Water Transfer Prompts Early Conversations
The projected growth of Colorado’s Front Range has water planners looking ahead to meet the demands of the population influx. One way to meet the growing need is for utility companies to buy water rights from farmers and ranchers and then divert that water to cover the city’s needs, commonly called “Buy & Dry.”
Chris Woodka covers water issues for the Pueblo Chieftain, and recently wrote about one such transaction that has rural neighbors worried and a water utility that’s striving toward cooperation.
KRCC: Briefly speaking, how prevalent is this practice of buying agricultural water rights to meet municipal needs?
WOODKA: It’s a fairly common practice, and Crowley County is perhaps one of the more notable examples of this. Many of their water rights were sold in the 1970s and 80s, and the county’s agricultural production dried up significantly. Its towns have never really fully bounced back. And, it’s a growing practice as the Front Range is projected to grow considerably over the next few decades.
KRCC: In this particular situation that you just recently wrote about, Security Water and Sanitation District bought the CB Ranch in Coaldale, halfway between Cotopaxi and Howard along the Arkansas River. The utility had to buy the ranch in order to obtain the water rights.
WOODKA: Right. And that’s been the model for most water transfers in the last 30 years. Security wanted to strengthen its water resources, and bought the 200-acre ranch in 2013. The concern from the rural residents though, is that this will stress the ecology, landscape and hurt others in the area who have to make a living off the land. Typically, these kinds of cases are contentious, especially when a water provider is looking for water so far from its own boundaries.
KRCC: What’s so interesting about this particular case?
WOODKA: I’d say it’s because all the stakeholders are coming together at a time early in the case when the utility has no immediate plans to actually take the water away.