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'Finally Price their water properly????'

Posted by ion_source_guy 5B Fort Collins (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 24, 09 at 15:53

Im writing in response to today's follow-up comment in the White Paper Birch string, which states:

" When Front Range communities finally price their water properly, irrigation water in residential yards will be cut back and trees such as paper birch and other high-water trees will start to die."

I politely beg to differ with this opinion. I'd like to learn exactly what is meant by "Finally price their water Properly". It's implied that a "Proper" price would be higher. My water price here in Fort Collins is high enough already, thank you. I don't need it to be higher. (luckily I've only used the sprinklers once so far this year)

Once I exceed the measly 13,000 gallon cheap allotment, Fort Collins charges me 2.60$/gallon for my water. That comes out to be 847 $ per Acre-Foot. The going price to lease irrigation water on the front range over the last few years has been anywhere from 30 to 80$/acre foot. So I'm paying 10 to 20 times more for my sprinkler water than what the water itself is actually worth. Granted, the City has a considerable investment and overhead in the infrastructure, and cost of treating and distributing our city water. I'm perfectly happy to pay a fair price for that. Also, the city may choose to invest in buying additional water rights, to better prepare for possible future drought, and handle future city growth. I'm happy to pay for that.

However, I'm not happy that the city thinks my water payment should subsidize the water bills for my less horticulturally inclined fellow city residents who choose to fill their yard with tons of rock, or those who favor Zero-Scape landscaping, or those who choose to live on postage stamp sized lots. Why should I pay a higher rate for my water than they do? FAIR would be the same price per gallon for everyone.

I would be even less happy if someone with a political agenda drives our city government to over charge for everyone's water, in a mis-guided attempt to force us all to submit to their own personal opinion of how we should all be planting our yards.

Sorry, I don't want to turn my lovely yard into a Moon-scape, just to give away the water to my farmer friend near Greeley, so he can plant another 1/8 acre of water guzzling field corn. If he wants to plant more corn, he can jolly well pay for the water at a FAIR price.

Please forgive me, if I sound a little hot under the collar, and for being a little off topic with this post. This is a sore point for me, and I just can't let that comment go, without offering a response.

Bruce


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

As the population in the arid west continues to climb, and as the drought continues to manifest itself (be it through climate change or a lengthy natural cycle - the end result is the same; less water) I honestly don't think it will be too long before there are major changes in landscaping regulations along the Colorado Front range cities. This is already well established in other cities such as Phoenix, Abq, etc. No lawns, certainly not Kentucky Blue Grass, will be allowed with new construction.

If you have an existing lawn, the experience in Las Vegas is interesting. They tried charging a bundle - people still kept watering their lawns. They raised the price again - same consumption. Then someone got smart and paid the lawn owners a few thousand bucks to pull it out, and there ya go - they finally stopped.

So, enjoy it while you can. As for agriculture, crunch time coming there as well, and we're already seeing less and less acreage in irrigated crops as the water rights are being bought up by the cities and settlement of historic water rights between Colorado and states further down stream - eg Platte River and Arkansas - means previously irrigated farms on wells are forced to stop pumping.

All in all, we live in a desert, and one thats getting drier. Blue grass isn't native, nor are huge plots of hybrid corn.

I better not let you know what it costs for a seasons worth of irrigation water here, per acre foot....... :-)

Fresh water - the *new* oil.


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

It's implied that a "Proper" price would be higher. My water price here in Fort Collins is high enough already, thank you. I don't need it to be higher. (luckily I've only used the sprinklers once so far this year)

Your next tier at 2.60 is still cheap. You don't need it to be higher, true. But this won't stop it from being so soon as population growth and man-made climate change squeeze water supplies.

Yes, a proper price will be higher. This will eliminate the gutter flooders, even here where our tiers are more severe than yours.

While there is a social status and psychological need to irrigate turf, there is no compelling societal reason to do so. Food and silage are more important than turf. There are many incarnations of xeric landscaping that can do the same.

We have a 6-year old. If she chooses to live here and go in debt for a house, she likely won't be able to afford turf. That's just how it is.

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????' ii

o off the top of my head, 13,000/365 = 35.6 gpd. That's 2 showers daily on lo-flo at 10 gal total, 10 flushes at 16 gal total (10 is generous, in WA state many folk do half this, with much, much more water available), and energy-efficient dishwasher 5 days/wk and energy-efficient clothes the other two, shaving by filling the bowl and no running tap when teeth brushing (aside: we were in MO last week camping. ~65% of the people in the bathrooms ran the water all the time while shaving and brushing). It works if you don't waste water, but likely 3-4 gpd will be in the next tier. Unless you have kids. We won't talk about human population pressures today.

Looks like FTC doesn't have sufficient water rights for lots of water for everyone, or maybe they are deficient in their WWTP or drinking treatment (as opposed to being on a well up there and getting oil byproducts in your groundwater).

o Res rates cannot be compared to ag rates, as there is domestic potable treatment and WWTP on the other end. Plus the pipes, pumps (now at 800k-1M per lift station), freeze controls, maintenance.

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

You're lucky to only be paying $2.60 a gallon - in Aurora it's $4.60 a gallon for the first 20k gallons and goes up from there.


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

You're lucky to only be paying $2.60 a gallon - in Aurora it's $4.60 a gallon for the first 20k gallons and goes up from there.

Yup, Aurora Water is fun. Our household has fairly strict voluntary controls to keep usage down and we water only small amount of turf and 200 sf of mulched sq ft veggie garden. And still the MIL wants flushing after every use (she doesn't pay water).

And the last city I practiced in south of here had surrounding domestic wells down a minimum of 2000 ft with cr*ppy flow and redrilling very common - if they had rights - down much, much deeper than that. Many of my memories data dumped but IIRC I didn't blink at 5-6k ft wells. Those folks would cry tears of joy at 2.60. Muni water is a bargain on the Front Range, but not for long. I remember our City Attorney talking about future development and people recoiling in horror - won't be long now as we see Water Districts paying $Billions to water a few tens of thousands of households. And if we for some crazy reason exploit oil shale, well, that water they use will make ours even more expensive.

[/soapbox]

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Am I missing something in the scale of this conversation?? Do you really pay over two or four dollars for ONE gallon of water??? How much is your water bill???

Is that 13,000 gal allotment annual??

According to my water bill, up to 20,000 gallons= $0.004/gal. The most expensive is $0.0150/gal if you use more than 40k gallons. There's an additional $20 charge for sewer.


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Usu water companies price their water in thousands of gallons. Some price per gallon, but not many.

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Yes Dan, that is correct. I omitted the 1K. factor in my text. Typo. Sorry. The calculation is correct though.

Bruce


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Oh, whoops - the text I italicized in my reply @ Thu, Jun 25, 09 at 0:30 I didn't really read. We don't pay that a gal here.

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Ethanol production has caused the price of corn to skyrocket from 2$/bushel up to about 4$/bushel in the last couple years. (4.07$/bushel today) Even at that price, typically an entire acre of corn produces about 175 bushels of corn, which would be worth 712$. A farmer is very lucky if he can get a 50% profit margin once he's subtracted out his cost of fertilizer, fuel for the tractor, seed corn (not to even mention water or well pump fuel if he doesn't live in Iowa, or already own the water rights)

So my friend growing corn near Greeley would come out financially ahead if I paid him 357$ to NOT grow this particular entire acre of corn. I paid more than that last summer for water for my 1970's city lot, a little under 1/2 acre in size. To me, my lovely garden is considerably more valuable than his corn profits on a plot more than double the size (and dramatically more water usage for the corn).

Even though my vegetable garden is only a portion of my lot, it also probably produces more human food, lb. for lb. than the acre of field corn which will either feed cows, pigs, or the ethanol distillery, all three of which are not very cost effective or carbon efficient. Particularly if you consider there's no transportation carbon cost for my garden, it is definitely more carbon efficient than that entire acre of corn.

I'm willing to pay a high price for the water I need for my garden. I just don't like it when someone insists it's more important and more valuable to society to grow another acre of corn or silage, compared to my garden and lovely yard.

Have you ever taken a flight to the East coast on a clear day and looked down after you've crossed the Missouri? What did you see? Yup, lots of wooded areas, with a few fields here and there, and occasionally an area dominated by fields. LOTS of LOW intensity agricultural, and deciduous timber production. Ever seen a picture of Machu Pichu, or any other historic terraced agricultural area? If the value of farm produce rises high enough, most of that low intensity US land which has natural abundance of water, but is just growing trees and a few cows right now, would be converted to high intensity agricultural production. I strongly suspect most of the folks who are up in arms about loss of agricultural land to city suburbs, have never spent any time on a farm in middle America, and have no idea of the vast potential there. The reason the folks in Missouri let the water run while they shave is because there is no water shortage there. Even with global warming, it's expected to get WETTER through most of the Midwest and East, not drier.

That being said, I won't deny that there are certainly places like Aurora, where city planners messed up. Big time. Expansion driven by their greed, went crazy in the 70's 80's and 90's, without prior adequate purchase of water rights to support that development. Some recent years they have been dependent on the water charity of other municipalities, which sooner or later will dry up. Then, indeed folks there will have to turn off the spigot. If you love gardening, Aurora is not a smart place to be. Normal and sensible city planning could have prevented that situation. The Aurora situation does not reflect reality for most of the rest of the Front Range.

There will continue to be development in Northern Colorado. I anticipate that with each new suburb, a farm further east will need to dry up. Okay, fine. That's not a tragedy. The farmer gets rich selling the water rights and retires to the new town. That farm production can easily happen elsewhere once the price of farm goods rises enough to support it. We don't ALL have to go the Moon-scape route.

Bruce


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Sorry, it is per thousand gallons, and 1t's a 20K a month allotment at that tier, goes up over $5 if you use more than 20K-I think 25K, etc


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

There will continue to be development in Northern Colorado. I anticipate that with each new suburb, a farm further east will need to dry up. Okay, fine. That's not a tragedy. The farmer gets rich selling the water rights and retires to the new town. That farm production can easily happen elsewhere once the price of farm goods rises enough to support it. We don't ALL have to go the Moon-scape route.

Nice to know some of our Front Range bretheren think so highly of a way of life that many of us love. :P Just so you don't have to be inconvenienced. :P


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

That's the reality, jali.

A couple of years ago I gave a presentation at a business group meeting. The organizers didn't brief me on their background and we started discussing the chances of water availability with declining snowpack and increasing population (the big study about how much water oil shale uses wasn't in the public consciousness yet). So my conclusion was water would be much harder to come by and much more expensive. Well, I was shown the door pretty rapidly when done for few Q&A, as I was told while walking out the meeting was for recruiting large companies that happen to use a lot of water. Oooooops.

At any rate, a sad issue that played out in CA when I lived there and they were forced to stop taking the Colo R. overage was there was a nasty public discussion about the 'cheap' ag water and the cities would pay much more for that water, and contribute much more to the state GDP. Which is true, and we can externalize the costs of shipping food from far away on poor people...

There will be few farms on marginal land by 2050 in the US. We are not doing a good job in helping these folks transition away from their preferred lives.

[/water politics]

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

My professional career was with fresh and brackish water fish farming, and I worked around the world in all kinds of different environments - rain forests to deserts, and was able to see all kinds of different freshwater management techniques, irrigation, dams, domestic supply, and all the issues, problems, solutions, etc. It's a fascinating subject (at least to me :->'). It isn't much discussed, but it's a huge issue all around the world, and often a study in unintended consequences.

There are a lot of ways to look at it - all valid, and all connected. At the least, there is the way you deal with water in your own household and garden. Here on the forum we have a wonderful range of people with different situations and different solutions, all sharing their experiences with replacing blue grass with native grasses, tree selection, drip irrigation, container gardening, grey water use, etc. There are some of us who have irrigation water, big gardens/farms, and have different problems and solutions. Its a question of adapting your means, climate, and gardening goals.

Then, the next step up, is to look at the particular water source you use - river drainage, storage, changes in demand, population, drought, runoff, how climate change may be effecting you, and all that. Because these things will effect you, and if you aren't aware of this bigger picture, then you can get seriously whalloped when your water rates double, or they shut you off.

And then look downstream, and see whats happening there. For us on the Colorado Western Slope and Utah, its the Colorado River and what all that does, eg supports Phoenix, Las Vegas, cities in California. San Diego, CA is now at a stage two drought restrictions, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. California is also shutting off irrigation water to tens of thousands of acres of ag land.

Where I live, a surprising number of people have to haul their domestic water in a big plastic tub in the back of their truck or pulled with a trailer, and then fill a cistern. Not a whole lot gets wasted, and they still manage to grow gardens.

1/2 mile away, I have 20 acre feet of irrigation water each summer to water a couple of acres. Most of it, needless to say, runs down the draw back into the Colorado River drainage. If I don't *use* it, ie run it through my pipes, it can be taken/confiscated. And the people down the draw have already claimed the runoff, even if they don't use it except to fill their ponds. Eventually, the runoff heads down McElmo Canyon and joins the San Juan river, which heads into Lake Powell. The water came, originally, from the Dolores River, which heads north and then joins the San Miguel river, the Gunnison, and the Colorado, and ends up in Lake Powell. So, in the big picture, like from a satellite....-), I'm not as big a water buffalo as it would seem.....

The price has gone down considerably from years past, but I could sell the rights to that water for $30,000 tomorrow, legally restricted to stay as agriculture use within the supply area of my irrigation district. So no, you can't have any, even though I'm willing to share......


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

I knew I liked David for a reason.

I call myself, among other things, an 'Urban Ecologist'. "Having an ecological education", said Leopold, "is living in a world of wounds". Some here may notice I prefer very large scales for consideration, and this is a function of the education and cognitive predisposition.

Thinking at these scales also means that lots of people fit in these thoughts - regional scale vs household scale, if you will. This means that I think of how many people are going to have less water soon, and even fewer will have water if we for some crazy reason decide to mine oil shale.

Water is precious, and what we considered to be our share is disappearing fast as population grows, climates shift and folk appropriate water in anticipation of water wars (countries and corporations like Nestl are buying farmland for water).

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Well, ya know, Dan, I have heard the obituary of the plains many times in my lifetime. My grandfather heard it during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. My great-grandfather heard it when the blizzards of the 1880s wiped out thousands of cattle. Stephen Long decided it's fate when he called the Great Plains "The Great American Desert." And ya know what? We are still here and viable. And we will be for a long time. That is unless planning types figure out a way people can transport themselves from points east without need of fuel, food and water. So you say it is 2050. Well, I won't be around, but I'm willing to bet some of these communities and their ag neighbors are. Gee! I recall hearing when I was a kid that we all were gonna have jet packs to get to work and I'm still waiting for that prediction to come to pass. Predictions. That's all they are. And I've heard enough predictions and projections from planners to recognize they are very skillfully worded guesses of what will happen. That's all. I dare say, we are far more aware of the Front Range's needs and wants, than they are of the "realities" out here. Ever heard of Ports to Plains? Well, those trucks going from Mexico to Canada are going to need the necessary ammenities to keep cargo moving. And while some little towns are drying up, others will still be around to serve the ground transportation by trucks and tourists heading for the beauty of the mountains. Can't do that without water, now can we???

Bruce, I am not going to defend the waste of water from agriculture. The production of corn on marginally productive land irrigated only because corn prices are artificially high thanks to the ethanol mess is maddening. But understandable to those trying to make a living from the land. Prices are high, they are gonna try to capitalize on it. They are trying to grow corn out here in dryland country. This year it is going fine because of the rain, but that isn't going to happen very often. We are water rights holders and senior ones at that. We have fended off municipalities for years at great expense. So should we just let the ever-burgeoning suburbs stick a straw into our little corner of the prairie so people can have a nice expanse of lawn and a bunch of plants that don't belong out here? Nope, not from us, it isn't going to happen. We conserve our water table. We don't abuse it. We share when times are tough for neighbors, but we have no inclination to let that water table get depleted so someone can use a six-headed shower fixture or let their sprinklers run until water goes down the gutters of the streets. Does that happen here? Sure, we have a few people like that too, but it doesn't happen often because the cost deters many from trying it.

At my home, which in town, I planted native cool-season grass for a lawn and I have watered only a couple times in the summers since I planted it. I use drip for my vegetables. I use soaker hoses for the flower beds. My water bill is rarely over the base price. Do I begrudge people a beautiful yard? No way on this earth, but I do think a lot of people could be a lot wiser with the way they water what they have planted in their yard and how they use water in and around their home. Yeah, it would be a lot easier to get the hose out and spray off the mud from the sidewalk or the grass clippings, but that just isn't prudent given the water situation we all need to face. And how many times do you see an automated sprinkler system running when rain is falling? Don't tell me about the waste from agriculture causing prohibitive water costs.

So if it is "no tragedy" to you that people out here lose their way of life, I must point out that we find little sympathy for the bellyaching about high water bills from the city dwellers. We all have to pay the price in one way or another. But then, if all that matters in life is making some money off the water rights so they can move to the city and be assimilated, that's what they deserve.

The Plains Indians did just fine out here. Long was just the first of many who wrote this part of the country off. Many endured horrendous conditions to cross these prairies for the west. The Poppers wrote us off in the late 1980s with the infamous proposal of "Buffalo Commons" and we are still here. Some of you may not understand what the draw is, and that is okay. Those of us who know, don't have to explain it, we just thank God for every day we have out here - away from all the "conveniences" you have in your lives.


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Jalirancher, looking at the map, I assume you're west of the Ogallala aquifer? Which one are you folks using?

From a water availability standpoint, there are places where it makes sense to grow hay, there are places where it makes sense to grow pasture grass for intense husbandry, other places where it makes sense for sparse range cattle, there are places where it makes sense to grow corn. That isn't, necessarily, what's going on now.

And then we can talk about KBG golf courses in the desert, and huge fountains in Las Vegas that shoot water up in the sky to evaporate, etcetra that all make bundles of money.

Here is a link that might be useful: random site with map of the aquifer


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Laramie Fox Hills, David. Agree with you about land use. Wholly agree. Our family has ranched here since the 1880s and we got the brunt of the poor practices that caused the Dust Bowl. This is short-grass prairie and over the years too many have tried to make it what it isn't. They don't last long, but their damage lingers. But there are a surprising number of pockets where one can cultivate wonderful crops and they do so quite successfully. There isn't much irrigation out here at all. There is more toward Burlington and they are paying the price for that now. We can't be compared with the ag along the Platte or Arkansas. It takes too much to drill down 4500 ft. to water the cattle. My friend's husband is one of the big well drillers here. First question they ask, "Are you out of water or are the cattle out of water?" Guess which gets priority? :)


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

I never said, implied, wrote or stated anything about an 'obituary'. I implied 'depopulation' and 'agriculture shift' and stated 'water will be much more expensive'. Natural limits are natural limits, is what I said. There's not enough for population growth is what I said. And marginal land sees the limits faster is what I implied or said.

How long do you think city people in ArapCo, ElPasoCo and DougCo will pay ~$2B for additional water for a few tens of thousands of households and $Bns more for maintenance of transbasin pipes and pumps or 6 figures to drill their wells thru Dawson and Fox Hills as the aquifer falls? Not much longer. The fringe folk will go east where there's water (and hopefully jobs), and the ones with the 'Pioneer' on their license plate will wave goodbye and figure out how to stay.

Whoops! I forgot I closed the 'water politics' tag.

Dan


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

Re pockets of surprising fertility and production out in the short grass prairie - out at Crow Canyon Archeological Center west of town, for the past two summers they've invited up some really old, traditional farmers from the Pueblos in New Mexico, decedents of the Anasazi, and have them use their inherited, verbally passed knowledge to plant corn, squash, and beans out on the sites their ancestors used to farm. Four or 5 teetering old guys arguing in what-ever language, and then they decide what gets planted where. I don't know enough about it yet, but they use the concentration and location of native plants as an indication of where to put stuff - rabbit bush being the key indicator. Their yields from the first year, w/o irrigation, were pretty impressive. They're going to do a multi year project and write something up.....

Dan, there is a long running fight between the developers of new sub-divisions fighting stricter laws on water use, supply, etc. I don't know who is winning now. But at some point, I'd agree that water is what limits urban growth - but then I am amazed at places like Mexico City - grossly depleted aquifer, massive drought, collapsed water infrastructure, and I dunno how many million people live there. That place continues to grow when, logically, it shouldn't. I wonder what the tipping point is. I'm afraid that kind of situation results in a mass exodus all at once. But then I've seen people in the Sahel live for months on a few quarts a day......


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RE: 'Finally Price their water properly????'

David, a buddy of mine did Peace Corps in the Sahel, revegetating sub-Saharan woodlands depleted by overgrazing and drought. Surely the girls walking an hour to the well isn't how we are used to living here.

My last place I worked on the water-conserving landscape regs that were implemented after they (finally) did tiered rates. Their trend will be to prioritize and incentivize KBG-free yards and eliminate the gutter-flooders [despite our high water prices here, within a 500' radius of our house, ~25% are gutter-flooders]. Some of the new state regs coming on-line will make it easier for the developers to get out of their narrow boxes and learn how to build a decent product, so its happening now.

Dan


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