Workshops on Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs)
These workshops address how Colorado’s valuable irrigated agricultural lands can be protected for future generations by the creation and adoption of alternatives to permanent agricultural dry-up. Called “Alternative Transfer Methods” (ATMs), should be important voluntary tools that can provide water to a growing population in the state while still being beneficial to farmers, ranchers, and ditch and reservoir companies.
ATM’s are a collection of different techniques for the allocation and distribution of agricultural water. While traditional transfer methods have left farms dry and non-irrigable, ATM’s strive to maintain a healthy agricultural economy, while providing water sharing opportunities for municipal, industrial, and environmental purposes. Some of the ATM programs include: interruptible supply agreements, long-term rotational fallowing, municipal-agricultural water use sharing, water cooperatives, water bank storage and management, deficit/partial irrigation practices, alternate cropping types, and flex markets.
Colorado’s Water Plan outlines and presents these tools including: the availability of grants; examples of implementation; and existing ATM legislation. While ATMs look like a sensible and important tool to remedy water problems, the adoption has lagged behind the expectations of many – attributed to technical, legal, institutional, social, and financial obstacles. The impediments associated with ATMs include: high transaction costs associated with water court processes, engineering and legal fees; water rights administration issues; water providers needing permanence and certainty of long-term supply; infrastructure constraints; and water quality issues. With that said, DARCA is keenly interested in learning from ditch companies and their farmer/rancher shareholders what makes sense to them.
DARCA’s ATMs workshops will go over topics including the fundamentals of currently proposed ATMs and their role in Colorado’s Water Plan, an economist’s perspective of ATMs, an in depth discussion of the problems of implementing ATMs, how DARCA is helping to promote ATMs, and most importantly, the concerns of ditch companies and their shareholders. While impediments do exist, creative minds should be able to come up with solutions that will foster the adoption of ATMs so that Colorado’s agricultural water supplies are more secure for future generations.