Simpson shares SLV water challenges

Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Cleave Simpson, left, gives a presentation to the Rio Grande Roundtable on Tuesday regarding water challenges. Seated are Roundtable Chairman Nathan Coombs and Vice-Chair Emma Reesor, who were re-elected to head the Roundtable group on Tuesday. Simpson made a similar presentation earlier in the day to the Alamosa County commissioners./Courier photo by Ruth Heide

ALAMOSA — Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Cleave Simpson shared some of the challenges that lie ahead for the district with the Alamosa Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The San Luis Valley and the Rio Grande Basin are still in a severe drought pattern and forecasting from NOAA indicates that this pattern is not expected to change much in the coming months, Simpson pointed out.

The Rio Grande Basin is currently at 76 percent of average for precipitation, which is still well below what is needed to meet demand. As a result, Sub-district #1 is having challenges meeting the sustainability mandate from the state.

Simpson also made reference to the letter that he received from State Engineer Kevin Rein, which made it clear that meeting the mandate is a “critical situation.” Rein also pointed out that if notable progress was not made with recovering depletions within Sub-district #1, the state would by law be required to begin the curtailment of wells within the sub district.

Another critical issue that the district currently faces is another proposal for a water export scheme, Simpson explained. Renewable Water Resources is proposing to drill additional wells in the northern portion of the Valley and send 22,000 acre feet of water out of the Valley.

Simpson has been meeting with representatives from the company and the proposal has been brought before the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board. Members of the board are expected to reach consensus and make the district’s position on the issue official at their next meeting on Tuesday, January 15th. Simpson did point out that he would be “shocked,” if the board was not against the proposal.

Simpson let the commissioners know that he will be sure to keep them up to date on what takes place.