In Colorado, overcoming water’s “use it or lose it” problem

Brent Gardner-Smith shares news of an effort around Carbondale, Colo., to leave more water in the Crystal River in times of drought:

CARBONDALE — In an effort to leave more water in the lower Crystal River in dry years, a growing number of irrigators in the watershed are considering entering into non-diversion agreements and are reviewing ways to deliver water to their crops more efficiently.

The agreements would be a product of discussions surrounding the recently released Crystal River Management Plan, which sets a goal of adding 10 to 25 cubic feet per second of water into the river during moderate and severe drought years.

The additional water could come from paying irrigators to reduce their diversions by 5 to 18 percent, depending on conditions, and by helping irrigators improve irrigation ditches and installing sprinkler systems.

This is made possible to 2013 Colorado state legislation that creates a legal framework under which farmers could reduce water use in situations like this without jeopardizing their underlying water rights, creating a path around the thorny “use it or lose it” problem. (Background on the law from a University of Denver Water Law Review summary of the legislation here.)


One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this article! Brent Gardner-Smith brought up some great points when mentioning the drought in 2012. Even though the water table isn’t that low in 2016, the people involved need to agree on a plan that will work under drought conditions. I think that fixing the leaks in the irrigation ditches is a good place to start. I don’t know much about the situation, but I’m wondering if it would be possible to replace crops with ones that require less water?

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