WATER DISTRICT AGREEMENTS ENHANCE RIVER FLOWS
mitigation agreements between the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and
the City of Aurora
in the Rocky Ford Ditch and Spurlin-Shaw/Hayden Ranch
cases are redefining water mitigation for basins of origin. In reaching these historic
agreements representatives of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
“UAWCD”, The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District “SECWCD” and the
City of Aurora negotiated terms and conditions
based on the concept of preserving and improving the water resources of the Arkansas basin. Typically mitigation in water change and
transfer cases only address prevention of “injury” in
a court water decree. These agreements
take mitigation to a higher plane; one in which not only prevention of injury
is addressed but preservation and enchancement of the resource for future uses
within the basin of origin.
outset the impacts of the change and transfer of these water rights were
defined and agreed to by the negotiators.
Annual consumptive use (the amount that could legally be changed and
transferred from the basin) on the combined water rights was
reduced by 1650 acre-feet (more than ½ Billion Gallons). This amount represents “saved water” that
historically was not available for use by the Upper Arkansas District’s water
users. By comparison the City of Salida’s Harrington Ditch water rights yield a consumptive use of
578 acre-feet per year on average; less than half of the amount of “saved
water”. Historically this water was
never available to water users in this area.
UAWCD and SECWCD argued that
would agree to leave some water (1650 acre feet) in the basin still this did
not address the potential damages from the transfer of the remaining
water. Compensatory measures needed to
be instituted to deal with that potential damage. The result was agreements
that change the timing and methods of transfer.
agreed to contributions of water and storage to eliminate the negative impacts
of water transfers in dry years. Two
storage “pools” were developed in which water is stored for use in dry years to
remove the 1874 call of the Rocky Ford Ditch.
This action will make available for use in the Upper Arkansas
Basin as much as 600
cubic feet per second of water (391 Million Gallons per day). These two storage pools (a total of 4500 acre
feet) will also be available for use by the Water District. This allows the Water District to enhance the
size of the “pools” in wet years and enlarge the amount of “saved water” during
Restrictions on future use of Arkansas Valley resources were also written into
1. Aurora may not purchase a water right from the Arkansas Valley for 40 years
total amount that may be removed in any year is 54,000 acre feet.
percent of this water originates outside the Arkansas Basin.
the remainder comes from the present and past water purchases in the Arkansas Basin.
c. To meet this pipeline capacity the balance
must come from temporary leases approximately 8300 acre feet.
leases are limited to a maximum per year of 10,000 acre feet
leases can only be executed for 3 years out of each 10 year period
leases can only be executed when Aurora’s
storage capacity is below 60 percent and must be used to improve their storage
capacity (not for immediate use)
of temporary leases requires implementation of an “Increasing Block Rate
Structure” for Aurora’s
water users to encourage conservation.
of temporary leases requires implementation of mandatory outdoor water
restrictions on Aurora’s
Due to restrictions on the timing
and amounts of “Exchange”, Aurora will not be able to move its Lower Arkansas
water rights except by “trading” (Contract Exchange) for trans-basin (not
Arkansas River Water) water from storage.
This will eliminate damaging effects upon native water flow in the Upper Arkansas
Basin. Essentially more than 60 percent of water
removed from the basin by Aurora will originate
in the Colorado River Basin when including temporary
Aurora also entered into
an agreement for reuse of it existing water supplies to meet its future
needs. In this agreement Aurora will be required
to “enhance and enlarge” its reuse (recycling of water) efforts to meet future
demands. These efforts must reduce its
demands on out-of-basin sources for water before it can attempt to claim water
rights in the Arkansas
Basin after 2043.
agreements require the formation of a Regional Resource Group comprised of the
negotiating entities and will include other Arkansas
Valley entities to develop procedures
for enhancing and protecting the Arkansas
Valley water resources.
agreements mark a dramatic departure from past practices in mitigation to a
basin of origin. More than ever the
citizens and water users of the State will be called upon to develop policies
that address preservation of water resources to meet future needs. To that end these agreements will set the
template for other basins to follow.