From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
“Is there a way for the state to encourage private investment in water infrastructure, such as the Million project,” Bob Trout, senior partner in Trout, Raley, Montano, Witwer & Freeman, asked state lawmakers at the Colorado Water Congress summer conference. Trout said the water community and Colorado water law are hostile toward public-private partnerships…
While public water providers want certainty, they also don’t want competition from private developers. “They want ownership, but for hugely expensive projects, ownership might not be an option,” Trout said. “In addition, Colorado water law is antithetical to private water development.”
Prior appropriation, anti-speculation and interstate compacts make it difficult to approve and permit private projects, Trout said. For instance, Aaron Million’s proposal to move water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado triggered discussions about the availability of water under the Colorado River Compact and worries about speculation in the federal permit process.
Public water providers say they need certainty and have to keep water rates low. “We’re not opposed to public-private projects, but we need to maintain control of the supply to consumers,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. “For us, failure is not an option.”[…]
“We have to have certainty that a private project will provide the water, but the question is how do you structure it to guarantee that certainty?” said Bruce McCormick, Colorado Springs Utilities chief of water services. “We’re responsible to our ratepayers, not stockholders.”[…]
“The most important thing the Legislature can do is stay the hell out of the road so you can have those public-private partnerships,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “More than 100 years ago, Sterling Reservoir was built in two years with horses and wagons. It takes more time than that today to get the paperwork out of the way.”
Travis Smith, a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Interbasin Compact Committee, said it is time for the state to support water projects, whether public or private. There may be a role for private development. “Through the IBCC, we’re looking at the question, ‘Does the state have a role in supporting and facilitating water projects?’ ” Smith said. “We have to look at whether the state takes a permissive view of private water projects or a prohibitive view.”
More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
“What I was surprised about when I looked at these new quote-unquote normals is they really haven’t changed very much,” [State Climatologist Nolan Doesken] said Thursday in a presentation to the Colorado Water Congress. Climatologists calibrate normal temperatures every 10 years, based temperatures over the last 30 years. So by the end of this year, the “normal” data will kick out the 1970s and introduce the warm 2000s.
Temperatures at a weather station in Mesa Verde National Park are on track to rise 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the new period – in line with most of the rest of the state, according to Doesken’s data about the last 29 years. But compared to the 1951 to 1980 period, temperatures at the Mesa Verde station have fallen 1.3 degrees. Most of the other weather stations in Colorado show slight temperature increases over the same time frames. Doesken knows his numbers don’t match up with the perception of a rapidly warming planet. He watches data gathered at weather stations, while projections of global warming are made through computer models that attempt to predict the future, he said. Despite the models of warmer future weather, he has not seen drastic warming so far in Colorado. “You’ve got to be thinking beyond that to plan for the future, but the current data are showing pretty small changes so far. But it leans in the warm direction,” Doesken said in an interview.
The heat in the 2000s is masked in Doesken’s data, he said, because the two 30-year periods he was comparing overlap by two decades…
The weather created dramatic changes this spring, said Mike Gillespie, who oversees the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s network of snow gauges. The El Niño weather pattern kept Southwest Colorado cool and flush with snow through most of the winter, while northern river basins teetered on the edge of drought, he said. The San Juan River Basin, which drains most of Southwest Colorado, reached its peak snowpack on April 4, when it was exactly 100 percent of the long-term average. Then El Niño left in April, and the storm track shifted north. Suddenly the parched northern part of the state was getting snow, while the south saw rapid melting.
More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:
[Dan Maes and John Hickenlooper] made separate appearances at the group of savvy water lawyers and engineers Thursday and Friday.
Maes, the Republican, went first. He admitted that he has a lot to learn about water, and he invited input from the group. “I have a pretty simple policy on water so far: If it starts in Colorado, it’s our water,” Maes said. He would support new reservoirs to keep Colorado water in state. He also played to Western Slope sentiments about Front Range water grabs. “There is not a head of cattle or a field of crops that will want for water because of a green yard in Denver on my watch, I promise you that,” said Maes, who lives in Evergreen, about 20 minutes west of Denver.
Hickenlooper, the Democratic Denver mayor, said he would help everyone in the state cooperate on water by applying the same skills that helped him rebuild Denver’s adversarial relationships with its suburbs. He tells Denverites who think the city’s senior water rights should give them plentiful, cheap water to think again. “In the end, maybe it’s not Denver’s water. Maybe it’s all of our water,” Hickenlooper said. “Part of what makes Denver Denver is the fact that we are in Colorado.” He pointed proudly to Denver Water’s conservation rate of nearly 20 percent since the 2002 drought. Hickenlooper would not commit to supporting large new reservoirs because public opinion is so divided on what to do about the water supply. “I think right now, the basic level of public sentiment is so fractured that we’re almost not in a position to make reliable decisions,” he said.
More Colorado Water coverage here.