Sterling: The Colorado Water Institute is studying groundwater issues in the South Platte River Basin

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Here’s a recap of Monday’s meeting from David Martinez writing for the Sterling Journal-Advocate

…representatives from Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute spent 2 1/2 hours focusing on the South Platte River and its water tables. Over the past few years farmers along the river have had issues with rising groundwater disrupting crop growth, while residents in certain areas have dealt with flooding basements.

The Colorado Legislature, in response, passed Colorado House Bill 12-1278 in 2012 – a study of the South Platte alluvial aquifer by the CWI to present to the general assembly by Dec. 31.

Reagan Waskom, director of the CWI, said they started collecting data around the area in September. They’re searching for everything from historical water levels to climate factors to soil compositions, compiling their own data with those gathered from myriad groups and studies throughout the region. “It’s time for us to come out and more or less be accountable to you all to tell you what we’re doing,” Waskom said…

Recharge projects that deliver water back to surface right owners in the time, place and volume it would have originally reached the river have led to reports of high groundwater levels. The two locations primarily affected, according to CWI charts, are southwest Weld County and Logan County around the South Platte River.

Some think the problems are caused by excessive augmentation of aquifers and lack of groundwater pumping, while others think the issues are natural and that people are building in areas with naturally high water tables…

The study was approved to evaluate whether current water laws and rules in the South Platte River Basin both protect senior water rights and maximize beneficial use for surface and groundwater in the basin. But it’s also supposed to determine which areas within the basin’s high groundwater levels adversely impact and what causes the higher levels to begin with. It’s also supposed to show a base for implementation of measures to lessen adverse impacts in high groundwater areas. Waskom said CWI would first collect and organize date, the map the groundwater, evaluate the existing groundwater level analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey and educate the public and stakeholders…

Waskom said he isn’t in a rush to post data the group receives, especially if they don’t yet know what it means. But they’ll post a monthly status report, regardless. One community member asked if the study would look back far enough at the data. Waskom said they’d collect data as far back as they could (even into the 1940s), but the paucity of data from earlier years makes it difficult to use any of it effectively. He said it’d be hard to look at the whole basin from those numbers, though he’d like to if it were possible.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

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