Man working in a corn field
Irrigating the cornfields near Xcel Energy’s Pawnee power station. This site is a great example of an ATM project at work in Colorado.

view up a valley
Vineyards in the Grand Valley, near Palisade. The valley is a major fruit growing region, with a large number of orchards including wine grapes and peaches. Photo: M. Nager.

Colorado's Water Plan & Agriculture

Colorado's Water Plan acts as a foundation for Colorado to honor the State's core water values. One of Colorado's water values is a productive economy that supports viable and productive agriculture. Agriculture uses the largest amount of water in Colorado and is the economic backbone for many rural communities. It supports important environmental attributes, strengthens Colorado's food security, and upholds our state's cultural identity. Preserving agriculture is vital to Colorado.

Colorado faces many big water challenges, including agricultural dry-up. The purchase and permanent transfer of agricultural water rights is causing irrigated agriculture to disappear. At the current rate of transfer, there will be a major reduction in Colorado's agricultural lands in the future. This could affect Colorado's economy and food security. In addition, rural communities could suffer along with agriculture if enough agricultural business goes away. Colorado's Water Plan will respect property rights and the contributions of the agricultural industry by maximizing options for alternatives to permanent agricultural dry-up.

The plan sets an objective that agricultural economic productivity will keep pace with growing state, national, and global needs, even if some acres go out of production. To achieve this objective, the State will work closely with the agricultural community, in the same collaborative manner that has produced agricultural transfer pilot projects, to share at least 50,000 acre-feet of agricultural water using voluntary alternative transfer methods by 2030.

Read more about agriculture in Colorado\'s Water Plan Chapter 6.4: Alternative Agricultural Transfers.


Ag Water Summit - November 29, 2016

The Interbasin Compact Committee(IBCC) and Colorado Ag Water Alliance (CAWA) held an Ag Water Summit on November 29, 2016with 175 participants from across the state. The summit focused on identifying concrete ways to achieve the measurable objective in Colorado's Water Plan to share at least 50,000 acre-feet of agricultural water using voluntary alternative transfer methods (ATMs) by 2030.The day included discussions on successful current agricultural transfer method(ATM) projects from the perspective of agriculture, municipal and industrial, and environmental and recreational water users, common denominators and obstacles to ATMs, legal and legislative issues related to ATMs, and best next steps to move ATMs forward.


Title Presenter
Review of CO Cattlemen's Association/CAWA Survey Phil Brink - CCA, Ag Water Network, Brink Inc.
Aurora Water - ATMs Arkansas Basin Gerry Knapp - Aurora Water
Fountain/Fowler ATM Michael Fink - Fountain/Fowler
Successful ATM projects: Xcel Energy View Richard Belt - Xcel Energy
How Might a "Water Bank" Work? Aaron Derwingson - The Nature Conservancy
Lower Gunnison Project David Kanzer - CO River Water Conservation
Three Critical Elements for ATM Success Peter Nichols - Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti
Promising Developments & Legal Tweaks Anne Castle - Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment
Statutory Provisions Kevin Rein - CO Division of Water Resources