Colorado River District webinar to explore troubling ag land buys in the Grand Valley

Webinar seeks to answer why a New York City hedge fund is buying Grand Valley farmland.

Glenwood Springs, CO — We’ve all been wondering: why is a New York-based hedge fund buying Grand Valley farmland?

As part of the Colorado River District’s “Water With Your Lunch” webinar series and the fight to protect West Slope Water, the River District will host a discussion about Water Asset Management, the investment firm behind the agricultural land purchases that have stirred up curiosity and concern on the Western Slope.

The fifth in the Colorado River District’s lunchtime webinar series will dive into the subject from noon to 1:15 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9. To learn more and register for the Zoom webinar, visit bit.ly/WWLGrandValley. If you’re busy during the live event, register to receive a recording of the webinar in your email inbox.

Water Asset Management founder Disque Dean has been invited to the discussion that will include Andy Mueller, the River District’s general manager, and Rep. Marc Catlin, a farmer from Montrose and state legislator representing House District 58. Catlin also sits on the River District Board of Directors.

In September 2017, a New York-based hedge fund, Water Asset Management, purchased a 330-acre farm in the Grand Valley. So began a concern that modern-day speculation in western Colorado water was underway with investors buying land not for its agricultural production but for its water – water that could net profits at some point in the future for its value outside of the Grand Valley.

Speculation in western water is not a new phenomenon. Anti-speculation doctrine is written into Colorado water law to prevent hoarding of water that does not have a specified, immediate beneficial use. Water Asset Management’s activities inspired new legislation in 2020 to study the issue. Since 2017, Water Asset Management has become the biggest shareholder in the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the entity that operates the Roller Dam in DeBeque Canyon and the Government-Highline Canal.

The Grand Valley Water Users’ water rights are for irrigation and are central to sustaining the valley’s agricultural economy. The Colorado River District was founded in 1937 to protect the water security for western Colorado. If water were to be taken from the land, the loss of economy, food production, culture and working landscapes would devastate the region.

“We do not think this is the future that our constituents or anybody else in Colorado want to see,” Mueller said. “As warming temperatures and declining river flow impact the West, the River District’s mission is to meld what science is telling us with water and economic policy-making that best protects the Colorado that we know and love. Clearly, Water Asset Management sees something in the climactic and economic trends. Our webinar will attempt to explain what is happening.”

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