Environmentalists and farmers are concerned the deep pockets of energy companies will give them the edge in getting water rights, and this summer's drought amplified those concerns, Healy reports. "I don't think in reality that the farmer can compete with oil and gas companies for that water," Colorado corn and alfalfa farmer Peter Anderson told Healy. "Their return is a hell of a lot better than ours."
In average years, farmers pay about $30 for an acre-foot of water from local or state governments. Right now, oil and gas companies are paying as much as $1,000 to $2,000 for equal amounts, and farmers say they can't afford to match those bids, causing them to lose access to water they may need. Industry officials say the effects on water supplies are exaggerated because companies don't and can't "snap up the rights to streams and wells at the expense of farmers or homeowners," Healy reports. Officials say they lease surplus water from cities or buy treated wastewater, and in some cases buy water rights directly from farmers or others. (Read more)