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Agriculture to urban water transfers


Academic year: 2021

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Agriculture to Urban Water Transfers


Weld Co Larimer


Agriculture to Urban Water


Originally 85 % of the CBT Water was allocated to

and owned by agriculture

Currently, only 34% of CBT water is owned by


--- For example, 72% of the 10,000 shares of the North

Poudre Irrigation Company stock is now owned by cities and water districts (Ft. Collins Has 35.5%, Tri- Districts about the same)


Changing the Way we Think About the

Water Used by Agriculture

 At 80%, ag is using more

than their share

 Water transferred from ag

will be a main source of base supply for urban use

 “Buy and dry” is necessary

for having a secure urban supply

 We can import food and

fiber from elsewhere

 Much of this water returns

to urban areas as milk, meat, grain, vegetables

 Water sharing with ag can

provide drought year

firming without permanent transfer

 We can develop secure

long term agreements for water sharing

 Be local, buy local, food


Benefits Provided by the Irrigated


Locally-grown food/fiber Open spaceCommunity separatorsWildlife habitat

Robust economic activityPotential for water sharingGround water rechargeFlood surge control

Boating flows in July/AugAgricultural tourism


Rapidly growing interest in:

Farmers’ markets

Community-supported ag


Knowing where food comes


Knowing when food is safeBuying from within the


Reducing carbon footprint of

food production & transport

Direct sales are way up

Local Food Supplies are in Greater



Irrigated Agriculture in Larimer Co

Produces a Wide Range of Crops

Livestock, poultry,

Dairy products

Grains and forage

Vegetables and fruit

Landscaping and nursery stock

Specialty crops, herbs, flowers


Larimer County Farms, Ranches

Provide Open Space

Public-private entities have chosen

to invest millions in open space

Yet most private land open space

is provided free by ag

Farms and ranches without

needed water are likely to be sold and subdivided

$$ It takes millions more to replace that lost open space


Irrigated Ag Provides Wildlife Habitat

Removing water from ag

removes habitat across a large landscape

Migratory waterfowl depend on

the combination of irrigation reservoirs, wetlands and


Larimer County Production Expenses

from 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture

*Farm operations include rent on land, buildings, pasture, machinery, and vehicles, as well as maintenance, supplies, utilities, fuels, and other costs

$ 113,500,000 contribution


95% of all farms in Larimer County are family owned and provide us with a knowledge base that crosses generations


They can provide water in dry years if water-sharing agreements are developed


Site Specific Partnerships:initial ideas

Irrigators can forgo some rental water and trade or lease some owned water to urban areas in drought

years …

… in return, they would

want to be able to count on stable decrees for ag water, and on rental water for full

production in normal years …We can also develop and


Basin Working Group: Members and Funding

Irrigation companies: North Poudre, Larimer Weld System,

Water Supply and Storage, (New Cache 2014)

Water Utilities: City of Fort Collins Water Utility, City of

Greely Water & Sewer, Tri-Districts, West Fort Collins, (Northern Water 2014)

Consultants: Open Water Fdn. (data base), Lawrence, Jones,

Custer and Grasmick Law Firm (legal agreements), CSU Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Dept.(surveys)

Facilitation: CSU Colorado Water Institute

Funding: Colorado Water Conservation Board – interested in


Problems are We Trying to Address Together

Water Utilities:

• Need for water supply security during drought, drought recovery,

flood, fire, infrastructure repair or other unforeseen problems

• Need for additional storage

• Need additional raw water to meet future demands

Irrigated Agriculture:

• Many wish to minimize permanent transfers from ag to urban

ownership (“buy and dry”)

• Instead, look for alternative transfer mechanisms for sharing water

with utilities (ATMs)

• Hope to achieve more rental water security (especially NP irrigators)


Why are Alternative Transfer Mechanisms Important?

 “Buy and Dry” is increasingly seen as unsustainable: (by the CWCB,

Inter-basin Compact Committee, Basin Roundtables, Western Governors Assn., county advisory boards & many other groups.

 Agriculture is a key economic driver that supports local communities

and links regions across the State

 People need water and food. There is increasing concern about

supporting local agriculture, long-term food security & sustainability.

 Irrigated ag provides many other benefits

 Colorado Legislature has passed several laws to facilitate water

sharing and the Governor wants a State Water Plan that includes water sharing


Types of Water Sharing/Trading Being Discussed by

the Working Group*

Water Swaps – trading multiple-use water (CBT) owned by

irrigators for agricultural water owned by a utility

Short Term Leases – ag water shares used for urban water

supply in response to a crisis

Interruptible Supply Agreements – longer term contracts to

help utilities meet drought firming and recovery, emergencies, or to enable utilities to use ag water they own


Water Swaps, Trading

 2013 successful example, NP Irrigators traded CBT water to

Fort Collins for Ag/River Water (drought, fire, flood & water quality issues)

 Swaps are best done with trans-basin (foreign) water that

has no return flow requirements (like NP shares)

 No water court or state approval required

 Irrigators get more water than they give as an incentive

 Could be done via longer-term agreements to provide more


Short Term Leases

 Unexpected events (infrastructure failure, natural disasters,

construction, water court delays etc.) can create short term need for water utilities (ie 2002, 2003, 2013)

 Those owning water with agricultural decrees can lease water

for payment via short-term agreement.

 Substitute Water Supply Plan (administrative approval) is used

(CRS 37-92-308)

 Basin-wide collaboration can anticipate and ensure reasonable


Interruptible Supply Agreements

Standard = Longer – term lease agreements, multi-year duration  Limited water delivered to utilities and return flows provided during

drought, drought recovery (CRS 37-92-309)

 Water made available via fallowing, deficit irrigation or planting

drought tolerant crops to reduce consumptive use (on marginal lands etc)

 Incentives could combine payment, rental water guarantee during normal


Variation = irrigators enable utilities to use ag water they own by

foregoing rental water, providing dry up (cover cropping) and return flow recharge areas


Partnerships: Ag, Open Space, Utilities?

Sustainability requires collaboration and thinking about the long-term together


Understanding perceptions of irrigators and water

providers is a next step

 Most water sharing agreements would be between individual

irrigators/shareholders and water utilities

 Individual or entity evaluation of sharing mechanisms  Likelihood of participation in water sharing - what type  Characteristics of farming operations/irrigation entity

 Survey being done by CSU -on-line and paper formats with


Potential Outcomes of Working Group in 2014

 Clear descriptions of water sharing mechanisms  Perceptions of irrigators/shareholders/utilities  Prototype agreements for each type of sharing

 An improved basin-wide data base to enable future

collaboration And beyond

 Pilot projects New partnerships “buy and supply”

 Future discussions/funding for sharing infrastructure, sharing

storage, water banking, addressing multiple values being raised by other groups



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