Statewide water plan: ‘I want to hear what pieces are important to you’ — Gail Schwartz

September 4, 2013


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.

Ogallala aquifer: Study forecasts future water levels of crucial agricultural aquifer

September 3, 2013


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.

More Ogallala aquifer coverage here and here.

The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – ‘Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand’ — Sept. 13

August 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, by calling (970)-945-8522 or e-mailing

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.

Agenda Topics
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 session

August 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.

Connected Colorado – 2013-08 Water Conservation

August 11, 2013

Douglas County Water Resources Authority video: Washing the Car – Water Smart Tips – 10

July 31, 2013

Gunnison: 38th annual Water Workshop recap — Statewide water plan on the radar for state legislators

July 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 million

July 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:

For more information about the National Fish Habitat Partnership, visit and connect on Facebook at

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 River

July 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.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

Seven Principles of Water-Wise Gardening #COdrought

July 14, 2013


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.

• Gaillardia

• California poppy

• Lilac (bush or trees)

• Sagebrush

• 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.

More conservation coverage <a href="

Colorado River Basin: ‘The realities of drought and climate change are increasing’ — Lisa Iams #ColoradoRiver

July 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.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

CSU is testing subsurface drip irrigation at the Fruita Agricultural Experiment Station

July 8, 2013


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.

State Sen. Gail Schwartz plans legislation to change ‘use or lose it’ features of water law #COleg

July 1, 2013


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.

Douglas County Water Resource Authority video: Run Times – Water Smart Tips – 6

June 22, 2013

Comics for conservation

June 21, 2013

Thanks to Loretta Lohman for the links. More conservation coverage here.

Greeley Water is piloting an online water conservation tool

June 18, 2013


From The Greeley Tribune:

In another effort to conserve water, Greeley officials have launched a pilot program that pinpoints residents’ water use though an online program. The WaterSmart program will allow 2,600 Greeley residents to personalize their water use online based on things like family size and the age of their toilets and sinks, according to a news release. It’s a new tool to complement the water budget, which city officials rolled out to all residential water customers this year, said Ruth Quade, a Greeley water conservation coordinator.

The water budget accompanies Greeley residents’ water bills each month, showing how much each household used compared to what was needed based on historic averages. Randomly selected residents in the WaterSmart program can now compare their household water use with neighbors, and the program will suggest targeted conservation techniques.

The pilot program will also allow residents to create a water savings plan and update their information for more accurate savings suggestions — all for free.

If the program is successful, it may go citywide.

In a test program for the water budget, city officials found that most Greeley residents are conservative with their water use, with about 18 percent using far more than necessary.

Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director, said before the program was rolled out to all residents this year that if every household in the city that exceeds the budget could bring use down to what the city recommends, Greeley could save 700 acre-feet of water, or about $70 million worth of new water, each year.

More conservation coverage here.

San Luis Valley: Louis Bacon announces a 21,000 acre conservation easement in the southern Sangre de Cristos

June 5, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

One of Southern Colorado’s largest landowners announced Tuesday that he’s putting 21,000 acres into a perpetual conservation easement. Louis Bacon, who has owned the Tercio Ranch since 1996, struck an agreement to put it under easement with Colorado Open Lands, which has held easements on 11 other properties in the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Bacon, a billionaire hedge fund manager, put almost all of his Blanca and Trinchera ranches in neighboring Costilla County under easement last year, moves that protected more than 166,000 acres.

As with those easements, Bacon pointed to the need to protect wildlife habitat in the southern Sangres, which, with the exception of a part of San Isabel National Forest, sits in private hands. “We are grateful to Louis Bacon as today’s announcement fills a critical gap between privately and publicly connected lands in this landscape of unparalleled beauty,” Dan Pike, president of Colorado Open Lands, said in a statement.

Bacon also has worked to conserve lands in New York, North Carolina and the Bahamas.

More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

On Tuesday, Bacon announced he’d reached an agreement with Colorado Open Lands to put 21,000 acres of the Tercio Ranch, about 36 miles southwest of Trinidad, into a perpetual conservation easement. The Tercio Ranch is owned by the Red River Ranch Holdings LLC and Tercio Ranch Holdings LLC — both of which are owned by Louis Bacon.

In September 2012, Bacon donated 77,000 acres of his 81,400-acre Trinchera Ranch to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a conservation easement to promote wildlife habitat. The Trinchera Ranch had been the site of a proposed power line backed by Xcel Energy Inc. and Westminster’s Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

The latest agreement, involving the Tercia Ranch, creates nearly 800,000 acres of public and privately owned conservation lands stretching from southern Colorado to northern New Mexico.

More conservation easement coverage here and here.

Conservation: Catch Cups – Water Smart Tips – 5 from the Douglas County Water Resource Authority

June 4, 2013

From email from the Douglas County Water Resource Authority:

Memorial Day usually announces the beginning of our summer season, and with all of this spring’s rain and snow, your lawn may be greening up nicely. This may be a good time to measure how much water your sprinkler system is actually putting on your grass. Use “catch cups” to find out how much water your sprinkler system is putting on your yard. If you’re not sure exactly how to do that, here’s the link to the two-minute “how-to” video: “It’s so easy, a kid can do it!”

For more Water Smart Tips on outdoor watering practices, please see

Douglas County Water Resource Authority – Serious Conservation, Serious Results

More conservation coverage here.

Reclamation allocates $40 million for water projects

May 31, 2013


From the American Water Works Association:

Water and energy management projects in the western United States will share nearly $40 million in funds provided by the Bureau of Reclamation.

As announced by Reclamation:

  • Five authorized water reuse projects in California and New Mexico will receive $15.6 million through the WaterSMART porgram. They include the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area Water Reclamation and Reuse Project ($1.89 million), the North Bay Water Reuse Program ($4 million), the Long Beach Area Water Reclamation Project ($1.7 million), the San Jose Area Water Reclamation and Reuse Program ($4 million) and the Watsonville Area Water Recycling Project ($4 million).
  • 44 projects in 11 states will receive $20.8 million in WaterSMART and Energy Efficiency Grants. Reclamation estimates that together the 44 projects could save more than 100,000 acre-feet of water and 10.8 million kilowatt-hours annually.
  • $2.1 million will be made available under the WaterSMART Basin Study program to enable Reclamation to partner with local entities to conduct comprehensive studies of river basins in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada and Oregon.
  • More conservation coverage here.

    San Luis Valley: The BLM proposes expanding the Blanca Wetlands from 9,714 acres to 122,762 acres

    May 30, 2013


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

    The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to expand the boundaries of the Blanca Wetlands in the hope of qualifying for federal conservation dollars.

    The proposal would expand the area, which is managed as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, from 9,714 acres to 122,762 acres.

    But the boundary expansion would not give the agency control over either land or water rights in the area that now sit in private hands. The agency does, however, hope to approach willing sellers within the boundary. The BLM hopes to use Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars to make any such purchases in the future and doing so requires the land be inside an ACEC boundary, said Andrew Archuleta, who oversees the agency’s San Luis Valley office.

    Money from the fund is issued at Congress’ discretion.

    The end goal of the expansion and any potential land or water purchases is to partially restore what was once a string of wetlands that stretched along the east side of the valley.

    The agency has issued a preliminary environmental assessment on the expansion that includes alternatives to its preferred proposal.

    The Blanca Wetlands initially were designated for its playa and marsh habitats that host large populations of water birds, amphibians and macroinvertebrates.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

    The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area handed out $65,400 in grants for preservation projects in a three-county area of the San Luis Valley, area officials announced May 20.

    The heritage area, which was authorized by Congress in 2009 to preserve and promote the cultural and historic heritage of Alamosa, Conejos and Costilla counties, gave awards toward seven projects.

    Recipients include the SW Conservation Corps for summer youth employment on conservation projects and the Costilla County Economic Development Council for construction documents for the Sangre de Cristo Cultural Heritage Center.

    The Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association also earned an award for a handbook and the hosting of the 2013 Acequia Congresso, as did the Rio Grande Headwaters for a conservation easement on the Conejos River. The heritage area also awarded the Adams State University Archaeology Field School for work at Fort Massachusetts, the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition for the Healthy Habits program at farmers markets and for the stable restoration of the Trujillo Homestead, a recently designated national historic landmark.

    The heritage area is administered by a nonprofit board of volunteers who represent the three counties.

    More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.

    Cities along the river asked to help fund the water conservation plan for the Roaring Fork River

    May 29, 2013


    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

    The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) is seeking a Colorado Water Conservation Board planning grant to develop a regional water conservation plan for the watershed.

    In addition to the $75,000 grant, CORE is asking for between $5,000 and $7,500 each from the cities of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen and the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District to cover the estimated $100,000 to develop the plan.

    A watershed conservation plan would encourage water conservation measures on a regional basis. It would be in addition to local water efficiency and management plans, which include suggestions for consumers to reduce water usage as well as restrictions on water use during periods of drought.

    Although Glenwood Springs’ primary municipal water source is from No Name Creek in the Flat Tops north of the Colorado River, and thus outside the Roaring Fork watershed, the Roaring Fork River does provide a backup supply for the city…

    To date, the city of Aspen, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, and the towns of Carbondale and Basalt have agreed to join the regional planning effort, Haber said.

    Two smaller water providers in the Roaring Fork Valley, the Mid-Valley Metropolitan District and Roaring Fork Water and Sanitation District may also be asked to participate, he said.

    The city of Glenwood Springs is already ahead of other jurisdictions in establishing its own water management plan. Such plans are required of municipal providers that sell more than 2,000 acre-feet of water per year, under the 2004 Colorado Water Conservation Act…

    As part of the watershed planning effort, CORE has already arranged with the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to have graduate students assist with the project. Among their research activities will be to:

    • Assess the Roaring Fork Watershed resources and community characteristics, identify planning partners and document historic and existing water conservation policies and processes.

    • Analyze current and future ecological and hydrologic conditions of the Crystal River near Carbondale, including a determination of the causes and implications of stream dewatering and resulting changes in river flows.

    • Review existing Colorado regional water conservation plan models, to help determine what to include in the local watershed plan.

    • Analyze public outreach and education strategies about water conservation, including successful and unsuccessful efforts already be used locally.

    More Roaring Fork River Watershed coverage here and here.

    The Palmer Land Trust is seeking nominees for conservation awards

    May 29, 2013


    From The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The Palmer Land Trust is seeking nominations for the 2013 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards.

    The event, honoring conservation achievements that advance the future well-being of local communities, people, ecologies and economies, will be Oct. 9.

    Awards are presented in four categories:

    ● The Stuart P. Dodge Award, honoring an individual or organization for a lifetime record of conservation achievement.

    ● The Friends of Open Space Award, honoring an individual or organization for recent efforts contributing to the protection of a significant property or important landscape in Southern Colorado.

    ● The Stewardship Award, honoring an organization or individual who has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to the land.

    ● The Innovation in Conservation Award, honoring an individual, group, project or program that has advanced the cause of conservation by developing new conservation models, creating new conservation funding mechanisms, or implementing unique conservation partnerships that protect our natural heritage.

    Nominations are open through Friday at Palmer Land Trust, 102 S. Tejon St., Suite 360, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. Fax 719-434-3666 or email

    More conservation coverage here.

    ‘We don’t have the solutions yet…We are still defining the problem’ — Robert King #ColoradoRiver

    May 26, 2013


    From the Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

    A massive probe of the challenges to the Colorado River system enters another phase with a Tuesday meeting in San Diego, where multiple state representatives, the federal government and a 10-tribe Native American partnership look to “what’s next” for the struggling river. At issue is a river system already serving 30 million people that is being sapped by drought, overuse and conservation practices in need of an overhaul — and how that system can be saved to support booming Southwest population growth in the five decades to come.

    “We don’t have the solutions yet,” said Utah’s Robert King, who is the state’s Interstate Streams section chief with the Division of Water Resources. “We are still defining the problem. This next phase will help us understand what potential solutions will look like.”

    King will join others at the event being held by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at the U.S. Geological Survey’s California Water Science Center…

    Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, said Utah would be well-advised to shirk massive river-draining projects in favor of implementing greater conservation strategies. He pointed to the proposed diversion of water from the system in support of the Lake Powell Pipeline project, supported by proponents as a way to meet growth but to also capture Utah’s share of the water that slips into neighboring states. “One of the most important things to think about for the future management of the Colorado is whether Utah will build unnecessary water projects just to keep other states from using the water, or if we are willing to lease our unused waters to other players in the basin and make money,” he said.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    New Belgium Brewery’s $100,000 donation to Fort Collins helps to secure water rights in the Coy Ditch

    May 23, 2013


    From the City of Fort Collins via the North Forty News:

    Using a $100,000 contribution from New Belgium Brewery, the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department recently acquired a 40 percent interest in the Coy Ditch, a move that will benefit habitats along the Cache la Poudre River Corridor.

    The City’s recent acquisition consists of water that formerly irrigated the Link-N-Greens golf course where Woodward Governor’s new corporate headquarters are to be located. The Natural Areas Department plans to use the acquired water to enhance environmental values in and near the Poudre River. New Belgium Brewery contributed $100,000 towards the $700,000 purchase price.

    “For New Belgium, this is a great way to invest in a healthy river and riparian corridor right where we live and work,” said New Belgium Director of Sustainability Jenn Vervier. “Much of our philanthropic efforts go toward supporting healthy watersheds, but it is especially meaningful when we can work on something this close to home.”

    The water rights acquisition brings the city’s total interest in the Coy Ditch to 50 percent. The remaining 50 percent is owned by a municipal water provider.

    Natural Areas Department Director John Stokes said, “This purchase will help the City pursue a minimum instream flow on the Poudre River and also to augment ponds and wetlands. Both of these objectives are critical to river health. In addition to these benefits, the water rights open up the possibility for modifications to Coy Ditch diversion dam (just east of College Avenue) to improve habitat connectivity, recreation and stormwater management. The City wishes to extend its sincere appreciated to New Belgium for its farsighted and generous donation.”

    Citizens are invited to an open house to learn more about over 25 projects in the Poudre River Corridor on June 26, 4-7 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, Canyon West Room, 417 West Magnolia Street.

    Topics include construction, trail closures, drought & fire, habitat restoration, flood mitigation and planning. Give input and enjoy kids’ activities and a cash bar. An overview of the projects and trail closures can be found at

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    Eventually, the rights could translate to higher flows in the Poudre that would boost recreation and habitat along the river, said John Stokes, director of natural areas. “It’s not a huge water right, but it is significant,” Stokes said. “My hope is to put a little bit more water in the river and establish an in-stream flow program.”

    The ditch, which dates to 1865, has the No. 13 priority on the river. Its decree is for 31.5 cubic feet per second. For reference, the Poudre River’s flow on Wednesday was roughly 600 cfs.

    Fort Collins owns 50 percent of the water; the East Larimer County water district owns the rest.

    More Cache la Poudre River Watershed coverage here and here.

    2013 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs SB13-019 (Promote Water Conservation) #COleg

    May 19, 2013


    From email from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

    Saturday, May 18, 2013 — Gov. John Hickenlooper signed 13 bills into law today and yesterday…

    SB13-019, Promote Water Conservation, Schwartz / Fischer Concerning the promotion of water conservation measures.

    More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

    Douglas County Water Resource Authority video: Saving Water in Your Yard? It’s So Easy A Kid Can Do It

    May 15, 2013

    From email from the Douglas County Water Resource Authority:

    As spring snow and rain showers give way to warmer days, your thoughts may be turning to enjoying your yard this summer. If you’re over watering your lawn, you may want to consider taking a few minutes this weekend to install rotary sprinkler nozzles. These nozzles reduce the amount of water applied to your lawn by up to 30% over traditional designs. A simple change-out of nozzles can Save Water, and Save Money. It’s so easy, a kid can do it!

    More conservation coverage here.

    Englewood rolls out draft water conservation plan #COdrought

    May 1, 2013


    From the Englewood Herald (Tom Munds):

    The plan will be available for review May 1 on the city’s website at Starting May 1, comments on the plan can be made through the website, which will be listed under the “In the Spotlight” portion of the home page. Residents also can make comments in person by attending one or both of the meetings of the Englewood Water and Sewer Board that will be held at 5 p.m. May 14 or at 5 p.m. June 11 in the community development conference room. The conference room is on the third floor of the Englewood Civic Center, 1000 Englewood Parkway. The deadline for public comment is July 1.

    The main objective of a water conservation plan is to improve water-use efficiency, which, in turn, reduces overall water demands…

    The city’s draft plan was created by staff members and conservation consultants hired using a state grant. Those working on the draft also considered input from members of Englewood’s Water and Sewer Board…

    “The draft, if approved by the state, will be a 10-year plan,” Abouaish said. “The plan will be reviewed once a year to see if the measures are moving toward the ultimate goal, which is a 10 percent reduction in water use over the 10-year period.”

    More conservation coverage here.

    Greeley Children’s Water Festival recap: ‘In fifth grade you get to do’ — Armando Valladares

    April 28, 2013


    From The Greeley Tribune (Sherrie Peif):

    It was clear walking around Island Grove Regional Park on Wednesday that most fourth-graders could survive on a very limited vocabulary. “Whoa,” one boy said as an employee of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District blew a giant bubble all around him. “Whoa,” another girl yelled out as water fell all around her in the 100-year flood exhibit. “Cool” and “Oh yeah,” could also be heard throughout the Island Grove Events Center, the Exhibition Building and the 4-H Building as more than 1,000 students from 15 schools across Adams, Morgan and Weld counties filled the buildings for the 23rd annual Children’s Water Festival.

    The day long event is a collaboration among the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, the city of Greeley, the West Greeley Conservation District and the city of Evans, along with numerous sponsors. It is designed to teach young children about water conservation and its uses. The “Whoas,” “Oh yeahs” and “Cools” were for good reason; each activity was designed with kids in mind and meant to be hands-on and interactive. “We want to reach kids early to teach them that water is a limited resource and things can be done to take action,” said Kathy Parker, public information/education officer for the CCWCD.

    The event consisted of dozens of booths that tested children’s awareness of water use and conservation.

    At one booth, students spun a wheel to answer either a water knowledge question or a fun facts question such as at what temperature does water freeze? What saves more water, a shower or a bath? And what is the longest river in the United States? If they answered the question correctly, they won a bracelet.

    Another “just for fun” activity, that attracted students more than most, was the bubblelogy booth, where giant bubbles were blown up around the student.

    The bubbles were made from water, dish soap and cooking oil. Students stood on bricks in a plastic swimming pool while a large hula hoop type device was dunked in the mixture and stretched around them.

    All the kids were given free T-shirts and schools that could not afford the transportation were given money for their busses to make the trip. Schools from as far away as Brush and Fort Morgan were in attendance.

    Also helping with the event were students in the fifth-grade leadership class from Dos Rios Elementary School, who taught how to pan for gold and when and why it was done in Colorado history. “It was buried here and ended up in the rivers from when the mountains grew up,” said Kenia Morales, 11.

    They all agreed that helping was just as much fun, and more, as participating. “In fourth grade all you got to do was watch,” said Armando Valladares, 10. “In fifth grade you get to do.”

    More education coverage here.

    Northern Water’s Conservation Gardens Fair May 18

    April 26, 2013


    Here’s the announcement from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    More conservation coverage here.

    Salida: Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas Wetlands Program and Field Trip, May 14 and 18

    April 25, 2013


    From email from the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas:

    Wetlands Program and Field Trip

    Program – May 14, 2013, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, Salida Community Center

    Field Trip – May 18, 2013, 8:30 am to 11:30 am, location close to Salida, details given the night of the program

    Join us for a exploration of wetlands. What are wetlands? Why are they so important? Why should we care? And, what types of wetlands are found in Central Colorado? Bill Goosmann will help us answer these questions. Bill has a Master’s of Science and is certified as a Professional Wetland Scientist. He managed the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Division of Wildlife wetland programs. Bill has also designed and implemented wetland creation, restoration, and mitigation projects.

    We will start with a program on May 14th at the Salida Community Center (corner of Third and F Streets), 7:00 pm. The following Saturday (May 18th) we will go out into the field to a wetland site just west of Salida. In addition to Bill, joining us on the field trip will be the Raquel Wertsbaugh, Wildlife Conservation Biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Raquel manages all the non-game programs in the region Also, Land Trust Executive Director, Andrew Mackie will round out the trip leaders. He is an avid birder and wetland ecologist by training.

    The field trip will put into practice what we learned during the program. We will also search for and discuss the many species of wildlife that depend upon wetlands.

    You must attend the Tuesday program to attend the field trip on Saturday. The program and field trip are free and open to the public. Please email or call the Land Trust to register at or 719-539-7700.

    More conservation coverage here.

    ‘We should be encouraging density’ — Jim Lochhead

    April 24, 2013


    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Reforming laws to provide more flexibility in how water is used and shared in Colorado will be critical in meeting demands as the state’s population rapidly grows, according to agriculture, environmental and municipal water experts who spoke Tuesday in Denver. Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar, Western Resources Advocates Director Bart Miller and Denver Water CEO and Manager Jim Lochhead said the complexity of Colorado water law and the immense court costs associated with it have deterred some users from sharing the resource and taking other measures that would improve efficiencies. That needs to change, they told an audience at the University of Denver’s Sturm School of Law.

    Other aspects of the state’s water law — like its “use it or lose it” language, which discourages conservation, Miller said — must be altered if Colorado is going to maximize its beneficial use of the resource and meet its rapidly growing demands.

    According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Statewide Water Supply Initiative Study in 2010, the state could need as much as 630,000 acre feet of water annually (or 205.4 gallons) to meet the demands it will have by 2050.

    Along with more flexibility in water laws, the trio of experts said urban areas need to grow within their existing boundaries, instead of sprawling outward, which takes up more arable land and forces municipal water providers to expand water infrastructure. Salazar said group housing can save anywhere from 40-70 percent in water consumption compared to individual homes. “We should be encouraging density,” said Lochhead, explaining that Denver’s current population density is about 4,000 people per square mile — much less than other major U.S. cities, particularly New York City, which has a population density of 27,000 people per square mile.

    Across the board, the trio of experts said, Colorado residents, who consume 121 gallons of water per day, need to more closely resemble residents in countries such as Australia, who only consume 36 gallons of water per day.

    Cities using less water will be critical in keeping water on the state’s farms and ranches, Salazar said, and also in protecting Colorado’s wildlife and recreation industries, which generate 80,000 jobs in the state and $6.4 billion in spending annually, Miller added.

    Of the state’s eight major river basins, the Colorado River is most at risk, they said. According to stats shared by Miller, the Colorado River’s water demands began exceeding its supply in the mid 1990s. Weld County and much of the northern Front Range divert much of their water from the Colorado River basin.

    More water law coverage here

    Colorado River Named Most Endangered in United States #ColoradoRiver

    April 18, 2013


    Here’s a release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

    The Colorado River is the most endangered river in the United States, according to the 2013 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® released today by the nonprofit group American Rivers. Western Resource Advocates, a conservation organization that works throughout the entire Colorado River Basin, issued the following comments in response to the new listing:

    “We all have our own dreams and visions for the future of the West,” said Bart Miller, Water Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “But this is one subject where there can be no disagreement: If we don’t protect the Colorado River, we don’t have a future. It’s really that simple – an endangered Colorado River is a danger to us all.”

    The Colorado River provides drinking water for more than 36 million people in seven states. The river is also critical to our regional and national food supply, providing irrigation for 4 million acres of farmland.

    “We are using water in the West at a rate that is simply unsustainable,” said Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates. “The good news is that we can solve this problem if we act quickly. If we implement aggressive conservation, reuse, and efficiency programs for both municipal and agricultural users, we can protect the Colorado River and its many species, while at the same time exceeding projected water demand through 2060.”

    The population in the West is expected to rise by 50% in the next 50 years; at the same time, Colorado River flows are projected to decline by 10% or more. Not only would this decline impact food and water availability, but it would be a huge blow to a growing recreation economy responsible for more than $26 billion in annual revenue for the Colorado River Basin states.

    Western Resource Advocates has long advocated that water conservation and reuse should be the backbone of any plan for meeting future water demands in the Colorado River Basin. This is particularly critical in the face of climate change scenarios that experts agree will lead to increased frequency and severity of drought.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Douglas County Water Resource Authority video: Replace a toilet — Water Smart Tips #COdrought

    April 17, 2013

    From email from the Douglas County Water Resource Authority:

    Did you know the biggest water waster in your house can be your toilet!?!

    Sometimes all you need to do is replace the leaky flapper, but sometimes it might be a good idea to replace your old toilet with a more water efficient model.

    Our new two-minute “replace a toilet” video takes the mystery out of exactly how to do that. Save water, save money. It’s easy!

    The Greeley Water Conservation newsletter is hot off the press

    April 9, 2013

    Douglas County Water Authority video: Mini-Makeover – Water Smart Tips – 1

    April 3, 2013

    CSU to offer low-cost irrigation efficiency audits for farmers #codrought

    March 28, 2013


    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to CSU’s Center for Agricultural Energy will pay for reduced-cost irrigation efficiency audits for growers with center pivot systems. Center pivot irrigation is common on Colorado’s Front Range and Eastern Plains. Water is pumped onto fields by impact sprinklers mounted on overhead pipes that roll in sweeping arcs across farmland.

    For $250, a fourth of the usual $1,000 cost, university technicians will conduct up to three pumping plant audits to gauge efficiency of farmers’ systems, recommend changes and estimate potential savings.

    Information and a brief application can be found at, or by calling Cary Weiner at 970-491-3784.

    More conservation coverage here.

    2013 Colorado legislation: SB13-019 moves along to the state house #coleg

    March 26, 2013


    From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    The drought-fueled measure, put forth by state Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, passed unanimously in the Senate last week and now moves to the House, starting with the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, is the sponsor.

    While the legislation, Senate Bill 13-19, was amended to gain the necessary support — losing its most ambitious provisions in the process, Schwartz on Thursday called the measure a critical first step and one that will lead to further conversations this summer about water conservation. With Colorado likely facing a second straight summer of severe drought, Schwartz said she hopes to encourage water conservation among agricultural users without punishing them in the process. “We need to modify our thinking and our attitudes about how we use water,” the senator said.

    The legislation was originally to apply statewide, but concerns among the state’s seven river basins were varied and ultimately, the bill’s focus was narrowed to the Gunnison, Colorado main stem and Yampa/White River basins…

    Under Schwartz’s bill, a water user who enrolls in various conservation programs could reduce their water use in drought years but the reduction would not be considered by a water judge in determining that user’s historic consumptive use. “What we’re trying to say is, ‘If you’re willing to do this, your historical consumptive use is protected,’” Schwartz said.

    The conservation programs include those enacted by local water districts. Last year, for example, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which provides water to the eastern half of Eagle County and is a main user of water from Gore Creek and the Eagle River, worked with its customers to conserve water but also convinced other water diverters to do with less, according to spokesperson Diane Johnson. Entities such as golf courses and the town of Avon, which uses raw water to irrigate its parks, got on board, she said. Schwartz’s bill would mean those entities wouldn’t get dinged in a calculation of consumptive use if that voluntarily reduction is repeated, she said.

    “Gail’s bill is quite significant,” said Basalt attorney Ken Ransford, secretary for the Colorado Basin Roundtable. The group is one of nine in the state that focuses on water-management issues under the umbrella of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Ransford has watched Schwartz’s legislation closely. Its passage would mean an important incentive for conservation, he said. “It’s a significant change in the law. It takes away a disincentive to a landowner who wants to enroll their land in a conservation program,” he said…

    Gone from the legislation, however, are provisions that would have provided incentives to irrigators to increase the efficiency of their watering systems without jeopardizing their water rights.

    More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust 2012 Annual Report is hot off the press

    March 22, 2013


    From email from the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust:

    We had a great year in 2012 and wanted to share our Annual Report with our friends and supporters who made it happen. Click here to go directly to the report on our website.

    More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.

    The cheapest and easiest way to save water and save money is to fix a leak

    March 20, 2013

    Thanks to Mark Shively, Douglas County Water Resource Authority ( for the link.

    ‘The U.S. only has 18 percent of the world’s farmland in production, but produces 40 percent of the world’s food’ — Dan Barker

    March 19, 2013


    This is the second part of a two-part series on a water forum held at Morgan Community College last week, from Dan Barker writing for The Fort Morgan Times. CLick through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Agriculture is Colorado’s No. 2 industry. If that is diminished, it will diminish the overall economy, [John Stulp] said to a room full of producers. It was an economic disaster when 92 percent of Crowley County’s water was bought up, he said…

    City leaders complain that agriculture takes the lion’s share of water, but they do not look at all the factors, Stulp said. For example, a good deal of that water goes to cities in the form of food. Ag water irrigates nearly 3.5 million acres of fields, which makes up about 5 percent of the land in Colorado, he said…

    Rather than just drying up farms, it is important to plan for the future, he said. A Statewide Water Supply Initiative report says that, by 2050, the population could double and the state will need another 700,000 acre feet of water for the new residents. Essentially, the state will not have enough water. That has encouraged leaders to look at both consumptive and non-consumptive needs, the water supply availability and the projects and methods needed to meet future needs, Stulp said. Even with all the currently planned projects — such as the Northern Integrated Supply Project that Fort Morgan is a part of — there would just barely be enough water to meet that new need, he said…

    One alternative is rotational fallowing, which would allow growers to lease their water to cities during a few years out of every 10 years, he said. Other alternatives include interruptible supplies, deficit irrigation, water cooperatives, water banks and water conservation easements, Stulp said. “The devil’s always in the details,” Stulp emphasized…

    Planning for water needs is not just looking at the state as a whole or one stretch of a river, Stulp said. Different areas have different needs and situations. Planners need input from areas to learn how to best use water resources. Besides agricultural water needs, planners have to look at what is needed for energy production, and how climate change may affect the state, he said. Hickenlooper recently said the state needs a long-term water plan by 2015, and that any plan should start with conservation, Stulp said…

    Those who criticize agricultural practices need to understand them first, [Chris Kraft] said. The U.S. only has 18 percent of the world’s farmland in production, but produces 40 percent of the world’s food.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Hannah Holm: ‘Is irrigation efficiency the answer to Western water woes?’

    March 16, 2013


    From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

    Drying up farm and ranch land is widely recognized as undesirable, but there’s a common belief that small improvements in irrigation efficiency could yield big benefits to other water users. Could it really? Animated discussions at recent water meetings, including the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, indicate that the answer is complicated.

    First of all, many people assume that efficiency must be the same as conservation, which means using less water, which should mean more available for other users and/ or the environment. Right? Well, in the case of agricultural water use, not really.

    When water is diverted from a stream and put onto the land, part of that water is taken up by plants, part of it evaporates, and part of it makes its way back to the stream. With flood irrigation, a lot of the water diverted from a stream is simply used to push water to the end of the ditch, after which it makes its way back to the stream. Seepage will also eventually return to a stream, in some cases sustaining late season flows. Increasing efficiency through a sprinkler or drip system may require less diversion of water out of the stream to transport water to the plants, but the plants will consume just as much as before.

    To actually “save water” that can then be available to other uses, you have to reduce the amount of water that’s actually consumed, either by plants or through evaporation. That means changing to a less thirsty crop, reducing your acreage, or giving your plants less water than they really want — which is likely to lead to lower crop yields. Apart from measures to reduce evaporation and weed growth, there’s not really any way to reduce actual water use and keep getting the same production as before.

    That doesn’t mean that irrigation efficiency improvements have no value. For the stretch of stream between the headgate and return flow, smaller diversions as a result of increased efficiency could mean the difference between a stream with fish and one without, one you can float and one you can’t.

    More conservation coverage here.

    ‘It is extremely difficult to…implement a long-term strategy for short-term transfers of water’ — Don Frick

    March 16, 2013


    From the Fischer, Brown, Bartlett & Gunn – the Northern Colorado Law Center blog (Don Frick):

    I’ve been seeing a lot of renewed interest in developing strategies for temporary water transfers, strategies, from what I have seen, that I do not expect to be particularly successful. The ideas that I have seen are not particularly new or novel – indeed, there has been no substantive change in the law which would allow temporary transfers where it did not before. At the end of the day, under existing law, and the current water court environment, it is extremely difficult to successfully implement a long-term strategy for short-term transfers of water in Colorado.

    More water law coverage here.

    Kerber Creek restoration project update: 4,000 feet of stream bank restored

    March 10, 2013


    From the Valley Courier (Trevor Klein):

    Today, the Kerber Creek Restoration Project unites 16 partners in the effort to restore the Kerber Creek watershed, including the BLM; USFS; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Trout Unlimited; CDPHE; the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative; and the Bonanza Stakeholders’ Group, which represents the interests of Kerber Creek watershed private landowners. Since 2008, the Office of Surface Mining’s Western Hardrock Watershed Team/AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America Program (OSM/VISTA) has provided a full-time staff member to serve as the project’s watershed coordinator.

    This partnership has allowed the project to treat more than 60 acres of mine waste deposits, to restore more than 4,000 feet of stream bank, and to raise more than $2 million in grant funding. The project has also enhanced the aquatic ecosystem of the main stem of Kerber Creek, encouraging the brook trout population that returned as a result of the 1990s cleanup efforts and even attracting brown trout from San Luis Creek, into which Kerber Creek ultimately flows. Furthermore, the partnership has helped to ensure that these improvements remain protected by beginning the process to acquire minimum in-stream flow rights for almost the entire length of Kerber Creek and two of its major tributaries. In recognition of these impressive achievements, the Kerber Creek Restoration Project has received six major awards at the regional, state, and national levels.

    These accomplishments could not have been achieved without the help of numerous volunteers, who have contributed more than 13,000 hours to the project over the past six years. Brady and Jane Farrell, heavily involved members of the Bonanza Stakeholders Group, summarized their experience with the project in October, 2011:

    “All in all, we believe this project has been a success in every way. We owe a huge debt of thanks to this project, its staff and to the members and volunteers of the various agencies that have worked with us to clean up and improve Kerber Creek… We feel lucky to be part of the Kerber Creek Stakeholders group.”

    While the restoration of the Kerber Creek watershed is far from over, the project serves as a reminder of the importance of collaboration, persistence, and patience to the conservation and preservation of Colorado’s water resources. Over the past six years, the Kerber Creek Restoration Project has attempted to narrow the gap between an ecosystem degraded by the environmental effects of human activities and an ecosystem created and sustained by natural processes. Though the methods may differ, the principles remain the same; strong, lasting partnerships, the involvement of all interested stakeholders, and data-driven initiatives are required to ensure that Colorado’s water resources are protected for present and future generations.

    More Upper Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.

    Broomfield: Discussion of irrigation techniques and sprinkler systems Saturday

    March 10, 2013


    From the Broomfield Enterprise (Mike McNulty):

    The beauty of the Rocky Mountains is undeniable, especially when viewed from the plains. Unfortunately, these beautiful mountains create a rain shadow effect that limits the amount of precipitation the Front Range receives. Last year was a dry year, and despite the recent round of snows, this year could be another. We are already behind in moisture when compared to normal, and there is a possibility that some form of water restriction will be implemented this growing season.

    The Colorado Water Institute, an affiliate of Colorado State University, estimates that more than 50 percent of residential water consumption is used for landscape irrigation. With good water conservation practices and efficient use of this precious commodity, homeowners can drastically reduce this percentage while sustaining gardens and turf…

    As part of the Gardening Recycling Energy Environment Nature Program Series presented by Broomfield’s Parks and Environmental Services departments, a discussion of irrigation techniques and sprinkler systems will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Broomfield Recycling Center, 225 Commerce St. The program is free.

    More water conservation tips can be found at


    More conservation coverage here.

    Colorado River Basin: Recent study by the Bureau of Reclamation highlights future supply problems #coriver

    March 4, 2013


    Here’s a guest column running in The Denver Post, written by Allen Best, that gives an overview of the current state of the Colorado River. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Tow icebergs from Alaska? Pilfer from a tributary of the Yellowstone River in Wyoming? Or, even sneak water from the Snake, boring a 6-mile tunnel from a reservoir near Jackson Hole to the Green River? While it’s sure to make Idaho’s spud farmers cranky, it would help Tucson, Los Angeles and that parched paradigm of calculated risk, Las Vegas.

    Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and everybody else with a megaphone has carefully branded these ideas as improbable or worse. Only slightly more credible is the idea of a pipeline from the Mississippi River. It could originate near Memphis, traverse 1,040 miles and, if reaching Castle Rock, rise 6,000 feet in elevation. Pumping would require a steady 800 megawatts of electricity, or a little more than what the Comanche 3 power plant in Pueblo produces.

    In theory, this 600,000-acre feet of muddy Mississippi would replace diversions from the Colorado River headwaters between Grand Lake and Aspen. Those diversions range between 450,000 and 600,000 acre-feet annually. That would leave the creeks and rivers to the whims of gravity and geography, at least until arriving at Las Vegas and other places with growing thirst.
    Cheap water? Not exactly: It would cost $2,400 per acre-foot for this Memphis-flavored sludge, assuming the idea isn’t grounded by protests from barge and riverboat operators. (Sometimes they, too, say they need more water.)

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    EPA: Fix a leak week March 18-24 #codrought

    February 27, 2013


    From the Environmental Protection Agency Watersense Program:

    Did you know that the average American family can waste, on average, more than 11,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks?

    Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. That’s why WaterSense reminds Americans to check their plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems each year during Fix a Leak Week.

    WaterSense is teaming up with our partners to promote the fifth annual Fix a Leak Week, March 18-24, 2013.

    From New Mexico’s search for bad flappers to leak detection efforts in Texas, West Virginia and across the nation, explore our list of some of the Fix a Leak Week 2012 events.

    SB13-183 would allow homeowners under HOA agreements to choose xeriscape over turf #coleg

    February 26, 2013

    Click here to read the bill.

    Williams Fork: A Middle Park Land Trust conservation easement protects the 117-acre Blue Ridge Ranch

    February 16, 2013


    From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    The Middle Park Land Trust recently accepted its 63rd conservation easement, protecting the 117-acre Blue Ridge Ranch located in the Williams Fork Valley. This conservation easement, like all easements, will protect the property’s scenic and agricultural open space and its quality natural habitat in perpetuity.

    Characterized by upland sagebrush, wetlands, riparian habitat, and aspen and conifer forests, Blue Ridge Ranch provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, birds, fish and insects. The easement provides a link between the habitat on the property and that on surrounding public and private lands, as well as connecting adjacent and nearby conservation properties that have already been protected in the Williams Fork Valley…

    With the Blue Ridge Ranch Conservation Easement, the land trust now holds 63 easements on 6,954 acres.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

    Flaming Gorge Task Force: ‘I felt we set the groundwork to move forward’ — Reed Dils

    February 15, 2013


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado still needs to look at projects to bring in new water supplies despite a state water board’s decision last month to put the Flaming Gorge pipeline task force on ice. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable, the main proponent of the task force, still supports dialogue with other state roundtables on the subject and getting the statewide Interbasin Compact Committee to tackle the issue head­-on.

    “It’s time we start looking at issues,” said Jeris Danielson, who represents the roundtable on the IBCC. The IBCC has adopted a “four­legged stool” that includes new supply along with identified projects, conservation and agricultural transfers.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board in January voted to suspend funding for the task force, saying the committee was duplicating work assigned to the IBCC. The group began its work in 2011 to determine issues surrounding two proposals to build water pipelines from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range.

    “All of us thought the task force made good progress and had some good discussions on tough issues,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the CWCB. “Their thoughts will be folded into other work the CWCB is doing to move forward new­supply discussions.”

    “I think the most important thing we did was establish a list of attributes for what constitutes a good project,” said Betty Konarski, a member of the task force.

    “I felt we set the groundwork to move forward,” said Reed Dils, a task force member and former CWCB representative. “If we’re ever going to see another large project in the state, it will take the cooperation of all the roundtables.”

    Roundtable Chairman Gary Barber, who also sat on the task force, said the group identified an immediate gap in agricultural water needs, and a municipal gap by 2020. It made no recommendation on whether or not to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

    Danielson and Jay Winner, the other basin representative on the IBCC, vowed to press the IBCC to more action at its meeting in March.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

    Colorado River Basin: Say hello to ‘Change the Course’ #coriver

    February 13, 2013


    Click here for the pitch about restoring water to the Colorado River, from Change the Course. Here’s a report from Brian Clark Howard writing for National Geographic. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Colorado River may have cut the Grand Canyon, but for much of its course the river is no longer so mighty. Most of the time, the Colorado no longer even reaches the sea.

    The moisture the Colorado River brings to an arid part of the United States and a piece of northern Mexico has sustained generations of people and many generations of wildlife. But that water has long been over allocated, sucked dry by the 30 million people who rely on it for drinking and irrigation.

    Once free, the Colorado now has many dams along its 1,450 miles (2,333 kilometers). Its life-giving water is divided up among seven U.S. states and Mexico according to a series of treaties and agreements. But precious little flows remain to support the rich ecosystems that once flourished along the river’s path.

    As Wade Davis recently reported, the Colorado once supported a vast, sprawling delta where it met the Gulf of California:

    As recently as the last years of the nineteenth century the wetlands produced enough wood to fuel the steamships and paddle wheelers that supplied all of the army outposts, mining camps, and ragtag settlements of the lower Colorado. Today the gallery forests of cottonwood and willow are a shadow of memory, displaced by thickets of tamarisk and arrowweed, invasive species capable of surviving in soils poisoned by salt.

    Davis added that, as a result of the loss of rich sediments that were formerly deposited into the Gulf, “Marine productivity has fallen by as much as 95 percent, and all that remains to recall the bounty of the estuary are the countless millions of shells that form the islands and beaches on the shore.”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


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