Southwestern Water Conservation District Annual Water Seminar recap #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

April 11, 2014

sanjuan

From the Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

With continuing population growth in Southwestern states and ongoing drought, water issues are becoming more and more about who has to cut back their use when there isn’t enough to meet demand.

That thread ran through presentations at the annual Water Seminar on April 4 in Durango, sponsored by the Southwest Water Conservation District.

“How will we handle the water and other needs of 10 million people,” asked John Stulp, a former state agriculture commissioner and current chair of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) which is developing a State Water Plan along with nine basin water roundtables…

Harris cited a statewide statistic that with municipal water use, half is used inside and half outside. Ninety percent of the inside use returns to the stream. With outside use, 70 to 80 percent is “consumed” and does not return to the stream. The Southwest Roundtable has approved a goal to shift the percentage of municipal use to indoor, especially where the water comes from ag dry-up or trans-mountain diversion, he said.

Harris initiated the idea of legislation to limit lawn sizes in residential developments after 2016 where the water would come from a permanent transfer from ag. It didn’t get through the State Senate but will be a study topic by an interim committee on water resources during the off-session.

“The lawn bill, this is just the first time, not the last,” Harris asserted. “Reduction of lawn size is a significant conservation measure to help meet 2050 water supply.”

State Rep. Don Coram from Montrose commented “On the Front Range, they haven’t addressed storage or depleting the aquifer. They are more interested in trans-mountain diversion.”[...]

John McGlow from the Upper Colorado River Commission said curtailment such as this will affect water rights decreed after the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The Upper Basin is western Colorado, eastern Utah, southwest Wyoming, and northwest New Mexico. They have begun discussions on how cutbacks would be shared, or how to avoid getting to that point with things like fallowing fields and reducing frequency of irrigation.

“Lake Powell is our bank account for complying with the compact,” he said. It’s the cushion for the Upper Basin states to deliver mandated quantities of water to the Lower Basin states (California, Arizona and Nevada) and Mexico over a 10-year average. Navajo Reservoir also is part of that.

McGlow said 1999 was the last year that Powell was full. The goal is to get enough water into Lake Powell each year to avoid curtailment or the possibility of the water level getting too low for hydropower generation, which he said would have its own serious impacts.

The good news is there’s enough snowpack in northwest and north central Colorado that these won’t be issues this year, McGlow said…

Panelist Dan Birch from the Colorado River Conservation District said most pre-compact rights on the Western Slope are in the Grand Valley and Uncompaghre Valley. There is around 1 million AF of pre-compact irrigation on the West Slope, he said. Most of that land is in pasture or hay. Pasture can’t be fallowed, he said.

With a target to make up for 350,000 AF of post-compact use, Birch said, “I don’t think we want one-third of ag to go away. What we’re talking about is interruptible voluntary market-based contracts” for pre-compact users to reduce their water use. “This has to work for the farmers and the ditch companies,” he said.

Birch said power plants in Northwest Colorado are significant post-compact water users. “In the event of a (water) shortage, it will be important to keep critical uses going,” including power generation, he said.

Demand management is a key to avoiding Upper Basin curtailment or loss of hydro generation. “We are way behind on actual implementation of demand management,” including agricultural fallowing and reducing municipal demands, McGlow said. “It’s still a concept. It’s in its infancy.”

Fallowing and reduced irrigation are part of what’s called water banking. Panelist Aaron Derwingson said, “Pretty much everyone supports water banking in concept. It gets a lot more complex actually doing it.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


The Grand Foundation’s 2014 Annual Grant Cycle deadline is Thursday, May 1 #ColoradoRiver

April 5, 2014
Gore Canyon rafting via Blogspot.com

Gore Canyon rafting via Blogspot.com

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The Grand Foundation announces its 2014 Annual Grant Cycle deadline as Thursday, May 1. Applications are available on the Grand Foundation’s website at http://www.grandfoundation.com. All 2013 grant recipients must have their 2013 Final Grant Reports submitted in order to be eligible for 2014 funding.

If you have any questions or would like to become more involved with the Grand Foundation, contact Megan Ledin, Executive Director, at megan@grandfoundation.com or by calling 970-887-3111.


Having exhausted all toilet puns, House approves SB14-103, Unamended — Kristin Wyatt #COleg

April 3, 2014

Republican River Water Conservation District quarterly board meeting, April 10 #COWaterPlan

April 3, 2014
Republican River Basin

Republican River Basin

From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

It is time for the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors to hold its regular quarterly meeting in Yuma. It will be held at Quintech on Thursday, April 10, beginning at 10 a.m. Public comment is scheduled for 1 p.m.

The board will receive a report from Assistant Attorney General Scott Steinbrecher on the negotiations with Kansas regarding compliance with the Republican River Compact, the Bonny Reservoir accounting issue, and the compact compliance pipeline. There also could be other matters addressed by Steinbrecher.

The pipeline has been put to use this past winter as Kansas agreed to a one-year test run in 2014. Tracy Travis, the pipeline manager, will provide a report on the pipeline.

Conservation has been a focus, particularly with a symposium sponsored by the RRWCD and local businesses held last month highlighting the need to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer, the region’s source of water. The board will discuss conservation survey results during the April 10 meeting.

Also on the agenda, HDR Engineering will give a report regarding the Colorado Water Plan. There also will be a presentation on the Great Divide.

The board will consider purchasing agency bonds, and receive reports on various recent meetings and programs.

Quintech is located at 529 N. Albany St. in Yuma. For further information, or having any questions, please call RRWCD General Manager Deb Daniel at 970-332-3552, or email her at deb.daniel@rrwcd.net. The RRWCD website is http://www.republicanriver.com.


Conservation Colorado: Rebel with a cause event, May 22

March 26, 2014

Saguache Creek

Saguache Creek


Click here for the pitch and to register.


Conservation easements are helping to keep water in agriculture

March 9, 2014
Lake Fork Gunnison River

Lake Fork Gunnison River

From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):

John McClow is general counsel for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District and a member of Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy, which focuses its efforts solely on agriculture.

“We broker conservation easements to maintain working agriculture,” McClow said.

In the Upper Gunnison area, the organization has helped place easements on about 18,000 acres, which McClow said is a substantial percentage of the total area. Most of the easements have a financial incentive for the landowner, he said.

“Often, they will use the money to invest in more land,” McClow said, adding that it helps keep the ranch operation financially stable.

“Our easement activity has slowed a little bit,” he said. “We’ve pretty much picked all the low hanging fruit.”

The organization is getting into more complicated easements on lands that are more valuable and take more money, many being larger and closer to Crested Butte.

Gunnison County directs some funds from its 1 percent sales tax toward purchasing development rights, about $300,000 per year, according to Mike Pelletier.

“Typically, we’re able to fund what’s requested,” said Pelletier, who is the county contact for the program. “We have limited funds, and people just don’t ask if they don’t think we can fund it.”

The tax dollars were reauthorized in 2012, he said, and are used to match dollars from elsewhere…

“For every dollar we give to local land trusts, they attract $12 from outside” the county, he said. “By doing that you leverage a lot of outside money.”’

From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):

George is working on his third easement with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. He’s donating the value of the development rights in return for a state tax credit he will sell for 82 cents on the dollar, but his previous two easements went through Routt County’s purchase of development rights program, which pairs tax dollars with other funds to buy the right to develop the land and places the property under an easement dedicated to conservation.

“The benefit was we were able to keep the family ranch in the family,” George said about the easements, especially one in 2012 that was valued at $2.56 million.

The PDR program contributed $825,000 toward that transaction, about 31 percent of the total cost.

That money helped buy out other family members while George’s other easements allowed him to buy more land and pay down debt on parcels he’d already purchased.

“If I die or if we sell the ranch, it cannot be subdivided,” he said. “All these parcels will stay their size.”

George thinks more ranchers should look into easements on their property.

“They lack the knowledge,” he said. “They’re scared of them.”[...]

As early as the 1980s and during the push for major development in Pleasant Valley south of Steamboat, residents banded together in support of open-space conservation.

In the mid-1990s, these efforts gained momentum with Routt County ranchers placing conservation easements on their property and new county policies being enacted to preserve open space.

The effect of this work can be seen in the absence of development.

The drive down Rabbit Ears Pass into Steamboat Springs shows an open south valley floor where hay meadows still dominate the view. Colorado Highway 131 cuts through working ranches in South Routt County, and traffic on county roads still sometimes pauses to accommodate cattle being moved to greener pastures.

Preventing the fragmentation of agricultural land through subdivision and development keeps more land in production and helps maintain the working order of the landscape.

Splitting large tracts of agricultural land into ranchettes and subdivisions means introducing new neighbors to rural Colorado.

“They just don’t have a clue to what’s going on in the ranching world,” Routt County commissioner Doug Monger said about some people who live near land he’s leased for his cattle. “No one fixes their fence.”

Colorado is a fence-out state where landowners are required to maintain a lawful fence if they want to keep cattle out of their land. The cattle owner is not responsible for trespassing by his livestock if a fence isn’t maintained…

Gunnison County, another Western Slope county with a long ranching heritage, has seen the effects of agricultural fragmentation that arise from subdividing working ranchland.

“What happens is when they put in the road and building sites then turn over management of the property to someone who has no experience in the area, it disrupts the irrigation system within that drainage,” said John McClow, general counsel for Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District and member of Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy.

The Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy brokers easements for ranches in Gunnison County.

“It’s a disruption in the process that makes shortages much more frequent,” McClow said. “It’s not collaborative anymore.”

With flood-irrigated pasture, such as in Routt County, ranchers depend on water returning from their neighbors’ fields back into the river or ditches. Turning an upstream ranch into a subdivision or 35-acre parcels takes away return flows for the ranches below it.

Subdivisions downstream and closer to towns also pose challenges as the managers might be unfamiliar with how the river was managed in the past and place a call on the river if they aren’t getting their full allocation. Under Colorado’s prior appropriation system, when a senior rights holder places a call on a river, upstream junior appropriations must stop diverting water until the senior right has its full allocation.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Michael P. Dowling/Chris West):

There is a nice bonus for Colorado in the Farm Bill that President Obama signed last month (Feb. 7). Senate Conservation Subcommittee Chairman Michael Bennet, D-Colo., fought hard for programs that will enable Colorado conservation organizations and local governments to partner with landowners to keep our state’s unique ranches and farm lands in agriculture. The new Agricultural Lands Easement program will provide grants to purchase conservation easements that permanently restrict development on important ranches and farm lands. These voluntary agreements will ensure that land stays in agriculture and continues to be an important — and growing — part of our state’s economy.

The predecessors to this program have already conserved more than 1 million acres of economically and ecologically important agricultural lands. The new program will easily double that total.

Senator Bennet joined Senate Agricultural Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan in leading the effort to pass this bi-partisan bill, working with other Colorado leaders, including Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

Senator Bennett also changed the law to allow the agriculture secretary to waive a local cash-match requirement. This waiver will allow the program, at no additional cost, to protect the most important ranches and farmlands, even if they are in rural counties that don’t have the funding to match the federal grants.

But the question is: Why should this land conservation matter to the vast majority of Americans who are neither farmers nor ranchers?

While producing crops, livestock and other agricultural commodities for all Americans, properly managed working ranch lands and farms protect important habitat for our wildlife and fish; maintain cherished scenic vistas; and safeguard our water supplies and the water quality of our rivers. In addition, conserving these farms and ranches keeps farmers and ranchers on the land, and is protects an important part of our state’s economy.

Colorado has 29 land trusts that are members of the Land Trust Alliance, and they have protected more than 1.1 million acres using conservation easements alone. For example, more than 150 years of Colorado history — and a part of its future — were preserved when the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land completed an effort to protect 650 acres of the Hutchinson Ranch in Chaffee County. Protection of the Hutchinson Ranch was made possible by funding from the Farm Bill programs that Senator Bennet just improved, along with lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado and Chaffee County.

Though these lands — including such unique resources as the Hutchinson Ranch — are productive and important for agriculture, without action they are very much at risk. Non-agriculture development overtakes two acres of productive agricultural land every minute. But conservation easement programs ensure that our state’s most beautiful and productive ranches and farm land will continue into the future.

Near Rocky Ford in Southeastern Colorado, 12,200 acres of the Mendenhall Ranches were protected using Farm Bill conservation funding last summer. The Mendenhalls used the easement to secure the future for their ranch, which is almost entirely native shortgrass prairie, home to cattle and increasingly rare grassland wildlife.

That is why the Farm Bill’s Agricultural Lands Easement program makes both economic and ecologic sense for Colorado and for America. And that is why we should all thank Senator Bennet for his leadership in making the conservation programs in the Farm Bill work for ranchers and farmers.

More conservation easement coverage here and here.


H.R. 1839: Tipton’s Hermosa Creek Legislation Moves Forward in House

March 7, 2014

Here’s the release from U.S. Representative Scott Tipton’s office:

Congressman Scott Tipton’s (R-CO) Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 1839) received a legislative hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. The community-driven legislation would protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed—a 108,000 acre area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango—as well as protect multiple use of the land.

“When it comes to land use designations, I support a balanced approach that includes respecting the environment that we all deeply value, while making the best use of our natural resources. Recreation, preservation, access and job creation are all important aspects of the multiple use management for which these lands are truly intended,” Tipton said. “I’m a firm believer that land use designations should be driven with a balance of local initiative and consideration that public lands belong to all Americans. Such is the case with Hermosa Creek Watershed, where I have worked with local citizens and groups and Senator Michael Bennet to put forward a plan to permanently protect the area while maintaining access and multiple use of the land. The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act has truly been a locally-driven effort and has broad community support.”

Read Tipton’s opening statement here.

The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act has been endorsed by a broad coalition of stakeholders including: the City of Durango, the La Plata County Commission, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the San Juan County Commission, Region 9, the Colorado Snowmobile Association, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc., in addition to numerous business and sportsmen groups, among others. Tipton submitted their letters of support to the record.

During the hearing, Scott Jones, a representative from the Colorado Snowmobile Association and other Colorado-based off road groups, testified in support of the legislation.

“The motorized community supports this legislation, as we believe the legislation represents a significant step towards protecting multiple use recreation and highly valued natural resources in the proposal areas,” said Jones. “For the motorized community there are two major components of the legislation we support, which are the release of the Wilderness Study area and designation of the special management area for the protection of motorized recreation. The motorized community does agree that the area to be designated Wilderness has generally not seen a high level of motorized recreation and the area is suitable for designation.”

Read Scott Jones’s testimony here.

Under H.R. 1839, much of the land will remain open to historic uses, including mountain biking, motorized recreation, hunting, fishing and selective timber harvesting. Grazing will be permitted in the entire watershed. This legislation ensures that areas currently open to snowmobiling on Molas Pass will remain open for future use. This will benefit outdoor recreation enthusiasts and continue to provide an important source of economic activity for the area. If this bill is not passed, then snowmobiling will cease in this region following the 2013/2014 winter season. This legislation also contains important provisions that allow for active land management in areas designated by the bill as necessary to control wildfires, insect infestations and disease outbreaks.

H.R. 1839 will now need to receive a markup in the full House Natural Resources Committee. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) is carrying companion legislation in the Senate (S.841).

Learn more about the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act here.

From The Durango Herald (Katie Fiegenbaum):

The House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act (HR 1839) on Thursday. Here’s what you should know about the act and the hearing…

Within three years of the bill’s passage, a management plan would have to be developed for the area, based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup, a diverse group of constituents.

About 37,000 acres of this area, on the west side of Hermosa Creek, would be designated as federal wilderness. No road, mineral or other development would be allowed inside this area.

About 68,000 acres, mostly on the east side of the creek, would be designated as the “Hermosa Creek Special Management Area.” It would remain open to historic uses, including mountain biking, hunting, fishing, motorized recreation and selective timber harvesting.

Grazing would be allowed throughout the protection area.

Why is it important?

The area in the bill has long been recommended for a wilderness designation and is some of the most pristine in Southwest Colorado. The land surrounds Hermosa Creek, which flows into the Animas River and is an important water source for Durango and surrounding areas.

“Water is the most important thing we get from this area,” said Ed Zink, a Durango rancher and small-business owner, who attended the hearing. “And to protect the water, we have to protect the land.”

He says the water in Hermosa Creek is much better quality than in the Animas and provides dilution and better overall water quality.

“It’s easier to protect the Hermosa than to fix the Animas,” Zink said…

Many studies since the Wilderness Act passed in 1964 have recommended a federal wilderness designation for this land, but it has never materialized. For the last six years or so, people in the area have worked on the bill to preserve the historic use of the land and give it a wilderness designation.

“A lot of various groups worked very hard to bring this together,” Tipton said in a phone interview after the hearing. “We’ve got something that is very appealing at the local level, and it should serve as a model for writing future legislation.”[...]

The area to be designated as federal wilderness hasn’t seen a high level of motorized recreation and is suitable for that designation, Jones said…

The House version of the bill will be scheduled for markup by the full committee and voted on.

“I am confident that there will be no pushback on the bill from the committee,” Tipton said.

He thinks the bill will move forward quickly and said he would work to expedite the process.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced the bill in the Senate in April 2013. The Senate version is co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

It received a committee hearing in the Senate in November, but has yet to be voted on in committee. According to Philip Clelland, Bennet’s deputy press secretary, his office is working with the committee and is hopeful that a vote will be scheduled soon.

More Hermosa Creek coverage here and here.


The Colorado Water Trust is coordinating and facilitating a number of sessions at CCLT’s Conservation Excellence Conference

March 2, 2014

Saguache Creek

Saguache Creek


Click here for the pitch, to view the session descriptions, and register. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Water Trust is coordinating and facilitating a number of water sessions at the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts’ Conservation Excellence Conference in Denver in March.

The Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts (CCLT) promotes and supports land conservation at a state level and serves as the collective voice for land conservation in Colorado. CCLT’s annual Conservation Excellence Conference offers conservation professionals opportunities for learning and networking in Denver on March 17, 18, and 19.

Because water is often crucial to the conservation values of conserved lands, the Colorado Water Trust has worked closely with CCLT and the land conservation community over time. We provided general guidance, technical assistance, and educational programming specific to land conservation transactions to help professionals make informed decisions about water rights.

This year, the Colorado Water Trust is coordinating and facilitating a number of sessions and workshops at CCLT’s Conservation Excellence Conference as part of our continuing efforts to assist the land conservation community in understanding water issues.

More education coverage here.


Custer County Stockgrowers Association annual meeting recap #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

February 27, 2014

organicdairycows

From The Wet Mountain Tribune (J.E. Ward):

One of the most significant issues addressed during the meeting surrounded water. It is a problem not only for the county, but the state as a whole.

“Water ownership, immunization and management are the key issues with the water problems,” Kattnig explained.

“For us, water is vital to our Valley and our industry. We know we will have to change, but it is incumbent upon us as landowners to be at the table as these decisions are being developed.”

Local water laws were developed for the mining industry here, and as industrial utilization of water declined, agriculture became the biggest user. Today, given the size of Custer County’s population and voting strength, Kattnig said that water policies can be changed. These issues affect not only Custer County and the Arkansas River Basin, but also the Colorado River, the Rio Grande and the Platte River basins.

“People in San Diego and Los Angeles have a voice in water in the Colorado River,” Kattnig said, “and indirectly there is potential impact for water in Custer County. These water laws were made through legislation, and can be changed with legislation.”[...]

Among the dignitaries in attendance were the president of the Colorado Cattlemen Association, Gene Manuello, and the Director of the Southeast Quarter and past CCA president David Mendenhall. Together they produced information concerning Senate Bill 17, which covers the use of agriculture water transfer to new municipal developments. This bill limits the percentage of water used for lawn landscaping and to promote xeriscaping.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Conservation easements: ‘All we’re trying to do is give farmers another option [to buy and dry]‘ — Jay Winner

February 25, 2014
Purgatoire River

Purgatoire River

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two groups promoting conservation easements in the Lower Arkansas Valley agreed last week that protecting water is more important than who takes credit.

“We have been losing land to buy-and-dry,” Ginger Davidson, head of the Rocky Ford office of the Palmer Land Trust told the board of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We don’t want to see another drop leave the valley. A healthy habitat for wildlife means healthy ranch land.”

The Lower Ark district has accepted and managed conservation easements as part of its mission to protect water since it was formed in 2002. It has some easements outside its boundaries and several that do not include water rights.

The Palmer Land Trust, in connection with other nonprofit groups and federal agencies, launched its own initiative in an area that overlaps part of the Lower Ark district. Davidson said the trust is open to conservation easements outside the initiative’s boundaries.

“A lot of people say we’re in competition, but I say, ‘The more, the merrier,’ ’’ said Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Ark district.

The Palmer Land Trust is working with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Canyon & Plains and Guidestone in the 10-county initiative. The National Park Service and Nature Conservancy are cooperating as well.

Each group has its own goals in protecting farm and ranch land from development, but the Palmer trust is primarily concerned with water rights, Davidson said.

“When people lose their water, they don’t have the incentive to invest, because they don’t know if the water will be there in the future,” Davidson said. “The businesses will stay if there is a critical mass of farming.”

She agreed with Winner that the primary goal of conservation easements — which provide either tax credits or cash for forgoing development — should be to offer alternatives to selling water to cities.

“We’re not forcing anyone to do anything,” Winner told the board. “All we’re trying to do is give farmers another option.”

More conservation easements coverage here.


SB14-017 amended: ‘No matter where you stand on this bill, you might want to contemplate what the future of Colorado is’ — Sen. Ellen Roberts #COleg

February 22, 2014
Senator Ellen Roberts

Senator Ellen Roberts

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, guaranteed that outcome [no legislative lawn limits this session] Friday when she changed her bill to limit lawn sizes into a study to be conducted this summer by the Legislature’s water committee.

Roberts had been promoting an idea by Durango water engineer Steve Harris, who proposed limiting new lawns to 15 percent of a lot if the subdivision used water converted from agricultural use. Western Slope water conservation districts got behind the idea after years of watching farms dry up when farmers sell their water rights to cities.

“No matter where you stand on this bill, you might want to contemplate what the future of Colorado is,” Roberts told senators Friday…

Roberts said she wasn’t attacking lawns, and she’s not trying to turn the Front Range into Phoenix or Las Vegas, where some lawns are not allowed. But she wants homeowners to use more water-efficient plants and create a “Colorado landscape.”

“It’s a landscape in our front yards that actually matches our topography and our climate,” Roberts said.

From the Associated Press (Kristen Wyatt) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

…Roberts ran into opposition from her own party. Other Republicans said the lawn limit idea was too heavy-handed on local governments, which control zoning and local land use. And some argued the bill improperly targeted residential water use but not agricultural water use.

“Why are we just attacking our green lawns?” asked Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley.

The Senate amended the bill and decided to study the lawn problem instead, sending the question to a committee of 10 state lawmakers that reviews water policy and suggests new laws. The Colorado Water Conservation Board won’t look at the 15 percent limit, but would instead be broadly instructed to look at residential and municipal water use.

The bill awaits a more formal vote in the Senate before it heads to the House.

Even in its weaker form, it sparked a lively debate among both parties about how boldly Colorado needs to address drought, water use and population growth.

Sen. Vicki Marble, a Fort Collins Republican, said Colorado needs to build more water storage, not limits on household lawns.

“We can restrict ourselves into oblivion and the greatest Dust Bowl we’ve ever seen,” Marble said.

Roberts said the bill would have set the first statewide lawn limit of its kind anywhere in the nation. Some municipalities already limit lawns, and the water district serving San Antonio, Texas, last year offered homeowners $100 vouchers in exchange of removing at least 200 square feet of lawn.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Reclamation Releases a Draft Environmental Assessment for Piping the Slack and Patterson Laterals

February 21, 2014
Rogers Mesa

Rogers Mesa

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it has released a draft environmental assessment on piping Roger’s Mesa Water Distribution Association’s Slack and Patterson Laterals off the Fire Mountain Canal, located in Delta County, Colo. The project involves replacing approximately 9.4 miles of unlined earthen laterals with buried water pipeline. The purpose of the project is to improve the efficiency of water delivery to ditch users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

The draft environmental assessment is available our website or a copy can be received by contacting Reclamation.

Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Comments can be submitted to the email address above or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments are due by Friday, March 14, 2014.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Greeley: ‘One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less’ — Jon Monson

February 21, 2014

watersprinkler

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

Greeley’s water supply will run out in about 30 years if we continue to consume water the way we do now, city officials say. By 2050, they say, half of the demand for water in Greeley will be to irrigate outdoor lawns That estimate has prompted Greeley officials to dig for more solutions to water conservation this year, which could include new landscaping and development policies.

Everything is still in its early stages, but the city’s water experts this spring will hold a set of public meetings to spread awareness about Greeley’s water use and what could be done to curb it, said Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director.

Greeley has been moved to action now but the city is not alone in facing limited water resources, a statewide issue. In fact, Greeley has done well purchasing water rights and creating the infrastructure to store it for future use, Monson said.

And the city has more recently been recognized for encouraging residents to be more efficient with their water through the city’s showerhead exchange program, lawn watering schedule and water budget included on water bills.

But conservation has been less of a focal point, Monson said.

“One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less,” he said, by reducing demand.

For example, the amount of water needed to irrigate a front lawn is reduced by using native plants instead of buffalo grass.

Monson and Brad Mueller, Greeley’s director of community development, discussed the city’s water situation and possible solutions with the city council last month.

Mueller said the city is taking a slow approach with a number of public meetings before moving forward with any decisions or even a direction on how to lower water use.

“We don’t want people to just go into the reaction of saying we need to be a desert, or let’s just make sure we have all of the water we could possibly buy, because both of those extremes are probably not consistent with Greeley’s values or its history,” Mueller said. “Greeley is probably not going to be a desert hole in the middle of that donut” of agricultural land, he said.

At a council work session in January, Greeley city planner John Barnett presented some possibilities for landscaping that include a mixture of trees and native and non-native plants.

Greeley has a semi-arid environment, meaning rain dries up quickly. With shrubs and ground cover that require low water use and trees that require medium water use, Barnett projected the city could cut back on water use by about 30 percent.

Mueller said the city this fall will take questions to the public that include whether the mix and match option is a good one. Greeley residents will also have a chance to say how much water they think should be used for their lawns and other purposes, what the city should do differently to conserve water, what Greeley’s landscape should look like, and, if there are any new requirements that come of this process, how they should be applied to existing properties. There is no set schedule yet for when those public meetings will be, but Mueller said the city is aiming for late March or April. Monson said they hope to get input from builders, developers, homeowners and more before going back before the city council to present their findings.

“To do something different, it’s going to take a little more effort, and it could be more expense, but we could save quite a bit of water doing it,” Monson said. “There’s always trade-offs.”

More conservation coverage here.


The latest newsletter from the Greeley Water is hot off the presses

February 19, 2014

SB14-103: ‘I don’t believe it [government] belongs in the bathroom’ — Sen. Larry Crowder #COleg

February 18, 2014
Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

From the Associated Press (Kristen Wyatt) via TimesUnion.com:

Water-chugging faucets, toilets and showerheads could become illegal in Colorado under a bill that won preliminary approval in the state Senate Tuesday.

A bill to prohibit the sale of low-efficiency plumbing fixtures by 2016 won approval on an initial unrecorded voice vote.

The measure would make it illegal to sell new faucets, shower heads and toilets that aren’t certified by the federal government as efficient “WaterSense” fixtures.

“Every little bit that we can do to conserve water is important,” said Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver and sponsor of the bill. Guzman and other Democrats pointed out that most fixtures sold today are already compliant.

The measure would not require anyone to change existing plumbing. Current law requires builders to offer water-efficient indoor plumbing fixtures in new homes, but homeowners aren’t required to choose them.

Republicans tried unsuccessfully to stop the measure by arguing that water-efficient plumbing fixtures should sell themselves.

“I don’t believe the government needs to come in and say, ‘This is what you have to do,’ ” said Sen. George Rivera, R-Pueblo.

The debate got a little punchy, with senators debating the relative merits of low-flush toilets and weak shower heads. One Republican even showed a clip from a 1996 episode of the sitcom “Seinfeld,” in which characters look for black-market fixtures after their apartment converts to low-water models.

Lawmakers couldn’t avoid a little potty humor as they debated the measure.

“I don’t believe government belongs in the bedroom, and I don’t believe it belongs in the bathroom,” said bill opponent Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa.

One more Senate vote is required before the plumbing measure heads to the House.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Center: ‘We haven’t sacrificed yield at all’ — Brendon Rockey

February 16, 2014

sanluisvalleyearlywinterriograndeinitiative
From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Preaching to a slightly different choir, Center farmer Brendon Rockey shared with members of the Rio Grande Roundtable yesterday how his family’s farm has changed its agricultural practices to improve soil health and save water. He explained how Rockey Farms, in its third generation of San Luis Valley farmers, gradually moved away from traditional practices of using herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and other “cides” to address threats to its potato crops. Now the farm uses a “pro” rather than “anti” approach , Rockey explained. He used the term biotic to describe the type of farming his family has embraced, beginning with his uncle’s “We are looking at the big picture,” he told members of the Valley-wide water group in Alamosa on Tuesday.

Rockey explained that the “cides” that farmers have been using over the years, including his family farm until recent years, were not only killing off the pests, fungi, weeds and nematodes that were causing problems for potato growers but were also killing off beneficial insects, fungi, plants and worms.

“A lot of those have a good ability to control diseases for us if we would let them,” Rockey said.

Many fungi will kill harmful nematodes for the farmers if they would use them instead of killing them. Also, 90 percent of the nematodes are beneficial , he said.

In addition to using “cides” problems ranging from insects to weeds, farmers have boosted production with synthetic fertilizers that have created the negative side effect of high concentrations of salt.

“Most of the problems we are dealing with today our problems we have created ourselves,” Rockey said.

With degraded soil structures came less efficient water use, Rockey added. For example, 20 years ago the sprinklers would sink in a particular potato field every year, and the farmers would blame the soil type in that field , when the real problem was waterlogged soil. With changes in the way the family farms now, that doesn’t occur, Rockey added. The soil is literally stronger. “We are still trying to control the same diseases but the approach is different,” Rockey said.

Now Rockey Farms adds rather than taking away, he explained. One of the ways the farming family does this is by adding soil primers such as companion crops like legumes and green manure crops that enrich the soil in rotation with potato crops.

“Did that have direct water savings? Green manure crops use less than 6 inches of water. We were also surprised how much water we saved on the potato crops.”

Rockey Farms could grow a potato crop on 14 inches, while the average water use for potato crops in the Valley is 18 inches. Using less water on the potato crops, and using it more efficiently, means less rot and blight as well, Rockey said. It also means less expense to the farmer, because running sprinklers costs money.

Other area where Rockey Farms has changed its practice is in the way it uses beneficial predators to fight insects such as aphids that are harmful to their crops. In the past the family would introduce aphid predators like lady bugs to the fields, but the beneficial predators would only stay a day and then leave because they needed more food diversity than the aphids to keep them there. The Rockeys are experimenting with diverse flowers that would help keep beneficial predators like ladybugs and lacewings in their fields longer.

“This next summer we are trying to figure ways to bring more flowers into potato crops,” Rockey said.

Rockey offered to share the lessons his family has learned over time with other farmers wishing to improve their soil health and reduce water consumption.

He concluded that the changes in farming practices have not adversely affected production.

“We haven’t sacrificed yield at all,” he concluded.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.


New Survey: Conservation Could Impact 2014’s Ballot Box — Colorado College

February 16, 2014

conservationinthewestpollstateoftherockiescoloradocollege

Here’s the release from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project:

Conservation and land use issues could have the power to sway how westerners vote in 2014 elections, according to the new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll.

“The West is a major political battlefield this year, and the poll tells us congressional candidates would be wise to consider their position on conservation and land use issues carefully,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Westerners want their air, water and land protected, and where a candidate stands on these issues could potentially sway votes.”

This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states looked at voter attitudes on a list of issues, including land use, water supplies, air quality and public lands’ impact on the economy. The results show overwhelming -­‐ 85 percent -­‐ agreement that when the government closes national parks and other public lands, small businesses and communities’ economies in the West suffer. In a follow up message to elected officials and land managers, 83 percent believe funding to national parks, forests and other public lands should not be cut, as it provides a big return on a small investment.

“The Rocky Mountain region is politically diverse, with communities running the spectrum from red (predominantly) to purple to blue,” said Colorado College McHugh Professor of Leadership and American Institutions and regular Colorado political commentator Tom Cronin. “These poll results reinforce that a love for protected lands ties western voters together. Westerners across the political spectrum support the work of public land managers and expect conserved public lands to remain that way.”

Other public sentiments expressed in the survey include that:

• 72 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote more use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
• 69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.
• 58 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who votes to increase funding for land-­‐managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.

The survey also holds warning signs for candidates, including that:

• 72 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports
selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
• 67 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who reduces
funding for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.
• 54 percent of westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to
stop taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

“Hispanics view the protection of our public lands as a moral obligation. It’s natural that this community would be drawn to candidates who support conservation,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “With the tremendous growth of the Latino voter bloc, especially in the Western states, we’re going to see engagement in environmental policy and advocacy for our public lands at levels we’ve never seen before.”

The results reflect the strong connection Westerners feel to their public lands, with 95 percent saying they have visited public lands in the last year. More than two-­‐ thirds of those surveyed said they would recommend an out-­‐of-­‐state visitor visit the outdoors, like a national park, rather than an attraction in town.

The government shutdown’s effects on Westerners are ongoing. When asked how they felt about the resulting closure of public lands, 89 percent responded with a negative emotion like annoyed, angry, concerned or upset. Potentially as a result of seeing what happens when public lands are no longer available, opposition to the sale of public lands increased from last year’s poll, with 74 percent now rejecting this idea.

The 2014 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) for a total 2,400-­‐person sample. The survey was conducted from January 7 through 13, 2014, and yields a margin of error of +/-­‐2.9 percent nationwide and +/ -­‐4.9 statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available here, on the Colorado College website

Click here for the presentation slides.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

More than three-quarters of Colorado voters say they oppose diversions of water to heavily populated areas of the state, according to a survey conducted by Colorado College.

The annual Conservation in the West poll, conducted for the college by Democrat and Republican pollsters, also found that a majority of Coloradans, 55 percent, favors allowing communities to regulate hydraulic fracturing and that 22 percent want the state to regulate fracking, the approach used to free up trillions of cubic feet of natural gas from formations deep below the surface.

The finding of strong opposition to more diversions is unsurprising, said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy organization.

“Agricultural interests and many Club 20 members don’t like diversions, and there are additional groups who want to see stream flows for recreational purposes and they recognize diversions as a threat,” Petersen said. “People familiar with the West understand the impacts of diversions.”

Respondents favored devoting more time and resources to better use of the current water supply and encouraging the use of recycling, the survey said.

On hydraulic fracturing, 28 percent of Colorado respondents supported tougher laws and 29 percent said there should be better enforcement of existing laws, the survey said.

The results underscore the need for greater education about hydraulic fracturing, Petersen said, noting the practice has been in use in western Colorado for 60 years “and there has not been an issue.”

Across the West, 72 percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for candidates who favor the promotion of energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Another majority, 69 percent, said they were likely to vote for candidates who support greater protections for public lands, such as national forests, and 58 percent said they’d be likely to support candidates who want to increase funding to agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

The survey polled 400 registered voters in Colorado and 2,400 in the six Western states of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The survey was conducted Jan. 7 to Jan. 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

More conservation coverage here. More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Water conservation – It’s not just a campaign, it’s a way of life

February 12, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

One of our 2013 billboards reminding customers to Use Even Less.

One of our 2013 billboards reminding customers to
Use Even Less.

From promoting dry t-shirt contests to encouraging the family dog to lick your dishes clean, we’ve had fun with our “Use Only What You Need” and “Use Even Less” campaigns over the years (check out the 2013 campaign video).

But, advertising was only a piece of the effort that led customers to save 32 billion gallons of water in 2013 (compared to our benchmark of pre-2002 use) – our robust conservation program helped make that possible.

Here’s how:

Conservation technicians Jenelle Rhodes and Rick Alvarado adjust a sprinkler head during an irrigation audit.

Conservation technicians Jenelle Rhodes and Rick Alvarado adjust a sprinkler head during an irrigation audit.

View original 363 more words


Udall: Land Purchase to Strengthen James Peak Wilderness Area Shows Importance of Land, Water Conservation Fund

February 7, 2014
James Peak via ColoradoWildAreas.com

James Peak via ColoradoWildAreas.com

Here’s the release from Senator Udall’s office:

Mark Udall, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the U.S. Forest Service’s acquisition of 823 acres of private land near the James Peak Wilderness Area shows the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in safeguarding Colorado’s public lands. The acquisition, located near the East Portal Trailhead in Gilpin County, will prevent future development bordering on the wilderness area and will safeguard a critical watershed for the Denver Metro Area.

“This important acquisition underscores why I have urged the White House and my colleagues to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Udall said. “Acquisitions, like this 823-acre purchase near the James Peak Wilderness Area, are essential to ensuring future generations of outdoorsmen, sportsmen and anglers can access and enjoy the pristine public lands that support our way of life in Colorado.”

Udall has been a strong supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps preserve and improve access to federal lands in Colorado and across the nation. Udall urged the White House in late January to redouble its efforts to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Udall also co-sponsored the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2013, which would use a portion of the proceeds from off-shore oil and gas production to strengthen the fund.

Udall also has been a strong supporter of cost-effective public land acquisitions that support local communities while strengthening Colorado’s wildlands. Udall championed a common-sense land swap, completed in December 2013, that improved fire safety for the approximately 500 households the Sugar Loaf Fire Protection District safeguards west of Boulder. Udall also has led the push in Congress to convey 40 acres of federal administrative land from the U.S. Forest Service Dillon Ranger District to Summit County so the county can support local jobs by building affordable, workforce housing.

More conservation coverage here.


Community Based Social Marketing Workshops: May 20-23 — @ColoWaterWise

February 4, 2014

2014 Colorado legislation: SB14-017 now termed the ‘sodbuster bill’

January 27, 2014
Sprawl

Sprawl

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Harris thinks it’s time Colorado places limits on new lawns, and his idea is getting a close look at the state Capitol.

“If you want to do conservation, limiting grass is how you do it,” he said.

The problem is known as “buy and dry” – farmers selling their water rights to expanding cities and leaving rural economies without farms and jobs. State studies predict Colorado will lose more than half a million acres of agricultural land by the middle of the century because of buy and dry.

Harris thinks the problem could have a relatively simple solution. Starting in 2016, he says, if any new housing development plans to buy agricultural water rights, then its lawns should cover no more than 15 percent of each house’s property…

Harris took his idea to Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and they turned it into Senate Bill 17, a bill that is now under scrutiny at the state Capitol.

Roberts rounded up bipartisan sponsors to help her carry the bill – Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton; Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland; and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose. She also has the Colorado River Water Conservation District and water experts in Southwest Colorado on her side.

Roberts and her allies have been presenting the bill to the various groups engaged in Colorado’s long-running water wars – farm and ranch groups, city utilities, homebuilders – in the hopes of building support before scheduling the bill for its first hearing.

“I’ve been talking with homebuilders a lot. Being married to one, I don’t want to have any negative effect on homebuilders as they continue to recover from the recession,” Roberts said.

Homebuilders, however, question whether the bill will do any good.

The bill limits grass only on private lots, and it excludes parks and open space – the biggest grassy areas in most new developments.

Most of the new suburbs under construction now don’t follow the old pattern of rectangular lots separated by privacy fences. Instead, builders are putting up houses with “postage stamp” lawns that surround large, grassy open space areas, said Amie Mayhew, CEO of the Colorado Association of Home Builders…

Opposition is also coming from local governments.

The bill requires them to enforce the 15 percent lawn limit through their land-use codes, and the local government lobby has a long-standing opposition to mandates from Denver. Roberts is usually one of the first senators to side with local governments against the state…

But then, this is a water bill, and the usual rules of politics don’t apply.

Water has always been the one issue in Colorado that could overcome party politics, and SB 17 offers further proof. One of Roberts’ main collaborators is Bruce Whitehead, executive director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District. Roberts was elected to the Senate by ousting Whitehead, the incumbent senator, in 2010 during a hard-fought campaign…

To win, Roberts, Whitehead and Harris need to make sure the bill isn’t treated like a West Slope-East Slope fight, because they will be outvoted if Front Range Democrats and Republicans unite against it.

Both Whitehead and Harris point out that the bill would apply statewide. Subdivisions like Lake Durango use converted agricultural water, although current houses there would be grandfathered and would not have to limit lawn sizes.

If nothing else, Whitehead said, the bill is spurring Colorado leaders to get serious about saving water after years of talk.

From The Denver Post (Michael Remke):

Vincent Carroll’s column summarized state Sen. Ellen Roberts’ proposed bill to mandate lawn size in Colorado. Her intent, of course, relates to water conservation. I would like to propose an alternative idea that should be part of the conversation. Instead of mandating lawn size, we ought to mandate grass species used in our lawns.

Many Colorado residents are unaware that Kentucky bluegrass is not actually native to the prairies of Colorado, but rather Eurasia. In order to maintain Kentucky bluegrass, rigorous watering is needed. This is the source of the battle between lawn size and water conservation.

Rather than using the non-native Kentucky bluegrass, native grass species such as buffalo grass and blue grama offer aesthetic beauty and mat-like properties that rival that of Kentucky bluegrass. They are easy to establish and grow, and have very high drought tolerance. These native grasses have minimal water requirements and, once established, they will be able to support their own well-being from natural precipitation events.

A policy that mandates native grass species would be a suitable (and beautiful) alternative to existing policy, bringing native short-grass prairies back to the Front Range and supporting dominant grass communities in cities like Durango and other high-desert ecosystems.

By growing native grass species, landowners and residents would be supporting native insect and wildlife species while living in harmony with the ecosystem and consuming less water. This idea may seem romanticized. However, I argue that a romantic shift in policy is much more captivating and riveting than an anti-climactic shift in policy.

Indeed, if lot sizes are held constant and lawn sizes are mandated to occupy a smaller percentage of the lot, we are only cultivating a new problem: bare soil and the likelihood for airborne dust.

We should bring more diversity to our lawns by requiring landowners to conserve water by planting native species. Smaller lawns may promote water conservation, but native lawns bring biodiversity and ecosystems back to the prairies and arid grasslands of Colorado, while promoting water conservation.

Planting native is a new idea that should be part of the conversation in Colorado’s legislature.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Ivan Moreno):

Raging waters carved away at the land under Sal Coppolecchia’s house for days last fall. The historic floods weakened his foundation, caused his walls to collapse and washed away his home of 25 years, carrying off a large chunk of land along with it.

Today, Coppolecchia has a huge crater where his living room and kitchen once stood — and he’s expecting a bill for taxes on the destroyed property.

In the coming weeks, state lawmakers will discuss legislation that aims to provide a measure of help for the longtime Lyons resident and hundreds of others in similar situations across Northern Colorado.

It’s offensive “that we expect people to pay taxes on property that doesn’t exist,” said Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer, who is sponsoring a proposal that would have the state pay the bills instead.

The legislation is still in its formative stages, but it would benefit victims of the flooding, as well as the summer’s destructive wildfires.

Coppolecchia said he has typically paid about $2,200 in property taxes and any aid — however small — would be welcome.

“When you go through this, financially you don’t know if you’re going to recover,” the 59-year-old said.

Coppolecchia has received nearly $32,000 in aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which deemed his home in Lyons to be 100 percent destroyed. He’s now waiting to see whether he will be allowed to rebuild on his property, or if it’s deemed unsafe and the government buys him out.

As the proposal stands, owners of the destroyed properties still would get a tax bill from county assessors so local governments don’t miss out on revenue they rely on to provide services to residents. After the property owners pay the bill, they then could claim a tax credit from the state.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Conservation: The City of Pueblo cuts demand without compromising landscapes

January 25, 2014
Japanese Beetle via Iowa State University (L. Jesse)

Japanese Beetle via Iowa State University (L. Jesse)

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

The city of Pueblo has sharply reduced its water use in the past year with little if any harm to city parks. Brad Bixler, interim city parks and contract manager, said the yearlong experiment in cutting back irrigation dropped water usage by 33 percent — a savings of 207 million gallons of water. Bixler noted that crews let the grass grow longer in city parks last summer to help minimize evaporation.

“We had very few complaints about the turf conditions and many compliments,” he said in a statement this week.

An unexpected benefit — the drier conditions also cut into the plague of Japanese beetles in city parks. Bixler said traps set in 2012 routinely caught 1,000 or more beetles a day. Last summer, the traps often held fewer than 100 beetles a day.

More conservation coverage here.


Colorado Parks and Wildlife to honor 2013 Landowners of the Year

January 23, 2014

Greater sage-grouse via Idaho Fish and Game

Greater sage-grouse via Idaho Fish and Game


Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will honor two winners as Landowners of the Year for 2013 before the Pro Rodeo at the National Western Stock Show on Thursday, Jan. 23. The 2013 Landowners of the Year are Bord Gulch Ranch Manager Ray Owens and Turkey Creek Ranch owners Gary and Georgia Walker.

Owens manages the sprawling 15,000+ acre Bord Gulch Ranch in northwest Colorado’s Moffat County. The ranch is prime habitat for greater sage-grouse and mule deer, winters thousands of elk, and is a year-round home to dozens of other species. Owens works closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife conservation groups to manage the traditional ranching property in a way that benefits the area’s native wildlife.

Gary and Georgia Walker’s approximately 65,000 acre Turkey Creek Ranch property is prime short grass prairie and agricultural riparian lands west of Pueblo. The Walkers have managed the property as successful ranchers and as stewards of the native wildlife for more than 50 years. In late 2013, they became the first private landowners in the state to release black-footed ferrets onto their private property under a safe-harbor agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Black-footed ferrets were once dubbed “the most endangered animal in North America,” and remain incredibly rare in the wild.

“Ray Owens and the Walkers are proof that private landowners can do amazing things for wildlife in ways that government cannot,” said Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We are pleased to join them at the National Western Stockshow and honor their efforts and the efforts of all the private landowners in the state.”

Colorado is known by sportsmen around the world for its 23 million acres of public lands, but four of every 10 acres in the state are privately owned. Private lands are critical to maintaining populations of mule deer, pronghorn, elk, sage-grouse, prairie falcons and a host of grassland species. Privately held water rights, held in reservoirs and released into streams, supports both warm- and cold-water sport fishing across the state.

The Wildlife Landowner of the Year Award is part of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Landowner Recognition Program, which has worked to highlight exemplary land management practices and recognize landowners who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in wildlife conservation since 1982.

Nominees for Landowner of the Year must be residents of Colorado or own at least 160 acres in the state, and be actively engaged in farming or ranching business as owners, lessors, lessees, or managers. Evaluations are based on a range of criteria, including current land management practices, wildlife habitat improvements, accommodations for public hunting and fishing access and leadership in the promotion of sound wildlife practices on private lands.

“Farming and ranching families have a connection to the land,” said Ken Morgan, Private Lands Program Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “They know that sound soil, water and vegetation management practices benefit their agricultural operations and also benefit wildlife. The health of the land is not an abstract concept to them and that’s worth celebrating.”

More conservation coverage here.


CSU Sponsors First Poudre River Forum Feb. 8

January 21, 2014
Cache la Poudre River

Cache la Poudre River

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

The Cache la Poudre River is life-blood for Northern Colorado. In recognition of its importance to the area, the community is invited to the first Poudre River Forum, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. The forum, “The Poudre: Working River/Healthy River,” will focus on all of the river’s stakeholders, representing perspectives from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds. Topics to be discussed include:

• The water rights of agricultural and municipal diverters;
• Where the water in the Poudre comes from and what it does for us;
• Ecological factors such as flow, temperature, fish and sedimentation.

The forum will feature presentations and dialogue, including remarks by State Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs about how the Poudre itself was the site of early conflict and cooperation leading to the development of the doctrine of prior appropriation in the West, and how water law has evolved in recent years.

Following the event, a celebration of the river will be held until 6 p.m. with refreshments and jazz by the Poudre River Irregulars.

Pre-registration is required by Jan. 31. The cost is $25; students 18 and under are free and scholarships are available. To register, visit http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/thepoudrerunsthroughit

The event is sponsored by The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


The latest Greeley Water Conservation newsletter is hot off the presses

January 20, 2014

Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water


Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

5 Ways To Save Water and Money in 2014

1. Review the graphs on your water bill. Compare the “this month” column with the “water budget” column. If your monthly use exceeds your budget, you could make adjustments to save more water. This is most critical when lawn watering begins and many people use more water than their lawns need.

2. Year-round wastewater rates are based on January and February water use. Practice indoor water conservation early in the year and save all year long.

3. Heating water for showering, bathing, shaving, cooking, and cleaning also requires a considerable amount of energy. Homes with electric water heaters, for example, spend one-fourth of their total electric bills just to heat water.

4. Winter months are the prime time to check water use and see if you may have a leak. If a family of four exceeds 10,000 gallons per month in the winter, you probably have leaks!

5. Give you bathroom a mini-makeover. Buy a new toilet that uses less water and you may be eligible for a water conservation rebate. Switch out your showerhead with a new model at no cost when you participate in Greeley’s Showerhead Exchange program. Add aerators to sinks, they slow the flow and can be picked up at Greeley’s showerhead exchange events.


2014 Colorado legislation: Conservation bills detailed at Southeastern Water board meeting #COleg

January 20, 2014
Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two bills that would conserve water in Colorado were floated by proponents in Pueblo last week. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District heard the presentations for a lawn-watering limitation bill and more water-efficient home appliances at its monthly board meeting Thursday.

The two bills are among more than a dozen water proposals waiting in the wings at the state Capitol this year. As of Friday, only six bills had been assigned to committees.

Steve Harris, who represents Southwest Colorado on the Interbasin Compact Committee, explained a concept to limit new developments to 15 percent lawns beginning in 2016. Harris came up with the idea, and it has garnered widespread support in the Colorado River basin.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


2014 Colorado legislation: Ellen Roberts’ new bill, ‘addresses lawn irrigation in new subdivisions.’ #COleg

January 18, 2014

watersprinkler

From The Durango Herald (Ellen Roberts):

My first bill has been introduced, and it addresses lawn irrigation in new subdivisions when the water used is transferred from agricultural use. It would take effect in 2016. I’ve received lots of input on the bill.

Most people understand the need to address Colorado’s water shortage, especially as our state’s population grows. It’s anticipated our population will double by 2050, yet we don’t have the water supply needed to support that growth.

It has been suggested the bill is heavy-handed, and I understand that sentiment. The bill is a work in progress, and I’m committed to as many meetings as it takes to get a variety of responses and to consider suggested alternatives on this proposal.

While some view it as being a Western Slope versus Front Range approach, it’s not intended that way. It is true, though, I’m concerned about where the new water is going to come from to support the growth projected for Colorado.

Given the private property rights’ nature of Colorado water, the bill clearly allows agricultural water transfers to occur. The focus is on municipal water – half of which goes for lawns and three-quarters of that water for lawns is consumed by evaporation. If this bill is passed, Colorado would lose less water to evaporation, which is a significant consumer, particularly given the dryness of our semi-arid climate.

My constituent, Steve Harris, a water engineer from Durango, proposed the bill idea to me, and it was developed to address the widespread concern that our state is rapidly losing land in agricultural production because of municipalities buying the water rights for their growth. Food independence is even more important than energy independence, so this proposal struck a chord for me.

From The Denver Post (Vincent Carroll)

Sen. Ellen Roberts appears somewhat surprised by herself. The Durango Republican is not used to carrying bills imposing mandates on local governments, and it makes her “personally uncomfortable” that she is doing so now.

But she’s convinced, she told me, that “Colorado needs to have a conversation” about the way cities and towns purchase water from farms and ranches and what it will do to rural Colorado as our population continues to grow. So she and three other lawmakers, two Democrats and another Republican, have filed Senate Bill 17, which bars any residential development that relies on former ag water from having lawns covering more than 15 percent of its area.

You can see how homebuilders and local governments are just going to love this unprecedented meddling in their prerogatives. I’m not so crazy about the idea, either — as a state mandate. But Roberts’ goal of a major reduction in water use by developers is worth touting, and is achievable without sacrificing homebuyer appeal.

At least that’s what Harold Smethills is banking on in his Sterling Ranch development in northwest Douglas County, which will be moving dirt this year for the first 1,000 lots of what is expected to max out over time at 30,000 residents.

Smethills and his partners have spent a fortune measuring how much water is used on traditional landscaping and testing options that use much less but still appeal to a wide swath of buyers. Those buyers don’t want a purely “rocks and cactus” look, he told me recently.

Traditional bluegrass requires 25 gallons of water annually per square foot, he said. But Sterling Ranch thinks of grass “as a throw rug rather than a carpet” and will coordinate it with perennials and shrubs, he added.

Sterling Ranch has built demonstration plots that use as little as 12½ gallons and even 7 gallons per square foot annually.

“We don’t think the market is ready for the 7,” he said. “We think it’s very ready for the 12.”

If so, Sterling Ranch will use less than half the water of a traditional development even before it counts savings from its most distinctive concept: rainwater harvesting. It plans to capture rain from rooftops and storm drainage systems to reduce landscaping needs — a practice that was illegal until lawmakers passed a bill in 2009 allowing the experiment.

Rainwatering harvesting was outlawed decades ago in order to prevent it from poaching a resource that belonged to downstream users. So Sterling Ranch is involved in complex tests overseen by state officials to determine how much water actually runs off into streams or penetrates to groundwater.

“We owe the river only the water that made it to the river,” Smethills explains, adding that surprisingly little does. Still, he says, “we’re probably five or six years” from going to a water court to establish a finding.

Yet rainwater will play a big role in the project from the outset, reducing outdoor consumption by an extra third.

Sen. Roberts says she put a ceiling for lawns of 15 percent in her bill because experts say the average lawn is 30 to 50 percent of a lot, and half of a typical home’s water is used outdoors. But if that’s the case, her mandate would probably reduce consumption by less than what Sterling Ranch is poised to achieve.

And if that proves true, it’s almost certain that local communities along the Front Range will begin pushing for similar savings on their own.

Supply side land-use planning. More 2014 Colorado Legislation coverage here.


What the New York Times Misses About the #ColoradoRiver — National Geographic

January 10, 2014
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

From the National Geographic (Jennifer Pitt):

The good news, as reported by the Times, is that many water managers understand the dire circumstance of reduced snowfall, as well as the options available to avoid water rationing. Water conservation – already widely employed across the region – is an imperative moving forward, whether or not the drought persists. The Great Recession temporarily slowed the region’s meteoric rise in population, but its cities are growing again. In some cities where people bathe, drink, water lawns, and wash cars with Colorado River water, historic tightening of supplies has successfully and dramatically reduced per capita use, extending supplies. Many cities use less water now than they did a decade ago, despite population growth.

Still, even the most water-thrifty cities in the basin have a long way to go before they achieve conservation levels seen in other cities across the globe, such as those in Australia and Israel.

Where water has been plentiful, by dint of geography or law, investments in water conservation are less common. John Fleck makes this point nicely in a recent Albuquerque Journal post: “When there is more water, people use more water. When there is less, they use less. The trick is making the transition from one to the other. New data from state water managers suggest New Mexicans are doing better at this task than I expected.”[...]

Water conservation in agriculture will be more of a challenge. While the Times cites laser-leveling of fields as a practice to reduce farm run-off, this practice may not actually save water. Much of the water that leaves farms is already going back into our water supply where it is used over and over again. Limited but promising options for conserving water in agriculture are technologies that reduce evaporation, such as drip irrigation of high-value crops. These technologies can also add resilience to farming operations. But to make such technologies effective at saving water, farmers will need financial incentives to reduce water use and changes to law and regulation that allow them to profit from the savings.

Historically in the West, water has been permanently taken out of agriculture to feed the thirst of our growing cities, and the acreage of irrigated fields has declined. That’s something to consider as Western communities make choices about water supply: do we want lawns if it means we have to buy-up and dry-up our irrigated open spaces and our culture of farming and ranching?

Another important point is one Wines failed to capture in his story: what all of this – the problem of extended drought and the solutions we employ – mean for the Colorado River itself. The mighty Colorado is not simply infrastructure for water delivery. It is the lifeline of the American West. It is a river of legends, with awe-inspiring canyons that have for centuries seduced people to explore their depths. Citizens of the West and the rest of the globe alike love the Colorado River for the thrill of its rapids, the shade of its riverside forests that make for epic fishing, and the serene calm of a morning view from a houseboat on one of its large reservoirs. Colorado River recreation adds some $26 billion to the economy every year.

Those with the power to affect Colorado River water management – our elected leaders and the officials they appoint – have the power to preserve the natural wonders of the American West. Persistent drought presents these leaders with a significant challenge, and how they respond will have an enduring impact, not only on the economic viability of our cities and rural counties, but also on the health of the Colorado River.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


2014 Colorado legislation: State legislators hope to pass bill to curb turf in residential landscapes #COleg

January 2, 2014
Xeriscape landscape

Xeriscape landscape

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Two Southwest Colorado lawmakers want to make new suburban lawns a bit smaller as a way to prevent cities from siphoning away farm and ranch water. The idea highlights the list of bills local legislators will propose when the Legislature’s 2014 session begins Jan. 8.

State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, got the lawn idea from local water engineer Steve Harris and worked on it with Bruce Whitehead, whom she defeated in the 2010 Senate race. It would require new subdivisions that intend to buy farm water rights to make sure no more than 15 percent of their lots are covered with grass lawns.

It’s a good first step, Roberts said, in “recognizing that Colorado is a high-altitude desert.”

She will sponsor the bill with Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and two Democrats, Rep. Ed Vigil of the San Luis Valley and Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton.

They can expect powerful opposition from local governments and home builders.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


The Nature Conservancy passes 1 million preserved acre mark in Montana

December 31, 2013
The Nature Conservancy has been involved in protecting a million acres in Montana, including lands along the Rocky Mountain Front such as the Rappold ranch near Dupuyer, where conservation easements restrict development. / Courtesy photo/Dave Hanna

The Nature Conservancy has been involved in protecting a million acres in Montana, including lands along the Rocky Mountain Front such as the Rappold ranch near Dupuyer, where conservation easements restrict development. / Courtesy photo/Dave Hanna

From the Great Falls Tribune (Karl Puckett):

…combined with another recent easement on the Rocky Mountain Front, this one 14,000 acres, it put the The Nature Conservancy over a million acres of land protected in Montana. That’s about an acre protected for every resident.

“To me it’s unbelievable we’ve reached that size,” said Dave Carr, a Nature Conservancy program manager in Helena and a 24-year employee. “That’s a very large amount of land we have helped protect and conserve, and many of those lands are what I call working lands. They’re still being used. They just won’t be subdivided.”

It took 35 years for TNC to reach the million-acre milestone, which the group announced earlier this month. The largest conservation organization in the world, TNC opened its doors in Big Sky Country in 1978 when it secured its first conservation easement in the Blackfoot River Valley, one of the state’s first private conservation easements, Carr said.

Today, the organization has had a hand in protecting 1,004,308 acres of land statewide, from ranches in the Rocky Mountain foothills of northcentral Montana in grizzly bear habitat to unbroken native prairie on the northeastern plains to forested land in the river valleys of western Montana.

Lands TNC works to protect often are privately owned ranches that feature native habitat and wildlife, but the aim isn’t to end agricultural uses.

“We very much like to see lands stay in some productive use,” Carr said. “We feel that for long-term conservation, if the community is not part of that decision or doesn’t buy into that, it won’t be lasting.” [ed. emphasis mine]

Conservation easements are tailored to the needs of the landowner, but generally speaking they restrict development rights and preclude subdivisions, drainage of wetlands, plowing of native prairie and commercial gravel pits.

Easements The Nature Conservancy works on allow the landowner to continue to ranch. In some cases, harvesting timber to manage trees for beetle kill or fire hazards is allowed.

Sometimes The Nature Conservancy purchases the easements from landowners, other times they are donated. The recent 14,571-acre easement on the Rocky Mountain Front that helped push the group past the million-acre mark was an anonymous donation.

Meeting rising costs is a challenge for ranching families, and landowners, particularly those on the Rocky Mountain Front and Blackfoot River Valley, are using easements as a planning tool to keep the family ranch in business, Carr said. Money they received from The Nature Conservancy, for example, can be used to buy adjacent lands…

Almost half of TNC’s protected acreage falls within western Montana, in a geographic region called the Crown of the Continent, but some 200,000 acres (including TNC’s partnership with other land trusts, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and The Conservation Fund) is now conserved along the Rocky Mountain Front and another 66,000 acres is located on northern Montana prairies. Another 320,000 acres won’t be developed in southwest Montana.

More conservation easement coverage here.


Conservation Colorado: Did you get our December water update in your inbox last weekend? Don’t miss it.

December 26, 2013

Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust: Garcia Ranch Conservation Easement Completed!

December 24, 2013
Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

From the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust website:

The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust is proud to announce the completion of a conservation easement on the beautiful Garcia Ranch on the Conejos River. Thanks to the generosity of owners Dr. Reyes Garcia and his daughters Lana Kiana and Tania Paloma, their working ranch will remain intact with its senior water rights in perpetuity. In addition, RiGHT greatly appreciates the funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, through the Rio Grande Basin Round Table, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the San Luis Valley Habitat Partnership Program Committee which all made this wonderful conservation project possible.

Fulfilling the opportunity to conserve this exceptional property has been a labor of love for both the landowners and the land trust over the past two years, with roots that go back much, much further. As a retired professor of philosophy, environmental and indigenous studies, Reyes Garcia is deeply attuned to the legacy of his family’s land and the way of life it has provided for generations. With the Garcia family having originally settled in Conejos County in the 1850’s, he has a long history rooted in the special area between the Conejos and San Antonio Rivers.

In an article for RiGHT’s spring newsletter, Dr. Garcia wrote that he chose to conserve the land in honor of his older brother, Jose, who worked the land for 50 years until his recent passing. “Surely, a conservation easement agreement is a recommitment to a more original contract between humanity and the whole of the natural world …. as a sacred promise to cherish and safeguard one another. Surely, an easement agreement is a prism through which to envision a future much like the past many of us have known during our best years here in El Valle de San Luis – a future also much like the present in which we face so many of the challenges of a period of transition and big changes – a future that will continue as far as possible to be sustainable and wholesome.”

Conserving the land and water is a way “to make my own small contribution to preserving the family legacy of ranching and the land-based culture of the ranchero tradition,” Garcia wrote. “After my brother gave me the responsibility for irrigating in 1983, I came to understand this tradition includes putting into practice ecological values by virtue of an instinctual love of the land that engenders good stewardship and a deep respect for all life forms, the seasonal rotation of livestock and their humane treatment, the acequia irrigation system especially, the transmission of skills which make self-reliance possible, along with an emphasis on cooperation with neighbors and mutual aid.

“How can we not hope that another seven generations will lay up a treasure of similar experiences and memories? How can we not bring ourselves to do what is necessary to make this possible for those who come after us?” Garcia wrote.

“Conserving a spectacular property like the Garcia Ranch truly fulfills the core purpose of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust,” said Rio de la Vista, Co-Coordinator of the trust’s Rio Grande Initiative. “The rare opportunity to protect such a beautiful confluence of working lands, important water rights and exceptional wildlife habitat is always fulfilling. And this easement is all the more special due to the long-lived legacy of the Garcia family in Conejos County. We are immensely grateful to them for working with RiGHT to provide this ‘gift to the future’, of intact land and water that can sustain life and livelihoods far into the future.”

For a short film about the Garcia Ranch by co-owner Lana Garcia, click this link.

More conservation easement coverage here and here.


GOCO Grants Will Conserve More than 40,000 Acres for Public Use, Wildlife Habitat

December 23, 2013

Elk on Trail Ridge Road August 2011

Elk on Trail Ridge Road August 2011


Here’s the release from Great Outdoors Colorado (Todd Cohen):

COUNTIES AND CITIES: Basalt, Chaffee, Colorado Springs, Creede, Dolores, Eagle, El Paso, Grand, Kremmling, Las Animas, La Junta, Meeker, Mesa, Mineral, Palisade, Pitkin, Poncha Springs, Rio Blanco, Salida.

The Great Outdoors Colorado Board has approved $8.8 million in grants to preserve more than 40,000 acres of land in nine counties to establish new public open spaces, protect scenic landscapes and river corridors and protect vital habitat for big game and protected species.

One grant will also conserve a working ranch that contains the site of the historic 1879 “Meeker Massacre,” the incident that resulted in the Ute’s forced removal to reservations in Utah. Another will conserve more than 33,000 acres in southern Colorado that offer refuge for a variety of wildlife including sensitive native species populations.

The land trusts and local governments receiving these grants plan to leverage the money for more than $21 million in matching funds and land donations. Fund requests in this grant cycle outstripped available funds by more than $2 million.

The grants will:

  • establish new public open spaces in El Paso, Eagle and Mesa counties;
  • create new public access for hunting in Mineral County, and enhance existing public fishing opportunities in Rio Blanco County;
  • conserve more than 4,100 acres of lands on scenic byways and nearly 300 acres visible from major interstates and U.S. highways;
  • conserve more than 2,600 acres of wildlife habitat and linkage corridors for federally designated threatened and endangered species; and
  • conserve more than 20 miles of riparian habitat and river corridors. Read the rest of this entry »

#ColoradoRiver Basin: “The definition of adequate supply is changing” — Harry Saltzgaver

December 21, 2013
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

From Gazzettes.com (Harry Saltzgaver):

I took a few days off last week to attend the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual meeting. Yes, this is my idea of a vacation…

The upper Colorado Basin, where all that liquid life starts as snow and mountain springs, is suffering a long-term drought similar to, and in ways exceeding, what we’ve experienced in California. Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two primary water storage reservoirs on the river, look like half-empty bathtubs. They have been slowly drained over the last two decades as users tried to keep land and cities from drying up.

Things are getting critical now, 15 years into a long-term drought. The powers that be are spending hundreds of millions on a three-mile-long tunnel under Lake Mead to get to a spot where water can still be taken out of the reservoir when it’s less than half full.

The Law of The River, called the Colorado River Compact, calls for limiting the amount of water released from Powell and Mead when they get below certain levels. Those levels likely will be reached in 2016.

Moreover, Mead will continue to drop even if “normal” amounts of water are released from Lake Powell. Users are taking out almost 10% more than is coming in, year in and year out.

Except for cloud seeding or rain dances (about equally effective), there is no way to increase the amount of water in the Colorado River. The only solution is to use less — conservation, in other words.

The folks who rely solely on the Colorado have accepted that reality. Farmers talk more about new irrigation techniques than the price of hay. In Nevada and Arizona, desert metropolises have permanent water restrictions, from landscape use to water served at restaurants, and recycling water is an art form. You didn’t think all those Las Vegas fountains really just used water once, did you?

As I mentioned, California and Long Beach are blessed with multiple sources of water. But the concept — and the reality — is the same. We have a finite amount of water, and an ever-increasing population looking for its share. The only long-term solution to limited supply is reducing demand — increasing conservation. We need to learn how to live with less water than we use today.

Long Beach Water is committed to providing an adequate supply of safe water to all of our residents, now and in the future. But be prepared — the definition of adequate supply is changing.

That’s the lesson of the Colorado, and one we need to embrace sooner rather than later.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Funding Opportunity Available to Increase Water Conservation or Improve Water Supply Sustainability

December 9, 2013
Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation or result in other improvements that address water supply sustainability in the West.

The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R14AS00001.

Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:

  • Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete. It is expected that a majority of awards will be made in this funding group.
  • Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given fiscal year to complete each phase. This will provide an opportunity for larger, multiple-year projects to receive some funding in the first year without having to compete for funding in the second and third years.
  • Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.

    In 2013, Reclamation awarded more than $20 million for 44 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. These projects were estimated to save about 100,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to serve a population of about 400,000 people.

    The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.

    Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 23, 2014. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.

    To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    ‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

    December 3, 2013
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

    “We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

    The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

    “The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

    “There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

    Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

    On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

    Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

    The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

    And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

    “It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

    The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

    That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

    The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

    “This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

    Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

    It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

    It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

    It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

    “Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

    Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    The Luka: Hit pause on your shower

    November 29, 2013

    Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Luka is a pause button for your shower for those who want to save water, shower pets indoors, shave legs, brush your teeth in the shower or elderly with limited mobility.

    It is designed to suspend the flow of water without changing the temperature of your shower or reducing water pressure, because as we all know, it is either really hot or really cold! The Luka is as easy to use as a retractable pen, the Luka pauses your shower just a push of a button. There is no need to replace the showerhead that you already own because the Luka attaches right behind your existing unit. Simply install the Luka behind your showerhead and enjoy!

    More conservation coverage here.


    US Representative Scott Tipton Testifies on Hermosa Creek Legislation in Senate

    November 29, 2013
    Hermosa Park

    Hermosa Park

    Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

    Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), today, testified in support of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2013 in the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee. Tipton and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) have introduced companion bills in the House (H.R. 1839) and Senate (S.841) to protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed–an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango–as well as protect multiple use of the land.

    In his testimony, Tipton spoke on the community effort behind the legislation that is endorsed by a broad coalition of stakeholders including: the City of Durango, the La Plata County Commission, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the San Juan County Commission, Region 9, the Colorado Snowmobilers Association, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc., in addition to numerous business and sportsmen groups, among others.

    More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here and here.


    The Windy Gap Firming project moves closer to implementation #ColoradoRiver

    November 26, 2013
    Chimney Hollow Reservoir site -- Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir site — Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

    Here’s a guest column written by Jim Pokrandt that is running in the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    The Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is in final form but has not been totally wrapped up because two important preconditions have not been completed, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors at its October meeting.

    Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and the West Slope, the Windy Gap Firming Project IGA is a package of mitigation enhancements that would be part of the Windy Gap Firming Project once it is permitted for the Municipal Subdistrict of Northern Water by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    The preconditions for the River District’s execution of the agreement are that the United States (1) makes a satisfactory finding that the WGFP can be operated consistent with Senate Document 80 — meaning no impact to the United States’ obligations to the beneficiaries, including West Slope beneficiaries, of the Colorado Big Thompson (C‐BT) Project, and (2) adopts an enforceable provision recognizing that if the River District does not challenge the WGFP permitting decision, that it does not waive any legal rights regarding federal decisions involving the same or similar legal issues.

    Fleming anticipated that that these conditions will be satisfied in the context of Reclamation’s final record of decision on the WGFP, which is expected in the first part of 2014. In the meantime, Fleming said the River District has worked extensively with Grand County on matters related to the WGFP and the operation of the C-BT Project — including the Grand Lake Water Clarity Agreement and the upcoming initiation of the WGFP Carriage Contract negotiations.

    With respect to the Grand Lake clarity issues, Fleming reported there have been several meetings with Reclamation and Northern to help ensure that a workable solution can be reached to meet the Grand Lake water quality standard. An important goal in that regard has been to avoid a stalemate over a massively expensive “fix” that could require a separate congressional authorization and appropriation.

    With regard to the WGFP carriage contract negotiations, the River District has assisted Grand County in efforts to secure the best possible negotiating position in Reclamation’s negotiation process.

    Fleming said the River District believes Grand County’s specifically identified role in Senate Document 80 entitles the county (and its advisers) to a more involved position in the negotiations than Reclamation’s standard “sit and‐observe” role for members of the public in its contract negotiation process.

    Another goal is to ensure that the Windy Gap water that Grand County is entitled to use pursuant to the IGA can be stored in Granby Reservoir for no charge or at a very affordable rate.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    ‘The [Colorado Water Plan] needs your input’ — Hannah Holm #ColoradoRiver

    November 26, 2013
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    How will Colorado share the Colorado River? How much irrigated land will be dried up to slake the thirst of growing cities? How far should the state and local governments go in requiring residents to conserve?

    These are some of the questions that will be addressed in Colorado’s statewide water plan, which is currently under development. Back in May, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to develop a draft plan by Dec. 10, 2014, which is to be finalized by Dec. 10, 2015…

    Both the CWCB and the Basin Roundtables are now seeking public input on the plan. There’s a survey link at the end of this article for you to provide general input, and future articles and surveys will address more specific issues.

    First, though, let’s consider this basic question – why does Colorado need a water plan?

    The Governor’s Executive Order notes that the gap between the state’s developed water supplies and growing urban demands could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050 (an acre foot is about enough for 2-3 families for a year at current usage rates). The biggest gap is anticipated in the South Platte River Basin, home to Colorado’s largest cities. A central challenge for the water plan is to fill the gap in a way that matches Colorado’s values. That’s a tough nut to crack.

    The easiest way for cities to fill that gap is by taking it from agriculture, which currently accounts for about 85% of the water consumed in the state. But there’s a heavy price to pay for continuing to rely on that approach. A state water supply study released in 2010 projected a 15-20% decline in irrigated acreage statewide by 2050, with a 22-32% decline in the South Platte Basin over the same period. “Buying and drying” of agricultural water rights has already devastated some rural communities, and most stakeholders agree that this should be minimized in the future.

    If not from agriculture, then where? East Slope Roundtables have been arguing for the need to preserve the option to develop additional West Slope water supplies. West Slope Roundtables point to environmental and economic impacts already felt from the roughly 500,000 acre-feet/year already transferred across the divide each year. More than 60% of the natural flows of the Upper Colorado River above Kremmling, for example, are diverted to the Front Range, impacting both Grand County building permits and gold medal trout streams.

    Another concern is that increased depletions from the Colorado River and its tributaries would increase the risk of failing to meet legal obligations to downstream states. If downstream flow obligations are not met, water rights junior to the 1922 Compact between Upper Colorado River Basin states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming) and Lower Colorado River Basin States (Arizona, Nevada and California) on how to share the river could be curtailed. If that means cutting off urban taps, it could set off a mad scramble for senior agricultural water rights on the West Slope.

    Of course, neither drying up irrigated agriculture nor putting another straw into the Colorado Basin would be necessary if urban users reduced their consumption sufficiently. But how to achieve that isn’t easy either. Updated fixtures and education campaigns are a good start, but conserving enough to eliminate the need for other water sources would likely be impossible without the broad application of land-use and landscaping restrictions that may not be politically palatable.

    There are no easy answers to the state’s large-scale water challenges. Creative solutions are needed to find more “win-win” solutions, with less of a need for losers – but hard choices may still need to be made. The more people that contribute their insights and opinions, the better the chances are that the final plan will fully reflect Colorado’s water values.

    To begin contributing your insights to your Basin Roundtable and the CWCB, fill out this quick survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoBasinPlanValues.

    If you want to get a little more background first, check out the new Colorado Water Plan website at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com/.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    November 21, 2013
    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A district committed to keeping water in the Lower Arkansas Valley has joined a network that provides real-time water quality data on the Arkansas River from Leadville to the Kansas state line. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday approved spending $34,000 in the next year to help operate stream gauges and gather information from wells below John Martin Reservoir. The information is widely available on the Internet. The district’s contribution will be matched by $17,000 in federal funds from the U.S. Geological Survey.

    “The focus is on the reach from Pueblo to the state line,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Pueblo Board of Water Works and St. Charles Mesa Water District also participate in the program.

    Measurements track salinity and temperature of water in the river, as well as groundwater levels. The information provides a baseline that allows water users to track changing water conditions from either natural causes or new uses along the river, Mau said.

    Past measurements show salinity increases when water levels are low and as water moves downstream. Crowley County board member Jim Valiant asked if selenium also will be studied. Mau replied that selenium is studied, but not as a part of this project.

    Water temperature varies most by the time of year, but can increase when levels are low. Mau said the information is valuable to track fish habitat and to establish the relationship between surface flows and groundwater. Water levels are tracked in 130 wells along the river, some with more than 50 years of data to provide historic comparison.

    The board enthusiastically supported the study, and encouraged Mau to provide more frequent updates.

    “We need to keep up with the information,” said Leroy Mauch, a board member from Prowers County.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Ponds that feed irrigation systems in the Lower Arkansas Valley are leaking twice as much as farmers are given credit for, a study is showing. But farmers will have to wait another year for the study to be completed before they can even begin to hope for a change in the state’s formula. In the meantime, those who measure the water coming into and leaving the ponds will be able to apply that to state calculations for replacement of water under surface consumption rules.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is sponsoring a two-year study of pond leakage for farmers who use the ponds to collect water for use in sprinkler systems. There are 26 ponds in the study, but there have been problems with the timing of measurements and malfunctioning meters on some of the ponds. The amount of leakage is complicated to measure, depending on the size of ponds, soil conditions, how often the ponds are filled and lag time for water to return to the river, said consultant Brian Lauritsen.

    This year, the state’s model showed leakage of about 8 percent on the ponds, while measurements averaged about 18 percent, said Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Individual ponds ranged from 2-40 percent leakage. “We’re giving credit for any pond with a meter,” Tyner said.

    Farmers have joined Rule 10 group plans set up by the Lower Ark district that allow them to account for sprinkler systems fed by surface water supplies. The Lower Ark provides replacement water, but farmers must pay to join and use the plan.

    They’re not happy.

    “It’s ironic that we go through all these numbers and nitpick them,” said Lamar farmer Dale Mauch. “But no one ever looks at flood ground, and the HI model isn’t even close.”

    The Hydrologic-Institutional model was adopted as part of the U.S. Supreme Court case Kansas v. Colorado over the Arkansas River Compact.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A conservation easement on the Bessemer Ditch will preserve 105 acres in farmland. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District accepted the easement Wednesday. The board uses such easements as part of its mission to keep water in the Lower Ark Valley. It is the custodian for more than 50 easements. Typically, property owners pay for the easement, which undergoes periodic inspections, and are eligible for state and federal tax benefits.

    The Bessemer Ditch farm is owned by the Wild Rose Ranch Inc., which is a company formed by the Wally Stealey family. It is located on 43rd Lane and has about 35 shares of Bessemer Ditch water, explained Bill Hancock, who manages conservation programs for the Lower Ark district.

    Each share of the Bessemer Ditch provides enough water to irrigate an acre in an average year.

    Most of the land is a reclaimed gravel pit or used for pasture land and has not fared well during the drought. An area beneficial to wildlife, Six Mile Creek, crosses the property, Hancock said.

    Stealey has donated other easements on the Wild Rose Ranch in Fremont County to the Lower Ark District in the past.

    The board voted unanimously to accept the conservation easement.

    More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Secretary Jewell Applauds President’s Intent to Nominate Neil Kornze as Director of the Bureau of Land Management

    November 10, 2013
    Photovoltaic Solar Array

    Photovoltaic Solar Array

    Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today praised President Obama’s intent to nominate Neil G. Kornze as Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Kornze would head a bureau that manages more than 245 million acres of public land under a multiple-use and sustained yield mission.

    “Neil has helped implement forward-looking reforms at the BLM to promote energy development in areas of minimal conflict, drive landscape-level planning efforts, and dramatically expand the agency’s use of technology to speed up the process for energy permitting,” said Jewell. “For more than a decade, Neil has been a key player in many of the nation’s major natural resource policy issues and has a reputation for being creative and results-oriented. His record at the BLM is marked by an inclusive approach and an openness to new ideas as the agency supports efforts to foster economic opportunities through safe and responsible energy development and increased access to the nation’s system of conservation lands.”

    Kornze has led the BLM since March 1, 2013, as Principal Deputy Director, overseeing its conservation, outdoor recreation and energy development programs. Prior to this role, Kornze served as the BLM’s Acting Deputy Director for Policy and Programs since October 2011. He joined the agency in January 2011 as a Senior Advisor to the Director and has worked on a range of issues, including renewable and conventional energy development, transmission siting and conservation policy. He also has been active in tribal consultation, especially regarding oil, gas and renewable energy development in Indian Country.

    Kornze played a key role in developing the Western Solar Plan, which established 17 low-conflict zones for commercial solar energy development and also identified lands appropriate for conservation, and the agency’s approval of 47 solar, wind and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands, as a leader of the Department’s Renewable Energy Strike Team. When built, these projects add up to more than 13,300 megawatts – enough electricity to power 4.6 million homes and support 19,000 construction and operations jobs. He also has been a leader in reforming BLM’s oil and gas program, including the upcoming launch of a nation-wide online permitting system that could significantly reduce drilling permit processing times, and in the bureau’s efforts to enhance and increase visitors to the diverse system of national conservation lands.

    Before joining the BLM, Kornze was a Senior Policy Advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, working on renewable energy, mining, water, outdoor recreation, rural development and wildlife conservation issues. He worked closely on developing and helping pass critical national legislation, including the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009 and the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes programs. Raised in Elko, NV, by a family with a long history in mining, Kornze has a master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a degree in Politics from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA.

    The BLM has an annual budget of $1.1 billion and 10,250 employees who carry out a multiple-use and sustained yield mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands – mostly in 12 western states – for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The BLM hosts more than 59 million visits annually and administers the National System of Public Lands, which encompasses about 13 percent of the total land surface of the United States and more than 40 percent of all land managed by the federal government. BLM also manages 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate across the nation.

    From the Denver Business Journal (Mark Harden):

    Environmental groups praised the choice.

    “Neil Kornze will bring his western upbringing and values, combined with conservation knowledge, experience, and judgment to the director’s office at BLM,” said Trevor Kincaid of the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities. “Mr. Kornze’s record of finding compromise between divergent positions makes him an ideal candidate for the challenges facing BLM.”

    Kornze faces confirmation by the U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune that while “the fact that Mr. Kornze is from the West is a good thing,” he plans to bring up such issues as sage grouse management and hydraulic fracturing as Kornze’s nomination is considered.
    In Colorado, some 1.7 million acres of BLM land are habitat for the greater sage grouse, whose dwindling numbers have led state and federal officials to weigh restrictions on energy development and grazing to protect the bird.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    A former adviser to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will head the nation’s largest land-management agency, if Neil Kornze is approved by the Senate. President Barack Obama nominated Kornze to head the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday. The agency last had a permanent chief in May 2012.

    Kornze’s nomination won quick support from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who cited in a statement his office’s good working relationship with Kornze.

    “Being from the West and having demonstrated experience in the Congress and at the bureau make him a qualified candidate for the job,” Bennet said. “We’re looking forward to hearing more about how his priorities for the BLM will help our state balance the need for responsible energy development with recreation and the protection of our public lands and wildlife habitat.”

    Kornze grew up in Elko, Nev., and has headed the Bureau of Land Management since March 1. He joined the agency in 2011 as a senior adviser to Director Robert Abbey, working on renewable and conventional energy development and conservation policy. He worked previously with Reid.

    U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is reviewing Kornze’s nomination, Udall’s office said.

    Kornze’s position on state water rights is an important issue, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said in a statement.

    Tipton has criticized the BLM and U.S. Forest Service for demanding state water rights in exchange for permits to graze or operate on federal lands.

    “It’s critically important that the director of the BLM understands the importance of multiple-use of public lands, and strives to achieve a balance of conservation and responsible use of the abundant natural resources on those lands,” Tipton said in a statement.

    Western Colorado is dependent on the bureau’s energy policies, David Ludlam of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association said.

    “So the responsibility falls to our community to reach out to Mr. Kornze early, often and constructively to open up access to the natural gas reserves so fundamental to our economy and quality of life,” Ludlam said.

    The BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office administers about 1 million acres in Mesa and surrounding counties, including U.S Forest Service lands it manages for the mineral deposits beneath them.

    The BLM administers more than 245 million acres of public lands nationwide.


    Pitkin County commissioners approve purchase of properties near Redstone for open space

    November 8, 2013
    Crystal River near Redstone via Wikipedia Commons

    Crystal River near Redstone via Wikipedia Commons

    From The Aspen Times (Michael McLaughlin):

    On Wednesday, the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of two Redstone River parcels that comprise approximately 21.3 acres and are contiguous to Elk Park and Redstone Park on the south as well as the Redstone Boulders Open Space on the northeast.

    The two parcels up for purchase would tie all of these properties together into a seamless river corridor containing more than a mile of riverfront between Coal Creek and a well-used beach area upstream from the north Redstone Bridge…

    One of the properties includes the confluence of Coal Creek with the Crystal River. The current confluence isn’t the natural area where the two waters meet but one that was put in when the state was working on Highway 133 in that area. In its natural state, Coal Creek used to run through wetlands before it met with the Crystal River downstream from the present confluence area. Coal Creek experiences frequent debris flows that feed coarse rock and wood into the creek, which in turn collect at the confluence of Coal Creek and the Crystal River. This causes pooling of water and erosion by both streams. It also causes a sediment buildup that raises the riverbed of the Crystal near Redstone, elevating flood danger…

    A public hearing concerning the purchase will be held at the commissioners meeting on Nov. 20. Will said the public can rest assured that questions of access will be driven by habitat management.

    More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Cleveland Start-Up to Offer Smart Water Meter on Kickstarter

    November 5, 2013
    Sprav smart water meter

    Sprav smart water meter

    Here’s the release from Sprav Water, LLC:

    Sprav Water LLC, the makers of a smart water meter that allows users to determine, in real time, shower water and energy usage, today announced the launch of their Kickstarter campaign (http://kck.st/19QVpBg) to help fund the development of the revolutionary new product. The new meters, which easily clip onto the pipe behind the user’s existing showerhead, can help save consumers hundreds of dollars per year by reducing water and energy costs from showering.

    “The idea started as an extra credit assignment at Case Western where we were tasked with creating a tool to reduce energy consumption in homes,” said Craig Lewis, CEO of Sprav Water. “We all sat down and thought back to the days when we were kids getting yelled at for taking too long in the shower, and realized that this was a market with little innovation and great opportunity for growth.”

    Real-time feedback from an easy to view lighted indicator allows the user to manage shower duration and hot water usage. Users can also view periodic usage reports, set custom goals, and even view shower usage in real-time, through a simple mobile app on their smartphones or tablets. The device is designed to better control household water usage and drive greater awareness and action toward the conservation of local, state and national natural resources.

    The Cleveland start-up is comprised of three Case Western Reserve University engineering students and an industrial design graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Sprav Water was recently seed-funded by Bizdom, a nonprofit entrepreneurship accelerator for tech-based companies who operate their business in the downtown cores of Detroit and Cleveland.

    “We’ve had a great deal of support from a variety of individuals and organizations both at CWRU and CIA, “said Craig Lewis, CEO of Sprav Water. “We have made extensive use of the 3D printing capabilities of think[box] at CWRU to help us quickly prototype designs. We also took advantage of several joint CWRU and CIA product competitions as well as the Blackstone Launchpad program. We are very fortunate to be located in an area where technical and creative resources can easily come together to create new businesses and potential jobs.”

    Project backers can donate to the campaign by going to (http://kck.st/19QVpBg) and they will receive a device in their choice of either chrome or satin nickel finish for $49 or $59 respectively. The first units will be shipped April 2014 to project backers, and eventually the meters will be available for purchase online at http://www.spravwater.com and at plumbing and hardware retailers nationwide.

    About Sprav Water
    Sprav Water LLC, is launching a smart water meter that allows users to monitor, in real time, shower water and energy usage. The device reduces water waste and energy consumption.

    More conservation coverage here.


    WRA report — Conservation Synergy: The Case for Integrating Water and Energy Efficiency Programs

    October 25, 2013

    conservationsynergycoverwra

    Click here to download the report. Click here for the executive summary. Here’s an excerpt:

    The nexus between water and energy has been understood for several years, yet only a handful of utilities have fully capitalized on this knowledge by combining their efficiency programs.

    There are many inter-connections between water, electricity, and natural gas: Significant amounts of water are used for cooling during electricity gen- eration, and significant amounts of electricity and natural gas are used to pump, treat, and heat water for use in homes and businesses. Thus, when one resource is conserved, so is another.

    Utilities that have collaborated — a few of which are profiled here — have overwhelmingly found such programs to be a good business decision. The benefits are manifold: higher participation rates, increased customer satisfaction, coordinated and complementary program design, and an improved reputation from working smarter — not harder.

    More energy policy coverage here.


    Say hello to Lucy Waldo the new conservation director of Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas

    October 23, 2013
    Arkansas River Near Leadville

    Arkansas River Near Leadville

    From the Leadville Herald-Democrat (Ann Marie Swan):

    Protecting productive, hard-won agricultural lands and their natural systems is the life work of Lucy Waldo, new conservation director of Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas. Waldo’s affinity for distinct Colorado ranchlands and the people who work them has moved her to facilitate conservation easements.

    “We need to pay attention to protecting the natural resources that we depend on,” Waldo said. She calls this “one of our fundamental goals as humans.”

    Before joining the Land Trust, Waldo served as director of the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy for 11 years. There, she helped ranching families complete 25 conservation easements that protected nearly 10,000 acres of productive ranchland. Waldo was also director of the Colorado Water Workshop, a western water policy conference hosted by Western State College in Gunnison. Waldo sees conservation easements on private lands as serving landowners, the surrounding community and, ultimately, humankind. Conservation easements are voluntary, coming from landowners, and another expression of private-property rights.

    “It’s a win-win solution,” Waldo said. “We need to value the agricultural lands and natural areas that provide food, water, shelter and clean air for people and other creatures.”

    Waldo grew up in Maryland, where her father worked with dairy cattle at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Her mother was a family counselor. Waldo came to Colorado in 1980 to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She earned degrees in agricultural extension education and history.
    Waldo found her career path in the early ’90s while working with a community group in Gunnison, focusing on a grand vision for the valley.

    “There was a strong consensus to see working ranchlands continue to be a part of the community’s future,” Waldo said.

    Despite her years of experience, Waldo is challenged by every conservation easement. Keeping up with ever-changing legal requirements, tax benefits and finding funding is only part of the process. Each parcel of land has unique characteristics and landowners have specific needs and desires.

    “I find it especially satisfying to listen to people’s stories of how their families worked diligently to create a productive farm or ranch,” Waldo said.

    “Generations have devoted themselves to improving their operations and taking care of their land. You can hear the pride and love in their voices. Helping landowners conserve the land they love is incredibly satisfying.”

    Waldo is rooted in the central Rockies, her home for more than 20 years. Her work takes her to Lake, Chaffee, Fremont, Saguache and western Park counties.

    “I have great respect for people who work the land in this challenging climate,” Waldo said. “I watch my neighbors haying and see the long hours, sweat and dedication that go into the year’s crop. The lush abundance of the meadows in August depends on the hard work of the ranchers, and the recurring gifts of the water and the soil.”

    Waldo spends her free time riding horses, hiking and cross-country skiing.

    “I hope that I will always keep this awareness of how blessed we are and how important it is to take care of the world,” Waldo said.

    Waldo can be contacted at lucywaldo@ltua.org. For information about Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas, visit http://www.ltua.org.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    Register for the Colorado WaterWise Water Conservation Summit

    September 26, 2013

    Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

    The agenda for the Colorado WaterWise 5th Annual Water Conservation Summit and pre-conference workshop is posted and registration is open.

    Attend the summit to learn about “SMART” landscape water management, a study on irrigation using gray water, marketing, Colorado’s Water Plan and more. The FREE pre-conference workshop is on constructing successful water rates, read the flyer below, and RSVP because space is limited!

    CWW Pre Conf FlyerInterested in water rates? Take a look at the Winter 2013 issue of Headwaters magazine on utilities.

    View original


    Windy Gap Firming Project update: Analysis paralysis #ColoradoRiver

    September 6, 2013

    chimneyhollowsitedpviareclamation.jpg

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Joshua Zaffos):

    Begun in 2003 and scheduled to be up and running by 2011, the project, known as the Windy Gap Firming Project, like many others across the state, still is mired in regulatory delays. Whether or when Windy Gap will be built is still unclear 10 years after the first regulatory review took place.

    Three other major water projects face similar delays and uncertainty…

    Northern is working with 13 Northern Colorado water providers to develop the latest phase of Windy Gap, which is designed to serve 60,000 households.

    Northern Water initially submitted the project for environmental he project for environmental review to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2003. Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a project’s environmental impacts are reviewed during several stages of technical analysis and public comment. A 2005 Northern Water fact sheet projected a final “record of decision” could come by the end of that year, meaning construction could start soon after and the reservoir would be ready by 2011.

    That forecast was wildly optimistic. The bureau didn’t issue a final environmental impact statement, a key step in NEPA, until late 2011. Reviews by federal and state scientists, environmental groups and western Colorado interests each triggered calls for mitigation and changes that added months and then years of delay…

    Project partners have spent $12 million to date just on permitting, agreed to pay millions more than expected for environmental mitigation and watched the cost estimate jump nearly 28 percent, from $223 million to $285 million. That’s roughly $1,033 per household.

    Similar delays and cost overruns have plagued nearly every other major Colorado water-development project that has sought regulatory approval since the 1990 defeat of Two Forks Dam. Proposed by Denver Water, the $1 billion Two Forks project passed through NEPA with government approval before the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed the decision because of study inadequacies and unresolved water-quality impacts.

    After more than a decade of drought and a new wave of growth, water utility planners believe the project review system is broken and must be fixed. Legal experts and environmental watchdogs say the projects themselves are outdated in concept and that utilities need to rethink how they obtain, store and deliver water…

    Drager has had to ask Windy Gap Firming Project partners for an extra $1 million four separate times in the past five years to pay for unexpected mitigation. Consideration of the upper Colorado River as a federally designated wild and scenic river triggered additional analysis. State fish and wildlife managers required further mitigation plans, including a study for a fish bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir. Northern Water also had to agree to enhance river habitat and operate water diversions to support endangered fish in the Colorado River. The EPA filed comments that led to further changes. When an end seemed near in June 2012, Grand County exercised its “1041 powers,” requiring a new permit and an agreement from partners to improve clarity for Grand Lake, which has deteriorated in part because of Northern’s water diversions. Now mostly settled, the Grand Lake revision marked the fifth major project stoppage.

    “It’s not just NEPA,” Drager said. “There are a whole bunch of federal requirements – the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act – and then you’ve got a group of state laws which don’t always work well with the federal laws. So, it’s very hard to know when is the last step. When are you done?”

    Communities and water districts that are footing the bill have weathered the delays and tacked-on costs so far. The Little Thompson Water District in Berthoud has avoided charging existing customers extra, said district manager Jim Hibbard, because one developer is shouldering the district’s share of the costs and adding those dollars to the cost of new homes he is building. “Probably the most significant impact is the costs of the project keep going up,” Hibbard said.

    The city and county of Broomfield, another project partner, has used money from water tap fees for its share of the project and paid the additional costs with reserve funds stashed away for such purposes, said public works director David Allen. But even with the added mitigation and expenses, both managers say the project remains an inexpensive and preferred alternative to purchasing shares in existing water projects, such as the Colorado-Big Thompson system or buying out farmers’ water rights and drying up local agriculture…

    Since Two Forks, federal agencies involved with NEPA reviews are “gun shy,” said Dave Little, planning director for Denver Water, which also has spent more than 10 years seeking approval for its own major water project, the Moffat Collection System…

    Cost overruns may look excessive, but initial estimates often come in low to ease early acceptance of a project, [Western Resource Advocates Drew Beckwith] said, adding that some delays are squarely on the shoulders of project managers who haven’t adequately analyzed certain impacts or mitigation actions. “I don’t think anyone is really happy with the way the process works right now,” Beckwith said. “Utilities think it takes too long. Conservationists would say there’s not enough good input.”

    He said he would like to see a more open-ended, upfront approach to water-supply challenges instead of a water agency selecting a preferred solution and then following a “decide and defend” strategy.

    The changing pressures from environmental organizations also have factored into delays. The proposed $140 million Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation southwest of Denver, another storage expansion project under consideration, has received support from several conservation groups, including Western Resource Advocates, because it avoids building an entirely new reservoir, but the Audubon Society of Greater Denver opposes the development because it would flood wetlands and other bird habitat…

    The plodding pace of regulatory review may remain an annoying reality – unless a water utility can devise ways to provide water without massive new storage or delivery pipelines.

    Aurora did just that. A decade ago, facing water shortages and drought, Aurora Water planners recognized the need for swift action to protect system reliability and service for existing customers. The utility decided to build its Prairie Waters Project, an $854 million pipeline and treatment facility that would allow the city to reuse 50,000 acre-feet of water annually and meet its water demands through 2030. Since the project didn’t include new storage, managers avoided prolonged federal review, said Darrell Hogan, the project manager, and Aurora Water further expedited its work by tunneling under waterways. To have disturbed the waterways otherwise would have required Clean Water Act 404 permits. Hogan said the project didn’t evade environmental protections; planners still consulted with government scientists and conservationists, and had to acquire more than 400 permits for local construction and operations. However, working around the federal system facilitated progress. Prairie Waters went from concept to completion in less than six years, delivering water in October 2010 on time and under budget.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Gov. Hickenlooper Supports Water Efficiency Around the Home

    September 5, 2013


    Colorado Water Plan: ‘We don’t have enough water is the bottom line’ — Karn Stiegelmeier #ColoradoRiver

    September 5, 2013

    newsupplydevelopmentconceptcwcb2013.jpg

    From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

    Governor John Hickenlooper sent an executive order in May calling for river basin roundtable groups throughout the state to come up with plans to resolve gaps in the water supply by December 2014. Each of these documents will come together to form the Colorado Water Plan. “We don’t have enough water is the bottom line,” said Summit County commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier. “Each group has identified gaps and unmet needs for agriculture and municipalities, as well as non-consumptive uses — which includes the environment and recreation.”

    Stiegelmeier sits on the Colorado Basin Roundtable, which represents Summit County water interests, among others…

    The county commissioner said her group is also working to make sure other roundtable group’s plans don’t infringe on the Colorado Basin Roundtable plan. “Because we are the target, we are also going to try to be productive in resolving the state’s gaps,” she said. “Otherwise, they have the political power to do what is most scary to us — streamlining approval processes — which would take away local control over water projects. That’s our biggest concern.”

    In addition to the Colorado Basin Roundtable, the county commissioner sits on the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) Water Quality and Quantity Committee. This group strives to bring individual governments and agencies together to speak with a unified voice on water issues. It includes members from Summit, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin and parts of Park County, as well as cities and water sanitation groups within these counties. “It started as an effort to get county and municipal governments on the same page to be a stronger advocate to keep water on the West Slope, and mitigate the damage from trans-mountain diversions,” said Torie Jarvis, co-director at the NWCCOG Water Quality and Quantity Committee. This group has been focused on the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan, and has developed a number of principles to represent the interests of stakeholders on the West Slope.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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