Letter to the Editor

Water Catch 22

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dear Editor,

Our first management plan for the Lower NRD was 12 inches.

I installed a pivot and went to no-till to meet that, invested $500 per acre plus to install the pivot and update wells. I borrowed the money and set up a payment plan based on a cash flow from irrigated crop yields. Our second management plan was set at 9 inches. We've been blessed with rains in July and August and the irrigators in the Lower NRD have met that goal.

Now we're told that our wells will be SHUT DOWN in water short years. We've been able to reduce pumping, but I can't meet a cash flow based on irrigated yields with a dryland crop. You are not only shutting our wells off, you are forcing us to FAIL financially!

Groundwater makes up 30 percent of streamflow -- we've done everything we can to reduce pumping and increase streamflow from this source in the last 10 years and it's still not enough. We need to work on the 70 percent that was provided by runoff.

If you have a business and one product produces 70 percent of your profits and the other produces 30 percent, why would you only work to be more efficient on the product that produces 30 percent of your profits?

In my opinion, if we redesign the system that holds back the runoff (dams and terraces) we will increase streamflows.

The more water that goes past a river gauge will give us more Computed Water Supply (Virgin Water Supply). Look at the data that shows Virgin Water Supply in the past; what did we do to change that? We installed terraces, dams and went to no-till.

If we install small draindown tubes in the dams, we allow water to get back to the river while still receiving the benefits from those conservation practices (flood control, stopping silt and water quality).

We don't need a government study, just stop and think about this. The Republican River Basin Model domain in all three states encompasses 19 million acres. How many dams are in that domain? If we have just one dam per square mile, that's almost 30,000 dams.

Now think of the multiplying effect of multiple rainfall events each year. 1 acre foot per day X 4 rainfall events X 30,000 dams = 120,000 acre feet. 2 acre feet per dam X 4 rainfall events X 30,000 dams =240,000 acre feet.

This is a viable solution as once the draindown tubes are installed, we don't have to spend additional money to make the redesigned system work year after year.

Rainfall has provided 70 percent of the streamflow in the past.

A redesigned system for runoff may provide just enough additional streamflow that we can still pump at our allocated levels without shutting wells down.

We need immediate action as a forced shutdown of wells will cause a financial domino affect that the Republican River Basin will not recover from.


Dale Helm,


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