‘Conceptual Framework’ for diversions in #COWaterPlan — Glenwood Springs Post Independent

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

A way to look at any new transmountain diversions in the state has been dubbed “Colorado’s Conceptual Framework” in the Colorado Water Plan after previously being called “the seven points” and the “draft conceptual agreement” as it has evolved over the past two years.

It’s a lofty title for a framework that major water providers on the East Slope are adamant does not carry any force of law, rule or policy, and that still divides water stakeholders in Colorado.

But no matter what it is called, the framework is, despite challenges, in fact included in the first-ever Colorado Water Plan, which was developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and presented to the governor on Nov. 19.

A number of Front Range entities told the CWCB that it should not adopt the conceptual framework or include it in the water plan.

“Even with wording changes, the basin roundtables recommend that the CWCB not adopt the framework as it is a work in progress that may be modified as dialogue continues,” wrote the S. Platte and Metro basin roundtables, two of nine regional water-supply groups that meet under the auspices of the CWCB, in a combined Sept. 17 comment letter.

But Chapter 8 of the water plan, “Interbasin Basin Projects and Agreements,” does include the conceptual framework.

In its introduction to the framework, the water plan recognizes that “a longstanding controversial issue in Colorado is the development of water supply from the Colorado River system for use on the Eastern Slope. It is controversial because of supply gaps, environmental health, compact compliance and other issues.”

The water plan describes the framework as providing “a path forward that considers the option of developing a new transmountain diversion and addresses the concerns of roundtables, stakeholders and environmental groups. The conceptual framework presents seven principles to guide future negotiations between proponents of a new transmountain diversion, if it were to be built, and the communities it would affect.”

The seven principles include concepts such as making sure a new transmountain diversion, or TMD, does not increase the likelihood of a compact call from states in the lower Colorado River basin, ensuring the Eastern Slope has other sources of water in dry years, and establishing guidelines for when diversions may need to be curtailed to keep enough water in Lake Powell.

The framework also says that new diversions should not limit Western Slope development, that it’s important to increase both municipal and agricultural water-conservation efforts in Colorado, and that steps should be taken repair damaged river ecosystems with or without new diversions.

The water plan says the CWCB will “use the conceptual framework as an integrated package of concepts to: encourage environmental resiliency; set high conservation standards; develop stakeholder support for interstate cooperative solutions; and establish conditions for a new multipurpose and cooperative transmountain diversion (TMD) project if proposed in the future.”

The framework was drafted and adopted by the members of the Interbasin Compact Committee, which includes two representatives from each of the state’s nine basin roundtables, six gubernatorial appointees, two legislative appointees and the director of compact negotiations on the IBCC.

The group’s “main charge is to work with the basin roundtables to develop and ratify cross-basin agreements,” the water plan says.

The water plan describes both the conceptual framework and the lingering geographic differences of opinion about future transmountain diversions.

“Generally, Eastern Slope roundtables identify the need for a balanced program to preserve the option of future development of Colorado River System water,” the plan says.

“Western Slope roundtables express concern regarding the impact on future development on the Western Slope, as well as the potential for overdevelopment related to both a Colorado River compact deficit and critical levels for system reservoir storage, such as the minimum storage level necessary to reliably produce hydroelectric power at Glen Canyon Dam,” the plan states.

The water plan also finds that the Colorado River basin roundtable, which meets regularly in Glenwood Springs, and the South Platte and Metro roundtables, which meet in Longmont and Denver, respectively, have the “greatest divergence” when it comes to the idea of more TMDs. [ed. emphasis mine]

“The Colorado basin roundtable points out the variability in hydrology,” the water plan says, “stating that TMDs ‘should be the last ‘tool’ considered as a water supply solution, once the many and complex questions are addressed over hydrology.’”

On the other side of the divide, the water plan says that the South Platte and Metro roundtables want to “’simultaneously advance the consideration and preservation of new Colorado River supply options.’

“Both viewpoints recognize the constraints of water availability and Colorado water law, but differ in their beliefs about whether such a project fits into water supply planning,” the plan concludes.

The members of the Front Range Water Council also have made it clear to the CWCB that they don’t see the framework as binding.

In a Sept. 15 letter to the CWCB on the water plan, the council said that the framework “’has no regulatory force or effect. Rather, it is guidance, the implementation and use of which will depend on the positions taken by the parties who engage in good faith negotiations on the construction of future specific proposed projects.”

The Front Range Water Council includes Denver Water, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Northern Water, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., and the Board of Water Works of Pueblo.

The concept of “environmental resiliency” is also laid out in the framework and is done so on terms that are as environmentally staunch as any other statement in the water plan.

The framework says that “Colorado’s Water Plan, basin implementation plans, and stakeholder groups across the state should identify, secure funding for, and implement projects that help recover imperiled species and enhance ecological resiliency, whether or not a new TMD is built.“

In terms of next steps on the conceptual framework, the water plan says only that “the CWCB will monitor ongoing discussions” at the roundtable and Interbasin Compact Committee levels “that involve the topics associated with the seven principles of the conceptual framework.”

Aspen Journalism collaborates with the Post Independent and The Aspen Times on coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.


Principle 1: Eastern Slope water providers are not looking for firm yield from a new transmountain diversion (TMD) and the project proponent would accept hydrologic risk for that project.

Principle 2: A new TMD would be used conjunctively with Eastern Slope supplies, such as interruptible supply agreements, Denver basin aquifer resources, carry-over storage, terminal storage, drought restriction savings, and other non-Western Slope water sources.

Principle 3: In order to manage when a new TMD would be able to divert, triggers are needed. Triggers are operating parameters that determine when and how much water a potential new TMD could divert, based upon predetermined conditions within the Colorado River system.

Principle 4: A collaborative program 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.

Principle 5: Future Western Slope needs should be accommodated as part of a new TMD project.

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

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


Grand River Ditch 18,000 acre-feet/year

Adams Tunnel 226,000 AFY

Moffat Tunnel 55,000 AFY

Roberts Tunnel 62,000 AFY

Blue Mountain Project 9,000 AFY

Homestake Tunnel 25,000 AFY

Busk Ivanhoe Tunnel 5,100

Boustead Tunnel 56,000 AFY

Twin Lakes Tunnel 41,000 AFY

San Juan-Chama Project 83,000 AFY

Aurora Homestake Pipeline 16,000 AFY

Source: Colorado Water Plan

The latest e-WaterNews from Northern Water is hot off the presses

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

2015 Water Year Comes to an End

The 2015 water year (Nov.1 – Oct. 31) started slowly, but precipitation later in the spring more than made up for it. April and May storms brought much needed moisture to the mountains and plains, and set in motion another very good water year for Northeastern Colorado.

Deliveries in 2015 were more than the record low year of 2014, but were still below average. This year the C-BT Project delivered 187,291 acre-feet to East Slope water users. The historical average is 211,000 AF. Deliveries to agricultural users spiked in late summer due to dry conditions. These late-summer deliveries also made space available in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake, which will allow water to be transferred from Lake Granby to the East Slope this winter. This will also create space in Lake Granby for the spring runoff.

In 2015, the total C-BT Project spill was 191,000 AF, with 148,500 AF from Lake Granby and 42,500 AF from Willow Creek Reservoir.

C-BT Project reservoir levels started the 2016 water year in good shape with more than 500,000 AF in storage. The average for Nov. 1 active storage is 442,413 AF.


Not zero, xeric: Greeley officials to present plan to reduce landscape water use — The Greeley Tribune

Xeriscape landscape
Xeriscape landscape

From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

Patrick McDonald came into a hard job.

In 2002, he left the lush southeast to become the landscape manager for the University of Northern Colorado right as the state hit a historic drought.

Water allowances plummeted. The football field was in such bad shape, the Broncos quit training there. And yet McDonald didn’t condemn the campus to crunchy brown shrubs and dead grass. He invested in drought-resistant native plants.

More than a decade later, almost 10 percent of the campus landscape is covered in these plants. Although there are a few cacti, there are tons of sage plants, prairie grasses and colorful bushes.

“That stuff’s thriving without extra water,” he said.

All of these practices fall under a gardening philosophy called xeriscape. Although the term can conjure images of a lawn full of gravel, most xeriscapes instead feature flora appropriate for limited and efficient water use.

Landscaping soaks up about half of Greeley’s water, and as demand continues to creep up on a stagnant supply, officials hope that sooner than later, more residents, even the bulk of them, can transform their own yards using the same kind of plants that a drought inspired McDonald to use at UNC.

According to Greeley’s records, per capita water consumption has decreased by 22 percent since 2002. Even so, as more people flock to the Front Range, officials now realize replacing shower heads and toilets won’t cut it.

Various departments teamed up to write the Landscape Policy Plan, a guidebook to establishing the programs and regulations needed to reduce outdoor water use. The guidebook, among other recommendations, asks residents to think beyond their thirsty bluegrass lawns and plant native, drought-resistant greenery.

The Greeley City Council hasn’t seen the plan. Department heads will present it later this month, and the council should decide whether to sign off on it by year’s end.

Although planners want to maintain a lot of what we’re used to seeing — tall shade trees, grassy fields for kids and pets — they’d like to see some change too.

These changes don’t have to be as drastic as one might think, City Manager Roy Otto said. The term “xeriscape” can dredge up images of a yard full of rocks and cacti. But that’s not what it means for northern Colorado.

Xeriscape calls for replacing imported plants with native ones, not getting rid of them altogether. The High Plains aren’t in a parched desert, Otto said, but they aren’t in the rain-drenched Midwest either.


Greeley started as an agricultural community in a semi-arid climate.

Given that, officials always knew the value of conserving water: They put together the city’s first conservation plan in 1905, said Eric Reckentine, deputy director of Greeley Water and Sewer. The plan limited how often residents could water their lawns.

In the past 11 decades, ways to conserve have advanced. Greeley still has watering restrictions, but they’re more organized. Companies have developed more efficient toilets, washers, shower heads and irrigation systems, and the city issues rebates for residents who use them. The water and sewer department offers various educational materials and services, from DVDs to water audits.

Greeley has offered xeriscape services for years, and even has a few demonstration gardens, but as the demand for water continues to grow, it is getting more attention.

Planners project the Denver region’s population will grow from 3.5 million to almost 6.6 million people by 2050, according to city documents. That will grow water demand by 110,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot is roughly 326,000 gallons, how much an average household uses in a year. Even if all water storage projects are permitted and constructed — which studies show happens only 70 percent of the time — water suppliers can only get access to about 64,000 more acre-feet. Greeley officials, and others, are getting the message: There isn’t any more water.


Natural brushes and prairie grasses won’t be the only green left in Greeley. Planners want to maintain some high water-use plants.

No one, for instance, is going to chop down all the trees, said Community Development Director Brad Mueller said.

“We know that trees perform an important function beyond looking nice,” he said.

Tree cover is one way to prevent what environmental scientists call heat islands.

When buildings, roads, and other infrastructure replace open land and vegetation, the surfaces that once let water soak through and stay moist become impermeable and dry. They soak up the heat and let it fester. These changes cause urban regions to become warmer than their rural surroundings, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s unreasonable to think there should be no areas with bluegrass, Mueller said. Wood chips and rough lavender gardens don’t make for a fun place to sit or play. People with children or pets should have some grass on their properties. Parks will have it, as well.


Ruth Quade, the director of water conservation for Greeley, assembled a xeric demonstration garden outside of the city hall annex at 1100 10th St. to show residents they can start small.

It’s only a few yards long and about a yard wide. There are a few demonstration gardens in town, most of which are almost an acre in size, Quade said.

“It can be overwhelming,” she said.

Xeriscape as a practice has seven principles: plan ahead, limit turf areas, improve soil, irrigate efficiently, choose low water use plants, use mulch and maintain the landscape.

It sounds like a lot of work, but Quade said the downtown garden took about three days to set up.

Instead of working with a landscape architect on a plan or working to design one herself, she used a Garden in a Box kit from the Center for Resource Conservation. The sustainability-focused nonprofit offers a catalogue of xeric plant packages for about $100 (Greeley residents get a discount). It offers the plants, “plant-by-number” design instructions and a manual on how to care for them.

They also sell drip irrigation kits, which are a vital part of xeriscape. Instead of spraying the entire space, little hoses leak into a plant’s roots.

Using this system on a xeric garden instead of a traditional sprinkler on turf can reduce water use by up to 60 percent.

Another vital component is mulching. Although some xeric gardens use rock and gravel, many planners prefer organic mulches, such as wood chips. The mulch reduces weeds while protecting plants from harsh weather.


The document going to city council this year doesn’t have any regulatory power. It defines policy goals to get each department and the city council on the same page going forward, Mueller said.

The plan has three parts: education, incentives and regulation.

Quade has worked on xeriscape education for years, she said. Her materials started getting more attention in 2002, when a harsh drought started.

Now she gets to expand her efforts. The demonstration garden was just the first in a line of projects she’s going to tackle.

One of the undertakings she’s most excited about is a website that would give landscapers and residents a guide to more than 300 drought-resistant, native plants.

Teaching people how to maintain those gardens is one of the city’s biggest opportunities, he said. After all, if you don’t know how to care for those plants, it won’t matter that you set it up.

Tearing up and replacing landscape is expensive, and officials hope to ease the burden by offering incentives like they do now for toilets and washing machines.

Regulations will change slowly.

Greeley already requires lawns be half covered in plants. That’s not going to change, Mueller said. Covering a lawn entirely in rocks would not only make the area hotter, but it would also look ugly.

New rules haven’t been pinned down. Officials are tossing a few ideas around, such as a cap on the amount of land the thirstiest plants can cover and a xeriscape certificate requirement for landscapers.

Many new regulations will only affect businesses at first, Mueller said. City agencies have more control over commercial projects than they do over private ones.


UNC’s xeric goals were codified years ago in its own landscape master plan. It gave McDonald a directive: At least 25 percent of the new or renovated landscape has to be xeric. Now almost 8 percent of the campus is covered in low-water use plants, including a 5-acre demonstration garden.

Plants native to the Front Range are pretty easy to come by, he said.

That might be because xeriscape is becoming more popular.

The Xeriscape Garden at Denver Water. Xeriscaping is a cost-effective way to save water and beautify your yard.
Xeriscape demonstration garden at Denver Water

“We’re seeing a lot of improvement in the area,” said Mark Cassalia, a conservation specialist for Denver Water. “They’re really getting the bigger picture.”

The organization coined the term “xeriscape” in 1981 while working with Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. Now it’s taking off throughout the state and country.

“We’re actually paying a little money to help people change their landscape,” said Renee Davis, a water conservation specialist at the city of Fort Collins.

The city started a pilot program this summer to help residents change over to xeriscape. They focused on helping with design and helping buy plants. Next year, Davis said, they’re going to narrow their focus to plant acquisition and maintenance.

Rebates cover a small part of the plant cost. The goal: get residents who are on the fence to fall to the right side.

“We try to put in just a little money to get people excited and help them out,” Davis said.

They also offer guidance on keeping the plants healthy, especially regarding watering them.

“Replacing a toilet is something you can pay someone to do and it can take less than an hour,” Davis said. “Changing a landscape? Well, that’s more like a bathroom remodel.”

Update on the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project — United Water

Subsurface irrigation via NETAFIM
Subsurface irrigation via NETAFIM

Here’s the release from the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project (Brenna Wieker):

On a 165­acre plot of land, donated by United Water and Sanitation District President Bob Lembke, and located off of U.S. 34 and Weld County Road 63 a multi­million­ dollar project is underway that will point the way to improved efficiencies for both agriculture and municipal water users.

The Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project (SIEP) partners researchers from CSU with Jewish Colorado, Netafim, 70 Ranch, the Platte Water Development Authority and United Water and Sanitation District on a project inspired by the irrigation techniques used in Israel’s Negev Desert.

SIEP is the brainchild of Bob Lembke who found his inspiration for the project during a 2011 trip to Israel with Jewish Colorado.

“When I saw what they were able to do with far less, I was amazed and thought, ‘Why won’t this work here?’ This area continues to grow at a rapid pace and our current efforts to improve water efficiency and conservation just don’t work. This could be the solution to not only improve water efficiency, but also improve productivity, crop quality and overall profitability.”

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the agricultural sector of the economy reasonably consumes around 90 percent of available surface and ground water in the West. At the same time, Colorado’s Front Range municipalities are growing at a rapid pace and are expected to attract over one million new residents in the next few decades. Subsurface drip irrigation presents the opportunity for rural landowners, farmers and ranchers and municipal users to efficiently conserve and use one of Colorado’s most valuable resources.

SIEP utilizes a system perfected by Netafim where water, fertilizer and pesticides are supplied directly to the plant roots by polyethylene lines that are located 10­16 inches below the surface. Subsurface irrigation allows for better control of water resources and fertilizers and is more efficient than center pivots and furrow systems.

Phase one of SIEP consisted of a Netafim designed 82.5­acre parcel divided into 19 zones. Sorghum­sudangrass was selected as the first year’s crop for the entirety of that parcel and yielded 297 bales at a combined weight of over 215 tons from a single cutting Construction of a new research building will be completed in early spring, this building will be used as an office for the CSU Researchers and will operate as an educational facility for farmers, students and public who wish to learn more about drip irrigation. The SIEP research facility will provide a real­time demonstration of subsurface irrigation and the water savings the technology can bring to residential lawns.

If you would like to learn more about SIEP please visit our new website http://www.siepwater.com.

Third Annual Poudre River Forum, “Cultivating Connnections,” Friday, Feb 5, 2016


SAVE THE DATE! Friday, Feb 5, 2016

Next year, the Third Annual Poudre River Forum with the theme “Cultivating Connnections” moves to a weekday following up on the recommendations from the 2015 evaluations. We will return to The Ranch in Loveland.

Participants can look forward to an emphasis on water for agriculture with a panel facilitated by Luke Runyon from Harvest Media/KUNC. Also featured will be a panel of ecologists and engineers exploring how river infrastructure can be planned and/or managed to meet both human and ecological goals, with Coloradoan journalist, Kevin Duggan, facilitating. We’ll enjoy lunch together and finish our day with Odell brews, other refreshments, and bluegrass music from Blue Grama.

More program details and registration information coming in early December.

We are actively seeking sponsorships for this self-sustaining community event. If your company or institution is interested in this opportunity to show that they value bringing diverse voices and concerns together to learn about the Poudre River, please review the attached Sponsorship Letter and Form.

We welcome your inquiries at PoudreRiverForum@gmail.com.

Check out the updated CSU website for Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group (PRTI), which facilitates the Poudre River Forum. And “Like” PRTI on Facebook – thanks!

“My colleague likes to say, instead of one silver bullet, there’s lots of little silver BBs” — Liesel Hans

Tap water via Wikimedia
Tap water via Wikimedia

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Thirteen gallons: It’s the volume of a standard kitchen trash bag, a 6-minute shower or a little more than a full tank of gas for a compact car.

And it’s the crux of Fort Collins Utilities’ vision for the city’s water use come 2030.

Average daily water use was 143 gallons per person in 2014. Utilities wants to reduce that to 130 gallons per person, a 9 percent cut, over the next 15 years.

The water saved would fill 2 1/2 Olympic-size swimming pools in just a year…

Conservation strategies laid out in a document released this month could affect your water bill, your lawn or even your toilet. And utilities staff hope a wide range of methods will prepare the community for inevitable dry spells in a semi-arid region vulnerable to unpredictable climate patterns.

“My colleague likes to say, instead of one silver bullet, there’s lots of little silver BBs,” said Liesel Hans, water conservation program manager with Fort Collins Utilities. “There’s a lot of ways to fit our goal, and it doesn’t have to be a one size fits all.”

Utilities is seeking feedback on its water efficiency plan update through Jan. 15. After resident and City Council review, the department will start making changes on a rolling basis in the coming months and years.

There are some big goals in the plan update, including:

  • Requiring more efficient plumbing and irrigation fixtures for re-developed homes and businesses.
  • Changing water rates to encourage conservation.
  • Increasing use of the online “Monitor My Use” tool, which shows users how much water they’re using on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. This helps customers see what time of day they’re using the most, among other features.
  • Revamping and spreading the Xeriscape Incentive Program, which pays residents to re-do their lawns with plants that conserve water.
  • Offering more rebates to businesses that conserve water.
  • Providing more education to increase community water literacy.

The strategies and their timelines are purposely vague because the department wants to hear what people think of them before deciding which ones to implement. And the plan targets residential and business use because both make up gluttonous portions of the water-use pie: Businesses account for 39 percent of water use in the district; homes account for 47 percent.

Utilities will “look at a wide range of options” for changing rates, Hans said, which could include changing the fixed rate, the variable rates or both…

Graphs of Fort Collins Utilities’ water demand over time tell a gripping story. Demand increased steadily as more people and businesses moved in during the 1990s. By 2000, the city was using more than 200 gallons per person per day to meet an annual demand of more than 10 billion gallons. That level of demand would fill Horsetooth Reservoir in about five years.

Then came the 2002 drought. Some people, including then-Gov. Bill Owens, called it Colorado’s worst drought in 350 years.

Fort Collins saw about 9 inches of rain that year, about 6 inches less than normal.

The historic drought got the city thinking about water conservation, Hans said. It wasn’t long before the utilities department switched to a “conservation-oriented” rate structure, so people who use more water pay a higher rate.

That change and other conservation efforts have helped the department cut use per person and in total. In 2014, annual demand was about 7 billion gallons, a 30 percent reduction from 2000 demand even as the city’s population swelled by 25 percent.

But progress has plateaued, Hans said, so her department hopes new methods — and a goal more ambitious than the original 2030 target of 140 gallons per person each day — will help galvanize next-level conservation.

A lot of the strategies involve building on existing programs that identify water leaks in homes, show residents how to more efficiently water their lawns, set efficiency goals for businesses and teach children and adults why water conservation matters.

Conservation fans say the 2030 water use goal is made more achievable by what seems to be an ingrained value for many in Fort Collins.

“We live in a semi-arid desert,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Water Conservancy District — the agency that facilitates close to one-third of Fort Collins Utilities’ water supply.

“From Day 1, settlers realized you had to supplement what Mother Nature gave you if you wanted to grow crops. We were very conservation-oriented from the get-go.”

Julie Kallenberger, water education and outreach specialist for Colorado State University’s Water Center, added Colorado’s headwaters state status fosters more of a conservation-oriented mindset.

“Water becomes more of a topic because people understand how important it is,” she said. “I came here in ’02, and I immediately noticed it.”

Water efficiency plan

You can find the Fort Collins Utilities water efficiency plan at http://www.fcgov.com/utilities/residential/conserve/water-efficiency/water-efficiency-plan.