Charlie Bartlett: We need NISP now
August 28, 2015
To the editor
During the past three decades, agricultural land in the South Platte Basin dropped from 1.1 million acres down to 813,000, as water left farms and ranches, sold to growing cities.
And because new water-supply projects aren't being built and cities remain dependent on buying water from agriculture, the basin could see as many as 267,000 more acres of irrigated farmground dry up by 2050.
These statistics, among other reasons, stress the need for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would bring two new reservoirs and new water supplies to more than a dozen growing municipalities in northern Colorado.
Pressure must be taken off agriculture in supplying municipal needs. We cannot continue diverting water from an industry that feeds us and makes a $40 billion-plus impact annually on our state's economy – a top two or three economic contributor.
There's no silver bullet for Colorado's projected water shortages.
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Conservation must remain a priority, which farmers certainly take seriously. Since 1980, corn farmers have cut water use per acre by more than 50 percent, yet through innovation, have doubled yields in that same time frame to keep up with demand.
Additionally, Front Range cities have cut per capita water use by 20 to 30 percent or more.
But new water-supply projects must also be a priority.
NISP has been in the planning stages 12 years, due diligence is done, and proper environmental-mitigation efforts are included in the project.
NISP just needs the federal government's blessing.
I encourage you all to submit comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before Sept. 3 to express your support. Learn more at northernwater.org.
We're at a point where we need NISP now. Without it, we'll continue watching water that could be used in Colorado flow into Nebraska, and watch farms dry up.
Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance President,
Colorado Corn Administrative Committee
and Colorado Corn Growers Association