Arvada, CO – September 1, 2016 – Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has released a report summarizing the results of a survey of irrigated agricultural producers about leasing water. CCA’s Ag Water NetWORK initiated the survey, which was conducted to better understand the interests, concerns and perspectives of agricultural water right holders about the topic of ag water right leasing.
The state water plan, released in November, 2015, estimates Colorado’s population of 5.4 million could nearly double to 10 million by 2050. The plan estimates that the increased demand for water could result in the loss of as much as one-fourth of Colorado’s irrigated agricultural land through the purchase and transfer of water rights from agriculture to urban areas. Such large-scale dry-up of irrigated agriculture would have permanent adverse economic, environmental and food security impacts.
To minimize ‘buying and drying’ of irrigated farmland, the water plan emphasizes water conservation, increased storage, and temporary leasing of ag water as the means for closing the projected water supply/demand gap. Irrigated fields may be fallowed or under-irrigated to ‘free up’ consumptive use water for temporary leasing for municipal, industrial, recreational, environmental or other uses.
Findings of the survey include:
- About two-thirds of respondents expressed interest in leasing ag water.
- Income diversification was seen as the greatest potential advantage of leasing water.
- Reduced total delivery was preferred over rotational fallowing or deficit irrigation as a means of generating consumptive use water for leasing.
- There is concern that ag water rights could be put in jeopardy if they are leased for other uses.
- Acceptable lease rates will vary with location.
- Ag producers expressed concern about the impact of temporary fallowing on soil quality.
- Given a choice, respondents preferred leasing their water rights over selling by a 20:1 margin.
- More research is needed on cropping system and soil quality under reduced or fallow irrigation.
The report, entitled “2016 Ag Water Right Holder Survey Results,” is available at http://coloradocattle.org/agwaternetwork.aspx. The mission of the Agricultural Water NetWORK is to help “keep ag water connected with ag land.” The Ag Water NetWORK is partially funded through a grant to Partners for Western Conservation/Colorado Cattlemen’s Association by the Walton Family Foundation (www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org).
Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is the premier cattlemen’s association that works to advance the legacy and viability of beef production for our members.