LAVWCD has a plan to increase and reallocate storage in John Martin Reservoir

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth
Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

A new proposal for storage in John Martin Reservoir will benefit both Kansas and Colorado, said Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Manager Jay Winner on Wednesday

A new proposal for storage in John Martin Reservoir will benefit both Kansas and Colorado, said Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Manager Jay Winner on Wednesday. This proposal is in line with the Colorado Water Plan. The plan was presented by LAVWCD Engineer Mike Weber. Phase I is paid for by a Water Supply Reserve Account grant supplied by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Research by LAVWCD has determined water users which could potentially use the John Martin Reservoir Account. LAVWCD has also determined the types of water available to those entities that would be suitable for storage at JMR. Those entities include Kansas and Colorado District 67 Ditches (Fort Bent, Keesee, Amity, Lamar, Hyde, Manvel, X-Y Graham, Buffalo and Sisson-Stubbs). Amity is largest user at 49.5 percent of Colorado’s share. This would be in Phase II, if the plan is accepted at the meeting of the 2016 Colorado Kansas Arkansas River Compact. Down the line and several years in the future, other potential users of the storage in JMR might include Catlin Augmentation Association, City of La Junta, City of Lamar, Colorado Water Protection and Development Association, and water conservancy districts such as LAVWCD.

John Martin Reservoir back in the day
John Martin Reservoir back in the day

A permanent pool of 10,000 acre-feet is to be maintained at JMR and is to remain there as authorized by the 1976 resolution, for the purposes of recreation and not subject to a tax.

Several other projects were presented by Winner and commented upon by the Board of Directors, all of whom were present except Legal Director Melissa Esquibel. The North La Junta Water Conservancy District Project, Phase 2, will go before the Otero County Commissioners on Oct. 24, having passed the Otero County Planning Commission. A request has been made to negotiate the contract with the Pueblo Reservoir for 25 years rather than year by year. A commercial building in McClave has been purchased by the LAVWCD to locate some of its offices, notably the engineering having to do with Rule 10, nearer the location of the sites. Agreement with Water Quality through the Department of Agriculture is being sought. Another project had to do with sealing the irrigation ponds and testing for selenium in the ground.

The City of Fountain is contributing $24,000 more than their original $50,000 to the fund for cleaning up Fountain Creek. The other $200,000 is divided equally between the City of Pueblo and the LAVWCD. The money for the project is coming from the Aurora refund, said Winter.

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

“Use it or lose it” primer — Kevin Rein

Hay meadows near Gunnison
Hay meadows near Gunnison

From The Craig Daily Press (Kevin Rein):

You may have heard some discussion about the phrase Use It or Lose It lately. First, about how it is a guiding principle when using water under Colorado’s prior appropriation system. Then, more recently, about how it can be a misleading cliché.

It’s true that in certain straightforward situations, failure to use a water right for its decreed use will result in the loss of some or all of the water right. However, from there, it gets more complicated.

In 2015, a group of Colorado water professionals representing interests from around the state collaborated to explore Use It or Lose It’s application to water use. The discussion was initiated by the Colorado Water Institute. The Water Institute approached the concept by first identifying five areas where water users have concerns about losing their water rights.

The first three areas of concern are Maintaining a Conditional Water Right, the Continued Use of an Absolute Water Right and Abandonment of a Water Right. In Colorado a water user may obtain a conditional water right based on a non-speculative plan to use the water. If that person does not apply the water to its decreed use within a period of time, or at least maintain a diligent effort to develop the water right, it may be terminated by the water court. The water right is lost due to lack of use.

When the owner of a water right considers the risk of abandonment of some portion of a water right or the possibility of changing a water right to a different beneficial use (the fourth area of concern), the owner of the water right may consider it advantageous to divert as much water as possible — more than is needed for the applied use. The unintended consequences of doing that can range from unnecessarily taking water that could be used by water rights immediately downstream, to impacting sensitive fish and wildlife habitat, to increasing the water right owner’s own return flow obligation if the use is changed. Further, the water court doesn’t consider water diverted but not consumed as water that may be applied to a new use. So the practice of diverting more water than is needed, which is called “waste” in water administration, can actually be detrimental.

A fifth area of concern is the effect that Conservation and Sustainability Efforts can have on the value of a water right. To understand more about that area of concern and the rest of this issue, read Special Report No. 25: “Is ‘Use It or Lose It’ an absolute?” available on the Colorado Water Institute home page.

Kevin G. Rein is the deputy state engineer for Colorado Division of Water Resources.

Here’s the synopsis from Special Report No. 25 (Reagan Waskom, Kevin Rein, Dick Wolfe, MaryLou Smith):

Colorado water law is complicated and can easily be misunderstood. In particular, the component of a water right that requires it be put to a beneficial use without waste can create confusion.

It is a fact that wasteful water diversions and practices are not permissible under the state’s water law. Unfortunately, this has led to the adoption of the misleading adage “Use It or Lose It.”

This document clarifies how the use or nonuse of a water right affects its value.

Go Time for Colorado’s Water Plan: Meeting the Plan’s Educational Goals

Your Water Colorado Blog

go time bug

The final draft of Colorado’s Water Plan (CWP) was released in December 2015. In our 2016 Headwaters magazine series on the plan’s implementation, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education keeps you up to speed on how the plan’s action steps are progressing on the ground. Find past installments of the series in the Winter 2016 and Summer 2016 issues of Headwaters. You can also check them out on the Your Water Colorado blog via these links: Meeting the Plan’s Conservation Goals; Environmental and Recreational Goals; Storage Goals; Funding Goals; and Land Use GoalsHere we take an in-depth look at another of the plan’s nine defined measurable outcomes: outreach, education, and public engagement.


By Meagan Webber

Even though all Coloradans have unique backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, our common dependence on clean, reliable water sources makes us all stakeholders in the efforts to close Colorado’s projected water supply…

View original post 760 more words

#Drought news: E. #Colorado “soils are dry and vegetation is not growing” — Chris Spears

Colorado Drought Monitor October 18, 2016.
Colorado Drought Monitor October 18, 2016.

From CBS Denver (Chris Spears):

A report released released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor showed drought conditions growing across parts of Colorado.

An area of moderate drought that formed during late summer around Fort Collins has expanded south across Denver and into Douglas County, impacting over 1.5 million people. A second pocket of moderate drought can be found on the east-central plains.

In the nearby mountains and foothills conditions are abnormally dry, or in pre-drought. The same is true for parts of southern Colorado.

The current drought along Interstate 25 is what we call a meteorological or agricultural drought, meaning a short-term deficit in precipitation is having a significant impact on the landscape. Soils are dry and vegetation is not growing.

We are not in a hydrological drought which would imply a long period of below normal precipitation and major problems with water supply.

As of Oct. 20 Denver Water was reporting 89 percent water storage in their reservoir system, which is 3 percent above normal for this time of year.

The healthy number is thanks to abundant snow during 2015 and early 2016.

So what about the forecast for the upcoming winter?

Current long-range models are trending toward the development of La Nina between December and February, which can sometimes be bad for Colorado if it pushes the main storm track too far north.


From CBS Denver (Chris Spears):

As drought continues to develop along Colorado’s Front Range, Denver Water says supply is in good shape thanks to a cool and wet pattern during 2015 and continued efficient use of water by their customers.

“But while the short-term outlook is encouraging, we know we can never be sure what the next winter will bring,” said Travis Thompson.

Last week NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center reissued a La Niña Watch that was cancelled in September. Government forecasters now say there’s a 70 percent chance of the climate phenomenon developing during the upcoming winter.

A La Niña weather pattern during the winter season can sometimes mean dry and warm weather for Colorado because it tends to keep the main storm track north of the state.

Three month drought outlook through January 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.
Three month drought outlook through January 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.
Three month temperature outlook through January 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.
Three month temperature outlook through January 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.
Three month precipitation outlook through January 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.
Three month precipitation outlook through January 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.

Vail: Economic Development Council of Colorado forum recap

Gore Creek is healthy as it emerges from the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area, but has problems soon after, via The Mountain Town News. All photos by Jack Affleck.
Gore Creek is healthy as it emerges from the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area, but has problems soon after, via The Mountain Town News. All photos by Jack Affleck.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Colorado’s future economic development is integrally related to availability of water, and at least one industry, agriculture, could face increasing threats as demand grows for the increasingly scarce resource, speakers said at a forum this week.

“Sometimes I really feel there is a bullseye on my back,” sweet corn grower Robert Sakata of Brighton said at a conference hosted by the Economic Development Council of Colorado.

Availability and reliability of water is important to produce growers, said Sakata, who pointed to a recent state study that predicted 700,000 acres of irrigated agricultural land in the state could dry up by 2050 if the state continues on its current path.

That would result from factors such as growers lacking sufficient water to make their operations work or selling valuable water rights to meet booming municipal and industrial demand.

Colorado has finalized a state water plan aimed at addressing looming shortfalls as the state’s population is expected to grow from about 5.5 million today to 8.6 million by 2050. The plan incorporates measures such as increased conservation and additional water storage.

But James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, noted at this week’s forum that the plan requires about $20 billion in spending by 2050 for water projects.

Water service providers will pay for about two-thirds of that through the rates they charge consumers, and the state will fill in some of the remaining cost, but Eklund said there needs to be discussions about how to obtain more revenue.

Linn Brooks, general manager of the Eagle River Water Sanitation District, which provides water to much of Eagle County, called some new level of reservoir construction “a reality for us.”

“We need more water. We need more storage. The easy water we’ve already gotten. It’s just going to be harder and harder,” she said.

Hard can mean expensive and time-consuming, including for permitting, and especially when the federal government is involved in the permitting process. Eklund said some projects involve multiple project managers because the projects outlive the managers.

“That’s not agile. It’s not going to be responsive to the challenges,” he said, calling for a more efficient review process that still protects the environment.

Elizabeth Garner, Colorado’s state demographer, said the expense of providing water is a cost-of-living and amenity consideration that could influence future migration to the state. She cited a number of factors that are expected to negatively impact household incomes in the state in coming years and wonders to what degree that will affect how much people are willing to pay for water.

Meanwhile, water lawyer Steve Sims said availability of water will remain an initial question that businesses ask as they look to move to the state or expand here.

Efforts to increase water-use efficiency and cooperate with others will stretch supplies, but water presents a natural-
resource challenge that isn’t a win-win one in the long term, he said.

“There are win-lose situations. … That’s always the situation when you’re allocating a very scarce resource,” he said.

He said the key to keeping agricultural operations in business is making sure they have access to capital and talent so they can make money and not feel pressure to sell out.

Fort Collins (CSU): Explaining Western water law, October 24, 2016 @CWCB_Linda

Prior appropriation example via
Prior appropriation example via

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jim Beers):

Learning more about the complexities and inner-workings of western water law is the purpose behind the 2016 Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminar series. The series will discuss topics including the history and evolution of western water law; state compacts and federal water law; hybrid water law systems; water quality law; groundwater law; and environmental law. The seminar series will provide attendees the opportunity for in-depth discussion about water-related court cases and interaction with prominent water resource professionals.

Each seminar is held Monday at 4 p.m. in the Behavioral Sciences Building, Room 103. All faculty, students, off-campus water professionals, and members of the Fort Collins community who are interested in water and western water law are invited to attend.

For individuals unable to attend, the seminars will be recorded and uploaded online. The full semester schedule is accessible here. Or there’s more information regarding all of the Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminars.

Linda Bassi’s talk

Linda Bassi, chief of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Stream and Lake Protection Section, will speak on Monday, Oct. 24. Her lecture will be “Evolution of the Law Governing Colorado’s Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program.” Bassi will trace the laws and court opinions that have shaped the Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program to address policy issues and meet evolving needs related to protecting valuable natural resources.

Bassi is responsible for all facets of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Stream and Lake Protection Section including: legal protection; monitoring enforcement of the Board’s new and old instream flow water rights; acquisitions of instream flow by the Board; and development of legislation, policies, and rules related to the program. Prior to working for the Board, Bassi worked in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office representing the Division of Water Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board on various water rights issues.

#Colorado Water Trust Presents: The Great Divide Screening and Fundraiser @COWaterTrust


Click here to buy your tickets. Here’s the pitch from the Colorado Water Trust:


The destiny of the west is written in the headwaters of Colorado. Tens of millions of people, billions of dollars of agricultural production, and an enormous amount of economic activity across a vast swath of America from California to the Mississippi River are all dependent on rivers born in the mountains of Colorado. In this time of increasing demand and limited supply, it is essential to promote a more informed and inclusive discussion concerning decisions affecting our water resources.

VIP Reception starts at 5:30pm in Henderson’s Lounge followed by the screening.

Proceeds from the event will go to support the Colorado Water Trust:

The Colorado Water Trust is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore flows to Colorado’s rivers in need. Founded in 2001, the Colorado Water Trust coordinates market-based water transactions, water-sharing agreements, infrastructure projects, and other creative solutions to restore flows to our state’s dry rivers and streams. Together with our diverse partners throughout the state, we are restoring habitat for fish and other wildlife, improving local economic opportunities, and where lost, returning to Colorado’s landscape the beauty of a flowing river.

Here’s the Coyote Gulch review of The Great Divide:

“I used to be a orthodox card-carrying humanities academic with contempt for the manipulations of nature that engineers perpetrated. And then, I realized how much a beneficiary I was of those perpetrations.” — Patty Limerick (The Great Divide)

This is an important film and Ms. Limerick hits the nail on the head with her statement. When folks understand the history of Colorado and how water has shaped that history, when they learn about the disease and hardship that goes hand in hand with scarcity of water here in the arid west, when they witness the bounty from plains farms and the western valleys and the economic drivers associated with Colorado’s cities, when they take time to sit down to talk and learn from neighbors and others, opinions can change, understanding can grow, problems can be solved, and opportunities can be realized.

Jim Havey and the filmmakers set out an ambitious goal, that is, the telling of Colorado’s water story, without advocacy and without pointing fingers. The Great Divide accomplishes the telling using a superb screenplay written by Stephen Grace, the stunning footage by Jim Havey, along with the old photographs and maps of Colorado (and the Colorado River Basin).

Prior appropriation and anti-speculation are big ideas that form the foundation of Colorado water law. Article XVI of the Colorado Constitution includes detail about the preferred uses and the rights of diverters to cross private land to put the public’s water to beneficial use. All water in Colorado belongs to the citizens but diverters gain a property right allowing them to use the water.

The filmmakers manage to explain these details well during the film. The film describes the law, the compacts between states, river administration, and the 21st Century world of water. They emphasize the work and pioneering efforts needed to get Colorado where it is today.

San Luis People's Ditch via The Pueblo Chieftain
San Luis People’s Ditch via The Pueblo Chieftain

Starting with the San Luis People’s ditch (the oldest water right in continuous use in Colorado — 1852) Coloradans have built out many projects large and small to put the water to beneficial use. The Great Divide describes many of these projects including the big US Bureau of Reclamation projects, Colorado-Big Thompson, Fryingpan-Arkansas, the Aspinall Unit, and what many think will be USBR’s last big project, Aninas-La Plata.

According to the film an early project, Cheesman Dam on the South Platte River, enabled delivery of high quality water to the City of Denver which had been plagued by outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases.

These projects have gotten Colorado to this point with over 5 million residents and a diversified economy. However, in the documentary the head of Denver Water Jim Lochhead states, “If we grow the next 5 million people the way we’ve grown the last 5 million — that may not be sustainable.”

There is a tension between environmentalists and water developers in today’s Colorado, highlighted by the film. The Great Divide explores the historical roots of the environmental movement starting with the Sierra Club effort to save Echo Park on the Yampa River, up through the legislation allowing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to hold and establish instream flow rights, the successful efforts to block groundwater withdrawals in the San Luis Valley for Front Range growth, and the mammoth decision to not permit the Two Forks Reservoir on the the South Platte River.


The City of Denver and many of the suburbs were counting on that project for future needs. It is interesting to note that the loss of Two Forks led to increased groundwater withdrawals from the Denver Basin Aquifer System and an increase in purchases of agricultural rights by municipal systems. Both of these alternatives are unsustainable but have led to recharge projects, water reuse projects by Denver Water and Aurora Water, along with serious efforts to allow alternative transfer methods for agricultural water that would protect farmers and keep the water with the land. The Great Divide touches on these newer more sustainable solutions.

Drought is a constant possibility in Colorado. The film shows how the drought of the 1930s spurred northeastern Colorado to line up behind the Colorado-Big Thompson Project for new supplies and storage.

US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002
US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002

When things turned around after the drought of 2002 The Great Divide informs us that municipalities had to rethink conservation efforts and that pumpers with insufficient augmentation water were shut down. Denver Water managed to cut per capita consumption by 20% below pre-2002 levels and other utilities noted similar savings.

The film examines the aftermath of the 2002 drought and the efforts by the Colorado legislature which passed the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act. It established the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and the nine basin roundtables. The roundtables and the IBCC were formed as a forum to share needs but most importantly share values. One of the outcomes of the effort has been the realization, stated in the film by Travis Smith that, “We are more connected than we’d like to admit.”

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

This connectedness, along with the need to solve looming wide-ranging supply gaps were the motivation for Governor Hickenlooper to issue an executive order to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create Colorado’s first ever water plan. The Governor has an opportunity to present his view of the need for the plan in the film. He touches on the fact that however the plan turns out it will be built by the grass roots.

During his introduction of the film Justice Gregory Hobbs advised us to listen to the words along with viewing the images. He was right, the narrative by Peter Coyote engages and informs. You cannot listen to Mr. Grace’s words without learning at the same time. And that’s the point right? Educate and inform with an accurate representation of Colorado water issues and history…

The film is a stellar vehicle for educating and generating conversation. Go see it when you can, buy the book, and then start talking and teaching.