Colorado’s Water Shed / Interview with Agfinity’s Chip Marks

A griculture is Colorado’s second largest industry resulting in a $40 billion economic impact in our state each year.  Meanwhile, many of our farms suffer from inadequate water supplies during dry years while excess water flows across our borders during wet years.  A lack of critical water storage infrastructure in Colorado ensures that several million acre feet of water, in excess of our compacts with neighboring states, leaves our state each year.  Some estimates suggest that as much as 4 million acre-feet of water flows past thousands of acres of crop-thirsty fields on their way to arid borders never to be reclaimed.

We asked Agfinity, Inc. Vice President and Director of Agronomy, Chip Marks, to make a bit of sense of this for us.  “Why”, we asked, “in a state as abundantly rich with mountain runoffs as Colorado, is our second largest industry in peril of dehydration?”

“We have water resources.  What we need is more storage to capture those downstream flows in wet years for beneficial use in dry years” came a rather quick response to a seeming paradox.  He then added, “The Northern Integrated Supply Project (“NISP”) is an example of a project underway, which at completion would create approximately 215,000 acre-feet of additional water storage on the Front Range, something we desperately need.”  This two reservoir-storage project is a collaborative effort of 15 Front Range water partners. According to Marks, we will need help in developing adequate water supplies for future growth.  In the next 35 years, an estimated two million people could settle on the Front Range.  “Those people want to eat and farms are the lifeblood of our communities and part of our Western heritage.  We need to develop more water resources to support both urban needs and agricultural needs”, said Marks.

“What about the power of executive order,” I asked.  “Couldn’t the governor sign an emergency order that mandates more water storage in our state?”

“In May of this year, Governor Hickenlooper signed an executive order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a comprehensive water plan for the State of Colorado.  A draft of the plan is due by December 2014 with a final submission due in December of 2015.  We’ll see what the CWCB comes up with”, said Marks.

“What can the public do to help encourage water storage development and to help support local farmers?

Marks:  “Water is a vital and potentially limited resource when you live in an arid, high-desert climate like Colorado.  Like other resources, it has to be managed, protected and put to beneficial use. People need to educate themselves and not take water for granted.  They need to contact their legislators and encourage them to pursue opportunities to develop more water resources in our state”.


Agfinity, Inc. is a farm supply cooperative headquartered in Eaton, Colorado, serving rural communities and agricultural producers by providing crop nutrients, animal feed and energy inputs.