Maturing the Ag Water NetWORK | TheFencePost.com

Back to: Opinion

Maturing the Ag Water NetWORK

Capitalizing off of the dialogue between conservation and agriculture groups, coupled with implementation of projects that yield agriculture water leasing and efficiency opportunities;

The Partners for Western Conservation/Colorado Cattlemen's Association strongly believe that we need to formally establish AWN as a service provider with the strict mission of "Keeping ag water connected to ag land." The Ag Water NetWork will serve as a convener of water stakeholders from the agriculture, conservation and public sector interests in delivering meaningful dialogue and services to agriculture irrigators.

In 1859, pioneer David K. Wall, farmed a two-acre tract of land in what is now the town of Golden, Colo., "which he irrigated by direct flow from one of the small tributaries of Clear Creek. His experiment proved so successful that he increased his irrigated area to eight acres the following year. Again, he was very successful and the story of his success spread rapidly." This succinct recounting of the early days of irrigated agriculture in Colorado can be found in the 1922 Year Book of Colorado. By 1922, the Year Book reported that "completed irrigation enterprises in this state at present are capable of watering approximately 3,900,000 acres." Quite a success story. At that same time — about one century ago — our state had 940,000 residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For every Colorado resident, there were four acres that could be irrigated.

As often happens, the success of farmers enabled the success of towns and cities. Today, there are nearly 5.5 million people residing in Colorado, but farmland under irrigation has declined to about 2.6 million acres — a ratio of more than two people for every irrigated acre.

The popularity of our state has not diminished, and the Colorado Water Plan estimates that nearly 10 million people could be residing in Colorado by 2050. The water plan estimates the increased demand for water could result in the loss of as much as one-fourth of Colorado's irrigated agricultural land through the purchase and transfer of water rights from agriculture to urban areas. Such large-scale dry-up of irrigated agriculture would have permanent adverse economic, environmental, cultural and food security impacts.

The AWN will focus on key areas: education/outreach and technical assistance. The following table outlines the deliverables of this project, further ensuring that we keep ag water connected to ag land.

Deliverable and Description

Activity 1:

Education/Outreach

Webinars and Polling: Four webinars and polling will be held on key elements of water leasing, including Water Law 101, Leasing Overview, Successful ATM Projects and Ag Water Leasing Decision Tools.

Workshops: Four in-person workshops about water transactions and benefits of water leasing

Online Resources: Webinars and videos will be available online for future reference

Activity 2: Technical Assistance

Develop Ag Water Leasing Decision Tool: Online and interactive self-assessment tool that will direct users to information and resources tailored to their area and interests. Additionally, personalized technical assistance will be offered for those engaging in water leasing transactions.

Advisory Group Meeting: Six Ag Water NetWORK advisory meetings will be held comprised of a diverse group of water interests

Database: Build a reference database of water right owners who have interests in water leasing and efficiency improvements. ❖