Water conservancy district seeks public input

By Al Pfister
San Juan Water Conservancy District 

As is custom and per state procedures, the San Juan Water Conservancy District is in the process of developing our 2021 budget. 

We have developed our proposed 2021 budget to be used to set the framework for activities that we will implement in the accomplishment of our mission. 

Our mission is to ensure “water resources are available for beneficial use to those who do provide water (such as the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District) for the community. This may come in the form of consumptive uses like agriculture, municipal, fire protection and industrial pursuits. This may also mean non-consumptive uses such as recreational, wildlife habitat and aesthetics.” 

Accomplishment of our mission must take place in accordance with Colorado water law (prior appropriation doctrine) and should follow direction set forth in the Colorado State Water Plan. 

The Colorado Water Plan was completed in 2015 and is based on three foundational elements: interstate compacts and equitable apportionment decrees (i.e. each of the states are entitled to a certain amount of water as detailed in the respective compacts), Colorado water law, and local control. The plan is the result of several years of statewide collaborative efforts and discussions about how the water needs of Colorado residents and downstream users will be met. 

It sets forth the measurable objectives, goals and actions by which Colorado will address its projected future water needs and measure its progress — all built on our shared values. As a headwaters state, we need to be actively involved in ensuring our water needs and rights are met while also complying with interstate compacts.

The San Juan River and its tributaries contribute water needed to comply with local water rights users’ needs, as well as several interstate compacts (Colorado River Compact 1922, Rio Grande River Compact 1938, Upper Colorado River Compact 1948, others). 

Admittedly, how all these water rights needs are met is a very complex and confusing scenario under which the water district is charged with accomplishing our mission under state statute. Nonetheless, the water district is responsible for ensuring the conditional water rights owned by the district taxpayers are utilized to meet our shared water needs. In order for the district to better understand how the district’s taxpayers want that to happen, we need your input. 

We hope to finalize our strategic plan that outlines our implementation of the statewide plan in the next couple months. Our draft 2021 budget sets the framework for our activities in the coming year. 

In an effort to better communicate with our ratepayers as to how we can provide the appropriate amounts of water under wet and drought conditions, we are inviting you to a public meeting and hearing on Nov. 16 at 5 p.m. via Zoom to discuss our proposed 2021 budget. Our main focus with the 2021 budget will be implementation of our strategic plan that will deal with the challenge of serving the water needs of the majority of Archuleta County. We look forward to seeing and hearing from you on Nov. 16. 

If you would like more information or want to discuss the budget and associated issues, please contact me or any board member whose contact information is listed on our website (http://www.sjwcd.org) under the “About Us” tab. The website also has the draft 2021 budget, our draft strategic plan, the agenda and the Zoom information.

This story was posted on November 15, 2020.