Dec 12, 2019 | Press Releases, Water Reviews

Agricultural Water Users Profiled in Two-Volume Colorado River Report

(Las Vegas, Nevada) – A year-long effort to bring the perspectives of key agricultural water user interests into the current Colorado River Compact discussions culminated in today’s release of two special “Water Review” reports prepared by the Family Farm Alliance. “All Colorado River water users need certainty for effective future planning. Agricultural water users need – and want – to help shape their future, instead of relying upon others to design their future for them,” said Don Schwindt, an Alliance board member who farms in southwestern Colorado. “Thus, ag water users are a major audience for this report.”


Hard copies of the reports will be distributed at today’s Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) annual conference in Las Vegas.


Volume I provides perspectives of the following Upper Colorado River Basin interests:


  • Jim Broderick, a Front Range water manager whose district depends upon a transmountain diversion;

  • Mark Harris, a West Slope water manager taking a “farmer’s approach” to investigating demand management;

  • Patrick O’Toole, a Wyoming headwaters irrigator who wants to see – but doesn’t yet – a balanced Colorado River water solution;

  • Don Schwindt, a West Slope water user who worries that short-term solutions could result in unintended long-term impacts to rural irrigators; and

  • Chris Treese, a recently retired Western Colorado water leader whose former district wants to ensure that any demand management program is voluntary, compensated and shared.


Jennifer Gimbel, Senior Water Policy Scholar for the Colorado Water Institute authored the introduction to Volume I.


Volume II, which includes introductory remarks from Bureau of Reclamation Commission Brenda Burman, focuses on individuals deeply involved with Lower Colorado River Basin challenges:


  • Bart Fisher, a Southern California farmer and long-time chair of the Colorado River Board of California;

  • President Erik Ortega and General Manager Henry Martinez of the Imperial Irrigation District, the largest user on the Colorado River;

  • Wade Noble, the Coordinator of the Yuma County Agriculture Water Coalition in Arizona;

  • Randy Record, a Southern California farmer and former chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California board of directors; and

  • Dan Thelander, an Arizona agricultural water user served by the Central Arizona Project.


Mr. O’Toole, the president of the Family Farm Alliance, is attending this week’s CRWUA conference in Las Vegas.


“The Family Farm Alliance has members that span the spectrum of Basin users,” said Mr. O’Toole. “We think we’re well-suited to provide a service to our Colorado River membership and policy makers by explaining how key players from throughout the entire watershed are tackling the Drought Contingency Plans, demand management, and other issues. All water users will be impacted by the outcome of the negotiations over replacement of the current ‘Interim Guidelines’. These reports will help the layperson better understand a very complicated issue.”


Within the Colorado River Basin, all of the various water users’ perspectives are shaped by where they are in the system: whether they are in the Upper or Lower Basin, within or outside of the natural hydrologic basin, in which state, and the priority of their use within their state.


“I was privileged to conduct these interviews, where the various expert perspectives clearly demonstrated the amazing diversity in views on Colorado River policy matters,” said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Alliance.


Despite the unique views expressed by those profiled, all parties appear to recognize the concerns associated with moving water away from agricultural operations to meet other needs. Unfortunately, there also appears to be a grim acceptance and continued underlying worries by farmers and ranchers that, as water supplies diminish and populations increase, the pressure on agriculture to give up some of its water will only grow.


“The Colorado River Basin needs to maintain a viable agricultural base, and not contribute to the nation becoming dependent on imports for its food supply,” said Mr. Schwindt. “We think these reports strongly support the need for farmers and ranchers to have a seat at the table to advocate for and defend agriculture’s use of water and the benefits received by our country as a result of that use.”




Click here for Volume I of the Colorado River “Water Review”

Click here for Volume II of the Colorado River “Water Review”