Colorado Rivers Drying Up, Water Leasing Program to Help

Colorado Water Law

Denver Water issued a “Stage 1 Drought” as of Wednesday, April 25, 2012 which means voluntary watering restrictions are in place. Denver Water is asking 1.3 million customers to voluntarily limit watering lawns.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is working to buy water to help protect fish and wildlife throughout Colorado, in case drought conditions continue. The Colorado Water Trust will lease water under the 2003 state legislation to put into the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s in-stream flow program.

Amy Beatie, executive director of the water trust said, “We intend to put this statute to work to make a difference both to water users facing what could be an uncertain summer if conditions don’t improve and to the state’s rivers.”

This 2003 statute lets water-rights holders loan water on short-term leases temporarily, without going through the court. It would pay the people entitled to water from the rivers, not to use it for up to 120 days, on a voluntary basis.

“We’re asking them to just grow a different crop this year. A crop of water for fish and habitat for fish. Rivers benefit. And they get cash. Officials estimate that $400,000 in donations could fund leases to guarantee flows of 41 cfs around the state,” Beatie said.

Nature Conservancy state director Tim Sullivan said, “This is not about taking water away from people. This is about keeping our rivers whole and sharing water between people and the environment.”

Colorado Farm Bureau vice president Troy Bredenkamp said, “Hopefully, we’d have enough people wanting to do this to make it worthwhile. We have to think about food production as well.  It’s going to be a challenge with commodity prices where they are and the lack of water.”

As of Monday, Colorado snowpack is down to 35 percent from the statewide average. The North Platte and South Platte basins in northern Colorado were the best, at 48 percent of average.

Four reaches of rivers in the Arkansas River basin are part of the program:

  • The Lake Fork of the Arkansas River near Leadville.
  • Greenhorn Creek, which flows through Rye and Colorado City, above Graneros Creek.
  • Texas Creek west of Canon City.
  • The Huerfano River above Stanley Creek northwest of Walsenburg.

In the Rio Grande basin, portions of Saguache Creek and La Jara Creek have been identified.

Statewide, 20 reaches of river have been targeted.

If you want to voluntarily restrict your water usage here’s what officials ask you to do:
– Water only two days a week, and use a day of rain to skip watering
– Only water the areas of your yard that are dry. For example, if shady areas look fine, only water the dry areas that get the most sun exposure.
– Water early in the morning or in the evening to avoid evaporation.
– Adjust sprinkler systems throughout the summer, starting with using less water this spring. Don’t just set your sprinkler system once and forget about it.
– Water two minutes less.

Mandatory summer water restrictions go into effect May 1. These rules apply then:
– No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
– Do not water more than three days per week (there are no assigned days for watering).
– Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
– Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
– Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
– Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.

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