- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - The group helping craft a plan for Colorado’s water is emphasizing the economic importance of agriculture.

The Interbasin Compact Committee agreed on Tuesday to language that stresses the economic impact of farms and ranches and says that future water projects must consider any negative effects on agriculture.

The committee has 27 members- water experts, lawmakers, engineers, farmers and others - from water basins around the state. The state water plan is expected to be largely based on input from the committee.

The Tribune (http://bit.ly/1dN7ZZl) reports that agriculture has been at the heart of the committee’s discussions on new water supplies.

T. Wright Dickinson of Maybell has been among those pushing the hardest for protecting agriculture.

“There’s the assumption … that to meet the water needs of everyone else, ag will crumble. I won’t be any part of it. There has to be language (in the water plan) that says Colorado will do everything it can,” said Dickinson, a former president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

Agriculture uses about 85 percent of the state’s water supplies, so with water supplies tight, growing Colorado cities have been able to get relatively cheap access to more water by buying water supplies from farms and ranches.

Committee members said farmers should work with cities and environmentalists to create water banks and other alternative ways for them to transfer water to urban areas, rather than sell their water rights outright and take their land out of production.

“We have to do everything we can not to exacerbate ‘buy and dry,’” said Eric Wilkinson, the general manager of the Northern Colorado Conservancy District, which oversees the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. “We can’t keep doing what we’re doing.”

Committee members will now discuss the draft language with people back home in their basins.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has asked for a draft report by the end of next year.


Information from: The Tribune of Greeley, Co, http://greeleytribune.com