White River: Wolf Creek Reservoir? #COWaterPlan

White River via Wikimedia
White River via Wikimedia

From The Craig Daily Press (Randy Baumgardner and Bob Rankin):

Our main takeaway from the meeting and subsequent tour was that the proposed Wolf Creek Reservoir project is a gem in the making for Colorado. In light of the governor’s water plan for the state, and his recent announcement that he wants to ensure that the we improve efficiencies and streamline the regulatory process for completing water projects in Colorado, it was highly encouraging to us to see a plan and a project like this in the works. Following our visit, we are confident that the Wolf Creek Reservoir can be an example and set the standard for how such projects can work, and we also both feel strongly that, for this reason, the Wolf Creek Reservoir should be made a priority within the state’s water plan.

More specifically, this project will bring a number of important regional benefits: it will provide the Town of Rangely with the quality and quantity of water necessary to serve their needs and address the growing water crisis that they are facing; it will assist in conservation efforts, providing possible opportunities for enhancing endangered fish species recovery; and, crucially, it will provide diversification to the local and regional economy through the tremendous recreational options it affords — offering growth and economic opportunity to an area that has been hit hard due to the drop in oil and gas prices, and other external and political factors that have ravaged the local energy industry. We will, of course, continue to work together at the state Capitol to address some of the political issues facing our energy sector; but in the meantime, seeing a project of this magnitude and importance begin to spring to life in this part of our state is extremely encouraging to us, as we are sure it is to the residents of Rangely and the whole area.

This project has great potential to offer incredible returns to both Rio Blanco and Moffat counties. The recreational opportunities alone will certainly enhance the quality of life for the region as well as diversify the local economy, as it will draw people not only from around the region and the rest of the state, but from neighboring states as well.

We both believe that it is time for the state and the various stakeholders involved to get behind making this project a reality. This is a perfect example of how the state can prioritize helping western Colorado. In particular, we would ask the governor to put his support behind it, and to use this as an opportunity to prove his commitment to speeding up the permitting process…

Sen. Randy Baumgardner and Rep. Bob Rankin composed this Op-Ed.

#COWaterPlan: The latest issue of “Colorado Water” is hot off the presses from the #Colorado Water Institute

McInnis Canyon National Recreation Area via the BLM
McInnis Canyon National Recreation Area via the BLM

From the Colorado Water Institute:

Director’s Letter (Reagan Waskom):

The release of the Colorado Water Plan ushers in a new era in our water management, where environmental and recreational values are given the same sense of urgency as traditional water development. As communities look for ways to get involved in Water Plan implementation at the local
level, Stream Management Plans (SMPs) are an excellent place to get started.

The concept of the SMPs is still new, with only a few communities having completed or in the process of working on their plans. So, there is plenty for everyone to learn, and the existing plans that are featured in this issue of Colorado Water provide inspiring models for how the plans can
go beyond previous efforts and help to bring communities together.

The Colorado Water Plan highlighted the need for SMPs as a tool to protect watershed health, the environment, and recreation in Colorado. It stated an ambitious goal to “cover 80 percent of the locally prioritized lists of rivers with SMPs by…2030.” SMPs are stakeholder-driven management plans that shepherd environmental and recreational goals and values into actionable projects aimed at “maintaining or improving flow regimes and other physical conditions,” for localized environmental and recreational water uses. Per the Water Plan, SMPs “can provide a framework [to basin roundtables, local stakeholders, and decision makers] for decision making and project implementation.” This special issue of the Colorado Water newsletter is intended to serve as an initial resource guide with topics including an overview of what SMPs are, the steps of the process, available tools, and shared lessons learned from select case studies around the state. The case studies here, alongside others we were unable to include, provide a foundation of water management collaborations that have involved professionals and committed staff who are working on similar issues in every major river basin. Special thanks goes to CSU alumna Claudia Browne from Biohabitats for spearheading.

Two workshops supported by the Colorado Water Conservation Board provided forums for many of the contributors to gather and share these resources in August and October 2016. Workshop presenters included: representatives from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Colorado Water Trust, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Open Water Foundation, American Rivers, CSU, the City of Steamboat, and consultants, among others. Bridging the gap between academia and practitioners, CSU students, faculty, alumni, and partners are bringing integrated science, engineering, and social tools to the table. The process should yield better outcomes for Colorado’s streams and rivers as SMPs are implemented.

SMPs are one part of the many approaches outlined in the Colorado Water Plan to secure future water supplies while protecting the environmental, social, and economic values held by Colorado citizens. The academic and research community has an important role in bringing objective science and education to the implementation process for the Water Plan. As the SMP process evolves, there will be room for many more creative minds and voices to help shape the future of wise water management for both humans and the environment.

Agriculture Water Summit in Golden, Colorado, November 29, 2016

Photo credit Terry Smith via The City of Golden.
Photo credit Terry Smith via The City of Golden.

From email from the Interbasin Compact Committee:

The Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and Colorado Agriculture Water Alliance (CAWA) will be holding an Agriculture Water Summit in Golden, Colorado. The price is free to attend, we will be sending out an agenda and link to the registration site in the coming weeks.

Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Time: 9:15 a.m. – 5:00p.m.

Location: Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 15200 W. 6th Ave. Frontage Road, Golden, CO.

Room: Exhibit Hall

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

@CWCB_DNR #COWaterPlan update now online

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Click here to read the document:

Colorado’s Water Plan sets forth the measurable objectives, goals, and critical actions needed to ensure that Colorado can maintain our state’s values into the future. This is an update on implementation progress.


  • Reducing the supply and demand gap is ultimately tied to actions in conservation, storage, land use, and ATMs. Updating the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) to provide accurate and current technical information for many of these efforts is fundamental to success. The SWSI update process kicked off July 2016.
  • The CWCB and the IBCC are working to revise the Water Supply Reserve Fund criteria and guidelines to explicitly link funding requests to the goals and measureable outcomes identified in the Basin Implementation Plans and Colorado’s Water Plan. This will ensure that our funding decisions are congruent with the goals of Colorado’s Water Plan. Draft criteria and guidelines were presented to the CWCB Board in July and the IBCC in August. Final criteria and guidelines will be presented to the CWCB Board for approval in November.

  • The CWCB is financially supporting a variety of storage efforts and innovations, including a study of storage options in the South Platte (required under HB 16- 1256), exploring groundwater storage technology, and conducting a spillway analysis to identify existing storage that could be expanded.
  • Earlier this year, state and federal partners, as well as community stakeholders, completed a Lean event on the water project permitting process. The Lean team is focused on implementing its recommendations to streamline the permitting process while maintaining rigorous environmental protection.

  • The CWCB is developing a variety of trainings that will be held over the next couple of years for local governments, utilities, and land use planners to increase water-saving actions and the integration of land use and water planning. The first of the trainings focused on “Breaking Down Silos: Integrating Water into Land Use Planning Webinar Series” was held on September 13th. There were over 100 participants in the webinar. There will be two other webinars and a train-the- trainer session over the next few months.
  • For the Colorado Water and Growth Dialogue, the second exploratory scenario planning workshop was held in July 2016. The Keystone Policy center is working with Denver Water, Aurora Water, and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) to model the data to quantify the future scenarios.
  • The CWCB is looking at lessons learned from the legislation on indoor watersense fixtures to inform the legislation on outdoor watersense requirements called for in the plan.

  • The CWCB and IBCC are hosting an Ag Viability Summit in partnership with the Colorado Ag Water Alliance (CAWA) on November 29. The agenda will include discussions about how to encourage regional planning for system-wide conservation and fleshing out the needs for an ag viability grant program.
  • The CWCB is participating in a workshop at CU on meeting the Alternative Ag Transfer Mechanisms (ATM) goal in Colorado’s Water Plan on October 7th. Discussions will include creative ways to support and facilitate ATM projects. CAWA, the Ditch & Reservoir Company Association, and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association have also been working on ATM education and development.
  • The Arkansas Basin pilot water sharing project with Catlin Canal is in its second year with favorable results that suggest statutory changes aimed at incenting alternatives to buy-and-dry transactions.

  • We are looking at providing an additional $5 million (through the CWCB funding plan) to the Watershed Restoration Program to work with roundtables and stakeholder groups to develop watershed restoration and stream management plans and projects for the priority streams identified in Basin Implementation Plans (BIPs) and other watershed planning documents.
  • The CWCB helped put on workshops at the Colorado Water Congress summer conference in August 2016 on Stream Management Plans: what they are and how to develop one. Another workshop will be hosted on Tuesday, October 11th at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds conference.
  • The CWCB will be including climate change impacts in the SWSI update.

  • The CWCB is working with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and the One World One Water Center at Metro State University of Denver to develop a proposal for a Water Education Assessment to improve long-term water education program evaluation, identify gaps in water education, and develop case studies of successful programs and best practices to share statewide. The assessment will help align funding with educational priorities statewide.
  • The CWCB created an e-newsletter to update stakeholders on Colorado’s Water Plan implementation and the work of the CWCB Board and staff, IBCC, basin roundtables, and local communities. The next issue will go out the first week of October.

  • The CWCB is working to connect with and create partnerships with the innovation community, including the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) and Something Independent, to create pathways for the private sector and the water community to work together to tackle the state’s water challenges and focus on innovating with water data.

  • Funding is critical to many of our implementation efforts. The CWCB will continue to align funding decisions with Colorado’s Water Plan. We are developing a 3-5 year funding plan that will create a repayment guarantee fund, bolster the WSRF program, and support several education, conservation, reuse, and agricultural viability actions called for in the plan. The following funding plan is being developed by the CWCB staff, which will seek approvals from the CWCB Board and the legislature through the annual project’s bill, to kick-start water funding for plan implementation:
  • o a one-time investment of up to $50 million (as available) into a repayment guarantee fund;
    o an annual transfer of $10 million for the Water Supply Reserve Fund;
    o an annual transfer of $5 million for the Watershed Restoration Program;
    o and an annual transfer of $10 million for additional non-reimbursable CWCB programming to implement Colorado’s Water Plan.


    Of the $5 million transferred in the 2016 Projects Bill to assist in the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan, staff is recommending the following approximate amounts to the Board for appropriation in 2017:

    $1 million will support efforts with watershed-level flood and drought planning and response;
    $.5 million for grants to provide technical assistance to irrigators for assistance with federal cost-sharing improvement programs;
    $1.2 million for water forecasting and measuring efforts;
    $1.3 million to update reuse regulations as well as to fund a training program for local water providers to better understand AWWA’s methodology for water loss control; and
    $1 million to support the Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program.

    Enviros keeping eye on #COWaterPlan follow-up — Glenwood Springs Post Independent

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board, after unveiling the Colorado Water Plan in Denver in November 2015. The board includes eight voting members from river basins in Colorado and one voting member from the city and county of Denver. Russ George, far left, represents the Colorado River basin.
    The Colorado Water Conservation Board, after unveiling the Colorado Water Plan in Denver in November 2015. The board includes eight voting members from river basins in Colorado and one voting member from the city and county of Denver. Russ George, far left, represents the Colorado River basin.

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

    Nine months after the much-heralded release of the Colorado Water Plan, conservation groups are watching closely to see that the plan’s water conservation goals are being adequately funded and implemented.

    “The plan is only as good as how it gets put into place and gets applied throughout the different basins,” Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program director for Western Resource Advocates, said in a recent interview with the Post Independent.

    A key step in that process comes this week as the Colorado Water Conservation Board holds its bimonthly meeting in Edwards at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.

    Today, the Board Finance Committee meets to take a look at the finances for CWCB activities over the coming year, including implementation of the various elements of the water plan through the remainder of this year. Board members will also be taking a tour of Deep Creek near Dotsero, which has been deemed suitable for federal Wild and Scenic designation.

    On the agenda for the regular board meeting Wednesday and Thursday will be a range of topics including a strategic planning session, reports from the directors of the nine river basins and, to start things off at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, a progress report on the steps taken since last November when the water plan was first presented to the CWCB. Included as part of that discussion will be an update on the “vision, timeline and status” of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which is a key aspect of the water plan.

    “The urgency for having this plan in place for Colorado is every bit as strong as when the plan was written,” Miller said of the multi-year planning effort that led to the release of the water plan by Gov. John Hickenlooper last December.

    Already, the state population has grown by another 100,000 people over the past year and is expected to double to nearly 10 million people by 2050, Miller noted.

    “Drought remains an issue in Colorado and around the west, and some of the very reasons for the plan coming into being are even more pronounced,” he said.

    Among the key conservation provisions in the plan was to achieve a savings in Front Range urban water usage of 400,000 acre feet of water and establishing stream management plans for most of the priority rivers in the state.

    “In particular streams, the objective was to identify what the problems are with that stream, and to lay out options,” Miller said. “That’s an important first step in figuring out what the rivers need for long-term health.”

    Theresa Conley of Conservation Colorado said it comes down to securing implementation funding for those stream management plans to be developed.

    Initial funding for the water plan was the “darling bill” of the last state legislative session, but it was just the beginning, Conley said.

    The state Legislature earlier this year allocated $5 million for plan implementation in 2016. But it’s estimated some $175 million will be needed over the next five years to truly implement different aspects of the water plan, she emphasized. Especially as drought conditions worsen in the Colorado River Basin downstream from Colorado, the conservation measures built into the water plan intended to stave off more Front Range water diversion projects become even more critical, Conley said.

    “There has been some progress with implementation, but there’s not a lot happening yet with the conservation goals,” Conley said. “It has not moved forward with the gusto that we would like to see.

    “The more we plan now, the better off we will be able to respond to crises,” she said.

    Local measures such as water sharing between different types of users and water recycling projects go a long way toward that effort, she added.

    Miller also added that much work still needs to be done regarding the conceptual framework for new transmountain diversion projects that was a big part of the water plan.

    “There needs to be a lot more scrutiny for those types of proposals, and criteria for when the state would fund any project proposals,” he said. “A lot of this will be decided very soon, and it could end up being a very good year for the plan next year if the budget gets approved, and if certain criteria get applied to that funding.”

    @ColoradoWater annual seminar recap

    A screenshot from the website for Colorado's Water Plan.
    A screenshot from the website for Colorado’s Water Plan.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    If Colorado’s state water plan is to keep the headwaters state in control of its lifeblood, the plan will require a new spring of cash to replace one that is running dry, officials said Friday.

    Where the money will come from — and ideas run from mill levies to sales taxes to tap fees to usage fees — isn’t clear, state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said at the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s annual seminar at Two Rivers Convention Center.

    The state’s severance tax was anticipated to be a major source of revenue for the water plan, which was drafted to encourage water conservation as well as pay for water storage.

    Severance taxes, however, have shrunk as oil and gas revenues have fallen in the face of dropping prices and as coal production has slipped.

    The plan has twin goals of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of water while also storing an equal amount by 2030, when the state would otherwise come 560,000 acre-feet short of the expected demands of residents and businesses…

    Coram said he floated the idea of charging 25 cents per 1,000 gallons of water on delivery to homes and businesses, to get people talking.

    “I don’t know what the answer is, but I know doing nothing is not going to get things done,” Coram said.

    Early projections called for the state severance tax to account for $3 billion, but that reservoir of cash is unlikely to refill soon, said James Eklund, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which drafted the water plan and is charged with carrying it out.

    It could take two to four years to determine how best to fund the plan, Coram said.

    “We’re moving forward as aggressively as possible to implement this plan,” Eklund said.

    Among the water plan priorities for the coming year are establishing a repayment guarantee fund with $50 million as needed to underwrite water projects; $10 million for the water supply reserve fund; $10 million for programming for the water plan and $5 million for the watershed restoration program.

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Ryan Summerlin):

    The common denominator among speakers at the Colorado River District’s annual seminar Friday was that stakeholders have an uphill battle to protect the river. The effects of climate change coupled with demand outpacing supply are continuing to leave water rights holders in a pickle — draining every drop of water before the Colorado reaches its mouth.

    The Colorado River Basin is in its 16th year of drought, which ultimately hampers water supply, hydroelectric power, recreation and the basin’s ecology.

    Jeff Lukas, an research integration specialist with Western Water Assessment, outlined the growing impacts of climate change on the Upper Colorado River Basin, comparing the basin’s temperatures, precipitation and runoff during other periods of record heat. Some of the key climate change risks for Colorado are reduced annual runoff, earlier runoff, degraded water quality, greater water demand and more frequent droughts, according to Lukas.

    Many people are seeing a decrease in runoff for a given amount of precipitation, which Lukas links to warmer temperatures.

    About 75 percent of precipitation goes back into the atmosphere, and the bulk of streamflow happens during a narrow window of time, about 80 percent occurring between April and July, he said. Rising temperatures indicate that this trend of decreased streamflow will continue.

    Record warm years earlier in the 20th century were also very dry, but now the basin is seeing record heat in wet years as well, said Lukas. And the Colorado River Basin is more sensitive to warming than other basins.

    Warming also leads to earlier snowmelt and runoff, less snow accumulation and declines in runoff, said Lukas.

    Lukas expects rising temperatures to result in increased water consumption and stress on the water supply and rights holders.

    Other speakers representing the Colorado River District, farmers and lower basin entities that manage river water distribution presented various efforts to combat anticipated shortfalls.

    Farming Ag water? 2016 Ag Water Right Holder Survey Results Summary — ColoradoCattle.org


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


    The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Partners for Western Conservation (PWC) initiated the Ag Water Network in late 2015 with the objective of helping to ‘keep ag water connected with ag land.’ The Ag Water Network is partially funded by a Walton Family Foundation grant.

    The state water plan, released in November, 2015, estimated Colorado’s population could swell to 10 million people by 2050, nearly doubling our current population of 5.4 million. The plan projects that the demand for water driven by the increasing population could result in a municipal and industrial water supply gap of 560,000 acre-feet. Statewide, this could result in the loss of 700,000 irrigated acres by 2050 through the purchase and transfer of water rights from irrigated agriculture to urban areas. Such large-scale dry-up of irrigated agriculture would have permanent adverse economic, environmental and food security impacts.

    The water plan acknowledges the economic, environmental and cultural value of Colorado’s agriculture industry. To minimize ‘buy and dry’ of irrigated farmland, the plan emphasizes water conservation, increased storage, and alternative agricultural transfer methods (ag water leases) as the primary means for closing the projected water supply-demand gap.

    Rotational fallowing, deficit irrigation, and planting lower consumptive use crops are the main practices being used and/or tested for “creating” consumptive use water that would otherwise have been used by crops. Consumptive use (CU) water is water retained by the growing plant plus the amount lost through evapotranspiration.

    The consumptive use (CU) water can be leased to municipal, industrial, recreational, environmental or agricultural interests provided the lease complies with state water law. All alternative ag transfers, or “ag water sharing” agreements must be voluntary, temporary and compensated. A variety of state laws have been passed over the last decade to ensure that a participating landowner’s water right(s) are not negatively impacted as long as the terms of the lease agreement comply with state law. Ag water leasing represents a sustainable approach that enables irrigated land to stay in production, albeit at a reduced output level, while helping supply water for other uses.

    Ag water leasing is a new concept to most Colorado ag producers. The purpose of the ag water survey was to assess the level of knowledge of ag water right holders throughout the state regarding water leasing terms and concepts, and determine ag water right holder perspectives, concerns and interest related to leasing.

    The survey was initiated February 26th, 2016 and closed on July 15, 2016, and received more than 300 responses. The first question – “do you own or lease ag water rights?” – was answered “no” by 51 respondents, leaving 266 respondents that said they own or lease agricultural water rights. The survey contained 25 background and water-related questions as well as a section at the conclusion which allowed respondents to leave comments or ask questions. All 25 survey questions are listed in the Appendix .