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Letter to the editor: Is there cheating going on in the San Luis Valley water game?

Posted: Thursday, Aug 29th, 2013

The Conejos System was the first valley stream to feel the effects of irrigation wells “taking” the rivers return flows starting in the 1950’s. State Engineer Hinderliter on signing the Rio Grande Compact said “No ditch right in Colorado senior to 1938 would be affected by the Compact” – little did he know 5000 large irrigation wells would be coming to the valley and causing great injury to the rivers and creeks and springs.

Every year that there is a compact requirement on the Conejos my 1855 river priority is partly claimed by the compact and two weeks or so of my water goes to the state line. (And every other priority receiving water the same) Senate Bill 04-222 secretly brought before the legislature by certain well groups, just days before the session ended changed our valley water law from the rest of the State. Now pumping out of priority is legal and sub-districts managed only by well owners declare what senior surface right is injured, how much and when the injury would be replaced – maybe next year. Further, the sub-districts are to sustain the aquifers and are not to interfere with the Rio Grande Compact and its production getting to the state line. Yet in the Conejos System every day there is a compact call, the call is interfered by the increase loss of water in the river bed due to daily well use, drought or no drought. The delivery of compact water at Las Sauces is actually me by the State “taking” extra water from ditches receiving waters over and above what compact requires.

Yes, there is a drought but you wouldn’t know it by the circles spraying every day. Just ask the thousands of people with a little home or domestic well going dry or the worry of the wells depth to water getting close to sucking air. Does everybody’s well have to go dry before the Greed ends?

The great “Model”, the water judge says must be in place to determine pumping’s’ injury to a surface right, is being developed by a “Peer Review Team” consisting of State personnel, professional engineers hired by organizations whose boards are mainly well owners and one “boots on the ground” well owner in Conejos County. Sadly missing are men of experience not owning a well or a professional engineer representing non-well owners. Who do you think the professionals are working for? The people that don’t pay them? You might say the State Engineer’s office is unbiased but the five Engineers preceding and Dick Wolfe never shut down an adjudicated well for injuring a senior surface right in 50 years. And, since when does a person have to own an irrigation well to be eligible for appointment to a tax sustained water board? That seems to be the case down here.

I am just an old man that has been told everything has changed from the old days and wells have the right to run our water and use every devious method to reduce their injury to the least quantity possible “taking” a portion of it for their injury replacement program and getting it free.

I truly believe I have reason to feel the deck is stacked against injustice and fair play. Just so everyone understands – the word “taking” is just a nice word for STEALING!


Kelly Sowards

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