Text Size

Site Search

Room For Ag Conservation Within Colorado's Water Rights System


It's one of the most often quoted parts of Colorado water law, and in some ways, the most misunderstood. Use it or lose it. That means water rights holders who don't use all their water could have those rights diminished. And that use it or lose it mentality is often seen as a barrier to water conservation, particularly in agriculture. But recent changes to Colorado law and research into water conservation could lead to changes in irrigation practices. For Connecting the Drops, Maeve Conran reports.

 IMG 20171208 115147web

Listen to the Story


Pair Sound with Sight 

IMG 20171208 115147web
Jason VonLembke, VP of United Water and Sanitation District and project manager for SIEP checks a pump system for the drip irrigation at the SIEP research facility. 
IMG 20171208 120559web
Subsurface drip tape is placed 10 inches below the soil surface in rows that are approximately three feet apart. Early problems with subsurface irrigation included clogging of the holes from not finely enough filtered water in the drip tape and root intrusion into the tape. The new tape has a double flap door system to eliminate root intrusion.  
IMG 20171208 115209web
Alfalfa has been grown for one year at the SIEP facility. What they've seen so far is that the crop has a linear relationship with the water it receives: If you reduce 30 percent of the water that the crop is receiving, you're going to see the same amount of reduction in yield. 
IMG 20171208 120844web
Researcher Manijeh Varzi has completed her PhD thesis on SIEP. Jason VonLembke, project manager for SIEP stands with Varzi. They say there are two main barriers to implementing subsurface irrigation technology. The first barrier is price: It can cost approximately $1,700 per acre to install. The second barrier is incentive: "Right now, with the laws being the way they are with water rights, there isn't really an incentive for growers to save their water. They do apply as much as they can because if they don't, it just runs down the stream."


Connecting the Drops Partners

Connecting the Drops is a radio collaboration between Water Education Colorado and Colorado Community Radio Stations KGNU, KDNK and KRCC.


 Support for 2017 programming comes from CoBank

1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218