Community Agriculture Alliance: State, federal funding help bridge water supply gap in Colorado

Patrick Stanko
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

With the continued drought that Colorado has been in for the last 20 years, the state and federal governments have been investing in water projects to support the demand for water with dwindling supply. A large amount of money will come to Colorado from the federal government to help the state meet its water needs and the demands of its nine river compacts. 

Colorado has been investing in water supply since the development of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan. These funds have come through the Colorado Water Conservation Board loan and grant programs. 

Today, the Water Conservation Board has a low-interest rate loan program for agriculture, municipal, commercial hydroelectric, and restricted reservoir water projects. The Water Conservation Board has a total of 10 grant programs that will help with water supply gaps. 

Some of the grants cover specific projects like turf replacement, agriculture emergency drought response, Colorado healthy rivers, and public education, participation, and outreach. The Water Plan Grant and Water Supply Reserve Funds are two grants that can be used on projects that will help reduce water supply gaps. 

The Water Plan Grant funds projects to help meet the objectives of the Colorado Water Plan. Water Supply Reserve Funds are used by the nine basin roundtables in Colorado to meet the objectives of their Basin Implement Plan and the Water Plan Grant. 

Since 2005, when the roundtable process was enacted by the Colorado Legislature, the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable has helped facilitate the acquisition of a little more than $5 million for water projects in the basin to help meet the needs of water users. These projects helped agriculture users with diversion upgrades like the Walker Ditch and Maybell Canal headgate replacement, and have helped reservoirs such as Crosho Lake, Stillwater, and Sparks with upgrades and studies to keep the reservoirs viable and safe. 

Water Supply Reserve Funds have been used by the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable for studies for the roundtable and water conservancy districts for storage, White River algae bloom, as well as the needs of agriculture, environment, and recreation.  

At present, the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable has a total of $1.3 million of Water Supply Reserve Funds granted to water projects that are in progress. These projects include agriculture infrastructure such as the Maybell Canal, Dresher Dam, and the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District diversion infrastructure improvement project; environmental and recreational projects like the Elkhead Creek restoration project and the city of Craig’s Yampa River Diversion Park; two integrated water management plans for the White and Yampa Rivers; education programs such as the youth water education by Yampatika, and public education, participation, and outreach by Community Agriculture Alliance.  

The Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable forwards Water Supply Reserve Funds grant applications to the Water Conservation Board four times a year and requires the grantee to submit a Water Conservation Board Water Supply Reserve Funds application and a Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable application. 

The first application deadline for 2024 is this Jan. 18. The other three application deadlines are March 22, Sept. 20, and Nov. 15. The Grants Committee reviews the applications and then sends recommendations to the full roundtable to consider. 

If the roundtable approves the application for Water Conservation Board review, the board decides to grant or not grant the funds. For the full Water Supply Reserve Funds guidelines, review the Water Conservation Board and Yampa-White-Green websites.  

Patrick Stanko is the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable Liaison

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