Northern Colorado farmers left without water
DENVER – Millions of dollars worth of crops in northern Colorado have been left to die now that three cities and farmers dependent on the South Platte River have rejected an emergency plan that would have allowed other farmers to pump water from their wells.Under the plan, other Front Range cities had agreed to bring in more water from the Western Slope to free up more water for about 200 well-dependent farmers in Weld, Morgan and Adams counties.This week the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which represents 15 western counties, signed off on the deal despite serious concerns about giving up the water. But on Friday, Boulder, Highlands Ranch and Sterling and some farmers rejected the plan, saying it could hurt the river in the long term. They fear allowing the farmers to pump from wells this year will drain the shallow aquifer that supplies both the wells and river and reduce the river’s flow over the next few years.”It’s over,” said state engineer Hal Simps, who shut down the irrigation wells May 5 after he issued a forecast anticipating lower-than-average flows in the river. “It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t find more water. But we’re having a very dry year. We have to enforce the law.”Since the wells take water that would otherwise flow into the river, a law passed three years ago says that wells must be turned off in dry years to make sure that farmers with higher-priority rights get their share of water.Farmer Robert Geisick said half of the 2,400 acres he farms with his three brothers near Wiggins has dried up since the wells were shut off. He said they’ve lost the $184,000 they spent on fees to comply with the law and to plant an onion crop.But Ned Williams, Boulder’s utilities director, said the temporary fix wouldn’t have given farmers all the water they need for their crops and wasn’t a permanent solution because of the long term effects on the river.
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