“We’re still crunching the numbers…There’s been a spike” in comments since Aug. 20 — James Eklund #COWaterPlan

October 19, 2014

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

A poll aimed at influencing the drafting of the Colorado statewide water plan says residents oppose a new transmountain diversion and the plan should emphasize conservation. The poll was commissioned by WaterforColorado.org, which said the results were mirrored in more than 18,000 comments submitted for the drafting of a statewide water plan, the first draft of which is to be presented on Dec. 10.

The comment period on the plan ended a week ago and the Colorado Water Conservation Board is now factoring comments into its report.

“Our position is that any engagement is good engagement,” said James Eklund, director of the CWCB, who noted that the agency received 10,475 letters between Sept. 20, 2013, and Aug. 20, 2014.

“We’re still crunching the numbers,” Eklund said. “There’s been a spike” in comments since Aug. 20.

That total included 6,213 form letters marked “protect Colorado’s rivers,” as suggested by Water for Colorado, Eklund noted. Comments also included 730 unique emails and 92 unique submissions on web forms.

The poll, conducted by a bipartisan team, Keating Research and Public Opinion Strategies, found that 90 percent of respondents said the water plan should be to keep the state’s rivers healthy and flowing and that 78 percent of voters prefer using water conservation and recycling instead of diverting water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. It also found that 88 percent of respondents support a statewide goal of reducing water use in cities and towns by 10 percent by 2020.

WaterForColorado.org doesn’t identify its source of funding or staff members and notes on the website that it “shares insights and expertise from a variety of organizations that research and study water conservation and natural resource issues. WaterForColorado.org offers a solutions-based approach to Colorado’s water future, and opportunities for the general public to have a voice and take action.”

Other organizations have made similar findings.

“The interesting thing is that in this survey, the West Slope is at least being echoed in emphasizing conservation,” said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

The poll was conducted Sept. 5 to 8 of 500 voters across Colorado, including an oversample of 162 voters on the West Slope. Statewide, the margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percent and plus or minus 7.7 percent on the West Slope.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


October is the @EPAwatersense Shower Better Month

October 17, 2014


Greeley has drafted an updated Water Conservation Plan and would like your feedback

October 16, 2014


Check out this new bipartisan poll on #COwater

October 14, 2014


“We are trying to understand how much water is available in agriculture without jeopardizing agriculture” — Perry Cabot

October 13, 2014
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From The Grand Junction Free Press (Brittany Markert):

…through his current research, he’s [Cabot] suggesting that farmers and Grand Valley residents adopt more efficient water use practices — from crop watering to shorter showers — for its long-term benefits.

To prove his theory, Cabot is studying water impacts on two Mesa County farms. One is dealing with irrigation conservation related to split-season watering. The other is irrigation efficiency, comparing the three watering systems — drip, irrigation, and furrow.

“We are trying to understand how much water is available in agriculture without jeopardizing agriculture,” Cabot said. “We look at both conservation and efficiency, to prepare them for future water issues.”

This is important to western Colorado because, according to Cabot, residential use of water takes precedence over agriculture use of water. He suggests that conservation and efficiency work hand in hand, and the future of agriculture water is up to how residents and farmers use the water available now.

Cabot said he hasn’t found the best solution for water conservation yet, but he continues to study ways for farms to be more efficient locally.

“Western Slope agriculture and Western Slope water cannot and will not be considered as a single, easy-to-go-to solution to the water-supply concerns of others,” said Mark Harris, the general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association.

There is no easy solution, Harris agreed, but there’s also no denying a large chunk of water is tied up. All communities along the Western Slope and downstream are dependent upon water available, including agriculture and municipal use.

“The future holds a lot of different opinions, though through the lens of farmers, they are resilient,” Cabot said. “If they want to keep farming, they will.”

FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE & WATER

According to Colorado Mesa University’s Water Center coordinator Hannah Holm, when water becomes scarce, farmers have a target on their backs as the first to lose it. And with Colorado currently putting together a water plan to accommodate population growth and reduction in resources, water availability is a hot topic in the agriculture industry these days.

Farmers are as concerned as the rest of the state about having enough water for the state’s future, Colorado Agriculture Water Alliance confirmed. And they’re working to understand the challenges and what the future will hold.

John Harold, an Olathe Sweet Corn farmer at Tuxedo Corn Company, said agriculture is just part of the water-shortage solution.

“We can get by with less and do just as good as job,” he said. “My son and I have 200 acres of drip irrigation and proved we can grow quality crops with less water. There’s tremendous investment to it.”

Farmers are also encouraged to invest in efficient water systems to promote less waste, while also keeping up with population growth.

“It’s a perfect example of doing more with less,” Cabot added.

For more information, visit http://www.crwcd.org.


The newest Colorado River management widget: the “System Conservation Program” — John Fleck

October 12, 2014
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

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

From JFleck at Inkstain:

The Colorado River Pilot System Water Conservation Program crept forward last week, in the process demonstrating an endearing quirk of Colorado River Basin water governance – no one is in charge. This no-one’s-in-chargeness is one of the central themes of my book. With the System Conservation Program, the folks not in charge are handing me an easy story line.

The news was the announcement Wednesday (press release here, scroll to the bottom of this post for the full solicitation document) of a “Funding Opportunity for Voluntary Participation in a Pilot System Water Conservation Program.” It’s a modest effort among basin water agencies to pool some cash to “conserve Colorado River System water for storage in Lakes Powell and Mead.” The $11 million involved is not nearly enough to fill the empty reservoirs, and no one expects that it should. Rather, it is an experiment in the construction of a new kind of water management widget aimed at staving off a particular kind of disaster – a tragedy of the commons among the nine states (seven in the U.S., two in Mexico) trying to figure out how to share the shrinking river.

When I say “no one is in charge,” I’m not describing a state of either anarchy or chaos. It’s actually a pretty orderly system. Rather, the system operates via a set of emergent properties based on existing rules and institutions, developed collectively, and people who know one another and are trying to figure out how to solve problems together by collectively developing new widgets. As opposed to, say, Secretary of the Interior Jean-Luc Picard just saying, “Make it so.”

Here’s how the newest widget would work. The big municipal water agencies representing the basin’s four largest metro areas – Southern California, Phoenix-Tucson, Las Vegas and Denver – pool money in a fund to pay farmers or cities to do something (the request for proposals doesn’t specify what) to “develop short-term pilot projects that keep water in Lakes Powell and Mead through temporary, voluntary and compensated mechanisms.” In other words, we’ll pay you to cut your water use and leave the water in the river, so it can get to the reservoirs. (The proposal letter says the water could come from cities or farms, but who are we kidding? The water’s gonna come from farms. I promise to correct this post if I turn out to be wrong on this.)

It is being done this way because everyone knows there are problems (chiefly not enough water), but no one has the authority to impose solutions, to mandate that water users use less in a way that’s binding across the basin, leaving any individual user with the classic “tragedy of the commons” dilemma – if Phoenix gets real and slashes its use, that would just leave more surpluses for L.A. The two alternatives, therefore, are to continue draining the reservoirs, with confusion and uncertainty about who would bear the brunt of shortages once the shit gets real, or some sort of collective action where everyone gets together and agrees on a plan to avoid said shortages. But wow, that’s sure hard to do.

If you look at the history of basin management widget invention over the last 15 years, the major innovations have emerged from fuzzy collective negotiations that are difficult for outsiders like myself to fully understand. The 2001 Interim Surplus Guidelines, which led to a significant reduction in California’s overuse of surplus water, grew out of seven-state/federal negotiations that dragged on for a painful decade. (See Jim Lochhead’s remarkable history for a great picture of how that deal went down). The 2007 shortage sharing agreement, similarly, was a seven-state/federal affair, with the tent expanded in important ways to include environmental interests in the discussion. I don’t think that story has been written yet. (Buy my book! As soon as I finish writing it!)

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


The Western Slope, however, can’t afford to be blinded by parochial interests — John Harold #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

October 5, 2014


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Western Slope agriculture should have the same heft in water discussions as diverters to the east and populous states to the south, the head of a Grand Valley water agency said Friday.

“Western Slope agriculture and Western Slope water cannot be considered as a simple, easy-to-go-to solution to the water-supply concerns of others,” Mark Harris, general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users’ Association, told about 300 people at the Colorado River District’s annual water seminar at Two Rivers Convention Center.

The Western Slope, however, can’t afford to be blinded by parochial interests, John Harold of Tuxedo Farms in Olathe said.

“If we ever have a vote, there are 40 million people who would just run us over in a flash,” Harold said.

Harris and Harold were among several speakers who were asked how to deal with the water quandaries that now confront water users.

Those problems range from increased demands for water from the Front Range to insistence from the southwest that Colorado is running dangerously close to falling short of meeting its requirements under the 1922 compact that governs the use of the Colorado River.

Participants were asked whether Gov. John Hickenlooper’s comment that “Every conversation about water should begin with conservation” might understate the value of efficient use of water.

The terms are virtually interchangeable in common usage, said Dr. Perry Cabot, a research scientist and extension specialist at Colorado State University.

On a more technical level, however, conservation “is about doing less with less,” Cabot said, while efficiency improvements are aimed at “doing the same with less” water.

An experiment comparing yields of traditional furrow irrigation against sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation on onions showed that drip irrigation was twice as efficient as furrow irrigation.

Sprinkler irrigation was in between.

Efficiency is likely to become more significant in coming years as demand for food grows, Cabot said.

“There hasn’t been enough emphasis on efficiency,” said Aaron Citron, project manager and attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River Project in Boulder.

“In the next 50 years, we’re going to have to produce as much food as we ever have in history,” Cabot said.

And that will be against the backdrop of increased competition from improved agricultural practices worldwide, Harris said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


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