The Colorado Water Trust has entered into a three-year agreement with a rancher to protect the health of the Crystal River. In 2012, the river went dry prompting the development of the Crystal River Management Plan. The agreement, which is a pilot program under the plan, provides an incentive for the rancher to include the health of the river in its complicated ranch management operations.
If the river falls below 40 cfs, the Water Trust would pay the rancher $175 per cfs per day for up to 6 cfs to reschedule operations and forego diversions until the river reaches 55 cfs or the maximum period of 20 days elapses. The 20-day maximum was established to ensure that the ranch continues agricultural production and to limit the Water Trust’s financial liability. There is a minimum period of 5 days to avoid rapid on/off operations that do not benefit the river.
The agreement also provides an incentive to work cooperatively with other ranchers. If additional ranchers join the program, the Water Trust will pay an additional $20 per cfs per day to participants that work in conjunction with each other.
The Crystal River Management Plan was development with stakeholder input, and the agreement required input from Pitkin County and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the co-holders of a conservation easement on the ranch.
Written by Marta L. Weismann