The Rio Grande Basin Water Plan Works to Address Future Ag Water Needs
This is the second of a monthly articles from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.
For decades Agriculture has been associated with the production of food crops. Accordingly, agriculture and farming were both one and the same, as long as farming was not commercialized. But as time has progressed and economic development has accelerated, there have been many more occupations related to farming and so they are recognized as a part of agriculture.
Today’s agriculture landscape includes not just farming and ranching, but forestry, fruit cultivation, dairy, poultry, mushroom, bee keeping, , marketing, processing, distribution of agricultural products etc. In addition to food, agriculture also provides feedstuffs for livestock. This portion of agriculture ensures not only our meat supplies, but also our dairy products. Therefore, agriculture may be defined as the production, processing, marketing and distribution of crops and livestock products.
It is the agricultural sector that feeds our country's trade. Products like wheat, soybeans, rice, cotton, tobacco etc. constitute the main items of exports from the US. Thus agriculture helps to balance our foreign trade exchanges. Agriculture provides not only food and raw materials, but it also provides employment opportunities to a large proportion of population.
Colorado’s agriculture is no less important. According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, “Agriculture is one of largest contributors to the State’s economy, supporting more than 173,000 jobs in Colorado, generates more than $40 billion of economic activity annually, and exported nearly $1.8 billion of food and agricultural products in 2012. Colorado ranks first in the nation in millet production, ranks in the top ten in the nation in nearly 25 commodities. There are over 1 billion eggs laid in Colorado each year. Cattle and Calves are Colorado’s number one agricultural commodity with 2.7 million head of cattle in the state. ”
It is safe to say that Agriculture is a big deal in Colorado. It is for that reason the preservation of Agriculture’s water is being addressed in Colorado’s Water Plan. The Water Plan will leverage and incorporate nine years of work that has been done by Colorado’s Basin Roundtables, the Inter Basin Compact Committee, and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). The goal of the plan will be to determine how to implement water supply planning solutions that meet Colorado’s future water needs while supporting healthy watersheds and environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.
Agriculture is essential to Colorado’s economy and way of life. Yet, the state faces the potential for the permanent dry up of thousands of acres of farmland statewide, unless new solutions become implemented to address our looming gap between supply and demand. Agriculture represents more than 80 percent of Colorado’s consumptive water use. According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board,” Colorado’s Water Plan will develop a number of strategies designed to minimize the permanent buy-and-dry of irrigated agricultural land and begin to counter Colorado’s projected supply gap – a gap potentially equivalent by 2050 to the amount of water necessary to supply all of Denver’s households for a full year. “