Securing the flows tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant is a clear priority for the roundtable — Aspen Journalism #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

March 30, 2015
Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

Maintain the big flows on the Colorado River tied to the Shoshone hydro plant.

Upgrade the roller dam on the Colorado east of Grand Junction.

And figure out how much water the rivers and streams in the region need to stay healthy.

Those are the top three basinwide priorities of the Colorado River basin roundtable, a water-supply planning group working under the auspices of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The roundtable is finalizing a “basin implementation plan” for the Colorado River Basin, which stretches across the state from Grand County to Grand Junction.

Other projects in the plan include enlarging Hunter and Monument reservoirs on Grand Mesa, building a new reservoir on lower Homestake Creek near Camp Hale and constructing Kendig Reservoir on West Divide Creek south of Silt.

The roundtable’s plan and project list are due to the state by April 17, as are plans from seven other basin roundtables. The basin plans will inform the Colorado Water Plan, which is to be presented to the governor in December.

A draft plan submitted by the roundtable in the summer listed more than 400 potential projects, plans and processes. State officials asked the roundtable to prioritize its list.

Roundtable members presented their top projects at a March 23 meeting. It was the group’s last meeting before the April 17 deadline.

“Being listed is not a ticket to reality,” said Jim Pokrandt, the chairman of the roundtable and the communications director for the Colorado River District. “There will be other ideas, projects and processes not yet known to us that might be better, more feasible candidates.”


Securing the flows tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant is a clear priority for the roundtable.

The plant, just east of Glenwood Springs, has senior rights from 1902 and can demand that 1,200 cubic feet per second of water be sent downriver to produce hydropower.

The facility is owned by Xcel Energy, which firmly said a year ago that the facility was not for sale to either Western Slope nor Front Range entities. Nonetheless, the Colorado River District is working to maintain the flows created by the plant, either by buying it outright or making other arrangements with Xcel.

Downriver, the Grand Valley Diversion Dam in DeBeque Canyon near Cameo provides water to the four entities that make up the senior Cameo call. The 100-year-old riverwide structure directs 1,332 cfs of irrigation water into the 55-mile-long Highline Canal.

Both the dam and the upper portion of the canal are in need of “extensive upgrading and rehabilitation,” according to a project sheet distributed by the roundtable.

“The Shoshone Call and the Cameo Call are the two main calling rights on the Colorado River, and the whole regime of the river has developed over the years based on these two calls being in place,” said Mark Hermundstad, an attorney from Grand Junction who represents Mesa County on the roundtable. “Both of those calls draw down clean high-mountain water to the middle and the lower reaches of the river, and we think it is important to maintain those flows down the river.”

A third roundtable priority is the development of a basinwide stream-management plan to “help resource managers better understand and manage streamflows” for both ecological and recreational reasons.


Among the sub-basin projects put forward are the enlargement of both Hunter and Monument reservoirs in the Plateau Creek drainage on Grand Mesa, about 20 miles southeast of Collbran.

The Ute Water Conservancy District, which provides water to the Grand Junction area, is proposing to enlarge Hunter Reservoir from 100 acre-feet to 1,340 acre-feet, at a cost of $5 million to $7 million.

The existing 11-foot-tall dam would grow to 37 feet, the reservoir’s surface area would expand from 19 to 80 acres, and it would inundate 32 acres of wetlands, according to a 2007 study by the U.S. Forest Service.

Monument Reservoir No. 1, on Monument Creek south of Vega Reservoir, would be expanded from 573 to 5,255 acre-feet. A new dam would be 69 feet tall and would flood 145 acres. The cost estimate is $20 million, according to Steve Ryken, assistant general manager of Ute Water, who sits on the roundtable.

Another significant sub-basin project is the Eagle River MOU, a 1998 agreement to develop 33,000 acre-feet of new water storage. Of that, 20,000 acre-feet would eventually flow east to Aurora and Colorado Springs, and 10,000 acre-feet would be for use in the Eagle River watershed.

Project components being actively studied include the expansion of Eagle Park Reservoir from 3,300 acre-feet to 8,000 acre-feet or more and the construction of a new reservoir on lower Homestake Creek, near Whitney Creek, that would hold 3,500 to 10,000 acre-feet of water.

“Currently, the project sponsors are continuing investigations to evaluate the ‘Whitney Creek’ alternative, consisting of a surface diversion from the Eagle River to the area of Camp Hale with a dual-purpose storage reservoir/pumping forebay on Homestake Creek to store West Slope yield, and regulate and feed East Slope yield up to Homestake Reservoir,” states a May 2014 draft of the basin plan.

Also on the list is the building of 257-acre Kendig Reservoir on West Divide Creek, 15 miles south of Silt.


Two priority projects, or processes, were identified in the Roaring Fork River watershed, according to Mark Fuller, the executive director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority and a legislative appointee to the Colorado roundtable.

One priority is an ongoing process led by the Roaring Fork Conservancy to find ways to leave more water in the lower Crystal River, which is heavily diverted for agriculture.

The second priority project is the completion of the 210 action items identified in the 2012 Roaring Fork Watershed Plan, which does not include significant new water-storage projects.

“It’s not like we’re really suggesting that we do 210 projects. We’re suggesting we carry out the watershed plan, including the nine priority projects already identified in the plan,” Fuller said.

Fuller said he did not expect that supporting the city of Aspen’s conditional water rights for large dams on upper Castle and Maroon creeks would be added as a third project for the Roaring Fork sub-basin, as Mike McDill, the deputy utilities manager for the city of Aspen, has lobbied for.


In the Middle Colorado region, between Dotsero and DeBeque Canyon, the priorities are, in addition to building Kendig Reservoir, investigating the sources of selenium in Mamm and Rifle creeks, studying the feasibility of a regional water authority to serve Silt Mesa and surveying the region’s irrigation assets.

In the State Bridge region, between Kremmling and Dotsero, the priorities are to designate Deep Creek as a “wild and scenic” river and to inventory irrigation systems around Eby, Brush and Gypsum creeks.

In the Grand County region, the priorities are to repair and restore 10 miles of the Colorado River near Kremmling, update the existing $1 million Grand County stream-management plan and expand a water-district reservoir near Fraser by 80 acre-feet.

In Eagle County, in addition to the Eagle River MOU projects, the priorities include restoring 270 acres of wetlands at Camp Hale to be used for future wetland mitigation credits and five water-quality projects, including one on Gore Creek as it flows through Vail.

In Summit County, the top priorities are to enlarge by 500 acre-feet the Old Dillon Reservoir, a small reservoir next to Dillon Reservoir, restore a 3,000-foot-long stretch of the Blue River in Breckenridge and modify Dillon Reservoir to let warmer water be released back into the Blue.

The third key project in the Grand Valley region, after enlarging Hunter and Monument reservoirs, is the repairing of the Southside Canal owned by the Collbran Water Conservancy District.

The canal was built in the 1950s and has at least two siphon pipes that need replacing. It can normally carry 240 cfs of water and winds 33 miles from Vega Reservoir to Mesa Creek.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on coverage of Colorado rivers and water. More at

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Montrose: Gunnison Basin Roundtable urges public input to the #COWaterPlan, April 6

March 27, 2015
Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Ouray County Plaindealer (Bill Tiedje):

Members of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable are urging the public to attend a scoping meeting on April 6 at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose to make suggestions or comments regarding the Gunnison Basin Implementation Plan.

Tri-County Water Conservancy District’s GBR representative Mike Berry explained the BIP will become a part of the Colorado Water Plan.

“The BIPs are the critical information in the state water plan in my opinion,” Berry said.

Berry said the meeting will offer the public a chance to learn more about the Gunnison BIP, including strategies and opportunities for water use in the basin.

“It’ll be an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback,” Berry explained.
Public comments will be considered as GBR representatives finalize the BIP before submission to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The BIPs will then be incorporated into the CWP, which is scheduled for completion in December 2015.
Berry said, “The whole idea behind the Roundtable process is a bottom-up strategy.”

The BIP has identified a number of potential water projects in the basin, including upper basin portions of Ouray County, but Berry said federal funding is currently lacking to make large projects a reality.

“I think our solutions are going to come from other directions,” Berry said, suggesting conservation or demand management water strategies may be more feasible in the near term.

Ridgway and Ouray GBR representative Joanne Fagan said the goal of the BIP process is to determine strategies to meet the water needs of the state.

Fagan agreed that conservation is the “low hanging fruit” to meet growing municipal and industrial water needs.

Fagan said members of the public can read the Gunnison BIP online at and can find a list of potential projects under Table 7 in the document.

She described the upcoming meeting as a “more global process” looking at ways to address perceived shortfalls without drastically changing ways of life in Colorado.

According to a March 18 press release, “The GBR was formed by statute in 2005, under the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act; it is one of nine roundtables in Colorado, charged to ‘encourage locally driven collaborative solutions to water supply challenges,’ assess ‘basin-wide consumptive and non-consumptive water supply needs,’ and ‘serve as a forum for education and debate regarding methods for meeting water supply needs,’ according to Colorado Governor’s Office.”

The GBR consists of 32 members representing local governments of the basin and other environmental, industrial, agricultural and recreational interests.

“To encourage locally-driven and balanced solutions to water supply challenges, the plan identifies water projects through targeted analyses of water issues in the basin,” the press release stated. “The BIP includes analyses of water shortages, water availability under variable hydrologic conditions, and various site-specific water supply issues. The ultimate purpose of the plan is to better identify priority needs in the basin and highlight proposed projects that will excel at meeting these needs in the future.”

Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership Coordinator Agnieszka Przeszlowska said her organization is helping to promote the event.

Przeszlowska said, “The BIPs are an opportunity for anyone in the Uncompahgre Basin to provide input on needs or projects that they see value in.”

Summary information regarding the Gunnison BIP will be posted on prior to the April 6 meeting.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Water Values podcast: Behind the Headgates of Colorado’s Water Plan with CWCB Director James Eklund #COWaterPlan

March 24, 2015
Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald

Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald

Colorado Water: Potential new transmountain diversion gets a boost at statewide summit — The Aspen Times

March 22, 2015
Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

[ed. I’m reposting this with the link and story from the Aspen Journalism site. Brent has included a bunch of audio from the recent Basin Roundtable Summit.]

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The prospects for a potential new transmountain water diversion that would bring more water to Colorado’s growing cities on the Front Range appeared to brighten recently during a meeting of about 300 Colorado water leaders.

At the meeting, held in Westminster on March 12, members of the state’s nine river basin roundtables responded in near unanimity to a straw poll regarding a “draft conceptual framework” that outlines how to keep discussing, and planning for, a new transmountain diversion, or TMD.

Today in Colorado, between 450,000 and 600,000 acre-feet of water is diverted under the Continental Divide from the west to the east slope. To put that in context, Ruedi Reservoir holds about 100,000 acre-feet of water and the total annual flow of the Roaring Fork River is about 900,000 acre-feet of water.

All but five of the approximately 300 people gathered in a Westin hotel ballroom gave a thumb’s up to a list of statements regarding ways to look at a potential new TMD.

“We have consensus on all of these points, but not necessarily that they’re fully encompassing,” said Jacob Bornstein, a program manager at the Colorado Water Conservation Board who has been helping to develop the draft conceptual framework and who lead the straw poll exercise.

The 7 points

Often referred to as “the seven points,” the conceptual framework has been the subject of much discussion over the past six months among members of the nine basin roundtables, who came together on March 18 for a “statewide basin roundtable summit.”

“As you’ve heard from every corner of the state, everyone has at least begun to consider the usefulness of this conceptual framework,” said John McClow, a CWCB board member who also sits on the Gunnison River basin roundtable. “I think we’ve heard from all of them that it might need some definition, it might need some refinement, but that it will provide us with a framework that we can utilize to evaluate a future TMD.”

However, roundtables on the West Slope, especially the Gunnison, Yampa-White and Colorado river basin roundtables, are still voicing concerns and questions about the conceptual framework and the harm a new TMD might cause.

Despite the concerns from the West Slope, James Eklund, the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the state’s water-planning agency, opened the roundtable summit on a bullish note.

“Whether you call them the draft conceptual framework, or the seven points of consensus, or the conceptual agreement, or the guidance on interbasin negotiations, or my personal favorite, the seven points of light, the work of our leaders in this room and on the Interbasin Compact Committee demonstrates the new paradigm in East-West discussions,” Eklund said.

The CWCB’s 27-member Interbasin Compact Committee includes representatives from each of the roundtables, as well as members appointed by the governor and legislative representatives.

The group unanimously endorsed the conceptual “seven points” last July.


The enviromental perspectives

Melinda Kassen, an attorney who specializes in environmental issues, has served as a governor-appointed environmental representative on the IBCC since 2005.

“So, I think I was asked to come up here to justify my having raised my thumb on this, when we did this last summer,” Kassen said as she addressed the crowd in Westminster.

Kassen said she could support the framework because of its seventh point, which states, “Environmental resiliency and recreational needs must be addressed both before and conjunctively with a new TMD.”

“The reason that this point is so important is the way it’s written,” said Kassen, noting the point about the environment was last on the list, but not least.

“It doesn’t say we will address environmental and recreational needs in the context of some big new transmountain diversion,” Kassens said. “It doesn’t say we’ll do mitigation and that’s how we’ll deal with the environment. What it says is, we will make our environment resilient now. We will protect our recreation economy now. And then, if at some point in the future if there’s another big project, we will also do mitigation for that project.”


The Front Range perspective

Jim Lochhead, the CEO and General Manager of Denver Water, also spoke at the roundtable summit.

“In terms of a future transmountain diversion, that is an option that needs to be preserved for the future, if we need to do it,” Lochhead said. “But what this conceptual framework does is articulate some principles that we can agree to, that allows us to move forward when and if that time comes.”

Lochhead also stressed the importance of entities on the West Slope and Front Range working now on the things it can agree on, instead of just listing long-standing disagreements.

“Let’s be more efficient,” Lochhead said. “Let’s work on re-use (of water). Let’s work on capturing and using local water supplies as efficiently as we possibly can throughout the entire state, across all sectors, before we begin talking about big infrastructure projects that, hopefully, we either don’t need or we need at a much smaller and refined scale in the future. But when and if we do need those, they will be developed in partnership across the entire state.”

He also stressed that the seven points need to be viewed as a whole package.

“There’re not in any kind of order,” Lochhead said. “They are not even individual pieces, they are a package. They need to be viewed as a whole, because they are a part of a whole. And they are part of a commonality, I think, that we agreed on, and that we should agree on, in terms of where we’re going as a state.”


The view from the roundtables

After Kassen and Lochhead spoke, the CWCB’s Bornstein took the room through the straw poll, where members could vote thumbs up, down or sideways.

As he went through a reversed, and re-worded list of the seven points (see below), there was not one “thumbs down.”

Then Bornstein put up a slide referring to all of the seven points, or statements, which read: “These previous statements encompass the major issues a conceptual framework on a new TMD should address, although more detail may be needed.”

“We’ve got … five people in the room, out of about 300, that think these are not the major issues,” Bornstein said.

After that, a panel of representatives from four roundtables shared the current view of their respective roundtables about the seven points.

Joe Frank, the general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, is serving as the new chair of the South Platte River basin roundtable.

He said the members of the South Platte roundtable had previously voted unanimously to support the “seven points.”

And on March 10, the South Platte roundtable also agreed to include a “straw man” TMD in the its basin implementation plan, so that a theoretical new TMD – such as a pipeline to move water to the Front Range from Flaming Gorge Reservoir – could be freshly analyzed in the context of the seven points.

“The framework is in a good spot, but moving forward past that we need to get a straw man and discuss these difficult topics,” Frank said.

The South Platte roundtable is also strongly in favor of building new water reservoirs in the state and it wants storage discussed in the forthcoming final Colorado Water Plan, which is open for public comment until May 1.

“We just believe that storage needs to be front and center when we start to talk about Colorado’s water,” Frank said. “We’ve heard it a lot that conservation needs to be the beginning of the conversation, we also believe that storage needs to be in the beginning of that conversation.”

The Arkansas roundtable’s view

James Broderick, the executive director of the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, sits on the Arkansas River basin roundtable.

He said the Arkansas roundtable also believes new storage should be an integral part of the state’s water planning efforts, and that the Arkansas roundtable supports the seven points as written.

“From an Arkansas perspective, we’re not sure what all the controversy was about,” Broderick said.


The west slope’s view

The views presented at the statewide summit by two West Slope roundtables were quite different, however.

“We think the framework has questions that need to be answered before there can be something called an agreement, particularly about any transmountain diversions moving forward,” said Jon Hill, a Rio Blanco County commissioner who sits on the Yampa-White basin roundtable.

Hill said it was important to the Yampa-White river basins that an understanding be reached that sets aside some level of future water development in the region, which remains largely undeveloped.

“As long as we can work it in that we have some increment of future use, that is going to be reserved, or however you want to call it, then we can start getting along on this and that,” Hill said.

Michelle Pierce, the chair of the Gunnison River basin roundtable, said that while she feels the seven points represent a breakthrough of sorts, they shouldn’t be included in the state’s forthcoming water plan.

“I was at that meeting where these seven points were brought up and developed, and I did think it was a huge breakthrough in this process,” Pierce said. “It’s taken, up to that point, nine years to even talk about transmountain diversion. So I thought that was huge.”

However, Pierce went on to say, “the Gunnison basin doesn’t believe that the conceptual framework is ready for inclusion in the state plan. If it is determined that it will be included in the state plan, we would like to see a big disclaimer with that, something that would say, or highlight the fact that it is still under discussion, it still needs refinement, and that there is no real agreement statewide as to what those terms mean.”


A Colorado River basin view

A representative from the Colorado River basin roundtable was not included on the same panel at the March 12 summit with the representatives from the Gunnison, Yampa-White, Arkansas and South Platte roundtables, but the Colorado roundtable is on the record as opposing the inclusion of the seven points in the water plan.

On March 5, at a public meeting of the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative, Louis Meyer, a veteran Colorado roundtable member and a principal engineer with SGM, an engineering firm in Glenwood Springs, strongly criticized the seven points.

“I think that these were written on behalf of the Front Range, not the West Slope,” Meyer said. “I think if the West Slope’s four basin roundtables wrote them, they would be very, very different.

“There is no extra water in the state of Colorado,” Meyer said. “What we’re talking about is a reallocation of the water we already have. So, what is this re-allocation going to be? It is going to be a reallocation of water from agriculture and healthy rivers to rooftops and nonnative turf grass on the Front Range. I believe that the result will be flat rivers, the loss of agriculture, and escalating water costs.”


“The 7”

Here are the seven points as presented by the CWCB’s Jacob Bornstein during a straw poll at the statewide roundtable summit.

Bornstein said this list, which differs in order and in the wording from the official version of “the seven points,” also listed below, was “a bit of a deconstructed look at the conceptual framework.”

“Because I’ve been going to every roundtable, almost, and helping to explain this, I’ve sort of learned how to not have the eyes cross when you are talking about some of these concepts,” Bornstein said, noting he now simply calls them “The 7.”

1. We need to address environmental resiliency and recreational needs, including the recovery of imperiled species, with or without a new transmountain diversion (TMD).

2. If a new TMD were to be built, the proponent should involve non-consumptive, environmental and recreational partners upfront, so that the project is designed with environmental and recreational needs in mind, incorporates benefits, and mitigates impacts.”

3. Colorado should continue its commitment to improve municipal conservation and allowable reuse, statewide, with or without a new TMD.

4. If a new TMD were to be built, West Slope needs should be accommodated as part of a package of projects and processes that benefit both East and West slopes.

5. Colorado should develop a collaborative program aimed at preventing a (Colorado River basin) compact curtailment issue from occurring, while protecting existing users from involuntary curtailment (e.g., eminent domain or strict administration).

6. The collaborative program (in point 5) should be voluntary, such as a water bank and other demand management programs, and aimed at protecting current Colorado River water users, and some increment of additional use yet to be defined, but NOT uses associated with a new TMD.

7. If a new TMD were to be built, it would not guarantee delivery of a certain amount of water annually, but instead operate as part of a flexible optimized system, diverting only when water is available, based on triggers Colorado establishes in advance, and relying on East Slope sources of water when not diverting.

At the end of the meeting, Bornstein put up one more statement, which read: “If the feedback from today is incorporated into the conceptual framework, then it is headed in the right direction.”

“No thumbs down,” Bornstein said after surveying the room. “So wonderful, thank you.”


The “original” 7 points

Here are the seven points as originally endorsed upon by the IBCC last year:

1. The East Slope is not looking for firm yield from a new TMD project and would accept hydrologic risk for that project.

2. A new TMD project would be used conjunctively with East Slope interruptible supply agreements, Denver Basin Aquifer resources, carry-over storage, terminal storage, drought restriction savings, and other non-West Slope water sources.

3. In order to manage when a new TMD will be able to divert, triggers are needed.

4. An insurance policy that protects against involuntary curtailment is needed for existing uses and some reasonable increment of future development in the Colorado River system, but it will not cover a new TMD.

5. Future West Slope needs should be accommodated as part of a new TMD project.

6. Colorado will continue its commitment to improve conservation and reuse.

7. Environmental resiliency and recreational needs must be addressed both before and conjunctively with a new TMD.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism, The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent are collaborating on coverage of water and rivers. The Times published this story on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meeting recap

March 16, 2015

Kerber Creek

Kerber Creek

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Scars from the San Luis Valley’s mining days are slowly healing.

Kerber Creek in the northern part of the Valley is one of the places where mining provided a temporary income and left a permanent scar on the area’s land and water.

Trout Unlimited and several partnering organizations are gradually working to revive the soil and water along Kerber Creek, which flows through Bonanza and Villa Grove, where mine tailings rendered land and fishing streams lifeless for many years. Yesterday the Valley-wide water organization, Rio Grande Roundtable, approved $30,000 out of its basin funds towards a $277,677 project covering about six acres in the middle portion of the Kerber Creek Restoration Project. Project Manager Jason Willis explained this would tie together restoration efforts already conducted in this section.

There are 13 tailing deposits in this small area alone, Willis explained, seven on one side of the creek and six on the other.

Work will begin in conjunction with 5,900 feet of in-stream improvements by Natural Resources Conservation Service this summer and wrap up this fall to improve vegetation and water quality on this stretch of Kerber Creek.

Willis explained that amendments such as limestone provided by the Bureau of Land Management will be added to the soil in phytostabilization efforts, and metal tolerant native species will be planted. The goal is to create a self-sustaining system similar to the undisturbed landscape that existed before the mining occurred, Willis explained.

He shared videotaped comments of landowner Carol Wagner who has owned a ranch along Kerber Creek since 1986. She explained how the quality of water in the creek had improved from extremely poor and unable to support fish habitat when she bought the property to a much more vibrant and beautiful state since restoration efforts began. Landowners such as Wagner contribute towards the restoration project , which includes several partners such as BLM, NRCS and the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

In addition to providing funds for the ongoing Kerber Creek restoration, the Roundtable yesterday heard a preliminary funding request , which will be brought back next month for formal action, from Judy Lopez for $45,300 over a three-year period from the basin account for education and outreach efforts such as newspaper articles, radio shows, educational videos, web page updates, project tours and administration. The roundtable also voted to establish an executive committee to help manage roundtable business such as planning the meetings, agendas and speakers and reviewing applications. The committee will consist of the three officers, who until the end of the calendar year will continue to be Chairman Mike Gibson, Vice Chairman Rio de la Vista and Secretary Cindy Medina, as well as roundtable members Peter Clark, Ron Brink, Judy Lopez , Heather Dutton, Steve Vandiver, Charlie Spielman, Nathan Coombs and Karla Shriver. Also during their meeting on Tuesday the roundtable members heard a presentation on geophysical and hydrophysical logging tools and techniques by Greg Bauer of COLOG who shared various tools to learn what’s going on beneath the surface. He said many of these tools could be used for well logging that could be accurate and cost effective. Theroundtablealso heard a report from Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten that the snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin is now up to 87 percent of average, about where the basin has been at this time of year for the past couple of years. The National Weather Service forecast through the summer calls for above-average precipitation.

Grand Junction: Public opinions sought 
on statewide water plan #COWaterPlan

March 13, 2015
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Grand Valley residents on Tuesday can weigh in on the statewide water plan that is now before Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The draft plan presented late last year to the governor took no position on whether to propose a transmountain diversion of water from the Western Slope to the Front Range.

There are now 29 west-to-east diversions across the Continental Divide and talks of potential approaches to additional projects are continuing.

The draft statewide plan, as well as plans for management of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, will be discussed at the 7 p.m. meeting in the Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium, 250 N. Fifth St.

Organizers of the meeting hope to increase awareness of what is in the statewide water plan and, in the longer term, increase understanding of forecasts that anticipate the state’s water needs outstripping its supplies, said Hannah Holm, coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

Participants will be asked to fill out surveys about the statewide plan, as well as plans for the Gunnison and Colorado rivers.

The meeting is free and open to the public.

More Colorado Water Plan 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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