The latest e-WaterNews from Northern Water is hot off the presses

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

2015 Water Year Comes to an End

The 2015 water year (Nov.1 – Oct. 31) started slowly, but precipitation later in the spring more than made up for it. April and May storms brought much needed moisture to the mountains and plains, and set in motion another very good water year for Northeastern Colorado.

Deliveries in 2015 were more than the record low year of 2014, but were still below average. This year the C-BT Project delivered 187,291 acre-feet to East Slope water users. The historical average is 211,000 AF. Deliveries to agricultural users spiked in late summer due to dry conditions. These late-summer deliveries also made space available in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake, which will allow water to be transferred from Lake Granby to the East Slope this winter. This will also create space in Lake Granby for the spring runoff.

In 2015, the total C-BT Project spill was 191,000 AF, with 148,500 AF from Lake Granby and 42,500 AF from Willow Creek Reservoir.

C-BT Project reservoir levels started the 2016 water year in good shape with more than 500,000 AF in storage. The average for Nov. 1 active storage is 442,413 AF.


“My colleague likes to say, instead of one silver bullet, there’s lots of little silver BBs” — Liesel Hans

Tap water via Wikimedia
Tap water via Wikimedia

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Thirteen gallons: It’s the volume of a standard kitchen trash bag, a 6-minute shower or a little more than a full tank of gas for a compact car.

And it’s the crux of Fort Collins Utilities’ vision for the city’s water use come 2030.

Average daily water use was 143 gallons per person in 2014. Utilities wants to reduce that to 130 gallons per person, a 9 percent cut, over the next 15 years.

The water saved would fill 2 1/2 Olympic-size swimming pools in just a year…

Conservation strategies laid out in a document released this month could affect your water bill, your lawn or even your toilet. And utilities staff hope a wide range of methods will prepare the community for inevitable dry spells in a semi-arid region vulnerable to unpredictable climate patterns.

“My colleague likes to say, instead of one silver bullet, there’s lots of little silver BBs,” said Liesel Hans, water conservation program manager with Fort Collins Utilities. “There’s a lot of ways to fit our goal, and it doesn’t have to be a one size fits all.”

Utilities is seeking feedback on its water efficiency plan update through Jan. 15. After resident and City Council review, the department will start making changes on a rolling basis in the coming months and years.

There are some big goals in the plan update, including:

  • Requiring more efficient plumbing and irrigation fixtures for re-developed homes and businesses.
  • Changing water rates to encourage conservation.
  • Increasing use of the online “Monitor My Use” tool, which shows users how much water they’re using on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. This helps customers see what time of day they’re using the most, among other features.
  • Revamping and spreading the Xeriscape Incentive Program, which pays residents to re-do their lawns with plants that conserve water.
  • Offering more rebates to businesses that conserve water.
  • Providing more education to increase community water literacy.

The strategies and their timelines are purposely vague because the department wants to hear what people think of them before deciding which ones to implement. And the plan targets residential and business use because both make up gluttonous portions of the water-use pie: Businesses account for 39 percent of water use in the district; homes account for 47 percent.

Utilities will “look at a wide range of options” for changing rates, Hans said, which could include changing the fixed rate, the variable rates or both…

Graphs of Fort Collins Utilities’ water demand over time tell a gripping story. Demand increased steadily as more people and businesses moved in during the 1990s. By 2000, the city was using more than 200 gallons per person per day to meet an annual demand of more than 10 billion gallons. That level of demand would fill Horsetooth Reservoir in about five years.

Then came the 2002 drought. Some people, including then-Gov. Bill Owens, called it Colorado’s worst drought in 350 years.

Fort Collins saw about 9 inches of rain that year, about 6 inches less than normal.

The historic drought got the city thinking about water conservation, Hans said. It wasn’t long before the utilities department switched to a “conservation-oriented” rate structure, so people who use more water pay a higher rate.

That change and other conservation efforts have helped the department cut use per person and in total. In 2014, annual demand was about 7 billion gallons, a 30 percent reduction from 2000 demand even as the city’s population swelled by 25 percent.

But progress has plateaued, Hans said, so her department hopes new methods — and a goal more ambitious than the original 2030 target of 140 gallons per person each day — will help galvanize next-level conservation.

A lot of the strategies involve building on existing programs that identify water leaks in homes, show residents how to more efficiently water their lawns, set efficiency goals for businesses and teach children and adults why water conservation matters.

Conservation fans say the 2030 water use goal is made more achievable by what seems to be an ingrained value for many in Fort Collins.

“We live in a semi-arid desert,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Water Conservancy District — the agency that facilitates close to one-third of Fort Collins Utilities’ water supply.

“From Day 1, settlers realized you had to supplement what Mother Nature gave you if you wanted to grow crops. We were very conservation-oriented from the get-go.”

Julie Kallenberger, water education and outreach specialist for Colorado State University’s Water Center, added Colorado’s headwaters state status fosters more of a conservation-oriented mindset.

“Water becomes more of a topic because people understand how important it is,” she said. “I came here in ’02, and I immediately noticed it.”

Water efficiency plan

You can find the Fort Collins Utilities water efficiency plan at

Dry August and September leaves Horsetooth at 61% of capacity

Horsetooth Reservoir
Horsetooth Reservoir

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Jacy Marmaduke):

…consistently hot temperature and little rain put the big drain on in late summer, as farmers called for more irrigation water. The reservoir on Friday was 61 percent of capacity, which is 125 percent of the average for Oct. 16.

Northern Water spokesman Zach Allen said what all that means is the reservoir is in good shape heading out of the agricultural irrigation season.

High reservoir levels at the end of 2014 coupled with a wet spring meant farmers diverted less water from the reservoir during the spring and most of the summer, water resources manager Sarah Smith said. That allowed for an excellent boating season for most of the summer.

Irrigation reservoirs, like Horsetooth, generally fill up in spring with rain and snowmelt. As summer progresses, they are drawn down as farmers’ need for irrigation increases.

While Horsetooth is doing well, the Poudre River is flowing more slowly than usual for this time of year. On Friday at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, the river was flowing 74.6 cubic feet per second. The average for this time of year is 92 cfs.

Slower flows are likely due to the dry weather and lack of rainfall during the last several months, Smith said.

Northern Water Fall Water Users Meeting November 10

From email from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

Northern Water’s Fall Water Users Meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 10 at the Riverside Cultural Center, 3700 Golden St., Evans, CO starting at 8 a.m.

The meeting is a forum to discuss the current water situation and water-related issues, the water year, the Northern Integrated Supply Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project.

Other items on the agenda include the Granby Hydropower Plant project, Northern Water’s water management system and an update from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Dan Haley, the new CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, will be the luncheon speaker.

The afternoon session starts at 1:30 p.m. and will feature the screening of the documentary film The Great Divide. The 90-minute film documents the history of water development in Colorado from the Ancient Puebloan cultures to present day.

See the meeting agenda.

Go to the November Calendar page to register for the meeting online by Tuesday, Nov. 3. If you are unable to register online, please call our registration line at 970-622-2220. Please provide the name(s) of those who will be attending and the organization represented, if applicable. If you register and you later find you cannot attend, please cancel your reservation by calling us at 970-622-2220

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

The latest Northern Water “E-Waternews” is hot off the presses

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

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

<blockquoteThe Northern Water Board of Directors set 2016 water assessments during an Aug. 6, 2015 public hearing. Assessments for open-rate irrigation contracts increased from $10.90 per acre-foot unit to $17.60, and assessments for open-rate municipal, industrial and multipurpose contracts increased from $30.50 per acre-foot unit to $35.90.

The Board followed its general rate-setting objectives, which are outlined in its 2014 forward guidance resolution. Among other objectives, the resolution proposed a 2-year step increase in assessments beginning in 2016, and moving irrigation assessments towards a cost-of-service based rate. Both of these objectives are represented in the 2016 assessments.

The Board will consider forward guidance that provides an estimated range for 2017 and 2018 water assessments at its Sept. 3 Planning and Action meeting.

For information on water assessments, please contact Sherri Rasmussen at 970-622-2217.

New water clarity proposal considered for Grand Lake — The Sky-Hi Daily News #ColoradoRiver

Grand Lake via Cornell University
Grand Lake via Cornell University

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

Debate continues to swirl around water clarity standards for Grand Lake, but recently stake holders on the Western Slope presented a new proposal in hopes of moving negotiations forward.

Western Slope stakeholders recently presented a revised clarity standard proposal to the Water Clarity Stakeholders group for consideration. The revised clarity standard proposal presented by the Western Slope stakeholders is for 3.8 meters, or 12.5 feet, with a 2.5 meter, or 8.2 feet, minimum clarity depth. This is a reduction from their previous proposal of a 4-meter standard.

Representatives from the Western slope stakeholders together with others from the east side of the continental Divide make up the Water Clarity Stakeholders Committee (WCSC). The WCSC is formed from the various entities affected by water clarity in Grand Lake and the operation of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT), which pulls water from the Three Lakes region that is sent through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel out of Grand Lake to the Front Range.

The WCSC includes representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Town of Grand Lake, Western Area Power Administration, Grand County, Northern Water, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, power consumers from the affected area, the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Three Lakes Watershed Association, Northwest COG, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, Middle Park Water Conservancy District, U.S. Geological Survey, the Grand County Water Information Network, and various other groups.

Representatives from the WCSC hope to negotiate a single water clarity proposal amongst themselves that can be presented to the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, the entity that will give final approval of any new water clarity standard. The Commission is part of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The WCSC is working toward a deadline; their proposal is due in November.


Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink-Curran has helped shepherd the process for the county.

“The West Slope group came up with compromises we felt we could live with and presented them to the larger group,” she said.

Underbrink-Curran explained that if the various groups cannot come to agreement on a proposal then multiple proposals will likely be submitted to the Water Quality Commission.

“Sometimes the various factors to consider are at odds,” she said. “If the Stakeholders group can’t come to a coordinated proposal then the West Slope group would make a proposal and the East Slope group would likely make their own proposal.”

The debate has been ongoing for several years now and started in earnest in 2008 when a committee was formed to study possible methods for improving water clarity in Grand Lake. According to Canton O’Donnell, president of the Three Lakes Watershed Association, that committee, which later became the Water Clarity Stakeholders Committee, was formed from the sustained lobbying efforts of the Three Lakes Watershed Association to improve the water clarity standard.

“All these years we have proposed a 4-meter standard,” said Canton. “Northern Water says that is not possible.”


The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, better known as Northern Water, operates the C-BT though the facilities are officially owned by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

“We don’t think that is an attainable standard,” said Brian Werner, Public Information Officer for Northern Water. “Looking at history and what we have been able to achieve in the past; we’ve been able to achieve 4 meters some years at certain times of the year. But oftentimes the clarity gets worse than that.”

Werner also expressed concerns over how such a standard would be enforced and how penalties for failing to meet any new standard would be applied.

More Grand Lake coverage here and here.

Grand Lake clarity standard

Grand Lake via Cornell University
Grand Lake via Cornell University

From The Denver Post (Canton O’Donnell):

In 2008, those concerned for Grand Lake established a site-specific water clarity standard through the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. This visionary application of a water quality standard to lake clarity, which was intended to restore the scenic attraction of Grand Lake, is unprecedented in Colorado.

Now, negotiations are ramping up to modify specifics of the standard. Western Slope stakeholders recently made broad concessions on a possible joint standard proposal with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which distributes C-BT water to Northern Front Range consumers. The concessions are intended to be motivating yet practical for all stakeholders

The Western Slope stakeholders’ proposal — a target of 12.5 feet average clarity, with a 8.2 foot minimum — is still a far cry from the 30.2 feet of clarity measured prior to implementation of the C-BT. Yet this proposed clarity standard is an effort to recognize the water-delivery mandate of the Colorado-Big Thompson system while protecting lake health and allowing time for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate a more robust permanent solution.

The Western Slope stakeholders — made up of Grand County government, the Three Lakes Watershed Association, the town of Grand Lake, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, and the Colorado River District — proposed this modified standard to be applicable for all of July, August and 11 days in September at the height of the region’s tourist season.

It is the hope of Eastern and Western Slope stakeholders to arrive at an agreement prior to the start of Colorado Water Quality Control Commission submittals beginning in November, for the sake of this valued resource.

More Grand Lake coverage here and here.