LOVELAND – City officials, farmers and industry representatives Wednesday urged the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to significantly raise the amount of water the district allocates from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project this year.
Northern Water manages the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which delivers an average of 200,000 acre feet of water annually, most of it coming from melting snow in the upper Colorado River basin. An acre-foot is equal to about 326,000 gallons of water and covers the water needs of about 2.5 families of four for one year. Around 200 people attended Wednesday’s meeting at The Ranch, according to Northern Water.
During the drought in 2012, farmers received 100 percent quota because of a minimal snowpack. The quota meant that farmers got all of their allotted units.
If the water district’s 12-member Board of Directors passed a 60 percent quota, as it did last spring, water unit owners will receive 60 percent of the water units allotted to them.
The meeting comes as Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs contain an average amount of water. Officials say that water storage will swell with higher than average snowpack in the Colorado and South Platte river basins.
Farmers such as Steve Shultz, who farms corn, sugar beets and other crops, advocated a 100-percent quota at Wednesday’s meeting. Shultz said he needed the added water to finish his crops later in the growing season when he runs out of other water supplies.
“We still depend on that late season storage water,” he said.
Beth Molenaar, water resources engineer for the city of Fort Collins, said the city would support a quota of at least 70 percent this year because it has received multiple requests from farmers to rent water. The city rented very little water to farmers last year because of shorter supply of water related to poor Cache la Poudre River water quality caused by fires.
Fort Collins gets about half of its water from the Poudre River and the other half from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.
Representatives from companies such as Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE: XEL), which owns nearly 10,000 water units in the project, also attended the meeting. The company routinely has representation at Northern Water’s spring and fall meetings, spokesman Mark Stutz said.
“We’re also there because of the informative programs presented and because it is an extensive gathering of water professionals,” Stutz said. “It simply is of benefit for us to be there.”
Northern Water provides water to portions of eight counties with a population of 860,000 people and serves more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land.