Transmountain Diversions connect us all — Water Quality and Quantity Blog

September 30, 2014
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s a report about last week’s Colorado Foundation for Water Education transbasin diversion tour from the Water Quality and Quantity Blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Because QQ works to address environmental (and resulting economic) impacts from transmountain diversions, the best part of the tour for me was gaining a better appreciation for how interconnected the State is through transmountain diversions.

The Arkansas Valley is the recipient of water that is diverted through complex tunnel systems, or simple diversion ditches, from the western side of the Continental Divide to water population centers on the Front Range. The tour focused primarily on the benefits that historic transmountain diversions (TMDs) have provided to the Eastern Slope. Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese even thanked the West Slope for the water that makes their recreation and ranching economies thrive (a touching gesture that does not happen enough in dialogue across the divide).

We saw the first-ever TMD, the Ewing Ditch, and walked along the ¾ mile ditch from the diversion point to the point it crosses the Continental Divide. We saw TMDs of a much larger scale too, watching water blast from the side of a mountain, bringing water from Homestake Reservoir in the Eagle River basin through a 5-mile tunnel to Turquoise Reservoir and the Arkansas River basin.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.


#ColoradoRiver supply concerns mounting — The Durango Herald #drought

September 29, 2014
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

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

From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The water in Navajo Reservoir could play a role in meeting Colorado River Compact obligations in the event of continued drought, said Bruce Whitehead, director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District.

Release of water to Lake Powell from Navajo Reservoir, Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River in Utah and Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River is one of three measures his district and the Colorado River District want implemented if water storage in the network that supplies seven Western states approaches crisis level, Whitehead said.

The other measures call for increasing the amount of water available and, lastly, reducing use.

“We’re not in crisis now,” Whitehead said. “The 2013-2014 water year has been almost normal as far as the amount of water in Lake Powell.

“But the reality is that in spite of some good water years, we’re in a 15-year drought,” Whitehead said. “We need a plan to meet a crisis if the same conditions continue.”

The three measures to meet a critical water shortage came out of a recent meeting of Southwestern and the Colorado River District, which between them cover the Western Slope.

The recommendations went to the Upper Colorado River Commission, which regulates water matters in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, the Upper Basin states that supply Arizona, Nevada and California, the Lower Basin states…

The concern about Lake Powell is that if water drops below the level needed to generate electricity, federal agencies would lose $120 million a year in power sales.

The revenue from power sales funds among other things environmental programs such as protecting fish species in the San Juan River, Whitehead said.

If the water level in Lake Powell allows generation of power, there should be enough water to satisfy the 1922 Colorado River Compact, Whitehead said.

Again, Whitehead said, Lake Powell and Lake Mead aren’t at critical levels. But the Upper Colorado River Commission and counterparts in Lower Basin states are looking at what-if situations.

Thus, the recommendations from his district and the Colorado River District, Whitehead said…

Measures to increase the amount of water available through cloud seeding, removal of water-hungry nonnative vegetation such tamarisk and Russian olive and evaporation-containment methods are a first step, Whitehead said.

A second early step, Whitehead said, would be the release to Lake Powell of water from Navajo, Blue Mesa and Flaming Gorge reservoirs which, respectively, have acre-feet capacities of 1.7 million, 829,500 and 3.79 million.

The contributions of Navajo and Blue Mesa could be less than optimal because of contractual obligations, Whitehead said. Blue Mesa also generates electricity.

If the first two steps aren’t enough, water users would be affected directly, Whitehead said. The consumption of cities and agricultural users would be reduced. Fallowing of fields also could be required.

The two commissions said if water for agriculture is reduced, the loss must be shared by Colorado River water users on the Front Range.

Front Range users receive 500,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water a year from Colorado River transmountain diversions, Whitehead said.

Another transmountain diversion sends 90,000 to 100,000 acre-feet a year to the San Juan/Chama Project from the Blanco and Navajo rivers, Whitehead said. Users in Santa Fe and Albuquerque benefit.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Glenwood Springs: How should Colorado prioritize economic benefits in the COWaterPlan?

September 13, 2014
Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia

Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

The importance of green lawns to maintain quality of life and urban home values was heard alongside that of maintaining river flows for the Western Slope’s recreation-based economy in comments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board Thursday.

“Back yards are our recreational amenity,” Mark Pifher of the Front Range Water Council said during testimony before the CWCB on the draft Colorado Water Plan in Glenwood Springs as part of a two-day meeting that continues today at the Hotel Colorado.

Pifher also took to task Winter Park real estate broker Dennis Saffell, who cited statistics from Grand County that suggest riverfront properties sell for 134 percent more than other types of residential property, and even properties with a view of a river are 24 percent more valuable.

“It’s really important to keep our rivers viable economically, not just for the recreational aspects but for the entire economy that supports our communities,” Saffell said. “Rivers create a lifestyle, attract tourists and attract the people that live here.”

But aggressive conservation measures aimed at limiting outdoor water use in Front Range cities can have the effect of lowering real estate values in those areas, countered Pifher, who pointed out that outdoor irrigation makes up only 4 percent of consumptive water use in the state, according to statistics referenced in the draft water plan.

Joe Stibrich, representing the city of Aurora Water Department, suggested that, just as anglers and whitewater enthusiasts expect the state’s water plan to preserve the recreation experience in the mountains, urban dwellers have a right to expect a “reasonable residential experience.”

That includes reasonably irrigated lawns, public parks and sports fields, and golf courses, he said.

Statewide conservation measures also need to be considered on equal footing with viable alternatives to meet Front Range water needs, including new supply development through future trans-mountain diversions, he said…

“Water utilities do recognize the importance of healthy rivers and ecosystems,” Stibrich said. “But it’s equally important to maintain an urban environment with healthy landscapes.”

The debate pointed up the difficult task before the CWCB to deliver on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s directive to present a statewide water plan by December that addresses the often divergent views between the Western Slope interests and those of Front Range communities.

The first-ever statewide water plan is intended to address a significant gap in the amount of water needed to meet growth projections, especially on the Front Range, and what’s now available through both in-basin and trans-basin diversions.

But a key goal is also to protect healthy river flows on the Western Slope, including in the Colorado River Basin where members of the basin roundtable have recommended a strong emphasis on conservation in the water plan, along with opposition to any new trans-mountain diversions.

At some point, “the line has to be drawn … enough is enough” when it comes to Front Range water diversions, said fishing guide Jack Bombardier, owner of Confluence Casting in Gypsum in his testimony before the water board.

Bombardier was part of a coalition of river recreation business owners and enthusiasts, along with conservation groups, who spoke during the Thursday session. The coalition cited a study that shows river-based recreation in Colorado generates $9 billion a year and is responsible for 80,000 jobs.

“We all have skin in the game,” Bombardier said. “But we’re approaching a crossroads. The whole western [Colorado] ecosystem and economy hinges on healthy rivers.”

Water Conservation Board member Patricia Wells, representing the city and county of Denver, said one of the state’s recreational amenities that is reliant on water is missing from the equation in reference to those statistics — golf courses.

She requested that golf be mentioned in the section of the water plan that addresses recreational and environmental projects.

Wells also challenged speaker Annie Henderson, representing the Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association in Glenwood Springs, when she made reference to “wasteful and irresponsible water use” in relation to the need for better conservation measures to help protect the Western Slope’s quality of life.

“Quality of life exists in urban areas too,” Wells said. “Different people use water in ways that are valuable to them.”

Here’s some video from KREXTV.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Glenwood Springs: #COWaterPlan update planned for afternoon session at today’s CWCB board meeting

September 11, 2014

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

River recreation business owners and enthusiasts are expected to be out in force today as the Colorado Water Conservation Board meets in Glenwood Springs at the Hotel Colorado.

The afternoon session will include conversation about the upcoming draft statewide water plan, which is due out later this year at the direction of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The water plan is the main agenda item from 1-5 p.m. Starting at 3:45 p.m., the board will hear an update on public input received to date from the state’s nine river basins, including from the Colorado River Basin Roundtable. The meeting is open to the public and will include a time for comments.

Meanwhile, boaters, rafters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts are gathering in conjunction with the meeting to highlight the economic value of Colorado’s rivers, and to try to ensure river flows are protected from new large trans-mountain water diversions.

The Colorado and other western basin roundtables are urging against including any new Front Range diversion projects in the water plan.

A coalition of business and conservation groups said in a Wednesday press release that they will emphasize the economic importance of Colorado’s river-based economy, which they say is greater than $9 billion annually and supports more than 80,000 jobs in the state…

Geoff Olson, co-owner and operator of Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs, said in the release that commercial river rafting alone in Colorado last year was worth about $150 million.

“We want the governor and the state water board to make smart, long-term decisions to protect our rivers and our livelihoods, and this huge part of Colorado’s economy,” said Olson, who employs 35 people during the height of the summer whitewater season…

“Colorado’s cities can easily conserve more water, and that will preserve flows for the river-based recreation that is so important to so many Coloradans,” said Annie Henderson, co-founder of the Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association, an American Whitewater affiliate.

Whitewater businesses have also emphasized the need to secure recreational in-stream flows, which is also included in the draft Colorado River Basin Implementation Plan.

The CWCB will continue its meetings Friday, and this morning is scheduled to meet with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, also at the Hotel Colorado.

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

Here’s the release from Protect the flows (Belinda Griswold):

Businesses in Colorado, including boaters, rafters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts, will be in Glenwood Springs tomorrow to highlight the economic value of Colorado’s rivers and to ensure river flows are protected from new large trans-mountain water diversions. The river supporters will share their experiences with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), which is holding a public board meeting Thursday and Friday at The Hotel Colorado.

At the executive order of Gov. John Hickenlooper, the CWCB is currently preparing the first-ever statewide water plan, which will determine how water is managed across Colorado now and for decades to come. Western Slope businesses – retailers, recreational outfitters and other outdoor-related companies – will emphasize the vast economic importance of Colorado’s river-based economy, which is greater than $9 billion annually and supports more than 80,000 jobs in the state. Water diversions, which are being debated during the CWCB board meeting, would significantly jeopardize this river economy.

“The economic impact of commercial river rafting in Colorado last year was about $150 million, and the Colorado River-based recreation industry as a whole added $9 billion to our state’s economy. For Blue Sky Adventures, we employ 35 people, all of whom depend on healthy rivers,” said Geoff Olson, co-owner and operator of Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs. “We want the governor and the state water board to make smart, long term decisions to protect our rivers and our livelihoods, and this huge part of Colorado’s economy.”

To protect Colorado’s $9 billion river economy, Colorado’s recreation-based leaders are encouraging the CWCB to ensure smart water management is included in the plan. In lieu of large, new trans-mountain diversions, these business want the CWCB to keep river flows at healthy levels by setting a statewide water conservation goal for the state’s cities and towns, something most other Western states have but Colorado is lacking.

“Colorado’s cities can easily conserve more water, and that will preserve flows for the river-based recreation that is so important to so many Coloradans,” said Annie Henderson, co-founder of the Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association, an American Whitewater affiliate. “If it’s going to be a Colorado water plan, it has to reflect Colorado values.”

Another way the CWCB can ensure ample water and support Colorado’s $9 billion river economy supply is by integrating the best recommendations for recreational flow, such as that proposed by the Colorado River Basin Implementation Plan, which called for a goal to protect water for recreational boating purposes.

“Our state’s recreation economy depends on healthy stream flows today,” said Nathan Fey, director of Colorado River Stewardship Program for American Whitewater. “These flows support existing businesses, jobs and local economies that rely on active outdoor recreation and tourism. Trans-mountain diversions are being proposed as a way to meet a future need – an unknown and speculative demand. The conversation about water supply at the state and local levels must be about the trade-offs between our needs today, and what our needs might be in the future.”

Adding to the direct economic boost rivers provide, Coloradans cherish their natural landscape including the rivers that provide opportunities for boating, rafting and fishing. Surveys of Colorado voters show that outdoor recreation is among the top values for residents. In addition, Front Range businesses report that outdoor recreation opportunities are key for attracting and retaining talented employees.

The supporters of healthy rivers plan to hold a press conference at Blue Sky Adventures’ offices (319 6th St, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601, at the Hotel Colorado) starting at approximately 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11. In addition, several supporters are scheduled to speak later in the day at the CWCB board meeting including:

Speakers at the event will include representatives from outdoor recreation businesses, Protect the Flows, American Whitewater, and many more.

To learn more about Colorado’s statewide water plan, please visit http://wwww.waterforcolorado.org.

doloresriveraspens

From the Northwest Council of Governments:

Leaves are starting to change and work on the Water Plan is gearing up around the State. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) will be visiting the Colorado Basin this week, holding their board meeting in Glenwood Springs on Sept. 11-12. Part of their discussion will be a review of many draft sections of the Water Plan, released to the public by way of their board meeting agenda. We are anxious to jump into a review of those draft sections—we are encouraged and impressed with the amount of data the CWCB staff have already sifted through to complete these draft sections! We will keep you posted as well learn more.

Meanwhile, QQ has been reviewing the Basin Implementation Plans submitting from Basins around the State over the past month. As one might expect, many Basins agree with some foundational QQ Principles for the Water Plan, while others conflict with some of our primary points. We’ll keep working on a summary document that can help guide those who don’t have time to read the 1000s of pages of information!

Over the next several months, the CWCB will wrap up the first complete draft of Colorado’s Water Plan! This fall marks a crucial time for public input on the draft sections released already, as once this draft is completed the Plan will move to revisions in the Governor’s office and away from the hands of the CWCB. As always, you can provide comment at http://www.coloradowaterplan.org.

More CWCB coverage here.


9News series about #COwater and the #COWaterPlan — Mary Rodriguez

September 10, 2014


9News.com reporter Mary Rodriguez has embarked on a series about the Colorado Water Plan and water issues in Colorado. The first installment deals with Cheesman Dam and Reservoir. Here’s an excerpt:

It is something most of us take for granted: running water. Colorado is now beginning to grapple with how to keep the tap flowing, both now and in the future. As the state develops a water plan, set to be released in December, we are beginning a series of stories revolving around that precious resource…

Cheesman Reservoir and Dam

Nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, it’s a place of stillness and a quiet refuge. Yet, it’s also a place capable of wielding immense power.

Cheesman Reservoir is a major source of water for communities up and down the Front Range. It holds 25 billion gallons of water. That’s enough water to cover Sports Authority Field with a foot of water more than 79,000 times. All of it is held in place by the Cheesman Dam, which was built nearly 110 years ago.

“It was tremendous foresight that this reservoir has been pretty much unchanged in all that time,” documentary filmmaker Jim Havey of Havey Productions said.

The reservoir is just one of the places Havey is beginning to capture as part of an upcoming documentary called “The Great Divide.” The subject? Water.

“We looked at water, initially, as a great way to tell the story of Colorado,” he said.

Colorado’s water system is a complex combination of reservoirs, rivers and dams. As the state’s population has grown, though, there has been a greater need to come up with a water plan that can evolve with time.

“Really, it is all connected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesperson for Denver Water, which bought the Cheesman Reservoir nearly 100 years ago.

Denver Water– along with water municipalities and agencies across Colorado– is now working on a long-term plan for Colorado’s water. It includes, among other things, figuring out the best way to manage the state’s water as it flows between different river basins and whether or not to create more reservoirs.

“We’re not planning just for today, we’re planning for tomorrow– 25 years, 50 years down the road,” Thompson said. “And we have many challenges that we’re looking into, just like our forefathers had.”

Those challenges include how to provide enough water for people and industries in Colorado, as well as people in 18 other states– and even two states in Mexico– which also get their water from rivers that begin in Colorado.

“What the water plan is going to mean, I don’t think anybody knows yet,” Havey said.

Yet, it’s a plan that has a lot riding on it below the surface. The first draft of the state’s water plan is due in December and is expected to be presented to the state legislature next year. For more information about the water documentary, “The Great Divide,” go to http://bit.ly/1qDftUO.

More Denver Water coverage here. More South Platte River Basin coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations meeting Thursday, Septmember 4

September 2, 2014

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The next Aspinall Unit Operations Meeting will be held at the Elk Creek Visitor Center at Blue Mesa Reservoir this Thursday, September 4th at 1 PM. Handouts will be available on the website prior to the meeting.


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

September 1, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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