Conservation group looks to borrow water |

Conservation group looks to borrow water

BASALT – The Basalt-based Roaring Fork Conservancy is helping head an effort to try to “borrow” water from irrigators this summer to maintain streamflows in possible drought conditions.

The conservancy and Colorado Land Trust are teaming in a program called “It’s Not Too Late.” An informational meeting geared toward water-rights owners who would consider a short-term loan of their rights will be at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Carbondale Town Hall.

Colorado has a broader program that allows water to be loaned for as long as 120 days to boost instream flows throughout the state for the benefit of the environment. The water-rights owners can loan their water through a simple process without risking loss of their rights. Colorado Water Trust will coordinate the loans and pay for leases.

The deadline for water-rights owners to sign up for the program is May 11.

Sharon Clarke, a land and water conservationist with the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said the lower Crystal River and the Roaring Fork River in Aspen and just east of Aspen are among the local stretches that desperately need extra water during dry times. Irrigation draws the rivers down to extremely low levels in dry years.

Rick Lofaro, executive director of the conservancy, said the water-loan program is “critical” this year because all streamflow forecasts for the state are below average.

“Recent information shows the Colorado Basin with the lowest snowpack in the state – at 37 percent of average,” Lofaro said in a statement. “If conditions don’t improve, we could see some streams dry up in the Roaring Fork watershed – just as they did in 2002. We need to take steps now to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The Roaring Fork Conservancy raised the idea of a water-loan program in April but was initially under the belief that it was too late this year to implement the program. Clarke said further investigation showed it is still possible to borrow water that will benefit the environment this year.

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