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Looking northeast from Moffat across the San Luis Valley. Despite the lush grass pictured in July 2021, the vast aquifer below hit its lowest point last month for every January on record. Photo by Tara Flanagan.

The water situation in the San Luis Valley appears to be no place for partisan politics. For decades, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, progressives and conservatives have pushed together against outside parties trying to tap into the vast aquifer below the Valley.

Lauren Boebert joined the list this week.

In an editorial originally published in Colorado Politics and the Alamosa Citizen, the Republican Third District Representative, who is not known for bipartisan tendencies, condemned Renewable Water Resources’ (RWR) plan to export 22,000 acre-feet a year from the northern end of the Valley to Douglas County. RWR’s principals include former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and his former deputy chief of staff Sean Tonner.

“In Colorado, water is more precious than gold these days, and farmers and ranchers have responded to the drought crisis in earnest by reducing their usage and working to create sustainable practices so that the Valley’s aquifers will be able to support future generations,” Boebert’s editorial said. “The farmers I’ve spoken to are not only concerned about their ability to use the aquifers—they want them to be sustainable and available for their grandchildren to use.”

Boebert echoed the oft-heard assessment from Valley locals: There is no water to send without significant economic and environmental impacts.

“One of the biggest problems with RWR’s proposal is there is no water in the San Luis Valley to spare. In 1900, Colorado courts found there were more claims to surface water rights than actual water available in the Valley. In 2006, Colorado courts also declared both of the San Luis Valley’s aquifers over-appropriated, meaning that there is no room for additional water rights claims. In January of 2022, the unconfined aquifer was at its lowest point ever for a January, despite reducing pumping by nearly 100,000 acre-feet in the last several years.”

She also pointed to the very difficult process facing RWR if it moves ahead with its plans. “In addition to the logistical challenge of getting permits, authorizations, and building a massive swath of new pipelines, the cities of Denver, Aurora, and Colorado Springs have all come out and said they won’t allow RWR to use their reservoirs as proposed. There is currently no identified buyer for the transferred water, as 47 water providers indicated they are not interested in the project.”

RWR is in the process of due-diligence meetings with the Douglas County Commissioners, examining the many layers of impacts, including environmental concerns. A public meeting with the commissioners is slated for March 26 in Monte Vista, in the San Luis Valley.

Gov. Jared Polis announced his opposition to the RWR plan earlier this month, followed by U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, who brought the matter to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland and Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, on Feb. 20.