Colorado Growers Get Reprieve

Published online: May 19, 2003
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A Supreme Court judge’s ruling will allow irrigators in northern Colorado to use their wells this summer.

However, they will be required to file an augmentation plan on just how they will re-supply water drawn from the South Platte River aquifer.

For the short term, they have 30 days to get their wells running. For the long-term they will need to file the augmentation plan, give a 30-day announcement period, then wait out a 30-day grace period.

For this year, about 4,000-5,000 acres of sugarbeets will not be planted in the greater Greeley, CO, area. The Greeley factory, now furloughed, will probably run again if enough beets are grown in the area. If not it will be furloughed until next year. The Western Growers Cooperative has some 38,000 acres planted in Colorado for the Ft. Morgan and Greeley factory districts. Some of the Colorado beets have been processed in Nebraska.

It is unknown how the ruling will affect growers of some 3,000-4,000 acres of potatoes in northern Colorado.

A spokesman said the ruling will impact about 25,000 acres of farm ground. However, he pointed out that some have auxiliary sources of water in ditches and canals that may see them through to harvest. Most need well water to augment their auxiliary water flows.

The law being debated is a 130-year-old water law that did not take into consideration drought conditions in the 21st century. What wasn’t foreseen was the tremendous urban development that stretches along the entire front range putting a tug-of-war on supplies.

Growers are becoming increasingly aware that their water is more valuable than oil. Some water rights are selling for $15,000 a share. On the Big Thompson project that is two-acre feet a year.

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