Eastern & western slope water users seek fairness in water demand management plan
A voluntary water use reduction plan received criticism from agricultural users in Colorado during a meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
This water-use reduction plan, known in Colorado as a demand management plan, seeks to capture and send 500,000 acre ft of water from agricultural users to Lake Powell as a means to meet Colorado River Compact obligations, according to the Post Independent. However, agricultural users in certain areas said they would not be interested in meeting the demands of such a program if there is not also buy-in and compliance from municipalities and other users along the Colorado River Basin.
“If [Western Slope users] don’t see that question of fairness, they don’t even want to open the conversation,” said Ken Curtis, Dolores Water Conservancy District chief of engineering and construction, according to the report from Post Independent.
The plan outlines reductions in water use on voluntary, temporary and compensated bases, and those terms have caused arguments among the water users who would be impacted by the demand management plan. Kelsea Macilroy, a Colorado University doctoral candidate studying this issue, said compensation is difficult to define because it relates to water’s value.
“Is it even truly possible to compensate for reductions in water use?” Macilroy said during the meeting, according to the Post Independent report. “Water is more than a commodity.”
But the concerns around a water use reduction plan run deeper than the legal language involved. As reported by the Post Independent, “some said they feared that demand management is a backdoor to ‘buy and dry’” and serves as a reminder of the lessons learned from Crowley County. Crowley County had been an agricultural community in which agricultural water users sold their water rights to Front Range municipalities. Ultimately the water dried up in farm areas, which destroyed the county’s economy and community identity.
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Listen to the Talking Under Water podcast episode on water equity.