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.

Climate & Colorado’s Water Future workshop — Colorado Foundation for Water Education

March 14, 2015
Statewide annual average temperature 1900-1912 via Western Water Assessment

Statewide annual average temperature 1900-1912 via Western Water Assessment

Over the past year two reports about climate change have made their way into the water resources planning discussion.

Jeff Lukas, Western Water Assessment was lead author for Climate Change in Colorado:A Synthesis to Support Water Resources Management and Adaptation. The report explains the science and the data that make up our current understanding of the effects of climate change on Colorado water resources.

The second report, Colorado Climate Change Vulnerability Study was produced by Western Water Assessment, CSU and CU. The report looks at the vulnerabilities of systems, and makes recommendations about building resilience. Mr. Lukas was also a lead author on the second report.

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education invited Mr. Lukas to address thsose subjects at their annual workshop and tour of the National Ice Core Lab.

By looking at the temperature record for Colorado and reconstructing the paleo-record it is easy to visually verify that there is a trend upward in average temperature.

While detailing the history and current state of the climate, another speaker, Nolan Doeskin, Colorado State Climatologist, said, “There is an observable and detectible warming in Colorado since 1900.”

In short, in Colorado all living things and water dependent processes will require more supply due to greenhouse gas forcing just as that same forcing is affecting the water supply in currently unquantifiable ways.

That is the driving force around Denver Water’s commitment to scenario planning, what Laurna Kaatz called, “Planning for multiple futures.”

The possible “futures” identified include: Traditional future (stationarity); stricter water quality rules; hot water (warming of surface water); economic woes (long-term economic downturn); and green revolution (mass adoption of conservation, lowered energy use, etc.).

Caitlin Coleman from CFWE created a graphic of the scenario creation process for the current copy of Headwaters. You’ll need to score a copy of the print version for the full effect — it’s a foldout.

Of course, the main reason most people attend the workshop is to be able to boast about sharing space in the freezer with the ice cores.

Bruce Vaughn introduced the science and technology behind the collection of ice cores. He told us that, “Ice cores have shown us that climate change can occur very abruptly (in the time it takes to earn a bachelors degree).”

His lab at CU analyzes gases trapped in bubbles in the cores to discern the isotopic footprint of certain molecules in an effort to add to the scientific knowledge of the paleo-climate record.

While sharing time in the freezer with the cores we learned that the ability to work in the cold varies by individual and varies daily for the workers. Workers have to consume a big calorie load since staying warm consumes so many. Hydration is also a factor.

The day concluded with presentations targeted at educators and water providers who need to tell the climate change story to rate payers and students.

Katya Hafich,, introduced the snowpack field research program at CU before making us crunch field data without a spreadsheet. The data showed that, in the Green Lakes Valley (City of Boulder), the snowfall was deeper in 2014 than in 2013 but the snow water equivalent was higher in 2013. Just a little bit of data analysis to highlight the day.

Lesley Smith, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, emphasizes the need to teach folks about where their water comes from and how precious the resource is.

Noah Newman, Colorado Climate Center, was the last presenter. He made the pitch for joining CoCoRaHS to learn about climate and weather.

CoCoRaHS was created by Nolan Doesken after the 1997 flood in Fort Collins pointed out the fact that the National Weather Service needed more data to gauge the severity of weather.

The NWS is a daily user of CoCoRaHS data.

There was a lot more to hear and see of course. Click here to review my notes (tweets).

“We need to look for innovative, creative ways to do more water sharing” — John Stulp

March 6, 2015
SIEP Project location map via United Water and Sanitation

SIEP Project location map via United Water and Sanitation

SIEP Project design via United Water and Sanitation

SIEP Project design via United Water and Sanitation

From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

In Israel’s Negev Desert, the agricultural community at the Hatzerim kibbutz has put innovative irrigation techniques to work to make this region’s arid landscape blossom — and Weld County has taken note.

Through the use of drip irrigation developed by Netafim, already put to use by local onion grower Fagerberg Produce, a team of researchers and water investors hopes this Israeli technology may also lead to a greener, more efficient future for Colorado’s farms and municipalities.

With water conservation in mind, Colorado State University and the 70 Ranch, located off of U.S. 34 and Weld County Road 63, have teamed up under the Subsurface Irrigation Efficienty Project to put the Netafim system to the test under local conditions.

The property, owned and operated by United Water and Sanitation District President Bob Lembke, will provide a 165-acre plot to be dedicated to drip and deficit irrigation testing over the next 30 to 40 years.

The $3.5-million study comes with funding from the Sand Hills Metropolitan District, United Water and Sanitation District, Legacy Waters Inc. and the 70 Ranch, LLC, as well as support from the Platte River Water Development Authority and Jewish Colorado.

Lembke said a 2011 trip to Israel and the Hatzerim kibbutz with Jewish Colorado left him inspired by the possibilities rendered by well-managed irrigation techniques.

“When you see what they’ve been able to do with far less than what we have, it’s amazing,” Lembke said, explaining that the project aims to distribute water more efficiently across farmland and lawns, ideally translating into more irrigated acreage.

“As the area (Colorado) continues to develop, the paradigm has been to buy ag water, move it from the farm, move it to the city and well, rural communities can fend for themselves. That hasn’t worked very well and I don’t like that structure. In examining alternatives, the Netafim technology may be one answer,” he said.

Netafim district sales manager Jason Scheibel explained the system works through polyethylene lines plowed 10 to 16 inches below the surface that supply water, fertilizer and pesticides directly to plant roots, rather than above the surface.

“We have better control over our water and fertilizer by putting it at the root zone. This allows us to control deep percolation, which keeps chemicals and fertilizers from getting to waterways and aquifers,” Scheibel said, also pointing to the benefits of reduced weed germination and lower herbicide inputs.

Drip irrigation has been found to be 20 to 30 more efficient with water use when compared to pivot systems, and up to 60 percent more efficient than furrow systems, he added. On the Colorado plains, he estimated the Netafim system costs about $2,000 an acre to install.

Lead CSU researcher Dr. Ramchand Oad said the pilot study hopes to answer cost questions for producers, by providing insight on water input and resulting yield when using the drip irrigation method. As the project moves forward, the findings of this research will be made publicly available at

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said such knowledge could help farmers pull through difficult seasons.

“In those dry years when those junior water right farms are struggling to find water to sustain their crops, they’ll have an idea of what crops will sustain a lower water yield,” Conway said.

Regarding municipal water use, Lembke envisioned drip irrigation installed on lawns to reduce one of the greatest areas of urban water inefficiency: watering grass.

Looking at the larger picture of Colorado’s future, the governor’s water advisor John Stulp provided his support for the research project, as well: “This is consistent with what we’ve been talking about with the Colorado Water Plan. We need to look for innovative, creative ways to do more water sharing that still puts the farmer in charge.”

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

A Colorado water broker and a university researcher are testing underground crop irrigation, hoping it can make farms more efficient and reduce competition between cities and agriculture for the state’s scarce water.

The first crops will be planted this summer on a 165-acre test plot on the 70 Ranch in Weld County. Research will be overseen by Colorado State University professor Ramchand Oad (OHD).

Copying a technique used in Israel, tubes buried 10 to 16 inches underground will deliver water to plant roots, avoiding evaporation and other problems associated with surface irrigation.

Water broker Bob Lembke owns the ranch. The ranch and two water districts that Lembke heads are among the initial funders.

He says project budget is $3.5 million for five years but expects the research will continue longer.

Subsurface irrigation via NETAFIM

Subsurface irrigation via NETAFIM

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

9th Annual Grand Junction Water and Wastewater Conference, August 13 and 14, 2015

March 5, 2015
Grand Junction back in the day

Grand Junction back in the day

Save the Date!

August 13 and 14, 2015, are the dates for the 9th Annual Grand Junction Water and Wastewater Conference at the Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main Street, Grand Junction, CO. The Conference is designed to provide water and wastewater industry personnel with current information and training to address relevant issues in these industries.

Topics will include Water and Wastewater Treatment, Collection and Distribution Systems, Operations and Maintenance, Operator Math, Laboratory Practices, Safety Emerging Trends and Technologies. TU’s will be awarded.


More water treatment coverage here. More wastewater coverage here.

Water Lines: Group discusses Colorado’s future regarding water & agriculture #COWaterPlan

March 5, 2015

CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring  a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.

CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.

From The Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

The three-evening water course, organized by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in February, focused on water for agriculture for three primary reasons: 1) agriculture is the historical foundation of western Colorado’s largest communities; 2) it remains an important feature of our economy and landscape; and 3) as the largest consumer of water in a water-short region, significant transfers from agriculture to urban areas are expected in coming decades.

The course examined the climate and legal context for agriculture, how water is used currently, and factors affecting the future of agriculture in Colorado and the rest of the Colorado River Basin. Growing urban demands and the potential for reduced supplies due to climate change are two of the primary factors affecting the water that will be available for agriculture in the future.

Irrigated agriculture accounts for about 89 percent of the water consumed in Colorado and 70-80 percent of the water consumed in the Colorado River Basin as a whole. However, that does not mean that farmers and ranchers themselves account for all that consumption. All of us who eat Colorado-grown beef, sweet corn, onions and peaches and drink Colorado wine, beer and spirits claim a share of Colorado’s consumption, and wearing Arizona-grown cotton and eating California-grown winter lettuce increases our share of Colorado River water use.

Nonetheless, since farmers are the ones whose livelihoods are dependent on access to irrigation water, they are the ones that feel the greatest unease when eyes are cast in ag’s direction to meet growing urban needs, improve flows for the environment, or to prop up water levels in Lake Powell.

East of the Continental Divide are many examples of the devastation that occurs when agricultural water is moved to cities through a simple “buy and dry” process. Once a critical mass of farmers has sold out, it’s tough for those remaining to stay in business, and weeds take over abandoned fields. Just about everyone involved in debates about the future of Colorado water agrees that this is undesirable.

As a result, there’s been lots of talk, and some legislative action, on “alternative transfer methods” that attempt to move water from farms to cities on a rotating, temporary basis that provides additional income to agriculture and keeps land and communities in agriculture over the long term. Such methods are discussed extensively in Colorado’s draft water plan.

While seen as preferable to “buy and dry,” one farmer participating in the water course noted that the acronym “ATM” was a little unsettling, and wondered if cities would really be willing to give back “temporarily” transferred water if commodity prices made using water on the land more appealing than selling it on the market.

Increasing irrigation efficiency, through methods such as drip and sprinkler irrigation and lining and piping ditches, has also been lauded as a way to help balance supply and demand and benefit the environment.

Reducing diversions can certainly benefit stream health, both by keeping flows up and reducing contaminants from agricultural runoff. Several speakers pointed out, however, that more efficiently moving water to exactly where plants can use it will not necessarily lead to an overall reduction in water use. It could instead lead to increases in the total volume of water consumed, as each plant in a field can finally get the water it needs to grow to its full potential. And reducing the amount of water that slowly seeps back to streams from fields can reduce late-season stream flows.

Another complication with agricultural efficiency measures is that they are expensive, and not every method is equally suitable to every crop and soil type — and sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what will really work well. Every mistake can cause a big hit to a farm’s productivity and income.

The silver lining behind the urgency of balancing supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin is that significant brain power and financial resources are being devoted to figuring out how to optimize the use of water in both urban and agricultural areas, and how to wring multiple benefits from every drop. Farmers are getting financial and technical assistance with testing strategies to improve the health and water-holding capacity of their soils, as well as new water delivery strategies. Multi-stakeholder groups are debating the legal and financial mechanisms for how to more flexibly move water around to enhance the resiliency of the whole basin. It’s a time for both wariness and optimism, skepticism and creativity.

To see slides presented at the water course, visit

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at or Twitter at

More education coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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