Snowpack news: Water providers are taking note

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Ute Water is one of the largest domestic water providers on the western slope supplying almost 80,000 people. Reservoirs like Ute Water’s Jerry Creek are where many communities across western Colorado get their drinking water. Ute Water’s reservoirs are currently above 80% of average capacity… Which will last us through the summer. However if next year turns out to be as dry as 2002 on the western slope, there are drought plans in place. “The city of Grand Junction, Ute Water, the town of Palisade and Clifton Water. If one of the four water providers is running low, all four providers initiate the drought response plan,” said Joe Burtard of Ute Water.

Steamboat Springs: Community Agriculture Alliance in partnership with the Yampa-White-Green River Basins Round Table and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are hosting a series of water forums

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From Steamboat Today (Marsha Daughenbaugh):

The first forum is titled “Water 101” and will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. March 12 in Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs. The format is designed to help familiarize us with water issues. Tom Gray, chairman of the Yampa-White-Green Round Table will clarify the purpose and history of the Round Table. Don Ament, former Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, will explain definitions and terms most often used in water discussions and give details regarding Colorado’s compact obligations to other states. Nicole Seltzer, executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, will present the winter 2010 edition of Headwaters Magazine, titled No Longer a Valley Too Far, and dedicated entirely to Northwest Colorado and our water users. Mike Sullivan, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Water Resources, will discuss Colorado’s water management water plans, augmentation, abandonment and the impacts of local hydrology and weather conditions on our abilities to fulfill our obligations. Lois Witte, senior counsel with the United States Forest Service, will explain USFS regulations and protection strategies that safeguard quantity and quality as water meanders through federally owned property. She also will address the potential impacts that the bark beetle infestation could have.

The second forum will be a tour on July 21 from Steamboat Springs to Craig for onsite visits to view the water uses in the Yampa Valley. The third forum will be Sept. 24 in Craig to discuss regional and state issues and projects. The final forum will be Nov. 5 in Hayden to learn about the Round Table studies and local projects.

If you pre-register and pre-pay, the cost is $15 per person or $50 for all four forums. If you register at the door, the cost is $20 per forum. College and high school students can attend for $5 per forum.

Sponsorship opportunities still are available for individuals and businesses.

To obtain more information or to register, call the Community Agriculture Alliance Office at 879-4370.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company faces off in court with the Dolores Water Conservancy District

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict/Steve Grazier):

MVIC filed a lawsuit June 5, 2009, against the Dolores Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for allegedly not meeting water requirements agreed to in 1977 contracts of the Dolores Project. “MVIC has lost the ability to exercise its full water rights because of actions taken by DWCD,” said MVIC Manager Jim Siscoe. “They are not allowing us to use our water right how we choose.” The lawsuit states that the district “improperly charged and assessed ‘delivery’ of Dolores Project water in the amount of 29,658 acre-feet despite (MVI’s) direct-flow rights in the Dolores River (that) have produced 100 percent of MVI’s demand.”[…]

The assertion on the part of MVIC is that 20 years of confusion regarding contract language has led to a misunderstanding on the part of DWCD’s board regarding the allocation of water from McPhee. The 1977 contracts of the Dolores Project charged DWCD, formed in 1961, with the task of accounting for water flows in and out of McPhee. District representatives disagree with MVIC’s claims that their accounting practices are faulty. “We have two major responsibilities,” said Mike Preston, DWCD manger. “We are responsible for seeing everyone gets their entitled share of project water – no more, no less. As a part of that responsibility, we have to account for every acre foot of water that comes into McPhee Reservoir and every acre foot that goes out of McPhee Reservoir.”

Water from McPhee is the lifeblood of Montezuma County. The reservoir supports 28,500 acres of full service irrigation land from Yellow Jacket to Dove Creek, served by DWCD, 7,600 acres of Ute Mountain Ute tribal lands, rural water users in Montezuma County, the fishery below the McPhee dam, and the municipalities of Dove Creek, Cortez and Towaoc, according to Preston.

MVIC was formed in 1920, and through individual shareholders it irrigates roughly 37,500 acres in the Montezuma Valley. In addition to water from the Dolores Project, MVIC holds historic Dolores River direct flow water rights. “Because we are a privately held company and we hold private property rights, we have in McPhee Reservoir two distinct buckets of water,” Siscoe said. “We have the largest direct flow water right in this basin. That water comes in and passes through McPhee.” In 1977 MVIC willingly surrendered half of its direct flow rights to aid in the creation of the reservoir. In exchange, the irrigation company was guaranteed use of storage water to fulfill its obligations…

In drought years, MVIC’s direct flow rights on the Dolores River superceed Dolores Project rights. In extremely dry years, such as 2002, MVIC’s pull from the river leaves little water for reservoir storage. The irrigation company claims that 10,000 acre-feet of water stored in McPhee has been seized by DWCD, leading to a potential loss of $60,000,000 for the company, according to Siscoe. “They have misinterpreted the contracts, they have usurped their authority over us,” Carver said. “Our shareholders never intended that to happen.” MVIC says the impacts of the disagreement were felt last year when their irrigation season was shortened. “Last year I had to curtail delivery of water to our shareholders as a direct result of the district’s actions,” Siscoe said. “It puts me in a terrible position because how do I explain to somebody that they have paid for their water but this company called DWCD won’t open the headgate to allow me to deliver it?”[…]

“You’ve got two water rights involved here,” Preston said. “One is MVIC’s direct flow water right, then you’ve got Dolores Project storage rights in McPhee. When the (Dolores) river is producing less water and there is irrigation demand they are entitled to a share of Dolores Project storage. “The crux of the lawsuit is that they want a change in the accounting rules that would give them more water out of storage than they are entitled to.”[…]

Settlement talks between the two organizations, mediated by a magistrate in Durango, broke down in December when MVIC decided to seek new representation. Shortly after that, the case was given to a magistrate in Grand Junction.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

Pagosa Springs: Free screening of the film Blue Gold on March 15

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From email from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District:

On Monday, March 15, PAWSD, the Southwest Organization for Sustainability and the Pagosa Brewing Company will co-sponsor a FREE movie at the Liberty Theater entitled “Blue Gold.” Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie begins at 7.

Blue Gold is a riveting and internationally-acclaimed documentary about the world wide socio-economic and political water crisis. This screening is co-sponsored by the Southwest Organization for Sustainability (SOS) and the Pagosa Brewing Company, with proceeds of beverage sales going towards SOS and the Pagosa Farmer’s Market. At this event, PAWSD will be giving away Whole House Water Conservation Kits. For more information on this film, including the trailer, click this link:

Coyote Gulch archive problems

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The redirect from the old archives domain ( to the new domain (http:// has not been working for several days. If you’re having problems with links to graphics or archive articles replace the period in between “radio” and “weblogs” in the URL with a dash, i.e.

The guardian angel for the archives is aware of the problem and is working on it.

This is the type of problem we face with the coming Digital Dark Age.

Moffat Collection System Project: Blue River Watershed Group to host forum March 9

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From email from the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

The Forum will be Tuesday, March 9th at 6:00pm at the Frisco Senior Center.They will have local speakers and a letter writing workshop for the public comment submissions (which are due March 16th). The whole event will be broadcast live on Mountain Public Radio. For a list of speakers and presenters and an agenda for the event, visit Summit County Water Forum.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.