— ColoradoRiver Dist (@ColoradoWater) October 1, 2014
The Western Slope, however, can’t afford to be blinded by parochial interests — John Harold #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlanOctober 5, 2014
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Western Slope agriculture should have the same heft in water discussions as diverters to the east and populous states to the south, the head of a Grand Valley water agency said Friday.
“Western Slope agriculture and Western Slope water cannot be considered as a simple, easy-to-go-to solution to the water-supply concerns of others,” Mark Harris, general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users’ Association, told about 300 people at the Colorado River District’s annual water seminar at Two Rivers Convention Center.
The Western Slope, however, can’t afford to be blinded by parochial interests, John Harold of Tuxedo Farms in Olathe said.
“If we ever have a vote, there are 40 million people who would just run us over in a flash,” Harold said.
Harris and Harold were among several speakers who were asked how to deal with the water quandaries that now confront water users.
Those problems range from increased demands for water from the Front Range to insistence from the southwest that Colorado is running dangerously close to falling short of meeting its requirements under the 1922 compact that governs the use of the Colorado River.
Participants were asked whether Gov. John Hickenlooper’s comment that “Every conversation about water should begin with conservation” might understate the value of efficient use of water.
The terms are virtually interchangeable in common usage, said Dr. Perry Cabot, a research scientist and extension specialist at Colorado State University.
On a more technical level, however, conservation “is about doing less with less,” Cabot said, while efficiency improvements are aimed at “doing the same with less” water.
An experiment comparing yields of traditional furrow irrigation against sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation on onions showed that drip irrigation was twice as efficient as furrow irrigation.
Sprinkler irrigation was in between.
Efficiency is likely to become more significant in coming years as demand for food grows, Cabot said.
“There hasn’t been enough emphasis on efficiency,” said Aaron Citron, project manager and attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River Project in Boulder.
“In the next 50 years, we’re going to have to produce as much food as we ever have in history,” Cabot said.
And that will be against the backdrop of increased competition from improved agricultural practices worldwide, Harris said.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):
The water in Navajo Reservoir could play a role in meeting Colorado River Compact obligations in the event of continued drought, said Bruce Whitehead, director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District.
Release of water to Lake Powell from Navajo Reservoir, Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River in Utah and Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River is one of three measures his district and the Colorado River District want implemented if water storage in the network that supplies seven Western states approaches crisis level, Whitehead said.
The other measures call for increasing the amount of water available and, lastly, reducing use.
“We’re not in crisis now,” Whitehead said. “The 2013-2014 water year has been almost normal as far as the amount of water in Lake Powell.
“But the reality is that in spite of some good water years, we’re in a 15-year drought,” Whitehead said. “We need a plan to meet a crisis if the same conditions continue.”
The three measures to meet a critical water shortage came out of a recent meeting of Southwestern and the Colorado River District, which between them cover the Western Slope.
The recommendations went to the Upper Colorado River Commission, which regulates water matters in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, the Upper Basin states that supply Arizona, Nevada and California, the Lower Basin states…
The concern about Lake Powell is that if water drops below the level needed to generate electricity, federal agencies would lose $120 million a year in power sales.
The revenue from power sales funds among other things environmental programs such as protecting fish species in the San Juan River, Whitehead said.
If the water level in Lake Powell allows generation of power, there should be enough water to satisfy the 1922 Colorado River Compact, Whitehead said.
Again, Whitehead said, Lake Powell and Lake Mead aren’t at critical levels. But the Upper Colorado River Commission and counterparts in Lower Basin states are looking at what-if situations.
Thus, the recommendations from his district and the Colorado River District, Whitehead said…
Measures to increase the amount of water available through cloud seeding, removal of water-hungry nonnative vegetation such tamarisk and Russian olive and evaporation-containment methods are a first step, Whitehead said.
A second early step, Whitehead said, would be the release to Lake Powell of water from Navajo, Blue Mesa and Flaming Gorge reservoirs which, respectively, have acre-feet capacities of 1.7 million, 829,500 and 3.79 million.
The contributions of Navajo and Blue Mesa could be less than optimal because of contractual obligations, Whitehead said. Blue Mesa also generates electricity.
If the first two steps aren’t enough, water users would be affected directly, Whitehead said. The consumption of cities and agricultural users would be reduced. Fallowing of fields also could be required.
The two commissions said if water for agriculture is reduced, the loss must be shared by Colorado River water users on the Front Range.
Front Range users receive 500,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water a year from Colorado River transmountain diversions, Whitehead said.
Another transmountain diversion sends 90,000 to 100,000 acre-feet a year to the San Juan/Chama Project from the Blanco and Navajo rivers, Whitehead said. Users in Santa Fe and Albuquerque benefit.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
From KREXTV.com (Brian Germ):
The Colorado River District held its annual seminar on Friday [September 18] at Two Rivers Convention Center to discuss water issues concerning the Colorado River Basin.
Each year, there is a certain topic of discussion at the seminar involving development plans or water-allocation. This year, District leaders and speakers focused on agriculture efficiency and conservation when it comes to water. Some of the challenges that are facing agriculture water users include climate change and drought.
The Colorado River District encourages the public and representatives to voice their opinions and get involved with them. They say it’s important to talk about the water in the Colorado River Basin and its use, priorities, and development.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Amy Hadden Marsh):
What would the Colorado River and Roaring Fork valleys look like without the ranches and farms? That question has been haunting me ever since I attended the Colorado River District’s water seminar in Grand Junction last week. Close to 300 people listened to speakers Brad Udall, of the Colorado Water Institute, Jeff Lukas, lead author of a report about how climate change could effect water management in the state, CSU’s Perry Cabot, Aaron Citron of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Mark Harris of the Grand Valley Water Users Association and author Kevin Fedarko.
Agriculture is a large part of life on the West Slope. But, it’s not just about bucolic landscapes; it’s also about what goes on behind the scenery – the rural lifestyle and economy that depend on agriculture to survive as well as a healthy, natural environment that supports animals, plants, and humans.
So, what could make West Slope farms and ranches disappear? No water. Or, at least, not enough water, which is what experts from all sectors agree could very well be Colorado’s future.
Here’s the numbers part. The Colorado River serves about 40 million people right now. But, that won’t always be the case. Two years ago, the Bureau of Reclamation issued the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, which predicted a population increase anywhere from 9.3 million to 36.5 million people within the Colorado River Basin. That means the amount of people living in the seven basin states could almost double within the next four decades. As a result, says the study, we could be short 3.2 million acre-feet of water…
…does that mean farmers and ranchers have to give up their livelihoods and thereby cause a domino effect around the rural West in order to satisfy Front Range urban needs?[...]
Basically, the answer was “no” but, according to most of the speakers, that doesn’t mean ag folks and Front Range municipal water users should stand on their respective ends of the tug ‘o war rope, arms akimbo, refusing to budge. “Efficiency” and “conservation” were the buzzwords of the day, meaning everyone basically needs to use less water. That’s sort of a no-brainer but the real conundrum is getting everyone to agree on what that looks like.
EDF’s Aaron Citron writes a sort of ag blog for the organization’s website and he said he thought people would laugh at the idea. When I asked him why, he said that in the West, environmentalists are seen as anti-agriculture or anti-growth. But, he added, that is changing. And, it’s all because of water.
“As we talk about the future of water in the West,” he said, “there really is an important alignment between agriculture who want to keep water in place and tend to be some of the best stewards of the land and environmentalists and conservationists who also want to see the protection of open space and who want to keep water in place.”
In other words, environmentalists and ranchers can be friends. And, in terms of the West’s water future, they have to be…
Solutions at this point are experimental and include new irrigation techniques and incentives to use them, and efficiency technology like smart ditches and soil monitoring. But, what it comes down to is education, open-mindedness (particularly about climate change), agreement, and respect.
More Colorado River Water Conservancy District coverage here.
I’m on the road today heading back over to the South Platte River basin and home.
The Colorado River District’s annual seminar yesterday was a hoot. Check out all the Tweets at #ColoradoWater.