A Western Colorado Irrigation Association remains neutral on the growing presence of private investors in their large pool of senior water rights.
At the end of June, the Grand Valley Water Users Association (GVWUA) sent a letter to its nearly 1,700 individual water users regarding recent agricultural land purchases and associated water rights in their delivery area. Water Asset Management (WAM), a Manhattan-based private equity firm, has been active in the Grand Valley since 2017.
“Recently, there has been a lot of talk about buying land by Water Asset Management (WAM) with ancillary water rights under the GVWUA system,” reads the letter from the CEO of GVWUA, Mark Harris. “Some people even ask what is GVWUA’s ‘position’ on WAM.”
WAM’s purchases of at least 2,222 acres in the valley was one of the topics explored in Cash Flows, a collaborative reporting project by Aspen Journalism, KUNC, KJZZ and the Nevada Independent. Representatives of the GVWUA declined to comment on this series.
In the letter, Harris said his association will not speak publicly for or against WAM’s investments and would remain neutral on the issue.
“To the best of GVWUA’s knowledge, all land purchased by WAM under the GVWUA system is currently still in cultivation,” Harris wrote. “While we have no assurances that this will continue indefinitely, it is just not GVWUA’s role to tell its shareholders what they can and cannot do with their land.”
With its $ 16.6 million spent on agricultural properties and water shares in the GVWUA system and the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, WAM has become an important, but relatively reclusive, member of the valley’s agricultural economy. . Harris’ letter confirms that the investment company is now the largest water shareholder within the GVWUA system.
“It caused a stir statewide and West Slope lawmakers called for a renewed look at Colorado’s water laws against water speculation,” Harris continues.
In March, Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 48, which directs Dan Gibbs, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, to create a task force to study the state’s anti-speculation rules and recommend Changes.
GVWUA members draw on the Colorado River to irrigate over 23,000 acres of farmland across a vast expanse of the Grand Valley near the communities of Palisade, Grand Junction, Fruita, Loma and Mack.
This story is part of a project spanning the Colorado River produced by KUNC and supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. KUNC is solely responsible for its editorial content.