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CSU Water Study Touts Sharing Between Ag, Cities

A new study by a water think tank at Colorado State University tries to tackle the long thorny issue of transferring water rights between farmers and cities.  The report's release comes as water officials from western states meet in New Mexico this week to discuss the region’s looming water woes.

In 2008, the Western Governors Association formally challenged states to find innovative ways to broker water transfers and sharing agreements between cities and agriculture.  CSU’s Colorado Water Institute responded by writing a report, which is now out, that outlines some fifty strategies that are already happening from Colorado to California. 

"There’s only so much water on the Colorado River," says institute director Reagan Waskom.  "If we’re going to continue to expand use, grow new cities and expand the ones we have, we’ve got to find ways to share it. "

But CSU’s water sharing report notes that many proposed water transfers remain controversial and still face a number of logistical hurdles, including a Colorado plan by ditch companies to pool their resources. 

Waskom says such agreements need to be made as working business deals.

"Cities need long term surety of supplies," Waskom says.  "And farmers aren’t sure they want to lock up their water for 20 or 30 years, that almost becomes an inter-generational transfer."

The water policy arm of the Western Governors Association will consider these and other recommendations when it meets in Santa Fe beginning Wednesday. 

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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