Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

April 1, 2015
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation March 1 thru March 29, 2015

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation March 1 thru March 29, 2015

Click here to read the current assessment.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

The latest Colorado Water Trust eNews newsletter is hot off the presses

April 1, 2015

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust

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

Before the Court: Change of Use for Colorado Water Trust’s McKinley Ditch Shares

Colorado’s water-short rivers present complex challenges that require creative solutions. At the Water Trust, we’ve always been inspired to explore new, localized approaches when existing ones don’t fit. For example, our innovative remedy on the Little Cimarron River southwest of Gunnison blends agricultural and non-consumptive water uses for the first time through split season operations. Seasonal lease agreements mean the water could be used for agriculture in the early season through our partners Western Rivers Conservancy, while later in the season more water would remain in the river for environmental benefits. Several Directors on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) praised our project when voting last fall to approve the CWCB’s purchase of the Grant of Flow Restoration Use for the Water Trust’s water right shares in the McKinley Ditch.

“I can tell that this has been a tremendous amount of work because it is novel. And it seems to me that it’s the sort of thing we need to explore so that we can figure out, if agriculture did something just a little differently but not harmful, could there be a benefit for some other use…Being able to move water around to where it’s needed, when it’s needed…by changing things just a little, I think, is hopefully the wave of the future.” ~ Director Patricia Wells, CWCB Meeting on September 12, 2014

In December 2014, the Water Trust and CWCB took the next step towards implementing this experimental concept by filing a joint application with the Division 4 Water Court seeking to add “instream flow use”(ISF) to the Water Trust’s shares of the senior McKinley Ditch water rights. Once this added use is approved by the Water Court, the Water Trust’s water rights can be used by the CWCB to keep water flowing in the Little Cimarron River, accruing benefits to almost ten miles of Colorado streams, from the McKinley Ditch headgate to the Gunnison River.

Durango: 33rd Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWWCD) Annual Water Seminar, Friday, April 3

April 1, 2015


From the Pagosa Springs Sun (Renita Freeman):

Water experts will speak at the 33rd Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWWCD) Annual Water Seminar at the Doubletree Hotel in Durango on Friday, April 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This year’s theme is “New Solutions to Old Problems.” A broad range of topics on the agenda will be addressed during the meeting including the Colorado River basin contingency planning efforts, the future of agriculture in Colorado, the state water plan and the incorporation of water conservation in land use planning.

The meeting’s agenda, as listed in a news release from SWWCD, has registration and breakfast scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Welcoming remarks and introductions will be made by John Porter, SWWCD board president, and Bruce Whitehead, executive director.

The morning’s presentations will feature Jim Havey with Havey Productions presenting a documentary on the Great Divide. Moderator Steve Harris will present Exploring Water Conservation Strategies. Assisting in this presentation will be state Sen. Ellen Roberts, Drew Beckwith with Western Resource Advocates, Dominique Gomez with Water Smart Software and Mark Marlowe from the Town of Castle Rock.

Whitehead will speak on the Colorado River Planning Convergence; he will be assisted by Greg Walch from the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) members Ted Kowalski and Eric Kuhn.

The afternoon’s agenda will begin with recognition of the water leaders followed by the film “Resilient: Soil, Water and the New Stewards of the American West” presented by Kate Greenberg from the National Young Farmers Coalition. Greenberg will also present Agriculture’s Future in the Colorado River Basin. Assisting with this presentation will be Ken Nowak from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Pat O’Toole, a local producer from the Family Farm Alliance.

“The State Water Plan: Meeting Local Water Needs” will be presented by John Stulp from the Interbasin Compact Committee. Assisting Stulp will be CWCB board member Rebecca Mitchell. Carrie Lile, Ann Oliver and Mike Preston from the Southwest Basin Roundtable will also take part in the presentation.

The press release stated advance registration is $35 or $40 at the door. Online registration is available by going to http://swwcd.org/programs/annual-water-seminar. Mail-in registration forms are also available on the website. The Doubletree Hotel is located at 501 Camino del Rio. Registration will begin 8 a.m. on April 3.

More education coverage here.

Snowpack news: The Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin (in Colorado) has started melting out

March 31, 2015

“First and foremost, Western water is about politics, not policy” — Dan Beard #ColoradoRiver

March 31, 2015


From KUER (Judy Fahys):

The West used to solve its water troubles with dams. But now Dan Beard. a man who used to lead the nation’s dam-building agency, wants to shutter it.

Beard once oversaw the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s vast water network in the West, and he helped Congress decide on one billion dollars worth of finishing touches for the Central Utah Project.

But Beard says the water landscape has changed.

“In the middle of a drought, with climate change here and going to impact the horizon,” he says, “water is a much more active and high-priority issue.”

In his new book, Deadbeat Dams, Beard argues that the “Bureau of Wreck” – or W-R-E-C-K , as environmentalists used to call it – is a bureaucratic waste. He also advises tearing down the Glen Canyon Dam to make the Colorado River more efficient.

Beard says the water bureaucracy resists change.

“There are several things you’ve got to keep in mind when you talk about Western water,” he says. “First and foremost, Western water is about politics, not policy. The second thing is logic and common sense rarely play a role in resolving water problems.”

He calls conservation, smarter water pricing and innovation crucial to finding solutions.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

What severe drought in the #ColoradoRiver Basin looks like — The Washington Post

March 31, 2015
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

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

Click here to read the article from The Washington Post (Nick Kirkpatrick) and to check out the photo gallery from Lake Powell. Here’s an excerpt:

Lake Powell, one of the nation’s largest reservoirs, is now below 45 percent of its capacity.

Straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, the man-made reservoir is part of the Colorado Water Basin that supplies water to 40 million people…

For more than 14 years, the basin and the Western states have been plagued by drought. Almost every year, all of the water from the Colorado River is pumped out before emptying into the the Gulf of California.

“Many climate scientists think the Southwest is again due for a megadrought,” Jonathan Waterman wrote in National Geographic. “The Bureau of Reclamation’s analysis of over a hundred climate projections suggests the Colorado River Basin will be much drier by the end of this century than it was in the past one, with the median projection showing 45 percent less runoff into the river.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: The Gunnison Tunnel to turn on Tuesday

March 30, 2015
Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased from 500 cfs to 600 cfs on Tuesday, March 31st at 9:00 AM. This release increase is in response to the start of diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel. On Tuesday morning, the Gunnison Tunnel will begin diverting 200 cfs. The current forecast for April-July unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 590,000 acre-feet which is 87% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for March and April.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are zero and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 500 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 200 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 400 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


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