Minute 319 enables water to flow in the #ColoradoRiver delta

April 17, 2014
Pulse flow tongue upstream of San Luis Rio Colorado

Pulse flow tongue upstream of San Luis Rio Colorado

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Right now, for the first time in many years, the Colorado River is flowing through its historic delta to the sea as a result of an intentional release by water managers. Scenes of jubilation have spread across the Internet as children play in a river they’ve never seen before, and scientists report that bird counts in the corridor are already up.

Meanwhile, combined water storage upstream from the delta in Lakes Mead and Powell have dropped to the lowest they’ve been since Powell filled in the 1960s, as water withdrawals from the river and its tributaries have exceeded new inflows for more than 10 years.

How can this be, that in an era of increasing competition for water, water was found to re-water the Colorado River Delta, and there aren’t riots in the streets? The answer provides a window into the complexities of water management on the river, and the determination of multiple parties to work together to solve its challenges.

The plan to release water to benefit the Colorado River Delta ecosystem was part of a complex “Minute 319” agreement between the United States, Mexico and the seven states that share the Colorado River, as well as several nongovernmental organizations on both sides of the international border. Some of the provisions include allowing Mexico to store water in Lake Mead and infrastructure improvements to Mexican irrigation systems. After a “pulse flow” of several weeks that simulates a moderate flood, minimum base flows will be maintained.

This agreement did not take shape overnight. It took years of study and negotiation by people who came to understand in detail the way the river is managed and the interests of all the parties that rely on this single source of water that brings life to so much otherwise dry land.

Many questions remain about how the natural environment will respond to this release of water, and whether the political environment will allow the experiment to be repeated. But the fact that it is happening at all is a major accomplishment.

If it is possible to find water for the Colorado Delta and simultaneously benefit other water users after a decade of extreme drought, then surely it must be possible to overcome other seemingly irreconcilable differences over water in the West.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Vail: ‘Restore the Gore’ campaign to kick off April 25

April 17, 2014

gorecreekwinter

From the Vail Daily:

An awareness campaign to help improve the health of Gore Creek is being introduced this spring with a focus on best practices for landscapers and gardeners. The “Restore the Gore” kick off takes place April 25 with a free Moe’s BBQ lunch and learn session from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at Donovan Pavilion. Landscape contractors, gardeners, commercial applicators and lodging managers, in particular, are encouraged to attend. Lunch service will begin at 11:45 a.m. with presentations taking place from noon to 12:45 p.m.

Sponsored by the Town of Vail and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the program will include short presentations on the causes of Gore Creek’s decline and the everyday actions that can be implemented to help make a difference when it comes to water use, special irrigation permits, invasive plants and pesticides.

In 2012 Gore Creek was added to the State of Colorado’s 303(d) List of Impaired Waters due to the decline in aquatic life. Scientists have determined the impact is due to degradation and loss of riparian buffer areas, impacts of urban runoff and pollutants associated with land use activities. A Water Quality Improvement Plan has since been adopted that includes an emphasis on community awareness as well as strategies for regulatory measures, site specific projects, best management practices and an ongoing monitoring program.

In addition to the lunch and learn kick off, the town is distributing a handout on recommended pesticide practices for commercial landscapers and property owners. Additional information is available on the town’s website at http://www.vailgov.com/gorecreek.

If you plan to attend the April 25 lunch and learn program, please RSVP to Kristen Bertuglia, town of Vail environmental sustainability coordinator, at 970-477-3455 or email kbertuglia@vailgov.com no later than 5 p.m. April 23.

More Gore Creek watershed coverage here.


Adams County water and sanitation districts elections preview

April 17, 2014
South Platte River Basin

South Platte River Basin

From The Denver Post (Megan Mitchell):

One of the largest combined water and sanitation districts in the state is having an election May 6 for three open board seats. The South Adams County Water and Sanitation District provides water and wastewater services to about 50,000 consumers over 65 square miles in Commerce City. The office is at 6595 E. 70th Ave.

There are five candidates running in the board election, and none of them are incumbents. Residents Vicki Ennis, John Kuchar, Mizraim Cordero, Brett Steinbar and Aaron Phillips have applied to serve four-year stints on the five-member board. All members serve at-large.

The board helps facilitate partnerships that expand the district’s water supply and resources. As north suburban communities like Reunion grow in Commerce City, one of the district’s top priorities is the development of a separate irrigation system in those new development sites for non-potable use.

Voters served by the water and sanitation district may drop off their ballots from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 6 at the Stevenson Administration Building at 6595 E. 70th Ave.

There is no election for the Strasberg Sanitation and Water District, at 56829 Colorado Ave., because there were only two open seats and two applicants. Teresa Roy will start her first four-year term after stepping in as an appointee in 2012, and Eric Hart will begin his second, full term with her in May.

At the Hiland Acres Water and Sanitation District at 9902 E. 157th Ave. in Brighton, only four people applied for the five available seats. The fifth seat will be appointed by the board after the May 6 election. Incumbents Jim Roos and Chris Fetter will continue to serve on the board, and Rob Heim and Fred Brinkerhoff will begin their first terms.

The Hyland Hills Parks and Recreation District at 8801 Pecos St. in Federal Heights also canceled its election after only two candidates applied for the two open seats. Newcomer Lori Mirelez and previous board member Bob Landgraf Jr. will be appointed.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


La Plata County: “[In the SW corner of the county] Old-timers used to say it was nine months of winter and three months of drought” — Trent Taylor

April 17, 2014

organicdairycows

From The Durango Herald (Ann Butler):

Agriculture is a difficult profession in the best of times, but it’s an even bigger challenge during a drought.

That’s one of the many takeaways from Wednesday evening’s panel discussing current and future issues for local agriculture sponsored by the League of Women Voters of La Plata County. About 85 people filled the Program Rooms at the Durango Public Library, including representatives from agricultural areas around the county and numerous local residents, as well.

“Everyone in this room is in agriculture because we’re all consumers,” said Patti Buck, president of American National Cattlewomen, who ranches with her husband, Wayne, in the Ignacio area. “We need to be heard. Cattle ranchers are a small number of people, but we feed the world.”

Other members of the panel included Trent Taylor of Blue Horizon Farms, who farms on the Dryside; Maria Baker, a member of a Southern Ute ranching family; Steve Harris of Harris Water Engineering; and Darrin Parmenter, the Colorado State University Extension agent for La Plata County. Marsha Porter-Norton, who grew up in a ranching family north of Cortez, served as moderator…

The idea for the panel came out of a national study the League did, said Marilyn Brown, the local chapter’s secretary and a member of the committee that’s been studying the local agricultural sector with an eye on public policy…

Harris gave a lesson about how water works in La Plata County, from the natural average runoff of about 950,000 acre-feet a year (an acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre in 1 foot of water, or 325,851 gallons). Almost two-thirds, 600,000 acre-feet, comes down the Animas River, with the Pine River drainage accounting for another 230,000 acre-feet…

All domestic use, including wells, is “insignificant,” he said, about 10,000 acre-feet.

Ranchers and farmers actually have been fighting drought conditions for more than a decade. Baker talked about how the tribe, which grants grazing units to the four or five full-time ranchers in the tribe, declared a complete moratorium on grazing units for five years starting in 2000 and still limits time or location on the ones it grants.

After taking everyone through a short history of farming and ranching in the southwest corner of the county, Taylor summed up the situation: “It’s a harsh area. Old-timers used to say it was nine months of winter and three months of drought.

More Animas River watershed coverage here. More La Plata River watershed coverage here.


“If we commit too much water, we lose our flexibility for operating during times of drought” — Alan Ward

April 17, 2014

cripplecreekrvtravel.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A gold mining company will lease some of Pueblo’s raw water for the next decade at a record price. The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a 10-year lease of 400 acre-feet of water to the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. in Teller County. The water will lease for $630.63 per acre-foot (an acre-foot is 325,851 gallons) initially, and will be adjusted annually by the same percentage as Pueblo water rates. That will mean more than $250,000 in revenue for the water board this year.

“The 400 acre-feet is a relatively small amount,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager. “If we commit too much water, we lose our flexibility for operating during times of drought.”

That amount also should not interfere with the water board’s other multiyear leases.

The price represents 1.5 times the price of the Comanche power plant lease, reflecting the water board’s policy of charging a 50 percent premium to customers outside city limits, Ward said.

Cripple Creek & Victor plans to use the water to augment its supplies and replace depletions to local waterways.

The water will be delivered to either the mouth of Fourmile Creek or Beaver Creek, or to the town of Victor’s account in Lake Pueblo. From there, it will be the gold mining company’s responsibility to exchange it upstream to operations located about 25 miles from the Arkansas River.

Revenue from the lease will be used to offset Pueblo water rates in the water board’s $34 million budget.

Metered water sales are expected to generate $23.3 million this year, while leases of water will contribute more than $8.2 million.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


The Lower Ark, Otero County, et.al., start the process to create a rural water authority for the county

April 17, 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):

The groundwork for a rural water authority in Otero County was put in place Wednesday. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District agreed to partner with Otero County commissioners to sign on three water providers to participate in the authority. The authority will give the water providers, which are small private companies, the ability to apply for government grants in order to bring their water systems into compliance with public health standards. It also will allow them to share operating expenses, deal with issues relating to the upcoming Arkansas Valley Conduit and to speak with one voice. Eventually, it could allow participants to hire staff members to deal with water issues.

“We have a lot of issues with compliance, because 14 out of 28 private water providers in the valley are out of compliance,” said Bill Hancock, conservation manager for the Lower Ark district.

Right now, only three of the districts have signed on, the Fayette, Vroman and Valley districts, all in Otero County. Combined, they serve fewer than 500 people. Other water companies are expected to sign on as the authority develops.

“We have the ability to expand in Otero County, as well as other counties in the valley. This is a good place to start,” said Otero County Commissioner Keith Goodwin.

One of the first projects of the authority will be to apply for a state loan to fund adding membrane filters to the systems, Hancock said. The filters are made by Innovative Water Technologies, a Rocky Ford company.

Otero County commissioners voted Monday to approve the authority, but appointed no board members. The Lower Ark appointed Wayne Snider and Jolean Rose, both of Fowler, to the authority.

“We’re at the point now where we have the vehicle, but we still need to add the engine, steering and wheels,” Snider said.

The Lower Ark board praised the agreement.

“Anyone who has been involved with rural water knows how important this is,” said Lynden Gill, chairman of the board.

“Not only is compliance important, but some of these systems are 40-50 years old and this provides a way to maintain them.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

April 16, 2014
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through April 13, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through April 13, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the current assessment from the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by Colorado Climate Center.


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