Blue Mesa Reservoir may be home to a pre-1922 water bank for Front Range suppliers in case of a Colorado River Compact call

February 12, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Basin and Gunnison Basin roundtables are collaborating on a project to see whether water from pre-1922 water rights in the Gunnison River basin could be banked in Blue Mesa Reservoir as a hedge against a Colorado River Compact call…

A call could affect transmountain diversions like the Colorado-Big Thompson project, Denver Water’s diversions, Twin Lakes and the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project because they rely on post-1922 water rights. There also could be an impact on Western Slope water rights claimed after 1922…

The joint roundtable group plans to meet again on March 19 and report on the progress of the water bank plan at the meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board the following day, [Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District] said. There also are questions about whether Blue Mesa Reservoir can be operated for water bank storage, but the state should develop a specific proposal before that can be explored, Broderick said.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.


Protect the Flows hopes to galvanize business interests the are dependent on wet water in the Colorado River

February 4, 2012

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

[Zeke Hersh], the owner of Frisco’s Blue River Anglers joined a contingent of six who voiced the message of Protect the Flows, a brand-new, grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness of water supply and related jobs in the Colorado River system — from the headwaters to the delta. The group represented river-related business interests from Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, Hersh said, adding that the group isn’t just gaining traction by sitting with legislators and leaders in the nation’s environmental governance. It’s also building a broader base, growing from 170 companies to 370 companies involved in the effort from its start in summer 2011 to today.

The goal in going to D.C. was to urge the Department of the Interior and legislators to consider plans that will employ smart, common-sense strategies to keep the Colorado River flowing when they finalize the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Supply & Demand Study this summer.

Now that the “Options and Strategies Phase” of the Colorado River Supply and Demand Study is closed, submitted proposals will be considered and evaluated through June 2012. Upon completion, the study will define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years, and will provide adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances…

As an angler, a guide, and a mountain biker who likes to cruise Moab, Utah and cool off afterwards in the lazy Colorado River that flows through town, Hersh said he can help provide valuable, first-hand insight into the river’s impact throughout the West. It goes far beyond drinking water needs and agricultural impact, he said. The message of Protect the Flows is that more than 800,000 jobs in the West (107,000 and more than $10 billion into the Colorado’s economy alone) come directly from the river, and those people must be considered when the fate of the water supply is considered…

While in DC, the business leaders asked the Department of Interior to implement a plan that will improve urban conservation, improve agricultural efficiency and provide options for existing water storage that will allow for keeping more water in the river. The coalition touts these measures as a way to balance supply and demand to continue to serve the 36 million who rely on the waterway for drinking water and protect the 800,000 river-related tourism and recreation jobs across the seven Colorado River Basin states.

“Department of Interior’s keen leadership is the key to ensuring that the Colorado River Basin Study results in solutions that will benefit all parties,” said Sarah Sidwell, sales director for Tag-A-Long Expeditions in Moab, Utah and member of the Moab Area Chamber of Commerce…

In D.C., they presented some viable ideas for handling the plethora of water issues facing the West, including the extremely difficult task of reworking the complicated water law. Water banks are first on the list, Hersh said. Initiated in Arizona, it allows those holding water rights to override the “use it or lose it” rule of thumb in years of excess flows. These folks can use what they need, and bank the rest for credit later. In the meantime, someone else can buy or borrow the water…

“Jobs are very important right now. We do not want to lose one job,” Hersh said … as we decide how to manage the water in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Chris Treese (Colorado River District): ‘We’re very concerned about any large project of any kind for Eastern or Western Colorado’

February 4, 2012

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Mr. Treese was speaking at the Southern Colorado Water Forum this week. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We’re very concerned about any large project of any kind for Eastern or Western Colorado,” Chris Treese, external affairs manager for the Colorado River Conservation District, told the Southern Colorado Water Forum earlier this week…

Colorado’s weather has been, and will continue to be, unpredictable, however. Water availability is dependent on snowpack, and some climate projections claim there will be less snow in the mountains in the next century. But while warmer temperatures appear to be certain, the jury’s still out on the effect on precipitation levels. “It could be more or it could be less,” Treese said. “One thing is certain: The growing season will be longer, driving up demand.”

At one point, Treese portrayed the Colorado River district as a David facing two Goliaths: demand from Colorado’s Front Range for more water and demand from downstream states in the Colorado River Compact…

If one hiked along the western side of the Continental Divide in North-Central Colorado, only three streams that are not part of a diversion project would be crossed, Treese said…

Last year, several counties and water districts announced the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement with Denver Water that set out certain payments and water deliveries that will allow Denver to divert and store more water in Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County. Such cooperative deals make sense and show that the Western Slope does not deserve its “Not One Drop” reputation, Treese said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado River Basin: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system?

December 25, 2011

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Here’s a guest commentary written by Eric Kuhn, David Modeer and Fred Krupp running in The Denver Post. The trio are issuing a call to arms of sort, asking for input for the Colorado River Basin Study. Here’s an excerpt:

Management of the Colorado River is a complex balancing act between the diverse interests of United States and Mexico, tribes, the seven basin states, individual water users, stakeholders, and communities. The challenges posed by new growth and climate change may dwarf anything we faced in the past. Instead of staring into the abyss, the water users, agencies, and stakeholder groups that make managing the Colorado River responsibly their business are working together, using the best science available to define the problem, and looking for solutions.

We’re calling our inquiry the Colorado River Basin Study, and we want your help. As Colorado River management professionals, we have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but we know that we don’t have them all. We want ideas from the public, from you, but we need your input by February 1. You can submit your suggestions by completing the online form at: http://on.doi.gov/uvhkUi.

The big question we need to answer is: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system? We don’t believe there’s a single silver bullet that will resolve all of our challenges. We want to continue to explore the benefits and costs of every possibility, from conservation to desalination to importing water from other regions.

The West was built on innovation and hard work, and that spirit is still strong. Our landscapes and communities are unparalleled in their beauty, resilience, and character. The economic well-being of our rural and urban communities in the Colorado River basin is inextricably linked to Colorado River and its environmental health.

That’s why we are asking for the public’s input to help us craft a study showing a path forward that supplies our communities with the water they need to thrive and protects the health of the Colorado River-and the ecosystems and economies it supports.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Mesa County Water Association to offer ‘The Water Course’ January 19, 27 and February 2

January 9, 2010

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

What: “The Water Course” covering water law, water quality and balancing competing demands, sponsored by the Mesa County Water Association
When: Jan. 19 and 27, Feb. 2, 6-9 p.m. Registration due Monday, Jan. 11.
Where: GG City Hall Auditorium, 250 N. Fifth St.
Cost for entire series: $35 MCWA members; $45 nonmembers; Single session: $15 MCWA members; $20 nonmembers. Some scholarships..
Info: hannah@mesacountywater.org, or 683-1133, or http://www.mesacountywater.org

More from the article:

Studies estimate a 600,000 million-acre-feet shortage [ed. in the Grand Valley] by 2050, said Grand Junction Utility and Street System Director Greg Trainor, and a board member of the Mesa County Water Association.

The MCWA was first formed 25 years ago by the late Ruth Hutchins, a Fruita farmer concerned about a proposal that would pump water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Citizens, irrigators and government leaders held “Water 101” courses on controversial water topics for many years. After several years of inactivity, the MCWA was resurrected a year ago by Trainor and Hannah Holm to resume educating people on water issues affecting the Western Slope. The association is governed by a seven-member board of directors. “Current water laws serve the valley well, but it really behooves people to appreciate the resource and protect it as the water situation gets tighter,” said Holm, MCWA coordinator. “We can’t stay in our bubble forever.”[...]

A three-part water course series starts Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium. The first course will address water law; how the valley’s water rights relate to the water rights of California and Denver; and who is responsible for irrigation water once it leaves a canal…

The Jan. 27 course will cover laws and programs that seek to protect and clean up Colorado waterways, the condition of Grand Valley rivers and streams, and how drinking water is protected and treated. The February course will explore threats to irrigated agriculture as cities grow; environment and recreation water needs; and how the Grand Valley could change with drought and increasing competition for water.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Pre-1922 water bank

June 9, 2009

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Here’s a look at the pre-1922 water bank proposed by the Southwestern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

A call on the river – as it’s known – has never occurred. But board members of the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Colorado River Water Association are interested enough in the consequences that they took up the matter last week at a meeting in Durango. A presentation by Tom Iseman of The Nature Conservancy, who spent six months researching issues, served mainly as a primer for future debate. The two water groups, which together represent all counties on the Western Slope, commissioned the study.

On the Western Slope, agricultural interests whose claims predate 1922 hold the rights to about 1 million acre-feet. An acre-foot of water covers a football field to the depth of 1 foot. But under what Iseman calls a water bank, early right-holders on the Western Slope would be compensated financially for putting their allotment temporarily at the disposal of junior users, who could lose their total allotments if there were a call by downstream consumers. Senior right-holders would receive further compensation if their water was actually used. Junior right-holders could use loaned water only in the case of an actual or imminent downstream call and then only for critical purposes.

State agencies – the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Division of Water Resources – have been briefed on issues Western Slope water suppliers are discussing, Whitehead said. Also, the boards have presented their plan to most water districts on the Front Range.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Colorado River District: Pre-1922 water bank

June 8, 2009

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Here’s a look at the plan to bank water rights in priority before the Colorado River Compact, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

The Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Southwest District met in Durango last week to discuss details of the plan, which would put senior water rights into a bank where they could be tapped in case of such a compact call.

Water users with pre-1922 rights (those senior rights are not affected by a downstream call) would be compensated for offering their senior water rights to junior users for temporary critical uses like drinking water and firefighting. The temporary use would only be permitted if a compact call were in effect or imminent.

Under the 1922 interstate contract, Colorado is obligated to deliver an average of 7.5 million acre feet of Colorado River water downstream annually. In a worst-case scenario, Colorado water users could be forced to cut some of their existing uses if the downstream states demand their full allotment. Water rights established before the compact was signed are not subject to the agreement.

Most of the water rights available for such a bank are held by ranchers and farmers.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


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