Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

A picture named lowerarkansasriver.jpg

Now here's a dilemma for you. According to Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer, more efficient use of agricultural water has the potential to decrease water flowing in rivers, due to farmers increasing the land under production or growing more crops on the acreage they have. Inefficient methods have left more water in the system in the past.

From the Pueblo Chieftain: "Farming more efficiently could reduce river flows and create trouble for the state in its obligation to deliver water to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact, the state's top water rights enforcement official in the valley said last week.

"That's because water decrees - granted in court to make sure other rights are not injured - traditionally considered volume and not necessarily consumptive use, the amount plants need to grow and produce a crop, said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer...

"Witte asked the board for some guidance in dealing with increased use of the same water. Sprinklers and drip irrigation allow farmers to apply less water to crops and even grow some crops more intensely on the same acreage.

"That means more consumptive use from the same diversion of water, he said. That could decrease return flows from fields and injure downstream water users - both within and outside the state. In Colorado's case, some of those users are in Kansas.

"When the water rights change, such as in the sale of canal water to a city, the consumptive use is accounted for, but if a farmer's consumptive use increases, there is no way to account for it, Witte said...

"Witte outlined three possible routes for looking at consumptive use: Changing the definition of water rights; Discouraging government subsidies for more efficient farming; Enforcing compact provisions that allow 'improvements' in water use as long as they don't deplete the river...

"Witte said he is only trying to maintain equity under the compact. Signed by Kansas and Colorado in 1949, the compact apportions the Arkansas River between the two states.

"In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Colorado violated the compact by developing wells. Colorado was penalized only for well pumping from 1985, when the case was filed. State engineer rules during that time were insufficient to address the problem."

Category: Colorado Water

7:50:21 AM    

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