“It’s a way for us to cross boundaries and work together” — Alan Hamel #COWaterPlan

September 2, 2014
Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A state water plan probably won’t make anyone’s wildest dreams come true, but it could provide a framework to get things done.

“It’s a way for us to cross boundaries and work together,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation board. “We have worked with the Rio Grande and South Platte basins. We need to reach across the Continental Divide as well.”

Hamel’s comments were among many heard by the state Legislature’s interim water resources committee as part of a statewide listening tour on the water plan. The panel spent three hours at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library, hearing strong messages about regulation, conservation and storage.

“We represent an extremely wide variety of water users and water issues,” said Betty Konarski, chairwoman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. The roundtable has met since 2005 to sort out water issues in the basin. “We are both a (water) importing and exporting basin, and we have the second-highest gap in the state. But it’s not uniform.”

Hamel and Konarski highlighted the need for the roundtables. There have been 22 public outreach meetings on the state water plan alone, generating hundreds of comments. Hamel lauded the $56 million in state Water Supply Reserve Account grants that, coupled with CWCB loans, have already gone a long way toward completing projects that will reduce the looming water gap.

The legislators participated in small-group discussions and heard testimony that generated a flood of water-related suggestions.

Some of the key points included:

  • Gary Bostrom, chief of water services for Colorado Springs Utilities, talked about a 50-year water plan now under development by Utilities that mirrors the state water plan. Future water projects must look at regional cooperation rather than just filling urban needs, he said.

    “We need to support alternative water transfer methods,” Bostrom said. “They won’t be successful if the regulations are as difficult as permanent transfers.”

  • Marge Vorndam, of Trout Unlimited, said water for farms needs to be preserved because it supports flows in the upper reaches of the Arkansas River system.

    “The state water plan should be addressing the limits of growth,” she added. “What is the maximum population that can be served?”

  • Kiera Hatton of Pueblo suggested that the state needs to be more proactive in supporting urban conservation measures such as graywater reuse and rainwater collection that could reduce the amount of water usage.
  • Bob Leach, a Pueblo developer, told the committee that local regulations should not be one-size-fits-all, and emphasized the need for local control of projects.
  • Sean Chambers, manager of the Cherokee Metro District near Colorado Springs, said the state should remove barriers to groundwater storage.
  • A draft state plan is scheduled to be completed in December, with adoption of a final plan scheduled one year later.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Water storage ‘absolutely’ part of #COWaterPlan — Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    September 1, 2014

    unionpark
    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    Western Slope water storage is “absolutely” a part of the Colorado water plan that is to be complete in just over a year, said the head of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. James Eklund, however, declined to offer specifics about any discussions.

    U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., this week told the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel that he and Gov. John Hickenlooper have discussed the possibility of high-elevation water storage to benefit the Western Slope. He was unable to offer specifics, but said the conversation began in late August at the Colorado Water Congress.

    Eklund, who is in charge of drawing together the suggestions of water roundtables from the state’s basins to draft the statewide plan, said it recognizes the need for storage.

    “Colorado’s water challenges require that we consider options that include both conservation and storage,” Eklund said in an email. “Conservation and storage go hand-in-hand in addressing our water-supply gap.”

    The state water plan also contemplates the idea of a transmountain diversion, but no specific proposal has been made.

    Hickenlooper’s office didn’t respond directly to inquiries about conversations with Tipton.

    A Western Slope storage project, however, is “an intriguing idea,” said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy district, noting that the idea has long been recognized as a need. Club 20, however, has no information about such a project, she said.

    The Colorado River Water Conservation District, likewise, had no information about any such project, though spokesman Chris Treese said several projects are being pursued.

    The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement with Denver Water, agreements affecting the Eagle River, rebuilding the old Dillon Reservoir and a variety of other projects are continuing.

    Collectively, “There are 65,000 to 75,000 acre-feet on the table right now,” Treese said.

    Chatter about transmountain diversions could prove to be of ultimate benefit to a Western Slope project, Treese said.

    “We built Wolford Mountain (Reservoir) in the shadow of Two Forks,” Treese said, referring to a now-defunct proposal to divert Western Slope water to the South Platte River drainage to be stored behind Two Forks Dam.

    Wolford Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling includes compensatory storage for the Western Slope as well as storage for the Front Range.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    “Fish don’t have water rights, so it’s easy to lose sight of their needs” — Jan Scott #COWaterPlan

    August 29, 2014
    Durango

    Durango

    From The Durango Herald (Ann Butler):

    Water is a complicated and controversial issue in Southwest Colorado, and more than 100 people showed up Wednesday night to share their thoughts and concerns with the Colorado General Assembly’s Water Resources Review Committee. It’s holding meetings around the state to collect comments about the Colorado Water Plan now being developed

    “There is no group of people who appreciate a drop of water more than the people of Southwest Colorado,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who sits on the Water Resources Committee. “If you ask people in Denver where they get their water, they’ll say their kitchen sink. Or they’ll say they get their food from the grocery store.”

    Mike Preston is the chairman of the Southwest Basin Roundtable, which is putting together Southwest Colorado’s recommendations for this area’s section of the plan. He shared highlights and summaries from the group’s draft. And then attendees were off.

    Among the most frequent comments:

    Increasing storage is key because more of Colorado’s water is leaving the state than we are required to release based on compacts and agreements. Increasing storage on the Front Range as well as here was one suggested answer.

    “But we have to balance storage with environmental concerns downriver,” said Jon Scott, who works with the Animas Watershed Partnership. “Fish don’t have water rights, so it’s easy to lose sight of their needs.”

    Practicing conservation is essential for Coloradans and people in downriver states who use Colorado’s water.

    “Individuals want to have nice green lawns,” said Jesse Lasater, who farms 500 acres in the Pine River Valley. “But it doesn’t make sense to take water away from the people who are putting food on the table for green lawns.”

    Protecting water rights might be required. Water is a property right in Colorado. Pending federal regulations may threaten those rights. There were concerns that federal regulations and this new Colorado Water Plan might trump existing, and valuable, water rights.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Weigh in on the #COWaterPlan

    August 28, 2014

    Flyer-Colorado Water Plan

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Meeting growth estimates with conservation, adios bluegrass? #COWaterPlan #drought

    August 27, 2014
    Sprawl

    Sprawl

    From KUNC (Stephanie Paige Ogburn):

    As Colorado plans for a future with more people and less water, some in the world of water are turning to the problem of lawns.

    In the 2014 legislative session, state senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) introduced a bill [.pdf] that would limit lawns in new developments if they took water from farms. Although the bill was changed dramatically before it passed, that proposal opened up a statewide conservation about how water from agriculture and the Western Slope is used – particularly when it is growing Front Range grass.

    Roberts’ proposed bill set at 15 percent the amount lawn area in new developments, excluding parks and open space, said Steve Harris, the Durango water engineer who pitched her the idea.

    “So essentially 15 percent kind of worked out to being that you could have grass in the backyard or front yard, one or the other, but not both,” said Harris.

    The bill did not pass in its original form, and the issues it addressed were referred to a committee. Now, the conversation about using ag water to grow lawns has morphed into one about the ratio of indoor to outdoor water use, said Harris.

    Indoor water is generally recycled, as water goes back into the system, whereas much of the water used for landscapes does not make it back into the water treatment system.

    Statewide, that indoor/outdoor ratio is about half-and-half – numbers from Denver Water, which serves residential customers in the city and in many surrounding suburbs, match the state average. The city of Greeley uses a slightly higher percentage of its water for outdoor use, with 45 percent going to indoor uses and 55 percent outdoors.

    Harris’s part of the state, though, is pushing for change. In its basin plan released July 31 as part of the state’s water planning process, the Southwest Region called for water providers to aim for a 60-40 ratio by the year 2030. For those taking new water from agriculture or the Western Slope, the standard would be even higher, with a ratio of 70 percent indoor to 30 percent outdoor use…

    The idea of setting limits on that grass, though, is receiving pushback from Front Range water utilities and developers. Many utilities point to their existing leadership in conservation, and say a statewide limit takes control away from localities.

    But many in rural Colorado are wary of drying up ag land for development. The Colorado Farm Bureau supports limits on farm water being used for turf.

    “The rural areas are saying, wait a minute, we are not keen on taking out productive commercial agriculture that is producing something so that you can grow grass in your front yard,” said Harris.

    Beckwith and Harris both see Colorado as a place where a discussion on indoor versus outdoor use is just beginning. At some point, said Harris, there will be limits on water use for lawns in Colorado. It’s just a matter of when.

    Right now, there is little consensus between Colorado’s different basins on how water use for new lawns should be limited, or even if it should be. But, said Harris, based on the bill from last year’s session, at least there is now a conversation about it.

    “If we wanted to create talk, we have created talk,” he said.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Pueblo: The next Water Resources Review Committee public meeting is August 29 #COWaterPlan

    August 25, 2014

    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com


    From the Bent County Democrat (Randy Fischer):

    “Water is essential to Colorado’s quality of life and economy, but our ability to maintain those values will be challenged by a growing population, increasing demands for water, and limited supplies of this precious resource.”

    These words appear on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website, describing the need for and purpose of the proposed Colorado Water Plan, which is to be drafted by the end of 2014 under an executive order signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013.

    Our goal for the Water Plan is to provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need in the future while seeking to maintain such divergent values as healthy watersheds and environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.

    Colorado’s Water Plan will build on eight years of extremely valuable water supply planning work by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the Inter-Basin Compact Committee and the nine Basin Roundtables, one for each of the major watersheds in the state.

    In 2014, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 14-115, which also recognized the need to engage the general public in the water planning process by gathering input through a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado. SB-115 directs the legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC) to convene these meetings, gather public input, and provide comment on the draft Water Plan by Nov. 1.

    The next of these public meetings is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. at the Rawlings Library, 100 East Abriendo Ave. in Pueblo. This hearing is for everyone who lives in the Arkansas River drainage, from Leadville to the Kansas border. I invite and encourage all residents of the Arkansas Basin to attend this important meeting.

    The WRRC recognizes that water issues inherently involve competing values that cannot all be resolved through technological or technical fixes. Different groups bring different values to the conversation. There is no “right” way to balance these competing interests and values. Through SB-115, the WRRC is asking the public to help make Colorado’s Water Plan a better document that seeks to represent the values of all state residents.

    The WRRC also recognizes that the Colorado Water Plan will identify difficult choices and tradeoffs that will need to be made to plan for and create a sustainable water future. SB-115 envisions a public process that lays out these choices and tradeoffs facing Colorado and seeks to find a way through public input to navigate the difficult issues that lie ahead.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Whatever else is in it, the biggest element of #COWaterPlan plan will be cooperation — Chris Woodka

    August 24, 2014


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Whatever else is in it, the biggest element of Colorado’s water plan will be cooperation.

    “Water can either divide or unite us. In the end, it’s our choice,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told the Colorado Water Congress last week. “In this state, we work together, and we have to make sure it doesn’t divide us.”

    When Hickenlooper called for a state water plan last year, it had a direct impact on most of the water professionals attending the summer workshop. Four months from the finishing line, the governor reiterated the importance of water to Colorado. The draft plan will be on the governor’s desk in December, whether or not Hickenlooper survives an election challenge from Republican Bob Beauprez. Beauprez addressed the Water Congress Friday.

    Hickenlooper heaped praise on the work of basin roundtables, which have been meeting since 2005, and have spent the past year developing basin implementation plans.

    “The roundtables, while not as glamorous and sexy as bare-knuckle water brawling in neighboring states and here in the past, have moved forward,” he said.

    “It has not been just a small group of people in Denver directing how it will be used, but a broad group of people working together to write a plan.”

    Hickenlooper highlighted the Arkansas Valley Conduit as an example of water projects that benefit the outlying areas of Colorado. Hickenlooper said he and Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director James Eklund talked with Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior, earlier this year to ask him to move funds to provide more money for the conduit. Last week, the Bureau of Reclamation announced $2 million in funding for the conduit this year.

    “That $2 million is a good first step for Southeastern Colorado, an area that has been in a drought for years,” he said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Whether it’s putting in a new dam or pipeline, leasing water from farms or simply conserving water, municipal customers should be prepared to pay more for mitigation.

    “With any project, we have to be prepared to look at the question: What are the underlying costs?” said Mark Pifher, permit manager for the Southern Delivery System being constructed by Colorado Springs Utilities.

    Pifher led a panel of those who have worked on Colorado’s largest municipal water projects to explore the obvious and hidden add-on costs of water development. The event was part of the Colorado Water Congress summer convention.

    In the case of SDS, an $840 million pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, about $150 million in additional costs to meet permit requirements has been tacked on.

    Aurora paid additional costs for its lease of High Line Canal water 10 years ago, with an additional $1.3 million on top of $10.8 million in direct payments to farmers and $1.4 million for a continued farming program now in its tenth year on the Rocky Ford Ditch.

    In the Rocky Ford Ditch program, Aurora provides some of the water it purchased to allow farmers to stay in business.

    “We’re thinking we’ll continue the program in the future,” said Tom Simpson, Aurora’s engineer in the Arkansas Valley. “One thing of concern is the availability of water in the Arkansas basin.”

    New storage projects also come with a price tag for mitigation.

    Travis Bray of Denver Water said the $360 million Gross Reservoir expansion project, designed to increase yield by 18,000 acre-feet, has cost an additional $30 million in mitigation so far, as it moves toward full permitting, projected to happen in 2015.

    Jeff Drager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District said its $300 million Windy Gap Project, designed to increase storage by 90,000 acre-feet, has cost $19 million in mitigation and 3,000 acre-feet of water.

    Along with the money, agreements with affected communities cost time. Both projects are a decade behind schedule.

    “I was a young guy when we started, and now my kids are out of college,” Drager said. “I’d just be happy to get this done by the end of my career.”

    Even conservation has hidden costs, said Jason Mumm with MWH Global, a consultant on many municipal projects. He presented detailed analysis that showed how reduction of water use drives water rates up. As a result, customers may wind up paying the same amount of money or more after paying for appliances that reduce water use.

    “Conservation is good, but we do need to understand that it comes with its own costs,” Mumm said.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. More conservation coverage here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here. More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here. More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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