This year’s Arkansas River Basin Water Forum was held in La Junta and was able to bring farmers, engineers, attorneys, recreation specialists, municipalities, and individuals invested in water together in one place discuss water issues in the Arkansas Basin.
The forum kicked off with a VIP dinner with a look into the past, present, and future of agriculture from some of our local farmers, John Schweizer, Michael Hirikata, and Mike Bartolo. This set the stage for David Robbins in highlighting the issues he sees in water right now, like deficit irrigation along with his opinion on the evolution of water from the compact to now with Rule 10 and 14 plans. Kenan Diker, of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment feels that water quality is now at the forefront of what is going on and while there are talks of regulations if progress isn’t made, proactive measures by agricultural entities can help prevent these regulations, which is exactly what Blake Osborn is working to achieve.
Blake then moderated a session concerning Selenium projects that Dr. Tim Gates has as well as the model that was developed to determine what BMP’s would be most productive including lease fallowing, sprinklers, and canal linings.
Dana Hoag took the BMP’s and did an economic analysis which concluded the BMP’s mentioned above would give farmers the “most bang for our buck”. Rena Brand of Colorado Parks and Wildlife led a discussion on invasive species, such as zebra mussels, and how Parks and Wildlife is trying to prevent the species from getting into our water and the lengths to which they go through to keep these out of our water. Lisa Patton moderated a session on fire and flooding which is so pertinent to our state right now and which BMPs would best address post fire and pre-flood. That night was a social event that was held at the Koshare Museum complete with wonderful food, entertainment by the Koshare Indians, and an auction which raised $2,400 that goes towards scholarships for any student pursuing a degree at a Colorado University in Agriculture or Water Resources.
John Knapp moderated a session with Blake as a panelist where he was able to really go into detail about the watershed health plan from John Martin Reservoir to the state line.
Mike Weber moderated a session with the farmers’ perspectives on innovation sustainability and viability in the Arkansas River. The panel displayed insight to soil health practices, sprinkler irrigation, drip irrigation, and the reason for converting from flood irrigation to these more efficient methods. Mike tied it all together by stating, “These innovative practices correlate to water quality and the work that Lower Ark is doing”.
This was a great event, but even if you missed it, there will be a stakeholder meeting coming soon for a review of Blake's work on your Watershed Health Plan: JMR to State Line.
By: Amber Weber
Photo credit: Rena Brand