Poudre River faces tough choices to balance ag, urban needs
By Bill Jackson
FORT COLLINS – A meeting designed to start a community discussion about the future of the Poudre River attracted about 300 people Thursday evening at the Larimer County Courthouse Office Building.
The initial session turnout surprised organizers, but only a small percentage of the crowd offered public comment. Organizers, including UniverCity Connections, Colorado State University and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, collected comments from the crowd as they left. Those comments will be compiled and used at educational sessions later this year.
MaryLou Smith, a policy and collaboration specialist with the CSU Colorado Water Institute, said the sessions were conceived as a city of Fort Collins event, but she realized, from the turnout, that other communities along the 126-mile stretch of the river should also be included.
Reagan Waskom, director of the water institute at CSU, said the Poudre River, as well as others in northern Colorado, face serious demands in the future. Much of those demands will come from expected growth along the Front Range. To meet those demands, he said, an additional 500,000 to 800,000 acre-feet of water a year will be needed; an acre-foot of water is considered enough to supply two families with a year’s supply of water. The annual flow of the Poudre is about 275,000 acre-feet.
“We are facing tough choices,” he said, including agriculture, the ecosystem, recreation and several other aspects of what the river provides.
“What are we willing to give up in the future?” he asked.
Tom Moore is a local farmer and business owner who said cities in the area are willing to pay $10,000 an acre-foot for water.
“It’s hard to put an agricultural value of one-third that,” he said, adding it is the quality of water in the region that draw people and businesses.
“Can we supply the next five generations with adequate, quality water?” he asked.
Laura Pritchett, a local writer who authored “The Spirit of the Poudre,” said it will take a lot of work to forge agreement about how best to manage the river, but she stressed the future of the river depends on finding solutions.
“Is there one solution? I don’t think so. But we have find the radical center between the extremes of both sides,” she said.
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