Walsenburg has been supplying water to the area north of the hogback (out of the Cuchara basin) since the late sixties. This water loss to the basin must, by decree of the Colorado water court, be augmented by releasing water back into the river at a two to one ratio. The city is under a five year substitute water supply plan (SWSP) which expires at the end of May 2011. The five year plan was set up because the city had hopes of installing a lift station and hooking all the water users north of the hogback to city sewer during the five years of the plan. Unfortunately a lift station never got built and a new water plan must be worked out to satisfy the decree.
Courtney and Beaton have been working with Brgoch and Witte to address the best way to address the end of the substitute supply plan. The city has rights on the # 5 ditch (agricultural decree to irrigate the city’s hay farm east of town) which was originally thought to be the best source of new augmentation for Northlands. The council passed a resolution earlier this year to have the number five water converted to municipal use. After researching however, the Gomez ditch proves to be a better source of augmentation water. The city owns about a third of the rights on the Gomez ditch which equals about 60 acre feet per year. The amount of water supplied to the Northlands is approximately 45 acre feet. The city must take their case to water court and change the irrigation rights of the ditch to municipal use. This “reduction to consumptive use” of the Gomez ditch water will require some time in water court but the engineer and attorney believe the Gomez ditch share holders will not contest the change as strongly as the share holders on the number five ditch. The change in the water rights on the Gomez ditch will relieve the city of the two to one replacement decree set up in the SWSP and will satisfy downstream users need for quality and quantity of Cuchara basin water. The city council will decide on the issue soon. The engineer and attorney must submit their plans by the first of April to ensure compliance with the SWSP and other decrees.