CWCB: How to bridge the water gap

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Here’s a recap of the CWCB’s presentation last week to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Conservation, alternative ag transfers and new supply projects will all fit into the equation, but no single plan would meet all the needs, [Eric Hecox of the Colorado Water Conservation Board] said.

In conservation, the state water board is looking at the impacts of conserving 20 to 40 percent of the water used in cities in 2000. The problem has been in establishing a baseline, since most cities have not filed conservation plans with the state. Many cities restricted water use during the drought of 2002 and have continued to see lower per capita water use in the years since. While conservation is not seen as an effective strategy to meet future supply needs, it does reduce the demand side of the equation, Hecox said. The state is looking at several ways to decrease the pain of water transfers for rural communities. The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, a water marketing concept that keeps water rights in the hands of farmers by combining the resources on seven ditch systems, is in the forefront of these studies.

The CWCB has two separate studies looking at new supplies. One will evaluate water transfer projects from Flaming Gorge, the Yampa River and the Colorado River, as well as pipeline projects within the South Platte basin and from the Arkansas River basin to the South Platte. Hecox was careful to point out that the state is not endorsing any of the concepts, but is simply evaluating them. The IBCC and roundtables also have asked the CWCB to look at smaller projects. Earlier this month, the Arkansas, South Platte and Metro roundtables voted to ask the CWCB to also consider transfers from the Gunnison River basin. “With the smaller projects, you might have to have 10 to compare against one 250,000-acre foot project,” Hecox noted.

The second study, which will be completed in 2010, is looking at the amount of water in the Colorado River basin that is available for Colorado’s use under 1922 and 1948 interstate compacts. Colorado is entitled to develop between 445,000 and 1.4 million acre-feet, explained Randy Seaholm, who has been the CWCB’s point man on the Colorado River for years. While the state could be subject to a compact call from the downstream states – California, Arizona and Nevada – the known hydrology of the Colorado River supports development of the additional water with little risk.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.