Go Time for Colorado’s Water Plan: meeting the plan’s environmental & recreational goals

#COWaterPlan

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Nelson Harvey, excerpts pulled from an originally published piece in the Winter 2016 issue of Headwaters magazine

Read the first part of this series here.

go time bugEven now, months after Colorado’s Water Plan was finalized in November 2015, questions continue to circulate about how the voluntary plan will work—how the state’s utilities, businesses, advocacy groups and individual water users will take responsibility for its goals. Here, we turn those questions on one of the plan’s nine defined measureable outcomes: watershed health, environment and recreation.

The connection between the health of Colorado’s forests and the quality of our water seems abstract, until you consider that 80 percent of the water we use for drinking, irrigating and washing flows through a forested watershed before it gets to the tap. Protecting clean water requires protecting vast swaths of forest that often cross jurisdictional and political boundaries, areas that face threats as varied as wildfire, flood, invasive species and…

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The Winter 2016 edition of Headwaters magazine (from CFWE) is a great read

winter2016headwaterscover

Click here to read the latest Headwaters. Allen Best knocks it out of the park with his article about collaboration. Here’s an excerpt:

Conflict has been our central water narrative in Colorado. It’s been shovel-wielding neighbor against neighbor, city against farm, Eastern Slope versus Western Slope, and, purely from a Colorado perspective, us versus those water-wasting scoundrels downstream in California, Arizona and Las Vegas. In headlines, for sure, and sometimes in fact, we have always been at war over water.

Water matters, absolutely. We all know that. But is conflict the only way to understand Colorado’s water history—or future? Or might cooperation and its close cousin, collaboration, also help us understand where we’ve come and guide us better through the 21st century? Your computer dictionary will probably use cooperation and collaboration interchangeably, but the Webster Third New International Dictionary suggests a distinction. Cooperation comes with allies, but collaboration especially occurs with an enemy or an opposed group. Parsing collaboration, you find the root word “labor.” To labor requires “expenditure of physical or mental effort, especially when fatiguing, difficult or compulsory.”

stopcollaborateandlistenbusinessblog

Poem and photos: “Water Fluency” — Greg Hobbs

Water Fluency

Get ready you flows from mountain snows!
Get ready you host of high mountain reservoirs,
who stores last year’s melt into the golden leaves
who releases life-giving flows to trout over-wintering,
beneath the ice you Poudre Wild and Scenic!

At your mouth, out into the high plains, a Heritage Corridor
forges the old Union Colony into the newer Greeley/Ft. Collins,
who bears the work of the farming and the laboring peoples
who lifts a White Pelican along a bikeway throughout her flyway,
into the gathering communities of we the young Centennial state!

Greg Hobbs

Peterson Reservoir, Tributary to the Poudre Wild and Scenic River,

PetersonReservoirTributarytothePoudreWildandScenicRiverhobbs

Flows into Poudre River National Heritage Corridor

FlowsintoPoudreRiverNationalHeritageCorridor

Along the fence at Greeley’s Centennial Village Island Grove Park

AlongthefenceatGreeley’sCentennialVillageIslandGrovePark

The Poudre a working and singing river

ThePoudreaworkingandsingingriver

Of soaring White Pelican

OfsoaringWhitePelicanhobbs

Of an onion farmer preparing to drip-irrigate a greening field

Ofanonionfarmerpreparingtodripirrigateagreeningfieldhobbs

Kristin, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, welcomes the 2016 Water Fluency Leadership Class to a lunchtime BBQ

KristinColoradoFoundationforWaterEducationwelcomesthe2016WaterFluencyLeadershipClasstoalunchtimeBBQhobbs

Nicole convenes the group on the grounds of the 1870 Union Colony

Nicoleconvenesthegrouponthegroundsofthe1870UnionColonyhobbs

Mayor Tom Norton addresses

MayorTomNortonaddresseshobbs

Learning and centering

Learningandcenteringhobbs

Seaman Reservoir, upstream on the North Fork,

SeamanReservoirupstreamontheNorthForkhobbs

Readies to receive and deliver fresh-melt waters of the Great Divide.

Greg Hobbs 3/5/2016

CFWE “Water for Commodity Production Tour” recap

Agratech.com photo via Todd McPhail
Agratech.com photo via Todd McPhail

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Plants need water.

Simple, right?

Until you begin to decide which kind of “plant.”

Pinto beans or cannabis? Steel or electricity?

While water is vital for life, it’s also a commodity, and determining the “highest and best use,” as water lore terms it, is a complicated proposition.

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education hosted a tour of about 50 people through history, farms and industry to show how water is used in Pueblo County.

“It’s a real blending of traditional and contemporary, where the Old West meets the New West,” said Kristin Maharg, of the foundation, which was formed by the state Legislature to provide impartial water information.

Most of the participants in the day-long tour were not from Pueblo County, which met the foundation’s goal of educating people from all over the state about the needs of the Arkansas River basin.

From the traditional side, Avondale farmer Tom Rusler explained the inner workings of the Bessemer Ditch and his own 1,600-acre farming operation that grows everything from onions and pinto beans to alfalfa hay and corn for livestock.

“On March 15 each year, water starts flowing in the Bessemer Ditch. It has to come 40 miles and takes about 40 hours to get here,” Rusler told guests as they enjoyed a lavish spread of Mexican food at tables in a farm shed. “We go up to the ditch and have a pizza party as we watch the water come in. From that point on, water dominates every conversation we have. It’s water all day, every day. It’s all we think about.”

Half of the 14 employees at Rusler Produce have the last name Rusler, including his sons Tommy and Nick. He joked that one of his young grandsons was quickly becoming the youngest farm manager in history — the sixth generation to work the land.

Rusler said he is blessed that his own sons have chosen to follow in his footsteps and at the same time excited that new technologies like sprinklers, GPS and drones are improving the efficiency of irrigation.

“It’s hard to make a farmer,” said Rusler, illustrating with his hands the basic equation of using soil, water and seeds to make a crop. “We would like to give young farmers a chance to see if they like it.”

On the modern side of farming, cannabis has become the hot new crop for Pueblo County, whether it’s marijuana or hemp.

“We’re getting an influx of people from out of state who know nothing about how Colorado water works,” said Kevin Niles, manager of the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association.

AGUA, like Pueblo Water, has set aside some of its water for growing hemp or marijuana. The association augments depletion from wells, and meets its members’ needs first. This year, it will set aside 250 acre-feet for cannabis grows, close to its limit of 300 acre-feet.

Growers explained their own particular challenges.

“We’re under a microscope,” said Jeff Ayotte of the Southern Colorado Growers Association. He is using some of his water to grow marijuana near Boone.

He explained that marijuana is far more profitable than other crops, but that the paperwork associated with all aspects, including water, makes things difficult.

His farm uses 250 acre-feet of water, but only 5 acre-feet for marijuana. The water for marijuana is treated and reused eight times because it is so valuable.

Tony Adza, of Notis Global, is working with a company that plans to grow hemp east of Pueblo.

“We’re facing competition all over the world,” Adza said.

Because hemp is treated like marijuana — both are forms of cannabis and still illegal under federal law, but legal in Colorado — hemp growers have overpaid for water, he said. The hemp grown here has only minuscule amounts of THC, and is used to make oil claimed to have therapeutic benefits. The fiber from stalks could be used for things such as textiles or biofuel.

On the industrial side of things, Tim Hawkins, executive director of the Steelworks Center of the West, explained the history of CF&I Steel, now known as EVRAZ, while Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte outlined the company’s extensive water rights.

Founded in 1872, CF&I’s story covers the spectrum of American industry. Built from scratch, the company sopped up water, coal and iron ore resources in three states initially to supply rail for the Old West. Many of those resources — including some, but not all, of the water — were sold off as the U.S. steel industry weathered storms of global competition.

The New West use for industrial water comes with Xcel Energy’s Comanche Station southeast of Pueblo. First constructed in the 1970s, and expanded in 2005, the behemoth of a power plant is Pueblo Water’s largest customer using more than 10,000 acre-feet annually.

Lauren Nance, Xcel water resources analyst, explained how the newest addition, Unit 3, is a hybrid type of generation facility that cools and recirculates water to reduce consumption.

Finally, the connection between past and future uses was addressed by Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, who said the county is still coping with an outdated comprehensive plan when it comes to blending water planning and land use.

That comes into play on both land use decisions in the county and multicounty projects like the Southern Delivery System, he said.

“Rapid growth is going to put more and more strain on limited resources, both land and water,” Hart said, saying the county has to be zealous in keeping water in the Arkansas River basin. “If you look at Crowley County, it was devastated when the water was taken. Water is connected to economic development.”

Colorado Foundation for Water Education events

waterfluencycfwe022016

I’ve been remiss in posting links to the events below from the Colorado Foundation for
Water Education. Here goes:

February 12: Water Fluency Spring 2016

Click here to register.

A professional development course to help you understand water and lead with confidence

Course curriculum focuses on:

  • Colorado’s water resources: the role of water in society, the economic value of water, ties to public policy, emerging issues
  • Legal and institutional frameworks: water law and administration, project planning and approval, interbasin projects and agreements
  • Water resource management: watershed health, environmental protection, water quality, natural disasters
  • Colorado water for the future: assessing supply and meeting demand, ecosystem values, conservation and land use, alignment of resources and policies
  • This unique educational experience will increase your water fluency so you can better analyze water’s influence on the issues you deal with everyday and evaluate creative solutions. Become immersed in the language and concepts of water as well as tools for navigating the culture, complexity and future of water management and policy issues. You will leave equipped with relevant knowledge and a new network of peers to create lasting, positive change in your community. If you’re an elected official, a professional interested in water or a community or business leader, this program is for you!

    Registration is now open for Water Fluency Spring 2016: Northern Front Range

    Register here by February 12. A limited number of partial scholarships are available. Members of the Special District Association may be eligible for a 75 percent scholarship, while some 50 percent scholarships are also available thanks to local program sponsors. Water Fluency scholarships are competitive. You can apply for a scholarship after you have completed your registration. Scholarship applicants will be notified by 2/12.

    Participants learn through site visits; four half-day in-person classroom discussions; and online material, presented in partnership with Colorado State University’s online water course, with an estimated total time commitment of 30 hours over 10 weeks.

    Attendance is required at in-person sessions and will be held during the afternoon on the following dates and locations:

    March 2, Greeley
    March 23, Fort Collins
    April 19, Berthoud
    May 10, Longmont

    Agratech.com photo via Todd McPhail
    Agratech.com photo via Todd McPhail

    February 26: Water for Commodity Production Tour

    Click here to register.

    On February 26, 2016 spend the day with CFWE on our Water for Commodity Production Tour. We’ll explore the relationship between water demands, public policy and economic development, and see innovative approaches in the Pueblo area. Hear about land use policy and planning for economic development, economic return and distribution scale of local agricultural products, industrial hemp and commercial marijuana operations, leasing water for industrial water uses, gain some historical and current context of water for steel production and much more.

    Review the draft itinerary here. Seats are limited and expected to sell out…Register here.

    Ice core storage March 13, 2015 National Ice Core Laboratory
    Ice core storage March 13, 2015 National Ice Core Laboratory

    March 11: Climate & Colorado’s Water Future

    Register here.

    Join us on Friday March 11, 2016 for CFWE’s annual Climate and Colorado’s Water Future Workshop! This year we’ll meet in Boulder to tour INSTAAR’s Stable Isotope Lab and hear from many local experts to learn about Colorado’s crazy climate. Hear and see how researchers use ice cores to understand the composition and temperature of Earth’s atmosphere; explore drought, climate change, the water cycle and ecosystem; find out how changes in climate can alter hydrology and how water managers are preparing and planning for an uncertain future. We’ll come away with new tools to better teach and communicate about climate. View the draft agenda and register here—this annual offering always fills. Reserve your space today!

    * 0.5 credit hour is available through the Colorado School of Mines Office of Continuing Education to teachers requiring graduate-level relicensure hours. Teachers seeking credit must bring a $35 tuition check (in addition to paying the course registration fee) made payable to “CSM Continuing Education” the day of the workshop. Please contact caitlin@yourwatercolorado.org if seeking continuing education credit or with any questions.

    The January 2016 Headwaters Pulse is hot off the presses from the CFWE

    headwaterspulse012016

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

    Water Leaders applications due Jan. 15

    Applications for CFWE’s 2016 class of Water Leaders are being accepted through next Friday, January 15. Read application requirements, see course dates and scholarship information, and apply here.

    Water Leaders participants receive extensive training in skills related to navigating conflict and diversity, leading self and others, and effective problem solving. You will leave the program with a better understanding of your strengths and how to use them, your challenges and how to work on them, skills to enhance your staff and team management work, and a network of peers to further your career growth.