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Old 10-26-2005   #11
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 103
Look, this is a really messy systemic problem. And personally, I'm way to cynical to believe that the final solution will be the best solution. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.

So with that in mind consider this:
Something like 95% of all water consumed in the state goes to agriculture.
Something like 60% of all ag water goes to irrigate either pastures, hay, or alfalfa.
Almost all of this alfalfa and grass feeds cattle.
About half of the remaining water irrigates corn - most of which feeds cows.
That leaves about 20% for ALL remaining crops.
Click for Reference
There are parts of this country where grass and corn grow without irrigation, like from eastern KS/NE all the way to the Appalachians. Maybe it's more efficient to raise cows there than in semi-arid Colorado.

Now consider that people in cities will pay a lot more for water than farmer/ranchers can. I pay about $6 per 1000 gallons. I think that's cheap, I could pay double that and it would only cost about an extra $10/month. But consider that there's 325,000 gallons per acre foot. So I currently pay at a rate of about $2000 per acre foot. How many farmers can afford that?

So now it gets messy...

What happens when farmers sell their water? What happens when ranchers sell their land? More subdivisions! More open space consumed by tract houses. Less wildlife habitat=less wildlife.

Also, what are the economic consequences of limitiing growth to 1.5% or so? How many carpenters lose their jobs? How many lumber yards go under?

How do you actually limit growth? If you limit the number of houses that get built, but demand keeps growing, doesn't that just drive up the cost of housing? That's fine if you already own a home, but what if you're the next guy moving in? You're hosed. When was the last time you heard a politician talk about limiting growth (except of course in Boulder)? When that happens, all the developers open their wallets and buy ads to convince voters that the sky will fall.

and so on...

So, yeah, it's really messy, and I don't have any faith that we'll see much change in the status quo. Eventually, the cities will make a grab for ag water. In the meanwhile cities will try to divert all the water they can, leaving us with a lot of dry river beds (like the Frying Pan, the Gunnison, the Blue, and the Dolores - though that one's diverted for pinto beans).


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Old 10-26-2005   #12
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 206
alanbol.. it's about time someone put's it out there. The real problem is trying to grow wine grapes and peaches in a desert or trying to grow anything for that matter where it shouldn't. If you do a simple search on Google for water usage by state you will see that agriculture in Colorado uses a HUGE amount of water. In Minnesota when the farmers grew too much corn or beans and the prices were dropping the DNR would pay farmers to let some of their land grow wild to help restore wild habitat. I think in times of drought, just paying some of the farmers who grow water intensive crops to cut back a bit would save a lot of water, then again doesn't water law work like government budgets? If you don't use all of your alotment named in your water rights you don't get as much next year? The only reason farmers came here in the first place was because the government gave away free land to anyone that could maintain it, all in an effort to tame the west.

Oh yeah, I still think it is great that the dam was defeated and that any dam in general is usually a bad thing.

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Old 10-27-2005   #13
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 342
The idea of confined aquifer recharge was not meant to sound like a fixall for this "messy situation". The reason I mentioned this idea on the buzz was to put an idea out there that may allow us to store water without using dams. In certain areas this may be beneficial for the environment (better than a dam), for river runners and people wanting to live in the area. I'll be the first to say that water is not allocated in an efficient manner in Colorado. Examples include large lawns and ag. Inevitably, water rights will be shifted from Ag to development. It's just a question of when and not if.
If anyone hasn't read it, Calillac Desert by Marc Risner really points out just how much of a mess water is in the west.

Thanks for chiming in on this one. I think a lot of good points were made in this thread. Keep it up.
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Old 10-27-2005   #14
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 342
"So there's going to be this continual pressure to build dams, or aquifer storage, or other projects that take water out of rivers, eliminating high spring flows (all that water is extra, right?)".

That's a good point Alan. The water does come from somewhere and that is generally the over-allocated Colorado River. And yes, water stored would probably come from peak runoff in the metro area basins or by transmountain diversion making the South Platte a much smaller river downstream of Denver metro area. Unfortunately we are forced to use our allocation of the Colorado River before someone else uses it (I know its wrong) and that's the "excess". It's important to remember that the South Platte prior to transmountain diversion was a small river anyway. It's not like we'd be drying up a river that used to run large, it was small to beging with and it would stay small. Additionally water would most likely be drawn out in the low country having minimal impact on kayaking and other water sports during peak runoff.
I'm not saying that I like the fact that the metro area could use up an even larger amount of water from our rivers, but I think its time that we consider options for the future.
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Old 10-27-2005   #15
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 103
Curtis (and all),
Sorry to misinterpret what you we're saying about aquifer storage. I think that we're basically in agreement here. None of us here wants to see more dams. If you have to store water, then off-stream storage is the way to go. And aquifer storage down on the flats can do that.

By the way, I got one of my numbers wrong in a previous post. It's 88% of the water consumed in CO goes to ag. The 94% is the amount of ag water that goes to irrigation. Still, it's a hell of a lot of the water, which made me think...

If you could get ag to conserve 15% of its water, that would DOUBLE the water available for other uses.

Basically, I don't want to see any more dams. Period. I'm leery of aquifer storage because I think that the water to be stored will come out of rivers. If that's water on top of existing diversions, then west slope rivers will drop as water is diverted to the front range.

What to do? (other than bitch about it). When folks want to throw more money at water storage, I'd like to see how much conservation of ag water that'll buy. I'd like to know how many ranchers are willing to sell their senior water rights and at what price. I think we need to explore every alternative before we hammer west slope rivers more than we have.

Fun fact: CO ag uses about 5 million acre feet/year, about 80% to irrigate food for cows. CO has about 2.5 million cows. That's almost 2 acre feet of water per cow per year, or about 500,000 gallons per year per cow.
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Old 10-27-2005   #16
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 39
And Damn! does that steak taste juicy. I've heard the valid economic argument before that less water is used elsewhere to grow the same vegetables, etc. That doesn't necessarily mean that people will buy the imported (green picked) goods. The taste is less, the nutritional value, etc. People will still pay more for locally grown goods, especially in an agricultural area. Limited growth IS an option, but, as alanbol pointed out, the $$ in the construction industry is too strong to allow it.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves living in a democracy, not a REPUBLIC as we were founded. so the rule of the mob, not the rule of the LAW, wins. (And I don't mean like Johnny Law)
I digress...
Western Slope WaterMan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-28-2005   #17
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 305
It's simple.
Limit the number of children people can have....

Less people = less sprawl, less cows eaten, less water used, less traffic, less people on the river and the slopes.

Or how about don't allow anymore people to move in to Colorado????

Wait its the downstream farmers using water too, hummmmmm.
Don't do anything, just stand there.
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Old 10-28-2005   #18
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 76
I am very into this topic as well.

I agree with rasdoggy, that taking the argument back to its source means talking about population growth. I also know that argument is not gonna get settled earlier than the water troubles hit us.

It's true that most of agriculture goes to alfalfa, then corn, then soy, then all the farms that bring us vegetables. Its also true that if we limit our sprawl, we should also limit our cows.

My two cents is that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. There has to be an adaptable plan. Dry year leases that let senior rights holders get paid to lease their water to cities in dry years, with confined aquifers being filled in wet years. Subdivision planning where land is not chopped up without infrastructure but along the rail corridors with protected lands in between city centers. Then conservation, ag, and even the developers would get a little and we'd be ok.

I know the answer. You don't have to tell me.
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Old 10-28-2005   #19
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 103

I'm with you, but that's far too reasonable. It requires planning. Existing Colorado water law pretty well precludes that. Urban planning in Colorado is an oxymoron.

I think that my main point is that we can avoid new diversions with only modest conservation on the part of agriculture. City water users should pay for this because they're the beneficiaries.

Any new diversions from the western slope to the front range will dewater rivers because the diversions start near the headwaters (so they can flow downhill all the way to Denver). That's water that will never reach you out in GJ, WaterMan.

WaterMan, you seem pretty dead set against conserving ag water. Why is that? And it's a straw man argument to rely on vegetable/fruit farmers to make your point about fresh produce. Livestock uses about 2/3 of all the water consumed in colorado. All other ag users consume about 1/6. Why not look at livestock for ways to be more efficient with water. It's clearly the greatest bang for the buck.

Instead, we'll probably end up with something like the big straw feeding into a string of reservoirs as we move water from west to east, from near UT, up over the continental divide, to the front range. It'll only cost a couple billion, plug up a few more creeks, and require a new coal-fired power plant to run it.

Remember, if there isn't a decent plan in place before the next "crisis", this may well be what voters are presented with (or possibly something even worse).
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Old 10-30-2005   #20
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 39
I am definately for water conservation, be it agricutural or otherwise. If the produce argument is not good for you, substitute "meat" in the same paragraph. Local food, while perhaps more expensive, is still required. There are many reasons, but here are two: if all the food is shipped in from elsewhere 1) food prices are mcuh more greatly affected by increases in gas prices. Think Katrina here. If gas goes up, then we pay more to get the shipped food that we could've grown ourselves. (which wouldn't have been as subject to the gas increase) 2) If the majority of our food is coming from out of the country, then our country is literally being held hostage by the food providers. This is a long argument, and I've gotta bail, but it's got lots of implications.
We live in a country of laws. Just because a group of people decides to do something (sch as in this case build a subdivision), does NOT mean they can. If we have, say, county wide laws voted on by the people and the county commish's, then a county could effectively control the direction of it's growth. (That's much more realistic than population control; you can't do that, you commies, i hope you're being funny) In other words, if people like living in an agricultural community, then they can decide that any developments msut adhere to specific guidelines which will keep the growth agriculturally based. The community can decide this en toto and if the decision is poor, the economics will reveal this very quickly. Books could be written about this, and many probably have. Alanbol, I was born and raised on a farm, and that, I suppose, is the reason I am favorable to the ag side. However, I am more a proponent of keeping the American Republic a Republic. The rule of law allows for the variation of laws throughout our country. The 10th amendment is HUGE... I know I'm digressing but it's important, because so few people are aware of WHY it's important... I guess water rights is one facet of an important aspect of our society, from the laws to the motives to the results.
Again, I seem to have digressed. Go Broncos!

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