The Colorado River is an incredibly important water resource for Southwest
about 40 million people rely on the Colorado for drinking water and irrigates five and a
half million acres of agricultural land, it supports hydropower about a twenty six
billion dollar recreation economy and demand and is outpacing supply and so
we're using on average more water than the river provides. Water is everything.
If there's anything that's going to stop any
growth in the West it's going to be water.
If you want to do anything in the West in water you you've got to work with agriculture. We tend
to use about 70 to 80 percent water resources in the Colorado River Basin to grow food and fiber so
we work throughout the Colorado River Basin on partnerships with agriculture to improve
water use for multiple purposes. Our focus is really on building relationships and building partnerships.
In the Yampa River we're working with the Maybelle irrigation district to do some
really fundamental improvements to their system that are gonna help them get more control over
This is the start of the whole Maybelle ditch
and so the water from the river actually enters the ditch here
from these head gates in the divergence structure.
Once it comes into the head gates then it flows down approximately 18 miles for the farmers and AG people to use.
It was hand-built in a lot of areas and they started running water sometime around 1901
and it's not only very important for that community
but it's also important for the town of Maybelle.
Things have changed in the last 20 years.
We used to turn it on full blast in the spring and just let it run and then in the fall we turned it off
and we just can't do that anymore. We have to manage our water
and so some of the projects that the Nature Conservancy has been helping us with
is the management of that water.
We put check structures in their ditch.
What those allow them to do is to check to build the water up
so they can turn it out to the fields without having to run the ditch as full
they can run less water in the ditch
but get it up to where it could get turned out to the fields
and also have some slow the water down
so they're not just having to run as much through to keep those levels up.
Our next project with them will be to help line a portion of the ditch
and then hopefully a much bigger project to replace their diversion on the river itself.
The whole point of the project is to rebuild the head gates and make the diversion structure
more accessible to the recreational folks
more fish friendly for the endangered fish
and more friendly for the irrigation district
and so we're hoping this project will be a win-win for everything.
We'll be able to automate their headgate.
It'll make sure they get just water that they need and anything else will stay in the river.
We're also working on the Price River in Utah to try and figure out how we can address certain flow
needs in the lower-Price River which often goes dry in the summer months.
We're the second driest state in United States so we need to take care and use our water the best way we can.
And we started our partnership there working with a carbon canal company.
Without carbon canal I mean there's 11,000 acres here that that would not be serviced
with water. We divert water out of the Price River you have 250 shareholders, we deliver water to approximately 11,000 acres, we have 27 miles of
open canal. The Nature Conservancy found resources to get the flood control gate replaced and then
next thing is the Olson reservoir project.
Olson reservoir project it's an old and relatively small reservoir in the Carbon canal system.
TNC recently purchased storage rights in the reservoir and that's going to allow us to work with the canal company to manage our water to be able to
deliver it to the river to meet some of those flow needs.
The goal is to bring water that's not being delivered to shareholders from the Karpin Canal over to Olson reservoir and store it here enhance
the wetland habitat here but also store it so that we can later strategically release it to the lower
price River which normally goes dry around July or August to the detriment of rare fish.
This is water that they call it carry water right it's water they use to help move water that they need for
their farmers and shareholders and then at the end of the system that water just you know basically
dumps out into the desert.
The benefits are many.
The shareholders in the Carbon Canal company will benefit because we will pay
fair market value for that water.
Also we are going to replace some of their head gates so that they can better manage their water.
If this can go through it helps the future generations here to have more of a stable flow of water
that would you know benefit everybody down the line not only our operation it might keep alive the species that we in here.
You know ranching operations in the West is a story they they mean a lot to a lot of people it's our job to help to take care of all of it
and that's what I see makes it a little bit easier to do our job.
We're gonna bring a lake back to life out in the middle of the desert down there.
Things will be a lot different adults and as well again it'll be more like when I grew up
it'll be wildlife there they'll be ducks it'll just bring life back to that area where it has kind of slipped away at this point
because of there's lack of water there
because it always ties back to water and the water's the number one thing and you're not going to have wildlife
we're not gonna have a healthy environment here if we don't have the water and so far we have an opportunity to store some of this water instead of just flowing on downstream
I think it's extremely important for the area.
In the Grand Valley western Colorado the primary project that we've worked on over the last few
years is with the Grand Valley Water Users Association. They provide irrigation water for
about twenty four thousand acres and we've been working with them on what we call a conserved
consumptive use pilot project which would work with willing landowners to temporarily reduce
their water use on their properties through you know sort of a number of practices then the
water users Association would make sure they could track and account for that water and working with
them we were able to figure out a mechanism to then return that water to the river both
for the benefit of fish species in the Colorado River here but also for that downstream water
security benefit where it can help bolster those reservoir levels.
Well when we first started talking about water banking or conserve consumptive use doing this pilot program I I was
very against it it to me as a farmer don't make any sense not farming a productive ground.
As we kept getting into it and kept discussing it and arguing about it I become to see it as necessary
I'm not stupid and I know the future and and the future is that we're gonna have to learn
better ways to conserve water
You know farmers want a farm that's what they do
and talking to them about you know not farming and not using their water
is a challenging conversation.
A lot a lot of late nights arguing.
The conversation was really a big part of the benefit of the whole thing yeah and there's just no other way to
have it then to kind of fight your way through it.
Where we got to is that it's really important to have AG voices in the bigger conversations about what we need to do to tackle these broader challenges
on the Colorado River and this was one way that they could really get a seat at the table
and help shape some of those conversations about you know solutions we need and what might work and what might not.
At a more fundamental level the people that participate overcompensated we ask them not to go crop and to leave their water in the river
and that's an economic that decision for them and that works out really well for some farmers they were able to sort of think of
a water sharing program as another rotational crop.
When we first got involved with the Nature Conservancy there was the stigma that that
community needs to stay away from environmental groups and so forth and I have learned working
with them on a regular basis that their goals and my goals in the ditch kameez goals are
are the same.
We align more with Nature Conservancy then we disagree with Nature Conservancy.
I can I can truly say that and they work really hard to make it
even easier for us to align with them.
We could see they weren't here to take our water and and that's always the big concern.
I mean water's...water's the lifeblood of the West and we're in a desert so it's a big deal.
Water is the most precious thing we have.
Our world revolves around it you can't live without it.
It's hard to make money without water.
You don't farm to get rich.
Farming and agriculture's a way of life.
And you got to love the outdoors, you got to love the thrill of putting that seed in the ground and
seeing it grow to maturity and raising a healthy plant and working the land.
It it's a way of life and I guess when it comes down to it that's what I would like to see protected here is a way of life.