Striving to Develop a WaterSecure future for Northern Colorado Communities, Farms and Ranches
WaterSecure is a key element of the Northern Integrated Supply Project and represents a shift away from the widely used “buy-and-dry” approach that has stressed our agricultural communities. As part of a long-term strategy that’s consistent with the goals and principles established in the Colorado Water Plan, Northern Water and the NISP participants are implementing efforts that will eventually provide supplemental water to approximately 500,000 residents in northern Colorado while also preserving thousands of acres of irrigated farmland.
Creating a Win-Win for Farms and Ranches
A key component of NISP operations will be water exchanges, in which Northern Water and the project participants collaborate with the New Cache la Poudre and Larimer-Weld irrigation companies in Weld County.
NISP’s strategic use of the irrigation companies’ senior water rights will allow Glade Reservoir to fill for the communities in need of those supplies.
In return, the NISP participants will provide compensation for the two participating ditch companies, including:
- Monetary payments
- Additional water supplies from the nearby Galeton Reservoir
- Ditch-system improvements
This series of exchanges is designed to serve as a win-win for the farms and ranches, in that:
- Shareholders maintain control of their water, and water continues flowing to the farms and ranches
- Compensation from the NISP participants will enhance the long-term viability of those ag operations
- Farmers will have access to water later in the growing season with supplies in Galeton Reservoir
- These exchanges would not reduce the value of their water shares
- These exchanges have been adjudicated and approved by the water court and would not be subject to the ditch and reservoir companies' water rights to a change case
WaterSecure Measures Implemented to Ensure Farms and Ranches Stay in Operation and Water Remains Available for the NISP Exchanges
The senior water rights in the New Cache and Larimer-Weld systems are currently among the most sought after by water providers looking to obtain future supplies. That’s where are our WaterSecure efforts come into play. To avoid water permanently leaving those farms through other buy-and-dry purchases, Northern Water and the NISP participants are willing to buy land and water from willing sellers in the two ditch systems, and explore various avenues to keep water on the farms so those supplies remain available for the NISP exchanges. Rather than “buy-and-dry,” this is an outside-the-box, “buy-and-supply” approach to address tightening water supplies.
Farms in the New Cache and Larimer-Weld systems purchased by Northern Water will remain in production, through:
- Limited land use easements on the property
- Lease-back agreements
- Or other arrangements that will allow continued irrigation on those farms
Furthermore, the purchase of any irrigated lands will be done with the goal to eventually return the operations to private ownership.
Water Quality Questions Addressed
Water quality and agronomy experts have examined the water quality issues, and with proper water blending, no impacts on crop yields would occur in nearly all anticipated operating conditions, and only minor impacts on specific crops in some instances. NISP participants would certainly factor any such impacts on crops into mitigation and compensation packages, and Northern Water will also continue monitoring water quality long into the future to address any potential issues.