Two Rivers Water Company has filed two Colorado District Court, Water Division 2, Water Court applications in Pueblo, Colo., to irrigate farmland and for municipal, industrial, recreation, fire protection and other beneficial uses.
The first application would allow Two Rivers to use water leased from Pueblo Board of Water Works to be stored in its reservoirs and used to irrigate farmlands in Huerfano and Pueblo County.
The second application would allow Two Rivers to use water diverted from the Huerfano River for irrigation to be stored in the Orlando Reservoir and other places upstream. In addition, it would allow water to be used for municipal, domestic, industrial, agricultural, commercial, truck washing, stock watering, recreation, fish and wildlife, fire protection and other beneficial uses including augmentation, substitution and exchange. This application would permit Two Rivers to augment water supplies to the town of Gardner.
"The water court applications are another important step in the development of our business model, which is unique among publicly traded water companies," stated John McKowen, founder and chief executive officer of Two Rivers.
"The exchange of water upstream to our reservoirs and ditch systems allow us to create jobs and economic growth in Huerfano and Pueblo counties at a more accelerated pace by putting water that otherwise would have to be released downstream to beneficial use first upstream for growing crops and augmenting municipal water supplies," McKowen noted. "In particular, a water court application we filed for the Robert Rice ditch allows us to provide augmentation water to the town of Gardner, which could be in danger of losing its water supply," he added.
McKowen noted that Two Rivers has a unique business model among publicly traded water companies in that it actively farms high-yield, irrigated farmland while also providing wholesale water for municipal, industrial and recreational use. Both farming and wholesale water are significantly demand driven in the current economic environment and provide excellent profit margins, McKowen said, adding that one business benefits from the worldwide increase in the demand for food and the other benefits from the worldwide increase in the demand for water. In the western United States the two businesses are inextricably intertwined, McKowen noted. Two Rivers provides balance rather than the often seen, very intense competition for water between the agricultural and municipal communities, he said.
McKowen also pointed out that the symbiotic relationship between food and water allows Two Rivers to cover its overhead and generate profits from farming while its water business develops and establishes supply relationships. As a result, Two Rivers can support the development of its water business from irrigated farming and, in future years, provide support to water-short communities without permanently drying up prime farm land. Societally, McKowen noted, the Two Rivers business model provides a more holistic and sustainable solution to competing rural and urban interests.
Gary Barber, Two Rivers' chief operating officer and the architect of Two Rivers' water strategy stated, "This is the first step of many whereby Two Rivers provides real solutions to water-short water districts along the southern portion of the Front Range of Colorado without buying and drying some of Colorado's most productive farmland. As Chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, I have seen the tension build between smaller water districts trying to provide water to their communities and those farming communities trying to sustain agriculture. Both need water."
Barber noted, "Two Rivers' water assets have a special character, most importantly 70,000 acre feet of storage which can be rehabilitated at 10 percent of the cost, and a small fraction of the time required to build new storage. We are ideally positioned to provide the 'wet' water solutions to both communities. It has been a problem we have been studying at the Roundtable for several years. "
In addition, Barber said, "When I was asked by Two Rivers to join its management team and saw how it had put together this unique "ag/muni" holistic business model with its unique assets, I saw it as a real opportunity to develop a public/private partnership that could genuinely serve the people of Colorado. Since joining Two Rivers in early 2010, I've been able to combine my water experience with the company's entrepreneurial talent and build a unique enterprise that has many exciting opportunities ahead."