by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG — As the drought deepens, the county is seeing stresses on its water supplies as Two Rivers Water seeks to purchase abandoned rights along the Huerfano River and change the uses and location of uses for the rights it already owns.
Applications filed at Division Two Water Court by the water company have come under fire from the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District, ranchers along the Huerfano River and the county commission.
In Wednesday’s regular meeting the commissioners approved filing a protest against the Two Rivers applications. Earlier in the week, about 20 of the county’s ranchers voiced their concerns to the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District who voted 5-0 to file a protest on the same Two Rivers applications.
The first application filed by Two Rivers in January seeks to allow Two Rivers to use water leased from Pueblo Board of Water Works to be stored in Pueblo County reservoirs and used to irrigate farmland in Huerfano and Pueblo counties.
The second application would allow Two Rivers to store Huerfano River water in the Orlando Reservoir and other places to irrigate farmland in Pueblo County.
Other beneficial uses, according to a Two Rivers press release, would include the water being used for municipal, domestic, industrial, agricultural, commercial, truck washing, stock watering, recreation, fish and wildlife, fire protection, augmentation, and substitution and exchange.
It would also permit Two Rivers to augment water supplies to the town of Gardner.
However historic consumptive use will be difficult to establish since the past 80 years have not seen water in the Robert Rice Ditch leading to the Bradford Reservoir, according to Lewis Edmundson and John Vucetich, both local ranchers.
The Bradford Reservoir is located on Edmundson’s property, and if filled to its 6,000 acre feet capacity, would cover 600 to 700 acres of Edmundson’s ranch. It would also cover State Land to the west as well as BLM land.
The county voted to file the protest out of concern for the well being of the area’s local ranchers and those holding junior rights who may be injured if the Two Rivers applications are approved by the Water Court.
Commissioner Roger Cain asks that water rights holders also file protest on the applications.