So You Want to Expand Your Reservoir

So You Want to Expand Your Reservoir…, February 2011

DARCA is planning to hold this important workshop at a later date. We will let you know when and where.

A surging population base in Colorado and the uncertainties of a changing climate are putting pressures on the historic ways of allocating the state’s water resources.  As a result, Colorado water providers are developing adaptive and mitigative strategies to deal with this finite resource.  Storage water will play a critical role in maintaining and enhancing the water portfolio of mutual ditch and reservoir companies.  One promising strategy, the development and expansion of high mountain reservoirs, is especially attractive as this allows more options for all users within the system.  For instance, a reservoir close to the headwaters of a water source may be allowed to fill out of priority with the condition that the water may have to be released to senior downstream users.  Moreover, many existing reservoirs can be expanded with relatively minimal cost and impact to the ecosystem.

Unfortunately, transaction costs (permits, required studies..) in today’s regulatory climate make it too costly and therefore infeasible for limited resource ditch companies to expand, let alone build new reservoirs.  Other barriers may take the form of environmental requirements such as wetland and endangered species issues. Unintended consequence may result;  e.g. limited resource ditch companies may be forced to convert historic agricultural water to municipal or industrial.

Some seemingly, simple improvements to existing reservoirs on the Grand Mesa have stalled as they have become bogged down in the regulatory process.  The workshop will include presentations from ditch companies and other water providers, consultants, and government officials with emphasis on reservoirs on the Grand Mesa. Topics will include the biology and science of fens, a recently released white paper on draft regional permit, and the issues involved in the federal permitting process.