LOVELAND, Colo. – Larimer County Department of Natural Resources and the City and County of Broomfield have finalized an innovative water-sharing agreement that keeps a working farm in production while helping fill municipal water needs. The deal closed Tuesday, August 22.

In 2016, Larimer County purchased a farm and its associated water rights southwest of Berthoud with the goal of keeping the farm in active production while offsetting the cost through a water-sharing agreement. After studies by experts in the fields of water, engineering, economics and agriculture, Larimer County determined the amount of water the farm would need to remain viable in perpetuity. Larimer County and Broomfield then entered into an agreement where some of the unneeded water would be purchased by Broomfield outright and a portion of the water would be shared by the two counties in drought years. 

This agreement, known as an Alternative Transfer Method (ATM), is the first of its kind in Colorado where water is shared from agricultural to municipal use in perpetuity. ATMs are promoted in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan as a way to provide drought water to cities without permanently drying up productive farmland. 

"By piloting this agreement, we've demonstrated that, by working together and sharing valuable resources, it's possible to conserve fast-disappearing farmland at a reduced cost while securing a source of water for Colorado’s growing cities," said Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager for Larimer County. "Hopefully, this creates a model for farmers and municipalities to work together and avoid simple 'buy and dry' of farmland."

Through the agreement, Larimer County was able to conserve 211 acres of productive farmland, along with the farm's agricultural, historic, scenic, community buffer and educational values, while reducing the cost of buying the farm and its water by 46%. Broomfield was able to secure a dependable, long-term water supply needed for its growing population and provide drought security for its citizens while supporting working farmlands.  

"Broomfield values a partnership approach to both water conservation and securing future water resources," said David Allen, director of Public Works for Broomfield. "We were pleased to work with Larimer County to bring this innovative Alternative Transfer Method to both of our communities."

Under the agreement, Larimer County sold 115 units of Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) water to Broomfield and kept 125 units on the farm, along with the farm's native ditch water. The agreement allows Broomfield to use 80 units up to 3 out of every 10 years, while paying an additional fee to use the water in those years to add to the farm's viability. Larimer County retained 45 units of C-BT water unencumbered, along with native Handy Ditch water. According to extensive studies funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program, the water that will remain on the farm will be enough to keep it profitable and productive, growing corn or sugar beets in wet years and water-efficient crops in dry years. In very dry years, when the farm might normally struggle to grow a profitable crop, the farm may now be better off financially with the ATM in place because it will bring in revenue from the ATM payment associated with the sharing of the water.

As part of the public-private partnership that supported this agreement as an innovative approach to water management in the West, Larimer County received a $100,000 grant from the Gates Family Foundation to show its support for innovative water partnerships in Colorado and across the West. Larimer County also received another $51,750 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to bring the deal to fruition.

For questions about the agreement, please contact Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager with Larimer County, at (970) 619-4577 or Melanie Calvert, Water Resources manager with City and County of Broomfield, at (303) 464-5605.

Media Kit Available: For maps, additional photos of the farm and a fact sheet on the agreement, please contact Teddy Parker-Renga at (970) 619-4561 or tparker-renga(AT)larimer.org.

Malchow Barn by Charlie Johnson
Published on: 
Monday, August 28, 2017 - 10:14am
Contact Details:

Kerri Rollins, Larimer County, Open Lands Program Manager,
(970) 619-4577, krollins(AT)larimer.org

Melanie Calvert, City and County of Broomfield, Water Resources Manager,
(303) 464-5605, mcalvert(AT)broomfield.org

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