Population growth and rising crop yields both demand more water. Yet in most areas, fresh water supplies are fully appropriated – and sometimes over-appropriated.  In Colorado and the west, the Colorado River provides a great example of the impacts of over-appropriation (Should Coloradoans Care About Water Levels in Lake Mead?). As surplus supplies dwindle, water rights are becoming increasingly valuable. Agricultural water rights are based on the amount of water put to beneficial use over a long period of time. If your water use is not fully covered by a water right, it is just a matter of time before the excess will be curtailed. Unexpected curtailment can often be avoided by proactively purchasing augmentation water credits to cover excess use.

In some cases, ag water right holders may be able to lease a portion of their water rights for other uses, including municipal and environmental.  Brink, Inc conducted a survey of ag water right holders for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association to determine attitudes toward leasing water. A quick summary of the results are shown here: AWN_ag water survey results ppt_S Platte wkshp_July 13_16

Ag water leasing can provide a reliable income stream for ag producers and much needed water for other non-ag users.  Ag water leases, also known as alternative transfer mechanisms (ATMs) must protect the historical consumptive use of the ag water right.  Unless the water right is also adjudicated for other, non-ag uses, the water right participating in the lease should be operated under the direction of an approved entity, such as an irrigation district, water conservancy district or the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to ensure the water right is protected.  For examples of leases around the state, go to https://www.agwaternetwork.org/Map.aspx.

Brink, Inc. provides assistance for agricultural water rights holders – both surface and groundwater – in the areas of permitting, historic consumptive use analysis, watershed technical assistance consulting, and maximization of the value of water rights.