South Platte Water Conservation Project
Water exchanges that will help protect agriculture and bring much-needed water storage to the region
Sustaining our region’s robust agriculture industry and developing ways to store more water that will meet our array of growing demands are equally vital to the future of Northern Colorado. That’s why Northern Water is working with farmers and the 15 water providers participating in the Northern Integrated Supply Project, in a collaborative effort to ensure the success of both.
As part of NISP, Northern Water and the participants are engaging with willing shareholders in the New Cache and Larimer-Weld Irrigation Company systems, to utilize a portion of their senior water rights in exchange for water from Galeton Reservoir.
Creating a win-win for the farmers
This series of exchanges – done under what’s called the South Platte Water Conservation Project – would allow Glade Reservoir to store water in a timely manner for the NISP participating communities and water districts.
In return, the NISP participants will compensate any farmers whose water rights are utilized in these exchanges. That compensation will come in the form of:
• 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 farmers, in that:
• Farmers maintain total ownership of their water rights and water continues flowing to the farms
• Compensation from the NISP participants will enhance the long-term viability of the farms
• Farmers will have access to water later in the growing season with supplies in Galeton Reservoir
• These exchanges would not be subject to change-of-use cases in water court
• Non-participating shares in the ditch systems would not be impacted
The ideal alternative to “buy-and-dry”
The South Platte Water Conservation Project is not only a critical piece in the region’s much-needed NISP efforts, but is also an ideal alternative to the ongoing buy-and-dry trend that’s taking farms out of production.
According to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative Report, the rate at which cities are buying agricultural water supplies in the South Platte Basin – Colorado’s most agriculturally productive area – leaves the region on pace to see 180,000 to 267,000 acres of irrigated farmland dry up by 2050.
A farmer’s water rights are not only extremely important to the farm’s operations and vital for our local food supply, but are often deeply embedded in the family’s history, and we want to help preserve that legacy.
Water quality questions addressed
Some farmers have asked about the quality of South Platte River water in comparison to the Poudre River supplies they currently use. Water quality and agronomy experts have thoroughly examined this, with the results showing water quality would have no impact on crops in nearly all anticipated operating conditions, and only very minor impacts on specific crops in rare instances. NISP participants would certainly factor any such impacts on crops into compensation packages, and Northern Water will also continue monitoring water quality long into the future to address any potential issues.
Furthermore, there are many farmers irrigating with South Platte water – from Commerce City to the state line at Julesburg – who don’t experience negative impacts on their crops due to water quality issues.