Project Information

Title: Exploring Alternatives to Improve Agricultural and Ecological Outcomes on the Bessemer Ditch

Client: Innovative Conservation Solutions, LLC and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation – 2016

Project Description

This project addresses the imminent ecological, and socioeconomic threats precipitated by agricultural-to-municipal water transfers in the Bessemer Ditch irrigated farmlands, in Pueblo, Colorado. This process, called buy-and-dry, has devastating consequences for the landscape, effects that are already visible in neighboring communities like Crowley County, where the land was permanently fallowed, affecting soil, farming activities, and eventually livelihoods. In light of the imminent water right change-case in 2016, the project objective is to help the community to conceptualize a major landscape transition—which inevitably will dry-up some land—by providing alternatives to buy-and-dry that resonate in accordance with the landscape, economy, and culture of the region. For that purpose, the project developed a series of landscape analyses to prioritize areas of ecological conservation, economic value, and areas where drying-up is likely to have less impacts. The analyses will be used to explore mechanisms of land and water rights exchange that avoids drying-up high quality farmlands or land with ecological value, thus providing the basis to ensure the conservation of a highly productive landscape, with cultural and social significance, and of important ecological value.

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