Gunnison River Basin Recent News

BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG
Water efficiencies are an increasing “must” for Western Slope farmers, who have begun changing irrigation systems and some farming practices to better preserve resources. Qualified growers could be in the running for some help.

The program, Modernizing Agriculture Water Management in the Lower Gunnison River Basin, which is funded by the Colorado River Water Conservation District through multiple partners. It offers technical and financial assistance to improve irrigation practices.

The river district has already held two rounds of grant applications for irrigation projects and recently announced a third. Up to $1.8 million is to be made available for the planning and implementation of irrigation improvement projects in the Lower Gunnison Project area.

“They’re really kind of looking for people interested in innovative systems,” said Mendy Stewart, education coordinator for the Shavano Water Conservation District.

With different technology, such as drip irrigation or pivot irrigation, farmers can save both water and time, as well as use their water more efficiently.

Teddy Berger, Shavano Conservation District board member, is among growers to sing the praises of high-efficiency irrigation. He recently installed an above-ground irrigation system at his farm.

“It is so much more efficient on water usage, time, and provides a much more even distribution of water,” Berger said in a press release.

“I think information on new watering techniques that save water and time will continue to be more and more useful as this resource becomes scarce.”

The Lower Gunnison Project area includes the focus areas of Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Assocation, along with the North Fork Water, Crawford Water and Bostwick Park conservancy districts.

Applications from landowners within these focus areas who are interested in high-efficiency irrigation are being taken until July 21. Applications and further information may be found at http://gunnisonriverbasin.org/projects/lower-gunnison-project/.

The Colorado River Water Conservations District’s grant funding is in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

While there have been two prior application rounds, with some applicants chosen for conservation activity plans, the river water district hasn’t yet awarded funding for implementation.

 “The ones selected for a conservation activity plan, their plan is fully funded. The actual implementation of the system on the land will be a cost-share program,” Stewart said.

The plans are to be evaluated to determine funding in the form of a 75-percent fixed cost-share based on real project costs, according to the press release. The assessment looks at how the proposed projects would benefit water quantity, water quality, soil health and aquatic wildlife habitat.

Meetings are coming up for those interested in learning more about the Lower Gunnison Project and the grant application.

The Montrose meeting is at Delta-Montrose Electric Association’s headquarters, 11925 63.00 Road, from 6 – 8 p.m. June 28. A light dinner will be served, so reservations are required; RSVP to Shavano Conservation District at 970-249-8407, ext. 113, or email Stewart at [email protected].

Another meeting will be held in Hotchkiss June 29, also from 6 – 8 p.m., at Hotchkiss Memorial Hall, 175 S. First St., Hotchkiss. Make reservations through the Delta Conservation District at 970-399-8194 or [email protected].

“As a local conservancy district, we want to help the landowners to have a way to voluntarily conserve the soil, water and natural resources so that way, we can support agriculture and, in particular, our local valley … and Lower Gunnison Basin,” Stewart said.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter at @kathMDP.

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