Improving Flows While Respecting Water Rights
The heavily used Poudre River can go dry at a number of locations throughout the year. For a variety of reasons, neither a new instream flow appropriation nor one or two water acquisitions can address issues of low streamflow on the Poudre. A subcommittee of the Poudre Runs Through It is pursuing some innovative ways to increase river flows at critical times and places along the river without in any way harming private property rights.
Success in such water matters does not come overnight, but we have made steady progress on this keystone project, ably assisted by the Colorado Water Trust. We have lined up funding to develop the legal and engineering work necessary to pursue filing a river augmentation plan – the first of its kind in Colorado and one the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board had never thought of! Usually, augmentation plans are used to supply substitute water for consumptive needs. If successful, using augmentation plans to structure instream flows will be enormously beneficial on many rivers statewide, not just the Poudre.
With an administrative approval system built into the initial, comprehensive water court application and agreement with the CWCB, a local managing entity (yet to be defined) can respond to a given year’s predicted hydrologic condition by purchasing or leasing available water for instream flow use without the ongoing burden of water court. Through initial scoping, we believe our augmentation plan can be created through a successful water court application, placed in the hands of a local managing entity, and overseen by an agreement with the CWCB.
Our subcommittee consists of major water users on the Poudre and others (including the Cache la Poudre Water Users Association, the City of Fort Collins Utilities and Natural Areas Departments, the City of Thornton, Northern Water, New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Company, North Poudre Irrigation Company, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Division of Water Resources, The Nature Conservancy, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and local citizens). With funding on the horizon, we are ready to take the next step forward and steer the concept towards implementation.