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Water Rights Dispute Flows In Weld County

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Irrigation in Weld County (credit: CBS)

Irrigation in Weld County (credit: CBS)

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A water rights dispute is bubbling up in the South Platte River basin. Some farmers say there’s plenty of water underground, but they’re not allowed to tap into it.

A farmer near Greeley is frustrated and wants some help from the legislature. If Glen Fritzler can’t irrigate with more water from above, he’s facing a devastating financial loss this summer

“Potentially $700,000,” Fritzler said.

Fritzler said the solution could come with the push of a button. What’s stopping him is Colorado law limiting how much water he’s allowed to draw from his well. He says there’s simply too much groundwater in the aquifer.

“I could irrigate our crops and grow and take care of our financial needs and also it would lower the ground water,” Fritzler said.

He says the ground water is coming up into his basement leaving water stains and caused him to spend around $40,000 to make a ditch to draw water away from his home.

“It’s heartbreaking.”

He believes the water is also damaging underground sewage containment.

“I think in some respects, this is very unfair.”

Rep. Randy Fischer is pushing a bill that would study why ground water is at near record levels and whether greater usage of well water would infringe upon senior water rights.

“It makes common sense that if you’ve got these incredibly high ground water levels, why can’t you turn your well on?” Fischer said.

But time is running out for Fischer and Fritzler. The legislative session ends Wednesday and Fritzler says without proper watering, he faces bankruptcy.

“Help us get these wells turned on and we don’t have to lose everything,” Fritzler said.

The communications director for the House GOP says there’s still time for Fischer’s bill to come to a vote before Wednesday. But even if it does, it’s unlikely to change water rights in time for farmers in the South Platte River basin.

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