The latest newsletter from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is hot off the presses

February 25, 2015
Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch

Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch

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

The final session of our 2015 Water Course, which is focused on the future of irrigated agriculture, will take place at CMU and will be live-streamed on the internet from 6-9pm. For full details, click here.

More education coverage here.

Water Lines: Potential consequences of an early spring

February 24, 2015

Mrs. Gulch's Moon Garden May 11, 2014

Mrs. Gulch’s Moon Garden May 11, 2014

From The Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

Last week, I noticed crocuses blooming in my yard. I like crocuses, but it makes me a little uncomfortable to see them blooming in Grand Junction in early February. Will the unseasonable warmth trick other blossoms, like the all-important peach blossoms, into coming out early as well, only to be destroyed by the inevitable late freeze? What about this year’s water supply?

As plants all over the valley begin breaking dormancy, ditch companies are contemplating the possibility of an early start to the irrigation season. A longer growing season means more water use, of course, and the same warm spell that is prompting plant growth in the valleys has coincided with dry times in the mountains.

After ending December 2014 above average, the snowpack in the Upper Colorado River basin has added very little moisture so far in 2015. As of Feb. 12, the amount of water held in the snow in the Colorado River Basin in Colorado was just 89 percent of average for this time of year. Other Western Slope river basins are in worse shape, with the Yampa and White river basins at 83 percent of average, the Gunnison at 71 percent of average, and the southwestern basins at a mere 58 percent of average for this date.

Dry conditions in southwestern Colorado are especially concerning, because this area has failed to reach “average” snowpack levels for several years in a row. This has led to the first-ever shortage in deliveries from the San Juan River to central New Mexico through the San Juan: Chama project.

Mostly healthy reservoir levels in Colorado mean that local irrigators are unlikely to suffer in the short term, even if dry conditions continue. However, the Colorado basin-wide imbalance between supply and demand will likely be exacerbated by the warm, dry winter experienced across the West.

On the demand side, the intense drought in California continues, increasing that state’s reliance on Colorado River water. On the supply side, as of Feb. 9, the snowpack for all basins upstream from Lake Powell was at just 85 percent of the median for this time of year, and the reservoir was just 46 percent full.

In the short term, this confluence of factors could hasten the day when Arizona farmers with the most junior water claims come up short, as their deliveries of Colorado River water are cut. Upstream, efforts to keep water levels in Lake Powell high enough for the Glen Canyon Dam to keep producing hydropower are likely to intensify. Increasing releases from upstream reservoirs, such as Flaming Gorge and Blue Mesa, and incentivizing cutbacks in water use by both farms and cities are two of the avenues identified by Upper Colorado River Basin state officials to prop up Powell.

An increasing number of studies indicate that higher demands on reduced supplies are not just a temporary consequence of the current regional drought, but could become a chronic condition. The recently released Colorado Climate Change Vulnerability Study, developed by researchers at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University for the Colorado Energy Office, recaps data on the observed warming of Colorado’s climate in recent decades along with climate projections in order to assess what sectors of the state’s economy and environment could be stressed as the climate continues to change.

The study notes that towns and irrigators with little storage upstream are at risk for water shortages as the snowpack continues to melt off earlier, further dropping late summer stream flows. Low flows in late summer can stress fish as well, and shorten the season for rafters. The study also notes that fruit growers are vulnerable to crop losses from frost damage due to early budburst. You can find the complete study at

It’s still not too late for spring storms to bring back cooler temperatures and rescue the 2015 water year, but it’s also not too early to start planning for the possibility that at some point, what seems like a crazy-early spring could become our new normal.

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.

Water woes among top voter concerns in the west — Conservation in the West poll

February 24, 2015

From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

Concern over water conservation and management for the first time rivals unemployment in the minds of voters in the West, according to recent data released by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project.

The study polled 400 voters each from Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, all which indicated water as a major concern for the state.

Overall, four in five voters indicated “inadequate water supplies” were a serious problem, while half ranked the issue as very or extremely serious.

Since 2012, the percent of voters that find inadequate water supplies to be a serious issue has grown 5 percent to 80 percent total.

When compared side-by-side with unemployment, water worries stand out as a hot issue for voters.

In the 2015 study, 53 percent polled found low levels of water in rivers to be extremely or very serious, compared to 46 percent regarding unemployment.

In 2014, these numbers were reported at 50 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

Lori Weigel, a pollster and partner with Public Opinion Strategies, said that while concern is most acute in southern states such as Arizona and New Mexico, interest has increased across the region on this vital resource.

“We’ve really seen a growing recognition in our state (Colorado) that supplies are limited, even if we are not at any one time technically in a drought,” Weigel said.

Water quality also ranked as a leading reason for residing in the West, Weigel said.

“We asked people to tell us some of the factors on why they decided to live and stay in (the) West. It was kind of surprising to me: clean air, clean water and environment,” she said, indicating that pollsters had anticipated greater importance given to economic factors.

In Colorado, 90 percent pointed to the clean environment as a reason for living in the state.

The finding coincides with another in the study, indicating Western voters prefer water conservation over further diversions to address demand.

In Colorado, 74 percent chose “using our current water supply more wisely, by encouraging more water conservation, reducing use, and increasing recycling of water,” compared to 16 percent of voters that preferred “diverting more water from rivers in less populated areas of the state to communities where more people live.”

Importance of inadequate water supplies


Serious – 87%

Extremely/very serious – 58%


Serious – 78%

Extremely/very serious – 48%


Serious – 44%

Extremely/very serious – 17%

New Mexico

Serious – 85%

Extremely/very serious – 62%


Serious – 85%

Extremely/very serious – 62%


Serious – 46%

Extremely/very serious – 20%

For more on the studies findings on water, click here.

@ColoradoWaterWise: We are starting up a Brown Bag Luncheon Learn series. Our 1st event is on March 12 in Aurora

February 21, 2015

The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project releases the 2015 Conservation in the West Poll

February 17, 2015


Click here to go to the State of the Rockies Project website to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

The 2015 Conservation in the West Poll, now in its fifth year, was recently released by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project. The survey of 2,400 registered voters in six western states provides an annual glimpse of voters’ leanings on land use, water supplies, the impact of public lands on the economy, and a variety of other related issues.

Designed by a bipartisan team of Republican and Democratic opinion researchers, the annual poll provides insight into Western attitudes. This year’s results are consistent with those of previous years, although a few new questions probed opinions of public-land management and the perceived relationship between environment and quality of life.

Four hundred residents in each state – Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – were asked about such issues as conservation, environment, energy, the role of government, trade-offs with economies, and citizen priorities.

The poll, conducted Dec. 29, 2014 and Jan. 3-11, 2015, has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

Here’s an excerpt from the Colorado poll:


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

February 16, 2015


Click here to read this issue. Here’s an excerpt:

Advancing the water dialogue through leadership

Greetings Reader,

This is an exciting time at the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. Staff and Board just updated our strategic plan. Our work, as called for in our founding legislation, will be guided by a strategy that helps Coloradans make “informed water decisions”.

For me, that means we examine and understand the trade-offs of alternate actions… where civil debate moves the discussion past positions to implementable solutions and uncommon allies work together. Does this resonate with your idea of a sustainable water future?

CFWE’s many upcoming programs epitomize these values. We will soon announce the 8th class of Water Leaders, who will join almost 100 graduates in receiving leadership skills. Just a couple weeks back, we hosted an advanced training for alumni to explore the urgent leadership challenges of our time and how we can collaborate to have the greatest impact. It is one of my greatest privileges to run this program and be surrounded by such thoughtful professionals.

Two of our newest programs are advancing the water dialogue. The Water Educator Network is setting the bar for water education in Colorado where we work with educators statewide to strengthen the amount, quality and effectiveness of water education. These members will convene at a symposium on March 11 in Westminster to showcase their accomplishments and set an ambitious agenda moving forward.

And, you may have heard about CFWE’s inaugural Water Fluency course, which launches this spring to educate local leaders on the implications of water policy and planning decisions to create positive change in their community. Here we’re widening our reach to those who may not see themselves as water decision-makers, but in fact are. Registration opens the first week of March.

These forms of education allow our participants to cross boundaries and appreciate diverse perspectives. I’m hopeful that future generations will benefit from this welcoming environment for conversations about water. Join CFWE in cultivating that vision and let’s have fun doing it! –Kristin [Maharg]

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here

The latest One World One Water Center newsletter is hot off the presses

February 10, 2015


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