LAWMA approves water sharing agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities
LAMAR, Colo. — The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association board has announced it will participate in a permanent water sharing agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities.
LAWMA and Colorado Springs Utilities have discussed ways to continue their long-term arrangement of water sharing. The agreement would allow Colorado Springs Utilities to acquire 2,500 LAWMA water shares from an existing LAWMA member and take deliveries in five out of 10 years. The boards of both entities have voted to approve the agreement.
“This is a very positive arrangement for LAWMA shareholders,” said Don Higbee, LAWMA general manager. “We will gain a more reliable water supply that will increase crop yields for the average shareholder in both wet and dry years.”
Colorado Springs Utilities purchased the water shares for $3,500 per share. Utilities will take delivery of that water in only five out of 10 years. In non-delivery years, other LAWMA members will receive the water, effectively increasing the per-share yield of each LAWMA share.
Formed in 1973, LAWMA is a member owned, non-profit corporation based in Lamar that replaces out of priority depletions to the Arkansas River caused by members’ well pumping. Approximately 90 percent of its members are farmers. LAWMA allows members to pump ground water based on the number of shares they own. The shares are primarily used for agriculture, with the remainder used for municipal and industrial members.
The next step in the process is to obtain a water court decree formally changing the shares to be used for municipal and augmentation use.
Colorado Springs Utilities has been working with agricultural water entities in the Lower Arkansas Valley through short- term, informal agreements for decades.
Over the past two decades, it leased 23,000 acre-feet of water to LAWMA and 33,150 acre-feet of water to Fort Lyon Canal Company. In addition, Colorado Springs Utilities also has provided 20,000 acre feet of water to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for use in the John Martin Reservoir in Bent County.
“We are interested in water sharing agreements with the agricultural community and have been involved in leasing agreements since the 2002 drought,” said Pat Wells, general manager, water resources, Colorado Springs Utilities. “Utilities has had successful, informal water sharing agreements with LAWMA for many years. This is an extension of that proven relationship.”
“This arrangement continues LAWMA’s positive long-term relationship with Colorado Springs Utilities. They have a proven track record leasing water to us at very reasonable rates,” Higbee said.
As part of the agreement, Colorado Springs Utilities will also reimburse LAWMA $1.75 million for 500 acre-feet of water storage. This storage will give LAWMA added flexibility to manage its water rights both in times of drought and excess. In the years LAWMA receives the water, it can be stored for future use. In the years Utilities receives the water, LAWMA members will be able to rely on the stored water to maintain steady irrigation.
“If we are collaborating with municipalities, we are not competing with them for water. The alternative is we risk buy and dry, which permanently removes water from the valley,” Higbee explained. “This project helps us avoid that.” ❖