In the News...
The Durango Herald
State Sen. Bruce Whitehead has a fine idea in advocating for the state of Colorado to purchase about 10,460 acre feet of water stored in the Animas-La Plata Project's Lake Nighthorse south of Durango.
The reservoir, which began filling last fall, will so far contain water for six local and regional entities: the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes, the Navajo Nation, the San Juan (New Mexico) Water Commission, the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District and the La Plata Water Conservancy District. This purchase would add the state to the list of beneficiaries.
As Whitehead has explained, Colorado would be able to use the water to offset any shortfall in supplies from the Colorado River. That could come from a call on the river, when junior water-rights holders have to reduce their usage in order to satisfy an entity with more senior water rights.
The purpose of the Animas-La Plata Project was to provide water year-round, water that was not previously held by other water districts, municipalities or private parties. Without the A-LP and its “new" stored water, existing water users - mostly irrigators - on the La Plata, Animas and Florida rivers would have had to give up their water to provide the water that the two Indian tribes had not received when their reservations were created almost 150 years ago.
The 10,460 acre feet would cost the state $36 million, money that is coming from gas and oil production taxes designated some time ago to be used to expand state water resources. This is not revenue that can be applied to state general fund spending.
The water purchase has the support of the governor and the state Department of Natural Resources. And the directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the focal organization for meeting water needs in the state, has unanimously approved the purchase.
New water does not become available very often, and the state should take advantage of the opportunity to acquire this water.