Mead: 13.75 shares in the Highland Ditch, 276 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water on auction block

For nearly 30 years, Mead was a bustling community. At its peak, Mead had three general stores, a hotel, a combination grocery store and meat market, two saloons, butcher shop, filling station, two auto garages. Photo via HistoricHighlandLake.org.
For nearly 30 years, Mead was a bustling community. At its peak, Mead had three general stores, a hotel, a combination grocery store and meat market, two saloons, butcher shop, filling station, two auto garages. Photo via HistoricHighlandLake.org.

From The Denver Post (Danika Worthington):

“Water is the new gold,” said Scott Shuman, a partner in Hall and Hall, the auction house that will sell 411 acres of the Reynolds Farm and 13.75 shares in the Highland Ditch, along with the big-ticket item: 276 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water.

As Colorado’s population has grown, so has demand for water. Shuman said he expects farmers, cities and developers to try to get a piece of the Reynolds Farm portfolio…

High demand means prices are already high. C-BT shares have sold for between $25,000 and $28,000 each, according to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency that manages the C-BT system — which conveys water from the headwaters of the Colorado River to the Front Range and plains.

This means the C-BT water alone could bring in $6.9 million to $7.7 million, compared with the auction house’s estimate for the land of $5,000 to $15,000 per acre, or $2 million to $6.2 million…

These particular water rights are especially attractive because they can be used for multiple purposes — agriculture, development and industrial processes, including fracking — and can be easily traded as long as they stay within C-BT boundaries, said Reagan Waskom, director of Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute…

The Reynolds farmland, which is northeast of the intersection of Interstate 25 and Colorado 66, is bounded by Weld County roads 9 1/2, 32 and 13, and another property.

It is not annexed into a town, although it is in Mead’s growth area. Town manager Mike Segrest said he assumes it will be annexed in the future…

“The price of water is out of reach and the price of land is out of reach.” Waskom said. “Those are development prices.”

He said a farmer would need to have deep pockets and be willing to work the land without making much profit. He added that a young farmer could buy the land and the ditch rights and not the C-BT shares, shifting to dryland farming of crops such as wheat. But that’s a difficult transition and profits would be minimal, especially compared with an irrigated farm.

“Bankers are not going to go there with him,” Waskom said.

It’s more likely that a developer will buy the land, Waskom said. A developer could build on the land or transfer the water rights to a water provider that supplies an area where it has a project.

“I feel like it is inevitable,” Waskom said about the possibility that the water will be separated from the land. “I wish we could plan it better so that our best agricultural lands could stay in working lands. To me, it’s all being driven by the market, which I’m not saying is bad, but it may not end up with the kind of Front Range Colorado we want in 10 to 20 years.”

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

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