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— Greeley Water Dept. (@greeleywater) February 18, 2014
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.
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.
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.
Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
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.
View original 363 more words
Udall: Land Purchase to Strengthen James Peak Wilderness Area Shows Importance of Land, Water Conservation FundFebruary 7, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’ #COlegJanuary 18, 2014
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.
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.
2014 Colorado legislation: State legislators hope to pass bill to curb turf in residential landscapes #COlegJanuary 2, 2014
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.
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
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.
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 »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ManagementNovember 10, 2013
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 directorâ€™s office at BLM,” said Trevor Kincaid of the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities. “Mr. Kornzeâ€™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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Interested in water rates? Take a look at the Winter 2013 issue of Headwaters magazine on utilities.
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.
Colorado Water Plan: ‘We don’t have enough water is the bottom line’ — Karn Stiegelmeier #ColoradoRiverSeptember 5, 2013
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.
Here’s a guest column about Colorado’s water plan, written by State Senator Gail Schwartz running in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Senator Schwartz has been in the middle of water legislation for most of her time in the state legislature. Here’s an excerpt:
The state water plan will pave the way for water decisions that responsibly and predictably address future challenges. The governor’s executive order detailed that the plan must promote a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, viable and productive agriculture, and a robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry. It must also incorporate efficient and effective water infrastructure planning while promoting smart land use and strong environmental protections that include healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has been tasked with creating the Colorado Water Plan. The board must submit a draft of the plan to the governor’s office by Dec. 10, 2014, and a final plan by Dec. 10, 2015. The CWCB will incorporate the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and nine Basin Roundtables recommendations to address regional long-term water needs.
As chair of the interim Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC), I will help ensure that the diverse voices of Colorado’s water community are heard during the development of this plan. The 10-member WRRC comprises legislators representing districts in each of the state’s major river basins. The committee has a full agenda as we are charged to review water issues and propose legislation. The WRRC will also remain actively engaged with the CWCB in development of the State Water Plan…
As charged, the water plan has a broad scope and will inevitably need to address difficult and contentious issues. I believe that we should first focus on conservation and efficiency both at the municipal/industrial level and in agriculture. Water conservation is an area with broad consensus. A recent public opinion study of Coloradans identified conservation as the most important water-related issue. Other studies have strikingly demonstrated that 80 percent of Coloradans favored conservation over new construction projects. In 2013, I sponsored SB13-19 which gives landowners a new tool to conserve water without injuring their water rights. New conservation and efficiency tools are needed in the State Water Plan as they stress wise use of our precious water resource.
Conservation may be just one piece of this larger puzzle, and I want to hear what pieces are important to you.
More statewide water plan coverage here.
Here’s the release from Kansas State University:
If current irrigation trends continue, 69 percent of the groundwater stored in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas will be depleted in 50 years. But immediately reducing water use could extend the aquifer’s lifetime and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110.
Those findings are part of a recently published study by David Steward, professor of civil engineering, and colleagues at Kansas State University. The study investigates the future availability of groundwater in the High Plains Aquifer — also called the Ogallala Aquifer — and how reducing use would affect cattle and crops. The aquifer supplies 30 percent of the nation’s irrigated groundwater and serves as the most agriculturally important irrigation in Kansas.
“Tapping unsustainable groundwater stores for agricultural production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, projections to 2110″ appears in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, or PNAS. The study took four years to complete and was funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Kansas State University’s Rural Transportation Institute.
“I think it’s generally understood that the groundwater levels are going down and that at some point in the future groundwater pumping rates are going to have to decrease,” Steward said. “However, there are lots of questions about how long the water will last, how long the aquifer will take to refill and what society can do.”
Steward conducted the study with Kansas State University’s Michael Apley, professor of clinical sciences and an expert in cattle production; Stephen Welch, professor of agronomy, who helped with a statistics method called bootstrapping; Scott Staggenborg, adjunct professor in agronomy who studies agricultural production methods; Paul Bruss, a 2011 master’s degree graduate in civil engineering; and Xiaoying Yang, a former postdoctoral research assistant who is now at Fudan University in China.
Using measurements of groundwater levels in the past and present day in those regions, Steward and colleagues developed a statistical model that projected groundwater declines in western Kansas for the next 100 years and the effect it will have to cattle and crops.
According to their model, researchers estimated that 3 percent of the aquifer’s water had been used by 1960. By 2010, 30 percent of the aquifer’s water had been tapped. An additional 39 percent of the aquifer’s reserve is projected to be used by 2060 — resulting in the loss of 69 percent of the aquifer’s groundwater given current use. Once depleted, the aquifer could take an average of 500-1,300 years to completely refill given current recharge rates, Steward said.
Although the High Plains Aquifer will continue declining, researchers anticipate even greater efficiencies in water use during the next 15-20 years.
“Society has been really smart about using water more efficiently, and it shows,” Steward said. “Water use efficiencies have increased by about 2 percent a year in Kansas, which means that every year we’re growing about 2 percent more crop for each unit of water. That’s happening because of increased irrigation technology, crop genetics and water management strategies.”
As a result, researchers anticipate that while peak water use will happen around 2025, western Kansas will see increased corn and cattle production until the year 2040. What happens past that time frame depends on what decisions are made about reducing the use of the aquifer’s water in the near future, Steward said.
The team conducted several hypothetical scenarios that reduced the current pumping rate by 20 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent and 80 percent. Steward said the researchers went as high as 80 percent because that closely aligned with the aquifer’s natural groundwater recharge rate of about 15 percent of current pumping.
“The main idea is that if we’re able to save water today, it will result in a substantial increase in the number of years that we will have irrigated agriculture in Kansas,” Steward said. “We’ll be able to get more crop in the future and more total crop production from each unit of water because those efficiencies are projected to increase in the future.”
Steward said he hoped the study helps support the current dialogue about decisions affecting how water can help build resiliency for agriculture in the future.
“We really wrote the paper for the family farmer who wants to pass his land on to his grandchildren knowing that they will have the same opportunities that farmers do today,” Steward said. “As a society, we have an opportunity to make some important decisions that will have consequences for future generations, who may or may not be limited by those decisions.”
From The Kansas City Star (Karen Dillon):
The life of the Ogallala Aquifer could be extended several decades, but only if water usage is reduced, a four-year study by researchers from Kansas State University found. “There is going to be agriculture production in Kansas and corn production and cattle production really for the foreseeable future,” David Steward, lead author of the study, said in an interview last week. But without conservation, he said, “the future is bleak.”
The aquifer yields 30 percent of the nation’s irrigated groundwater, the study said. It could last until 2110 or longer if farmers were to cut 20 percent of their usage or more beginning now. But that would reduce agriculture production to the levels of 15 or 20 years ago. Kansas alone pumped 1.3 trillion gallons in 2011, more than enough to fill Lake Okeechobee, the huge lake in Florida.
The study was done because there are a lot of questions about “how long can we pump and how long it will take to recharge the aquifer if depleted,” Steward said. The study determined it would “take in the neighborhood of 500 to 1,300 years to recharge the aquifer” in western Kansas, Steward said.
The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – ‘Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand’ — Sept. 13August 28, 2013
From email from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):
The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – “Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand” — takes place 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo. The cost is $30 and includes lunch. Student cost $10. Register at http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org, by calling (970)-945-8522 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The seminar is an easy, one-day presentation of the latest hot subjects that challenge the Colorado River and how science, politics and other actions seek to address them. The Colorado River District was created 76 years ago to protect Western Colorado water and stages the seminar to promote public education about critical challenges to the lifeblood river of the Southwest.
Speakers include Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District, who will give an overview to recent findings that promise the Colorado River faces greater challenges than ever from climate change and human use of the Colorado River. Other speakers will address a U.S. Geological Survey study that confirms warm springs are reducing snowpack, a forecast for drought and the latest Bureau of Reclamation ruling to reduce releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.
The keynote speaker at lunch will be John Entsminger, the Senior Deputy General Manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Climate and reservoir levels most directly affect Las Vegas and its surrounding community and Entsminger will give a view of what that means.
In the afternoon, the developers of Sterling Ranch in the southern Denver metro area will talk about how they want to build a community with water conservation as a first concern.
The day concludes with a presentation by the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James Eklund, about the Colorado Water Plan. Earlier this year, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered that a plan be given to him by 2015 that addresses measures to meet a looming water supply gap as Colorado grows to as many as 10 million people by 2050.
A discussion of the plan and ways to meet the gap will take place in a panel discussion. Making up the panel will be the chairs or representatives of six Basin Roundtables – citizens groups in each basin created by the Colorado General Assembly in the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act.
Change: It is for Certain – Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn provides an overview of the trends that lead to the day’s subjects regarding snowpack, drought, Lake Powell equalization and the Colorado Water Plan
It’s True: Spring is Killing our Rocky Mountain Snowpack, U.S Geological Survey confirms – lead study author Greg Pederson from Bozeman, Mont., will describe the findings that we have long suspected to be true
A Dry Subject: Drought and a Look Ahead – Klaus Wolter of the NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center in Boulder, the Southwest’s preeminent forecaster, will describe conditions that are developing for snowfall this winter
Level With Us: Whither Lake Powell – Malcolm Wilson, Chief, Water Resources Group, Upper Colorado Region of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will talk about the recent drought-induced decision to reduce water releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and what that means for now and into the future for the states depending on the Colorado River
Lunch Keynote Speaker – John Entsminger, Senior Deputy General Manager at Southern Nevada Water Authority of Las Vegas, Nev., will present a Lower Basin view of Lake Powell, Lake Mead and Big River Issues
Putting Conservation on the Table: the Sterling Ranch Story – Beorn Courtney, an engineer helping to plan Sterling Ranch in Douglas County, south of Denver, will describe how land use, clustering, landscaping, rain water capture and other efficiencies will be employed in this new community
The Colorado Water Plan: a Call and Response – James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will discuss why Gov. Hickenlooper has ordered up a Colorado Water Plan on a tight deadline and what that means for water policy and the solving a looming water supply gap as Colorado continues to attract and give birth to new residents
A Response from Both Sides of the Continental Divide: How Does This Play Out – A panel discussion among six representatives from the Basin Roundtables. Guests include Gary Barber of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable; Mark Koleber of the Metro Roundtable, Joe Frank of the South Platte Basin Roundtable; Tom Gray of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable; Michelle Pierce of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable; Mike Preston of the Southwest Basin Roundtable and Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado Basin Roundtable.
More Colorado River District coverage here.
CWC 2013 Summer Meeting recap: Denver Water hopes to see low-flow appliance legislation next sessionAugust 24, 2013
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The state’s biggest municipal water provider is pushing legislation to require more water-efficient appliances to be sold in Colorado. “Even to achieve medium levels of conservation, we must take action now,” Greg Fisher of Denver Water told the water resources review committee of the state Legislature Wednesday.
Denver Water wants the state to mandate Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for water use in household appliances. It estimates 40,000 acre-feet of water — more than is used annually in Pueblo’s treated water system — could be saved each year. “It’s more practical to do this on a statewide basis,” Fisher said.
The new law would not require replacing existing fixtures, but require conforming appliances in new construction or future sales. “There would be little impact to consumers,” Fisher said.
More conservation coverage here.
Gunnison: 38th annual Water Workshop recap — Statewide water plan on the radar for state legislatorsJuly 29, 2013
From The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland):
Last week, the legislative Interim Water Resources Review Committee met in Gunnison to discuss how that plan is taking shape. The committee’s meeting was held during the 38th annual Water Workshop, a three-day meeting on water resources, held annually at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison. The 10-member water resources committee is chaired by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and includes legislators for whom water has been a long-standing passion, such as Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling; 2014 gubernatorial candidate Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray; and Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins.
For their first meeting in 2013, the committee looked at the governor’s executive order, water issues affecting the Gunnison River and agricultural water conservation measures…
In his May executive order, [Governor Hickenlooper] said the state “deserves a plan for its water future use that aligns the state’s many and varied water efforts and streamlines the regulatory processes.” As directed by the order, the CWCB will work with grassroots water groups, the IBCC and the Basin Roundtables to address critical issues raised in the order…
The interim committee discussed the plan with Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, and former Commissioner of Agriculture John Stulp, now the governor’s water policy advisor.
The governor is “adamant” about a statewide water plan, King said. Reflecting the water workshop’s theme of “the new normal,” King said the new normal in water policy is that it will be a source of constant change, which may be uncomfortable since people are sometimes resistant to change. “If we don’t develop a vision for the future in water,” the agriculture “buy and dry” will accelerate at an unacceptable rate. He noted that 350,000 agricultural acres in the Front Range are already under contract for their water rights.
Even if the state were to stop future “buy and dry” purchases, Stulp said, “we’d still lose 20 percent of irrigated lands.” The plans developed by the IBCC and Basin Roundtables are being updated, he said, to address drought and flood issues and projected population increases. If preserving agriculture is a priority, the statewide plan needs to look at conservation and whether there are new supply waters available to the state…
While the executive order calls the CWCB, IBCC, roundtables and state agencies to work on the statewide plan, it leaves out one important stakeholder: the Colorado General Assembly. That did not go unnoticed by the interim committee.
“What are we to read into executive order, [with] not a single mention of state legislature” in the order, asked Fischer. “What is our role in the process?”
King was quick to allay those concerns. “It’s obvious we can’t do anything without you,” although it is not articulated in the order, he said. “Your role is however you define it. We will engage you individually and collectively, whatever you choose, and will come back with reports to the interim committee… This is an open invitation for you to participate, which can be more formalized.”[...]
Sonnenberg, who was unable to attend last week’s meeting, told The Colorado Statesman that storage has to be the highest priority for a statewide plan. He noted that in a two-year period, more than one million acre-feet of water in the South Platte left the state, over and above what is required by interstate compacts and decrees. “We have to keep Colorado water in Colorado,” he said. And the reason that water left the state? Farmers weren’t using it in wet years, and there was no place to store the excess. More storage would relieve pressure on the “buy and dry” movement, he added.
More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.
USFWS et. al. to provide $12 million for fish habitat conservation projects, Colorado’s share = $1.3 millionJuly 17, 2013
Here’s the release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Laurie Parramore):
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners are providing $12 million during the next three years to support 75 fish habitat conservation projects in 27 states, ranging from restoring submerged aquatic vegetation and oyster beds in Florida and New York to restoring degraded stream and estuary habitat for native fish in Hawaii.
“Together with our partners, we identified the 75 projects through the National Fish Habitat Partnership, a diverse coalition of public and private organizations that works to reverse declines in fish habitat through voluntary, non-regulatory actions,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “The projects will benefit aquatic species by protecting, restoring and enhancing stream, lake and coastal habitat as well as anglers by improving recreational fisheries. In doing so, they will also give a boost to local communities that benefit from the outdoor recreation economy.”
The National Fish Habitat Partnership helps Service biologists prioritize conservation work to get the greatest benefit for fish and other aquatic resources and ultimately for the American people. The partnership recently completed the first nationwide scientific assessment of the status of fish habitats and identified conservation priorities across the country.
To fund the projects, the Service is providing $3.17 million this year, with nongovernmental organizations, state resource agencies and other partners contributing an additional $9.45 million during the next three years.
Through the funded projects, partners will work in priority areas to restore stream banks, remove man-made barriers to fish passage, reduce erosion from farm and ranchlands, and conduct studies to identify conservation needs for fish and their habitats. Expected results of the projects include more robust fish populations, better fishing and healthier waterways. Many of the projects also are designed to help fish populations adapt to the effects of climate change and other environmental disruptions.
“Better fishing is a big benefit of these projects,” said Kelly Hepler, Assistant Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “With better fishing come more tourism, tackle sales and other economic activity, as well as a better quality of life in local communities.”
Projects sponsored by the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership will restore submerged aquatic vegetation and oyster beds in Florida and New York. The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture will remove barriers in Maine and Pennsylvania and remediate acid mine drainage in Virginia. The Western Native Trout Initiative will restore habitat that is crucial to cutthroat trout, Gila trout and bull trout, all of which are imperiled. Projects sponsored by the Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership will restore degraded stream and estuary habitat for native fish.
The list of projects can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/whatwedo/NFHAP/documents/2013_FWS_funded_NFHP_projects_listed_by_State.pdf
From the Sky-Hi Daily News:
Colorado will receive $1, 337,100 for three projects this year. They are a fish passage on Fountain Creek to benefit native plains fishes; Phase I of a sediment mitigation project on Bear Creek and a fish passage on Milk Creek for Native Colorado Cutthroat Trout Habitat Restoration.
More conservation coverage here.
Restoration projects targeting riparian health and recreational opportunities planned for the Poudre RiverJuly 14, 2013
From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):
Fort Collins officials are planning a series of projects aimed at improving the river’s ecological health and recreational opportunities. Highly visible work is expected to be done at city-owned natural areas from the North Shields Ponds to Arapaho Bend near Interstate 25. Part of the work will involve reducing the height of river embankments that were built up over the years through gravel mining and building irrigation ditches to carry away the river’s water. The construction won’t be pretty, said John Stokes, the city’s director of natural resources. But in time, affected areas are expected to recover as plantings of native grasses, shrubs and trees take root…
Intertwined with the work at natural areas in the coming years will be several major construction projects, including building a channel to carry stormwater runoff from the area around West Vine Drive to the river. The Colorado Department of Transportation is planning to replace the bridge that carries Mulberry Street over the river — a project that is expected to begin this fall and last more than a year — and Larimer County is planning to replace the Shields Street Bridge in 2015…
Restoring and supporting the river’s ecology is a major thrust of projects planned at the city’s natural areas, Stokes said. But so is enhancing the recreational experiences of residents who bike, walk, fish, watch wildlife and float along the river. The popular Poudre River Trail will be redesigned and moved in places, including the former site of the Link-n-Greens golf course, where Woodward Inc. is planning to build its world headquarters. Woodward has donated 31 acres of the 101-acre site to the city for a natural area. The construction site is expected to be fenced off soon with grading work expected to begin in August, said Rick Bachand, environmental program manager for the Natural Areas Department…
Extensive embankment work also is planned at the Sterling Natural Area. Material heaped along the river decades ago will be used to fill in part of Sterling Pond, which is a former gravel pit, to create habitat The work is expected to begin this winter if permits can be obtained from regulatory entities including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Stokes said…
At the same time, a massive concrete diversion built to supply the Josh Ames Ditch, which no longer carries irrigation water, will be removed or modified. The structure stretches across river; its drop of roughly 5 feet prevents fish and insects from moving upstream.
From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):
[Brian Kailey] horticulturalist with the Logan County Extension Office spoke about the “Seven Principles of Water-Wise Gardening,” which uses water efficiently to create landscapes that are both attractive and use-appropriate…
Developing a water-wise garden requires:
• Planning and designing for water conservation, beauty and utility
• Improving the soil with organic matter so it will hold more water and minerals and allow for a deeper root system
• Creating practical turf and non-turf areas to match expectations with the actual use of the site
• Selecting plants appropriate for the climate and grouping them according to their water needs
• Watering efficiently with appropriate irrigation methods
• Mulching to reduce evaporation
• Maintaining plants with good horticultural practices
Kailey warned against “zero-scape,” which removes all or most vegetation and replaces it with rock, which then heats up the surrounding environment.
He said that grass offers benefits such as trapping dust and pollen, reducing noise and glare, cooling the surrounding environment and controlling soil erosion. However, there are places where grass may not be appropriate, such as under shade trees where it will not grow well.
He named several perennial plants that are drought tolerant and appropriate for the High Plains climate:
• Prairie coneflower
• Penstemon spp.
• California poppy
• Lilac (bush or trees)
• Rabbitbrush (“Chamisa”)
Kailey said 40 to 50 percent of water used for landscape irrigation is wasted because of poor design and maintenance and management. He said many systems were set up with little consideration of water conservation. Irrigation zones should reflect water demand, which is affected by exposure to sun, heat and wind. For example, the lawn on a southwest facing slope will typically require twice as much water as the lawn on the north side…
He recommended using drip irrigation for shrubs, flower beds, small fruits and vegetables to reduce water use by up to 50 percent.
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Colorado River Basin: ‘The realities of drought and climate change are increasing’ — Lisa Iams #ColoradoRiverJuly 9, 2013
Here’s a guest column written by Alex and Fred Thevenin running in the Arizona Central. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
In Arizona, 25 percent of us use Colorado River water, with Phoenix relying on the river for half of its drinking water, and the section of the river coursing through the Grand Canyon is the economic engine for a thriving Arizona tourism economy.
As owners of a third-generation rafting company in Flagstaff that guides more than 60 Grand Canyon trips per year, the condition of the Colorado River is crucial — to our employees, our bottom line, and the thousands of other businesses that rely on the river to attract visitors and outdoor enthusiasts. We must find ways to adapt the region’s water needs in the face of challenges like lean-snow years, drought, increasing demand and other factors stressing the river system.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently released the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. Taking their lead from the study, Congress and federal agencies must follow through and build a future that includes healthy rivers, state-of-the-art water conservation for cities and agriculture, and water reuse and sharing mechanisms that allow communities to grow, prosper and adapt to water demands and availability.
This year, Congress should continue funding programs that drive sustainable water management, while protecting the river system and the communities, businesses and wildlife it supports. Specifically, we should prioritize funding in the Colorado River Basin to:
– Implement management decisions that maintain and restore flows necessary for natural habitats, wildlife and recreation.
– Support cost-effective investments in water technology and delivery like piped sprinkler and drip irrigation to our farms and ranches.
– Provide for urban water education and conservation programs. Reducing urban water consumption by just 1 percent annually — a rate municipal utilities have averaged for two decades — produces significant savings at very low cost.
– Continue effective programs like the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART and Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse programs that drive water conservation and American jobs through adopting innovation and technology.
Bringing these approaches to the table can pull the Colorado River off the endangered list. We can refocus outdated ways of addressing our water supplies right now with cost-effective solutions that maximize water resources and prioritize conservation, reuse and efficiency.
Meanwhile a low Lake Powell impacts hydroelectric generation at Glen Canyon Dam. Here’s a report from Emily Guerin writing for The Goat. Here’s an excerpt:
The government entities that manage Glen Canyon Dam and sell the power its turbines generate are also distressed at Lake Powell’s retreat, albeit for economic and political reasons. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, in May the reservoir was only 48 percent full, and is expected to drop 11 feet before September, ending the summer at 44 percent capacity. Severe to extreme drought in much of the Colorado River’s watershed, plus record heat, isn’t exactly helping.
Despite the dismal conditions, Glen Canyon Dam is still discharging 8.23 million acre-feet of water this year (measured from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30), as it does every year that lake levels stay above approximately 3,650 feet (the exact levels were decided in a 2007 environmental impact study designed to address water storage issues on the Colorado River in times of drought). But there’s a 50-50 chance that the lake will soon drop below that height, triggering a lower water release next year. If that happens, it would be the first time since Lake Powell’s creation that less than 8.23 million acre feet of water will pass from Glen Canyon Dam, according to Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Lisa Iams. “It’s not a promising statement about the hydrology that all of us face,” she said. “The realities of drought and climate change are increasing.”
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Sam Waters):
In the back of almost every farm truck you are likely to find a pair of muddy irrigating boots. Stepping in the mud to shovel and straighten creases is common in the area, so getting muddy boots is just part of the job for most farmers. But one type of irrigation has the potential to get rid of some of the muck.
Subsurface drip (SDI) is a low-pressure, high-efficiency irrigation system that uses buried drip tubes or drip tape, essentially plastic tubing with holes in it, to meet crop water needs. This type of irrigation effectively waters the crops but keeps the surface dry. “The thing about this is that there is no run-off. If we do it correctly, there is no deep percolation. So essentially everything goes to the crop. So it’s very, very efficient,” said Calvin Pearson, research agronomist at the Colorado State University Fruita Agricultural Experiment Station.
Pearson and others at the experiment station installed an SDI system last spring with grant funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Under the same grant, farmer Tom Landini installed a system last fall to water a small field of alfalfa. Both locations serve as demonstration systems to see how irrigation of this type would fit in with the cultural practices of the area.
While new to the Grand Valley, SDI technologies have been a part of irrigated agriculture since the 1960s. Although it can work for almost all crops, it is mostly widely used for high- value vegetable and fruit crops such as strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe and onions. “There could be significant use of subsurface drip irrigation for landscaping in the Grand Valley as well,” said Luke Gingerich, agricultural engineer with the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
SDI systems could help keep grass evenly watered, Gingerich said. And residents could water their lawn while mowing it with no problems.
This type of system is suitable for dry, hot and windy areas with limited water supply. The Grand Valley is not short on water, but SDI has potential to work well in the area.
Wayne Guccini, of the Mesa Conservation District, works with Gingerich to oversee the system at Landini’s farm. “It will work, it’s just a matter of whether it will be economically feasible,” Guccini said. And that’s the big concern. SDI systems can range from about $1,200 to $2,400 per acre to install, depending on what models are used, so a farmer investing that much capital will want to be sure it will pay off in the end.
“Who knows, there may be a time in this valley where we might not have the water that we have, so we might need a system like that widespread to keep things green,” Landini said.
More conservation coverage here.
From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):
It seems obvious…that making agriculture more efficient is a surefire way to preserve Colorado’s dwindling water supply. And yet, state water law often encourages farmers and ranchers to use as much water as they legally can, just to keep their water rights intact.
This summer, Democratic state Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village plans to draft legislation that will remove the usage incentive from the law. Her bill would allow Western Slope irrigators who adopt more efficient watering systems to get credit for the water they save. Schwartz is chairing the Water Resources Review Committee, a state body made up of lawmakers who meet every summer to draft legislation on water issues. Several Roaring Fork Valley water lawyers, ranchers and activists also participate. The group will hold eight meetings throughout the summer, beginning July 17 in Gunnison, and Schwartz said she plans to reintroduce an irrigation efficiency measure that was stripped from a bill she carried, partly because of opposition from Front Range water interests, during the 2013 legislative session.
When an irrigator makes improvements to their water delivery system by replacing flood irrigation with sprinkler irrigation, improving a head gate or piping a ditch, for instance, they wind up diverting less water from a river, Schwartz explained.
Under Colorado’s “use it or lose it” water law, an irrigator who isn’t diverting the maximum amount of water that their right allows is at risk of losing some of it when they go to court to change its use or sell it. In court, judges examine a water right owner’s “historic consumptive use,” the amount that’s put to work irrigating crops. If that historic use is less than what a water right allows, a judge can strip the unused water from its owner and put it up for sale.
People sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to avoid this fate: Bill Fales of Cold Mountain Ranch, south of Carbondale, said some ranchers in Colorado install sprinkler systems but leave their flood irrigation systems in place as well, to allow for the possibility of boosting their water use on short notice to preserve their rights.
More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.