The latest Eagle River Watershed Council newsletter “The Current” is hot off the presses

April 8, 2015

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

Here in Colorado, we tend to think of precipitation in discrete, measured amounts: Inches of snow, cubic feet per second, acre feet of water. In an arid region often afflicted by drought, this is an understandable way to perceive our water situation. But if we dig deeper, the issues we face surrounding water are much more nuanced than simple measurements. Two other factors related to precipitation, the timing and type, are just as important as the amount, if not more so.

As any boater or skier will tell you, a storm bearing an inch of rain in July is very different from a system dropping an inch of rain in January. Though they may produce the same amount of precipitation, all storms are not created equally. Rain and snow are both welcome forms of precipitation and serve their own purposes, but the effects and consequences of each are quite different.

It is a classic case of “the tortoise and the hare.” Rain, the hare, moves quickly through watersheds, rapidly passing from cloud to ground to waterway and beyond. On the other hand, snow (the tortoise) stockpiles water in winter, gradually releasing it into waterways through spring runoff. Rain has more immediate benefits to and effects on the system, while the impacts of snow are on a time delay. I think we all remember who wins the metaphorical race.

For our rivers and streams and for our recreation-based economy, it is imperative that the majority of our annual precipitation (approximately 80 percent) comes in the form of snow. For a few important reasons, rain just won’t cut it.

Is The Public Engaged When It Comes To Colorado’s Water Plan? — KUNC #COWaterPlan

April 7, 2015
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

…despite an extensive education and outreach campaign, just how involved is the general public in planning Colorado’s water future?

Kate McIntire, the women in charge of public engagement and outreach for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said they’ve mostly relied on volunteers in a process that goes back 10 years when the Public Education, Participation and Outreach group was established. Later, McIntire said, they engaged the nine basin roundtables to help.

“This is really a grassroots process and so we never intended to or didn’t have millions of dollars to throw into reaching everyone across the state in terms of a more traditional advertising campaign,” said McIntire. “Spreading the word grass roots isn’t something that happens overnight.”

The Water Board received more than 15,000 comments directly and through the nine basin roundtables when creating the draft plan. That’s not enough for state Senator Ellen Roberts, a Republican from Durango. She still thinks there’s a lack of awareness amongst the general public.

“I think that’s the challenge that we saw here at the legislature,” said Roberts. “The Governor and the executive branch of the Colorado government has done a lot of outreach but it’s a topic that most people… all they really care about is when they get up in the morning does water come out of the shower, can they make their cup of coffee or cup of tea?”

In 2014 the senator co-sponsored a successful bill that called for more involvement by the legislature in water planning. That led to a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado.

“What we were trying to do with Senate Bill 14-115 [.pdf] last year was to go out to the more general public, the kind of people who show up at our town hall meetings, who maybe have no idea about Colorado water law or how complicated it is,” Roberts said. “They’re not following like the people on the basin roundtables.”

Theresa Connelly, a water advocate with Conservation Colorado, is heartened by what she sees as a growing awareness in water issues in the state, even if there’s a lack of awareness about an actual water plan.

“Folks may not know as much that there’s an actual state water plan going on, but folks are very aware of water issues that we’re facing,” she said.

But Connolly, like Senator Roberts, said the public outreach effort needs to be more inclusive. She cites the fact that many of the meetings were in the middle of the workday, which made it difficult for some to attend. People may not have time to attend a meeting, but maybe they’ve sent an email or a postcard, and those voices should also be heard.

“I think sometimes those small actions are disregarded as a form letter or something that isn’t truly meaningful and I think that that’s absolutely not true,” Connelly said.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has received over 2000 comments in the first few months since the draft was submitted and adds all input received through May 1 will be considered in the second draft, said the board’s McIntire. She points out that the CWCB is responding to all comments received and those responses are available for public review.

“And all those responses are cataloged and available for review by anyone on our website.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

HB15-1259 (Residential Precipitation Collection Rain Barrels) heads to Senate Ag Committee April 16 #coleg

April 4, 2015
Rain barrel schematic

Rain barrel schematic

From The Greeley Tribune (James Redmond):

Although a number of Republicans joined Democrats in passing a bill in the House that could end Colorado’s ban on rain barrels, the legislation now awaits its first Senate committee hearing, where some Republicans remain wary of its possible long-term effects.

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee will hold a hearing for House Bill 1259 on April 16.

The bill passed out of the House with an easy bipartisan majority, 45-20, on March 23. It could have become a partisan issue, as no Democrats voted against it. But more than 10 Republicans cast a yes vote, with some calling it common sense legislation and saying rain water will go back into the ground anyway.

Many Republicans did not support the bill, which some say could cause issues with Colorado’s law of prior appropriation and potentially hurt water rights holders, such as farmers to whom they say the rainwater belongs.

But, some House Republicans who supported the bill represent counties with substantial agricultural interests, such as Weld County’s Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono.

Similarly, farmers and other professional and experts connected to water issues in Colorado have expressed views ranging from concern to support of the bill.

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee, hasn’t made up his mind about the bill yet, but he said Thursday he feels leery of voting for it and has not heard much from his constituents yet.

“You know, it looks like it’s a pretty innocuous bill,” he said. “Most people might say ‘hey why can’t we collect water off our own roof?’”

But if everyone took advantage of what the bill would allow and 50,000 homes in the Greeley and Evans areas started collecting rainwater, it could hurt the already over-appropriated South Platte River, Cooke said. Hurting the river could mean people with water rights do not get the water they are entitled too, he said.

“I’m not saying I’m opposed to the bill yet; I want to hear the testimony,” Cooke said.

Currently people cannot collect and store rainwater from roofs in Colorado. The bill would allow someone to collect and keep rain from his or her roofs in up to two 55-gallon barrels. Rainwater collected this way could only be used for outdoor purposes, such as lawn irrigation and gardening.

“The data we were given indicates that 97 percent of the water that comes off of roof tops never actually makes its way into the basins,” Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, said Wednesday. “I thought it made good sense.”

If most rooftop rainwater does not make its way into the system as it is now, Young said he would need to see data that showed how rain barrels negatively affect someone’s prior appropriation before he sees the bill as harmful to water rights owners.

Most of the northern Colorado legislators supported it the bill, he said, and of Weld County’s House representatives, only Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor, voted against the bill.

“I struggled with that bill,” Buck said Friday. She had concerns about the legality of letting people collect rainwater and how that could affect agriculture.

Although some people say most of the rainwater from roofs does not go into water basins, she said allowing all houses to collect and store their rainwater could negatively affect water rights owners.

Experts in the field have expressed concerns about broadly allowing all houses to collect their rainwater.

“My concern is this bill could result in injury to vested senior water rights,” said Robert Longenbaugh, a retired assistant state engineer and ground water specialist. Without requiring rain barrels to receive site-specific consideration, “I believe the potential is there for injury.”

Colorado has more demand for water than ever before, and a rain barrel takes away water, he said.

Glen Fritzler, a farmer who works near Gilcrest, thinks the bill could probably hurt farmers.

“It just seems like taking from the end users,” Fritzler said.

Not all farmers feel the same way. LaSalle farmer Harry Strohauer said the bill seems like common sense to him. Letting residents collect rainwater in insignificant amounts means they can put it to good use and avoid using other water sources.

“I don’t see a downside to that,” he said.

Conservation Colorado has also come out in support of the legislation, claiming the bill will raise awareness of Colorado’s water challenges and the need for water conservation polices.

The bill could set a nasty precedence, Cooke said, and if it does pass it could be hard to change it back. It would take hard work with stakeholders to find a different version to satisfy everyone, he said.

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 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.

The March 2015 “Headwaters Pulse” is hot off the presses from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education

March 25, 2015


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

Now Available: Headwaters Magazine on Colorado’s Water Plan

It isn’t every day that concerned citizens, recreation planners, water professionals, elected officials, conservationists, farmers, business and industry leaders, and state agency staff in Colorado put their heads together to draft a state water plan. In fact, a comprehensive state plan for managing, distributing and conserving Colorado’s most precious natural resource has Never. Been. Done. Before. In this day and age, you don’t often get to say that about anything. The scope of the undertaking, combined with the disconcerting forecasts for what’s in store if Colorado doesn’t come up with a plan—and a good one at that—has made for an exciting couple of years for those involved, or even just observing, as Colorado’s Water Plan takes shape.

Depending on where you sit, the best or most challenging part of the whole process is that Coloradans of every stripe are invited to step up to the plate, take a seat at the table, grab a microphone, or dash off an email to provide input and feedback that those holding the wheel in shaping the plan’s content have committed to genuinely consider. Our winter issue of Headwaters, hot off the press, takes a close look at the state water planning process’ inner workings, including why we need the plan now, what it took to complete a first draft as of December last year, and where we’ll likely need to go further to achieve success. Plus, we help you chart your water future and explore how to get involved. Colorado’s Water Plan won’t be finalized until December 2015, so pick up or download your copy of Headwaters Winter 2015 issue today and get equipped to speak up. Bulk sales of additional copies for use in outreach activities are also available by contacting

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

Symposium to honor Justice Gregory Hobbs, April 10

March 21, 2015


Click here for all the inside skinny and to register.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education President’s Award Reception 2015, May 8

March 18, 2015


Click here to go to the Colorado Foundation for Water Education Website to register.


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