Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 21

TH E N E W E CO N O M IC S O F WATE R

Balancing Urban and Agricultural
Water Needs on Colorado's Front Range
By Tanner Ketellapper

Figure 1: Colorado Big-Thompson Project Service Area and Distribution Systems.

IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE REMAINS
an important part of Northern Colorado's
economy, but population growth and urban
expansion along the Front Range have
placed increasing pressure on agricultural
water supplies. To accommodate population
growth and rising urban water demands,
water providers and land developers
in the area have generally purchased
irrigation water rights, thereby drying up
irrigated farms to make water available for
municipal purposes. These "buy and dry"
transfers may result in a large payment to
the landowner, but permanently remove
farmland from production and may damage
farm economies and rural communities in
the long-term.
In an attempt to preserve agricultural
production while simultaneously making
irrigation water available to support
growth, the state of Colorado has promoted
Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs).
ATMs are unconventional water rights
transactions which allow water to be
shared between agricultural and urban
uses through temporary land fallowing,

deficit irrigation, crop switching or other
temporary water conservation methods.
ATMs allow municipalities to firm
their water supplies during dry years,
while keeping water in irrigation use
during wetter years. The 2015 Colorado
Water Plan established a policy goal
implementing 50,000 acre-feet of ATM
projects by 2030, and the Colorado Water
Conservation Board has committed over $3
million in grant funding for ATM studies
and pilot projects. Despite this emphasis,
ATMs have yet to be widely adopted by
municipalities. A recent ATM transaction
involving the city of Broomfield and
Larimer County may help to further
demonstrate the feasibility of sharing water
between agricultural and urban uses and
encourage similar transactions.
In 2016, Larimer County, which
includes the City of Fort Collins and the
City of Loveland, purchased an irrigated
farm with a sizeable water rights portfolio
that included 240 Colorado Big Thompson
project ("C-BT") units, and direct flow
water rights. The County planned to

continue operating the property as a
commercial farm, while using the water
rights to enter into ATM water transfer
agreements with municipal partners. In July
2017, Larimer County finalized the first
such agreement with the City and County of
Broomfield. Broomfield agreed to purchase
115 C-BT units at a price of $25,550 per
unit, which was approximately equivalent
to the current market value of C-BT units.1
Broomfield also purchased the rights to use
an additional 80 units on an interruptible
ATM basis at a reduced price of $10,400 per
unit. Under the ATM structure, Broomfield
holds a perpetual right to use the 80 units
a minimum of three out of every 10 years,
and may call on the water supply during dry
years. In years when Broomfield does not
exercise its right to use the units, the water
will continue to be used for irrigation on
Larimer County's farm property. The C-BT
project's extensive system of conveyance
infrastructure and storage facilities helped
to streamline the transfer process. Figure 1
displays a map of the C-BT project service
area and the location of the Larimer
County Farm relative to the City and
County of Broomfield.
As population continues to rise in
Colorado and other areas of the Western
United States, ATMs are likely to play an
increasingly important role in balancing
competing agricultural and municipal water
demands. While this transaction is relatively
small in scale, it is an important step toward
demonstrating the feasibility of ATM water
transactions, and may encourage additional
municipalities to acquire water through
similar unconventional
transaction structures. ■
Tanner Ketellapper can be reached at tanner@
waterexchange.com.

Reference

1 One C-BT unit provides an average annual yield of
approximately 0.7 acre-feet.

Volume 20 * Number 1 www.awra.org * 21


http://www.awra.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018

President’s Message
The National Water Model Vision
Transforming NOAA Water Prediction: The New National Water Model
Perspectives on the National Water Model
FloodCast: A Framework for Enhanced Flood Event Decision Making for Transportation Resilience
Hurricane Harvey and the National Water Model
Contributions of the Academic Community in Advancing the National Water Model
Turning on the Faucet: Making National Water Model Data Flow
The New Economics of Water: Balancing Urban and Agricultural Water Needs on Colorado’s Front Range
What’s Up with Water: United We Stand, Divided We Fall: States Rights and WOTUS Rule
International Conference Recap
AWRA State Section and Student Chapter News
December JAWRA Highlights
In Memoriam: Ari Michelsen
2018-2019 Richard A. Herbert Memorial Scholarship Opportunities
AWRA Board of Directors 2018 Call for Nominations
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - Intro
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - cover1
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - cover2
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 3
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 4
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - President’s Message
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - The National Water Model Vision
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 7
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - Transforming NOAA Water Prediction: The New National Water Model
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 9
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - Perspectives on the National Water Model
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 11
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - FloodCast: A Framework for Enhanced Flood Event Decision Making for Transportation Resilience
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 13
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - Hurricane Harvey and the National Water Model
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 15
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 16
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - Contributions of the Academic Community in Advancing the National Water Model
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 18
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - Turning on the Faucet: Making National Water Model Data Flow
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 20
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - The New Economics of Water: Balancing Urban and Agricultural Water Needs on Colorado’s Front Range
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - What’s Up with Water: United We Stand, Divided We Fall: States Rights and WOTUS Rule
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 23
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 24
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - International Conference Recap
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - AWRA State Section and Student Chapter News
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - December JAWRA Highlights
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - In Memoriam: Ari Michelsen
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - 2018-2019 Richard A. Herbert Memorial Scholarship Opportunities
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - AWRA Board of Directors 2018 Call for Nominations
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - cover3
Water Resources - IMPACT - January 2018 - cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0319
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0219
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0119
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0618
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0518
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0418
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0318
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0218
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0118
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0617
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0517
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0417
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0317
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0217
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0117
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0616
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0516
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWARS0416
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0316
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0216
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/AWRAS/AWRAS0116
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com