U.S. Water News Online
DENVER -- A Senate committee in the Colorado legislature
has cut $500,000 from a study of statewide water projects for the
so-called ``Big Straw'' plan to reuse water from the Colorado River
after members questioned whether it would ever be built.
Sen. Ron Teck said the state needs to take steps now to prepare
for the next drought.
``I'm not saying Big Straw is viable or something that can be
done, but I'm convinced if we can put men on the moon, we can solve
some of the technical issues that are brought up in moving water. I
think this is probably one of the more creative solutions I have seen
to trying to solve the water problems in this state,'' Teck said.
Sen. Terry Phillips, D-Louisville, said the study is a waste of
``I feel it's more fantasy than anything else. Putting men on the
moon is far different than trying to make water flow uphill,''
Phillips said the money should be used to repair dams and expand
The other studies left in Senate Bill 110 will review logging and
the impact on water supplies and compile a list of water supplies in
each of the seven major water basins. It now goes to the full Senate
The multibillion-dollar ``Big Straw'' project, also called the
Colorado Return Project, would pump at least 400,000 acre feet, or
enough for about 2 million people, from the Colorado River at the
Utah border east to reservoirs like Dillon that serve metropolitan
Colorado has never taken its full share of about 3.75 million acre
feet because it lacks adequate storage facilities, using only about 3
million acre feet of that total.
The committee also approved Senate Bill 73, which would allow well
owners to pump water this year as long as they file a plan within
three years to offset their water use by returning some water to the
South Platte River.
Sen. Dave Owen, R-Greeley, said the bill was not an attempt to
overturn the state's 150-year-old policy of first use. He said it was
designed to provide time to work out disputes over South Platte water
while the state suffers through one of the worst droughts in recorded
Sen. Ken Chlouber, R-Leadville, said the bill would pit farmer
against farmer for existing water supplies.
``People have defended first in time, first in right to the death.
What we are kind of doing with this bill is trying to pick who is
going to be the least hurt and buy three years of time and hope it
will rain. If you do that, you might put senior water right holders
out of business,'' Chlouber said.
Owen said there is no guarantee if well users give up their water
to senior rights that those users will fare any better.
Owen said the Great Western sugar plant closed in Greeley and laid
off 38 people, and if the wells are shut down, there will be an
estimated $131 million loss to the farm economy in northern Colorado.
Most of the wells in question are owned by members of Groundwater
Appropriators of the South Platte, which had resisted a requirement
that they file operation plans in water court.
Group members had thought their well operation plans were
legitimate because the state engineer approved similar plans in other
areas of the state.
Work on the agreement began after a water judge ruled in December
that the state engineer did not have the authority to approve the
well owners' operation plans. That dispute is currently before the
state Supreme Court. Owen said the bill would not affect the outcome
of that fight.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.