UP THE CREEK
August 1, 2002
Earlier this year, when there was uncertainty about the effects of the drought, the Board of Directors considered the option to increase our water supply by renting additional water. There were a couple of drawbacks. One was that in a dry year, water becomes more valuable, particularly in the eyes of a water owner who sees an opportunity to improve the cash flow by marketing the water rather than the hay. The second drawback is that, when converting irrigating water to domestic use, there is a severe penalty incurred by the domestic user.
That is because domestic use is considered to be nearly 100% consumptive in nature, whereas irrigating, especially by the flood or furrow method, is seen as only about 30% consumptive. The remaining runoff is (theoretically) returned to the stream from which it was diverted, and becomes available to downstream users. So, in order to maintain that scenario, a domestic company using irrigation water must allow 70% of it to go down the creek rather than into the pipeline. That’s Colorado water law, and is one of the less complicated ones.
Therefore, the Board decided not to rent any additional water. The expense would have been severe, the return dismal. The Board felt that you, the USCDWUA membership, would recognize the severity of the drought and voluntarily conserve water.
This month I am happy to report that you have surpassed all expectations. We are assured of having enough water to make it through the remainder of the season, thanks to your very noticeable conservation efforts. USCDWUA is one of the few water providers around which did not impose radical rates or usage limits. Perhaps that is because our rate structure is already radical? Some probably believe so. Anyway it works, and the credit goes to you.
That does not mean we are out of the woods. The drought is still in effect, and our supply is still limited. The most serious question is, will it snow this winter? Another dry winter, and there might not be a rate structure radical enough, or a usage limit low enough to make it through another year like this one. We would be wise to leave as much water as possible in storage against the possibility of a dry winter and spring.
So, whatever you are doing, keep doing it. You have set a standard for responsible water use that needs to be copied by more communities if they are to meet the challenge of providing good, affordable, domestic water. Thank you.