr. Rein provided a brief background of the issues concerning the basin and described the final settlement that Colorado reached with Kansas in 2003 concerning water in the basin.  The district purchased water rights and built the Compact Compliance Pipeline (CCP).  This pipeline keeps Colorado in compact compliance and ensures that wells will continue to pump water throughout the district.  The district boundary was defined in 2004 legislation, but the model domain used in the 2003 settlement is a hydrologic boundary rather than a geographic boundary.  Mr. Rein discussed the boundary of the district and the impacts the discrepancy has on users in the district.  The State Engineer's Office believes that the best solution to this problem is to amend the district boundary; however, there is not universal support to change the boundary.  An alternate solution is rule-making promulgated by the State Engineer, which would include legally setting forth a requirement that well pumping requires a replacement of compact depletions. 

03:01:28 PM  

Mr. Rein further discussed alternatives to solve the boundary discrepancy, which might include importing water from the South Platte River Basin. Mr. Rein also provided a rule-making update.  Mr. Rein discussed the possibility of importing from the South Platte River Basin and discussed the cons of this import.

03:04:59 PM  

David Robbins, representing the Republican River Water Conservation District, introduced himself to the committee and provided the committee background regarding the Republican River Compact compliance issue.  He stated that the state needed to have a more prompt source of water to fulfill compact compliance and explained the 2003 settlement between Kansas and Colorado.

03:16:53 PM  

Mr. Robbins responded to questions from the committee regarding the possibility of a pipeline transferring water to the Republican River Basin from the South Platte River Basin. Committee discussion ensued. He discussed recent actions taken by the board of the Republican River Water Conservation District.  The board has prepared a draft contract for people who are outside of the model boundary and has been informed that a groundwater management district board wants to sign a resolution to change the district boundary, but there is still no consensus on whether to change the boundary.  Mr. Robbins responded to questions regarding how many acre-feet are delivered to the Republican River Basin and the impacts of pumping from the underlying aquifer, which differs from other well pumping in the state.  Mr. Robbins and Mr. Rein continued responding to questions from the committee.

03:49:37 PM  

Mr. Robbins discussed the South Fork Restoration Committee, which is currently in the process of studying how they can better utilize the south fork of the river. He also discussed the drainage of Bonnie Reservoir.

Well Examiner and Inspection Programs - Committee Discussion Only

03:52:07 PM  

Mr. Rein discussed a recent issue concerning well examiners and well inspections in Weld County. A well owner in the Larimie Fox Hills Aquifer presented this issue to members of the committee. New rules promulgated by the Board of Well Examiners (board) made replacing some wells cost prohibitive. Mr. Rein stated that there are two solutions, one of which includes exploring the idea of pumping from a shallower aquifer. There has been significant discission regarding the rule-making process of the board.  Mr. Rein responded to clarifying questions surrounding the issue, and committee discussion ensued.

04:02:22 PM  

Mr. Rein discussed the Well Inspection Program, which was created in 2003. The program was created to oversee the inspection of well construction and pump installation.  The Board of Well Examiners has the general authority over the construction and abandonment of wells and the installation of pumping equipment.  The board also has authority over licensing requirements for contractors and applicants.  The program is funded through the Well Inspection Cash Fund (cash fund), through well application fees.  In 2003 the well permit application fee increased.  Due to the a decrease of the application fee in 2006 and a decrease in the amount of applicants, the cash fund balance decreased.  In 2017, using two well inspectors and a chief inspector, only 12-15 percent of the wells were inspected in the state.  Mr. Rein suggested possible legislation that would fund the program with an increased fee or through a General Fund backfill.  Mr. Rein responded to questions about the funding of the program, and committee discussion ensued.

Public Testimony - Committee Discussion Only

04:11:57 PM  

Jennifer Whiting and Truman Whiting, introduced themselves to the committee and discussed the price of drilling a well in the Larimie Fox Hills Aquifer.  Ms. Whiting discussed the need to have an affordable solution for homeowners to address the cost of constructing a well in the area.  Ms. Whiting suggested that offering homeowners low-income loans to repair the wells would be a viable solution.  Mr. and Mrs. Whiting responded to questions from the committee.

04:21:09 PM  

Nancy Stalker introduced herself to the committee and discussed the importance of protecting Colorado's river system and environment.  Ms. Stalker responded to questions from the committee.

04:29:42 PM   Committee Adjourned

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