#ColoradoRiver: Northern Water increases 2016 quota to 70% #COriver

Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

Northern Water’s Board of Directors increased the Colorado-Big Thompson Project quota allocation to 70 percent at its April 14 meeting. With snowpacks that feed the C-BT Project system being above average and storage reservoirs in good shape, the Board chose to make available an additional 20 percent as a supplemental quota for 2015.

The approval increased available C-BT Project water supplies by 20 percent, or 62,000 acre-feet, from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November.

The Board considered input from farmers and municipal water providers, demonstrating the varying demands and complex circumstances directors must consider when setting the quota. The C-BT Project supplements other sources of water for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area.

Directors carefully considered streamflow forecasts and snowpack in the South Platte and Upper Colorado watersheds that contribute to C-BT Project inflow. The snowpack in these watersheds has increased during the past month and March precipitation throughout Northern Water’s boundaries was 132 percent of average.

“The Board set an average quota of 70 percent based on this being as close to an average year as you can get,” said Andy Pineda, Water Resources Department Manager. “Snowpacks in the Upper Colorado and South Platte basins are in better shape today than a year ago.”

Directors based their decision on the need for supplemental water for the coming year while balancing project operations and maintaining water in storage for future dry years.

From The Greeley Tribune (Nikki Work):

When Northern Water’s Andy Pineda hinted at a 70 percent quota for users of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project at the company’s Spring Water Users meeting Wednesday, the room was all smiles and nods.

The farmers and municipal water representatives in the room predicted that would be the magic number, and on Thursday, Northern Water’s board of directors voted to make that number official.

The 70 percent quota is about as average as it gets, said Northern Water’s Brian Werner. He knows the old saying ‘There’s no such thing as an average water year,’ but so far, 2016 is proving that statement pretty much wrong.

In fact, when C-BT users were asked for input on the projected quota at the Spring Water Users meeting — the reason the meeting is called every year — the room was quiet until a couple people were goaded into taking the microphone.

“I think this is what we were expecting,” Werner said, and that’s why there was so little input. “Most water users are comfortable with a 70 percent quota in a year like this (where it’s) not too dry, not too wet.”

The C-BT quota sets the percentage of water from the project each participant can use for the year, Werner said. This year, each water user can use 7/10 of each acre-foot of water they own. For example, if someone owns 100 acre-feet of water, they can use 70 of those acre-feet over the year.

“This gives the farmers who are making decisions on planting and other things a good idea of what water they’re going to get,” he said.

Werner said the Colorado-Big Thompson project is basically an insurance policy for water users in northern Colorado. He explains it like a pie cut into three pieces.

The first two pieces of the water pie are snowpack and storage, and this year, both of those slices are falling in line with historic averages, if not exceeding them. The C-BT project, which collects and delivers water from the West Slope over to the East Slope and northern Colorado, is the third piece, and it fills in the rest of the pie. When the first two pieces look normal, so does the third. If the first two pieces are lacking, the third makes up for it, like in 2012 when the C-BT quota was set to 100 percent.

That said, if the water year goes up in flames and the state dries up, Northern Water’s board might raise the quota closer to 100 percent to help water users supplement the shrinking snowpack and storage slices, Werner said.

Werner said 33 cities and towns, 120 ag irrigation or ditch companies and about 1,500 individual farmers rely on C-BT water as a additional water source during the summer…

OTHER NORTHERN WATER PROJECTS

At the Spring Water Users meeting this week at The Ranch in Loveland, both the Northern Integrated Supply Project and Windy Gap Firming Project unveiled new development plans:

» The Northern Integrated Supply Project, which is in the permitting and planning process, unveiled a new plan for downstream water conveyance. Plans for NISP include the construction of two reservoirs — the Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and the Galeton Reservoir east of Ault. Northern Water initially planned a system of linking pipelines to pump water to users further south, but instead, unveiled a new, more eco-friendly plan at the meeting. The new plan would entail releasing 44,000 acre-feet of water per year into the Poudre River from the Glade Reservoir, letting it flow a 12-mile stretch through Fort Collins, then catching it again at a pipeline that would flow it down the Weld/Larimer County line to the Southern Water Supply Project, another Northern Water project that serves communities from Broomfield to Fort Morgan. In case of poor water quality in the Poudre due to runoff or wildfires, the plan contains a redundancy pipeline.

This new strategy for conveyance of water southward should improve the flow of the Poudre eight months out of the year on a normal year, said Carl Brouwer of Northern Water at the meeting. On a dry year, that number is even better.

» The Windy Gap Firming Project, which is one step away from getting its final permit and authorization, unveiled a new plan at the meeting to divert water out of the existing Windy Gap reservoir into a bypass channel. This would make the actual reservoir about half its size and create a freeflowing stream for most of the year. A stream rather than a reservoir would create more natural conditions for the reservoir’s wildlife, like a better flow of water and sediment and more temperature control.

The Windy Gap Firming Project also recently joined the Learning by Doing cooperative effort, in which they work with other water stakeholders to monitor and improve aquatic health and habitat on the Colorado River, said Jeff Drager, deputy manager of engineering at Northern Water.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

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