Governor Hickenlooper recently released the long-awaited Colorado Water Plan. Colorado Cattlemen’s Association took an active role in working to shape the portion of the plan regarding agricultural water use.

Governor Hickenlooper recently released the long-awaited Colorado Water Plan. Colorado Cattlemen’s Association took an active role in working to shape the portion of the plan regarding agricultural water use. The organization's leadership and Water Committee are currently reviewing the plan and will provide further input and action items at a later date.

The creation of this statewide plan has been a two-year process with wide engagement from all of Colorado’s agriculture community. The plan addresses the importance of agriculture to the state, as well as rural communities. Colorado contains approximately 66.3 million acres of land, of which 10.6 million acres are cropland. Much of the water used to meet the ever-growing demand of municipalities was obtained by the buy-and-dry method which the newly-released plan acknowledges is not in the best interest of our state. Without changes, the Statewide Water Supply Initiative predicts that Colorado may lose 500,000 to 700,000 acres of currently-irrigated farmland to meet the municipal growth demands.

The agricultural portion of the plan contains three core elements and six action items:

Maintain Agricultural Viability: Maintain Colorado’s agricultural productivity, support of rural economies, and food security (through meaningful incentives and grassroots efforts). Facilitate Alternative Transfer Methods: Respect property rights and contributions of the agricultural industry by establishing alternative options that compete with, if not out-perform, traditional “buy-and-dry” transactions in the water market. Support Agricultural Conservation and Efficiency: Support Colorado’s agricultural industry to make it more efficient, resilient, and able to reduce water consumption without impacting agricultural productivity.

Critical Agricultural Actions: Establish an education and assistance program for farmers and ranchers to help realize more market-competitive transactions that promote implementation of ATMs, and enable Coloradans to enter the agriculture industry.

Encourage ditch-wide and regional planning to explore system-wide conservation and efficiency opportunities and tradeoffs, the potential for water sharing, and long-term infrastructure maintenance needs.

Provide grants, loans, and technical support to update and improve Colorado’s aging agricultural infrastructure, especially where improvements provide multiple benefits.

Develop model voluntary flow agreement language, facilitation, and technical support to encourage the use of these agreements when paired with irrigation efficiency practices.

Explore the development of administrative means to track and administer agricultural-conserved water for the purposes of marketing these waters. Explore expanded grant funding that supports implementation of ATM projects, related infrastructure, or entities that would help facilitate alternative transfer methods.

To see the Colorado Water Plan in its entirety visit: coloradowaterplan.com.