July 22, 2016--Water is the new gold (Grand Junction Sentinel)

A Denver newspaper earlier this week highlighted the apparently shocking new discovery by some investors that in Colorado, “water is the new gold.” As the article explained, water rights may be as valuable to modern developers and town builders as the mother lode was during the gold rush that settled Colorado. This latest story involves the pending sale of an old family farm in northern Colorado, expected to fetch millions at auction because it includes not only 400 acres of land, but also 276 shares of Colorado-Big Thompson water. In fact, the land’s top appraised value is about $6.2 million, but the water is thought to be worth at least $6.9 million, and possible much more. Such value places much Colorado farmland out of reach for farmers. It goes without saying at this kind of sale in northern Colorado, the bidders are not likely to include any real farmers. With Colorado’s population expected to double in the next three decades, that water is simply too valuable to be used on farms. Instead, as is all too familiar, the land will be bought by a developer or a city, and dried out so the water can be diverted to municipal use. That’s why the auctioneer for this farm sale was quoted saying, “Water is the new gold.” If we really want to preserve agriculture and open space in the arid West conservation easements on agricultural water rights should be used and implemented--it is an idea whose time has come when wherever growing cities are drying up agriculture. To view the full article visit the Grand Junction Sentinel.