@NWSPueblo: The March 2015 climate review and April preview for south central and southeast Colorado

April 1, 2015

Snowpack news (Part 2): “Well I’m goin’ down, down, down, down, down, down” — Jeff Beck (Goin’ Down)

April 1, 2015

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Snowpack news: Water folks are now hoping for a cool summer or a repeat of April 2013

April 1, 2015
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 31, 2015

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 31, 2015

From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):

The weather pattern over the last month has had a negative effect on our water reserves in Colorado. At the end of February the snowpack level was considered near normal, but new numbers out on the last day of March show a drop. “Six weeks ago we were looking about average in the mountain watershed and now at the Colorado Basin we’re at 76% of average and the Arkansas Basin 84% of average. So there’s some pretty drastic declines,” said Abby Ortega with Colorado Springs Utilities.

The good news is plenty of water the previous two years filled reservoirs to above average. Since they are up, it balances this year’s snowpack drop. “We think we can stay about even,” said Ortega, “Unless it’s a really hot dry year and folks need to use more water.”

From the Vail Daily (John Laconte):

So in Vail, where we have received 261 inches total snowfall since Opening Day, skiers are feeling pretty good in the slushy spring conditions right now.

“I was in the Back Bowls and Blue Sky all day, the snow was awesome,” Will Franklin of Denver said Saturday. “Great day to be in Vail.”

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

April 1, 2015
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation March 1 thru March 29, 2015

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation March 1 thru March 29, 2015

Click here to read the current assessment.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

The latest Colorado Water Trust eNews newsletter is hot off the presses

April 1, 2015

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust

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

Before the Court: Change of Use for Colorado Water Trust’s McKinley Ditch Shares

Colorado’s water-short rivers present complex challenges that require creative solutions. At the Water Trust, we’ve always been inspired to explore new, localized approaches when existing ones don’t fit. For example, our innovative remedy on the Little Cimarron River southwest of Gunnison blends agricultural and non-consumptive water uses for the first time through split season operations. Seasonal lease agreements mean the water could be used for agriculture in the early season through our partners Western Rivers Conservancy, while later in the season more water would remain in the river for environmental benefits. Several Directors on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) praised our project when voting last fall to approve the CWCB’s purchase of the Grant of Flow Restoration Use for the Water Trust’s water right shares in the McKinley Ditch.

“I can tell that this has been a tremendous amount of work because it is novel. And it seems to me that it’s the sort of thing we need to explore so that we can figure out, if agriculture did something just a little differently but not harmful, could there be a benefit for some other use…Being able to move water around to where it’s needed, when it’s needed…by changing things just a little, I think, is hopefully the wave of the future.” ~ Director Patricia Wells, CWCB Meeting on September 12, 2014

In December 2014, the Water Trust and CWCB took the next step towards implementing this experimental concept by filing a joint application with the Division 4 Water Court seeking to add “instream flow use”(ISF) to the Water Trust’s shares of the senior McKinley Ditch water rights. Once this added use is approved by the Water Court, the Water Trust’s water rights can be used by the CWCB to keep water flowing in the Little Cimarron River, accruing benefits to almost ten miles of Colorado streams, from the McKinley Ditch headgate to the Gunnison River.

Durango: 33rd Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWWCD) Annual Water Seminar, Friday, April 3

April 1, 2015


From the Pagosa Springs Sun (Renita Freeman):

Water experts will speak at the 33rd Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWWCD) Annual Water Seminar at the Doubletree Hotel in Durango on Friday, April 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This year’s theme is “New Solutions to Old Problems.” A broad range of topics on the agenda will be addressed during the meeting including the Colorado River basin contingency planning efforts, the future of agriculture in Colorado, the state water plan and the incorporation of water conservation in land use planning.

The meeting’s agenda, as listed in a news release from SWWCD, has registration and breakfast scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Welcoming remarks and introductions will be made by John Porter, SWWCD board president, and Bruce Whitehead, executive director.

The morning’s presentations will feature Jim Havey with Havey Productions presenting a documentary on the Great Divide. Moderator Steve Harris will present Exploring Water Conservation Strategies. Assisting in this presentation will be state Sen. Ellen Roberts, Drew Beckwith with Western Resource Advocates, Dominique Gomez with Water Smart Software and Mark Marlowe from the Town of Castle Rock.

Whitehead will speak on the Colorado River Planning Convergence; he will be assisted by Greg Walch from the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) members Ted Kowalski and Eric Kuhn.

The afternoon’s agenda will begin with recognition of the water leaders followed by the film “Resilient: Soil, Water and the New Stewards of the American West” presented by Kate Greenberg from the National Young Farmers Coalition. Greenberg will also present Agriculture’s Future in the Colorado River Basin. Assisting with this presentation will be Ken Nowak from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Pat O’Toole, a local producer from the Family Farm Alliance.

“The State Water Plan: Meeting Local Water Needs” will be presented by John Stulp from the Interbasin Compact Committee. Assisting Stulp will be CWCB board member Rebecca Mitchell. Carrie Lile, Ann Oliver and Mike Preston from the Southwest Basin Roundtable will also take part in the presentation.

The press release stated advance registration is $35 or $40 at the door. Online registration is available by going to http://swwcd.org/programs/annual-water-seminar. Mail-in registration forms are also available on the website. The Doubletree Hotel is located at 501 Camino del Rio. Registration will begin 8 a.m. on April 3.

More education coverage here.

2015 Colorado legislation: SB15-064 (Application Of State Water Law To Federal Agencies) dead #coleg

March 31, 2015
Photo via Bob Berwyn

Photo via Bob Berwyn

From The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Woodland):

SB 64 sailed through the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee on an 8-1 vote. That included a “yes” vote from Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, whose district includes the Eagle County ski areas, as well as Crested Butte and Aspen. Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, also voted in favor of SB 64.

On the Senate floor, the bill picked up four more votes from Democrats, and passed on a 24-11 vote.

But instead of going to the House Ag Committee, where the previous versions had passed easily the last two years, SB 64 was assigned to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. And true to its reputation as the “kill” committee, the bill died on a 5-6 party-line vote. One of those “no” votes came from Rep. Mike Foote, D-Denver, who voted in favor of the 2014 version.

Sonnenberg was furious. He told The Colorado Statesman last week that it was just politics. “I don’t get it,” he said. “It’s politics at its worst, when we don’t defend Colorado water rights owners.”

This week, House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, defended her decision to send SB 64 to the State Affairs committee, and why she made that decision on a bill she’s supported for the past two years.

Hullinghorst said Tuesday she sent the bill to State Affairs because she wanted to see the issue addressed more broadly, and that she believed State Affairs was the appropriate committee. She said she changed her mind on the bill because of a legal opinion from Legislative Legal Services, although Legal Services issued the same opinion for the 2013 and 2014 bills.

“I believe that issue has been well-vetted, and we’ve had lots of good talk about it. But as a matter of fact, we have memos from Legal Services that tell us on two specific constitutional issues, that this bill is unconstitutional,” Hullinghorst said this week.

The first issue, according to the Legal Services memo, is that the federal government has preemption powers in this area. Preemption means that when a federal and state law conflict, the state law is considered invalid.

Second, the memo said the bill is considered special legislation since it is done for one specific agency. Hullinghorst said that bothered her more than the preemption issue. “I used my prerogative, I changed my mind.”

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.


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