The Colorado River may have cut the Grand Canyon, but for much of its course the river is no longer so mighty. Most of the time, the Colorado no longer even reaches the sea.
The moisture the Colorado River brings to an arid part of the United States and a piece of northern Mexico has sustained generations of people and many generations of wildlife. But that water has long been over allocated, sucked dry by the 30 million people who rely on it for drinking and irrigation.
Once free, the Colorado now has many dams along its 1,450 miles (2,333 kilometers). Its life-giving water is divided up among seven U.S. states and Mexico according to a series of treaties and agreements. But precious little flows remain to support the rich ecosystems that once flourished along the river’s path.
As Wade Davis recently reported, the Colorado once supported a vast, sprawling delta where it met the Gulf of California:
As recently as the last years of the nineteenth century the wetlands produced enough wood to fuel the steamships and paddle wheelers that supplied all of the army outposts, mining camps, and ragtag settlements of the lower Colorado. Today the gallery forests of cottonwood and willow are a shadow of memory, displaced by thickets of tamarisk and arrowweed, invasive species capable of surviving in soils poisoned by salt.
Davis added that, as a result of the loss of rich sediments that were formerly deposited into the Gulf, “Marine productivity has fallen by as much as 95 percent, and all that remains to recall the bounty of the estuary are the countless millions of shells that form the islands and beaches on the shore.”
Colorado Farm Show recap: ‘I believe the snows will come in February and March’ — John Salazar #codroughtJanuary 31, 2013
From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):
To keep Colorado agriculture up and running, the state’s 50year water plan must include smarter municipal use of the resource, in addition to conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers, Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar said Tuesday in Greeley. Salazar, a member of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s taskforce in creating the comprehensive, longterm water plan, said Coloradans, who each consume about 120 gallons of water per day, need to more closely resemble Australians, who use 36 gallons per day, if they want local farmers to remain capable of growing their food. Water-storage projects, too, must be part of the state’s 50-year water plan, which is in the works now and is expected to be complete by 2015, Salazar added.
On the opening day of the threeday Colorado Farm Show, Salazar, joined by Colorado Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Ron Carleton, gave his “State of the Union Address Regarding Colorado’s Water Issues.”
Water and weather are among the main topics of discussion this week.
Salazar’s presentation followed a “Drought Roundtable Discussion.” Needless to say, Salazar said in an interview following his presentation, a “massive” cooperative effort will be needed to prevent the 600,000acrefeet shortage that’s expected to hit Colorado by 2050. A self-described optimist, Salazar said he believes it can be done, but it will take compromise from everyone, including the farmers and ranchers who attended his presentation.
Crop growers will need to implement the latest irrigation technologies and take other conservation efforts.
To free up water for agriculture producers, cities must make the transition to xeriscape lawns, and “build up instead of build out” — a method of municipal growth that makes water reuse easier, and can amount to water savings of 50 percent or more.
“In developing our longterm water plan, we really need to take a hard look at what people are doing elsewhere, like Australia,” Salazar said.
This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 43 of Colorado’s 64 counties, including Weld, as disaster areas due to ongoing severe drought conditions. Additionally, the state’s snowpack in the mountains — the source of most irrigation water used by Colorado producers — was 67 percent of historical average for this time of the year. Statewide, reservoirs are only about twothirds full, and some are empty, Salazar said. He said some water experts are telling him that Colorado needs 120-140 percent of historic snowpack the rest of the winter and into the spring just to get back to normal.
“I’m an optimist,” he said. “I believe the snows will come in February and March.”
Farmers will find out today if Salazar’s optimism is warranted, during state climatologist Nolan Doesken’s weather outlook.
From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):
Colorado State University climatologist Nolan Doesken hoped he’d taken up all of his speaking time Wednesday at the Colorado Farm Show with historical climate data, and wouldn’t have to continue and deliver the weather forecast for which his audience had assembled. “D’oh,” Doesken said jokingly, looking at his watch after rehashing the effects of the 2012 drought. “Unfortunately, we still have time.”
Northern Colorado farmers and water providers need normal snowfall this winter and spring to get reservoir levels back to normal, after last year’s drought forced water users to consume much of the water that was in storage. However, at this point — about midway through winter — there’s only about a 10 percent chance of that happening, according to data shared by Doesken.
Doesken said snowpack in the South Platte River basin is likely to amount to about 75 percent of historic average by spring’s end.
In the Colorado River basin — where Front Range farmers and water users also get some of their water — snowpack is expected to amount to only about 80 percent of average. That’s at least a step up from where numbers are now.
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack in the South Platte basin on Wednesday was only 53 percent of average, and snowpack in the Colorado basin was 66 percent of average. Statewide, snowpack is at 72 percent of average.
The present and forecasted snowpack numbers are much higher than where they were last year. At the end of May, statewide snowpack was only 2 percent of average.
Because 2012 brought record heat and record-low precipitation, ag producers and residents depended heavily on stored water from reservoirs to grow their crops and irrigate their lawns. At the beginning of the year, statewide reservoir levels were about 68 percent of average, according to NRCS numbers, and with extended drought into the growing season, water experts say, some reservoirs could empty, and some farmers would have little water with which to grow crops. For that reason, farmers and ranchers were hoping for plentiful rain and snowfall in recent months to get things back to normal.
Similar to forecasts given recently by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatologist Klaus Wolter in Boulder, Doesken said the three-month weather outlook calls for more of the same — hot and dry.
However, while snow is expected to be limited, the weather could bring surprises, Doesken said. In one past year, Doesken said, snowpack was lower than it is now, but, because of large snow storms, was well above average by the end of the spring. “You never know,” Doesken said. “We’ll hope for the best.”
More infrastructure coverage here.
Survey commissioned by Protect the Flows says 76% of Coloradans prefer conservation over transbasin diversions #coriverJanuary 29, 2013
Here’s a guest column written by Tom Kleinschnitz running in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:
A recent poll commissioned by the business coalition Protect the Flows, of which I am a member, shed a bright light on how Coloradans want to deal with our state’s water needs. It seems that across political and geographic lines, a large majority of us believe that water conservation programs are necessary to address shortages.
Remarkably, 76 percent of Coloradans, including 79 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans, believe that we can “solve most of the state’s water problems through efforts to conserve water and reduce waste.”
Concurrently, over half of Coloradans — including 84 percent of West Slope residents and 52 percent of metro Denver-area residents — oppose building additional pipelines to increase the amount of water that is pumped from rivers over and through the mountains to the Front Range.
This news comes as the Colorado Water Conservation Board is slated to review a proposal on Tuesday from the Flaming Gorge Task Force, a group that was funded by the Water Conservation Board. It was charged a year ago to discuss the viability of the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline and then come up with recommendations. The state moved ahead with the task force despite significant opposition from business interests and local elected officials.
At the time, Protect the Flows, a coalition of 700 businesses that depend upon a healthy Colorado River system, led a campaign to secure resolutions from West Slope counties and municipalities opposing the pipeline. Those in opposition include our own cities of Grand Junction and Fruita, as well as Mesa, Montrose, Delta, Garfield, Moffat, San Miguel and Summit counties.
As readers may remember, the Flaming Gorge pipeline is a boondoggle proposed by real estate investor Aaron Million that’s already been rejected by several state and federal agencies for obvious reasons. The project would drain 81 billion gallons of water each year from the Green River, a tributary of the Colorado River, and then send it 560 miles over the Continental Divide to the Front Range. The state of Colorado estimates that the project could cost as much as $9 billion to construct. A study by Western Resource Advocates indicated that the pipeline would take nearly a quarter of the Green River’s flow, which would result in a $58.5 million dollar annual loss to the region’s recreation economy. And that same study reported that the water delivered to the Front Range by the pipeline would have to be sold at a price that is the most expensive in Colorado’s history because of the pipeline’s steep construction and operation costs.
So, it is no surprise that the Flaming Gorge Task Force is returning to the Colorado Water Conservation Board without any recommendations to further the Flaming Gorge pipeline. However, board members would like to spend another $100,000 of public money. For what?
They’d like to conduct up to 30 more meetings for the purpose of determining the most expedient way to export any water that remains legally available from the West Slope to the Front Range. They make this request even though the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee is already funded to make such explorations.
As the poll mentioned above shows, citizens of Colorado are quite united against new river diversions that could reduce Colorado River flows to a trickle, negatively impacting the more than 5 million adults who use the river and its tributaries for recreational activities each year and destroying a $26 billion annual economy across the seven basin states that supports a quarter million jobs.
To put it into perspective, if the Colorado River were a company, it would be larger than General Mills, USAirways and Progressive Insurance and would be the 19th largest employer on the Fortune 500. Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke for the majority on both sides of the Divide when he said in 2011, “Legally it is Denver’s water, but it’s Colorado’s water, too. You know, what makes Denver special and unique is because it’s in Colorado. And part of what makes Denver ‘Denver’ is the Western Slope economy — its ski resorts, the ranches and fruit orchards — and the Eastern Plains.”
Finally, the Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study released in December 2012 not only defined the current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River System for the next 50 years, it formulated strategies to address the projected imbalances. Conspicuously, the report suggests that building huge pipelines costing billions and taking years to complete is not a practical or fruitful solution to close the basin’s huge supply and demand gap. Instead, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said we need to focus on proven, common-sense measures that improve efficiency, such as re-use, repairing water infrastructure, improving agricultural technology and practices and making landscape design less water intensive.
For so many reasons, further review of the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline is a waste of time and a waste of money better put to use in other ways. Keeping our rivers flowing and not diverted in Colorado and the basin states is a big part of our Western heritage and a major driver of our economic well-being.
With 87 percent of Coloradans polled willing to reduce their own water use by an additional 20 percent, and 62 percent supporting incentives for farmers to use water-saving irrigation technology and practices, re-invigorating our focus on basic cost-effective conservation measures will surely work best for all of us.
From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):
What better way to spend three cold, dreary winter evenings than immersing yourself in water issues?
You’ll get your chance in February with the Water Center at CMU’s annual water course, which is intended to bring all interested citizens up to speed on how water is managed in our region, with particular attention to recent developments in water policy and management. The course will be held in the University Center Ballroom from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 11, 18 and 25 — all Mondays.
SESSION ONE – FEB. 11
Session one will focus on Colorado water law, history and culture. Kirsten Kurath, an attorney at Williams, Turner & Holmes, PC will open the session with an orientation to Colorado water law and what water rights issues are of most concern to Grand Valley water users. Then, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs will take the stage to discuss the culture and history of Colorado water.
In addition to being a judge, Hobbs is also a poet and the author of the book “Living the Four Corners: Colorado, Centennial State at the Headwaters,” which reviewer Tom I. Romero II described as “a collection of poems, oral testimony, multicultural teaching, inspired reflections, robust exchange, and legal reasoning about the great rivers and the varied people who comprise Colorado.”
SESSION TWO – FEB. 18
Session two will focus on cooperative initiatives for water management and river health. These include initiatives for salinity control, riparian restoration, canal hydropower and improving flows for native fish in the Dolores River. John Sottilare of the Bureau of Reclamation with discuss salinity control projects, which seek to keep irrigation water from leaching salt from our valley’s soils into the river, where they cause problems for farmers downstream.
Tamarisk Coalition staff will discuss their efforts to work with a wide variety of stakeholders to remove tamarisk along riverbanks and restore native vegetation. David Graf, with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, will discuss the Lower Dolores River Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for Native Fish, which is the product of several years of discussions among numerous stakeholders.
SESSION THREE – FEB. 25
Session three will focus on current water policy issues. Chris Treese of the Colorado River District will give us a rundown of the water bills introduced in the state legislature this session, which include proposals on agricultural water conservation and the reuse of graywater (that’s water that’s already been used once in your house, somewhere other than the toilet). Then we’ll learn about how the statewide process to figure out how to fill an anticipated gap between water supply and demand from Jacob Bornstein, a staffer for the Colorado Water Conservation Board. We’ll finish off the evening with a discussion of new water quality monitoring requirements for oil and gas drilling.
So come out and join us! We’ll even feed you fruit and cookies while you learn. And keep you awake with coffee.
The cost is $45 for the whole series or $20/session. We will provide certificates of completion for those who attend the whole series, and are seeking accreditation to provide continuing education credits for lawyers, teachers, water system operators and Realtors. Scholarships are available for high school students and K-12 teachers, and admission is free for CMU students and employees. For complete details, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter or call the Water Center at 970-248-1968.
This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):
Whether it’s simply a coincidence or divine intervention, the water course being offered next month by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University comes at an opportune time. The three-seminar series on water law, policies and management begins Feb. 11 with other sessions Feb. 18 and 25.
It seems a lot of people last year would have profited from knowing more about how water policy, and specifically the doctrine of prior appropriation, decides who gets water in a year when there isn’t enough to go around.
Bob Hurford, state Division of Water Resources engineer for Division 4 in the Gunnison River Basin, said Thursday many people holding water rights were surprised last summer when the expected irrigation water never arrived. ￼Speaking during Thursday’s Aspinall Unit operations meeting in Montrose, Hurford said it was people who had moved into the region within the past decade and hadn’t gone through a year of
under-supplied and over-appropriated water. “People were saying, ‘But I own water rights, why aren’t I getting any water?’ ” Hurford recalled. “They couldn’t understand why they didn’t have water and yet the farmers did.”
Hurford said the water shortages appeared much earlier than most people expected. “If you didn’t take your water before May 1, you probably weren’t getting it,” he said. “The Uncompahgre Valley was on call by May 2.”
It was particularly severe in the North Fork Valley, which Hurford called “extremely, highly over-appropriated,” where water rights dating to 1882 take precedence over those coming later. That means those using the Fire Mountain Canal, with 1934 water rights, saw its water dry up after mid-July. “People were outraged,” Hurford said. “But it’s because they didn’t understand how prior appropriation works.”
With this year’s water year shaping up as challenging or more so than 2012, the Water Center’s seminar series is bound to help. Information is available at http://www.coloradomesa.edu (http://www.coloradomesa.edu), click on Water Center.
More education coverage here.
‘We will create incentives instead of disincentives in terms of creating efficiency in agriculture’ — Gail SchwartzJanuary 27, 2013
From the Durango Herald (Joe Hanel) via the Cortez Journal:
Legislators are considering changes to Colorado water law that would take the first serious legal steps toward encouraging conservation instead of maximum use of water. But their ideas are controversial. “We need the ability to respond to the drought,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who is sponsoring a bill to allow more year-to-year water storage in reservoirs to save for the next dry spell.
Currently, Colorado water law takes a “use it or lose it” attitude, and other legislators want to make a big change to the legal doctrine that dates back more than a century. “This is really the first time that we will create incentives instead of disincentives in terms of creating efficiency in agriculture,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The law is at once simple and maddeningly complicated. Basically, people can claim a water right by being the first to use unclaimed water on a stream, and they can keep the right as long as they’re still using the water. But the law doesn’t allow users to save for a non-rainy day. Courts can partially revoke a water right if the owners don’t use it. Schwartz’s Senate Bill 19 would forbid water judges from reducing farmers’ water rights after they install more efficient irrigation.
In the House, Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, is sponsoring House Bill 1044, which allows people to capture graywater – used water from showers and washing machines – for reuse.
Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling…farms in Northeast Colorado, and he and his neighbors depend on water that’s “wasted” upstream in the Front Range cities. “That’s why when I’m in Denver, I always flush twice,” Sonnenberg said.
He represents another side in the debate – one that looks to more reservoir storage as a solution to drought. “We’ve got to keep Colorado’s water in Colorado, and the only way to do that is water storage,” Sonnenberg said.
Sonnenberg is a sponsor, along with Roberts and Fischer, of Senate Bill 41, which takes on Colorado Supreme Court decisions that future drought mitigation and firefighting cannot be used to justify a water storage right. Roberts said the law discourages prudent planning for droughts. “The idea of it is to push back on those court cases and say, no, you can store water for firefighting and drought mitigation,” Roberts said.
Water bills typically attract intense lobbying, and Sonnenberg said his ideas aren’t popular at the influential Colorado Water Congress. “We have legislators trying to make water policy and lawyers who represent the Water Congress trying to stop water legislation,” Sonnenberg said…
The House Agriculture Committee will hear four water bills Monday, including the graywater bill. Roberts’ storage bill has its first hearing Thursday.
Also Thursday, Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, has the first hearing for his bill to make it easier for gas and oil companies to use produced water for dust suppression.
And finally Thursday, the Water Congress holds its annual convention, which will attract the state’s most powerful water lawyers to Denver.
From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Marianne Goodland):
The interim Water Resources Review Committee sent six bills and two resolutions to lawmakers for the 2013 legislative session. That committee was co-chaired by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), then chair of the House ag committee. Its ten members also included Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray).
Monday, Sonnenberg will ask for ag committee approval on two measures from the interim water committee. They are: House Bill (HB) 13-1013, on protecting water rights for lease holders, and House Joint Resolution 13-1044, which opposes efforts by the US Forest Service to obtain the water rights on lands leased to ski areas and other permitted uses. Both measures are tied to problems with the Forest Service, which wants the water rights of the state’s 22 ski areas that lease national forest lands. The Forest Service changed a long-standing policy last year that allowed the ski areas to use the water rights as they saw fit. The new policy, now the subject of a federal lawsuit, requires lease holders to turn over their water rights to the Forest Service…
More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.
Update: Representative Fischer sent along the bill description in email:
Section 1 of the bill declares that increasing water use efficiency by appropriators promotes the maximum utilization of Colorado’s water resources and is in the public interest.
The amount of water that currently can be changed to a new type or place of use is limited by the amount of water that was historically consumed by the original type and place of use. Therefore, a water user has no incentive to reduce the amount of water diverted. Current law encourages the conservation of water in some contexts by eliminating from the determination of abandonment the period during which water is conserved under a variety of government-sponsored programs. However, in these contexts, the water conserved through a reduction in the application of the water to a beneficial use results in a reduction of consumptive use. Section 2 directs the water judge to disregard the decrease in use of water from such programs in its determinations of historical consumptive use in change of water right cases and adds to the list a decrease in water use to provide for compact compliance. Section 3 defines “conserved water”, and section 4 directs water judges to allow a change of water right for conserved water.
State Senator Gail Schwartz and State Representative Randy Fischer are sponsoring SB13-019: CONCERNING THE PROMOTION OF WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES. Representative Fischer told Coyote Gulch in email:
Basically, the bill would provide incentives for agricultural water users to conserve by not reducing their consumptive use credits for the amount they conserve.
Conservation: ‘Preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense’ — Ronald ReaganJanuary 9, 2013
From The Trinidad Times (Jim Dipeso):
Imagine a Republican leader who racked up the following achievements: He fought smog by regulating vehicle emissions, kept dams from choking free-flowing rivers, set aside big chunks of wild backcountry for permanent protection, and supported a strong treaty to prevent harmful gases from mucking up the atmosphere.
Democratic operatives might just invite this candidate to switch parties, though GOP partisans might brand him a RINO, short for “Republican In Name Only.”
Such a leader existed, and his name was Ronald Reagan. The Gipper knew better than to pigeonhole the environment as a partisan issue. He may have said some dumb things about trees, but he also said, “If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense.”
Conservation issues historically have been bipartisan. There is no reason to accept nonsensical assertions from elected officials that environmental stewardship is for liberals but not for conservatives. Is this a naïve wish? Despite what you might hear from talk radio hucksters or politicians trafficking in divisive rhetoric, there is broader agreement on the importance of conservation than seems apparent on the surface.
Last year, Colorado College’s bipartisan State of the Rockies poll found broad evidence in six Western states that voters, by large majorities, value public lands for their contribution to quality of life, support clean air regulations, and believe renewable energy development should have high priority.
Western voters by and large believe a strong economy and strong environmental protections can co-exist, rendering conservation neither red nor blue. That is precisely the basis for the partnership struck up between the National Audubon Society and the Republican organization, ConservAmerica. It’s called the American Eagle Compact, and it sends political leaders a simple message: All of us have a stake in good stewardship of the air, water, land, wildlife and climate; conservation ought to be a national priority that transcends partisan boundary lines.
More conservation coverage here.
From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):
The certainty of closing came this week to two big parcels of open space along the Colorado River north of Dotsero. One — a 228-acre parcel owned by the Nottingham family — was purchased outright. The other parcel, the 1,017-acre Colorado River Ranch was protected via a contract — called a “conservation easement,” that prohibits the land owners from any future development on the land.
Those contracts come at a price — land owners essentially sell the rights to any future development.
In the case of the Colorado River Ranch, the cost of the deal was about $6 million. The cost of the deals for both parcels was shared, roughly equally, by Eagle County’s open space fund and Great Outdoors Colorado, which uses money from the sale of lottery tickets to help fund open space and parks projects…
Under the deal for the Colorado River Ranch, the water rights now owned by the ranch can never be sold or transferred. The same is true for the smaller parcel.
While the Colorado River Ranch will remain in the hands of its current owners — and will remain a working cattle ranch raising organic beef — both pieces of property have preservation contracts attached. Those contracts will be managed and enforced by Colorado Open Lands, a Denver area-based land trust.
More conservation easements coverage here.
Looking to make energy improvements at home (or in your Denver business) but unsure where to start?
Come to a free educational workshop at The Center. A representative from the City’s Denver Energy Challenge will discuss ways to cut energy waste and about other free resources provided by the City for Denver residents and businesses.
We will also cover ways to conserve water at home and what rebates and resources are available through Denver Water.
Over 5200 residents and 1100 businesses are participating, so the only thing to lose is wasted energy!
Date: Jan. 8th
Location: 1301 E. Colfax Ave. Denver 80218
More conservation coverage here.
Water Resource Education Curriculum (WREC) students are developing conservation programs at 3 Southern Colorado high schoolsJanuary 6, 2013
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anne Casey):
Three area science teachers — Fran Weber at Pueblo West High School, Alec Walter at the School of Engineering and Biomedical Science at Pueblo County High School and Nate Chisholm at Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs — are leading the efforts on their campuses with teams of students who meet after school to address issues ranging from raising water conservation awareness among the student body to planning and creating xeriscape demonstration gardens.
The primary goal of the WRECking Crew is to help students figure out how to conserve water and understand that saving water means saving money which can be put to other uses. They will present their findings to their school boards and give their recommendations for how to best spend the savings.
Other goals include providing an opportunity to allow students to learn about water issues locally, statewide and globally; to involve students in the workings of their campuses, creating a sense of ownership and responsibility for their building and grounds; and ultimately to create a curriculum for water education that can be implemented at other high schools.
If necessary, these student groups will be wrecking the old conventions and creating innovative new ways of managing water usage on campus and in communities. WRECking Crew members rely on their facilities managers to provide guidance as they learn how water is used on their campuses and how they might best conserve it both on campus and in other areas of their life.
Working together with students, teachers, administrators and facilities managers at these three schools, CSU Extension will document the experience and use it to create a template for other schools that wish to present a similar hands-on, experiential water education program.
This second year of the program has concentrated on baseline data gathering through water awareness surveys and water usage audits.
Currently the three WRECking Crews are engaged in learning techniques to map their schools in the context of their watersheds. They have all had the opportunity to visit a demonstration xeriscape garden with CSU Water Specialist Perry Cabot in order to start planning their own campus gardens.
More conservation coverage here.
2013 – New Year – a new era for conservation in Colorado. Conservation Colorado makes its debut today. This is the beginning of an exciting, next chapter in protecting Colorado’s air, land, water and people.
Colorado is a place we are lucky to call home. Our stunning mountains, roaring rivers, clear blue skies, and spectacular landscapes make Colorado a fabulous place to live, work and play. Our mission is to protect the Colorado we love and the people who live here. My promise to you is that we will bring passion, energy, smarts, and an old fashioned “get it done” ethic to our work.
Take a look at our brand new website, ConservationCo.org, to get a sense of what we are going to be working on and how we plan to win.
Here’s the rub though – we can only succeed by working in partnership with you. Our strength and ability to win victories in the Legislature, the Congress, or with other key decision makers comes from our supporters, donors, activists, and allies.
In the coming months we will talk with you in the all the ways we know how to – via emails such as this, on Facebook and Twitter, at our events, and in one-on-one conversations.
We will advocate for our decision makers to finally tackle climate change, demand Congress and President Obama protect our last remaining wildlands, work to keep our rivers flowing free and deep, renew the state’s leadership in clean wind and solar power, and fight to minimize the impacts of oil and gas drilling.
Our work starts now. And we couldn’t be more excited to roll up our sleeves and get going. Look for a rollout of our legislative agenda soon and stay tuned for the latest developments on our wilderness and public lands campaigns.
In the meantime, poke around on our new website: ConservationCo.org. We love it and hope you will too. While you are there, take your first action with Conservation Colorado and tell Governor Hickenlooper that drilling and neighborhoods don’t mix and Colorado needs common sense safe guards to protect our air, water, and people.
We could not be more excited about this new chapter in the conservation movement in Colorado. Thank you for all you do you for Colorado’s environment and quality of life. We look forward to forging many victories together in the months and years to come.
Because the Future is Worth the Fight.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A conservation easement that will keep water on the land while preserving the ability to lease water was approved last week by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board. The board voted unanimously to accept a conservation easement donated by Wes and Brenda Herman in exchange for paying about half of the purchase price for a neighboring farm. The Hermans, who already farm in the area, are buying the farm now owned by Ray and Susan Pieper at the end of the High Line Canal. About one third of the 320acre farm is irrigated. The Colorado Water Conservation board is funding up to $270,000 toward the purchase under a program proposed by the Lower Ark District that would allow a municipality to reimburse the state for the cost at a future date. In return, the city would be able to have certainty that the water rights of the farm Jay Winner General manager, Lower Ark District — 12 shares of the High Line Canal — would be available for future leases. A High Line share irrigates 10 acres.
“The goal is to help young farmers while tying water to the land,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark District.
Winner said the Lower Ark’s idea is gaining traction in the South Platte basin, and has been used on at least one farm in the Rio Grande. “What people like about it is that it ties the water to the land in perpetuity, while giving municipalities some certainty of a stable water supply in the future,” Winner said.
Meanwhile, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District has approved their 2013 budget. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District approved a $2.5 million budget for 2013 at its meeting last week. The district, formed in 2002 to protect water in the Arkansas River basin, gets most of its money from a 1.5 mill levy on property in Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties. Roughly 75 percent comes from Pueblo County.
About $638,000 of the budget goes to administration of the district, half of that for salaries for the five employees of the district. Most of the district’s expenses are for the enterprise fund, with about $962,000 going toward support services for programs such as Super Ditch and group plan that helps farmers comply with state surface irrigation rules. Another $1 million goes toward water rights acquisition, including the purchase of conservation easements, water storage and water assessment fees.
From Westword (Alan Prendergast):
Last week, Trout Unlimited and the Upper Colorado River Alliance, plus county and water conservancy district officials, announced an agreement that commits cash and conservation measures to the project. The permit approved by the Grand County commissioners includes a host of conditions that should help improve river health (and water quality in Grand Lake), including a $2 million bypass channel to reconnect the river and periodic “flushing flows” to cleanse the river and remove sediment.
“For years, those of us living in Grand County have seen the once-mighty Colorado in a state of serious decline,” said Kirk Klancke, president of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado River Headwaters Chapter, in a prepared statement. “This agreement will provide protections and new investments in river health that can put the Colorado River on the road to recovery.”
While the deal doesn’t give the activists everything they wanted, it does avoid the worst-case scenario some had feared. The headwaters defenders can now turn their energy to another looming threat: Denver Water’s plans to expand its Moffat Tunnel diversion system, sucking the life out of the much-besieged Frasier River, as well as the Colorado.
‘Conservation is good for you (the Front Range), but maybe not for us [West Slope]‘ — typical Western Slope sentiment?December 7, 2012
From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):
Taking water from agriculture through buying water rights and drying up farmland (“buy and dry”) has already economically devastated some eastern plains communities. Most stakeholders agree that further losses of irrigated agriculture should be minimized. Meanwhile, the approximately 500,000 acre fee per year already diverted across the divide from Upper Colorado Basin streams has left many streams in ecological trouble, and the surrounding communities are not happy about the prospect of more depletions. Farther downstream, concerns center around water quality and what could happen if we fail to allow sufficient water to flow to downstream states, as required by the Colorado River Basin Compact.
Conservation is the only approach no one has a problem with — until they are on the hook for actually doing enough of it to make a real difference.
On Monday, Dec. 3, representatives from several basin roundtables met in Silverthorne to hash out how to move forward on the conservation piece, which has long been a point of contention between Front Range and Western Slope interests.
As one Gunnison Basin representative put it, typical Western Slope sentiment has been: “Conservation is good for you (the Front Range), but maybe not for us.” This isn’t as cheap as it sounds, since there are legitimate issues related to the large cost relative to small benefit when you try to get small water providers to implement the kinds of conservation programs big, urban water providers do.
However, Front Range water providers pointed out that they’ve already poured millions of dollars into conservation strategies, which have in fact saved a lot of water, but they simply can’t achieve enough conservation through their own efforts alone to take significant pressure off of agriculture and Western Slope water as sources for additional future supplies.
After much inconclusive discussion about exactly how ambitious and wide-ranging conservation targets should be and insightful comments about the counter-incentives to conservation in current water law, one strong point of consensus emerged: Everyone, on both sides of the divide, needs to do more to conserve water.
And we’ll likely need some statewide legislation to conserve enough (even though it’s still not quite clear what that is). Whether that’s legislation to require low-flow appliances or something related to land-use that would limit how much water new development would use was not decided, but the consensus was nonetheless significant. The desire to keep water on the Western Slope and on farms was, at least among this group, beginning to win out over the desire to oppose any statewide encroachment on local control. That’s a big step. Stay tuned to see how big it will really be.
More conservation coverage here.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
The San Luis Valley’s largest landowner signed off Tuesday on a conservation easement with federal wildlife officials for the 90,000acre Blanca Ranch. Owner Louis Bacon said the preservation of the property, which takes in three 14,000foot peaks and extends down to the valley floor, would provide a keystone link for wildlife in a previously unprotected reach of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The same motivation led the billionaire hedge fund manager to protect 76,700 acres in September on the Trinchera Ranch, which sits just across U.S. 160 from the Blanca.
Steve Guertin, a deputy director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the easement would protect valuable habitat for animals such as the Canada lynx and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. “We based this on strong biological planning,” he said.
But the easement limits what Bacon can do on the ranch. “As long as he doesn’t subdivide the property, clear cut it, pave it over or do other Draconian management regimes on it, he’s free or any landowner is free to go about managing it as a working ranch,” Guertin said.
Tuesday’s signing came nearly six months after Bacon announced his intention to preserve the ranch during a ceremony with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. While Salazar was not present at Tuesday’s signing, he issued a statement praising the easement as the beginning of a new era in which private landowners and the government work together to preserve land. Bacon said he and his team rushed to finalize the easement through the fall given the looming election that might have ended Salazar’s stint as secretary.
“We were worried that if there were a change in Washington whether the impetus in the Interior Department would be there to follow through with this,” he said. He said the service, which is a part of Interior, would be an invaluable partner because of the agency’s scientific expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife habitat.
He also gave a hat tip to longtime ranch manager Ty Ryland, who helped convince the previous owners to sell to Bacon with the argument that he would be a good steward of the land. “This is his dream come true,” Bacon said.
Click here to download and/or read the report Water Woes: How dams, diversions, dirty water and droughts put America’s wildlife at risk from the Endangered Species Coalition. Here’s the introduction:
Water is as essential to us as the air we breathe. And water, in all its forms, may bring us a fundamental joy that is unmatched by other elements of nature. Whether it’s splashing in puddles, running through a sprinkler, diving into a swimming hole, whitewater rafting a powerful river, skiing down a majestic mountain, ice-skating on a local pond, or just listening to the rush of a waterfall, our collective childhood memories include many wonderful experiences of water.
While water blankets our planet, 97 percent of it is salty, and 2 percent is locked in snow and ice. Therefore, less than 1 percent is available as freshwater, stored in rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers. This freshwater is our lifeblood. We’ve settled along riverbanks, and used freshwater for our enjoyment, transportation, irrigation, fisheries, recreational tourism, energy production, and drinking water. In short, we’ve spread this indispensible resource thinly.
Though we have an unabashed love for water, we treat it with little respect. We use water as our dumping grounds—the pollution and runoff from our cities, industries and farms spills into our rivers and other freshwater sources. We’ve diverted, damned and drained our rivers, parching some of our greatest ones out of existence. Even the mighty Colorado River, though strong enough to carve out the Grand Canyon, has been no match for our intensive water consumption. Most years, it no longer reaches the sea. In fact, few of our rivers remain pristine.
And new man-made threats are bearing down on our freshwater resources. Climate change is expected to increase droughts. According to scientific models climate change combined with population growth will result in much of the United States experiencing issues with water scarcity by 2025. Meanwhile, as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) spreads, so does the potential for more dirty water. According to an Argonne National Laboratory report, our oil and gas wells produce at least nine billion liters of contaminated water per day.
For the country’s imperiled wildlife, these threats are severe. We’ve seen massive fish kills, closures of multi-million fisheries and even the extinctions of species in the wild. Fish no longer reach their spawning grounds, frogs suffer from chemicals seeping through their delicate skins, introduced plants choke native ones from their habitats, exotic aquatic species threaten native fish, and development threatens the stream-side homes of mammals and birds.
This report details the top ten water woes for endangered species. It describes how our water management—our dams, diversions, dirty water and droughts have imperiled America’s wildlife, birds, fish and plants. But this is also a report about hope—how those of us living with threatened and endangered species can take action to help.
Thanks to one of the strongest endangered species laws in the world, we continue to protect our natural heritage. And it is not too late to save our species; across the country, we can all do our part. Supporting the groups involved in this report and their work to protect wildlife, plants and habitats is important. Standing up for wildlife protections is essential. And at home, we can make a difference by eliminating any leaks in plumbing; by installing water-efficient toilets, showerheads, washing machines, and dishwashers; by planting native plants adapted to our local environment; by reducing or eliminating our lawns; and by installing rain barrels to capture storm water for watering the garden.
Join us in protecting our country’s incredible web of life.
Thanks to the Colorado News Connection (Kathleen Ryan) via the Ag Journal for the heads up. From the article:
Leda Huta, the executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition, explains why this report is so significant. “When we look at the country and what we’ve done to our fresh water resources, it’s frightening. Every animal has its role to play in the ecosystem.”
The report finds the bonytail chub is functionally extinct, while three other species – the Colorado pike minnow, the humpback chub and the razorback sucker – are all declining in population because of non-native invasions, declining water, and river pollution. Other creatures on the national list include salmon, antelope and mountain yellow-legged frogs.
Huta says the declining availability and quality of water comes at a time when the planet can expect to have less fresh water available because of global warming. “We will see more drought and water scarcities due to climate change that we’ve created and to having an increasing population, so those two together are going to have even greater impact on our fresh water.”
The report highlights things people can do to reduce their demand on fresh water, which makes up only 1 percent of the water on the planet. That includes landscaping with native plants, reducing the size of lawns, and using water-efficient appliances and toilets.
United Water and Sanitation and Ducks Unlimited are working on mitigation habitat projects in Weld and Morgan countiesNovember 1, 2012
From email from United Water and Sanitation (Robert Lembke):
…United Water has been working closely with Ducks Unlimited to develop the 50-acre Haren Wetland Recharge Project near the South Platte River in southern Weld County. The project will provide migration habitat for Canada geese and many other waterfowl species.
We are also working with Ducks Unlimited to provide duck habitat in conjunction with other recharge pond projects in the Kersey, Weldon and Ft. Morgan Colorado areas.
More restoration/reclamation coverage here.
WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant Funding Available for Projects That Conserve Water or Address Water SustainabilityOctober 31, 2012
Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking proposals for its WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant funding opportunity. Projects that are eligible must conserve water 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 R13SF80003.
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 $1,500,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. Applicants may not request more than $750,000 in federal funds within a given 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. The second and third year of funding is dependent upon future appropriations.
Projects submitted for funding should seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency, protect endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets or carry out other activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict.
This funding opportunity is also available for water management improvements that complement other ongoing efforts to address water supply sustainability. Through the WaterSMART Basin Study Program, for example, Reclamation is working with State and local partners, as well as other stakeholders, to comprehensively evaluate the ability to meet future water demands within a river basin. Partners who have completed a basin study may apply for cost-shared funding to implement adaptation strategies that meet the eligibility and other requirements of this funding opportunity.
In addition, funding is available for water delivery system improvements that will enable farmers to make additional on-farm improvements in the future, including improvements that may be eligible for Natural Resources Conservation Service funding.
Entities that are eligible for funding include states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water or power delivery authority in the 17 western states, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands.
Reclamation awarded $11 million to 32 projects in 2012. These projects expect to save more than 58,000 acre-feet of water annually, which is enough water for more than 227,000 people. Combined with the non-federal cost-share, the projects selected will complete $32.4 million in improvements.
The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation and 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. Through WaterSMART and other conservation programs funded over the last three years, more than 580,000 acre-feet of water per year is estimated to have been saved.
Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by Jan. 17, 2013, 4 p.m. MST. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.
To learn more about WaterSMART, please visit www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.
More conservation coverage here.
From the Grand Junction Free Press (Shannon Hatch):
The Tamarisk Coalition is excited to announce the formation of a new partnership to protect and improve habitat along rivers and streams in the Grand Valley of western Colorado.
Participants in this partnership include: Mesa County, City of Grand Junction, Town of Palisade, City of Fruita, Grand Junction Audubon, Colorado Riverfront Commission, Water Center at Colorado Mesa University, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Watershed Assembly, Mesa Land Trust, Clifton Sanitation District, Western Colorado Conservation Corps, Bureau of Land Management, US Bureau of Reclamation, and private landowners.
Although it is still in its infancy, the Grand Valley Riparian Restoration Collaborative (GVRRC), as it is informally being called, already has a number of projects on tap for the coming year. Thanks to generous funding from the Colorado Basin Roundtable and Statewide Water Supply Reserve Account, administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the GVRRC will be implementing five on-the-ground projects in 2013…
Specific on-the-ground projects that the collaborative will be working on in 2013 include:
• Bank stabilization and revegetation work at Riverbend Park in Palisade.
• Cottonwood fencing from beaver predation and wildlife browsing at the Ela Preserve, managed by Grand Valley Audubon.
• Tamarisk and Russian olive removal, secondary weed treatment, and revegetation at several different areas, including the Jarvis Property, Watson Island, and Las Colonias Park, owned by City of Grand Junction; Redlands Parkway property, managed by Mesa County and the City of Grand Junction; and Connected Lakes State Park, managed by Colorado Parks & Wildlife…
More information about the collaborative can be found at the following website: https://sites.google.com/a/tamariskcoalition.org/grand-valley-riparian-restoration-collaborative/.
More restoration/reclamation coverage here.
CCLT webinar on the findings of the state audit of the conservation easement program to be held Wed. 24thOctober 21, 2012
From email from the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts:
CCLT will be hosting a webinar at 10:00 on Wed. 24th of Oct. with Jordan Beezley on the state audit results, which were made public a few days ago. Jordan will spend about 1 1/2 hrs. explaining the implications of the results and taking questions. To sign up for the free webinar, please email email@example.com. There are only a few spaces remaining, so please let us know as soon as possible if you want to attend.
In other conservation easement news Colorado Parks and Wildlife has added a new conservation easement near Maybell. Here’s the release:
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved the acquisition of a 15,000-acre Perpetual Conservation Easement on the Tuttle Ranch in Moffat County. The purchase will help preserve critical habitat and winter range for wildlife while allowing ranching operations to continue.
Consisting of sagebrush steppe, foothills grassland and pinyon-juniper woodlands, the property is home to greater sage-grouse and provides critical winter range for elk, mule deer and pronghorn.
The conservation easement was purchased from the RSH Land Company LLC, with a combination of funds from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado.
“When habitat is preserved, wildlife benefits, and all of us benefit, too,” said Bill de Vergie, Area Wildlife Manager in Meeker. “There are plenty of challenges out there to wildlife habitat – all kinds of development that can raise issues – but the cooperative approach of conservation easements is a way we can work with landowners to protect habitat.”
Because habitat loss is considered a primary cause for the decline of many wildlife species in Colorado, its preservation is critical, especially during winter months when big game animals are in search of any available forage at lower elevations.
“Preserving wildlife habitat is just one of our management challenges, but is among our most important,” said Ron Velarde, Regional Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “With acquisitions like this one, we ensure that we will continue to have viable wildlife populations for our future generations.”
For more information, please visit: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Pages/LandWater.aspx
Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado’s wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information go to cpw.state.co.us
GOCO is the result of a citizens’ initiative passed by the voters in 1992. As the recipient of approximately half of Colorado Lottery proceeds – $57 million in Fiscal Year 2012 – GOCO awards grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. Since 1994, nearly 3,500 projects in all 64 counties have received GOCO funding. Visit http://www.goco.org for more information.
From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):
The Colorado Riparian Association has awarded Patti and Ed Zink its Excellence in Riparian Management award for 2012…
The Zinks in 2006 enrolled 80 acres of their land in a permanent open space conservation easement and created a 50-acre wetlands at their Waterfall Ranch in the Animas Valley north of Durango. The project improves water quality, provides a corridor for bird migration and conserves the aesthetics of wetland open space. The Animas River Wetlands will provide habitat for wildlife and serve as a local educational facility.
Projects elsewhere in the county that invade sensitive areas can use the Zink wetlands to offset their impact. One recent example occurred when La Plata County used ¾ acres to improve the intersection of County Road 311 and Colorado Highway 172.