Agribusiness  March 4, 2019

Northern Water buys Weld County farm to support reservoir project

GREELEY — Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District recently bought a 28-acre farm northeast of Greeley and its associated water rights for about $330,000, the first of many such purchases Northern Water must make in order to complete the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The NISP project, along with the Northern Water’s Water Secure program, aims to build two reservoirs to supply water to farms and residents in Northern Colorado while allowing agricultural activity to continue on land Berthoud-based Northern Water will buy.

The Glade Reservoir to be built near Fort Collins and the Galeton Reservoir to be built near Ault are expected deliver approximately 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to NISP participants. Northern Water has been in the process of lining up the permits to build these reservoirs since 2004. The federal government and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are expected to approve the project later this year with construction starting in 2021 or 2022.

“The best part of this is that it keeps ag land in production,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said.

“Historically, cities and water groups will buy farms not because they want them to be farmers, but because they want the water rights associated with them,” he said.

Werner pointed to Thornton, which spent decades buying up farmland in Weld and Larimer counties with the hopes of eventually building a pipeline to transport water south, as an example of this “buy and dry” approach.

Rather, Northern Water has established a system of water exchanges with New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Co. and Larimer and Weld Irrigation Co. The exchange system allows the ditch companies to divert 20 percent of their water from the Poudre River to supply the Glade Reservoir in exchange for Northern Water supplying 25 percent of its water from the Galeton Reservoir to the South Platte River.

“This is a different way of looking at it where we’re trying to keep water on the farms,” he said of NISP. Rather than “buy and dry,” Northern Water aims to “buy and supply.”

“There’s a way to make this work for farmers and for communities that are growing to have a water supply,” Werner said.

In order to make it work, however, Northern Water will need to buy up a lot more land — “hundreds of farms,” Werner said.

“Our goal isn’t to own those farms forever and be farmers ourselves,” he said. “Where we have to buy farms, it is our goal to return those within a couple of years to private ownership.”

Northern Water also plans to purchase water rights from property owners who want to keep ownership of their land and to find ways to encourage property owners to adopt new water conservation easements.

GREELEY — Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District recently bought a 28-acre farm northeast of Greeley and its associated water rights for about $330,000, the first of many such purchases Northern Water must make in order to complete the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The NISP project, along with the Northern Water’s Water Secure program, aims to build two reservoirs to supply water to farms and residents in Northern Colorado while allowing agricultural activity to continue on land Berthoud-based Northern Water will buy.

The Glade Reservoir to be built near Fort Collins and the Galeton Reservoir to be…

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