Abstract Water

Renewable Water Resources Proposal

Protect our Water

FROM A RECKLESS TRANS-BASIN
WATER DIVERSION ATTEMPT

Stay involved in the fight to stop water removal

from the San Luis Valley

Agua es Vida – Water is Life 
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Latest Updates

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Blanca Wetlands, Alamosa County

1. After hearing from the San Luis Valley constituency and state of Colorado Water Plan experts, since November of 2021, Douglas County Commissioners have recently decided (May 2022) to not move ahead with the controversial Renewable Water Resources (RWR) water project proposal to pump 22,000 acre feet of water/per year from the San Luis Valley “confined” aquifer in Saguache County. This proposal included plans to build a trans-basin pipeline that would ship groundwater over mountain passes and travel through three Counties to be held in reservoirs hundreds of miles away, and then sold to an unidentified end user in Douglas County.

 

2. The Douglas County commissioners have decided not to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars on the controversial RWR water supply project but may consider it again in the future.

 

3. “Right now there are simply too significant and enormous of hurdles for us to move forward on this project,” Commissioner Abe Laydon said. “That’s not to say that we can’t explore this in the future, I think we certainly can, but RWR will have to do significant additional homework on all of these fronts (referring to Stephen Leonhardt’s Attorney memo, hired by Douglas County) to accomplish that.”

This is good news for the San Luis Valley and it speaks to the hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who spoke out against this unviable proposal."
–State Senator Cleave Simpson

Articles

1. Alamosa Citizen:  RWR plan has too many holes for Douglas County ARPA investment

2. The Denver Channel News: Douglas Co. commissioners decide not to use ARPA money on San Luis Valley water proposal

3. Parker Chronicle: Douglas County will not use COVID funds on San Luis Valley water project

 

Douglas County Commissioners

  • Commissioner Abe Laydon, District I - has indicated he has not taken a position.

  • Commissioner Lora Thomas, District III - has stated she does not support the RWR proposal.

  • Commissioner George Teal, District II - has stated, “As a Douglas County commissioner, any opportunity to bring water into the county I think does bear serious consideration.”

 

Key Facts
about the proposal 

Following are some key messages you may consider when considering this proposal.
Water Export

Here is the latest on the Renewable Water Resources Plans (RWR) to take water from the San Luis Valley and Export it to Douglas County.

1. The RWR plan would divert 22,000 acre feet of water per year, in perpetuity, out of the San Luis Valley to Douglas County. Right now, Douglas County is the 6th wealthiest County in the United States. This is an Environmental Justice issue!

 

2. The RWR proposal calls for the commissioners of Douglas County to allocate $10 million of Douglas County discretionary funds to assist the company in exporting the water.

3. There is no renewable water in the SLV to export. There is no water available to be moved outside the San Luis Valley to Douglas County.

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La Jara Reservoir

 

SLV Wetland Habitats

 1. Whether it is for nesting, breeding, feeding, or resting, all species that migrate through the San Luis Valley depend on the region’s wetlands. Wetlands are highly productive ecosystems that exist in low-lying depressions in the terrain.

 

2. Wetlands are often referred to as the “kidneys” of the earth because they filter out pollutants, excess nutrients, and sediment from surface waters.

 

3. Wetlands are also essential to the recharging of groundwater and protection against flooding and erosion events.

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White Faced Ibis

4. Wetlands are both the Valley’s most valuable and vulnerable ecosystems. While only representing 2% of Colorado’s total area, wetland and riparian habitats support over 80% of wildlife species throughout their lives (Wetland Dynamics, p 36, 2019).

5. Wetlands are believed to be the most imperative habitats for birds that are classified as “at-risk” (Rondeau et al., pg. 93). In other words, Colorado’s most threatened species are also most reliant on wetland ecosystems.

 
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Willow Flycatcher

6. Due to reduced precipitation, severe droughts, earlier peak runoff, unsustainable agricultural practices, and high demands from water users, wetlands in the SLV have suffered.

 

7. Wetland Dynamics, a small women owned business committed to the conservation of critical SLV ecosystems, reports that nearly half of the Valley’s total wet acres have been lost since the 1980’s (pg. 80). With water use continuing to exceed supply, conservation of local water resources will be instrumental to restoring and protecting these habitats.

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Blanca Wetlands

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Lobatos Bridge, San Luis

Drought

1. The San Luis Valley receives less precipitation than nearly any other region in Colorado.

 

2. Between July 2019 and July 2020 the valley’s unconfined aquifer, which is fed by the Rio Grande River, dropped by 112,600 acre-feet. 

 

3. The state of Colorado has Rio Grande water delivery compact obligations to the downstream states of New Mexico, who have obligations to Texas, who have obligations to the Country of Mexico. Tensions are already brewing around Elephant Butte Reservoir, in southern New Mexico, where storage is at 7.3% of capacity.

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Stream near Elk Creek, Conejos County

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Environmental Impact

1. There is no environmental "net gain" from RWR's proposal. Their plan to add 9,000 acre feet back into the aquifer would require them to eventually develop 'buy and dry' programs across the entire San Luis Valley.  

 

2. RWR would pump water out of a concentrated area that will harm nearby creeks and streams that flow through the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and the San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Areas.

3. The Valley supports at least 13 threatened and endangered species and more than 260 species of birds, including the sandhill cranes. RWR puts all wildlife, including these threatened/endangered species, at risk. That's why 25 environmental and conservation groups have come out in opposition.

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Sandhill Crane

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Endangered Yellow Billed Cuckoo Bird

4. All water in the Valley is connected. Therefore, removing water from both aquifers can reduce river and stream flows. Pumping water out of the deep aquifer can also affect water levels in the shallow aquifer. This could negatively impact the environment, including streams, rivers, fish and wildlife.

 

Project Impact Maps

RWR Water Export Environmental Impacts on San Luis Valley

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High priority Big Game Habitat

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High Priority Fish Habitat

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Parcels Map

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Bird Habitat Co nflicts

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CNHP Conservation Areas

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Colorado Streamflow Forecast Summary

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Opposition

1. San Luis Valley cities, farmers and residents universally oppose the RWR proposal. The Protect our Water coalition consists of 15 water districts and entities as well as more than 20 cities and towns and over 20 conservation and environmental groups. Our group continues to grow. 

2. RWR's plan is outdated and out of touch with the realities of Colorado Water, climate change and drought. The era of large, expensive transbasin diversions is over. This is not a good investment and proponents/speculators are not likely to be satisfied with just 22,000 acre feet.

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North Crestone Lake, Crestone CO

3. The goal of Colorado's Water Plan is to avoid agricultural 'buy and dry' throughout the state and end new transbasin diversions that are not supported by all impacted basins of origin.

 

4. There have been several attempts to transport water out of the Valley, and all have been defeated. RWR is undermining efforts in the Valley to solve water scarcity problems locally. RWR's project will put additional strain on the local economy, environment and communities, making successful aquifer recovery and sustainable agriculture even more challenging.​

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Elk Creek, Conejos County

 
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Economic Impact

1. RWR's plan faces insurmountable odds of ever getting done. The project will cost billions of dollars to pay for the water when you figure in federal permitting, water court fees, land acquisition and easements and infrastructure costs (miles of pipeline installed over Poncha Pass to move water from the Valley to the Front Range).

 

2. It's a bad investment for Douglas County, and siphoning off funds that could go to more viable water projects. RWR says it will use reservoirs that belong to Denver Water and Aurora Water, which would require agreements and contracts with these water providers that do not exist.

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De Vargas Crossing, Justice and Heritage Academy, Antonito, CO

3. RWR's $50 million community fund would be a one-time payment and will not go far. The long-term consequences of the project will damage the local agricultural economy and far outweigh any short-lived benefits of a one-time payment. 

4. Agriculture is the economic driver of the San Luis Valley. The roughly 1,600 mostly family-owned farms and ranches in the Valley account for close to $400 million in market value of products sold. Colorado is the second largest potato growing region in the U.S. Every facet of the local economy is dependent on agriculture. Water leaving the Valley will only harm the economy and every job sector. The San Luis Valley does not want 'buy and dry for export' to devastate our community, like what happened in Crowley County.

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Rio Grande River, Del Norte

 

Important Links

Orient Land Trust 

They have put together some excellent resources and information regarding the RWR proposal. Check out sample letter templates and learn about ways to contact the Douglas County commissioners. 

Protect SLV Water 

More information about efforts to combat the latest SLV water effort attempt. 

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Zapata Falls 

Social Media:
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Real time information and updates about the RWR Proposal. Follow us for a compilation of articles and news stories with information about the proposal and the opposition to the plan. 

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Alamosa Citizen 
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