‘I can’t attract investors with water…They are investing in food supply’ — John McKowen (Two Rivers Water Co.)

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A water developer who is planning to build reservoirs along the Arkansas River in Pueblo County says his plan is to cash in on the worldwide need for food. “I can’t attract investors with water,” said John McKowen, CEO of Two Rivers Water Co. “They are investing in food supply.”

McKowen talks about growing vegetables instead of corn and hay as a way to increase farm revenues, but admits he is not a farmer. “I’m a businessman,” he said. “If we can put the right structure together, we can attract the capital.”

McKowen already has raised about $44 million in the last five years since organizing a company to acquire farmland and reservoirs in Huerfano and Pueblo counties. He has restored farmland under the Huerfano­Cucharas Ditch and under Orlando Reservoir. He bought a farm on the Bessemer Ditch, and is looking for more opportunities.

If all McKowen’s plans come together, he could create more than 100,000 acre­feet of storage space, which could be used for multiple purposes. He eventually plans to fallow some ground in order to sell some of the water as another source of revenue. He went into the venture knowing nothing about farming, but has found farmers, scientists and water professionals to improve his chances. Two Rivers was able to raise crops profitably during last year’s drought.

But some in the water community have expressed doubts because he is paying more for water than farmers should be able to pay. “Our first interest is to develop the water so we can support our agricultural interests on the Arkansas River,” McKowen said.

As for moving water permanently off the river, he flatly says he is not interested. “Moving water somewhere means you’re betting on the developers,” McKowen said. “Every developer I know is broke.”

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