CFWE: Transbasin Diversion Webinar Series November 12, December 10, January 14

October 22, 2014

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office


From email from the CFWE:

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education and Colorado Water Congress are working together to bring you a series of webinars focusing on Transbasin Diversions in Colorado. The webinars will include a diverse range of panelists and presenters to expand upon CFWE’s newest Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions and coming blog series. Stay tuned for speaker information and details.

Click here to register.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit update

October 22, 2014
Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A regional water conservation plan already is opening doors for participants in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has worked with the communities to develop strategies to improve water systems in advance of the conduit’s construction. Benefits include measuring how water is used, plugging leaks and managing pressure.

“The need is the infrastructure, and that’s what we’re trying to focus on,” said Jean Van Pelt, project coordinator for the Southeastern district. “When the conduit is completed, we don’t want it to connect to aging systems with leaking pipes.”

The conduit will take clean drinking water 130 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way, 40 small communities are expected to tap into the line to bring water to 50,000 people. The $400 million project is at least a decade away from completion.

The district also is seeking a master contract for storage in Lake Pueblo for conduit participants and other water users in the Southeastern district.

One of the requirements placed on the communities by the Bureau of Reclamation is to ensure that water is not wasted, so conservation plans are needed.

“We went out and interviewed all of the conduit participants and we are in the process of integrating the master contract participants as well,” Van Pelt said.

Large utilities have more resources to employ strategies like rate structures, leak detection, metering, system audits and consumer education.

The Southeastern district also offers a tool box on its website where communities can pick and choose from ideas for reducing water waste in their systems.

The regional conservation plan also gives a leg up to private water companies seeking grants to improve their water supply, which require both conservation plans and governmental structure to administer the grant.

“The plan needs to be in place,” Van Pelt said.

The conservation plan and tool box have been under development since 2011 at a cost of $50,000-$60,000 per year using grants from Reclamation and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


“We’re still crunching the numbers…There’s been a spike” in comments since Aug. 20 — James Eklund #COWaterPlan

October 19, 2014

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

A poll aimed at influencing the drafting of the Colorado statewide water plan says residents oppose a new transmountain diversion and the plan should emphasize conservation. The poll was commissioned by WaterforColorado.org, which said the results were mirrored in more than 18,000 comments submitted for the drafting of a statewide water plan, the first draft of which is to be presented on Dec. 10.

The comment period on the plan ended a week ago and the Colorado Water Conservation Board is now factoring comments into its report.

“Our position is that any engagement is good engagement,” said James Eklund, director of the CWCB, who noted that the agency received 10,475 letters between Sept. 20, 2013, and Aug. 20, 2014.

“We’re still crunching the numbers,” Eklund said. “There’s been a spike” in comments since Aug. 20.

That total included 6,213 form letters marked “protect Colorado’s rivers,” as suggested by Water for Colorado, Eklund noted. Comments also included 730 unique emails and 92 unique submissions on web forms.

The poll, conducted by a bipartisan team, Keating Research and Public Opinion Strategies, found that 90 percent of respondents said the water plan should be to keep the state’s rivers healthy and flowing and that 78 percent of voters prefer using water conservation and recycling instead of diverting water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. It also found that 88 percent of respondents support a statewide goal of reducing water use in cities and towns by 10 percent by 2020.

WaterForColorado.org doesn’t identify its source of funding or staff members and notes on the website that it “shares insights and expertise from a variety of organizations that research and study water conservation and natural resource issues. WaterForColorado.org offers a solutions-based approach to Colorado’s water future, and opportunities for the general public to have a voice and take action.”

Other organizations have made similar findings.

“The interesting thing is that in this survey, the West Slope is at least being echoed in emphasizing conservation,” said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

The poll was conducted Sept. 5 to 8 of 500 voters across Colorado, including an oversample of 162 voters on the West Slope. Statewide, the margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percent and plus or minus 7.7 percent on the West Slope.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


“Right now the firm yield of Windy Gap is zero” — Brian Werner #ColoradoRiver

October 15, 2014

Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir -- Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call

Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir — Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call


From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict have negotiated a contract that would allow the subdistrict to use excess capacity in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project for the Windy Gap Project and future Windy Gap Firming Project, according to a press release. A 30-day public comment period on the contract opened Oct. 8 and will close Nov. 7…

Currently, Windy Gap water rights are in priority during wet years, though paradoxically the C-BT project is often too full to hold excess water. Because the Windy Gap Project has a junior water right, it is often not able to divert water during dry years, when there is available capacity in the C-BT project.

“Right now the firm yield of Windy Gap is zero because there are some years where they can’t get any water out of the project,” said Brian Werner with Northern Water.

The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Carter Lake Reservoir in Larimer County. The added storage capacity would “firm up,” or reinforce the Windy Gap water right during dry years. The contract is needed to use federal infrastructure to firm up the Windy Gap water right.

“This project will make more efficient use of existing water rights,” said Mike Ryan with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, in a prepared statement. “When completed, Windy Gap Firming would provide water storage for 13 municipal providers.”

The Windy Gap project is allowed to divert a maximum of 90,000 acre feet in a single year, and its 10-year running average cannot exceed 65,000 acre feet per year.

The cost for using the excess capacity will be $34 per acre-foot, said Tyler Johnson with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Initial estimates for the Windy Gap Firming Project put the cost at $270 million.

Also up for comment is Senate Document 80, which contains guidelines for project facilities and auxiliary features, and Section 14 Determination Memos, which authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into contracts for the exchange or replacement of water, water rights, or electrical energy for the adjustment of water rights.


Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co, Aspen and the #ColoradoRiver District reach deal

October 15, 2014

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The city of Aspen and Front Range water interests have reached a compromise 20 years in the making that allows more water to be sent east when the spring runoff is plentiful, in exchange for bolstering flows when the Roaring Fork River is running low in the fall. The deal is between the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which operates transbasin diversion tunnels underneath Independence Pass, and the city of Aspen and the Colorado River District, which works to protect water rights on the Western Slope.

The deal, which has its roots in a 1994 water court application from Twin Lakes that sought to increase diversions during the runoff in high-snowpack years. It will leave 40 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir when Twin Lakes exercises its rights under the 1994 proposal. That water will be stored in the 500-acre-foot reservoir and released into the Roaring Fork for about three weeks in late summer, when seasonal flows are at their lowest. The water must be called for and released in the same year it was stored.

Grizzly Reservoir, located about 8 miles up Lincoln Creek Road near the Continental Divide, is a component of the transbasin-diversion system. A tunnel underneath the reservoir channels water underneath the mountain to the south fork of Lake Creek in the Arkansas River basin, on the other side of the pass.

Additionally, under the deal, the River District will have the right to store 200 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir and can call for up to 150 acre feet of that water in a year. Importantly, that 200 acre-feet can be stored long-term in the reservoir until it is called for by the River District, which manages water rights across the Western Slope.

Another 600 acre-feet will be provided to the River District for seasonal storage in Twin Lakes Reservoir, also on the east side of Independence Pass. The district will then trade and exchange that water with various entities, which could lead to more water staying on the Western Slope that would otherwise be diverted through other transbasin tunnels.

Twin Lakes diverts an average of 46,000 acre-feet a year from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and sends it to Colorado Springs and other Front Range cities. The city of Colorado Springs owns 55 percent of the shares in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., entities in Pueblo own 23 percent, entities in Pueblo West own 12 percent, and Aurora owns 5 percent.

Aspen and the River District intend to cooperatively use the stored water in Grizzly Reservoir to boost late-summer flows in the Roaring Fork as it winds through Aspen proper.

Water already flowing
The stretch of the Roaring Fork River below the Salvation Ditch on Stillwater Drive typically runs below environmentally sound flows each year for about eight weeks, according to city officials. And given that this spring saw a high run-off, the three parties to the agreement managed some water this year as if the deal was already signed.

“At the close of the current water year (which ended the last day of September), Twin Lakes started making releases of some of the water stored for the River District, followed by release of the 40 acre-feet, as directed by Aspen and the River District,” Phil Overeynder, a special projects engineer for the city, wrote in an Oct. 3 memo to city council. “These releases had the effect of increasing flows in the Roaring Fork through the Aspen reach by approximately 20 percent and will last for approximately a three-week period at the end of the lowest flow conditions of the year.”

Overeynder added that “both Aspen and the River District believe that this agreement, while not perfect, is of real and meaningful benefit to the Roaring Fork.”

Aspen City Council approved the agreement on its consent calendar during a regular council meeting on Monday. The agreement is on the River District’s Tuesday meeting agenda, and Twin Lakes approved it last month.

The deal still needs to be accepted by Pitkin County and the Salvation Ditch Co. in order to satisfy all of the details of the water court’s 2001 approval of the 1994 water rights application.

Junior and senior rights
In addition to its junior 1994 water right, Twin Lakes also holds a senior 1936 water right that allows it to divert up to 68,000 acre-feet in a single year and up to 570,000 acre-feet in a 10-year period.

Originally, the water diverted by Twin Lakes was used to grow sugar beets to make sugar, but it is now primarily used to meet the needs of people living on the Front Range.

The 1936 water right still has some lingering restrictions in high-water years, according to Kevin Lusk, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities who serves as the president of the board of the private Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. Under its 1936 right, when there is plenty of water in the Arkansas River and the Twin Lakes Reservoir is full, Twin Lakes is not allowed to divert water, even though it is physically there to divert, Lusk explained. So in 1994 it filed in water court for a new water right without the same restrictions so it could divert more water to the east. It was dubbed the “Twin Junior,” water right.

The city of Aspen and the River District objected in court to the “Twin Junior” and the agreement approved Monday is a long-delayed outcome of the case.

Aspen claimed that if Twin Lakes diverted more water in big-water years, the Roaring Fork wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of the high water, including flooding the Stillwater section and replenishing groundwater supplies. That process, the city argued, helps the river in dry times.

“We don’t necessarily agree with the theory behind it,” Lusk said of the city’s claim, but added that Twin Lakes agreed to the deal as part of settlement negotiations.

And since 2014 turned out to be a high-water year, Twin Lakes exercised its right to divert water under its 1994 Twin Junior right, and worked cooperatively with Aspen and the River District to release 40-acre feet of “mitigation water” as described in the pending deal.

The new agreement between the city, Twin Lakes and the River District is in addition to another working arrangement between Twin Lakes and Aspen related to the Fryingpan-Arkansas diversion project, which diverts water from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River.

That agreement provides 3,000 acre-feet of water each year to be released by Twin Lakes into the main stem of the Roaring Fork beneath a dam near Lost Man Campground, normally at a rate of 3 to 4 cubic feet per second.

More Twin Lakes coverage here.


Water Lines: How will Colorado’s water plan address West-East water transfers? #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

October 14, 2014

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

As the first draft of Colorado’s Water Plan nears completion (it’s due in December), many who have participated in its development remain anxious about what will and won’t be in it — particularly in relation to the potential for more West Slope water to be transported east to serve growing cities on the Front Range.

Colorado’s Water Plan, which was ordered by Governor Hickenlooper in May of 2013, is intended to close a projected gap between water needs and developed supplies in coming decades. “Basin Roundtables” of water providers and other water stakeholders in each of the state’s major river basins contributed key building blocks to the plan back in July, when they turned in plans for how to address needs within their own basins.

Now, Colorado Water Conservation Board staffers are scrambling to integrate information from each of the basin plans, as well as their own statewide analysis and public input, into a cohesive document. This would be a big task even if all of the basin plans agreed with each other — which they don’t.

The West Slope basin plans reflect an extremely dim view of additional diversions of West Slope water to the Front Range, citing damage to the environment and river-based recreation and the concern that failure to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states would put both West Slope and Front Range users of Colorado River water at risk. The South Platte basin plan, on the other hand, states that additional Colorado River imports will be needed to supply future urban growth and prevent the dry-up of irrigated land.

At a meeting on Oct. 6, Gunnison Basin Roundtable members asked how this conflict would be resolved in the statewide plan. The answer they got from the basin’s representative to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, John McClow, was that it wouldn’t. He said, as other CWCB representatives have also stated in previous meetings, that the plan will not endorse any particular type of transmountain diversion project. The individual basin plans will stand on their own, without any forced reconciliation.

An early draft chapter of the Colorado Water Plan, however, does contain a draft “conceptual agreement” on how to approach a potential future transmountain diversion. This agreement was hammered out between representatives from all the state’s roundtables and released for comment.

The draft conceptual agreement got a mixed reception at the Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting. Members welcomed an acknowledgement by Front Range parties that any new transmountain diversion may only be able to take water in wet years, due to existing demands and downstream obligations.

Language about the need for an “insurance policy” to protect “existing uses and some increment of future development” was greeted with much more skepticism, however. There was concern that this meant that irrigated agriculture could be sacrificed to enable continued urban uses, although no one could say with certainty what it really meant. There was also concern that the agreement would go into the December draft of Colorado’s Water Plan without sufficient additional discussion.

Some comfort was provided by the fact that, once the complete draft of Colorado’s Water Plan is released in December, the current timeline allows a full year for additional discussion and public comment before the document is final. You can find all the documents developed to date at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


CWC: We’re partnering with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education to bring you three webinars on Transbasin diversions

October 7, 2014

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office


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