Top stories of 2018 in SLV: #6--Water trial and tribulations

At a Rio Grande Water Conservation District special meeting from left are Sean Tonner, Kevin Kinnear and Jerry Berry, representing Renewable Water Resources, which is proposing to export 22,000 acre feet of water from the San Luis Valley to south Denver metro./Courier photo by Ruth Heide

VALLEY — Water made the news this year, with a water trial held early in the year and a water export proposal announced at year’s end.

A trial on groundwater regulations for the Rio Grande Basin occupied the better part of three weeks in late January and early February. The water trial, originally scheduled for eight weeks, began on January 29 and concluded on February 14. Chief District/Water Judge Pattie Swift heard arguments from a variety of witnesses ranging from farmers to technical experts regarding proposed regulations that will affect hundreds of well owners across the San Luis Valley. Most of the objections to the rules were resolved short of the trial, with the primary remaining objector being 2 J Ranch Group and the specific area of contention centering around Arroya Springs (also known as Diamond Springs) in Conejos County. Judge Swift had not yet issued a decision regarding the well rules by December 28.

A potential water export proposal came to light at the end of the year. During a special meeting of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, Renewable Water Resources (RWR) spokesmen on December 6 outlined plans for a 22,000-acre-foot water export project stemming from the northern San Luis Valley to customers in the south metro Denver area. RWR purchased the late Gary Boyce holdings encompassing 11,500 acres in the northern part of the Valley. Boyce had proposed a similar water export project. The project would budget $60 million for water acquisition to replace the 22,000-acre-foot withdrawal and $50 million for a community fund. The estimated cost of building the pipeline to export the water is $550-600 million. RWR spokesmen said they had held multiple meetings with Valley residents possibly interested in selling their water rights. Nothing has yet been filed in water court.