Over the past four years, Colorado Open Lands (COL) has developed a strong presence in the San Luis Valley (SLV), generating a pipeline of conservation projects totaling over 56,000 acres. COL works with Hispano farming families to protect their ranches and support critical wetland habitats, senior water rights, wildlife corridors and the rural agricultural economy; efforts have focused on Acequia Initiative properties, including some of Colorado’s oldest farms and permanent settlements, still irrigated from acequias (communal ditches).
Water scarcity and stress on local aquifers threatens the long-term sustainability of the region and its farming and ranching families. COL is now supporting the long-term sustainability of the SLV through the development of a Ground Water Easement Model with local partners and the permanent protection of 56,000+ acres of cultural, environmental and agricultural importance. In partnership with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, The Rio Grande Water Conservation District, San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District and the Conejos Water Conservancy District, COL will determine the design of a conservation easement model to restrict groundwater pumping when water resources are scarce and allow greater flexibility once the aquifers are recovered.