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Old 05-08-2007, 08:23 AM
 
3 posts, read 9,353 times
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My family and I have been planning on moving to Colorado or possibly New Mexico, however I have been reading on the internet about a water shortage. We wanted to live in a rural area which would require a private well, but the real estate details on some properties say a private well is for household use only--you cannot use the water outside at all. I'd like a garden. We don't want to invest most of our life savings in an area that could take a big economic downturn because of a shortage of water. Does anyone have the facts? I'm having a hard time finding the information I need on the internet.

Thanks for your help,
Minute
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Old 05-08-2007, 08:36 AM
 
20,844 posts, read 39,064,756 times
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There are full discussions of 'water' already in the CO forum. Use Search this Forum tool with keywords like water or drought or stream or irrigation to find them. Try both radio buttons, the one for 'posts' and the one for 'threads.'

This gets you quicker answers and none of us have to re-key & repeat what's already been input to our collective knowledge.

s/mike from back east
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Old 05-08-2007, 09:47 AM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,785,875 times
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Colorado, and the West in general, is headed for severe water problems. Virtually every water basin in the state of Colorado is "overappropriated." That means that there are more water rights granted than there is actual water available in a "normal" year. (And much of the Rocky Mountain West has, in fact, been locked in a long-term drought for several years.) So, those who have more "junior" rights can get partially or wholly cut off in a water short year. In order to protect themselves, cities and towns have been on binge for years of purchasing senior water rights (mostly agricultural rights) and converting them to municipal use. That has kept the growth party going in the suburban areas, but it has dried up countless wetlands, farms, and ranches around the state. That pillaging of agricultural water for municipal use continues unabated.

Another problem that Colorado has confronted for over a century is that most of the precipitation, thus most of the water, falls on the west side of the Continental Divide (the Western Slope) and most of the people live on the Eastern Slope. So, over the years, there have been numbers of diversion projects built to divert Western Slope water to the Eastern Slope. That has bitterly divided the state politically right along the Continental Divide.

More grandiose schemes continue to be promoted to divert more water to the Eastern Slope, but at some point there has to be a limit to what is feasible or affordable.

Lately, a popular place for Front Range cities to go "water shopping" has been the Arkansas River valley east of Pueblo (Aurora has been big on this, thus my contempt for that city). That has effectively dried up one of the most productive agricultural areas in Colorado. Other cities are doing the same thing in the ag areas of the South Platte drainage around Brush, Fort Morgan, and Sterling.

I think it is hideous that Colorado agriculture (and wetlands) are being dried up so that people in Front Range suburbia can irrigate their @#$%&*!!! non-native Kentucky bluegrass lawns.

As to Minute's specific question about well water, you are right. A domestic well permit in Colorado only allows very limited irrigation. I believe the State Engineer's webiste should have information about that. And, several of the underground acquifers, most notably the Denver Basin acquifer that covers most of Dougals County is in serious decline.

Yes, water limitations will eventually strangle future growth in Colorado and much of the arid West. Experts debate endlessly when that limit will be reached. I happen to think it is not that far off. If, as some experts believe, the West is locked into a decades-long drought cycle--whether or not it is caused or aggravated by global warming (another debate in and of itself), those limits could come sooner rather than later.

Of course, the Pollyannas, Chamber of Commerce types, and real estate salespeople will chime in and say, "Not to worry, everything's fine." Go stand in a dried-up field that used to be irrigated, or look at a nearly empty reservoir that used to spill every year, or hike around high mountains that used to be snow-covered until July that haven't seen that for years, or check a well that used to have water at 300 feet and now it's at 900--THEN try to say that the water situation is "OK." It's not.

Last edited by jazzlover; 05-08-2007 at 10:03 AM..
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:03 AM
 
2,755 posts, read 11,742,357 times
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I think the problem is that nobody really knows how long the groundwater will last. We're well-past sustainability when it comes to groundwater use, so every acre-foot of water pumped is water that will never be replenished, at least not in our lifetimes.

What will happen is not that the aquifers will completely dry up, but rather that it will become more and more expensive to pump the water out of the ground at greater and greater depths, until finally groundwater is not an economical source of water anymore. (In other words, it will cost more in gasoline or diesel to pump the water than the water itself is worth).

Communities that rely primarily on groundwater will be in big trouble at that point, and it's not just acreages that rely on groundwater. Even large communities such as Highlands Ranch rely primarily on groundwater for their supplies. (An inexcusably myopic planning decision in my opinion). Once the groundwater is not economical to pump any more, presumably communities like Highlands Ranch will have the resources to buy agricultural water out east and invest in the infrastructure to haul the water to their residents -- they would be forced to do so at any price, or the community would literally dry up and become abandoned -- this won't happen because there's too much invested to let it happen. If Highlands Ranch had any sense at all, they would immediately follow Aurora's lead and buy up agricultural water rights NOW, but they won't of course take that step until it's too late and the water is gone. Smaller communities and individuals on acreages would be the real losers in a scenario like that. For them, their land value would instantly go to zero since it would cost more money to find new water than the value of the land plus improvements, so that will lead to abandonment.

Some might say that this would be a good thing, since it might tame the sprawl-monster. The problem is that our agricultural economy would be destroyed in the process.

Unfortunately there's no one out there willing to take the hard steps needed to solve the problem -- so we will have to wait until the wells all go dry before we see action on this issue.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:17 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
4,798 posts, read 4,901,271 times
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I think the water shortage is real and is getting worse.

When I bought my house, I decided that city water and sewer were a "Must" because everyone that I know who has a well and septic eventually has a big, expensive problem.

The Real Estate developers are even building Golf Courses here that depend on well water. No thought of long term sustainability exists. It's all about making big profits now.

If your well goes dry, the land is worthless. That's a risk I'm unwilling to take.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:27 AM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,785,875 times
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tfox makes some good points. The truly sad fact is that, were Colorado not so addicted to stupid suburban sprawl, there could be enough water for everyone. Water use can be classified two ways: consumptive and non-consumptive. Non-consumptive use is when the water is used, then returned to a stream or river. Consumptive use is when water is used in a way that it does not return to a stream or river, such as evaporation when water is used for irrigating. Water sourced from wells is almost always consumptive use because the water can not generally be returned to the acquifer.

Agricultural use of water is, by its very nature, consumptive because the water is taken up by growing plants and evapotransporated to the atmosphere. But, it's growing food! Lawn irrigation, the big user of municipal water out there in suburbia, is also consumptive, but it produces nothing but grass. If a house is connected to a municipal sewer system, much of the inside use of water is non-consumptive--the sewer system returns the water to a stream eventually (albeit probably not the stream of its origin).

So, were Colorado to embrace cluster development and mandated xeriscaping, it could have enough water for population growth and agriculture. If it doesn't, either agriculture or growth has to go. So far, it's been agriculture taking the hit. Some would say that's OK, up until the point that we can't produce or import enough food to feed ourselves.

Were I "King-ding-a-ling," I would prohibit the further diversion of water from agriculture to municipal use, and tell the cities that they would have to manage with the water they have. Let them make the choice as to whether they wish to make their water use more efficient (non-consumptive) to accomodate growth, or choose to say "we're big enough." Being a former agriculturalist, I happen to think that maintaining agriculture is going to be more critical to our long-term survival economically than seeing how many Kentucky bluegrass lawns we can grow in a semi-desert.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:48 AM
 
5,748 posts, read 10,742,533 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
I think it is hideous that Colorado agriculture (and wetlands) are being dried up so that people in Front Range suburbia can irrigate their @#$%&*!!! non-native Kentucky bluegrass lawns.
This is an interesting point. I often read comments at other sites from people who can't understand why the lots are so small here in the Denver burbs, but I don't think those people have a clue about the water situation. I'll do without the bluegrass, so I can bathe & do laundry. Huge lawns are expensive & time-consuming to maintain. I'd rather live in a neighborhood with a community park than spend my days worried about mowing, fertilizing, & watering an expanse of highly over-rated sod.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:51 AM
 
Location: South of Denver
291 posts, read 1,916,803 times
Reputation: 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Minute View Post
private well is for household use only--you cannot use the water outside at all. I'd like a garden. We don't want to invest most of our life savings in an area that could take a big economic downturn because of a shortage of water.
Minute,
Yes, water can be a problem, but if you are serious about a real garden, there are properties that come with water rights. While they are rare, it is possible.

I lived in a small mountain community where they limited us to 2,000 gallons a month. Most of us had cisterns and horse-tank tubs to catch rain water to water outdoor plants, but rainfall is unreliable the summer, and generally, the higher the altitude, the more rain you might receive.

Research the water situation as much as the property itself. Some systems are providing long-term supplies, and home wells are drying up. I wouldn't worry about an economic downturn as much as the expense of having to drill a new well. Neighbors near me had to pay $14,000 to join the water district, and that was a few years ago when it was cheap.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:55 AM
 
5,748 posts, read 10,742,533 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillRadio View Post
Minute,
Most of us had cisterns and horse-tank tubs to catch rain water to water outdoor plants
I was under the impression that Colorado State law precluded the use of rain barrels because it is considered hoarding and violates water rights.
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Old 05-08-2007, 11:16 AM
 
Location: Denver
9 posts, read 264,438 times
Reputation: 27
Default H2o

SHHHHH..... hehe.. In Colorado, Falling rain is protected.
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