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City of Aurora buys Otero County farm and water rights

City of Aurora buys Otero County farm and water rights
City of Aurora buys Otero County farm and water rights 02:52

Colorado's third largest city isn't getting any smaller, and with more people comes an even higher demand for water. For decades Aurora 's leaders have come up with creative ways to access water in other parts of the state. One of those places is the Arkansas River Valley, about 150 miles away.


For years the city has paid to have access to agricultural water rights there, but now they have their own farm.

"This transaction allows Aurora to access water that it needs, in order to meet the growing demands of our population," says Alexandra Davis, Assistant General manager of Water Supply and Demand for Aurora Water.

Aurora Water

The city has purchased 4,806 acres of farmland irrigated by the Catlin Canal, along with its associated water rights for $80 million dollars and the city has contracted with a private company to operate the land as an alfalfa farm when the city isn't using its water.

The city can only access the water three times in ten years under specific conditions which leaves a lot of time for farming. When they do need that Otero Valley water, the land will be allowed to rejuvenate for the next year's crop.

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"The timing of when we take the water will be coordinated very closely with our agricultural partner. And the hope is that we can coordinate that in a way that say, if it's now for a crop, alfalfa crops are usually good for 5 or 6 years, and then you need to replant the crop anyway," said Davis.

Alexandra Davis CBS

The city says this deal is a win-win because they get water when they need it and the Arkansas River Valley gets jobs for farmers. Even in the years when nothing is being grown.

"We believe that all the farm workers will remain employed, so it won't be disruptive to the farm operations," said Davis.

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They hope this deal will keep people happy and safe in Colorado no matter if they live in Aurora or Rocky Ford.

Aurora Water

"The City of Aurora is going to be here as long as there are communities in Colorado, and we want to be a good neighbor," said Davis. "We want the quality of life for our citizens that exists in Colorado today to extend, and being a good neighbor in those communities where we are accessing critical water supplies enables all of us to continue to enjoy Colorado for what it is."

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The money for this purchase came from Aurora Water's available cash and reserves.

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