“…I’ve worked for American Rivers now for a while” — Ken Neubecker #ColoradoRiver

April 15, 2014

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR


Ken Neubecker posted the comment below in response to this post:

I can forgive Chris Treese for perhaps not knowing that I’ve worked for American Rivers now for a while. I have been on the Basin Roundtable and very involved in the discussions for a very long time and Western Slope water issues for over 20 years. [Gary Harmon, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel], who has my contact info from the MER release, should have given any one of us a call and could have found that out.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


“American Rivers needs to come to the joint talks, as well as issue press releases” — Chris Treese #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 14, 2014
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The upper reaches of the Colorado River make up one of the nation’s most endangered rivers, largely because of the possibility of a transmountain diversion, according to an annual listing. The upper Colorado came in second among the most endangered rivers, according to American Rivers, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization, which last year put the Colorado River on top of the list of endangered rivers, criticizing the “outdated water management throughout the region.”

The upper Colorado’s listing this year gives ammunition to the Western Slope in dealing with Front Range interests looking at a new diversion, said Chris Treese of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

The listing “serves to highlight the uncertainty about the Colorado water plan,” Treese said.

It also, however, reflects a lack of knowledge about the inner dynamics of Colorado water and how the state already is dealing with those matters, he said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper last year ordered the development of a statewide water plan to be on his desk this December and be complete by the end of 2015. State officials are aware that they’re under close observation, said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“We know that downstream states, the federal government, and numerous national organizations are watching what Colorado is doing with our water, and that’s an important reason why we’re engaged in Colorado’s water plan,” Eklund said, noting that the plan is being drafted with the state’s system of prior appropriation in mind.

The water plan is to take into account the work already done by various groups, or roundtables, representing the state’s river basins, the Colorado River Basin among them.

“American Rivers isn’t coming to the roundtables” or the Interbasin Compact Committee, Treese said. “American Rivers needs to come to the joint talks, as well as issue press releases.”

The statewide water plan won’t include a transmountain diversion, but it could outline the way that one could be pursued.

American Rivers worked with several conservation and environmental organizations in listing the upper Colorado as endangered, among them Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates. The statewide water plan, said Bart Miller of Western Resource Advocates, offers “both a threat and an opportunity” to the Western Slope. To be sure, some Front Range water providers view it as an opportunity to send more water east from the Yampa, Gunnison or Colorado mainstem, Miller said.

Many of the river basins in Colorado already suffer water shortages, so the water plan discussion is an opportunity to find ways to protect rivers “that are so valuable for irrigation, recreation and other things,” Miller said. In any case, the plan should focus on preserving the 80,000 jobs and the $9 billion the river generates on the Western Slope, Miller said.

American Rivers called on Colorado to avoid a transmountain diversion, increase the efficient use of water in cities and towns, modernize agricultural practices and give priority to river restoration and protection. The organization listed the San Joaquin River in California as the most endangered in the nation and also placed the White River in northwest Colorado as the seventh-most endangered because it’s threatened by oil and gas development.

The listing, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, is “vague and hyperbolic and it disregards the fact that Colorado has the most robust regulations in the nation, and probably the world, when it comes to protecting water.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


“…nobody is digging a new tunnel tomorrow” — Jim Pokrandt #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 13, 2014
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

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.


The funding request for Mountain Home Reservoir sails through the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable

April 12, 2014
Mountain Home Reservoir via The Applegate Group

Mountain Home Reservoir via The Applegate Group

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Money still following the water in the Rio Grande Basin.

With funds to spare, the Rio Grande Roundtable on Tuesday unanimously approved a $25,000 allocation from the local basin account for a feasibility study to determine the best way to improve the efficiency of Mountain Home Reservoir both for the benefit of Trinchera Irrigation Company irrigators and those who enjoy recreational activities at the reservoir.

Currently the local water supply reserve account totals more than $107,000, and another disbursal of $120,000 to the basin is expected soon, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) staffer Craig Godbout told the roundtable members during their April 8 meeting. CWCB administers the funds approved by the legislature from a portion of severance tax proceeds for water projects throughout the state’s river basins including the Rio Grande. A portion of the money is allocated to each river basin to be apportioned by each roundtable group whose members locally include representatives of various water groups and interests throughout the San Luis Valley.

Another portion of the money is set aside for statewide disbursement through the CWCB board. That board also has to approve the local projects, many of which seek funding from both the local and statewide accounts. The Trinchera Irrigation Company’s request for $25,000, however, was solely from the local basin account.

Godbout explained that the total of the most recent request of $25,000 added to requests last month for basin funds of $44,500 equaled $69,500, which the current balance of $107,000 can accommodate .

Unlike the Trinchera request, the grant requests from March sought funding from both the local and statewide water reserve accounts, Godbout said. Those March requests are currently on hold until the CWCB receives its next allocation of severance tax proceeds, he added, because the total requests from the statewide account last month exceeded the amount the statewide account contained.

Funding requests for projects from around the state, including $830,500 in requests from the Valley, totaled more than $1.7 million, and the statewide account only had about $980,000 in it at the time, Godbout explained.

“We delayed all the statewide requests until May,” he said.

By that time the CWCB expects to receive an additional $1.9 million in its statewide account, which will more than cover the current requests for funding. The additional funding was supposed to come in on April 1 but has not yet been received.

Godbout anticipated approval for the pending project requests during the May 21-22 meeting of the CWCB board in Pueblo.

Trinchera Irrigation Company Superintendent Wayne Schwab presented the request on Tuesday to the roundtable group to fund a feasibility study on Mountain Home Reservoir improvements. He had presented an overview of the project to the roundtable during its March meeting.

The irrigation company encompasses 47 shareholders irrigating about 12,000 acres in the northern part of Costilla County. Trinchera Irrigation Company manages both Mountain Home Reservoir, with a decreed capacity of about 18,000 acre feet, and Smith Reservoir, decreed for about 2,000 acre feet, Schwab explained.

The project for which the irrigation company was seeking funding was improvement to Mountain Home, which not only provides irrigation water but water for wildlife and recreation such as fishing and boating. Schwab said Mountain Home Reservoir is a popular fishing spot even in wintertime when anglers go ice fishing.

Mountain Home Reservoir was built in 1908, and only one of the three canal gates is operational right now, Schwab said. The state engineer would like to see all three operational, he added.

Schwab said he believed the two gates not currently being used probably would open, but he was nervous they might not close. One of the current problems at the reservoir is gate leakage down the canal to Smith Reservoir, if it makes it that far, Schwab added. He estimated more than 1,000 acre-foot loss annually that is going into the ground or being evaporated.

The feasibility study, for which roundtable funds were requested and approved , would determine the best way to improve dam safety, improve water storage , reduce storage loss and protect and improve water availability for wildlife and recreational purposes.

The study would involve an underwater inspection of the outlet works, cost analyses of alternatives and recommendations .

Schwab said although no funding match was required, the Trinchera Irrigation Company with assistance from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and Trout Unlimited were kicking in $12,650, with more than $10,000 alone from CPW in technical assistance . Rio Grande Roundtable Chairman Mike Gibson reminded the group one of the goals of the roundtable was to support the reservoirs, and this project ties in with that goal. The roundtable has also previously assisted other reservoir projects for the Santa Maria, Continental , Rio Grande, Platoro and Sanchez Reservoirs.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.


“When the public comments, the No. 1 thing they are very interested in is healthy rivers” — Louis Meyer #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 12, 2014
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

“It’s a bunch of river with serious targets on them,” said Ken Neubecker of Carbondale about the upper Colorado basin. Neubecker, a longtime volunteer with Trout Unlimited and the former head of Western Rivers Institute, now works with American Rivers on policy and conservation issues.

In addition to rivers in the Roaring Fork watershed, Neubecker said the Blue, Eagle, Fraser, Yampa, Gunnison and Green rivers are all threatened by more water diversions.

“We continue to treat rivers as engineered plumbing systems and not ecosystems,” Neubecker said. “And the river doesn’t get a seat at the planning table.”

Aspenites will have a chance to learn more about the current threats and challenges to local and regional rivers when Louis Meyer of Glenwood Springs-based SGM engineering firm makes a presentation today at 6 p.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room in Aspen behind the county courthouse.

Meyer is an engineer, a member of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable and a consultant to the roundtable, which is charged with developing a detailed water plan for the Colorado River basin by July. That basin plan will help inform a statewide plan called the Colorado Water Plan.

For the past several months, Meyer has been talking to members of the public and water providers across the upper Colorado River basin, which extends in Colorado from Rocky Mountain National Park to the state line west of Loma.

“When the public comments, the No. 1 thing they are very interested in is healthy rivers,” Meyer said. “Not just flat rivers where the hydrograph has been taken off by reservoirs, but rivers that can support healthy biology.”

During a recent presentation in Carbondale sponsored by the Roaring Fork Conservancy, Meyer said 41 percent of the Fryingpan River and Hunter Creek is diverted to the Front Range, while 37 percent of the water in the Roaring Fork River and its upper tributaries is sent east under the Continental Divide.

Each year, about 98,900 acre-feet of water is sent out of Pitkin County to growing cities on the Front Range, which is equal to almost all the stored water in a full Ruedi Reservoir. By comparison, Grand County sends 307,500 acre-feet east, Summit County, 73,100 acre-feet, and Eagle, 32,000 acre-feet…

He suggested that people in the Roaring Fork River valley need to better understand what the “PSOP,” or “Preferred Storage Options Plan” is.

“PSOP is something you have to start paying attention to,” Meyer said. “It is an effort by the consortium of East Slope water providers in the Arkansas basin — the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, the cities of Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

“They would like to enlarge Turquoise Reservoir, near Leadville — that’s where water out of the Fryingpan is diverted — and they want to enlarge Pueblo Reservoir down very low in the basin so they can store more water.

“Where is that water going to come from? It’s going to come from out of this basin. The infrastructure is already there,” Meyer said. “You’ve got to keep an eye on it.”

Southeastern’s current strategic plan, available on its website, includes the goal to “maximize Fry-Ark diversions to the limit of (the district’s) water rights.”

In addition to PSOP, that could mean diverting more water from a “deferred area” in the Fryingpan headwaters through diversions planned, but not built, as part of the original Fry-Ark project…

Meyer also said that three Front Range counties between Denver and Colorado Springs — Douglas, Arapahoe and El Paso — are growing fast, need more water and are looking at some relatively dramatic potential solutions referred to as “big straws.”

The straws, or big pipelines and pump-back projects, could take water from the Green, Yampa, or Gunnison rivers and send it back over the Continental Divide to the Front Range.

And Meyer said discussions are happening now between Front Range and Western Slope water interests to determine under what conditions the Western Slope parties might agree to such a project…

Land use, not water use, may be the real key to leaving water in Western Slope rivers, he added.

“The biggest single issue that has come to the forefront in our work is that it’s not a water issue, it is a land-use issue,” Meyer said. “People are asking the questions, ‘shouldn’t we have our land use connected to our water use?’ and ‘shouldn’t the land use of the future respect that we already have a water shortage?’

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


The Gunnison County Commissioners take a look at the Gunnison Roundtable basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

April 11, 2014
Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (George Sibley):

Concern about possible transmountain diversions dominated a public information-and-input meeting in Gunnison on Gunnison Basin Roundtable water planning.

The Gunnison County Commissioners hosted the meeting during their work session Tuesday, March 25. Thirty-five or 40 citizens participated in the discussion through the course of a two-hour meeting.

The water plan under consideration was the Gunnison Basin Roundtable’s contribution to the Colorado Water Plan ordered by Governor John Hickenlooper in May 2013; the plan will create possible solutions for a significant gap between the known water supply and the needs of a population projected to grow 60-100 percent by mid-century, mostly in the Front Range metropolis. Presenting information on the Gunnison Basin plan were roundtable members Frank Kugel, Rufus Wilderson and George Sibley.

The meeting focused mainly on goals that have been identified for the Gunnison Basin over the next four decades, and some “statewide principles” that it hopes to persuade at least the other West Slope basin roundtables to adopt in negotiations for the statewide water plan; some may be acceptable to all eight state river basins plus the metro area.

The priority goal stated for the Gunnison Basin is “to protect all existing water uses.” Roundtable members, according to Sibley, feel that the Gunnison Basin now has a good mix of consumptive uses (agricultural and municipal/domestic/industrial) and non-consumptive uses (environmental, recreational and hydropower), town-and-country, working-and-playing landscapes, and they want to carry that forward into the future. Change should be incremental, and weighed against its impact on existing uses.

Some of the citizen input warned the roundtable presenters to anticipate possible major changes in the headwaters region, from the oil and gas industry and potential mining operations for copper, molybdenum and “rare earth” minerals. Several citizens wanted to see more focus on water quality.

Other intra-basin goals discussed supporting the priority goal. While the planning process was brought about by a projected metropolitan water shortage, the municipal/industrial shortage in the Gunnison Basin is projected to be small, around 6,500 acre-feet (enough for approximately 13,000 four-person households) — roughly one percent of the projected statewide municipal/industrial shortage, and probably manageable through some anticipated agricultural land-use changes.

The heavily agricultural basin does, however, have a significant existing shortage of agricultural water, mostly late in the season, limiting the productivity of the land. Concern over these shortages is not limited to the ranchers; it acknowledges the close relationship between the valley’s agricultural land base and its economically important non-consumptive uses — the environmental and recreational uses also dependent on the extensive groundwater storage, wildlife wetlands and increased late season flows that result from irrigated floodplains, as well as aesthetic open-space considerations.

Most of the concerns expressed by the citizens present, however, reflected a Gunnison Basin antipathy toward headwaters diversions across the Continental Divide going back to the 1930s. These fears were not entirely allayed by the “Statewide Principles” being advanced in the Gunnison Plan. Kugel and Sibley explained that the strategy was to set the bar so high, for Front Range demand reduction preceding any diversion and West Slope compensations in exchange for any diversion, that the diversion would prove to be economically unfeasible. This strategy is furthered by the fact that both the Gunnison and Upper Colorado Basins are now over-appropriated in sub-average water years; any new diversion would be limited to above-average water years — a serious risk for the Front Range water suppliers to contemplate, given the projections for climate change on the one hand and the high cost of “pumpback” projects on the other.

That notwithstanding, the message from the audience was clearly for the roundtable to not be “soft” on the inevitable discussion of further transmountain diversion from any West Slope basin, since water removed from any of them increases the amount of water the other basins must send downstream for still undefined Lower Basin obligations.

Other public-input meetings are planned for other communities throughout the Gunnison Basin over the coming weeks. In addition, a public survey is available online, through the Upper Gunnison River District website — http://www.ugrwcd.org.

The roundtable is now moving into the stage of generating specific plans for meeting the identified needs and expressed goals. The roundtable meets the first Monday of every month, except for January, July and September, at 4 p.m. in the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose; the meetings are open to the public. The meeting on June 2 will precede a “State of the River” informational event held in conjunction with the Colorado River District at 7 p.m.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Southwestern Water Conservation District Annual Water Seminar recap #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

April 11, 2014

sanjuan

From the Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

With continuing population growth in Southwestern states and ongoing drought, water issues are becoming more and more about who has to cut back their use when there isn’t enough to meet demand.

That thread ran through presentations at the annual Water Seminar on April 4 in Durango, sponsored by the Southwest Water Conservation District.

“How will we handle the water and other needs of 10 million people,” asked John Stulp, a former state agriculture commissioner and current chair of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) which is developing a State Water Plan along with nine basin water roundtables…

Harris cited a statewide statistic that with municipal water use, half is used inside and half outside. Ninety percent of the inside use returns to the stream. With outside use, 70 to 80 percent is “consumed” and does not return to the stream. The Southwest Roundtable has approved a goal to shift the percentage of municipal use to indoor, especially where the water comes from ag dry-up or trans-mountain diversion, he said.

Harris initiated the idea of legislation to limit lawn sizes in residential developments after 2016 where the water would come from a permanent transfer from ag. It didn’t get through the State Senate but will be a study topic by an interim committee on water resources during the off-session.

“The lawn bill, this is just the first time, not the last,” Harris asserted. “Reduction of lawn size is a significant conservation measure to help meet 2050 water supply.”

State Rep. Don Coram from Montrose commented “On the Front Range, they haven’t addressed storage or depleting the aquifer. They are more interested in trans-mountain diversion.”[...]

John McGlow from the Upper Colorado River Commission said curtailment such as this will affect water rights decreed after the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The Upper Basin is western Colorado, eastern Utah, southwest Wyoming, and northwest New Mexico. They have begun discussions on how cutbacks would be shared, or how to avoid getting to that point with things like fallowing fields and reducing frequency of irrigation.

“Lake Powell is our bank account for complying with the compact,” he said. It’s the cushion for the Upper Basin states to deliver mandated quantities of water to the Lower Basin states (California, Arizona and Nevada) and Mexico over a 10-year average. Navajo Reservoir also is part of that.

McGlow said 1999 was the last year that Powell was full. The goal is to get enough water into Lake Powell each year to avoid curtailment or the possibility of the water level getting too low for hydropower generation, which he said would have its own serious impacts.

The good news is there’s enough snowpack in northwest and north central Colorado that these won’t be issues this year, McGlow said…

Panelist Dan Birch from the Colorado River Conservation District said most pre-compact rights on the Western Slope are in the Grand Valley and Uncompaghre Valley. There is around 1 million AF of pre-compact irrigation on the West Slope, he said. Most of that land is in pasture or hay. Pasture can’t be fallowed, he said.

With a target to make up for 350,000 AF of post-compact use, Birch said, “I don’t think we want one-third of ag to go away. What we’re talking about is interruptible voluntary market-based contracts” for pre-compact users to reduce their water use. “This has to work for the farmers and the ditch companies,” he said.

Birch said power plants in Northwest Colorado are significant post-compact water users. “In the event of a (water) shortage, it will be important to keep critical uses going,” including power generation, he said.

Demand management is a key to avoiding Upper Basin curtailment or loss of hydro generation. “We are way behind on actual implementation of demand management,” including agricultural fallowing and reducing municipal demands, McGlow said. “It’s still a concept. It’s in its infancy.”

Fallowing and reduced irrigation are part of what’s called water banking. Panelist Aaron Derwingson said, “Pretty much everyone supports water banking in concept. It gets a lot more complex actually doing it.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


American Rivers names the Upper #ColoradoRiver the #2 most endangered for 2014 #COWaterPlan

April 10, 2014
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From American Rivers:

Threat: Water diversions
At Risk: River health and recreation

The Upper Colorado River and its tributaries include some of the most heavily degraded rivers and some of the last truly healthy rivers in the West. The rivers are critical to Colorado’s heritage; they are the life-line for much of the state’s fish and wildlife, they sustain a vibrant agricultural economy, and they provide world-class opportunities for fishing, paddling, and hiking. However, these renowned rivers are threatened by increasing water demands and new proposed water diversions. The Governor of Colorado must take a stand now and keep water flowing in the rivers by promoting responsible conservation measures in the Colorado Water Plan.

The River

The Colorado River Basin in the State of Colorado includes the mainstem Colorado River and headwater rivers, such as the Eagle, Roaring Fork, Blue, Yampa, White, and Gunnison. Gold medal trout fisheries, world class paddling, and glorious massive canyons can be found throughout this river system. The resort areas of Winter Park, Breckenridge, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, and Vail, as well as much of the urban Front Range (on the other side of the Continental Divide), all get some or all of their drinking water from these rivers. The Upper Colorado River Basin is home to 14 native fish species, including several fish listed as endangered.

The Threat

n 2013, American Rivers listed the Colorado River as #1 on our list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® due to the overarching concern of outdated water management throughout the entire basin. To begin addressing this concern in the Upper Basin, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has directed the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop the first statewide Water Plan to determine how Colorado will meet its water needs in the future. With its population expected to double by 2050, Colorado must seize this opportunity to chart a more sustainable course for water management.

Approximately 80% of Colorado’s population lives on the Front Range in cities like Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins, but 80% of Colorado’s snow and rain falls on the Western Slope, primarily within the Upper Colorado River Basin. The Front Range has long depended on “trans-mountain” projects that pump, pipe, and divert water over the Continental Divide from the Colorado River Basin for municipal use, lawn irrigation, and agriculture. These dams and diversions decrease river flows, degrade the environment, and harm river recreation that is a key element for the tourism economy on the Western Slope. Having tapped the headwaters of the Colorado mainstem, some Front Range water interests are currently considering diversions from rivers further away, like the Yampa and Gunnison Rivers— rivers not yet impaired by trans-mountain diversions.

The Governor of Colorado and the Colorado Water Conservation Board cannot afford to fall back on outdated, expensive, and harmful water development schemes as acceptable solutions when they develop the water plan for Colorado’s future. Rivers are vitally important for Coloradans, and protecting and restoring rivers needs to be a top priority. If we want rivers to continue to support fish, wildlife, agriculture, and a multi-billion dollar tourism industry, we must ensure they have enough water.

What Must Be Done

Colorado Basin Rivers have played an important role providing water for Front Range development, but many of the rivers are drained and have no more water to give. The Draft Colorado Water Plan is scheduled to be released in December 2014, and the Governor and Colorado Water Conservation Board must make the following common sense principles a core part of the plan:

  • Prioritize protecting healthy flowing rivers and restoring degraded ones
  • Increase water efficiency and conservation in cities and towns
  • Modernize agricultural practices and make it easier for irrigators— who now use more than 80% of Colorado’s water— to share water with urban areas in ways that both maintain valuable ranches and farms and keep rivers healthy
  • Avoid new major trans-mountain diversion projects so as not to further harm Upper Colorado rivers and the communities that depend upon them
  • Adopting these strategies will allow sustainable use of water from the Upper Colorado River Basin, without building costly, environmentally harmful, and ultimately ineffective projects on these cherished rivers. Greater cooperation, innovative technologies, and best practices will enable Colorado to build prosperous communities, support thriving agricultural and tourism industries, and keep our rivers healthy and flowing.

    Colorado’s Water Plan will influence water development and impacts to rivers in Colorado for decades to come. Taking additional water from the Upper Colorado River Basin, already over-taxed by existing water diversions, should not be an option and will be unnecessary if the Governor and Colorado Water Conservation Board adopt a sensible Water Plan.

    From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

    A nearby tributary of the Colorado, the White River, is No. 7 on the list because of the amount of energy exploration taking place along its length, American Rivers’ Director of the Colorado River Basin Program Matt Rice said Wednesday.

    #The threat of future trans-mountain diversion that would export water from the upper Colorado to the state’s Front Range is the reason the basin ranks high among the top 10 again in 2014. However, Rice said, it’s also the process already underway to establish a new water plan for Colorado that is putting the focus on the Colorado and Yampa rivers.

    #“We want to make sure common-sense principles are included and prioritized in Colorado’s new water plan. We want healthy rivers to be a core component,” Rice said. “And we want to make sure this plan doesn’t support a new trans-basin project. That’s why it’s No. 2 on our list this year.”

    #Steamboat resident Ken Vertrees is uniquely situated in the ongoing discussions about the future of the Yampa as it fits into the Upper Colorado Basin and the water needs of all of Colorado. He sits on the combined Yampa, White, Green river basin roundtable that was tasked by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013 with coming up with a water plan for this basin that will be incorporated into a statewide draft plan in December 2014 and ultimately into the finalized Colorado Water Plan due to be completed no later than Dec. 10, 2015.

    #In addition, Vertrees sits on the board of the Steamboat-based nonprofit, Friends of the Yampa, which is a partner with American Rivers on its 10 most endangered project. He said the rivers of the upper Colorado have in-basin needs of their own to meet before other basins come after their water.

    #“The state has a 20 percent gap in water supply going out to 2050. That’s the whole impetus for everything we’re doing right now,” he said.

    #Vertrees thinks there is potential for the people of the Yampa Basin to become a “complete loser” in the statewide planning process as water officials seek to close that gap either by redirecting water across the state or conserving, or both.

    #One presumption is that the Front Range, where 82 percent of the state’s population is located, will seek the last great trans-mountain diversion, with water now leaving the state in the Yampa, on its way to the Green and ultimately the Colorado, one of the primary targets.

    #The possibility of spending several billions of dollars to capture some of the water leaving Colorado in the Yampa and pumping it eastward across the Continental Divide to the Front Range surfaced in the middle of the past decade. But two proposals to do just that since have languished…

    Ultimately, Vertrees said, he’s hopeful that the state of Colorado as a whole will recognize the intrinsic value of the Yampa in its lower reaches as a wild desert river that supports a rare community of plants and animals.

    #“It’s a very scary time, in some ways, for our river and our basins,” Vertrees said. “Our non-consumptive water rights are critical to the health of the river. It maintains globally rare habitats and federally endangered fish that are found nowhere else. Isn’t that critical for us, as the state of Colorado, to protect forever?”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


    “The roundtables have no authority…But let’s define what a good project looks like” — Gary Barber #COWaterPlan

    April 10, 2014
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Preparing for a flood of meetings on the state water plan, Arkansas Basin Roundtable members are wondering what style of umbrella to bring.

    “How will the plan be used?” asked Sandy White of the Huerfano County Conservancy District. “There are a lot of cranky people like me in Huerfano County who want to know.”

    White elaborated, saying that it’s apparent that projects listed in the plan won’t be fast-tracked and those omitted won’t be black-listed. The plan also won’t alter water rights.

    Betty Konarski, roundtable chairwoman, said it’s important to know which projects are being contemplated, even if the plan doesn’t say how or when they will be accomplished.

    “One of our goals is following on,” she said. “Which of these can we turn into a project and initiate. Once we see them all, we can see how they can work together.”

    Alan Hamel, the basin’s director on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said there is value in identifying needs in order to reinforce the importance of projects and coordinate permitting by state agencies.

    Dave Taussig, of Lincoln County, asked how the state plan would interact with local planning efforts, which could override state edicts on growth and water development.

    “The roundtables have no authority,” said Gary Barber, who stepped down as chairman of the roundtable in order to work as a consultant on the basin implementation plan. “But let’s define what a good project looks like.”

    Barber spent most of Wednesday afternoon going over details of the plan, and reviewed the history of how the roundtable formed after the 2004 State Water Supply Initiative was crafted.

    SWSI was updated in 2010, and from it, Gov. John Hickenlooper charged the roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a state water plan.

    Roundtable members are being asked to fan out into the countryside to gather input before an Arkansas Basin implementation plan — just one ingredient in the state’s recipe for its water future. Some meetings already have been held and comments are filtering back to the roundtable.

    At least 15 meetings are planned throughout the basin. A complete list, as well as details about the water plans, can be found at the website, http://arkansasbasin.com.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is sponsoring a dozen meetings to gather input for their basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

    April 9, 2014
    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Pueblo
    Chieftain
    (Chris Woodka):

    Ready to dive in? A dozen meetings have been scheduled to get input from communities on the Arkansas River basin’s portion of the state water plan. The meetings, sponsored by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, are in response to last month’s decision by the roundtable to reach out into the sprawling basin to gather input as the state moves toward developing a draft water plan by the end of the year under an order by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The meetings also address concerns by some state lawmakers that community outreach on water issues is lacking, despite nine years of roundtable meetings throughout Colorado.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable has launched a website (http://arkansasbasin.com) that lists the meeting times and places, as well.

    Included are the roundtable’s monthly meeting, 11:30 a.m. today at Colorado State University-Pueblo; and the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 22-24 in La Junta. Smaller community meetings will begin next week, with meetings in Trinidad and Walsenburg on April 16. Upcoming meetings will be in Gardner, April 25; La Veta, April 29; Springfield, April 29; Lamar, May 1; Salida, May 6; Hugo, May 7; Las Animas, May 20; Rocky Ford, May 27; and Fowler, May 27. Meetings also will be scheduled for Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Simla.

    The website also includes more detailed information about the water plan through a link to the state water plan website at http://coloradowaterplan.com.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain editoral staff:

    When the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum convenes for its 20th annual gathering April 23-24 in La Junta, there should be just one topic at the top of its agenda — water for agriculture. Those attending this year’s forum will take time to discuss the Colorado Water Plan, which is currently being developed thanks to an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Arkansas River basin water users and officials will talk about a number of topics — including drought, irrigation rules and weed control — during the two-day gathering. But their discussion and eventual input into the water plan shouldn’t stray from agriculture and the need for consistent water supplies in Southern Colorado.

    Agriculture is the backbone of the region’s economy. Without a reliable water supply that will ensure a sustainable future for farmers and ranchers in the Arkansas Valley, our most important industry and our overall economy will be in jeopardy.

    Water interests in the Arkansas River basin need to send a clear and unified message through the Colorado Water Plan process that agriculture, more than growing cities, should be the state’s No. 1 priority when it comes to the allocation of water resources.

    If we don’t stay together in that belief, growing communities to the north will continue to come shopping for water in Southern Colorado, leading to the loss of productive farms and ranches throughout the region.

    There are effective tools available to hang on to Arkansas River water, including conservation easements with farmers and ranchers to tie water rights to specific land. A legislative measure to forbid the transfer of more water out of a basin of origin could be part of the debate as well.

    Our water resources are valuable and finite. The new water plan needs to acknowledge that fact, and strengthen agriculture’s grip on its fair share of the available resources.

    Meanwhile it’s full steam ahead with work on the Rio Grande Roundtable basin implementation plan according to this report from Charlie Spielman writing for the Valley Courier:

    This is the sixth article in the Narrow the Gap water series addressing the Rio Grande Basin Water Plan. VALLEY In 2004, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) completed the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) Phase 1 Study. One of the key findings of the study was that while SWSI evaluated water needs and solutions through 2030, very few municipal and industrial (M&I) water providers have identified supplies beyond 2030.

    Beyond 2030, growing demands may require more aggressive solutions. Since the SWSI Phase 1 Study was completed, Colorado’s legislature established the

    “Water for the 21st Century Act.” This act established the Interbasin Compact Process that provides a permanent forum for broad-based water discussions in the state. It created two new structures : 1) the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), and 2) the basin roundtables. There are nine basin roundtables each located in one of Colorado’s eight major river basins and the Denver metro area.

    The CWCB determined that the forecast horizon for the water demand projections needed to be extended to the year 2050 to better represent the long-term water needs that the state will face. The West Slope basin roundtables suggested the 2050 timeframe for the demand projections so that potential growth rates on the West Slope could be better characterized. Infrastructure investments and commitment of water supplies also require a longer view into the future. In addition, several of the SWSI Identified Projects and Processes (IPPs) with Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requirements have used a planning horizon of 2050. Finally, the 2050 timeframe matches the ongoing energy development study conducted by the Colorado and Yampa-White Basin Roundtables. (CWCB, M&I Water Projections.)

    The Municipal and Industrial Rio Grande Basin Water Plan workgroup knows that unless action is taken, water shortages for San Luis Valley cities and towns will be inevitable. So the team set about laying out frame work for the Rio Grande Basin’s Municipal and Industrial uses. By working together the committee has uncovered some interesting facts:

  • The Division of Water Resources doesn’t characterize any wells as “industrial” but as commercial.
  • There is a healthy photovoltaic solar electric business established in the San Luis Valley, and future growth of this sector seems assured. As an added bonus, this generating capacity uses relatively little water.
  • Reasonable projections of future oil and gas drilling indicate that the industry’s future water use will probably not be extensive.
  • Opportunities for significant water requirements for hydro power plants appear limited at this time.
  • Total municipal and industrial water use in the Rio Grande Basin is likely to remain at less than 1-3 percent of the agricultural water use. A situation that is much different, when looking at other cities and towns in river basins across the state.
  • The several municipalities in the Rio Grande Basin that obtain their water from confined aquifer wells provide significant water to the surface system and to the unconfined aquifer in the form of treated waste water. Presently these towns receive no credit or benefit from their contribution. Moving forward these municipalities will need to secure their well water resources by obtaining water augmentation plans or by joining a sub-district . The implementation of new water rules and regulations will lay out a specific blueprint of how these communities can move forward. Further complicating the water outlook for San Luis Valley municipalities is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) lowering of the maximum arsenic limits tolerances to 2 parts per billion . This action will greatly increase water treatment costs.

    Water is nearly as “invisible” as air. Unfortunately this creates a complacency that has led to failing infrastructure and severe water shortages in unexpected places like Atlanta, Georgia where, according to Charles Fishmen author of “The Big Thirst” , several million people have been added to the population in the past 20 years without increasing its water supply.

    The key for municipalities is to improve their outreach and education efforts about conservation and population. When simple conservation techniques are implemented, the water savings are quite remarkable. Lowering water demands as a result of water efficiency can assist providers in avoiding, downsizing, or postponing the construction and operation of water supply facilities and wastewater facilities as well as eliminating , reducing, or postponing water purchases. In addition to these water supply benefits , there are other societal, political, and environmental benefits.

    At present there appears to be no communities within the upper Rio Grande Basin at risk regarding the development of adequate water supplies and /or obtaining augmentation water. Planning and conservation, however , will allow them to move smoothly towards 2050. The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable would like input in the development of the Rio Grande Basin Water Plan. The most effective methods to become involved are: attend the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable monthly meetings the second Tuesday of each month at the SLV Water Conservancy office , 623 Fourth Street in Alamosa; submit comments directly online at http://www.riograndewaterplan. webs.com or attend any one of the five Basin Water Plan subcommittee meetings. The lead consultant is Tom Spezze (tom@dinatalewater.com).

    Charlie Spielman, represents municipal and industrial water users on the Rio Basin Roundtable and also serves as chair of the M&I subcommittee for the Rio Grande Basin Water Plan.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    A look at James Eklund and the #COWaterPlan

    April 8, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From Colorado Public Radio (Rachel Estabrook):

    …Gov. John Hickenlooper has ordered the state to create a water plan; he wants a draft of it by December 2014, to be finalized in 2015. The plan will be based on what local groups organized around watersheds, called basin roundtables, come up with over the next several months. The basin roundtables will meet throughout the spring and will deliver their wish lists to the state over the summer.

    To lead the massive effort, Gov. Hickenlooper has chosen James Eklund to direct the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    “We have water where we don’t have people, and we have to make sure we address that problem as best we can,” Eklund says.

    That also means there are people where there isn’t much water. Eklund says you can draw a line down the middle of Colorado.

    “If you think of Colorado as a rectangle…and you draw a line right down the middle of that rectangle…80 percent of the water falls on the left side of that line and 80-87 percent of the people are on the right side of that line,” Eklund says.

    In addition to the looming gap between how much water Colorado has and how much it needs, Eklund says he’s worried about a trend known as “buy and dry,” where cities, mostly on the Front Range, buy water rights from farmers, leaving the farms to dry up.

    “The challenge that we face as a state when that happens is a ripple effect that spreads through the local economy, the community,” Eklund notes. “If you’re not farming, you’re not paying into the tax base. You’re not sending your kids to school. You’re not going to the grocery store, the cafe. And that is a challenge for the entire community.”

    Eklund is careful to point out that he doesn’t want to stop arrangements between willing sellers and willing buyers.

    “But we want to give people options,” he says.

    That includes encouraging rotational fallowing, a method that allows farmers to let parts of land go dry for a year or more and sell the water rights for only that period of time, restarting production on that land later.

    Ultimately, Eklund says, the solution to Colorado’s water crisis will include more conservation – and that could mean sacrifices.

    “We’re all going to have to bear some pain,” Eklund says. “And how we bear that pain, and who bears what percentage of it, who bears what risk – that’s the conversation that’s going on right now in Colorado in shaping this water plan.”

    Eklund says that could mean rules about how much water people can use. It could mean water providers will start using aggressive tiered pricing schemes to make it expensive to use water. For farmers, Eklund says, continued buyouts of their land would be very painful.

    As the basin roundtables go on, some conservation groups worry that not enough attention will be paid to keeping the rivers flowing. Those rivers are important to Colorado’s natural habitats and to the state’s recreation industry. Eklund says he’s listening to those concerns.

    “We have been aggressive in reaching out to the conservation and environmental community to make sure their voice is heard in all of this,” he says, “and that our water plan doesn’t become some glossy report that sits on a shelf somewhere.”

    Eklund is encouraging citizens to participate in the planning process. A schedule of the basin roundtable meetings and a link to give input to the plan are at the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    SB14-115′s goal is greater public participation in the #COWaterPlan #COleg

    April 8, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

    …legislators fret they will be left out of the process. And they worry the public will be caught unaware, even though years of work and hundreds of public meetings have gone into drafting the plan.

    Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, said he wants to avoid repeating mistakes the state government made when it partnered with a private company to expand the highway between Denver and Boulder and add toll lanes.

    Even though every local government in the area signed off on the plan in public meetings, hundreds of angry people turned out last winter to oppose that plan and said they were taken by surprise.

    “Perception is reality,” Lebsock said. “It’s absolutely critical that our government, with an assist from the Legislature, is willing to hold public meetings.”

    That’s the idea behind Senate Bill 115, which advanced Monday after an 11-1 vote in the House Agriculture Committee.

    It was proposed by Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who thought Hickenlooper’s administration was ignoring the Legislature while drafting the water plan. Originally, the bill would have required the Legislature to approve the Colorado Water Plan.

    Now, the bill requires the Legislature’s summer water committee to hold hearings around the state this year and in 2015 to take public testimony on the plan.

    Two of the meetings would have to be in Southwest Colorado…

    Nine years ago, the Legislature created a system of “water roundtables” in each major river basin to start working on a state water plan while reaching out to as many people as possible.

    Those roundtables have been at work for nearly a decade and have held hundreds of public meetings, which have not always been well-attended.

    More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    “There is no additional water for additional support to other basins” — Steve Acquafresca #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

    April 7, 2014
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    New transmountain diversions of water from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range got a frosty reception from Grand Valley water users and residents Thursday.

    At certain times during the year, more water travels east through tunnels than flows downhill along the Western Slope, said Max Schmidt, general manager of the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, during a town hall meeting in Grand Junction City Hall on the development of a statewide water plan.

    “There’s nothing left to give,” Schmidt said to about 40 people gathered in the meeting sponsored by the Colorado River Basin roundtable and the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

    Grand Valley water users haven’t strayed from their original reaction to calls for a new transmountain diversion, said Larry Clever, general manager of the Ute Water Conservancy District, the largest supplier of water in the Grand Valley.

    “It’s going to be a fight” if a new transmountain diversion is proposed, Clever said. “If Lake Mead and Lake Powell spill over, then maybe, but until then, we fight.”

    State officials have said the statewide water plan, which is to be complete by December 2015, with a draft due to Gov. John Hickenlooper by this December, won’t include a transmountain diversion. The plan, however, is expected to outline the terms under which one might go forward.

    Comments in the town hall are to be reflected in a Colorado River Basin plan. It, along with other basin plans, are to be reflected in the statewide plan.

    The Colorado River Basin is already a donor basin unable to meet the demands that officials expect by 2050, Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

    “There is no additional water for additional support to other basins,” Acquafresca said.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    The City of Aspen has a long list of projects for the #ColoradoRiver Basin Implementation Plan #COWaterPlan

    April 7, 2014

    aspen
    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Tall new dams in pristine spots on upper Castle and Maroon creeks. Bigger dams on Lost Man and Lincoln creeks in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. A bigger reservoir at the city’s water plant. Water pumped up from deep underneath Aspen. Treated effluent pumped from the Aspen wastewater plant to the city golf course. Water left in the river instead of being diverted to the Wheeler irrigation ditch.

    These projects are all on a list that Mike McDill, the city of Aspen’s deputy director of utilities, wants included on a larger list of regional water projects now being compiled by the Colorado River Basin Roundtable.

    “If it is already on the list, at least people can’t say they didn’t know we were thinking about it,” McDill said…

    Over 500 “projects, policies and processes” are now on the Colorado roundtable’s draft priority list, including Aspen’s suggested projects. The list, which is part inventory, part to-do list, and part wish list, is to be winnowed down in the next two months by the roundtable.

    “Putting projects on the roundtable’s list is a good way to provoke conversation,” said Louis Meyer, a consulting engineer with SGM, who is leading the development of the Colorado roundtable’s basin plan. “It is also incumbent on us to show the state that we have a list of water needs.”[...]

    During recent public roundtable meetings, McDill has described Aspen’s list of projects in a calm and pragmatic matter, despite the scale of some of them.

    “Our concern is we have a lot of water in June and not so much water the rest of the year,” McDill said about the potential value of reservoirs on upper Maroon and Castle creeks.

    Today the city of Aspen diverts water from lower Castle and Maroon creeks for its water supply, but it does not have any water storage capacity beyond the tiny Leonard Thomas Reservoir at the water plant, which can hold 14 acre-feet of water.

    If built someday as described by the city’s conditional water right, the Maroon Creek reservoir would store 4,567 acre-feet of water behind a 155-foot-tall dam just below the confluence of East Maroon and West Maroon creeks, which is known as a stunningly beautiful location. A Maroon Creek reservoir would cover 85 acres of U.S. Forest Service land about a mile-and-a-half below Maroon Lake.

    The Castle Creek reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet of water behind a 170-foot-tall dam located about two miles below the historic town site of Ashcroft in a verdant valley. It would inundate 120 acres of mostly private land.

    The city has renewed the conditional water rights for the two reservoirs eight times since they were decreed in 1971 and is required to do so again in 2016, when it must show it is making progress toward building the reservoirs.

    “Aspen will build the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek reservoirs if necessary and if in the best interest of citizens of the community,” city officials said in 2012…

    Also on Aspen’s list of potential projects is the enlargement of existing reservoirs, including Grizzly Reservoir and Leonard Thomas Reservoir…

    Grizzly Reservoir was built in the 1930s on upper Lincoln Creek, a tributary of the Roaring Fork River. The reservoir is owned by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., of which the city of Colorado Springs is now the majority owner. The reservoir holds about 570 acre-feet of water and primarily serves as the forebay to the tunnel that Twin Lakes uses to divert water under the Continental Divide…

    The smaller Lost Man Reservoir, also owned by Twin Lakes, backs up water on Lost Man Creek and then diverts it to Grizzly Reservoir…

    But Kevin Lusk, a principal with Colorado Springs Utilities, and the president of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., threw cold water this week on the idea of expanding either Grizzly or Lost Man reservoir.

    “Twin Lakes has no plans or interest in enlarging these facilities,” Lusk said via email. “Nor has anyone talked to us about these ideas.”[...]

    Also on the city’s list is expanding Leonard Thomas Reservoir at the city’s water plant above Aspen Valley Hospital so it can hold 25 acre-feet instead of 14 acre-feet…

    Another water project on the municipal list is to determine just how much water is under the city of Aspen, and whether it is suitable for drinking.

    In 2012 and 2013, the city drilled a water-well near Herron Park 1,520 feet underground in search of hot water it could use for geothermal energy.

    But in July 2013 the city announced that it did not find water hot enough to make electricity, but it did find a steady stream of clear water coming up out of the well at 29 pounds per square inch, about half of the water pressure in a normal household.

    “This summer, we’re putting a pump into the well to analyze the water and get some feel for the capacity of the aquifer,” McDill said.

    If it turns out there is still a lot of water 1,500 feet underground Aspen, the city may install a larger, permanent pump into its test well to create a back-up supply of water…

    The pump back project, which is well under way, will allow the city to reuse water from the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District to supplement its irrigation water on the municipal golf course, and to provide irrigation and snowmaking water for other entities, including the Buttermilk Mountain ski area.

    “It is intended to keep more water in the Castle Creek by not diverting for the golf course,” McDill said.

    The source of the water is “treated municipal effluent” and pipes already have been installed from the sanitation plant, past the Burlingame neighborhood, and to a pond on the city golf course.

    The city is still seeking a water right for its pump back project from state water court, and has been working out agreements with a long list of opponents.

    The water is to be primarily used to irrigate 12.3 acres of landscaping along Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane, according to documents in water court. It also could supplement irrigation on 131 acres of the Aspen golf course, 21 acres of land in the Burlingame project, and 80 acres of the Maroon Creek golf course.

    In all, 233 acres of land could receive water from the project and water could be used to make snow on as much as 156 acres of land at Buttermilk…

    The Fork is often below a flow level of 32 cfs, which is the minimum amount of water the CWCB has determined is necessary to protect the environment “to a reasonable degree.” Last year, the city entered into a short-term water [lease] with the CWCB to leave 6 cfs of water in the river instead of diverting the water into the Wheeler Ditch, which is located river-left just downstream of the Aspen Club pedestrian bridge. The water in the Wheeler Ditch is typically used by the city for landscaping and irrigation in various parts of central Aspen…

    The Colorado River basin roundtable is scheduled to next discuss its draft list of projects on Monday, April 14, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs community center.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    La Junta: Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 23-24 #COWaterPlan

    April 7, 2014

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A proposed state water plan, drought impacts, irrigation rules and weed control will be discussed at a regional forum in La Junta this month. The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum is planned April 23-24 at Otero Junior College. There also will be a community workshop from 6 to 9 p.m. April 22.

    This is the forum’s 20th year of bringing people from all parts of the Arkansas River basin together to discuss

    On the morning of April 23, James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will discuss the state’s water plan now being developed under an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    That afternoon, participants in the forum will have the opportunity to give their input into the basin’s portion of the plan.

    The Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas award will be presented at the luncheon.

    On April 24, irrigation rules and the importance of agriculture to the Arkansas River basin will be in the spotlight.

    Conservation and heritage will be discussed at the luncheon, with invasive species the topic for the afternoon.

    For information, visit http://arbwf.org or call the CSU Extension Office, 545-2045, or Jean Van Pelt, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 948-2400.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Southwestern Water Conservation District 32nd Annual Water Seminar recap #ColoradoRiver

    April 6, 2014

    southwesternwaterconservationdistrictmap

    From The Durango Herald (Sarah Mueller):

    Speakers addressed the controversial practice of transmountain diversions, which takes water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. The water crosses the Continental Divide.

    “Frankly, on the Front Range, they’re really not interested in depleting that aquifer; they’re more interested in the transmountain diversions,” Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose said. “They haven’t addressed the situations of storage; their answer is there’s more water on the Western Slope than they need.”

    Steve Harris, president of Harris Water Engineering, talked about the recent controversy over his idea of limiting lawn size in new suburban developments after 2016. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, drew fierce opposition from home builders and utility companies.

    “About half the people I talked to thought that was a great idea and the other half thought I was a demon,” he said. “In this state, I know what it’s like to get between people and grass.”

    Roberts rewrote the bill to call for a study of water conservation.

    Another bill floating through the General Assembly would require Colorado residents to purchase “WaterSense” fixtures, such as toilets, shower heads and faucets, after 2016.

    Coram said he opposed the bill because the products don’t save much water, and it’s impossible to enforce. WaterSense is a Environmental Protection Agency program labeling products as water-efficient…

    Kehmeier, speaking on the water banks panel, said he’s participated in an informal marketplace among local farmers with personal reservoirs where people could lease excess water…

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board also gave an update about creating the state’s water plan. Gov. John Hickenlooper directed the board last year to develop the plan. A draft plan is expected to go to Hickenlooper by the end of the year.

    More Southwestern Water Conservation District coverage <a href="


    Water summit drew large crowd — Fort Morgan Times

    April 5, 2014

    Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

    Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute


    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    The large crowd at Progressive 15′s Water Summit had their fill of water-related information March 28 at the Country Steak-Out in Fort Morgan, but it seemed they were still thirsty for more, asking nearly every speaker lots of questions and seeking more resources.

    The speakers addressed a number of different topics, including: potential and currently pending legislation and ballot issues that could affect water law, and weather forecasts and the plan the state is forming for dealing with water for the future.

    After Progressive 15 Chairman Barry Gore explained the nonprofit group’s mission as an advocacy agency for its members, Joe Frank from the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District spoke about the history of public trust doctrine and how it could affect Colorado if adopted here…

    After a break for lunch, the crowd heard from National Weather Service Senior Hydrologist Treste Huse about weather and flood forecasts for Colorado.

    She said that while Morgan County received 300 percent of normal precipitation in 2013, “it’s drying up this year.”

    Northeast Colorado could see higher risks of flooding this spring and summer due to higher water tables, reservoirs already at capacity and the melting of a high snow pack. Landslides also could be possible with that flooding.

    Huse also said that it was possible that 2014 would have El Nino weather patterns in Colorado, which could lead to wetter than average conditions in the south and far east parts of the state.

    Later, former Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp, who now is an advisor in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Water Office, spoke about the Colorado Water Plan.

    He said that while drought was growing in southeast Colorado, most of the state was not in a drought.

    Yet, he recognized that flooding could become an issue again.

    “We’re hopeful that the snowpack comes down in an orderly manner,” he said.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    The Road Not Taken

    April 3, 2014

    Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

    By Julia Gallucci, water education coordinator, Colorado Springs Utilities

    roadlesstakenWhen Robert Frost wrote his poem he probably wasn’t plagued by water issues, and neither are most Colorado citizens. While water is our bread and butter, how often do the rest of us think about, for example, the State Water Plan?

    Two organizations, Colorado Competitive Council and Accelerate Colorado intend to brief the Colorado business community on Colorado’s Water Plan. These lobbying groups are interested in framing what Colorado Business wants around water, and they hope to use this framework to weigh in on the State’s Water Plan.

    This is an excellent beginning to an independent State Water Plan public process, one from which, perhaps, the IBCC can draw ideas. Colorado Competitive Council and Accelerate Colorado have designed a “road show” which they successfully presented in Colorado Springs on April 2nd. In cities across Colorado, they leverage the…

    View original 199 more words


    Republican River Water Conservation District quarterly board meeting, April 10 #COWaterPlan

    April 3, 2014
    Republican River Basin

    Republican River Basin

    From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    It is time for the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors to hold its regular quarterly meeting in Yuma. It will be held at Quintech on Thursday, April 10, beginning at 10 a.m. Public comment is scheduled for 1 p.m.

    The board will receive a report from Assistant Attorney General Scott Steinbrecher on the negotiations with Kansas regarding compliance with the Republican River Compact, the Bonny Reservoir accounting issue, and the compact compliance pipeline. There also could be other matters addressed by Steinbrecher.

    The pipeline has been put to use this past winter as Kansas agreed to a one-year test run in 2014. Tracy Travis, the pipeline manager, will provide a report on the pipeline.

    Conservation has been a focus, particularly with a symposium sponsored by the RRWCD and local businesses held last month highlighting the need to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer, the region’s source of water. The board will discuss conservation survey results during the April 10 meeting.

    Also on the agenda, HDR Engineering will give a report regarding the Colorado Water Plan. There also will be a presentation on the Great Divide.

    The board will consider purchasing agency bonds, and receive reports on various recent meetings and programs.

    Quintech is located at 529 N. Albany St. in Yuma. For further information, or having any questions, please call RRWCD General Manager Deb Daniel at 970-332-3552, or email her at deb.daniel@rrwcd.net. The RRWCD website is http://www.republicanriver.com.


    Gunnison Basin Rountable basin implementation plan focuses on agriculture #COWaterPlan

    April 2, 2014

    haymeadowsneargunnison

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    Current efforts to develop a Colorado Water Plan have been largely driven by a large projected gap between urban water needs and developed supplies. Gunnison Basin water planners, however, are more focused on a current gap between agricultural needs and developed supplies. The water managers and stakeholders that make up the Gunnison Basin Roundtable are concerned that efforts to address the urban gap will negatively impact agricultural uses, whose importance goes beyond food production to environmental and recreational values.

    In the Gunnison Basin, which stretches from the headwaters near Crested Butte, Lake City, Ouray and Paonia downstream to Delta and Grand Junction, the anticipated gap between municipal needs and developed supplies is relatively small, while the gap between agricultural needs and supplies is already large.

    According to the latest statewide water supply study, the present gap between water requirements to fully meet crop demands and water available is about 128,000 acre-feet per year in the Gunnison Basin. An acre-foot is about enough water to fill a football-field-sized tub one foot deep. This is generally considered sufficient to sustain two to three average households for a year.

    Agricultural water shortages are experienced in every water district in the basin. The district that includes the North Fork of the Gunnison River and Delta has the largest gap at over 75,200 acre-feet per year. This district also has the largest number of irrigated acres in the basin, with 90,200. The Lake Fork and Lower Uncompahgre districts have the smallest gaps, at between 2,500 and 3,000 acre-feet per year. The farmers of the 79,800 irrigated acres in the Lower Uncompahgre District benefit from senior water rights and upstream reservoirs, while the Lake Fork District contains just 16,500 irrigated acres.

    Analysis conducted so far points to a need for additional upstream reservoir storage to support late-summer and fall irrigation. The Wilson Water Group, the consulting group hired by the Gunnison Basin Roundtable to assist with the basin plan, is conducting targeted technical outreach meetings to more precisely identify the causes of the shortages and identify potential projects to address them. Causes for shortages can be categorized as physical (insufficient water available), legal (water is present, but the irrigator doesn’t have rights to it), storage-related (insufficient late-season water), or efficiency-related (sufficient water could be available if managed more efficiently).

    The focus on agriculture in the Gunnison Basin makes sense, given that the Gunnison Basin Roundtable’s primary goal is to “protect existing water uses in the Gunnison Basin.” Agriculture (mostly grass and alfalfa hay, but also pasture, fruit trees, wine grapes and the famous Olathe Sweet Sweet Corn) accounts for approximately 90 percent of the basin’s water consumption. In addition to its intrinsic value, irrigated agriculture is also seen as supporting other valuable attributes of the basin’s landscape. It provides the aesthetic “open space” important to the basin’s growing recreational economy, and the flood irrigation for high hay meadows slows the flow of water downstream, supporting late-season streamflows. Flood irrigation also creates wetland areas that nurture birds and other wildlife.

    Additional goals, supporting that primary goal of protecting existing water uses, include addressing municipal and industrial shortages, quantifying and protecting environmental and recreational water needs, and maintaining and modernizing critical water infrastructure, including hydropower.

    The Gunnison Basin Roundtable has also put forward a number of “statewide principles” for consideration by other basin roundtables. These principles warn of the hazards of new water projects on the Western Slope and encourage conservation and the development of local projects to meet local needs. Those principles are a response to the perception that Basin Roundtables in basins east of the Continental Divide continue to look west for new water supplies, despite the fact that additional depletions from the West Slope could increase the risk that Colorado may not be able to meet its contractual obligations to the downstream states that share the Colorado River.

    The basin roundtables are working to collect public input on water needs and priorities as well as to technically analyze supplies and demands. In order to learn more and take a survey to contribute your insights, go to http://www.ugrwcd.org and click on “Gunnison Basin Water Plan.”

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    IBCC meeting recap: Front Range may not seek “annual firm yield” from future projects #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

    April 2, 2014
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    From Aspen Journalism (Nelson Harvey):

    Mark Waage, the manager of water resources planning for the utility Denver Water, told a meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) in Denver that Front Range interests are not necessarily seeking “firm yield,” or reliable annual supply, from a new trans-mountain diversion project, but instead could settle for diverting water only when a wet winter like this one gives the Western Slope and downstream consumers more than they need to satisfy existing water rights.

    “We are looking for wet year water,” said Waage after the meeting. “There are going to be wet years when we can develop more water. In dry periods, this project wouldn’t divert from the Colorado [River], and we would rely on [buying water rights from] Front Range agriculture instead,” along with reservoir and groundwater aquifer storage and mechanisms like rotational fallowing that permit farmers to temporarily lease their water rights to cities.

    The suggestion by Front Range interests that they’re willing to forego diversions during dry years stands in sharp contrast to their usual and long-standing insistence that “firm yield” for the Front Range from new trans-mountain diversion projects is inevitable.

    Existing diversion projects — like the Twin Lakes tunnel underneath the Continental Divide between the Roaring Fork and Arkansas river basins — already have the capacity to pipe as much as 600,000 acre-feet (roughly six Ruedi Reservoirs) of water to the Front Range each year…

    Just how much of the “new supply” sought by the Front Range will come from the Western Slope remains a looming question as officials work to draft a statewide water plan as ordered by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last year…

    In the meantime, members of the IBCC will now take the emerging framework for a new trans-mountain diversion project back to their respective roundtables for input, before drilling down further on the details in future meetings.

    Any agreement on a new project that parties on opposite sides of the Continental Divide can hammer out will likely be reflected in the statewide water plan. Still, the plan itself won’t explicitly endorse any proposed new projects.

    “We’re not going to pick winners and losers, or projects that are given a green light, so to speak, or a red light, so to speak,” said James Eklund, the executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which oversees the IBCC and the roundtables.

    Eklund spoke at a meeting with state legislators on the statewide water plan that took place in February. “Instead what we’d like to do,” he said, “is focus on a regulatory path where we might be able to someday have the state endorsement of a project.”[...]

    For the IBCC members charged with protecting water supplies on the Western Slope, who have long clashed with Front Range cities over the idea of new trans-mountain diversion projects, Waage’s modest statement last week on behalf of Denver Water— vague and general though it was — sounded like something of a breakthrough.

    “They are now willing to talk about a project that’s not going to divert every year, and that’s new,” said Jim Pokrandt, communications and education director for the Colorado River District, which protects Western Slope water interests. “There seemed to be a coalescing around a project that would only work intermittently.”

    Eric Kuhn, the Colorado River District’s general manager, said that although Front Range water interests have long hinted that they might accept a new trans-mountain diversion project that doesn’t pull water every year, “this is the first time that the idea has surfaced with some consensus.”[...]

    Specifically where a new trans-mountain diversion project would be located also remains to be seen. Front Range interests have proposed several possibilities in recent years, including projects pulling anywhere between 100,000 and 250,000 acre feet from the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming, from the lower Yampa River, or from the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir west of Gunnison…

    Since many of the water rights now used by the Front Range to divert Western Slope water under the Continental Divide were adjudicated after 1922, there’s a chance that a so-called “compact call” would force some Front Range water interests to stop diverting water temporarily.

    Faced with the insatiable demand of their urban customer base, those Front Range interests could then begin leasing water from farmers on the Western Slope in order to continue their usual diversions, extending into western Colorado the practice of “buy and dry” water transfers from farms to cities that is now common on the Front Range.

    To alleviate fears of such a scenario playing out, Waage of Denver Water told the IBCC meeting last week that the Front Range would be willing to assume the “hydrologic or legal risk” associated with a new diversion project, meaning that diversions from the project would cease in the event of a compact call before Western Slope water users with more senior rights had to curtail their own use.

    “The risk of compact curtailment has been a stumbling block for years, and we are looking now at how to minimize and share that risk,” said Waage. “We need to look at water projects that won’t lead to the curtailment of the Western Slope’s Colorado Compact allocation.”[...]

    “I think to decide whether there is enough water, the Front Range would have to do a very detailed risk analysis,” said Kuhn of the Colorado River District. “Because of climate change, we know that the [water supply] baseline is going to change. I think most of the science suggests that we will not have more water in the future than we do now.”

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    “They [Front Range] need to be making land use plans for themselves, instead of relying on us to save them” — Karn Stiegelmeier #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

    April 1, 2014

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013


    From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

    Summit County’s struggle is meeting the water needs of growing communities while satisfying Front Range water rights established here in the 1930s and ’40s.

    “They need to be making land use plans for themselves,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, “instead of relying on us to save them.”[...]

    The Colorado Basin needs to rally around the idea of no additional water for other basins, said Peter Mueller, of the Nature Conservancy.

    Both Stiegelmeier and Mueller are part of the Colorado Basin Roundtable, one of nine groups of stakeholders created in 2006 by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act…

    In Frisco, water experts, local leaders and residents concerned about the future of water convened Wednesday to discuss the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan.

    The plan must show how the basin will produce the projected water needed by 2050, said Louis Meyer, the project manager for SGM, the civil engineering and surveying firm in Glenwood Springs creating the plan.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    10th District chief judge Deborah Eyler approves appointments to the Southeastern Water board #ColoradoRiver

    April 1, 2014
    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two new and three returning directors have been appointed to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board. The appointments were approved by Deborah Eyler, chief district judge in Pueblo, in conjunction with other chief judges throughout the nine-county area within the district. The new members will take their seats at April’s meeting. There are 15 directors who serve four-year terms on the board that oversees the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

    Pat Edelmann, retired head of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pueblo, and Curtis Mitchell, head of Fountain Utilities, have joined the board.

    Returning directors are Bill Long of Las Animas, Ann Nichols of Manitou Springs, and Tom Goodwin of Canon City.

    Edelmann, 58, replaces Shawn Yoxey as a Pueblo County representative on the board. Pueblo has two other directors on the board, Vera Ortegon and David Simpson.

    Edelmann retired in 2011, and spent most of his career in the Pueblo USGS office studying the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. He frequently presented USGS reports and studies to the Southeastern board during his career.

    Mitchell, 55, replaces Greg Johnson. Mitchell worked for Colorado Springs Utilities for 30 years before joining Fountain Utilities five years ago.

    “I was involved with the startup of the Fountain Valley Authority, so I have a lot of interest as a water professional in the startup of the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Mitchell said.

    Building the conduit, which will serve 40 communities east of Pueblo, is the district’s top priority.

    Long, 59, a business owner and Bent County commissioner, is president of the board. He was appointed to the board in 2002.

    Nichols, 68, an economist and treasurer of the board, was appointed in 2006. Her father, Sid Nichols, was a charter member of the board.

    Goodwin, 61, a farmer and rancher, was first appointed in 2011. His father, Denzel Goodwin, was a longtime member of the board.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy coverage here.


    Colorado Basin Implementation Plan Mesa County town hall meeting, April 3 #COWaterPlan

    March 31, 2014

    mesacountytownhallmeetingcowaterplan

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Grand Junction: Governor Hickenlooper addresses Club 20 #COWaterPlan

    March 29, 2014

    Grand Junction back in the day

    Grand Junction back in the day


    From KREXTV.com (Travis Khachatoorian):

    Water rights was the big topic of the day.

    “Water is critical to everyone, but in Western Colorado we’re very, very concerned about being able to access water to develop our own industries and our own communities,” said executive director of Club 20 Bonnie Petersen.

    Governor Hickenlooper spoke about his support for a statewide Colorado Water Plan. This would involve water basin officials from all corners of the state coming together for compromise on decisions regarding water distribution.

    “I think if we get everyone in the room together and get them frequent meetings so they get to know each other, I think there’s a real chance that the urban areas, the front range, the ranches, the agricultural users here on the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains, we can figure out the right compromises,” said Governor Hickenlooper.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    A look back at old-school irrigation efficiency — Greg Trainor #COWaterPlan

    March 28, 2014

    Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center

    Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center


    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Greg Trainor):

    In the early 1980s, I worked for the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) on the Colony Oil Shale Venture at Parachute, Colo. I was a staff member in ARCO’s Community Development Group that was working on the development plans for the Battlement Mesa New Town. The New Town was designed to house the thousands of oil shale workers that were expected to move to western Colorado for oil-shale jobs.

    ARCO had been in the oil-shale business for some time and had purchased property on Battlement Mesa 30 years earlier in anticipation of oil-shale development. Upon purchase of these properties, ARCO leased the lands back to the original owners, allowing them to continue farming and using the water rights attached to the ranch lands. This continuation of use of the agricultural water rights ensured that the rights would not be abandoned, and the water would be available when the oil shale industry had need for it.

    One of my responsibilities with ARCO was to manage these leased ranch lands, working with previous owners, tracking water use, and ensuring a communication link between the land owner (ARCO) and the ranch lessees.

    One of ARCO’s lessees was a man named Dan Duplice, a sheep herder and farmer. Dan lived on Battlement Mesa and owned a band of sheep that traveled each summer from Battlement Mesa, across the Colorado River, and up the steep, hair-raising trails that connected the Colorado River valley floor with the thousand-foot-thick horizontal bands of the oil shale cliffs. At the top of these cliffs were the spruce-fir zones and open, grassed parks of the Roan Plateau.

    Dan had farm lands on Battlement Mesa that were fed by a small ditch that crisscrossed the lower elevations of the mountains that rose above Dan’s farm. Known as “Pete” and “Bill,” these peaks held snow at high elevations as well as on their lower slopes. It was the “low water” that Dan, and now ARCO, had rights to. With an early and short run-off of this “low water,” Dan had to take early advantage of the flow when it appeared.

    On my travels of Battlement Mesa, I would find Dan standing at the head of his alfalfa fields where the ditch emptied into his laterals. He would carefully bring the water to his creases, allowing only enough water down the crease to wet it down to the end of the field. Then he would move the water from one set of creases over to a new set and repeat the process. Dan would stand there with his shovel, husbanding the flow down the field, making sure that it got the water it needed and that no water left the bottom of his fields.

    Having spent most of my adult life in western Colorado, I was more used to standard “flood irrigation,” where irrigators would open up their laterals and flood their fields with all the water the creases would carry. Then, leaving their sets to return later in the day, irrigators would allow their water to flow down across the field and out the end of the field as return flow, usually into the small drainages that would carry the return water to the Colorado River.

    Today I participate in the Colorado Basin Roundtable, one of nine roundtables across Colorado working on development of the Colorado Water Plan, which the governor says is supposed to point the way forward to meeting the needs of growing cities and towns while also preserving agriculture, the environment and recreational opportunities. It’s a tall order.

    Agricultural water efficiency improvements are often suggested as a tool to address shortages and to leave more water in streams for environmental and recreational purposes. As I participate in the discussions, I think of Dan Duplice and my observations of him 34 years ago.

    Dan Duplice invested a significant amount of time to the special care of the flow and management of the available water. Despite the small amount of water carried by his ditch, the result was the production of an incredible amount of tall, thick alfalfa before this ditch water trickled out.

    In times of drought and increased competition for water, the kind of careful management of water practiced by Dan Duplice may have to become more widespread. His experience showed that good yields can still be had when water is tight — but it’s not easy. He spent a lot of time in those fields with a shovel.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Progressive 15 will host a Water Summit this Friday in Fort Morgan #COWaterPlan

    March 25, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    The nonprofit advocacy group will host a Water Summit this Friday in Fort Morgan. The various speakers will discuss topics that will educate their audience about water and its importance to Colorado, according to a press release…

    John Stulp, the governor’s special policy advisor on water and former state agriculture commissioner, will speak at the forum about the Colorado Plan for water, according to the release.

    The South Platte and Republican rivers will the subject of another session, with Deb Daniel and Jim Yahn as the speakers.

    Public legislation related to water will be the focus of Joe Frank’s talk, which will include the potential local impacts to water rights and use of proposed legislation.

    Jerry Gibbens will provide an update on the Northern Integrated Storage Project, which is a proposed massive water storage project that would build two reservoirs, with one near Fort Collins and one near Ault.

    The featured luncheon speaker will be Treste Huse from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who will provide forecasts for moisture and potential flooding issues.

    The summit will end with a panel discussion featuring people who represent different ideas and thoughts on the roles water will play in future plans and how it could impact on the northeast Colorado economy…

    Reservations are required and can be placed online at progressive15.org, by calling 970-867-9167 or by email to cathy@progressive15.org.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Eagle Valley meeting on the #COWaterPlan, March 27

    March 24, 2014

    avonJackaffleck
    Click here for the pitch. Here’s an excerpt:

    Thursday, March 27th
    Eagle Valley “Town Hall” Meeting on the Colorado Water Plan
    6 to 8 pm @ Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon

    Did you know that Colorado is one of only a few states in the West operating without a formal water plan? As of May 2013, that is changing. Gov. Hickenlooper has asked to have a draft of the State’s Water Plan on his desk in December of 2014 with the final completed in December of 2015.

    For this process, Colorado has been divided into 9 river basins, each responsible for outlining their values, priorities, goals, and objectives moving forward. Here in the Eagle Valley, we fall into the Colorado River Basin and the draft of our Basin Implementation Plan is due in July. This process seeks much public input; now is the time for you to learn more about the Statewide Water Plan and give your feedback!

    Please join us for this very important evening of learning and sharing. We need your help to make sure the Colorado Water Plan reflects the needs and concerns of the Eagle Valley moving into the future.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance is hosting a business briefing about the #COWaterPlan on April 2

    March 24, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    In Colorado, water is as precious as a rare diamond, though much easier to get your hands on – at least for now.

    The future may be another matter.

    Frequent droughts, an increasing population and greater demand for water have elected officials, conservationists and the business community worried about the future of Colorado’s water supply.

    The specter of future shortages prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to issue an executive order last year to establish a statewide water plan, said Wayne Vanderschuere, general manager for water resources for Colorado Springs Utilities. The initiative involves people from various statewide water basins coming together to discuss how best to conserve, share, find, develop and expand the existing water supply, Vanderschuere said.

    Against this backdrop, business and conservation groups are holding statewide meetings to hear what corporate executives and small-business owners have to say on the importance of water to their ventures, and to get their ideas on conservation and other steps that could be added to the governor’s plan.

    “A reliable and sustainable water supply is critical for long-term economic viability,” said Joe Raso, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, which is hosting an April 2 briefing for the business community on the governor’s water plan.

    It’s not just having enough water for existing businesses, Raso said. Even a perception that the city and state might be struggling to maintain its water supply could crush business growth, he said. Water usage is a primary cost of business for major industries and accounts for at least a portion of all small business costs. The cost to provide sufficient water in the future could increase utility prices beyond the average business owner’s ability to pay, Raso said. Those costs also encourage larger businesses to move or locate elsewhere, he said.

    “If you have a company that decides the state and Colorado Springs is too expensive for their processes, or if they are worried about the impact of their water usage on the community, then they will locate elsewhere,” he said.

    Less water flowing in

    Four things must happen with the state’s water supply to keep the commodity from becoming a burden to businesses, said Bryan Blakely, president of Accelerate Colorado, one of two organizations making the April 2 presentation in Colorado Springs.

    “We are looking for efficiency, predictability, reliability and cost control,” said Blakely, whose organization pairs state businesses and local governments to work with Congress on issues related to the state’s economic development.

    He said one of the primary ways the state could increase available water is construct additional systems that would capture and store more of the state’s snow and rain runoff. Capturing and storing more in years of abundant snow and rainfall would provide additional supplies in dry years, Blakely said.

    “There is a lot of water flowing out of the state of Colorado that we have the rights to,” he said, “but we don’t have anywhere to store it.”

    There is also a lot less water flowing into the state.

    From 2001 through 2010, the Colorado River flow averaged 16 percent below the 20th century average, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs, “a national community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity,” according to its website, e2.org.

    The group’s research, “Colorado Water Supply and Climate Change: A Business Perspective,” states that “from 1999 through 2005, Lake Powell, the Colorado River reservoir designed to ensure delivery of water to the lower basin, fell from 99 percent of capacity to 33 percent, a sharper decline than thought possible.”

    Cooperation is key

    Solving the state’s water problems will involve the implementation of several ideas. E2 has said the governor’s plan must include a goal of reducing per capita urban water use by 25 percent by 2025 and by 50 percent by 2050. It also wants the state to “require all water providers to adopt water rates that create incentives for water conservation” and expand water reuse programs.

    Vanderschuere said finding a solution will require cooperation between governments, organizations and people.

    And there will be challenges. Agricultural enterprises, including farms and ranches, account for about 86 percent of the state’s annual water usage annually. But Colorado law is written so that it’s unlikely the state or any municipality could reduce the amount of water used by agriculture, even in lean years.

    Still, Vanderschuere said those in agriculture have been the most willing to help when it comes to droughts.

    “At least once a week I get someone calling me trying to lease us their water rights,” he said. “And we have had leases from ag in the past and will do so in the future.”

    If that’s the case, why worry?

    “The problem is getting the water from the farms to the urban area,” Vanderschuere said.

    Pumping, transporting, treating and distributing water from farms sometimes can be too costly for the amount of water received. Vanderschuere believes the state could develop ways to capture Colorado’s remaining allotment off the Colorado River, which also supplies water to Arizona, California and Nevada. He said Colorado has “a very specific allocation under the law of the river,” but right now the state is not using its full legal portion.

    “What is important is recognizing on the statewide perspective that there is an increasing gap in the water supply and water demand,” he said, “and with the state population expected to double by 2050, that is not very far off in water time.”

    While the population growth could be good for business in terms of having more customers, any real or perceived water shortage could stymie future business growth. Hence, the series of roundtables in each of Colorado’s eight major water basins to work on the governor’s initiative.

    Vanderschuere said the statewide water meetings are important because it takes decades to create solutions to water problems. He used the term “water time” to describe the time it takes to plan, design, permit, construct and start the flow of water through a new project. For example, he said the Southern Delivery System will be completed in 2016, but the project was envisioned in the 1980s, planned in 1990s and permitted around 2010.

    Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

    DETAILS

    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance is hosting Accelerate Colorado and the Colorado Competitive Council for a business briefing on Gov. Hickenlooper’s statewide water plan, “and to help finalize a new set of statewide business community water policy principles that address the business and economic development needs of Colorado,” according to the alliance’s website,

    WHEN: 8-9:30 a.m. April 2

    WHERE: Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Avenue

    COST: Free

    ETC: Register online at http://bit.ly/1dnvZi6. For more information, contact Shawn Dahlberg at 884-2832.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Work on the #COWaterPlan continues #ColoradoRiver

    March 20, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    Over the past month, readers of this column have learned about several aspects of the Colorado Water Plan Governor Hickenlooper wants drafted by the end of this year. Articles have focused on the efforts of the planning group for the Colorado River Basin (in Colorado) that seek to address needs for community water supplies, agriculture, and streamflows to support the environment and recreational uses.

    Here are a few of the points highlighted the series:

    • Many headwater communities lack sufficient reservoir storage to weather a prolonged or severe drought.

    • Many farmers and ranchers already suffer from periodic water shortages, even as they fear that additional Western Slope agricultural water will be demanded for urban uses or meeting downstream obligations.

    • The health of many streams have already been undermined by diversions, and there is concern that the problem could get worse as water demands continue to grow, with consequences for the recreational economy as well as the environment.

    Reconciling these competing demands for water even within the Colorado River Basin is no simple task, and the fact that water-short farms and cities east of the Continental Divide continue to seek relief from the comparatively wet western side adds another layer of complexity.

    Nonetheless, the water managers and stakeholders that make up the Colorado Basin Roundtable are forging ahead with assessing potential projects and methods to enhance the security of water supplies to meet all of the basin’s needs. A few of these potential projects and methods include:

    • Developing small storage reservoirs in the Upper Basin that can release water to support both community needs and fish needs in times of prolonged drought.

    • Acquiring the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon, which holds a very senior water right that plays an important role in keeping water in the Colorado River to run through its hydropower turbines.

    • Identifying land-use policies that could reduce the growth of urban water needs.

    The Colorado Basin Roundtable is continuing to address these options at meetings every two weeks in Glenwood Springs and is seeking additional input from the public at town hall meetings held throughout the river basin.

    To learn more and get details on upcoming meetings, go to http://www.coloradobip.sgm-inc.com.

    From Steamboat Today (Ren Martyn):

    The Yampa White Green Roundtable met last week in Craig to further discuss Northwest Colorado’s Basin Implementation Plan that in July will be sent to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to be implemented into the 2015 Colorado State Water Plan…

    The imposing task is how to keep the water in our basin and plan for “wet water,” or water that is in the river system not just on paper.

    When compared to other Colorado basins, our basin is relatively undeveloped and has limited water usage and storage. Other West Slope basins in close proximity to the thirsty Front Range metro areas with trans-mountain diversions that take West Slope water to the East Slope, have gone through water planning but their rivers lack a normal hydrologic cycle and are dry in comparison.

    A quick look at Winter Park’s [Fraser] River will show the water planning did not achieve “wet water,” and millions of dollars now are being spent trying to convince the owner of the water rights, Denver Water Authority, to leave some water in the river.

    Past water planning often relied on median flows for projected calculations, but if you lived here in 2011 and 2012, you understand the difficulty in relying on middle flow values.

    In 2011, the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs total flow was 598,000 acre feet, but one year later, total flow was 178,000 acre feet. To add emphasis to this dramatic fluctuation, the lowest recorded flow was in 1977 at 122,000 acre feet. “Wet water” planning is no easy task.

    The roundtable is a diverse group representing municipal, energy, industrial, recreational, environmental and agricultural interests. The group recognizes the sustainability of our river system and economic health are at risk and is working diligently to address the needs for existing uses, future growth and recreational and environmental values.

    During the past month, the roundtable conducted five public meetings in Steamboat Springs, Craig, Meeker, Rangely and Browns Park. The public process has been a valuable component to the BIP process and additional local public meetings likely may be held as the Colorado State Plan is developed.

    On March 6, more than 300 water leaders and members of the public from across the state gathered for the 2014 Statewide Basin Roundtable Summit in Golden. Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Gov. Bill Owens each gave a keynote address highlighting the important work of the basin roundtable process and the development of localized Basin Implementation Plans that will comprise a large portion of Colorado’s Water Plan.

    As part of the process, the Yampa, White, Green Roundtable is examining years of consumptive and non-consumptive studies, and with public input, will finalize a Basin Implementation Plan that protects an equitable apportionment of the native floes and helps mitigate the risks of over-development of the region’s water resources.

    The diverse interests represented on the roundtable agree that planning for “wet water” is a significant challenge but vital to the future sustainability of Northwest Colorado.

    For additional information visit http://www.coloradowaterplan.com or attend the next Yampa, White, Green Roundtable meeting on April 16 in Craig.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, et. al., will host a business briefing, April 2, on the #COWaterPlan

    March 18, 2014

    pikespeak

    From The Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, Accelerate Colorado and the Colorado Competitive Council will host a business briefing on the governor’s statewide water plan.

    The goal is to help finalize a new set of statewide business community water policy principles that address the business and economic development of Colorado.

    The briefing takes place from 8-9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 2, at the Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Ave. The briefing is free, but pre-registration is required. Breakfast buffet is free.

    To register online, click on: http://web.coloradospringsbusinessalliance.com/events/Water-Policy-Briefing-to-the-Business-Community-1848/details. For information, call 884-2832.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    ‘Variability will drive us crazy and keep us humble’ — Nolan Doesken

    March 16, 2014
    Nolan Doesken -- Colorado Water Foundation for Water Education President's Award Presentation 2011

    Nolan Doesken — Colorado Water Foundation for Water Education President’s Award Presentation 2011

    From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    “Nothing new under the sun” was pretty much the message delivered by State Climatologist Nolan Doesken yesterday during a gathering of area water leaders. Although winters have tended to be warmer, dry years more plentiful and snowfall melting off sooner in recent years, the major factors that determine the Rio Grande Basin’s climate have not changed, Doesken explained.

    Colorado is still the highest elevation state in the union; it still remains in a mid-latitude location between the pole and the equator; the state is still interior continental, not any closer to an ocean than it ever was; complex mountain topography remains; and solar energy is still constant, with hundreds of sunny days a year.

    In a state that boasts 300 days or more of sunshine a year, the Rio Grande Basin, which encompasses the San Luis Valley, is the sunniest part of the state, Doesken reminded the audience of the Rio Grande Roundtable group on Tuesday.

    “Most of the main drivers of our climate are not changing ,” Doesken said. “Our high elevation isn’t changing, our mid-latitude location isn’t changing “”

    He added, “It does appear over time there’s been a bit of a warming trend in much of the state, but down here it’s mixed signals.” He said summer days in Alamosa have been distinctly on the hot side in recent years, and when Alamosa is 90 degrees, that generally means the entire state is pretty warm.

    However, Doesken said the weather station in Del Norte has recorded a colder trend, which might be attributable to a change in the weather station’s location itself.

    Of the weather data available for the Valley, “Most locations show a modest upward trend in temperature,” he said.

    “Precipitation, on the other hand, is all over the place.”

    He said there is no discernable upward trend in precipitation. This basin’s biggest climate indicators are found within the basin itself, Doesken explained.

    “It’s a local effect.”

    He said if the data from 1925 to the present were examined, for example, temperature changes might be as easy to determine here as answering the question, “When did it snow last?”

    Regarding Valley temperatures , residents have learned to dress in layers, because the temperatures can vary so much, even in a single day, Doesken said.

    “You are the champion of diurnal range fluctuations, day to night,” he said. The Valley can experience a 50-degree temperature swing from morning to night on a routine basis. It can be 20 degrees in the morning and 70 in the afternoon.

    “That’s the climate in which you live,” Doesken said.

    “In the Midwest, Mississippi Valley, going north means colder, south means warmer, but in the mountains it’s local topography that drives temperatures.”

    The variability of the Valley’s weather is what remains constant, or as Doesken put it, “Variability will drive us crazy and keep us humble.”

    Sometimes there will be an apparent cycle of weather, while at other times it will appear random. One constant is the spring wind that the Valley experiences from March through June.

    “You are in your fourmonth wind season right now, like it or not,” he said.

    Regarding precipitation, this basin is dry, like it or not. Doesken said because of the basin’s location, it generally receives less than 8 inches precipitation annually , which is the climate area residents know and love.

    “You love it as long as the mountains around you are full of snow. They are not always.”

    The bulk of the state’s legitimate surface water comes from those mountain snows, but that can vary as much as the temperatures. Because of the moisture that came into the state last fall the majority of it in one week Denver wound up experiencing its wettest year, Doesken said. Doesken reminded the group of the fact most were painfully aware, that the Rio Grande Basin has not enjoyed a big snowpack year for a while.

    “Drought happens. It keeps happening,” Doesken said. He said there have been more years with less snowpack by April 1, “but there’s a lot of noise in there.”

    He explained how important it is to keep data and said the manual snow course collection sites are extremely valuable. He has been a proponent of maintaining those sites in the state.

    He has served in the Colorado Climate Center since 1977 and has been the state climatologist since 2006.

    “We are climate accountants ,” he said. The center monitors all aspects of climate in the state from humidity and temperature to precipitation and evaporation . Doesken said the first government weather state in Colorado was located at Fort Massachusetts in the San Luis Valley in 1855, and by 1890 there was a statewide weather reporting network that included sites like Monte Vista and Platoro.

    That type of information is still valuable, and Doesken encouraged local residents to become part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow (CoCoRaHS) network that depends on folks in places like Villa Grove to provide weather information to the state climate center. Those interested in becoming a part of CoCoRaHS are welcome to attend an open house from 2-7 p.m. on Friday, March 21, at the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee office , 1305 Park Ave., Monte Vista.

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.


    ‘Rivers do much more than keep fish wet’ — Jo Evans/Ken Neubecker #COWaterPlan

    March 16, 2014

    Saguache Creek

    Saguache Creek


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jo Evans/Ken Neubecker):

    Colorado faces a future with more people and less water. A state water plan is a good idea, but we must plan carefully to get the future we want. We need to include rivers as rivers, not merely as engineered conduits bringing water to our faucets and farms.

    Rivers do much more than keep fish wet. They are the life and heart of entire ecosystems. Ninety percent of Colorado’s wildlife depend on riparian habitat to survive. Riparian areas and rivers make up less than 5 percent of our total land area, but they are the most complex and important habitat we have. They are incredibly valuable economically as well as environmentally. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Coloradoans spent $10 billion on wildlife related recreation in 2011 alone. Riparian areas and rivers statewide made that possible.

    Most Colorado rivers have no prescribed minimum flows, and a healthy riparian zone needs more than that. When we take water out of a stream things change.

    Riparian areas and the gravel aquifers they depend on dry out. Recent studies have shown that diverting more than 20 percent of a stream’s native flow can cause damage, and many streams in Colorado have far more water than that removed. Most water used will eventually return to the stream from which it was taken, even if many miles downstream. Water taken out of its original basin for use in another basin is gone forever. Trans-basin diversions impact the entire stream and riparian ecosystem, not just the flow of the stream.

    When we add new water to a stream on this side of the Continental Divide, typically the stream becomes wider, deeper and faster. The stream may no longer fit the environment under which it was formed, impacting everything that depended on that stream habitat. This not only impacts wildlife but can make the natural drainage less able to handle floods such as we had last year.

    We do pretty well at determining how much water we will need for our faucets and fields. We identify how much we need, where and when, and then look for ways to provide that quantity of water. The draft Colorado Water Plan lists specific municipal, industrial and agricultural needs for each of the major river basins and the possible projects to supply those necessities. But we need balance. Where is a comparable environmental needs list?

    Specific environmental water needs are still mostly unknown. Environmental uses are usually described as “attributes” to be “enhanced” often by new storage and diversion projects. These “enhancements” may or may not be enough to maintain a healthy stream and riparian environment. If we are to meet our environmental water needs, we must identify and quantify those needs.

    When we know how much water we need to repair and maintain our rivers, we can truly plan how to meet these needs. Until and unless we do, the state water plan is only half a plan and doesn’t provide for all the values expressed in the governor’s executive order calling for the plan. Not by a long shot.

    Jo Evans is president of the Audubon Colorado Council. Ken Neubecker is with the Audubon Colorado Council Water Task Force.


    Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 23-24 #COWaterPlan

    March 16, 2014

    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey


    From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Pam Denahy):

    The annual Forum will be held on April 23-24, 2014. The Forum will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. We will be taking the Forum down the river this year to La Junta, home of the nearby Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.

    Additional activities to enjoy in the Otero County area can be found at the City of La Junta website: http://www.ci.la-junta.co.us and the Visit La Junta website: http://www.visitlajunta.net.

    Please check out the website for details on lodging and registration: http://www.arbwf.org. Early registration ($45) may be done online at our website or by mail-in. Exhibitors are also welcome at no additional cost.

    Given that the original purpose of the Forum was to encourage positive dialog about important Ark Basin issues, it is fitting that this year; the focus will be on Colorado’s Water Plan and the attendant Arkansas Basin Implementation Plan that will be of paramount importance in the coming year. The Forum will be hosting a panel with representatives from basins adjoining the Arkansas, along with James Eklund (director of the CWCB) and John Stulp (special adviser to the governor for Water Issues). The panelists will provide their basin specific perspectives on Colorado’s Water Plan. The program also includes two panels that will discuss the importance and the development of the Arkansas Basin Implementation Plan. Your feedback will be a very important component of the Basin Implementation Plan. This year the Forum has partnered with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to provide an avenue for you to provide your input to the Basin Plan through an onsite clicker survey. You won’t want to miss this opportunity!

    On the Forum’s second day, additional panel discussions will be focused on the Value and Importance of Agriculture, Invasive Species, Arkansas Basin Weather Update, and Agricultural Water Use. Based on the success of our experience with the “Community Workshop” on water education, we will be repeating this event once again the evening before the main Forum, on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 from 6 to 9 p.m. This year’s chairman, Dr. Lorenz Sutherland, and the planning committee have done a fabulous job and it’s shaping up to be a great event.

    General questions may be directed to the Peaks & Plains CSU Extension Office at(719) 545-2045 or to Jean Van Pelt, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District at (719) 948-2400.

    What: Arkansas River Basin Water Forum

    Where: Otero Junior College Student Center

    When: April 23-24

    Cost: $45 preregistration

    Contact: CSU Extension Office, 545-2045 or Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 948-2400.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    More drought planning needed by communities in the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COWaterPlan

    March 15, 2014
    Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

    Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    According to Louis Meyer of the consulting firm SGM, most water providers that serve households in communities from the Colorado River’s headwaters in Grand and Summit counties on down to Grand Junction have done a pretty good job of planning for the range of climate conditions that have been seen over the past several decades.

    However, most are not prepared for the more extreme droughts that both climate change models and ancient tree ring studies indicate could occur in the future.

    SGM is working with the Colorado Basin Roundtable to assess water needs and potential projects for a “Basin Implementation Plan” that will help inform the Colorado Water Plan that Gov. John Hickenlooper wants drafted by the end of this year. The Colorado Basin Roundtable, like its counterparts in other major river basins around the state, is a group of water managers and stakeholders charged by the state legislature with doing “bottom-up” water planning. Meyer and his team have been interviewing domestic water providers throughout the river basin to determine what their needs are and what kinds of projects would help them be more prepared for the future.

    One factor making communities vulnerable to prolonged or extreme droughts is the fact that many lack sufficient reservoir storage upstream from their water treatment plants. These communities rely largely on water in streams to serve their customers while releasing water from reservoirs in other drainages to satisfy any downstream senior calls on the river. This is more of an issue in headwaters communities in the upper Fraser, Eagle, Blue and Roaring Fork river watersheds than in the Grand Junction area, where water providers enjoy access to reservoirs that are physically, as well as legally, upstream…

    Increasing reservoir storage, promoting conservation and addressing forest health all require money, and increasing storage requires permits as well. The small size of many water providers in the basin limits their capacity to take on big projects, so Meyer and his team have suggested more regional cooperation may make projects to increase the reliability of community water supplies more feasible.

    Water customers also have a role to play in determining the capacity of their water utility to plan and prepare for the future. If customers are not willing to help pay the necessary costs through their rates, it limits a utility’s capacity to act. Water providers are not only faced with providing safe drinking water to customers at prices that are often less than 1/10th of one penny per gallon, but now customers are much more aware of water-demand impacts on local stream health.


    San Luis Valley: #COWaterPlan public meetings start March 17

    March 14, 2014

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage


    Arkansas Basin Roundtable recap: Area #COWaterPlan meetings on tap

    March 13, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday reviewed its progress toward creating its part of the upcoming state water plan, planning a series of meetings to make sure all voices are heard.

    The meetings will be staged in areas throughout the region in order to assure water needs that have not surfaced in the past nine years of meetings are included in the Arkansas Basin implementation plan.

    “As we prepared for these meetings? Are we going to get flak jackets?” Canon City farmer Manny Colon jokingly asked.

    “Maybe combat gear,” replied interim Chairwoman Betty Konarski, who wore a hard hat to her inaugural meeting as head of the roundtable.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Roundtable Summit: No consensus yet on securing a new water supply for the looming gap #COWaterPlan

    March 11, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The most productive use of water may be drinking pitchers of it while having discussions about the state’s future. That could be the lesson of last week’s state roundtable summit, which brought together about 300 people ranging from state bureaucrats to water lawyers; farmers to water utility managers; county commissioners to fish lovers.

    Oh yes, and a current and former governor of the state. Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Gov. Bill Owens spoke briefly at the all-day meeting.

    As they have for the past 10 years, they talked about the “gap,” but did little to increase the state’s supply. Back in 2004, that gap was solely the municipal gap that would occur as the state’s population doubles over 50 years. As time went on, the gap has grown to include water for agricultural, environmental and recreational purposes as well.

    “What sometimes gets lost in the discussion is that the gap is today,” said Alan Hamel, a Colorado Water Conservation Board member from Pueblo. “So we have to have interim solutions to address that gap.”

    The roundtables — nine of them formed in 2005 — have been all about interim solutions. They have directed millions of dollars toward projects and studies aimed at patching up water shortfalls.

    The Interbasin Compact Committee formed at the same time to look at the harder question: Where do we find the water to serve 5 million new Coloradans?

    This year, Hickenlooper has given the group a new focus, asking the IBCC and roundtables to contribute grass-roots thinking to a state water plan now being developed by the CWCB.

    During a panel discussion, IBCC members shared conclusions from a decade of meetings that has led to a broad-brush attempt to plan for various scenarios.

    Summarizing reports from each committee:

    Conservation:

    Cities need to make full use of water imported to the Front Range from the Western Slope. The trade-off will be the reduction of return flows, said Peter Nichols, a water attorney.

    Environment and Recreation:

    Doing the minimum to protect the environment won’t be enough, and the state should look for ways to improve it as well, said Melinda Kassen of Trout Unlimited.

    Identified projects:

    As much as 200,000 acre-feet of new water — 150,000 for the Front Range and 50,000 for the Western Slope — could be attained by projects already in the works, said Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Conservation District.

    Storage:

    Construction of new storage and better timing of releases from existing storage will improve water supply, said Bruce Whitehead, a former state senator.

    Alternative transfers:

    New methods of agricultural transfers need to be tested to avoid dry-up of farmland. Without new methods, 20-40 percent of irrigated acres could disappear by 2050, said Eric Wilkinson, executive director of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Compact issues:

    Colorado has to be comfortable with the level of risk on the Colorado River in order to develop its full potential, said John Mc-Clow a CWCB member from Gunnison.

    New supply:

    “New supply has been the elephant wandering around in the room. We’ve been talking over it, around it and under it,” Wilkinson said.

    “Sometimes the elephant isn’t all that polite,” McClow replied. “We often feel like we’re under it.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Conservation Essentials for Colorado’s Water Plan – Conservation Colorado #COWaterPlan

    March 9, 2014

    Update: I failed to post the second page yesterday.

    Click on the graphic to read full size. Thanks to Theresa M. Conley (Conservation Colorado) for the “Essentials.”

    Colorado Water Plan Essentials FINAL_030414 page 1

    Colorado Water Plan Essentials FINAL_030414 page 2


    Here’s hoping that deep snow and short memories don’t add up to problems for Colorado’s water future — Scott Willoughby #COWaterPlan

    March 9, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

    Here’s hoping that deep snow and short memories don’t add up to problems for Colorado’s water future. With the March 1 mountain snowpack measuring at 116 percent of average and 161 percent compared with last year, it’s easy to take the lifeblood of the state’s outdoor recreation industry for granted.

    Hopefully that won’t be the case between now and March 19, when the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is scheduled to report on the public’s expectations for the Colorado Water Plan initiated by Gov. John Hickenlooper last year in an attempt to address the anticipated gap between statewide water supply and demand. With a directive from the governor that “Colorado’s water plan must reflect what our water values are,” time is running short for Coloradans to define those values through public input.

    Just don’t forget the two-year drought the state has been dealing with up until now.

    With a gloomy forecast predicting water demands outpacing available supplies as soon as 2022, everything from agriculture to angling could be threatened even in a normal water year, along with several other aspects of Colorado’s multibillion-dollar recreation industry that relies on water from healthy rivers and streams. But it’s not just food prices and fishing that hang in the balance, it’s our very identity, the unique traits that define Colorado and many Coloradans.

    Above and beyond the basic necessities, water has long defined Colorado’s character, be it an Arkansas River rafting trip or the icy snowmelt portrayed in a Coors beer commercial. Our streams support wildlife for watching, hunting and fishing, entice campers and kayakers and provide the landscapes that inspire hikers and bikers. They provide the water for snowmaking at ski areas and built the halfpipe that hosted the U.S. Open snowboarding championships at Vail this weekend.

    Those are just a few examples of what the world has come to think of when it hears the name Colorado. And coupled with the executive order that the Colorado Water Plan needs to focus on “a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife,” they should provide incentive enough to ensure measures are included in the plan that protect and restore flowing rivers and the tourism and recreation opportunities they provide.

    Just in case they don’t, though, Colorado’s outdoors community of boaters, fishermen, hunters, skiers, campers, backpackers, bikers, bird-watchers and the rest should take this opportunity to further the incentive by making their collective voice heard.

    The CWCB has established a process for receiving formal input to Colorado’s Water Plan, including a process for specific stakeholder groups such as those vested in “Environment and Recreation.” Information can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com and e-mails sent to cowaterplan@state.co.us.

    The most effective route may be through submitting input to specific “basin roundtables” established to present perspectives and values of citizens living in each of the state’s eight major river basins and the Denver metropolitan area. The nine roundtables are in the process of developing Basin Implementation Plans that will identify solutions to meet water needs inside the various basins and statewide. A specific page dedicated to the roundtable process has been established on the CWCB website, cwcb.state.co.us, under the “Water Management” tab.

    The final Colorado Water Plan incorporating the individual basin plans will be completed by December 2015.

    From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

    Hickenlooper and former Gov. Bill Owens gave a pep talk to water experts at a statewide summit Thursday to advance work on the state water plan, which is supposed to lay out a strategy for preserving the environment, promoting agriculture and allowing the population to double.

    During Owens’ tenure, the state created roundtables in each major river basin to begin thinking about a statewide consensus on water. Since then, the groups have had some 780 meetings around the state, Hickenlooper said.

    “This really is the right way to go about things, to go down in the grass roots and make sure everyone’s voice is heard,” he said…

    …Hickenlooper said Colorado’s water plan, and similar plans in other Western states, could form the basis of a regional plan for the country’s dry Western states. He and other governors promoted the idea to Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a meeting at the White House two weeks ago, he said.

    Obama and Vilsack said they liked the idea, and they would pay for the logistics around developing the plan, but they would let states take the lead.

    “There were several senior Washington officials in that room, and they said it was the first time they’d seen the governors come in organized enough that we could hold our own against the federal agencies,” Hickenlooper said…

    Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway reminded Hickenlooper that Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona caused a ruckus during the 2008 campaign when he suggested the Colorado River Compact needed to be renegotiated.

    “We obviously would fight that tooth and nail,” Hickenlooper said. “But the best way to avoid that … is to have a relationship with the other states, and we can put ourselves in their shoes and have them put themselves in our shoes.”

    [Sen. Ellen Roberts] said she is worried about Colorado’s negotiating strength if the Western states start working on a regional water agreement.

    “I’m not sure I’m on board with that. I think it’s a very ambitious task just to get a state water plan,” Roberts said.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Arkansas Basin RT Gary Barber steps down as chair #COWaterPlan

    March 9, 2014
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Gary Barber, who has chaired the Arkansas Basin Roundtable since 2007, is stepping down in order to concentrate on finishing the group’s contribution to a state water plan.

    “I’ve always tried to do what’s best for the roundtable and for the basin,” Barber said.

    Barber has been working on the Arkansas Basin plan that will be part of the state water plan, which comes out in draft form later this year. As chairman, Barber prepared many of the documents that will be used in the plan, but he is now a paid consultant.

    “I needed to devote all of my time to the plan,” Barber said.

    Vice chairman Betty Karnoski, a Monument real estate broker, will act as chairman of the roundtable.

    Barber has been a central fixture in Arkansas Basin water issues for more than a decade.

    As an agent for the El Paso County Water Authority, he contributed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s understanding of the Arkansas Valley’s municipal water gap in the 2004 Statewide Water Supply Initiative. He was a frequent critic of the Southern Delivery System, saying it did not have a wide enough regional focus, and an advocate for groundwater storage in El Paso County. Barber became a charter member of the roundtable in 2005, helping to organize the group from the beginning. He served as secretary until Alan Hamel stepped down as chairman in 2007.

    In 2008, while working for El Paso County water interests, he made offers to buy farms for their water on the Bessemer Ditch, triggering a successful counteroffer by the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    In 2009, he helped to write state legislation that formed the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District after three years of meeting with the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Within a year, he was chosen as its first executive director.

    In 2011, he went to work for Two Rivers Water Co., which has bought Pueblo County farms, and tried to expand its scope to include municipal consulting in El Paso County.

    Last year, he joined WestWater Research, a Western U.S. water marketing firm, and secured a roundtable contract. He retained his position as chairman of the roundtable after an open discussion of whether the contract represented a conflict of interest.

    Despite, or maybe because of, his forays into valley water activities, Barber commanded respect from other roundtable members because of his ability to sort through differences.

    He nearly always ends discussions of complicated water issues with the statement: “We have consensus by the absence of dissension.”

    He often interjects humor into those conversations as well. For instance, referring to Aurora’s water buys in the Arkansas Valley, he once said: “Aurora is the brother-in-law you wish your sister had never married. But he does the dishes at Thanksgiving, so you learn to live with him.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.


    Basin Roundtable Summit recap

    March 7, 2014
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado must work with neighboring states to develop a Western water plan, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday.

    “We don’t want the federal government coming in and telling us what to do,” Hickenlooper told the state basin roundtable summit.

    Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and former Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, spoke to about 300 roundtable members and other members of the state’s water community during an all-day meeting to discuss water issues.

    The roundtables were formed by the Legislature in 2005, when Owens was governor. They were the brainchild of then-Director of Natural Resources Russell George.

    Hickenlooper said the roundtables are providing grass-roots direction for a state water plan he has tasked the Colorado Water Conservation Board to draft by the end of this year.

    “Hundreds of people have been engaged in the roundtable process,” Hickenlooper said. “We go down into the grass roots and hear those voices and let the ideas percolate up.”

    Action on the water plan is needed quickly both within the state to deal with drought, floods and wildfires the state has witnessed in the last two years, he added. Climate change and compact obligations of all basins within Colorado dictate that Colorado work with other Western states to protect water supply in the future, Hickenlooper said.

    “We need to be ready in the future to build relationships in order to reach the compromises we may have to reach later,” he said.

    For his part, Owens stressed the need to develop more storage in Colorado.

    “A lot of problems revolve around the lack of storage,” Owens said. “Through new laws, there is an emphasis on conservation, but storage has to be a key component.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More HB1177 coverage here.


    March Roundtable Summit today

    March 6, 2014
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    I’m attending the Roundtable Summit today. I intend to live-Tweet the goings on @CoyoteGulch.


    Ask Questions About Colorado’s Water Plan #COWaterPlan

    March 4, 2014

    Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

    Colorado’s Water Plan will provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need while supporting healthy watersheds and the environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.

    So it says on the homepage of the Colorado’s Water Plan website, and so many across the state are working to achieve. This Wednesday 3/5,  listen to Denver and Boulder’s community radio station KGNU (or tune in online) from 8:35-9:30 am for a panel discussion and call-in show on Colorado’s Water Plan. Listen to and ask questions of the Colorado Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund, Sean Cronin Chair of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, and Abby Burk Colorado Western Rivers Action Network Coordinator for the National Audubon Society.

    Have a question for the experts? Call in at 303-442-4242 this Wednesday morning!

    Interested in getting involved in Colorado’s Water Future? Check…

    View original 16 more words


    Public meetings for the South Platte Basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

    March 3, 2014
    South Platte River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

    South Platte River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Greeley Tribune;

    The South Platte Roundtable is hosting a series of input and information sessions around the region during the upcoming weeks, as it continues piecing together its comprehensive, long-term water plan for northeastern Colorado.

    Each of the basins in Colorado is putting together individual water plans, which will help make up the collective Colorado Water Plan — an effort put in motion by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    All meetings will be from 3:30-7 p.m., will include an overview of the South Platte River Basin’s water supplies and needs, and will also feature question-and-answer sessions and information displays.

    The remaining meetings will take place on:

    » Wednesday at the Southwest Weld County Complex, 4209 Weld County Road 24 1⁄2 in Longmont.

    » March 19 at the Fair Barn, 880 Bogue St. in Fairplay.

    » April 10 in Yuma (held in conjunction with the Republican River Water Conservancy District’s regular quarterly meeting).

    For more information, go to SouthPlatteBIP@hdrinc.com or http://cowaterplan@state.co.us.

    From PublicNewsService.org (Stephanie Carroll Carson):

    “Just add water.” Simple instructions on the back of your muffin mix, but coming up with the Colorado Water Plan dictated by the Governor last year is proving to be much more complicated. Currently, regional meetings are taking place to put together a plan that will work for the entire state, but Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said she is concerned about the competing needs of the Front Range and the mountain communities.

    “The concern is that the water is on the western slope and the people are on the eastern slope,” she pointed out. “While it’s always a great idea to collaborate and work together, we always are a little protective of the water that we need to keep on the western slope.”

    According to the Northwest Council of Governments, people incorrectly make several assumptions about water: that population growth can’t be contained, that there’s plenty of water on the west slope for the Front Range, and that new water projects are needed to save agricultural interests.

    The Colorado Water Plan now in the works is the first of its kind and is to be complete by 2015. It will then influence water decisions for the foreseeable future.

    Chandler-Henry and others also question predictions that Colorado’s population is going to double by 2050.

    “We don’t think that’s necessarily true,” she said. “We’ve has some big changes with the recession recently that have slowed down population growth, and would like to see more land planning, community planning be a part of this whole water discussion.”

    Colorado water allocation has historically been guided by local governments. Supporters of Colorado’s Water Plan say its goal is to get those communities to work more cohesively and streamline efforts to provide adequate water while not compromising the environment.

    Link to more information on the Colorado Water Plan at http://NWCCOG.org and the relevant executive order at http://1.usa.gov/NCQbWD.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Rio Grande Basin Roundtable: The Rio Grande Basin Plan is essential to the Valley’s future #COWaterPlan

    March 1, 2014
    Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

    Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

    From the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable via the Valley Courier:

    The last decade has brought many changes to Colorado’s water supply outlook. Even with the recent economic recession, the state will continue to experience significant population growth. Other pressures on Colorado’s water supply include: severe drought, meeting multiple needs (e.g., municipal, agricultural, environmental , and recreational) with existing resources, and agricultural impacts due to water shortages, urbanization and transfers to new uses.

    The state’s river systems generate an average 16 million acre feet (AF) of renewable water each year, however two-thirds of this water is obligated to leave the state under various interstate compacts and agreements. In addition, of the 16 million AF, about 80 percent of the water is on the Western Slope, while approximately 80 percent of the state’s population resides on the Eastern Slope. Most of the irrigated agriculture lands are on the Eastern Slope as well. Colorado’s dry climate creates many challenges for water users, who frequently move water vast distances from its source to its area of use.

    These types of challenges made the water law structure that is common in the eastern United States, (riparian law) unrealistic. Riparian law says that only those with land adjoining the stream have a right to use the stream water. Colorado adopted a different system – prior appropriation . This system is commonly summed up as “first in time, first in right.” This means that those with senior (older) rights can begin to use water before junior (newer) rights holders in times of water shortages. (CFWE, 2014)

    Colorado needed a clear classification of law to recognize and protect water rights, with consistent administration and enforcement, yet with the flexibility to allow those rights to be transferred, sold, or exchanged. The Colorado Doctrine of Prior Appropriation is a set of laws governing water use and land ownership adopted by the people of Colorado starting in the 1860s.

    The four major principles are: All surface and groundwater in Colorado is a public resource for beneficial use by public agencies, private persons, and entities; A water right is a right to use a portion of the public’s water resources; Water rights owners may build facilities on the lands of others to divert, extract, or move water from a stream or aquifer to its place of use; and, Water rights owners may use streams and aquifers for the transportation and storage of surface water and groundwater to meet owners’ water supply needs.

    Today’s water managers are tasked with solving the state’s water issues against overwhelming obstacles. This why the State Water Plan is so important. The plan will provide a framework for water managers moving forward. The plan will allow for wise and thoughtful water supply planning that addresses critical issue within each basin securing future water needs across the state. The plan must be done in a manner that considers all solutions and addresses the varied water needs of Colorado and its citizens.

    The Rio Grande basin Roundtable has been tasked with preparing a multidimensional basin plan for the upper Rio Grande. Water management is an issue that touches every resident in the San Luis Valley, particularly as it pertains to aquifer sustainability.

    The basin’s water is under continuous curtailment as it works to meet Compact compliance. This is why water users in the basin keep water inventory current and are taking steps to ensure reservoirs can store constructed volumes. The Rio Grande Basin Plan will provide a variety of tools that all water administrators can use to preserve the social, cultural and economic resilience of the Rio Grande Basin. As the Water Administration goals are formed the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable would like public input to be considered. The most effective methods for stakeholders to become involved is in one of three ways: 1) attend the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable monthly meetings (These meeting are held the second Tuesday of each month at the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District office at 623 Fourth Street in Alamosa, Colorado.) or; 2) send your comments directly to us online at www. riograndewaterplan.webs. com and; 3) attend any one of the five BIP subcommittee meetings that can be found on the BIP website. The lead consultant and local liaison from DiNatale Water Consultants is Tom Spezze, Tom can be contacted at tom@ dinatalewater.comThis is the fourth article in the series from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan. VALLEY The last decade has brought many changes to Colorado’s water supply outlook. Even with the recent economic recession, the state will continue to experience significant population growth. Other pressures on Colorado’s water supply include: severe drought, meeting multiple needs (e.g., municipal, agricultural, environmental , and recreational) with existing resources, and agricultural impacts due to water shortages, urbanization and transfers to new uses.

    The state’s river systems generate an average 16 million acre feet (AF) of renewable water each year, however two-thirds of this water is obligated to leave the state under various interstate compacts and agreements. In addition, of the 16 million AF, about 80 percent of the water is on the Western Slope, while approximately 80 percent of the state’s population resides on the Eastern Slope. Most of the irrigated agriculture lands are on the Eastern Slope as well. Colorado’s dry climate creates many challenges for water users, who frequently move water vast distances from its source to its area of use.

    These types of challenges made the water law structure that is common in the eastern United States, (riparian law) unrealistic. Riparian law says that only those with land adjoining the stream have a right to use the stream water. Colorado adopted a different system – prior appropriation . This system is commonly summed up as “first in time, first in right.” This means that those with senior (older) rights can begin to use water before junior (newer) rights holders in times of water shortages. (CFWE, 2014)

    Colorado needed a clear classification of law to recognize and protect water rights, with consistent administration and enforcement, yet with the flexibility to allow those rights to be transferred, sold, or exchanged. The Colorado Doctrine of Prior Appropriation is a set of laws governing water use and land ownership adopted by the people of Colorado starting in the 1860s.

    The four major principles are: All surface and groundwater in Colorado is a public resource for beneficial use by public agencies, private persons, and entities; A water right is a right to use a portion of the public’s water resources; Water rights owners may build facilities on the lands of others to divert, extract, or move water from a stream or aquifer to its place of use; and, Water rights owners may use streams and aquifers for the transportation and storage of surface water and groundwater to meet owners’ water supply needs.

    Today’s water managers are tasked with solving the state’s water issues against overwhelming obstacles. This why the State Water Plan is so important. The plan will provide a framework for water managers moving forward. The plan will allow for wise and thoughtful water supply planning that addresses critical issue within each basin securing future water needs across the state. The plan must be done in a manner that considers all solutions and addresses the varied water needs of Colorado and its citizens.

    The Rio Grande basin Roundtable has been tasked with preparing a multidimensional basin plan for the upper Rio Grande. Water management is an issue that touches every resident in the San Luis Valley, particularly as it pertains to aquifer sustainability.

    The basin’s water is under continuous curtailment as it works to meet Compact compliance. This is why water users in the basin keep water inventory current and are taking steps to ensure reservoirs can store constructed volumes. The Rio Grande Basin Plan will provide a variety of tools that all water administrators can use to preserve the social, cultural and economic resilience of the Rio Grande Basin. As the Water Administration goals are formed the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable would like public input to be considered. The most effective methods for stakeholders to become involved is in one of three ways: 1) attend the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable monthly meetings (These meeting are held the second Tuesday of each month at the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District office at 623 Fourth Street in Alamosa, Colorado.) or; 2) send your comments directly to us online at http://www. riograndewaterplan.webs. com and; 3) attend any one of the five BIP subcommittee meetings that can be found on the BIP website. The lead consultant and local liaison from DiNatale Water Consultants is Tom Spezze, Tom can be contacted at tom@dinatalewater.com

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    West slope ag producers, feeling pressure, are lining up to provide input to the #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

    February 28, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Kathleen Curry):

    For several months now a group of agricultural producers on the Colorado River have been meeting to develop their section of the pending Colorado Water Plan. Whether you are a wine producer in Mesa County or a cattle producer in Grand County, water is the key to success and survival. And even though the snowpack is looking pretty good at the moment, there isn’t enough water to meet all of today’s needs let alone new future demands.

    Agricultural water users are feeling pressure from a number of directions. Looking upstream, they see a growing population on the Front Range of Colorado. Water users east of the continental divide have not minced words regarding their desire to transfer additional water from West Slope agricultural users to the Front Range. Looking downstream, agricultural water users on the Colorado watch the declining levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead and speculate as to how much of the water they are currently relying on to raise their crops will have to be bypassed to meet Colorado’s compact obligations. And last, but not least, population numbers within the Colorado Basin are on the rise, and pressure to sell agricultural water for municipal use is ever-present.

    The agricultural section of the Colorado River “Basin Implementation Plan,” developed by the Colorado Basin Roundtable with help from the consulting firm SGM, will be incorporated into the statewide Colorado Water Plan that Governor Hickenlooper is seeking to finalize by year’s end. The Colorado Basin Roundtable, like its counterparts in other major river basins around the state, is a group of water managers and stakeholders charged by the state legislature with doing “bottom-up” water planning. SGM is working with agricultural water users throughout the river basin to determine what their needs are and what kinds of projects and methods would help them be more prepared for the future.

    A number of themes have emerged during the roundtable discussions to date. These include a desire to address the existing shortage of water supply available to agricultural users, consensus by all that additional transmountain diversions would harm agricultural production, a desire to preserve the right of an individual landowner to do what he or she wants with their property and water rights, and general agreement that improved agricultural efficiencies would have limited water supply benefits in the basin. The discussion participants have also concluded that administration of the Colorado River Compact due to a failure to meet downstream obligations would have a negative impact on the viability of long-term agricultural production in the basin.

    The Colorado Basin Implementation Plan agricultural discussion group will continue to meet in conjunction with the monthly meetings of the Colorado Basin Roundtable. Next on the agenda will be identifying individual projects and methods that could provide agricultural benefits in the Colorado Basin.

    If you would like to join in on the conversation, we would love to hear from you. Meetings are held the third Monday of the month at noon at the Glenwood Springs Recreation Center. For more information, please feel free to contact Angie Fowler at SGM, AngieF@sgm-inc.com. To learn more about the Colorado Basin and statewide water planning processes, go to http://www.coloradobip.sgm-inc.com. You can also contribute your knowledge and opinions by taking a short survey a http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoradoBasinAg.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage from the North Denver News:

    Residents of the Denver metro area and northeast Colorado – including homeowners, farmers, ranchers, business owners, environmentalists and recreationalists interested in knowing more about Colorado’s water – are encouraged to attend any of four public information and input meetings to be held in March and April in Denver, Longmont, Fairplay and Yuma.

    The South Platte Basin and Metro Roundtables, composed of diverse volunteers representing agricultural, municipal, recreational and industrial water users and environmental interests from the headwaters communities to the Nebraska state line, were created by the state legislature in 2005, along with seven other roundtables representing each of the state’s river basins. They are charged with determining how to meet Colorado’s significant water supply shortfalls anticipated by 2050. Since 2005, the basin roundtables have brought together more than 300 representatives of these interests to discuss water supply planning and other water issues.

    The roundtables are currently working under an executive order issued by Governor John Hickenlooper in May 2013, requiring the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a Colorado Water Plan by December 2015. This statewide plan will detail how Colorado will manage its diverse water needs in the future. At a local level, the roundtables are developing Basin Implementation Plans outlining how to meet predicted water needs for all uses.

    Chairs of both Roundtables emphasized that the South Platte Basin represents a critical piece of Colorado’s water future and are encouraging all interests to participate in the process.

    “Finding the correct balance and tradeoffs of water uses is vital to ensuring a sufficient water supply in the future. To find that balance, everyone needs to work together,” said Sean Cronin, chair of the South Platte Basin Roundtable. “Whether you live in Fort Collins, Sterling, Denver, or Idaho Springs, there is a meeting taking place near you and we want the public to attend and be part of the process.”

    [Mark] Koleber, chair of the Metro Roundtable, reinforced the importance of public participation. “We are developing the South Platte Basin’s plan now. The public’s thoughts and suggestions will be vital to the success of our plan and we are urging all to provide input.”

    The meetings will be held from 4-6 p.m. on the dates and at the locations indicated below. Roundtable representatives will also be available starting at 3:30 p.m. until up to 7 p.m. for informal discussions. The meetings are free and open to the public. More information about the South Platte Basin Plan is available at http://www.southplattebasin.com.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Custer County Stockgrowers Association annual meeting recap #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

    February 27, 2014

    organicdairycows

    From The Wet Mountain Tribune (J.E. Ward):

    One of the most significant issues addressed during the meeting surrounded water. It is a problem not only for the county, but the state as a whole.

    “Water ownership, immunization and management are the key issues with the water problems,” Kattnig explained.

    “For us, water is vital to our Valley and our industry. We know we will have to change, but it is incumbent upon us as landowners to be at the table as these decisions are being developed.”

    Local water laws were developed for the mining industry here, and as industrial utilization of water declined, agriculture became the biggest user. Today, given the size of Custer County’s population and voting strength, Kattnig said that water policies can be changed. These issues affect not only Custer County and the Arkansas River Basin, but also the Colorado River, the Rio Grande and the Platte River basins.

    “People in San Diego and Los Angeles have a voice in water in the Colorado River,” Kattnig said, “and indirectly there is potential impact for water in Custer County. These water laws were made through legislation, and can be changed with legislation.”[...]

    Among the dignitaries in attendance were the president of the Colorado Cattlemen Association, Gene Manuello, and the Director of the Southeast Quarter and past CCA president David Mendenhall. Together they produced information concerning Senate Bill 17, which covers the use of agriculture water transfer to new municipal developments. This bill limits the percentage of water used for lawn landscaping and to promote xeriscaping.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Storage key to weathering prolonged drought? #COWaterPlan

    February 26, 2014

    From the Vail Daily (Hannah Holm):

    According to Louis Meyer, of the consulting firm SGM, most water providers that serve households in communities from the Colorado River’s headwaters in Grand and Summit counties on down to Grand Junction have done a pretty good job of planning for the range of climate conditions that have been seen over the past several decades. However, most are not prepared for the more extreme droughts that both climate change models and ancient tree ring studies indicate could occur in the future.

    SGM is working with the Colorado Basin Roundtable to assess water needs and potential projects for a Basin Implementation Plan that will help inform the Colorado Water Plan that Gov. John Hickenlooper wants drafted by the end of this year. The Colorado Basin Roundtable, like its counterparts in other major river basins around the state, is a group of water managers and stakeholders charged by the state legislature with doing “bottom-up” water planning. Meyer and his team have been interviewing domestic water providers throughout the river basin to determine what their needs are and what kinds of projects would help them be more prepared for the future.

    One factor making communities vulnerable to prolonged or extreme droughts is the fact that many lack sufficient reservoir storage upstream from their water treatment plants. These communities rely largely on water in streams to serve their customers while releasing water from reservoirs in other drainages to satisfy any downstream senior calls on the river. This is more of an issue in headwaters communities in the upper Fraser, Eagle, Blue and Roaring Fork than in the Grand Junction area, where water providers enjoy access to reservoirs that are physically, as well as legally, upstream.

    Today’s regulatory and permitting requirements for reservoirs have resulted in planning horizons which can take longer than 20 years. Permitting costs can exceed many millions of dollars with no assurance that reservoirs can even be permitted. Both in order to ease permitting and to respond to increasing competition for water between different user groups, Meyer argues that, “Reservoirs of the future must provide multiple benefits to provide water for safe drinking water, agricultural irrigation and water to provide in-stream flows to protect environmental and recreational needs.”[...]

    Another challenge for water providers attempting to plan for the future is the wild card of population growth. This region is expected to grow at the fastest rate in the state, and much of that growth could occur outside of established municipalities. In unincorporated areas, water supplies tend to be less developed and secure. Increasing conservation is one way to reduce the impact of population growth, and many water providers have strong conservation programs, but there is a lack of consistency in these efforts across the basin…

    Increasing reservoir storage, promoting conservation and addressing forest health all require money, and increasing storage requires permits as well. The small size of many water providers in the basin limits their capacity to take on big projects, so Meyer and his team have suggested more regional cooperation may make projects to increase the reliability of community water supplies more feasible.

    Water customers also have a role to play in determining the capacity of their water utility to plan and prepare for the future. If customers are not willing to help pay the necessary costs through their rates, then it limits a utility’s capacity to act. Water providers are not only faced with providing safe drinking water to customers at prices that are often less than 1/10th of one penny per gallon, but now customers are much more aware of water demand impacts on local stream health.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Are you Involved in Colorado’s Water Future?

    February 26, 2014

    Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

    By Kristin Maharg, Colorado Foundation for Water Education Program Manager
    On February 19, 2014, attendees explored the role of public input in planning for Colorado's water future at CFWE's Annual Legislative Lunch

    On February 19, 2014, attendees explored the role of public input in planning for Colorado’s water future at CFWE’s Annual Legislative Lunch

    “Water is essential to Colorado’s quality of life and economy, yet we face an uncertain future.” So goes the opening line on a newsletter for Colorado’s Water Plan, which may come as an intimidating challenge to you. We often take for granted a reliable supply of clean water for food, rivers and cities and when the certainty of that future is called into question, people and communities respond in a variety of ways.

    A recent response has been more active communications across the state. As Colorado and the nine individual basin roundtables step up to shape the future of water policy, they’ve also been opening their doors and taking to the streets. The goal is to keep…

    View original 200 more words


    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 889 other followers

    %d bloggers like this: