John Stulp, former State Agriculture Secretary, Prowers County Commissioner and current Special Policy Advisor to Governor Hickenlooper for Water issues, was one of eight speakers at the January 6th Crop Production Clinic held at Lamar Community College.
Stulp provided an update on the Governor’s State Water Plan which was presented to Hickenlooper last month. The ten year study provides information on current and future water needs for Colorado and how those needs will impact such areas as population growth, adequate water storage plans, conservation and environment, agricultural needs and non-consumptive uses. The information was compiled as a result of numerous Interbasin Water Committee and roundtable meetings conducted throughout the state for several years.
Stulp laid out some general statistics for the gathering, which began with a produced video detailing the aims of the study. He added, “Our future water uses are being determined by several factors including climate change, population growth, recent state forest fires and agricultural demands, all of which will impact our supplies.” Stulp commented on water distribution, adding that although most of our water flows on the western side of the Continental Divide, 80% of the population is on the east. The Western Slope population is at 562,000 with 918,000 irrigated acres and the eastern side of the state has a population count of 4,490,000 with 2,548,000 irrigated acres. Even with that amount, Stulp noted that only 5% of state surface land is irrigated. One graph showed the amount of water leaving the state from our river systems, with the Arkansas River’s estimate at 164,000 acre/feet per year.
“There will have to be some conservation efforts,” he said, noting that the state’ s projected population growth will take us to double the current 5,000,000 residents by 2050, half from the birth rate and the balance from an influx from the rest of the country. “Colorado is still one of the destination states for future growth and we need to take that into account,” he stated. Stulp told the audience that even with an additional 350,000 residents into the Denver area over the past several years; conservation efforts reduced water usage by 20%.
As southeast Colorado’s economy is heavily dependent on farming and ranching, Stulp noted that our agricultural growth will need to keep pace with state, national and global demands which will call for innovative ideas for water use, storage and conservation. Some ideas put forth from the study indicated a need for rotational fallowing, interruptible water supply, deficit irrigation, water coops and banks and water conservation easements. He noted that storage will play an important part in future water supplies, with thought being given to underground storage to reduce evaporation loss.
Some questions from the audience covered continued efforts to reduce tamarisk invasion along riverbanks and the amount of water that is used by fraking for oil drilling. Stulp replied that the state oil and gas industry has shown that the practice of injecting chemically treated water into the ground uses from 17-18K acre feet per year, “This is a small portion of our incoming state water supply which is between 15-17 million acre feet per year.” He said those wishing to read more of the water plan can view it at www.coloradowaterplan.com. Other topics covered by the one day clinic included : Wheat & Corn Insects, Salinity & Sodium Management, Crop Residue & Tillage Effects on Water Infiltration, Herbicide Resistant Weed Management and Furrow Focus: The Ground-Up Approach.
By Russ Baldwin
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