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Water Lines: Dire water predicament spurs cooperation, compromise — Grand Junction Free Press #ColoradoRiverAugust 12, 2014
After a winter of happy news about the generous snowpack in Colorado’s mountains, summer brought reminders that our regional water situation is dire – or, at least, poised on the edge of direness.
Just as the ink was drying on mid-July headlines announcing that Lake Mead had dropped to its lowest level since filling 80 years ago, a new study found that groundwater loss in the Colorado River Basin has been even more dramatic. The study used satellite data to track changes in the amount of water in the basin from 2004 to 2013, and found that 75 percent of the nearly 53 million acre feet lost during that period was from groundwater depletions.
While it is easy to measure how much water is in reservoirs, it is much less clear how much groundwater remains in the region’s aquifers. Western Colorado doesn’t rely much on groundwater, but other states in the basin do.
Then, in early August, researchers at CU-Boulder released an updated report on Climate Change in Colorado. The report notes that higher temperatures are likely to put further pressure on the state’s water supplies, even if we get a bit more rain and snow, because plants will need more and more will evaporate.
An historic 14-year drought plus increasing demands are pushing the Colorado River system ever closer to the point where it could no longer be able to provide the services people rely on. And groundwater appears to be disappearing too fast to be much of a safety net.
The City of Las Vegas, Central Arizona farmers and power generation at Glen Canyon Dam are among the first in line to take a hit if water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead continue to drop.
However, disaster is not inevitable. The multi-state, bi-national agreement to send water back to the Colorado River Delta last spring, for the first time in 30 years, demonstrates that those who manage the river are capable of improbable feats.
Many of the same minds that negotiated the deal that provided water for the delta are working intensely to find ways to keep Mead and Powell functioning and to keep the region’s cities, farms and environment intact. There seems to be both a growing sense of urgency and an increasingly cooperative spirit to these efforts.
Not long ago, when I heard Colorado officials and water managers discuss the overuse of water in the Colorado River Basin, they made it clear that this was mostly a problem for California, Arizona and Nevada — and that Colorado was still intent on developing its full legal share. That tune hasn’t exactly changed, but more cooperative efforts have moved into the foreground.
Most recently, the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority announced that they will team up with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide $11 million for pilot conservation projects to boost levels in Powell and Mead.
Cooperation is crossing constituencies as well as Upper – Lower basin divisions. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel recently reported that Denver Water, the Colorado River District, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited are working together to explore ways to use some of that $11 million to test “temporary, voluntary and fully compensated” conservation strategies.
Even within Colorado, some of the conflict between West Slopers and Front Rangers over additional transmountain diversions could be softening. A recent “conceptual agreement” released by Colorado’s Inter-basin Compact Committee, which includes representatives from all the state’s river basins, outlines how additional Colorado River water could be sent East “under the right circumstances.” Central to the draft agreement is the recognition by East Slope entities that a new transmountain diversion may not be able to deliver water every year and must be used along with non-West Slope sources of water.
These shifts in tone seem to indicate a coming-to-terms with the fact that Colorado River Basin water supplies are limited, and that everyone who relies on them has a stake in finding ways for all to live within those limits. What remains to be seen is whether we can adapt quickly enough to keep ahead of crisis. Don’t stop praying for snow just yet.
— Yahoo (@Yahoo) August 12, 2014
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
Vail: 12 local high school students are participating [in the] Walking Mountains Natural Resource InternshipAugust 5, 2014
From the Vail Daily (Peter Wadden):
Thanks to ongoing support from the National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts’ Ski Conservation Fund, 12 local high school students are participating in the third summer of the Walking Mountains Natural Resource Internship. The interns are working under the supervision of Matt Grove, fisheries biologist on the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest, to monitor stream and wetland health throughout the valley. The interns have searched for endangered boreal toads to identify sites where they are still breeding in the area, but most of the students’ work focuses on monitoring stream health.
The interns have learned two tried and true techniques for collecting information that helps the Forest Service gauge the health of waterways. The first is by collecting and measuring stream substrates. This involves plunging their hands into icy water to pull out rocks, pebbles and gravel to be measured. The size of the stones in a stream dictates what aquatic insects can live there because those stones provide a place for the insects to hide and a surface to cling to in the rushing stream.
The second way the interns are gathering valuable stream data is by collecting the macroinvertebrates themselves. What species of insects are living in a stream is a great indicator of how healthy that stream is. Some insects are tolerant of pollution while others are not. If only pollution-tolerant species are found, then we can tell a stream may not be very clean. On the other hand, if insects that require clean, clear water to survive are found in abundance, then we will have strong evidence that the stream is doing well. Samples of insects are netted and collected by the interns in each stream they visit and then are preserved in ethanol so they can be sent to a lab for DNA identification.
The 12 Walking Mountains interns have mastered these data-collection techniques with training and supervision from U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologists and seasonal fisheries technicians. In addition to providing valuable information to the U.S. Forest Service, the interns are gaining experience in field ecology and exposure to careers in science and natural resource management. The high school students also earn four environmental science credits from Colorado Mountain College, giving them a chance to connect their observations in nature to broader concepts in ecology and biology…
Isaac Yoder, a rising junior at Eagle Valley High School, recognizes the value of this type of learning saying, “Through this internship, I gain experience relevant to real life jobs and collect information that affects the community instead of just seeing it in a classroom.”
More education coverage here.
US Department of the Interior and Western municipal water suppliers reach landmark collaborative agreement #ColoradoRiverAugust 1, 2014
Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):
In support of the Colorado River basin states drought contingency planning to address a long-term imbalance on the Colorado River caused by years of drought conditions, municipal water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado and the federal government signed a landmark water conservation agreement this week called the Colorado River System Conservation program.
Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority are partnering with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to contribute $11 million to fund pilot Colorado River water conservation projects. The projects will demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures for reducing water demand in a variety of areas, including agricultural, municipal and industrial uses.
For more than a decade, a severe drought — one of the worst in the last 1,200 years — has gripped the Colorado River, causing the world’s most extensive storage reservoir system to come closer and closer to critically low water levels. The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use, and the combined metropolitan areas served by the Colorado River represent the world’s 12th largest economy, generating more than $1.7 trillion in Gross Metropolitan Product per year along with agricultural economic benefits of just under $5 billion annually.
“This is a critically important first step, and I applaud the far sighted municipal water providers for beginning to address the imbalance in supply and demand on the Colorado River that could seriously affect the economy and the people who rely upon the river,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor. “There is still much work to be done, and the Interior Department is committed to supporting the efforts of the Colorado River Basin States and other stakeholders as partners in improving water management and operations, particularly during this historic drought.”
“This situation is becoming increasingly critical. We are already dealing with unprecedented pressure on the southern California region’s water system,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This innovative program is aimed at expanding conservation efforts from a local level to a collaborative system-wide program.”
Without collaborative action now, water supplies, hydropower production, water quality, agricultural output and recreation and environmental resources are all at risk, in both the upper and lower basins.
“This agreement represents a unique approach to save water and protect the Colorado River system from the impacts of the on-going drought and the current imbalance between supplies and demands in the Basin,” said Central Arizona Project Board President Pam Pickard. “It is an important milestone in interstate collaboration, with CAP working with partners in California, Nevada, Colorado and the federal government to improve the health of the Colorado River.”
All water conserved under this program will stay in the river, helping to boost the declining reservoir levels and benefiting the health of the entire river system.
“Half of Denver’s water supply comes from the Colorado River, so we have a direct interest in the health of the entire system,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO. “This is a proactive contingency plan for drought years to help secure our water supply future with a balanced, economic and environmental approach. This is clearly the right thing to do for our customers, our future water supply and the basin.”
The Colorado River System Conservation program will provide funding for pilot conservation programs in 2015 and 2016. Successful programs can be expanded or extended to provide even greater protection for the Colorado River system.
“The time has come for our states to work together to develop contingency strategies to manage the Colorado River under extreme drought conditions that threaten the levels of Lakes Mead and Powell,” said John Entsminger, general manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “As Lake Mead continues to drop toward critical levels, we must simultaneously begin to take collective action now and plan additional future measures.”
In order to ensure that local concerns are addressed, and that there is equity and fairness among all parties, in the Lower Colorado River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation will manage the conservation actions in Arizona, California and Nevada in a manner consistent with past programs, while in the Upper Basin, the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and the Upper Colorado River Commission will have a direct role in program efforts.
From InkStain (John Fleck):
The program has been simmering for months (see here, here and here for previous public discussions), but this evening’s announcement marks the final signing of the deal by federal officials. The program is a partnership of the basin’s four largest municipal water agencies – the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water and the Southern Nevada Water Authority – and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…
This is a small but very significant step forward. Previous conservation efforts were funded by an individual water agency, with water conserved banked in reservoir storage for later use by that agency. In this program, the water conserved will simply become “system water” for the benefit of all.
Significantly, the announcement says pilot programs will be conducted in 2015 and 2016. (I had been hearing water managers talk about the possibility of getting something underway this year, but it looks like July 31 is too late for that.)
Also, there’s some nuance here about who will built the institutional widgets to carry this out. In the Lower Basin, it will be the Bureau. In the Upper Basin, it will be some sort of state-managed effort that I don’t fully understand. There’s apparently been a lot of sensitivity on the question of who’s driving this bus in the Upper Basin.
From the Associated Press via ABC News:
The Interior Department said Thursday that local water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado will take part in the deal.
It aims to create several small pilot programs in 2015 and 2016 that would provide incentives and compensation for conservation by cities, farmers and industry, according to a statement announcing the agreement. The programs that work best can then be expanded, extended, or both.
The move was called very necessary, though only a beginning with the severe shortfall threatening to challenge the region’s long-term water supply…
The project’s partners include the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Southern Nevada Water Authority and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
More didymo coverage here.
From The Latin Post (Nicole Akoukou Thompson):
Non-whites, including Latinos, are disproportionately affected by water and air pollution. Patterns of environmental injustice have shown that toxic waste sites, landfills, congested highways and similar hazards are in close proximity to low-income communities and communities of color, producing health risks.
The largest Latino-themed environmental festival, “A New Shade of Green,” will be held in Colorado this fall to address those concerns; attendees will discuss counter measures and environmental protection, an important issue that’s important to the U.S. Hispanic community.
Twenty-one percent of Colorado’s population is Latino. By 2021, Latinos will constitute more than 50 percent of Colorado’s high school students, 32 percent of Denver County’s population and 24 percent of the under-18 population in Boulder, according to the Hemispheric Conservation Latino Network. Future generations of Latinos will ikely suffer health risks if the trend of positioning pollution close to minority dwellings isn’t corrected.
Colorado is the perfect state to host the event, as the many residents of the state have raised concerns over climate change, fracking and water shortages. Air pollution, landfills, and urban highways are also concerns for the state’s citizens.
“Latinos are increasingly concerned with creating and living sustainable lives and reconnecting with their cultural origins which were, and are, intrinsically green, nature driven, and traditionally marked by recycling and upcycling,” said Boulder resident and festival founder Irene Vilar in a press release. “There is a need to empower and validate the green cultural heritage of Latinos and recast the green national conversation that frames Latinos as the solution and not the problem.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council has has presented research that shows 9 of 10 Hispanic voters believe that funds should go toward renewable, clean energy sources rather than fossil fuels. Also, 86 percent of Latinos support the Obama administration’s decision to limit carbon pollution.
History has shown that urban highways were routed through minority communities because they were easier to uproot than middle-class white neighborhoods. Middle-class whites were also able to better access their homes with ease without having to stop in unsavory neighborhoods. That exposure to pollutants from highway fumes and other pollutants has been linked to heart attacks, higher risks of asthma and developmental disabilities.
The second annual Americas Latino Eco Festival (ALEF) will take place in Denver and Boulder, Sept. 11-15. The event will be produced by Americas for Conservation + the Arts (AFC+A), and presented by The Sierra Club and The Dairy Center of the Arts. Also, HCLN, which was launched by ALEF, will facilitate networking opportunities and conversation to address environmental advocacy and forge an international collation of Latino conservation leaders.
Educator, activist and actor Edward James Olmos and
environmental global leader Jean-Michel Cousteau will have a role at the environmental event. In addition, 50 organizations and 50 crucial leaders that include scientists, artists, grassroots mentors, celebrities and community and public policy leaders will offer solutions and increase awareness in diverse communities.
There will also be 50 presenters, 20 films, 10 art exhibits, and seven artists there to present to workshops. The festival will additionally showcase performances and activists for every age, race, interest and economic background. And the endeavor will help to reconnect and acquaint Latinos with their agricultural past and “green” legacy.
“A New Shade of Green” will bring forth a newfound environmental awareness and it will unlock a dialogue on environment, health, education, culture and small business entrepreneurship, to bring healthy environments to low-income individuals, minorities and America.
More education coverage here.
Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:
Back in November, you may have seen the Buzzfeed post where Brits were asked to label the United States, with hilarious results. My favorite map (the second one) identified Colorado as “Squaresies.”
Looking at the outline of Squaresies, you might think that rivers didn’t play a big role in the development of the state. Unlike the many Eastern states that have at least one border defined by a river, Colorado’s boundaries are defined by degrees of latitude and longitude, established as Americans settled and carved up new Western territories.
But those straight borders belie the importance of rivers in shaping Colorado. Rivers have defined much of Colorado’s history. When American explorers first ventured into Colorado, they followed rivers. When Americans moved into the area, they settled near the rivers. Anyone who wanted to survive in Colorado had to live near a reliable water supply. But then Coloradans broke away…
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Here’s the release from Conservation Colorado (Chris Arend):
Colorado Students, local elected leaders, Denver Water officials, water educators and conservationists, rallied for Colorado River Day to highlight Colorado’s progress on water conservation and reuse and work left to protect communities and meet future water needs.
The West is facing increasing water challenges and the future of Denver, our businesses, agriculture and the West depend on the health of the Colorado River. Colorado is currently drafting a statewide Water Plan to manage our water future. The Denver Colorado River Day rally had diverse leaders calling attention to local, common sense solutions that should be expanded and included in our community’s approach to managing and providing water.
Below are highlighted quotes from the rally:
“I love joining my friends and making a difference for the Colorado River,” said Lizabeth. “Whenever we do outreach or take adventures it makes me want to do more. It feels good to know I am helping my community and protecting things that are important to me. It is cool to know one day I could have kids that will benefit from the work we are doing.”
- Lizbeth Sandoval Serrano, 9th Grade Student, Escuela, describing rafting down the Colorado through youth program.
“The Latino community has a long legacy of being stewards of our natural resources, including water. The caucus will continue to work on a policy level to protect the Colorado River and other rivers across the state. We understand we must do all we can for our people today and future generations tomorrow.”
- Joe Salazar, State Representative and Latino Water Caucus member
“Half of Denver’s water supply comes from the Colorado River, so we have a direct interest in the health of the entire Colorado River system. As part of our approach to creating a healthier system, Denver Water is committed to encouraging and maintaining a culture of conservation — through aggressive programs and campaigns — which thus far has led to Denver area citizens using 21 percent less water than they were before 2002, despite an increased population.”
- Angela Bricmont, Denver Water’s Director of Finance
“When we talk about needing diverse voices and stakeholders, that includes all members of society. Water flows into every aspect of our life, and educating all community members about water conservation and stewardship is the key to creating the water future we need.”
- Tom Cech, Director of One World One Water
“Under existing water policies, demands on our water outstrip the supply. But we can be part of the solution. We can use less, conserve more. So to celebrate Colorado River Day, we urge residents to tell our water leaders we need common sense solutions that conserve water so our communities and businesses thrive. We learned today there is a lot being done to conserve water in Denver, but we need to do more.”
- Theresa Conley, Water Advocate, Conservation Colorado
More education coverage here.
From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):
Excitement continues to build for our 2014 Summer Conference and Membership Meeting. It will be held at the Westin Snowmass Resort, August 20-22. Our theme this year is “Rallying Our Water Community.” To register please visit: Conference Registration.
We will know in a couple of weeks if enough signatures have been gathered to place Initiative 89, Local Government Regulation of the Environment, on the 2014 Ballot. Whether it does or not, the water community will need to develop a greater public presence on these issues. Our conference is designed to help develop your advocacy skills and knowledge base.
We want to ensure we are focused on our member’s priorities when the Water Congress Board sets our priorities this fall. Summer Conference activities are designed to give you the opportunity to provide direct input to our leadership. We hope that you will take this chance to engage with us.
Our exciting program will again include a session with the Water Resources Review Committee. Additional honored guests include both Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House Third District, and Attorney General. Don’t miss this chance to catch up with colleagues and meet new community members during our POND networking activities.
Highlights of our unique program sessions include:
Strategies for Finding Your Voice
Do you have adequate tools to advocate on behalf of Colorado’s water community? Practice conveying your message with other attendees and workshop leaders.
Senator Udall, Congressman Gardner, Congressman Tipton, and Former State Senator Tapia
We are pleased to host candidates for some of our top political offices as they address issues of keen importance to Colorado’s water community.
Costs of Doing the Right Thing
As we plan for our water allocation in the future, we rarely examine the full social and economic costs, including burdens on individual ratepayers. This panel will examine those costs, along with a brief overview of other economic challenges currently faced by Colorado water providers.
For 100 years, the L.A. Aqueduct has been the source of legend and controversy. Today, drought imperils much of California’s water supply. How is Los Angeles handling the drought within the confines of a Public Trust Doctrine?
Mitigation for Transbasin Diversion
Past Aspinall Water Leaders will discuss historic transbasin water projects and their mitigation. What can we learn from the past?
We are looking forward to seeing you in Snowmass, August 20-22. Additional conference information and registration can be found at: Conference Information.
More education coverage here.
From the Cortez Journal:
The public is invited to a “Saturday Seminar” at the Animas Museum on Saturday, July 19 at 1 p.m.
Linda Towle will present “Saving the McElmo Creek Flume: Water History of the Montezuma Valley.”
Towle is chairman of the Cortez Historic Preservation Board. The Animas Museum is at 3065 W. 2nd Ave. Information: 259-2402.
More San Juan River Basin coverage here.
Business community invited to discuss water policy principles
Diane Johnson, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, 970-477-5457
Alison Wadey, Vail Chamber & Business Association, 970-477-0075
Join the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and the Vail Chamber & Business Association for a business briefing on the Colorado Water Plan from noon to 1:30 p.m., Thursday (7/10) at Donovan Pavilion in Vail. A complimentary lunch will be served.
Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered work to begin on the statewide water plan in May 2013; a draft is due to the Governor’s Office no later than Dec. 10, 2014, with the final plan complete by December 2015.
Business leaders have developed statewide business community water policy principles to be part of Colorado’s Water Plan and are seeking regional input to finalize the principles. Working through local business chambers, this statewide initiative seeks local feedback on the principles, which address the business and economic development needs of Colorado.
Thursday’s speakers include:
Tom Binnings of Summit Economics will discuss the economics of water from a statewide perspective. Linn Brooks of Eagle River Water & Sanitation District will share local water operations and policy, and discuss needs in the Eagle and Colorado River basins. James Eklund, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board – the state agency tasked with drafting the Colorado Water Plan. Bryan Blakely of Accelerate Colorado and Mizraim Cordero of the Colorado Competitive Council will discuss the business community water policy principles.
To ensure enough food for attendees, please RSVP to the Vail Chamber & Business Association at email@example.com or 970-477-0075 by tomorrow (7/8).
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):
As people around the state debate how to make Colorado’s limited water supplies stretch to accommodate nearly twice as many people by 2050, the topic of growth surfaces repeatedly. Some call for outright limits on population growth, while others point out that how communities grow can have as big an impact on their water use as how much they grow. For example, smaller lots equal smaller lawns, resulting in less water consumed per household.
In May, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) held a workshop to explore how land-use planning practices and regulations can be employed to achieve water conservation and water-quality goals. According to the workshop report prepared by Torie Jarvis, staff to NWCCOG’s Water Quality & Quantity Committee, some communities are already taking substantial action in these areas. The full workshop report is available here: http://www.nwccog.org/index.php/programs/water-qualityquantity-committee. Key points are highlighted below.
For some communities in Colorado’s High Country, conservation measures serve the dual purpose of ensuring that new developments have reliable water supplies and protecting streams. The Town of Winter Park places a high value on the Fraser River, which runs right through town, despite the fact that 65 percent of its natural flow is diverted to the Front Range before it reaches the town. The Town limits the issuance of development permits to maintain 10 cubic feet per second in the Fraser River, and does not allow outside irrigation in the town limits. The Town of Eagle requires that water rights attached to developments annexed by the Town to be donated to the Town. The rights are then leased back for use by the development, but the Town retains ultimate control.
Tools to regulate the pace and location of growth are also tools to limit pressure on water supplies. Pitkin County has a growth management quota system, which establishes a set number of development permits on a competitive basis, while the Town of Eagle uses an urban growth boundary to control density and the location of new growth.
In addition to ensuring the long-term reliability of their water supplies, local governments use various tools to protect habitat along stream banks and water quality in streams. The Town of Eagle’s Brush Creek Management Plan identifies values that should be protected in the stream corridor and then requires any new development to protect those values in order to receive permits. Pitkin County limits which portions of a property can be developed and landscaped in order to protect its stream banks, while annexation to the Town of Winter Park generally requires Town ownership of the river corridor. Several local governments have also invested substantial funds in stream restoration projects.
Ultimately, the workshop participants agreed that local governments have the tools to ensure that new growth doesn’t outstrip water supplies. They also agreed that water conservation targets should be incorporated into land-use plans, but were wary of any state mandate regarding what such targets should be or how they should be reached. The report states that all workshop participants agreed that the dialogue on the intersection between land-use planning and water conservation should continue.
What do you think? To communicate your opinion to the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and water planners at the state and local levels, take a brief survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Water-land.
More conservation coverage here.
Click here for their list from “absolute water right” to “xeriscape.”
Runoff/snowpack news: “…the bottom line for Lake Powell this year is that it’s [inflows are] going to be right about average” — Eric Kuhn #ColoradoRiverJune 13, 2014
From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):
Steamboat Springs — Residents of the Yampa Valley, where the meadows are lush and snow still lingers on the peaks, easily could conclude that this is a year of water abundance. But in terms of the water produced by the entire Colorado River Basin, the summer of 2014 won’t be outstanding.
Eric Kuhn, of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, told an audience of about 50 state legislators, water managers and educators at the Sheraton Steamboat Thursday the abundance of snowmelt in the upper Colorado, Yampa and Green rivers early this summer isn’t indicative of the entire Colorado Basin.
“We have wet years, we have dry years but the bottom line for Lake Powell this year is that it’s going to be right about average,” Kuhn said…
“Currently, Lake Mead (below the Grand Canyon) and Lake Powell (just above the Grand Canyon) are 42 percent full,” Kuhn said. “Does that make us nervous? Yeah that makes us very nervous.”[...]
Water storage in Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River just upstream from its Colorado stretch is expected to be 140 percent of average, and Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River is expected to be 126 percent of average, Kuhn told his audience. But 25-mile-long Navajo Reservoir, straddling the Colorado and New Mexico state line and capturing flows from the San Juan River, will be just about 67 percent of average. It’s the southernmost reaches of the upper basin that are below par.
Kuhn and his audience had gathered in Steamboat Springs Thursday to begin a tour of the Yampa River Basin sponsored by the nonprofit Colorado Foundation for Water Education. CFWE program manager Kristin Maharg told the gathering that the purpose of the tour is to explore the compatibility of consumptive water uses (agriculture and power plants) and non-consumptive uses (recreation and habitat conservation) along the length of the Yampa in Routt and Moffat counties.
“The Yampa is no longer a valley too far, and we want to look at some of the demands this basin is facing,” Maharg said. “This is a very cooperative basin in terms of resource management and conservation.”
Thursday’s audience included more than a half dozen state legislators, members of their technical support staff, including an economist and an attorney who work on water bills, a Pitkin County commissioner and an Eagle County water district official, as well as college educators from Colorado State University, the University of Colorado Denver and Colorado Mesa University.
If there is some good news for the Colorado Basin and the people who depend on Lake Powell this summer, it’s that the abundance in the Green River basin will give the reservoir a boost this summer. Flaming Gorge Reservoir, about 30 miles upstream from the point where the Green makes a dog leg into Colorado on the way to its confluence with the Yampa, is currently releasing large amounts of water. That’s being done to mimic the spring floods that occurred before the dam was built in order to support the ecosystem that evolved around those floods. When the river is restored to its baseline sumer flow, it will be at double the flows seen in the last few years, or about 1,600 cubic feet per second. The net result of those additional flows should boost Lake Powell to 50 percent full by the end of July, Kuhn confirmed.
From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):
The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver predicted Monday that the total volume of flows in the Yampa in Steamboat Springs in June and July will be 118 percent of average, and maybe more if precipitation is abundant. And flows in the Elk, one of the Yampa’s biggest tributaries, could be at 145 percent of average during the heart of the summer.
The streamflow projections issued by the NRCS shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning the flows in the Yampa consistently will be at 118 percent of average, Mage Hultstrand cautioned. She is the assistant snow survey supervisor with the NRCS in Denver. Hultstrand explained that the streamflow projection anticipates the total volume of water that will flow under the Fifth Street Bridge from June through July.
“It’s based on current (snowpack) conditions and weather patterns in the area the past few months,” Hultstrand said.
The weather in terms of temperature and precipitation will have much to say about streamflow from week to week.
The Yampa at Steamboat peaked for the season May 30 at 4,850 cubic feet per second, Brenda Alcorn, senior hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, said Wednesday. The Elk peaked at 6,300 cfs also on May 30. The Yampa came close to going higher June 2, but fell just short, Alcorn said. Flows in the Yampa were in decline this week, but the snowpack still has a kick in it; the Forecast Center expects the Yampa to rally Thursday and Friday, jumping from Wednesday morning’s flow of 2,300 cfs to perhaps 3,400 cfs by Friday. The median flow for June 11 is 2010 cfs. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-70s under clear skies Thursday and Friday.
The streamflow projection issued by the NRCS really is intended to inform reservoir managers and help them understand how full their reservoirs will be and how much water they can release.
It’s safe to say the upper Yampa will be carrying more water than average for much of the next seven or eight weeks, but the streamflow forecast doesn’t guarantee there will be above average water in the river for irrigating hay fields or providing thrills for tubers during the last week in July, for example, Hultstrand said.
More Green River Basin coverage here.
Colorado Water Workshop: The People's Water, June 18-20, 2014, Western State Colorado University, Gunnison, ColoradoJune 8, 2014
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
GOOD SNOWPACK ENABLES FISH FLOWS
A good snowpack will allow coordinated reservoir operations and releases to benefit endangered fish in critical habitat in the Grand Valley and Lower Gunnison, as well as on the Green River. To see a presentation on snowpack and reservoir operations presented by Erik Knight of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) at the Mesa County State of the Rivers meeting May 15
More education coverage here.
Colorado Foundation for Water Education: Water Educator Network Orientation webinar tomorrow 5/29 at 12May 28, 2014
Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:
Interpreters will gladly tell you that interpretation is more than just standing up and talking. It’s a discipline and a profession. It is, as Freeman Tilden argued, art:
Interpretation is an art which combines many arts, whether the materials presented are scientific, historical or architectural.
Skeptical? Take a look back on the interpretive elements we’ve covered:
- The goal of interpretation: to provoke our audiences, to inspire them to learn more about the subject on their own, to illuminate unsuspected connections, to provide new insights, and to help listeners think of subjects in new ways
- The necessary components for an interpretive opportunity: knowledge of the resource, knowledge of the audience, and appropriate techniques
- The key to connecting resources, audiences, and meanings: linking concrete resources to ideas and universal concepts (concepts which everyone is likely to understand, although each person may have different experiences or definitions of those…
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Just 15 years ago, it was unthinkable that the [CWCB] would be in the fire business — @ChrisWoodka @CO_H2OMay 24, 2014
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Just 15 years ago, it was unthinkable that the Colorado Water Conservation Board would be in the fire business. But the wildfires that have broken out since 2000 have been larger and more destructive than any in Colorado’s history — including their impact on watersheds the state’s 5 million people depend on.
“Prior to 2000, the largest fire had been 26,000 acres, and that happened in 1879,” said Kevin Houck, watershed and flood protection chief for the CWCB said Thursday at the board’s Pueblo meeting.
Since then, the state has witnessed the Hayman Fire (southwest of Denver), 2002, 137,760 acres; West Fork complex (near Creede) 2013, 110,405 acres; and High Park (west of Fort Collins) 2012, 87,284 acres.
In fact, 28 of the 30 largest wildfires have occurred since 2000.
In addition, 14 of the 15 most destructive fires have been since 2000. These include the Black Forest Fire (509 homes) in 2013, near Colorado Springs; Waldo Canyon (346 homes) in 2012, near Colorado Springs; the High Park Fire (259 homes); and the Fourmile Fire (169 homes) in 2010 north of Boulder.
Many of the fires impact watersheds, including Waldo Canyon, which sent sheets of mud into Fountain Creek last September, and the Hayman Fire, which has caused debris flows for years into Denver and Aurora reservoirs.
Houck praised Canon City officials for the quick response to the aftermath of the Royal Gorge Fire. Last year, the CWCB provided a $485,000 grant for mulching and planting to reduce the impact on Canon City’s water supply.
“The city only used about two-thirds of the grant, so we may get some back,” Houck said. He provided a list of more than $1 million in watershed restoration grants just to deal with fires in 2012-13.
After the East Peak Fire, Huerfano County continues to worry about dry conditions.
Tom Spezze, of the Rio Grand Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team, gave the board an update on its actives to deal with water quality issues associated with the West Fork Complex and to prevent future fires.
Such fires not only affect water supply, but local economies as well, Spezze said. Creede lost 75 percent of its tourism revenue last July and was 40 percent off for the year.
The fire has left uncertainty in a private tourist camp that operates on federal land near a canyon now prone to flooding.
But the debris and silt after a fire is immense.
“We’re not sure what’s going to happen,” Spezze said. “The debris in one year filled Humphreys Reservoir. It had just been dredged for 25 years’ worth — all for naught.”
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has submitted its Rifle Gap Reservoir Proposed Lake Management Plan to several of its partners in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the wildlife agencies of the States of Utah and Wyoming. Approval by these partners is the last required step to establish future stocking plans for the popular fishery.
Lake Management Plans describe objectives for specific fisheries, including which species will be stocked and managed. The Rifle Gap Proposed Lake Management Plan was crafted in accordance with the ‘Procedures for Stocking Non-native Fish Species in the Upper Colorado River Basin’, a cooperative agreement between program partners.
The goal of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is the recovery of four endangered fish found only in the Upper Colorado River Basin, the razorback sucker, bonytail chub, humpback chub and the Colorado pikeminnow.
“We developed the management plan with input we received at a public meeting in 2010 and comments we have received since then,” said CPW Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin. “Public feedback was critical to form what we feel is a very good vision for future fisheries management of Rifle Gap.”
Rifle Gap Reservoir currently features both cold and cool/warm water species, including rainbow and brown trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike and black crappie. Walleye and smallmouth bass have self-sustained in the reservoir since they were stocked by the former Colorado Division of Wildlife in 1972, prior to the existence of the Recovery Program. No additional smallmouth bass, walleye, or any other cool/warm water species have been stocked by state wildlife managers since the initial introduction.
Until the proposed LMP is approved, CPW may not stock any fish species other than trout into Rifle Gap Reservoir, under the terms of the ‘Procedures for Stocking Non-native Fish Species in the Upper Colorado River Basin’.
“CPW will remain judicious in terms of which sport fish species will be stocked and managed as we continue our native fish recovery efforts,” said Northwest Region Senior Aquatic Biologist Sherman Hebein. “That is our responsibility as partners in the program.”
As currently written, the proposed LMP allows for the introduction and management of black crappie, yellow perch, rainbow and brown trout and triploid walleye, all non-native sport fish which are compatible with Recovery Program goals. The triploid version of walleye is sterile and typically grows faster than non-sterile walleye because energy is devoted to growth rather than reproduction. This makes the species attractive to many anglers as well as the Recovery Program.
Because of their severe impacts to native fish, smallmouth bass and northern pike are considered ‘non-compatible’ with recovery efforts. Further introduction or stocking of these species in the Upper Colorado River Basin is strongly discouraged by the Recovery Program.
“This is a good proposed plan and has the potential to lead to an even better fishery than we have now,” said Rifle Gap State Park Manager Brian Palcer. “CPW manages our parks and our wildlife together with the public’s input and cooperation and that worked well as the plan came together; however, we will also need cooperation from the public into the future to maintain Rifle Gap as a destination fishery.”
CPW officials add that the public’s support will not only help with recovery efforts for native fish, it will also facilitate continuing efforts to bring quality sport fishing to Western Colorado.
“We have a biologically sound LMP proposed for Rifle Gap,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager JT Romatzke. “We thank everyone that has contributed to this plan. We are doing what we can to give our anglers a variety of opportunities while simultaneously meeting the requirements of the Recovery Program.”
The Rifle Gap Reservoir Proposed LMP will undergo a 60-day review process. During this time period, Recovery Program partners will have the opportunity to add comments and revise as necessary before granting final approval.
For more information about the Rifle Gap Proposed Lake Management Plan, visit http://www.cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/RifleGapReservoirManagement.aspx, or contact CPW Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
For the 2014 Youth and Water blog series, we’ve covered:
- Water demand
- Water quality and water treatment
- Water conservation
- Journey of Denver’s water
And, for the last post in this series, we’re taking you underground …
Week six: groundwater and infrastructure
There is a lot happening below the ground that you can’t see. Let’s discuss two of them.
Even though the journey of water for Denver’s supply begins as surface water, groundwater is a very important part of the water cycle.
After it rains or snows, water infiltrates into the ground and percolates down through the spaces between soil, sand and rocks. Many people across Colorado and the world rely on groundwater for their water supply, and they use wells to pull groundwater up to the surface.
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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Selenium levels in the Arkansas River will be discussed during a tour and meeting next week in Rocky Ford. Selenium is a naturally occurring element that is necessary for life, but high concentrations threaten fish. Elevated levels of selenium on Fountain Creek and in the Arkansas River have caused concern for more than a decade.
A tour will begin at 2 p.m. May 29 at the Arkansas Valley Research Center east of Rocky Ford, followed by a free dinner at 5:30 p.m. and meeting from 6 to 8 p.m.
Two state water quality leaders, Dick Parachini of Colorado and Tom Stiles of Kansas, will talk about current water quality and discuss why selenium management is needed.
Tim Gates and Ryan Bailey of Colorado State University will present findings from 10 years of selenium-related studies and recommend best management practices.
Attendees then will be invited to discuss options and resources needed to implement the recommendations.
More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.
From KJCT8 (Lindsey Pallares):
Western Slope fifth graders dive into learning about H-2-0 at the Ute Children’s Water Festival.
Nearly 2500 students from Mesa, Garfield, and Delta counties crowded the Colorado Mesa University campus on Monday to explore all that water has to offer.
Fifth graders attended lectures and participated in activities involving everything from water conservation to building and launching water rockets.
“The kids look forward to this all year, they know about in 4th graders and it’s almost become a rite of passage for the 5th graders here in Mesa County,” says Joseph Burtard of the Ute Water Conservancy District.
Water is one of the most valuable resources in Colorado and presenters want to ensure that the youth learn about its importance early on.
Presenters hope that by interacting with all the water professionals that contribute to the festival they’ll get excited about a future career in water.
It was a grand time the other day cycling along the South Platte and hearing about current projects, operations, hopes and plans.
The tour was from the Confluence of Clear Creek and the South Platte River to Confluence Park where Cherry Creek joins the river.
Along the way we heard about Clear Creek, water quality in the South Platte Basin, infrastructure investments, and education programs.
A recurring theme was the effort to reach out to a younger generation through the school system.
Darren Mollendor explained that the program he honchos attempts to get the students to connect to their neighborhood parks. This includes an understanding of pollution, pollution abatement, and habitat improvement. He invited us all to go camping at Cherry Creek Reservoir when students from the upper and lower Cherry Creek watershed get together later this summer.
Michael Bouchard (Denver Parks and Recreation) detailed planned improvements along the river through Denver. Most of the new facilities will also have an education focus, including native flora at some locations.
Metro Wastewater is one of the largest clean water utilities in the nation, according to Steve Rogowski. The Metro District is directing a huge investment to comply with tougher treatment standards.
At the Burlington Ditch diversion Gray Samenfink explained operations under the ditch. The ditch is a supply for Barr Lake, other reservoirs, and direct irrigators. Several municipalities also take water off the ditch. The new diversion and flood control structure replaced the old dam at the location.
Caitlin Coleman (Colorado Foundation for Water Education) was tasked with keeping the tour on track. That was no easy task. When you get young and older, students, water resources folks, educators, conservationists, scientists, attorneys, engineers, and ditch riders together there’s going to be a lot of stuff to talk about.
Click here to go to the CFWE website. Become a member while you are there. That way you’ll know about these cool events in advance so you won’t miss the fun.
More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.
Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:
Back when we first learned to write essays, we all learned that we needed to have a thesis statement. The thesis outlined the main argument of the essay, and all points covered in our writing needed to tie back to this statement.
An interpretive programs, like an essay, should have a theme that not only ties together information, but may provoke the audience to make new connections to the resource discussed.
Coming up with a topic for a program is usually easy, but determining the theme can be much more difficult. What’s the difference? A topic is usually a broad concept, the subject of the presentation: water, irrigation, prior appropriation, riparian restoration. A theme is the central idea of the program, the thesis statement. You can use your theme to tie together all the subsidiary topics you cover, as well as the goals and objectives for your program.
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Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
In our Youth Education series, we’ve followed a snowflake from the time it lands in our watershed through the journey it takes within our distribution system, including the complex treatment process. We’ve also highlighted the importance of conserving our most precious resource — water.
But, have you ever thought about how you use water?
Denver Water is constantly thinking about how customers use water now, and how that use may change in the future. By analyzing customer water-use patterns, we are able to better plan for an adequate supply of clean, reliable water in the next 50 years and beyond.
Week three: Water demand
Because Denver Water serves a wide range of customers — single- and multi-family homes, parks, businesses and many others — that all use water differently, it is important for Denver Water to understand the complexities behind how each uses water.Here is the breakdown of…
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— Gigi Richard (@igig42) May 5, 2014
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
This summer, Audubon will be releasing FlightMap, an interactive Google Earth-based tool that enables users to take a virtual bird’s-eye-view fly-over of rivers in the Colorado River Basin.
Along the flight, users will encounter interactive pop-up boxes with important information about each river—from birds and other wildlife to conservation stories, from on-the-ground volunteer opportunities to action alerts. Audubon’s FlightMap will enable users to see what is happening on our rivers and learn what they can do to help protect them.
You embody the passion that drives the Western Rivers Action Network, and we want to share that passion to engage new activists and advocates. We invite you to share your stories about the rivers you care about for possible inclusion in FlightMap before May 16th.
Whether it’s just one sentence or longer, we hope you will share your stories and information about our rivers, the wildlife and people that depend on them, the threats to our rivers’ futures, and the actions we can take to protect them.
More education coverage here.
Domestic and irrigation well pumping both come with augmentation requirements under Colorado Water law. Here’s a story about augmentation education and enforcement in the Blue River watershed from Alli Langley writing for the Summit Daily News. Here’s an excerpt:
As water commissioner for District 36 of the state Division of Water Resources, [Troy Wineland] manages water rights in the Blue River basin. This runoff season, he will focus on getting residents using “exempt wells” illegally to change their ways.
“I’m just continually optimistic,” he said, that “if given the information people will make better choices, the right choices.”
Of the county’s 2,500 wells, three-quarters are exempt, meaning the prior appropriation system that governs Colorado water rights doesn’t apply to them…
Exempt wells aren’t shut off during shortages because they require special sewage systems that return used water to the ground. If done properly, the water loss is about 5 percent, which the law says isn’t enough to impact those with senior water rights.
Permits for exempt wells say water must be used only inside the walls of a single-family housing unit and restrict the amount used per year. Owners can pay to use water in ways that violate their permit as long as they augment the water, or ensure that the used water won’t affect the surrounding watershed and senior water rights.
Summit well owners can buy augmented water through the county or Vidler Water Co.
In the next six weeks, Wineland will knock on hundreds of doors where people without the right permits are irrigating, filling hot tubs or using water in other illegal ways. If the well owners are home, he’ll talk with them about the rules and why they’re important.
“You have to back out from the micro level. ‘Oh, this is my own little fiefdom, and what I do here is not going to affect anyone else,’” he said. Remember the long-term drought and projected shortages, he said. Think about the hundreds of nearby wells and cumulative impact on local streams and rivers. They feed the Colorado River, which supplies seven states.
He’ll explain the options: Stop the illegal use or get an augmentation contract. Most people are responsive, he said. They just didn’t know or didn’t think it was important.
In a couple of weeks, if well owners haven’t done anything, he’ll issue a courtesy warning and deadline. After that deadline, violators will receive an injunction and be fined for unpermitted uses: $500 a day.
People who contact Wineland by July 1 with the necessary information will have until June 1, 2015, to get into compliance.
“I’m going to put it in their hands and say, ‘Hey, you can do this on your own time line,’” he said, “‘or if I come and knock on your door, you can adhere to my time line,’ which is much tighter, more than likely 30 days.”
Meanwhile groundwater sub-district 1 implementation rolls on, with state approval of their augmentation plan, in the San Luis Valley. Here’s a report from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier:
Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer Dick Wolfe approved the 2014 Annual Replacement Plan for Subdistrict No. 1 on Monday. The state decision will be submitted to the Division No. 3 Water Court today, April 29. Wolfe determined the plan adequately identified sources and amounts of replacement water and remedies the subdistrict would use to make up for injurious stream depletions this year.
The sub-district plans to use up to 2,806 acre feet of transbasin water; up to 5,608 acre feet of Santa Maria Reservoir water; up to 2,500 acre feet of Closed Basin Project water; and up to 4,300 acre feet of forbearance water to meet its obligations this year.
The forbearance agreements are with the Rio Grande Canal Water Users Association (up to 2,000 acre feet); San Luis Valley Irrigation District (up to 1,000 acre feet); San Luis Valley Canal Company (up to 400 acre feet); Prairie Ditch Company (up to 100 acre feet); Monte Vista Water Users Association (up to 300 acre feet); and Commonwealth Irrigation Company-Empire Canal (up to 500 acre feet.) Water currently in storage will be released from the Rio Grande, Santa Maria and Continental Reservoirs at the direction of the division engineer to replace injurious stream depletions in time, location and amounts that they occur, beginning May 1.
Wolfe approved the annual replacement plan with about a dozen terms and conditions including daily replacement water accounting every month to the local division office and replacement water deliveries in a manner acceptable to the division engineer.
The terms also excluded the use of “Big Ruby” water, water purchased from Navajo Development Company (John Parker II) in the last two years and held in Rio Grande Reservoir but previously stored in Big Ruby Reservoir. Wolfe stated his office had not yet received all of the information it required to approve a Substitute Water Supply Plan application so he was denying the use of Big Ruby water in the Annual Replace Plan.
“The approval of this ARP is made with the understanding that if the ARP proves insufficient to remedy injurious stream depletions, the State Engineer has the authority to invoke the retained jurisdiction of the Division No. 3 Water Court,” Wolfe stated.
Wolfe’s approval followed approval locally by the subdistrict board of managers and the board for the subdistrict’s sponsoring district, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. The plan is required each year to show how the water management sub-district will replace injurious stream depletions caused by well pumping in the sub-district area. The sub-district encompasses more than 3,400 wells pumping about 230,000 acre feet annually on about 163,500 irrigated acres. The amount of pumping in the sub-district has decreased from nearly 308,000 acre feet in 2010 and nearly 325,000 acre feet in 2011 to about 259,000 acre feet in 2012 and approximately 228,500 acre feet last year.
The Annual Replacement Plan anticipates well pumping this year to be about what it was last year.
A groundwater model is used to calculate depletions the sub-district must remedy each year. The only river for which the groundwater model predicts depletions from Sub-district No. 1 is the Rio Grande. This year the estimated total depletions affecting the Rio Grande due to past and projected pumping is 3,971 acre feet. The total lag stream depletions from prior and projected pumping total more than 30,000 acre feet. The sub-district is required to make up those depletions over time in addition to the ongoing depletions.
The state is holding the sponsoring water district financially responsible to make up those lag depletions if Sub-district No. 1 goes under. In previous years Subdistrict No. 1 has offered fallowing programs, with more than 8,200 irrigated acres fallowed to some extent last year. This year the sub-district is not offering that program but is relying on other measures such as the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) re-authorized in the new Farm Bill and administered through USDA Farm Service Agency offices. FSA offices have informed the sub-district that sign-up for the Rio Grande CREP would resume sometime in May.
More groundwater coverage here.
From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Callie Jones):
This year’s festival included 10 stations, including the GPS mapping station, where Morgan County Extension Agent Marlin Eisenach spoke about how farmers use GPS mapping to plow, so they don’t use too much agricultural herbicide or insecticide and they can save as much fuel as possible…
At the groundwater station, Extension Agent Molly Witzel, from Burlington, spoke about watershed, an area where smaller bodies of water flow into bigger bodies of water; an aquifer, “a big underground lake;” and other groundwater terms. She also spoke about what happened during the South Platte River flood last fall…
A rangeland ecology station had students learning about the different plants and animals that can be found on rangeland. Logan County Extension Agent Casey Matney talked about the importance of rangeland, because it has trees, animals and water.
At a plant science station the fifth graders learned about the difference between dicot and monocot plants, they got to see different types of seeds and they learned about how plants grow.
From the Summit Daily News (Ali Langley):
About 80 people — water managers, weather experts, government officials and interested community members — attended the event hosted by the Colorado River District at the Community Center in Frisco Tuesday, May 6. Discussion revolved around snowpack, runoff, flooding and the state water plan…
[Joanna Hopkins, board president of Blue River Watershed Group] spoke about the group’s restoration project of Ten Mile Creek, impacted by decades of mining, railroads, highways and development, and presented before and after photos of the work. The group will now focus attention on restoration of the Upper Swan River Watershed, where dredge boats in the early 20th century mined for 2 miles and the group and its partners will work to turn the river “right side up.”[...]
[Troy Wineland, water commissioner for the Blue River basin] pointed to a graph and asked the audience to consider this year’s snowpack levels. “What does that surplus, that bonus, that cream on the top, what does that mean to you?” he said. Better rafting, some said. Fishing. Full reservoirs…
Bob Steger, water resources engineer with Denver Water, discussed Dillon Reservoir operations. The utility’s main priorities for the reservoir are maintaining its water supply and reducing flood risk, he said, but it also considers boating, rafting, kayaking, fishing, endangered fish and its upcoming construction project.
The utility began lowering the reservoir level in late February, just like in other high-snowpack years, he said. Going forward, the reservoir will start filling in mid-May or June, depending on whether the spring is wet or dry.
The Roberts Tunnel, which brings water from Dillon to Denver, won’t be turned on until mid-June or July, he said, and the utility will replace the large gates that control outflow to the Blue River likely sometime between August and October…
Ron Thomasson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation who oversees Green Mountain Reservoir operations, said he expects to fill that reservoir in mid-July.
He talked about how more runoff will improve habitat for four endangered fish species in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River and showed his “obligatory snowpack graph.” Then he presented spaghetti plots to explain that when experts say “most probable scenario” what they really mean is, “It’s actually no more probable than any other scenario. It just happens to be in the middle.”[...]
explained the rare conditions that combined to cause record-breaking flooding in the Boulder area in September. Then he switched to the “crazy winter that you just lived through” in Summit and what to expect in the six- to eight-week runoff season produced by seven months of snow.
He joked about the polar vortex, a phenomenon that’s been around forever but didn’t make the media until this winter, and he showed more spaghetti plots saying, “Those averages are beautiful. They give us something to think about. They never happen.”
Those excited about a surplus should remember the rest of the state is experiencing drought conditions. “You fared well,” he said. “It’s not always going to work that way, so please be grateful.”
Then he asked for volunteers to help collect real-time precipitation data with rain gauges for http://cocorahs.org.
Jim Pokrandt, chair of the Colorado Basin Roundtable that represents Summit and five other counties, emphasized problems with low levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and focused on the state water plan, which the roundtable is helping to create.
Of the 14 states in the West, Colorado is one of four without a water plan. The other three are Washington, Oregon and Arizona…
“Transmountain diversion should be the last tool out of the box,” he said. “Conservation and reuse needs to be hit hard.”
If a new transmountain diversion must be constructed, it should be done along the lines of the recent agreement between West Slope stakeholders and Denver Water.
One audience member asked why reducing population growth wasn’t one of the considered solutions. Most of the projected growth “is us having children,” Pokrandt said. “It’s the elephant in the room, but it’s the one that you really can’t touch.”
He said in some parts of the Front Range, the untouchable issue is green grass.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Annual State of the Rivers Meeting
“Our Water – This Year and Beyond” is the theme for this year’s report on the state of the Middle Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers. Co-hosted by the Colorado River District and the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, the event will be held on Wednesday, May 14th, at the Garfield County Public Library in Glenwood Springs, from 6:00 to 7:45 pm. Water managers will present information on current and expected reservoir operations and in-stream flows in our basin with an eye towards short- and long-term water supply forecasts. Click here to view a press release and the evening’s agenda.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The sky overhead was slightly overcast, but weather on the campus of Colorado State University-Pueblo was truly tenacious Tuesday at the 17th annual Discover Water in Pueblo children’s water festival. Nearly 1,900 fourth-graders from Pueblo City Schools (D60), District 70 and four private schools attended the daylong event.
Thunderstorms deposited 0.29 and 0.17 inches in rain gauges just inches apart. A young girl gasped as a piece of fence washed downstream in a flood. A pile of snow slowly melted.
Board of Water Works employees repaired broken water mains as crowds looked on.
Inside it wasn’t much calmer, as fourth-graders were grilled about things like how many gallons of water are in an acre-foot (325,851). Meanwhile, Detective Di, a mad scientist, concocted chemical creations.
The Thunderstorms were a pair of Nerf Super Soakers, of course. The flood occurred on a trailer-top model of a watershed. The snow was actually made from shavings from the Pueblo Ice Arena hauled in by the U.S. Forest Service.
The water mains were life-size demonstration models trucked in by the water board.
The grilling of students was part of Water Wizards, sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation.
And, Di works for Mad Science of Colorado.
“I would say learning is more fun,” one boy said, defying his classmates when asked whether it was more rewarding to learn how to read a rain gauge or to fire the Thunderstorm.
The flood-simulation trailer was sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and included a demonstration of how much more dangerous paved surfaces make a downpour.
“Colorado Springs is one giant parking lot. When it floods, it all goes into Fountain Creek,” explained Carl Beeman, who was manning the booth.
Even with all the learning activities, one activity was clearly the favorite: Getting wet. Between fire hoses, irrigation siphons and leaky taps into a water line, there were plenty of opportunities to make a splash.
Primary sponsors of the event are the Pueblo water board, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, St. Charles Mesa Water District, Reclamation, Pueblo West and CSU-Pueblo.
More education coverage here.
Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
Last week’s Youth Education blog post, Youth and water – following a water drop, focused on the movement of water through the water cycle. Now that you understand the journey of Denver’s water — let’s talk about how to conserve our most precious resource.
Week three: Use only what you need
The weather in this area constantly fluctuates (Ebbs and flows highlights the extremes we faced in 2013 alone), but it’s typically dry. Denver receives an average of 15 inches of precipitation each year, which is about a fourth of the precipitation a tropical city such as Miami receives. We’ve also experienced several severe droughts in the past that have challenged our water system. We never know the extent of a dry period or when precipitation may come, so conservation has to be a way of…
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Living West exhibit at the History Colorado Museum takes on #ColoradoRiver diversions now and in the futureMay 4, 2014
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Water, according to Western lore, flows uphill to money. According to a display at the History Colorado Center in Denver, it runs uphill with something else: a grudge.
That’s according to what History Colorado describes as “a groundbreaking new 7,000-square-foot exhibit that explores the living dynamics between the people of Colorado and their state’s extraordinary environment.”
Called “Living West,” the exhibit includes a diorama of Colorado depicting the natural flow of water west from the Continental Divide and the population differential showing the vast majority of people, 80 percent, on the east side of the Rocky Mountains.
“The Western Slope has water, but a small population,” reads the display. “To eastern Colorado, this is a waste; shouldn’t water go where the people are?”
“But piping water east means less for western towns, ranches, and orchards. Western Slope residents believe their future is being sacrificed to benefit the rest of Colorado.”
The text accompanies a photo of a rally in which protesters waved signs emblazoned with slogans such as “Let Our Rivers Run!” and “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry.”
Headlining the text is, “Water comes from the Western Slope (with a grudge.)”
Western Slope residents and water managers said they weren’t consulted on the exhibit, and some suggested that it might be a harbinger of bad feelings to come.
Indeed, the exhibit, which illustrates the way Coloradans from ancient Puebloans to Dust Bowl-era farmers have dealt with drought, is subtitled “The Storm is Coming!”
“Wouldn’t anybody begrudge the fact that their future is being limited?” Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said when told of the exhibit. “I wouldn’t dispute the fact — but I think there are good reasons for it.”
“It sounds like somebody is trivializing the issue,” Acquafresca said.
Kids open pumps
There is more to the Colorado River story than the exhibit suggests, said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, a Western Slope advocacy organization.
“There’s certainly no recognition that seven states rely on the water over here,” Petersen said, referring to Arizona, Colorado, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The diorama is interactive and geared to younger visitors, who can open and close pumps to move water about the state.
“Your job:” the exhibit says, “Send water from Big River in the west to Small River in the east, all the way down to Thirsty Town.”
Another instruction urges visitors to “Crank that pump and keep cranking, Watch the pump move water from Big River into Western Reservoir. This takes water away from Busy City and Dry Throat Ranch.”
That could present an opportunity, Acquafresca said.
“I’d like to go there and direct it back from the east to the west,” Acquafresca said.
“Living West,” according to the History Colorado website, was presented by Denver Water with “generous support” from the Gates Family Foundation.
“Denver Water, yeah, there’s a surprise,” Petersen said.
“Denver Water,” Larry Clever, general manager of the Ute Water Conservancy District in Grand Junction, guessed when told of the exhibit. “I didn’t know. I just figured it was Denver Water.”
“And people wonder why we don’t trust them,” said Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
Denver Water, however, had little to do with the display that prominently bears its name, said spokesman Travis Thompson.
“We had no influence or design on the content of the exhibit,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t for us to tell the story. It was for them to tell the story.”
“Them” is History Colorado, a nonprofit organization previously referred to as the Colorado Historical Society. It’s also a state agency that receives funding under the Division of Higher Education.
A spokesperson for the museum didn’t respond to several requests for comment.
The transmountain diversion display “seems a little biased” toward a Front Range perspective, said David Bailey, curator of history at the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction, who has viewed the exhibit.
“Usually you try to give all a voice,” Bailey said. “Our job is to make you think about the topic, in this case the historic and present-day crisis of water.”
Denver Water is a major transmountain diverter and water provider to 1.3 million customers that just last year reached an agreement with water providers and local governments down the Colorado River Basin that was hailed as marking a new era in east-west water relations.
Lurking beneath the good feelings, however, has been the possibility of a new transmountain diversion. Although Gov. John Hickenlooper’s state water plan is being drafted without identifying one, it is to set out a way by which such a project could be pursued.
And James Lochhead, who heads Denver Water, last month signed a letter on behalf of the Front Range Water Council saying that a new transmountain diversion is a necessity.
Talks about a state water plan “should begin with an assurance, and not simply a hope” for a new project diverting water from the Colorado River to the Front Range.
Western Slope water is now sent east via 24 transmountain diversions that suck up, in a wet year, about 600,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot of water, or 325,851 gallons, is enough to supply about two and a half Front Range households for a year, according to DenverWater.org.
It’s also about 8 percent of the water that the upper Colorado River Basin states are required to deliver to the lower basin under a 1922 compact governing management of the river.
The amount of water diverted east could be crucial in a succession of dry years as the upper and lower basins deal with keeping enough water in Lake Powell to ensure the efficient operation of the electricity-generating turbines and putting enough water into Lake Mead downstream, Clever said.
The issue involves more than diverting water, Clever said.
Front Range water interests “want everybody to pay for a diversion,” Clever said. “They want the West Slope to help pay for taking our water.”
The fact is, said Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, the Colorado River Basin “might not have as much water to give as everybody thinks we do.”
To be certain, Denver Water has lived up to its agreement with the Colorado River Basin, Curran said, but the tone of the exhibit bearing its name and citing the grudging nature of the Western Slope is “somewhat disturbing,” Curran said.
“Does the West Slope grudgingly withhold water?” Curran said. “No, in my opinion. The West Slope wants to have recognition of the needs and uses (of water) on the West Slope.” Those uses aren’t limited to ranches and orchards, Curran said, noting that the West Slope has growing cities and industries of its own, just as on the East Slope.
It’s possible that the message children absorb isn’t one favoring transmountain diversions, Acquafresca said.
“If Denver Water is trying to indoctrinate kids to view water resources as the Front Range does, I think that’s the wrong approach,” Acquafresca said. “Children could easily ask themselves, ‘Shouldn’t water flow where God meant for it to flow?’”
More education coverage here.
Sean Cronin received the 2014 Emerging Leader Award yesterday at the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s President’s Award Reception. Alan Hamel received this year’s President’s Award.
The shindig at the Colorado History Museum is an annual event to recognize leaders in the water community.
Mr. Cronin [St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District] related a life event that helped point him towards a career in water. As a young Eagle Scout eager to serve his community he organized a clean up of a local pond. He remembers now that the clean up of “weeds” included cattails and other wetland flora. Most of those present knew immediately that Sean and his cohorts were rooting around in a wetlands. He admitted that he should have sought a “404 permit.”
He asserted that he didn’t get any callouses on his hands performing his role in the aftermath of the September flooding. He said his blisters showed up in another area from sitting in meeting after meeting. He credits the first responders and the personnel rebuilding the infrastructure along with folk’s lives for doing the real work.
Mr. Hamel continued that theme acknowledging that he knows that successful individuals depend on their network for inspiration, mentoring, and support. He emphasized the importance of communication, honesty, and transparency as values for leaders.
Mr. Hamel retired from the Pueblo Board of Water Works last year after 54 years of service to the community. Retired is a relative term however as he is the currently serving as Vice-Chair for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Click here to read the bios for both awardees from the CFWE website.
More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.
From Yahoo! (Joseph Castro):
Mummy Lake is a sandstone-lined circular pit that was originally 90 feet (27.5 meters) across and 22 feet (6.65 m) deep. In 1917, American naturalist Jesse Walter Fewkes pegged the structure as a prehistoric water reservoir. Several subsequent studies of Mummy Lake have also supported this view, leading the National Parks Service to officially name the structure “Far View Reservoir” in 2006. (Far View refers to the group of archaeological structures located on the northern part of the park’s Chapin Mesa ridge, where Mummy Lake is also situated.)
In the new study, researchers analyzed the hydrologic, topographic, climatic and sedimentary features of Mummy Lake and the surrounding cliff area. They concluded that, contrary to what previous research had determined, the pit wouldn’t have effectively collected or distributed water…
“The fundamental problem with Mummy Lake is that it’s on a ridge,” said study lead author Larry Benson, an emeritus research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct curator of anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. “It’s hard to believe that Native Americans who understood the landscape and were in need of water would have decided to build a reservoir on that ridge.”[...]
To test this reservoir theory, Benson and his colleagues first analyzed the topography and hydrology of the ridge using GPS surveys, high-resolution imagery and digital elevation models.
They found that the ditches leading from Mummy Lake to the southern structures couldn’t have functioned as water canals or irrigation distribution systems. The ditches would have easily spilled water over the canyon edge at various points if it didn’t have walls controlling the water flow (which don’t appear to have existed).
Next, the team used climate models to investigate Mummy Lake’s potential to store water. They found that even in the wettest year on record, 1941, the pit would have gotten less than a foot of water from winter and spring precipitation by the end of April. This water would have completely evaporated by the end of July, when it’s most needed for crops.
The researchers then tested if a hypothetical feeder ditch could actually provide Mummy Lake with water. “The engineering and sediment transport work showed that any water in the ditch would start moving so much dirt that it would block the path,” Benson said. That is, soil would have quickly clogged the ditch after regular rainfall, preventing the water from reaching Mummy Lake…
Benson and his colleagues propose Mummy Lake is an unroofed ceremonial structure, not unlike the ancient kivas and plazas elsewhere in the Southwest. They noted that the structure is similar in size to a great kiva found at a Pueblohistorical site near Zuni, N.M. It also resembles a ball court and amphitheater at the Puebloan village of Wupatki in Arizona — interestingly, Fewkes also thought these two structures were reservoirs.
Furthermore, the ditches connecting Mummy Lake to Far View Village, Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace aren’t canals to transport water, but rather Chacoan ceremony roads with similar dimensions to Chacoan roads that exist at other sites in the San Juan Basin, the researchers argue.
Two decades ago, researchers studying the Manuelito Canyon Community of New Mexico discovered the Ancestral Puebloan population had an evolving ritual landscape. Over the centuries, the Manuelito people relocated the ritual focus of their community several times. Each time they moved, they built ceremonial roads to connect their retired great houses and great kivas to the new complexes.
Benson and his colleagues suspect the same thing happened at Mesa Verde. Mummy Lake was built as early as A.D. 900, around the same time as the rest of the Far View group of structures; Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House, on the other hand, date to the early 1200s. The researchers think the community relocated to the latter structures between A.D. 1225 and 1250, and connected their past with their present using the ceremonial roads…
The study was detailed in the April issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
More San Juan River Basin coverage here.
Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:
As water educators and interpreters, we want our audiences to care about water. This is seemingly simple – every person on the planet depends on water – but its ubiquity often means that people take water for granted. How then can interpreters help audiences to appreciate water and care about water issues?
As already covered in this series, interpretive programs should provoke an audience to learn more about the topic, rather than cover it exhaustively. The interpreter needs knowledge not only of the resource but of the audience being addressed. The interpreter should appeal to what the audience members already know or have already experienced. The interpreter seeks to illuminate the bigger picture, using universal concepts, which everyone can understand regardless of background. Interpreters also work to facilitate connections between audiences and a resource, and these connections are usually intellectual or emotional.
Facilitating “A-ha!” moments
Intellectual connections increase…
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Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
Drought or no drought, smart water use is essential
Denver Water’s summer watering rules begin May 1
Denver — April 28, 2014 — After responding to multiple years of drought conditions, Denver Water stresses the importance of using water efficiently, regardless of the weather.
“We just came out of a severe drought, and our customers did a great job of answering our call to save even more water than usual last year,” said Greg Fisher, Denver Water’s manager of demand planning. “But, water conservation isn’t a drought response; it must be a permanent way of life for all of us.”
To help eliminate outdoor water waste, Denver Water implements annual summer water use rules, which begin May 1, 2014.
The watering rules, which help facilitate smart irrigation, include:
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Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
Last week’s Youth Education blog post, Youth and water – our future depends on it, focused on watersheds, where the journey of water begins within Denver Water’s collection system. Watersheds are only a small portion of the complete water cycle, however, so this week we’ll look at the water cycle in its entirety.
Week two: Journey of water – the water cycle
- How does water move through the water cycle? The Project Wet Foundation’s chapter on The Water Cycle provides information, activities, vocabulary and much more around the never-ending movement of water.
- The U.S. Geological Survey provides an interactive graphic highlighting how Earth’s water is always changing form and moving around the Earth. Start with the beginner diagram and work your way up to the intermediate and advanced diagrams for a comprehensive study of the complete water…
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Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:
Colorado’s challenging environment has shaped the state’s history and its people, and perhaps the greatest shaping factor has been water. Water has largely determined where people lived and how they survived, and water continues to challenge Coloradans today. The Living West exhibit at History Colorado invites visitors to explore three water-related chapters of Colorado’s history: Mesa Verde, the Dust Bowl, and Colorado’s Mountains. Water abundance and shortages shape all three episodes. The residents of Mesa Verde harnessed water for crops and livestock, only to experience severe drought; drought, fragile soil, volatile prices, and debt devastated many Baca County farms in the 1930s; and today we see many environmental changes in the mountains while we struggle to provide enough water for all.
Lovers of water and Colorado’s history (and present and future) will find a lot to enjoy in this exhibit. Here are seven things you won’t want to miss:
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AWRA – Colorado Section EARLY BIRD PRICES EXTENDED : MAY 2 Annual Symposium – Water Hazards: From Risk to RecoveryApril 21, 2014
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):
…it’s important to note that “nobody is digging a new tunnel tomorrow,” and organizations like the Glenwood Springs-based River District are active at the table in working to protect Western Colorado interests in the face of growing Front Range water needs, [Jim Pokrandt] said.
“There are a lot of top-10 lists when it comes to rivers and water conservation,” Pokrandt said in reaction to the listing last Wednesday by the nonprofit conservation group American Rivers. “It’s a good way to generate publicity for these various causes.”
American Rivers calls on Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to prevent new water diversions and instead prioritize protection of Western Slope rivers and water conservation measures in the Colorado Water Plan, which remains in discussions through a roundtable process that involves stakeholders from across the state.
Already, about 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water per year is diverted from the Colorado basin to the Front Range, Pokrandt noted.
The prospect of more diversions “is definitely being advocated in some quarters from those who say a new project is not a question of if, but when and how soon,” he said.
“We’re saying that’s a big ‘if,’ because there are a lot of big issues around that.”
Pokrandt said any new trans-mountain diversions are “questionable, if it’s even possible.” That’s primarily because of the Colorado River Compact with down-river states that guarantees their share of river water.
“It’s important that we don’t overdevelop the river, and any more transmountain diversions should be the last option out of the box [for Front Range needs],” said. “First and foremost, it behooves all of Colorado to be more efficient in our water use.”[...]
Pokrandt notes that many municipalities across the state, not just the Front Range, are scrambling to find water to take care of projected population growth. That means more water demand on both sides of the Continental Divide.
“But there’s a big question about how much water is really left to develop,” he said. “There’s also an economic benefit to leaving water in the river without developing it, so there’s that issue as well.”[...]
Another Colorado river on the American Rivers endangered list this year is the White River, which was No. 7 due to the threat of oil and gas development and the risk to fish and wildlife habitat, clean water and recreation opportunities.
The White River flows from the northern reaches of the Flat Tops through Rio Blanco County and into the Green River in northeastern Utah.
“Major decisions this year will determine whether we can safeguard the White River’s unique wild values for future generations,” said Matt Rice of American Rivers in their Wednesday news release.
From the Vail Daily (Melanie Wong):
The conservation group American Rivers releases the annual list, and rivers that are threatened include sections of the Colorado that run through Eagle County, including headwater rivers, which include the Eagle River.
According to the group, the river is threatened as many Front Range cities look for future water sources to meet growing municipal and industrial needs. Some of those communities are eyeing various parts of the Colorado for diversion.
Advocates hope the list garners some national awareness and spurs lawmakers to prevent new water diversions and prioritize river protection and water conservation measures in the state water plan.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Ken Neubecker, of American Rivers. “We cannot afford more outdated, expensive and harmful water development schemes that drain and divert rivers and streams across the Upper Colorado Basin. If we want these rivers to continue to support fish, wildlife, agriculture and a multi-billion dollar tourism industry, we must ensure the rivers have enough water.”[...]
For decades, Front Range growth has been fed by Western Slope rivers. Around a half million acres of water is already being diverted east from the Upper Colorado and growing cities need more. The problem with diversions, said Neubecker, is that the water leaves the Western Slope forever, citing a proposed project to tap into Summit County’s Blue Mountain Reservoir and divert water from the Blue River.
“Grand and Summit counties are justifiably worried about a Green Mountain pumpback, and so should Eagle County, because that project isn’t possible without a Wolcott reservoir,” he said. “With water diverted to the Front Range, we never see it again. It has serious impacts on us as far as drought and growth. It’s a finite resource.”
Historically, there have been agreements that have benefited both the Western and Eastern slopes, and river advocates said they want to see more such projects. The Colorado Cooperative Agreement, announced in 2011, involved the cooperation of many Eagle County entities. The Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding, signed in 1998, was also a major victory for mountain communities, significantly capping the amount of water that could be taken at the Homestake Reservoir and keeping some water in Eagle County.
Another settlement with Denver Water in 2007 was a big win for the local water community, said Diane Johnson, of Eagle River Water and Sanitation. “Denver Water gave up a huge amount of water rights, pretty much everything leading into Gore Creek, and as for a Wolcott Reservoir, it could only be developed with local entities in control,” she said. “Things are done more collaboratively now. It’s not the 1960s and ’70s anymore, where the Front Range developed the rivers without thought of how it affected local communities.”[...]
A new Colorado State University report commissioned by the Eagle River Watershed Council studied the state of the Eagle River.
“It’s clearly showing that the biggest threat to this portion of the Upper Colorado is reduced flows. It’s impacting wildlife for sure, most notably the fish,” said the council’s executive director Holly Loff.
With less water, the average river temperature is rising, and many cold-water fish have either been pushed out or killed as a result. Less water also means less riparian (riverside) habitat, an ecosystem that supports 250 species of animals. Of course, less water also affects river recreation and means there’s less water to drink.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.