Project will aid water data collection

ALAMOSA — A nearly $100,000 project is in the works to help gather data more quickly to make better water decisions in the San Luis Valley.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District Staffer Chet Tokarsky on Tuesday presented a preview for a funding request that will formally come before the Rio Grande Roundtable next month. The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) will be requesting $67,912 from the roundtable towards a proposed $90,550 groundwater level telemetry project. Sub-district #1 will make up the difference.

Tokarsky explained that the project will provide more frequent groundwater monitoring information in the general area encompassed by the first water management sub-district in the Valley. This general area has been the subject of a long-term aquifer storage study, he said, that has recorded the changes in the aquifer levels since the mid-1970’s. The area encompasses about 335,000 acres.

Tokarsky said Sub-District #1 has been operating for several years now with the goal of replacing well pumping injuries to senior water rights as well as recovering the aquifer to a more stable level.

Those goals can be more efficiently met through the proposed groundwater telemetry project, according to Tokarsky. He said observation well data could be retrieved more than once a day (as opposed to monthly now) and shared with water users and the general public so efforts to monitor and control water use could be more immediate and more effective.

This would provide a more targeted approach to water management, Roundtable Board Chairman Nathan Coombs added.

“We are going to have to be more surgical, if you will,” he said.

RGWCD General Manager Cleave Simpson added that this will assist in focusing efforts and incentives on specific areas. He said this kind of information is long overdue.

The data will also help improve the groundwater model relied upon to determine where and how much water needs to be replaced to senior users as a result of well pumping.

Tokarsky described the components of the proposed 20-plus telemetry units, which include pressure transducers, vented cables and telemetry housing devices. If funding comes together, the units will be installed late this year and be operational by February of 2019.