“I cannot imagine storage on Fountain Creek unless John Martin Reservoir were full” — said Jeris Danielson

July 10, 2014
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A study that could lead to building a flood-control dam on Fountain Creek stalled Wednesday over the question of how it might affect water rights. Determining if water rights could be protected would be the first task in the study, Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Director Larry Small explained to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

“The prime objective is to evaluate whether water rights could be protected if a dam is built,” Small said. “There would be regular meetings with water rights holders to resolve the conflicts.”

That didn’t sit well with several members of the roundtable, who argued that junior water rights could be harmed if floodwater were held.

“I cannot imagine storage on Fountain Creek unless John Martin Reservoir were full,” said Jeris Danielson, a former state engineer who now heads the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District. “It could mean a great deal of water lost to junior water rights holders, and I have a problem with the roundtable providing something that could damage the Arkansas River Compact.”

Otero County farmers John Schweizer and Vernon John Proctor both made the point that the Fountain Creek district does not have water rights to hold back any water.

Several other members of the board suggested that no part of the Fountain Creek study should go forward until the water rights question is answered.

Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said the farmers were ignoring the potential danger to agriculture from a flood on Fountain Creek.

“I support this grant application,” Hamel said. “You just have to look at all the ditch headgates that were lost in Northern Colorado last fall.”

The roundtable moves projects ahead only if there is consensus, so the application was denied. A revised application still could be considered.

The study would build on a U.S. Geological Survey study that determined either a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs would be the best protection for Pueblo of a 100-year flood on Fountain Creek. The USGS study, however, did not identify where a dam would be built or determine other factors such as engineering obstacles or water rights. The Fountain Creek district is trying to answer those questions prior to the arrival of $50 million in funding from Colorado Springs. That money, dedicated to flood control projects that benefit Pueblo, is a condition of the Pueblo County 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

The $220,000 study promoted at the roundtable included financial backing from Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Fountain, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Pueblo West and Security. It also had letters of support from city councils and county commissioners in El Paso and Pueblo counties.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Basin Roundtables will present their Basin Implementation Plans to the CWCB next week #COWaterPlan

July 9, 2014
Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Per governor order, local water leaders and their professional consulting team are preparing to present a basin-wide water plan next week to the state agency that will compile plans from all of the basins into a statewide plan to address Colorado’s future water needs.

At the same time the Rio Grande Roundtable, which is taking the lead on the basin-wide plan, is reviewing potential requests for funding and potential water threats and challenges.

During its monthly meeting on Tuesday, the roundtable members, who represent various water interests throughout the San Luis Valley, reviewed the status of the local plan that will fit into the governor’s statewide plan; heard about a project that will come before the group for funding next month to study soil health practices in relationship to potential water savings; received a report on post-West Fork Complex Fire actions and heard a presentation on instream flows.

What the group did not do was take a position on a water export project, proposed by Saguache County rancher Gary Boyce, that recently came to light. Rio Grande Roundtable Chairman Mike Gibson said it was premature to take a position on the proposal at this point.

“It seems to be a balloon that’s been floated ,” he said. “Who knows if it will pop or land?”

He added, “If as a water community we need to mobilize , it’s been done before. We are in a better position to mobilize again if we have to.”

Travis Smith, who sits on the statewide Interbasin Compact Committee, said, “You are going to have projects like this that will show up in spite of all the work that’s gone on.”

He said water projects in the Valley should go through the roundtable and should fit within the water plan the Valley-wide roundtable has worked so hard to develop, but the plan does not prevent someone from going outside it. Tom Spezze with DiNatale Water Consultants, who is putting the Rio Grande Basin’s water plan together, told the roundtable members the plan would go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board next week during the CWCB’s meeting in Rangely. The water plan is currently 267 pages but is going through refinements and edits, Spezze said.

The short version that will be presented to the CWCB board next week will consist of about 25 “slides” outlining the process the plan went through, particularly the amount of public outreach and involvement, and highlighting the 14 goals of the local plan such as meeting agricultural, environmental, municipal and recreational needs. This basin’s plan will be compiled, along with plans from the other basins in the state, into a statewide plan to be presented to the governor.

Spezze also told the roundtable about the various activities of the Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team that was set up after the fire in the western end of the Valley last summer. For example, the team is monitoring drainages with potential for flash flooding and has an audible alarm and evacuation plan in place for resorts and residences near the danger zones. Water quality is also being monitored, and Doppler Radar will be positioned again on Bristol Head from August to October so residents can be notified of storm events.

Kip Canty, from the Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 office, said the weather service’s three-month forecast for precipitation for this region shows better-than-average chance for above normal precipitation.

The roundtable did not The study would look at a variety of crops potato, barley and alfalfa encompassing a minimum of four growers of each crop. The study would include growers in different parts of the Valley because the soils vary across the Valley, Lopez explained.

“Farmers can only implement the things they can truly afford to do,” Lopez added.

That is why this will be a practical study of soil health practices farmers could afford to implement that would save them costs in the long run. Some of the money requested from the roundtable would offset producers’ costs to implement these practices, Lopez said. have any funding requests before it requiring action on Tuesday but heard an initial presentation from Judy Lopez regarding a request that will be formally presented to the roundtable next month. Lopez said the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative will serve as the applicant requesting $25,000 for the first of a three-year soil health study and $40,000 each for two years afterwards. She explained that data is lacking on how different conservation practices affect water savings. It would take more than one year to see results, she added.

“It takes a while to establish soil health and see gains from that,” she said. Also on Tuesday the roundtable heard a presentation from Linda Bassi of CWCB on in-stream flows . She encouraged the roundtable to utilize the CWCB in-stream program. The legislature established the in-stream program in 1973 and gave the CWCB legal authority over it. These water rights are designed to preserve water in stream channels or lakes for purposes such as maintaining fisheries . These are junior water rights that can be appropriated or acquired, Bassi explained.

Typically the requests for in-stream water rights have come from entities such as the Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management and Trout Unlimited, Bassi added. She and her staff accept requests, review them and make recommendations to the CWCB, which may decide to file an in-stream application in court. Public input is part of the process.

CWCB will only pursue an in-stream application if the natural environment exists, water is available for appropriation and no material injury to water rights will occur if the in-stream right is granted, Bassi explained. In-stream flows exist around the state for fisheries , waterfowl habitat, glacial ponds, bird species and aquatic macroinvertebrates.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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

July 9, 2014

Upper Colorado River Basin June 2014 precipitation as a percent of normal

Upper Colorado River Basin June 2014 precipitation as a percent of normal


Click here to read the current briefing from NIDIS via the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to go to the NIDIS website.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the North American Monsoon forecast from Ryan Maye Handy writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

The monsoonal flow of tropical moisture is a hallmark of late-summer weather in the Rocky Mountain West, where massive storms set up like clockwork almost daily in July and August. But this year an El Nino cycle, which pushes coastal moisture over the mountains, will add more water to what might be an already robust monsoon, said Mike Baker, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Boulder.

“We always see the monsoon and it comes in different flavors and strengths,” he said on Tuesday. “We may be dealing with an enhanced monsoon.”

This week Northern Colorado has started to see some monsoonal rain, albeit through a “back doorway,” as Baker called it. Some monsoonal moisture has looped around the state, entering the atmosphere from the north, instead of its typical route from the south…

The bulk of monsoonal moisture is still sitting over Arizona and Nevada, but should move into the Rocky Mountains in the next two weeks, Baker said. The rains should also bring with them cooler than average summer temperatures, according to a three-month weather outlook…

It’s been a wet year for Northern Colorado all around. Water from the devastating September 2013 floods saturated soil sand lingered through winter in Big Thompson and Poudre rivers. Winter brought a well above-average snowpack — more than 200 percent of normal — and a high spring runoff season, with peak river flows that were among the highest in nearly 60 years in Northern Colorado.

June was dry in Grand Junction. Here’s a report from Rachel Sauer writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

If it was hard to swallow in June, if it seemed like there were not enough eye drops in the world to make your eyes stop feeling gritty, if you reapplied Chap Stick every two minutes and it still didn’t seem often enough, there’s a reason: June was dry. Very, very dry.

“June’s typically our driest month, climatologically speaking, and this past June has been exceptionally dry for most of the region,” said Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“Last month, for the most part, most of the days in June didn’t really receive any rain at all.”

In fact, during the entire month, Grand Junction received 0.13 inch of rain, 0.12 of that on June 8, Aleksa said. If it wasn’t for that one storm blowing through, June 2014 might have joined the ranks of June 2001, say, or June 1980 for being among the driest Junes on record.

The average moisture level for June is 0.46 inch, Aleksa said, but because of a high pressure ridge over the West, the rain just didn’t fall.

“We had some low-pressure systems over the Pacific northwest and one over the plains and Midwest and so they were getting a lot of storms out that way,” Aleksa said.

“But since we were right in between, in that ridge of high pressure, we had a drier type of air mass where the moisture wasn’t there for producing the storms or giving us the weather systems that would bring rain.”

July through September 2014 precipitation outlook via the Climate Prediction Center

July through September 2014 precipitation outlook via the Climate Prediction Center

However, the news gets better. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-normal precipitation for July, August and September.

“We’re looking at models that are starting to hint in the next week at a potential for more moisture to work its way up over Arizona and the Four Corners region,” Aleksa said.

“By the middle of next week, we’re going to start to see that high pressure start to shift into a more favorable pattern, start to see a more monsoon-like moisture surge.”

Plus, he said, temperatures for the next six to 10 days are forecast to be around normal — which, granted, is still 93, but double digits are better than triple.


Lake Mead drops to lowest level since first fill #ColoradoRiver

July 9, 2014

From the Associated Pres via the Cache Valley Daily:

The projected lake level of about 1,080 feet above sea level will be below the nearly 1,082 feet recorded in November 2010, and below the 1,083 feet measured in April 1956 during another sustained drought. But U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional chief Terry Fulp said water obligations will be met at least through next year without a key shortage declaration. The result will be full deliveries to cities, states, farms and Indian tribes in an area home to some 40 million people and the cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

“We will meet our water orders this year and we are not projecting a shortage condition in 2015,” Fulp said in a statement. “We continue to closely monitor the projections of declining lake levels and are working with stakeholders throughout the Lower Basin to keep as much water in Lake Mead as we can through various storage and conservation efforts.”

The lake on Tuesday was just under 1,082 feet above sea level, and the reservoir was about 39 percent full, said Rose Davis, a bureau spokeswoman in Boulder City, Nevada. The dropping level since the reservoir was last full in 1998, at just under 1,296 feet above sea level, has left as much as 130 feet of distinctive white mineral “bathtub ring” on hard rock surfaces surrounding the lake. Davis said the bureau expects a slight increase in water level to about 1,083 feet by Jan. 1, 2015.

“We projected this was coming.” Davis said. “We are basically where we expected to be, given the in dry winters in 2012 and 2013,”[...]

Las Vegas, with more than 2 million residents and some 40 million tourists a year, is almost completely dependent on Lake Mead for drinking water.

Federal and state water officials have negotiated plans for a shortage declaration triggering delivery cuts to Nevada and Arizona if annual projections for the Lake Mead water level drop below a 1,075 foot elevation. That projection is based on data currently being compiled by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Davis said the 1,075 foot trigger point is not expected this year or next. But last year, after back-to-back driest years in a century, federal water managers gave Arizona and Nevada a 50-50 chance of having water deliveries cut in 2016.

California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming wouldn’t see direct cuts in their share of river water, but officials have acknowledged there would be ripple effects.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


DARCA to host four workshops to develop input for the #COWaterPlan

July 9, 2014
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From the Ag Journal:

Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance is involving ditch and reservoir companies in Colorado’s Water Plan by hosting four free workshops across Colorado during July.

Colorado’s Water Plan is a state driven effort to help find solutions to the ever increasing demand for water. With the vision of prosperous ditch companies, DARCA’s workshops will involve presentations on the state water plan and also ditch company planning. The workshops have the focus of soliciting input concerning the state water plan from ditch and reservoir companies and their farmer/rancher shareholders. The workshops also have the purpose of informing ditch companies on the importance of their own internal planning so that they can do well in an uncertain future.

Schedule of DARCA workshops

Brighton – July 12, Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon
Brighton Recreation Center
555 N. 11th Ave.
Brighton, CO 80601

Grand Junction, July 18, Friday, 8 a.m. to noon
Ute Water Conservancy District
2190 H.25 Rd.
Grand Junction, CO 81505

Durango – July 19, Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon
Florida Grange
656 Hwy 172
Durango, CO 81303

Pueblo – July 26, Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon
Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
31717 United Avenue
Pueblo, CO 81001

The Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, a nonprofit organization, established in 2001, is dedicated to serving the needs of mutual ditch and reservoir companies, irrigation districts and lateral companies. DARCA’s efforts include advocacy, education, and networking.

For information about the workshops and to register please visit http://www.darca.org or contact John McKenzie at (970) 412-1960 or john.mckenzie@darca.org.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Rifle: “Many different eyes are on each [drill] pad each day” — Michael Gardner #ColoradoRiver

July 9, 2014

Rifle Gap

Rifle Gap


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

Rifle City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the company’s original 2009 watershed district permit to allow the activity, subject to conditions. The 12-square-mile, 8,000-acre watershed, approximately 5 to 6 miles southwest of Rifle, is the source of 9 percent of Rifle’s drinking water. The vast majority of the city’s water comes from the Colorado River. Several years ago, the city established the district and considers permits for certain industrial activities to help protect the water source. The company would also need drilling permits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Michael Gardner, WPX environmental manager, outlined the drilling plans and noted various companies had been active in and near the Beaver Creek watershed since 1999. WPX is currently the only active company in the district. A total of 44 producing wells have been drilled from 11 pads in the district since 1999, with 27 of those wells located on a pad outside the district boundaries, Gardner said.

“What we’re proposing is to drill up to 253 wells from 15 pads between now and 2018,” he told the council last week.

WPX plans to drill up to 23 wells on the existing pad outside of the watershed and up to 112 wells on four new pads outside the watershed, but accessed through the watershed, Gardner noted. Up to 80 wells could be drilled on seven existing pads within the watershed and up to 65 wells on four new pads within the watershed.

“A lot of this depends on the market price for gas, obviously,” Gardner added. “So this is a maximum-case scenario.”

WPX would build access roads, install gathering and water lines and other associated facilities in the area, Gardner said.

WPX spokesman Jeff Kirtland said in an interview Tuesday that the permit amendment was sought to keep the permit active, as it was due to expire soon.

“It’s more to make sure we’re keeping up with what we need to do with the permit,” he stated. “So we would have this permit in hand if prices improved.”[...]

Michael Erion, a water resources engineer with Resource Engineering of Glenwood Springs and a city consultant, said the amendment was acceptable and noted the target area is actually a tributary to Beaver Creek, which itself is often dry in the summer, so most direct activity in the district will be road crossings. The permit was amended last year to allow a water pipeline across the watershed and a temporary 1.5 million gallon water storage tank, Erion noted.

Among the nine conditions already part of the permit and included with the latest amendment is a requirement for WPX to submit detailed drawings to the city at least 30 days before construction. New wells can be drilled on approved pads, provided WPX sends written notice to the city 15 days before that activity. WPX is also required to submit an annual activity plan for the entire district by March 1 of each year, and the project shall be subject to biannual inspections, or more frequently if needed, by the city and/or its consultants.

WPX will also continue to participate in the city’s water quality monitoring program on Beaver Creek. This includes a periodic stream monitoring program with sampling at various locations along the creek and the operation and maintenance costs associated with a 24/7 monitoring system at the city intake structure on the Colorado River.

“We understand how critical this area is to Rifle,” Gardner said. “We have all kinds of plans and procedures for spills, to protect groundwater and storm water control. Many different eyes are on each pad each day.”

He also noted that no reportable spills, as defined by state regulations, had occurred in the district since 2008.

More oil and gas coverage here.


Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Event to honor builders of Ridgway dam and reservoir

July 8, 2014

Ridgway Reservoir during winter

Ridgway Reservoir during winter


Here’s the release from CPW:

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the construction of the Ridgway dam and the establishment of Ridgway State Park. A special event to recognize those who worked on the construction project is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 8 at the park.

Did you work on the project? Or do you know someone who did? This includes former or current employees of the Bureau of Reclamation or other government agencies, construction workers, and municipal and county officials who assisted with the project. If so, please send your contact information via e-mail to: rhonda.palmer@state.co.us, or call her at 970-626-5822, ext. 11. You’ll be contacted about the event.

Planning for the Dallas Creek Project, as it is called formally by the BOR, began shortly after the end of World War II. Construction eventually started in 1978 and the reservoir filled completely for the first time in 1990. The dam stores water for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses for the Uncompahgre Valley in western Colorado.

One of Colorado’s premier recreational facilities, Ridgway State Park offers camping, hiking, bicycling, boating, fishing and swimming. More than 300,000 people visit the park every year.

For more information about Ridgway and all of Colorado State Parks, see: http://cpw.state.co.us.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.


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