The Denver Post

Another step for water project

- By Trevor Reid

A two-reservoir water project to supply water to both growing municipali­ties and farmers in northern Colorado is nearer to becoming a reality after receiving the last required federal permit late last year.

Northern Water hopes to supply enough water for 80,000 families annually to 15 cities, towns and water districts with the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which also seeks to provide area farmers with water through exchanges with two local ditch companies.

Northern Water is continuing to address the ditch companies’ concerns and finalizing designs for a reservoir and a canal that support the project, according to Greg Dewey, a project manager and water resources engineer at Northern Water who spoke at the Colorado Farm Show in late January.

“We want to see ag continue to thrive for this area,” Dewey said.

Municipal providers seeking to secure water for growing communitie­s and industry often buy water rights from farms, leaving the farms dry. By constructi­ng new reservoirs and facilitati­ng water exchanges, Northern Water hopes to prevent further “buy and dry” in the area.

To provide the 40,000 acrefeet of water needed by the project’s 15 participan­ts — including multiple Weld County municipali­ties such as Windsor, Frederick and Fort Lupton — about 64,000 acres, or 100 square miles, of farming would have to be dried up, Dewey said. The more farms are dried up, the more challenges ditch companies face in continuing to provide for the remaining farms.

Instead, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, begins with storing up to 170,000 acre-feet of water in a reservoir northwest of Fort Collins, near Colo. 14 and U. S. 287. Slightly larger than Horsetooth Reservoir, Glade Reservoir will divert water from the Poudre River during mostly high-flow times, using the Poudre Valley Canal — with upgrades to about 2 miles of the canal. Water will then be delivered to participan­ts through a pipeline or downriver through Fort Collins before going south through another pipeline.

Galeton Reservoir, northeast of Greeley, will be able to store up to 45,600 acre-feet, with water diverted from the South Platte River at high-flow times. Water will then be delivered to the two ditch companies — New Cache La Poudre Irrigating Company and the Larimer and Weld Irrigation Company — in exchange for water that would otherwise be taken from the Poudre. More than half of the project’s planned diversion from the Poudre River includes water that’s been diverted for decades by the ditch companies, according to Northern Water.

With the storage at Galeton Reservoir, Dewey said, NISP will also be able to provide 25% more water to the ditch companies later in the season from storage, helping extend growing seasons. For example, if a ditch company traded 100 acre-feet in one year, Northern could provide another 25 acrefeet from storage later in the season.

Northern Water is piloting the exchange program, called Watersecur­e, with several farms and continues to work with the ditch companies and shareholde­rs to work out the details. Dewey said the two ditch companies serve about 90,000 acres Northern Water officials would like to see preserved.

Dewey said the estimated $2 billion price tag on the project works out to water that is less expensive than ColoradoBi­g Thompson water — a major supply for the Front Range.

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