Summit Considers Water Issues

Pat O'Toole of the Family Farm Alliance

Pat O’Toole of the Family Farm Alliance provided the keynote address for the recent Colorado Ag Water Summit held Monday at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. O’Toole touched on many water issues that producers are facing all over the West.

“We are in an inevitable decline of our culture if we keep taking water away from the production of food,” he said. “Everything that happens in water in the future will have winners and losers. We in agriculture can no longer be among the losers.”

O’Toole then issued a warning: “If we allow things to happen the way they have been happening, that will inevitably be the end for all of us.”

He used an example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requiring water be put in San Francisco Bay to protect smelt, a kind of fish. The long-range result was the dry up of several hundred acres of farmland in northern California and rural communities facing 40 percent unemployment, he said, “and now there are farm workers out of work because there is no water for farms.”

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O’Toole laid the groundwork for the summit which lasted all day, covering water related subjects as varied as upcoming legislation to optimizing irrigation water usage.

Legislator wait to speak at the Summit legislative roundtable

A legislative panel with eight state legislators covered upcoming water policy changes and a Q&A with the officials about their view of challenges facing water users in the state.

Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) the newly appointed chair of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee explained that ‘buy-and-dry’ of agricultural water in order to meet the needs of suburban communities is an unsustainable practice, adding water leaving the state above that required by river compacts needs to be addressed by state government.

The event also included a regulatory panel with representatives from various state Ag and water departments and agencies. The event is held every other year and is presented by the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and the Colorado Ag Council.


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