On March 14 "Water 101," the first presentation in a four-part series on water use in the Surface Creek Valley, drew a full house of over 140 attendees to the Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center in Cedaredge.
Jason Ullman, Assistant Division Engineer for Water Division 4 - Gunnison Basin, provided a thorough history of water rights and the development of water administration in Colorado. According to his presentation, a staggering 19 states and parts of Mexico rely on Colorado water -- not to mention the high need on the front range from the Western Slope.
Of that water, the majority, 89 percent, goes to agriculture. "No matter how much development has happened, a far more amount of water goes to agriculture than municipal," said Ullman.
Ullman also explained that water wars and need to irrigate is why and how sharing systems in Colorado developed. Water commissioners, he elaborated, are important to the water process. Part of their work is to review demands from users and ensure water is being shared legally.
Ullman also addressed a pressing concern and commonly asked question about California "coming for Colorado water." In short, he assured, this claim is not necessarily correct. While California wants more water, compacts help keep water across state lines administered fairly based on certain agreed percentages.
Next, Bob Halley with the Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District provided an overview of their purpose and activities. Established in 1961, this district helps repair old and abandoned reservoirs to preserve storage capacity on the Grand Mesa. Part of their funds come from taxes each year and additional needs are supplemented with grants and loans.
Even this water, currently delivering about 400 acre feet, is primarily used for agriculture.
The next presentation, put on by the Arts Center and The Delta County Libraries as part of the ongoing "Voices of the Western Slope" will be "Water 102" on April 18 at 6 p.m. A panel of representatives will highlight spring water and flood water, or free water. Water rights, usage, availability and drought contingencies will also be discussed. A $10 donation is recommended.