On Dec. 13, the Delta Conservation District (DCD) held its annual dinner meeting at Gunnison River Pleasure Park in Hotchkiss. The meeting included dinner for a $5 fee and a special presentation from Hannah Holm, coordinator and co-founder of the Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. It also included the annual report from DCD Secretary and Treasurer Vanessa Hoff and awards for Conservationist of the Year and Rancher of the Year.
Hoff reported that the DCD sponsored three workshops on water, titled, “Is drought over?” They presented drought contingency plans. According to Hoff, DCD Board President Paul Kehmeier attended the Colorado State Conservation Board of Watershed Workshop in Glenwood and the DCD passed a resolution supporting the Delta County schools farm to school program.
“It looked like a really great educational program and I’m really excited to see how that develops over the next year,” Hoff said.
Holm’s presentation regarded the Colorado River Basin and its problem with over-allocation. According to Holm, the total allocation of water to be exported from the Colorado River adds up to 16.5 million acre feet, while the river itself holds about 15 million acre feet. The problem arose partly due to the fact that the deals for allocation were made during wetter times.
“It was a lot more convenient and easy to negotiate sharing when it seemed like there was a lot to share,” Holm said, claiming that water has been over-allocated from the Colorado River for nearly 100 years.
In the early 2000s, supply and demand came together for the Colorado River Basin and the area it covered. Demand is now higher overall.
Holm also presented the difference in allocated water usage between the upper and lower basins of the Colorado River system. The lower basin civilizations always hit their maximum allocation amount, while the upper basin never hits it, Holm said. This is, in part, due to the types of civilization and agriculture in both areas.
While the upper basin covers higher elevations, such as the Gunnison area, water supply is limited by runoff, as the water tank is lower than the civilization. The higher areas tend to be greener and have farm and ranch land, while lower elevations have a generally more dry climate and larger cities. One lower area is Arizona, which has no winter. It can, therefore, be used for agriculture all year long.
In conclusion to the meeting, the Conservationist of the Year award was presented to John Welfelt and Steve Lewis, and the Rancher of the Year award was presented to Dave Kuntz.