While oil and gas prices have been declining recently, values for Colorado–Big Thompson (CBT) Project water have reached all-time highs. CBT prices are generally considered an indicator of the trend in the Colorado water market. The CBT Project collects and delivers water to the East Slope via a 13.1-mile tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park. Water flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land and 895,000 people in portions of eight counties.
The selling prices of CBT units have more than tripled from 2010 to the end of 2015. In 2010, the sales prices ranged from about $6,500 to $9,000 per unit; in 2015, the sale prices ranged from $24,500 to $26,500 or more. CBT yield is set annually by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (District) and ranges from 0.50 to 1.0 acre-foot per unit. The average annual yield is 0.73 acre-feet per unit based on data from 1957 through 2015.
What’s driving the water prices skyward? There’s a finite supply of CBT units to begin with and an increasingly high demand for water. For developers, industrial users, municipalities, and others within the District boundary, CBT is often an ideal source of water, because it can be used for a number of purposes without requiring the user to go through water court proceedings (saving time and money).
The rising cost of CBT units makes it more difficult for agricultural users to purchase this water as a supplemental supply. Higher tap fees associated with new developments and difficulties obtaining raw water supplies are also creating challenges for developers and municipalities.