WELCOME to the new year. Temps will drop back into the 30s after 50-degree weather closed out 2022. But there’s not a lot of snow in the near forecast, which is what the San Luis Valley really needs. Here’s why the water picture is troubling and getting more dire, plus a few more newsbits to get 2023 started.
1. State monitoring of the Upper Rio Grande
The Upper Rio Grande Basin’s unconfined aquifer is struggling and a huge cause for concern as 2023 gets underway. Remember, the state Division of Water Resources has set very specific storage levels for the unconfined aquifer that the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and its Subdistrict No. 1 must meet. With the unconfined aquifer losing rather gaining ground on the storage level, farmers in the subdistrict are entering 2023 in a difficult position. Keep in mind that Subdistrict No. 1, through Rio Grande, Alamosa and parts of Saguache County, is the bellwether for the Valley’s irrigated agriculture economy.
2. The top story is always water
The Citizen’s 2022 Year in Water compilation will help you see more of the big picture – both with the unconfined aquifer and the confined aquifer of the Upper Rio Grande Basin. It’s important to see the fuller landscape, and we think the 2022 year in review does the trick. We would also direct you to our most recent podcast with state Sen. Cleave Simpson, who talks both about the upcoming 2023 legislative session and the critical time we’re in when it comes to water and irrigated ag in the San Luis Valley.
3. If not ag, then what?
For some the answer is more renewable solar development in those farm fields that the Valley is drying up. Don’t fall asleep on this one in 2023. Renewable solar development coupled with the more pressing need for redundant power transmission is on the front burner for Alamosa County. It is taking the lead before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in calling for both renewable solar development and transmission development in the Valley. Lori Laske, the incoming chair of the Alamosa County Board of Commissioners, has been studying up on the issue. With assistance from Simpson and the local staff of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, watch for Laske to emerge as a strong voice calling on the state to invest in renewable solar and transmission in the SLV. It’s a long process, so this topic will be in the news throughout 2023 and then years after.
4. Key meeting on Thursday for Alamosa School Board
The Alamosa Board of Education will make one of its biggest decisions early in 2023. On Thursday the school board is expected to vote on whether to move forward with planning for a four-day school week in Alamosa, the Valley’s largest school district with over 2,000 students. We have two ways to help you get up the speed on this major decision: Our podcast with Superintendent Diana Jones and Luis Murillo and then our December story “Next steps to a four-day school week” will help you understand how the Alamosa school district got to this step and what it still has to do if the school board gives the green light. When you hear the statistic that more than half of school districts in the state of Colorado are on a four-day school week, so what’s the big deal, keep in mind those school districts – mostly all small and rural – account for only around 13 percent of the K-12 student population in Colorado. Then ask yourself what disadvantage this gives rural kids, particularly in comparison to their urban and suburban peers?
5. BYOB: Bring your own bags
The yellow sticky note at the cashier checkout reminds you of a new state law that took effect Jan. 1 in Colorado. Grocery and retail food establishments are prohibited under law from providing single-use plastic or paper bags. They’ll now charge you 10 cents per bag – unless you BYOB. Come 2024 the single-use plastic bag is outlawed entirely in the state.
6. First Fridays in Alamosa, plus the SLV GO! survey
Visit Alamosa and the city of Alamosa are staging a full year of First Fridays downtown celebrations beginning this Friday, Jan. 6. If you go to all 12 First Fridays in 2023, you’ll qualify for some prizes that Visit Alamosa is giving away, according to Elizabeth Sumner, director of destination development for Visit Alamosa. Just make sure you have the First Fridays punch cardto get your name in the drawings.
And while you’re at it, go ahead and take the SLV GO! conservation and outdoor recreation survey that is open until Jan. 9. It’s a good way to register your thoughts on outdoor recreation in the San Luis Valley, and win more prizes.
Alamosa Citizen members get the Monday Briefing sent directly to their In boxes – plus a weekly newsletter on Thursdays that summarizes the top stories in the Valley. Member support keeps The Citizen free for all to read.