Front Range Company Plans to Divert Water from Drought-Stricken San Luis Valley

ALAMOSA — Renewable Water Resources, a Denver-based company, is considering a diversion of up to 22,000 acre-feet of water a year out of the San Luis valley for Front-Range municipal use, according to Cleave Simpson, general manager of Rio Grande Water Conservation District. The San Luis valley is one of the poorest and driest regions of Colorado, facing a water crisis.

“There’s never not a controversy about water here,” Simpson said. “This is a community that struggles with water.”

RWR’s scientists do not agree that their water use would add to shortages, Simpson said.

Agriculture is one of the main industries in the economically-struggling San Luis Valley. And nearly all farmers in the valley rely on irrigation to sustain themselves.

Yet newly-created water conservation sub-districts are starting to pay farmers a stipend for every acre of land they do not irrigate, to encourage less water use, according to Simpson. And if the Rio Grande aquifer does not return to sustainable levels by 2030, Colorado’s state engineer may begin shutting down wells throughout the valley.

The Rio Grande aquifer is where RWR would withdraw their water, pumping it from ranches and moving it northwest in pipelines.

“So it’s a little ironic where we’re at today,” says Simpson, referring to Renewable Water Resource’s plan.

“We built a culture and economy and community on a water supply that doesn’t exist anymore,” he says. The aquifer is at record lows. “I don’t know if there’s a future.”

RWR maintains the aquifer wouldn’t be depleted by their usage, according to Simpson. RWR could not be reached for comment.

As the Front Range’s population doubles in coming years, municipal water has to come from somewhere, Simpson said. RWR apparently maintains that the dry, windblown, drought-stricken San Luis valley is the solution.

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