The Douglas County Commissioners will be holding a series of town hall meetings to discuss buying water from the northern San Luis Valley. We do not yet have the date of the next town hall but it is estimated to be in early February. The proposal to export water from the confined aquifer in the San Luis Valley is a scheme that puts Valley View Hot Springs water at risk.
The San Luis Valley is a high desert. With an average annual precipitation of just over 7 inches, water is scarce and precious. There is not enough water to export to burgeoning front range subdivisions, developments, and towns. The ecosystem is fragile. The hot springs water that supplies the natural soaking pools comes from fractures along the geologic fault zone that is adjacent to the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Sand Dunes National Park is a large area that depends on the scarce water that is here. Farms and ranches use the little water available with a keen awareness of how precious each drop is. The San Luis Valley economy, about $550,000,000 per year, is largely dependent on agriculture.
We need your help. Please write or email the Douglas County Commissioners and express your concern at a plan that has the potential to devastate the entire valley and Valley View Hot Springs.
Contact County Commissioners
Mail a letter to:
Douglas County Commissioner’s Office
100 3rd Street
Castle Rock, CO 80104
Call the central phone line to reach the Commissioners listed below: (303) 660-7401
- Commissioner Abe Laydon, District I - has indicated he has not taken a position.
- Commissioner George Teal, District II - has stated, “As a Douglas County commissioner, any opportunity to bring water into the county I think does bear serious consideration.”
- Commissioner Lora Thomas, District III - has stated she does not support the RWR proposal.
Contact the News Media
You can submit a letter to the editor or guest opinion editorial to the Douglas County and Denver newspapers.
OP/ED: Submit 700 – 800 words to Dan Njegomir at or (720) 220-5891, or online at https://denvergazette.com/opinion/submit
Letter to Editor: Submit 250 words to Dan Njegomir at or (720) 220-5891, or online at https://denvergazette.com/opinion/submit
OP/ED: Submit 650 – 700 words to Lee Ann Colacioppo at or (303) 954-1754
Letter to Editor: Submit 250 words to or (303) 954-1331, or online at https://www.denverpost.com/submit-letter
Following are some key messages you may consider including in your emails and letters.
- San Luis Valley cities, farmers and residents universally oppose the RWR proposal. The Protect our Water coalition consists of 15 water districts and entities as well as more than 20 cities and towns and over 20 conservation and environmental groups. Our group continues to grow: www.protectsanluisvalleywater.com/members.
- There is no renewable water in the SLV to export. There is no water available to be moved outside the San Luis Valley to Douglas County. Both the shallow and deep aquifers are "over-appropriated." RWR's statement that there are a billion acre-feet of water under the valley floor is false and has been debunked in court.
- All water in the Valley is connected. Therefore, removing water from both aquifers can reduce river and stream flows. Pumping water out of the deep aquifer can also affect water levels in the shallow aquifer. This could negatively impact the environment, including streams, rivers, fish and wildlife.
- Agriculture is the economic driver of the San Luis Valley. The roughly 1,600 farms and ranches in the Valley account for close to $400 million in market value of products sold. Colorado is the second largest potato growing region in the U.S. Every facet of the local economy is dependent on agriculture. Water leaving the Valley will only harm the economy and every job sector. The San Luis Valley does not want 'buy and dry for export' to devastate our community, like what happened in Crowley County.
- RWR's plan faces insurmountable odds of ever getting done. The project will cost more than $1 billion to pay for the water, federal permitting, water court fees, land acquisition and easements and infrastructure costs (miles of pipeline installed over Poncha Pass to move water from the Valley to the Front Range). It's a bad investment for Douglas County, and siphoning off funds that could go to more viable water projects. RWR says it will use reservoirs that belong to Denver Water and Aurora Water, which would require agreements and contracts with these water providers that do not exist.
- There have been several attempts to transport water out of the Valley, and all have been defeated. RWR is undermining efforts in the Valley to solve water scarcity problems locally. RWR's project will put additional strain on the local economy, environment and communities, making successful aquifer recovery and sustainable agriculture even more challenging.
- RWR's $50 million community fund would be a one-time payment and will not go far. The long-term consequences of the project will damage the local agricultural economy and far outweigh any short-lived benefits of a one-time payment. It will harm our agricultural production, livelihoods and community. No one is being swayed by this payment.
- There is no environmental "net gain" from RWR's proposal. Their plan to add 9,000 acre feet back into the aquifer would require the dry up of an additional 10,0000 acres of land in the valley. RWR would pump water out of a concentrated area that could harm area creeks and streams that flow through and near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and the San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Areas. The Valley supports at least 13 threatened and endangered species and more than 260 species of birds, including the sandhill cranes. RWR puts all wildlife, including these threatened/endangered species, at risk. That's why 25 environmental and conservation groups have come out in opposition.
- RWR's plan is outdated and out of touch with the realities of Colorado Water, climate change and drought. The era of large, expensive transbasin diversions is over. This is not a good investment and proponents/speculators are not likely to be satisfied with just 22,000 acre feet. The goal of Colorado's Water Plan is to avoid agricultural buy and dry throughout the state and end new transbasin diversions that are not supported by all impacted basins of origin.
- The San Luis Valley has a long history of working hard to help solve its water scarcity issues. Locals have worked collaboratively to create and implement water management plans and programs to address aquifer recovery.
Here is a link to the Douglas County Commissioners Town Hall Comment Form for ARPA https://www.douglas.co.us/arpa/american-rescue-plan-act-comment-form/
Sample Letter (Your letter has a better chance of making an impact if you personalize it.)
Dear Douglas County Commissioners,
Regarding: RWR Proposal
In the interest of protecting the environmental balance in the San Luis Valley, I urge you to reject the proposal from RWR. I realize that water is scarce. That is true throughout the entire southwest United States. The already meager amount of water is declining ever more due to long term drought. The forecast for the future is for less and less precipitation in all western river basins. The RWR plan to redistribute a scarce water supply to Douglas County from the Rio Grande Basin is short sighted and a threat to natural resources, the agricultural economy of the San Luis Valley, and the people who depend on the water that RWR is trying to sell you.
The San Luis Valley is a high desert. The reserves of water are being depleted by drought and overuse already. The ecosystem is delicately balanced and the nearly twenty year drought has stressed the agricultural economy, the aquifers, and vast natural resources such as The Sand Dunes National Park, the Rio Grande National Forest, and the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.
The RWR proposal is flawed. The water reserves in the aquifers are inaccurately defined, the negative impacts on the San Luis Valley ignored, and the costs grossly underestimated - both in dollars and environmental degradation.
Please do the environmentally sound thing and dismiss this proposal. This is not a well considered solution for Douglas County nor is it at all beneficial to the high desert of the San Luis Valley.
More information: The Orient Land Trust Facebook page has a compilation of articles and news stories with information about the proposal and the opposition to the plan. It is a convenient place to access information.