Stulp Brings Water Update to Commissioners

Leroy Mauch and John Stulp

Leroy Mauch and John Stulp

In about one year, Governor Hickenlooper will have a first draft of a comprehensive state water plan on his desk which will be reviewed for an additional year before any action may be taken.  The plan is being developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.  John Stulp, former Prowers County Commissioner and current Director of the Interbasin Compact (IBCC), and Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water, met with the Prowers County Commissioners on December 12 to provide an update on the water plan.  Stulp was accompanied by another former commissioner, Leroy Mauch, who also represents the region on water issues. 

Representatives from nine different water basins throughout the state have been meeting for the past several years, providing updates on each basin’s water needs, best use policies and how those future needs will interact with each other.  Stulp said that some trends have been evident for years such as gaps between water supplies and water demands, agricultural water has been undergoing a buy and dry policy to meet municipal demands along the Western Slope and Front Range and water supplies are uncertain in light of the continued drought which has impacted much of the state for the past decade.  He added that the various Basins in the Compact will have their own areas of focus, “The Rio Grande will look at wells and the Arkansas is concerned about wells and surface water.  The North Platte is nearly all surface and some wells,” he explained. 

Stulp said, “We could see our state population double in the next 40 to 60 years and we need to know where we can find the water to supply those needs.”  Reports have shown that with a widening gap between supply and needs, the state could face a shortfall that exceeds 500,000 acre feet annually.  “We don’t want to see a buy and dry situation that hit Crowley County,” Stulp explained.  That county had over 92% of its water go away and supplies were also used by two prison systems that located there.  The end result was dry land and brush fires, one that was fatal to responders several years ago. 

“Water conditions became critical on the Western Slope due to the drought that’s lasted about 12 years now and our interests along the Front Range and the eastern portion of the state takes about half the water from the Slope,” Stulp explained to the commissioners.  “We drilled from 20 to 30 tunnels through the Continental Divide over the years to bring in about 550,000 acre feet a year from parts of the Western Slope to the Front Range.  Half of that is junior to the Colorado River Compact.  There could be concern over various obligations and a potential for a water call on the Colorado River.  The junior diverters will have to reduce their diversions.”  He added that Denver is getting half its water from the East and the Western Slope. 

Conservation measures could help reduce the demand in metro areas, Stulp stated.  He said Front Range communities along with Denver have done well, cutting back demand per capita by 20% the same time the population has increased by about 10%.  There may be more restrictions pertaining to lawn watering and there’s grey water legislation being considered which will reuse shower and similar used water to flush toilets, all within municipal water use decrees.  The system that recycles water in that fashion won’t be mandated for household use, but will be an option.  Other legislation will require water-“sense” fixtures for additional efficiency such as lavatories, shower heads, aeration toilets and urinals and other flush systems. “The big box retail outlets will be the first point of sale for such items, and will be the only type available for sale in the future if this legislation is approved,” he explained.  “We’re not going to be seeing toilet cops running around, but according to Denver water, we could save from 20 to 40,000 acre feet a year with these changes,” Stulp added.  He thinks the legislature will see these measures introduced next year. 

Another conservation measure brought up by County Attorney, John Lefferdink, may not come to pass.  It involves seeking legislation that would allow tamarack growth along the Arkansas River to be designed through a change of water use to fund its eradication between Lamar and John Martin Dam.  “If we could get a change in designation, there would be as much as 30,000 to 40,000 acre feet saved between here and John Martin,” Lefferdink said.  He said it might be too large a task to engage, but if legislation could be altered, a private enterprise could be brought in to kill it.  Right now, the tamarask growth is a Super User or a water right user in itself he explained, adding the group removing it could be given a water right for the project.  Several years ago, the commissioners had financing available to begin a tamarask eradication program along the Arkansas River, using helicopters to spray the growth between Granada and Holly.  Normally, it takes three years before the plants die down to the root system, so long as they remain undisturbed. 

Stulp also touched upon the status of the Ark Valley Conduit, first proposed in the 1960s to bring water by pipeline from Pueblo to Lamar.  Funding for environmental studies has become available from Congress over the past several years, but the 120 mile long project is still years away.  Over 30 entities along the route would   be served by the water stored in Pueblo.  Stulp said because of water quality concerns for the Arkansas River, there have been several groups from western Kansas that have expressed interest in having the pipeline extended across the border.

By Russ Baldwin 

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCityCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEnergyEnvironmentFeaturedGranadaHistoryHollyHot TopicsLamarPoliticsProwers CountyPublic SafetyRecreationUtilitiesWater ReportWeather


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