Wetland augmentation and recharge have been part of Ducks Unlimited’s conservation plan since it began working in Colorado, and the Brush Prairie Ponds State Wildlife Area (SWA) project started it all. In 1988, DU partnered with the city of Brush, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Fort Morgan Reservoir and Irrigation Company, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife to begin the first phase of wetland restoration on the SWA and to bring water to the community.
When the final phase of the Brush project was completed in 2009, DU and partners had restored 650 acres of wetlands and native grass uplands. Today the SWA is touted as a birding hotspot and a destination for waterfowl hunters in the fall. In the first year of operation the wetlands took in 1,614 acre-feet of water for recharge.
Wetland augmentation projects deliver water to wetlands that provide recharge credits, hunting opportunities and wildlife habitat. Water in the wetlands infiltrates the alluvial aquifer where it returns to the South Platte River over time. Credits are used to cover municipal, industrial and agricultural needs. These recharge credits are important for supporting local economies.
In many ways, the Brush Prairie Ponds project set the stage for DU’s work in Colorado. The work done here utilizes an ecological process that can help communities in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas use their water resources wisely and earn water credits to use during times of shortages. From this project and the concepts behind it, DU developed an Ecological Services program that focuses specifically on using wetlands to protect the quality and quantity of water for wildlife and people throughout the Heartland Heritage and Habitat Initiative (HHH) region.
Wetland augmentation is now a staple in DU’s toolbox. A proposed project on Pedersen Bend Farm near Ovid, Colorado, will develop four high-quality groundwater recharge ponds. The property is owned by DU and will bring an estimated annual recharge volume of 500 to 1,000 acre-feet to offset groundwater pumping from surrounding farms. DU’s engineers have developed conceptual designs for the project to restore more than 30 acres of shallow water wetland habitat and associated vegetation.
The opportunity on Pendersen Bend Farm will contribute to the 2050 Colorado Water Plan storage goal of 400,000 acre-feet. DU is currently searching for partners and donors for this project. Contributions to the HHH initiative will help DU move forward to complete the land survey, develop engineering plans, acquire and install the water infrastructure, accomplish earthwork and provide construction management throughout the project duration.