Northern Integrated Supply Project: A Save the Poudre report submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the project will have a deleterious effect on irrigated farmland in the basin

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Save The Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper — a loud critic of the dam proposal — is asking the Army Corps to review the report as it considers a go-ahead permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, also known as NISP…

The report, “Farm Facts About NISP,” claims the project would cause a host of problems for about 123,000 acres of Colorado farm land. It would speed up the buy up and subdivision of irrigated farms in northern Colorado, accelerate salinization of productive crop lands, end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact many existing water users and submerge and divide productive agriculture land, the report says. Also, the report says, the initial fill of 100,000-acre feet and the ongoing diversions into Glade and Galeton Reservoir are likely to come from agriculture water from northern Colorado and the Western Slope…

NISP is backed by 14 northern Colorado water providers, who see the project as the best way to preserve water for Colorado farmland, Werner said. “Why else would the Farm Bureau and various ditch companies, support NISP?” Werner asked. “We’re pretty confident this project can stand on its own.”

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

In its filing, the Fort Collins group said that if NISP is built, it would harm about 123,000 acres of agricultural land, or about one-sixth of all the irrigated land in northern Colorado. In addition, the group claims the project would accelerate the buy-up of farms for subdivision development; would accelerate salinization of productive crop lands; would end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact existing water users; would submerge and divide productive agricultural land; and that the initial filling of the two reservoirs and on-going diversions into the two would likely come from northern Colorado and Western Slope farm water.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Interior Releases Report Highlighting Impacts of Climate Change to Western Water Resources

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Department of Interior (Kendra Barkoff/Dan DuBray):

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released a report that assesses climate change risks and how these risks could impact water operations, hydropower, flood control, and fish and wildlife in the western United States. The report to Congress, prepared by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, represents the first consistent and coordinated assessment of risks to future water supplies across eight major Reclamation river basins, including the Colorado, Rio Grande and Missouri river basins.

“Water is the lifeblood of our communities, rural and urban economies, and our environment,” said Secretary Salazar, “and small changes in water supplies or the timing of precipitation can have a big impact on all of us. This report provides the foundation for understanding the long-term impacts of climate change on Western water supplies and will help us identify and implement appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies for sustainable water resource management.”

The report, which responds to requirements under the SECURE Water Act of 2009, shows several increased risks to western United States water resources during the 21st century. Specific projections include:

– a temperature increase of 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit;
– a precipitation increase over the northwestern and north-central portions of the western United States and a decrease over the southwestern and south-central areas;
– a decrease for almost all of the April 1st snowpack, a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin runoff; and
– an 8 to 20 percent decrease in average annual stream flow in several river basins, including the Colorado, the Rio Grande, and the San Joaquin.

The report notes that projected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to impact the timing and quantity of stream flows in all western basins, which could impact water available to farms and cities, hydropower generation, fish and wildlife, and other uses such as recreation.

“Impacts to water are on the leading edge of global climate change, and these changes pose a significant challenge and risk to adequate water supplies, which are critical for the health, economy, and ecology of the United States,” added Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor.
Reclamation is already working with stakeholders across the West to achieve a sustainable water strategy to meet our nation’s water needs. Through the WaterSMART Basin Studies Program, Reclamation is developing and evaluating options for meeting future water demands in river basins where water supply and demand imbalances exist or are projected.

Reclamation is also continuing to implement actions to mitigate and adapt to changing climate. For example, at Hoover Dam, new wide head range turbines are being installed that will allow more efficient power generation over a wider range of lake levels than existing turbines. In addition, through the WaterSMART program, Reclamation continues to work with water users across the West to implement conservation and recycling measures and promote the efficient use of finite water resources. The Department of the Interior has also established Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and Climate Science Centers to help assess vulnerabilities to the natural and cultural resources management by the Department, and spearhead activities to adapt to the stresses of climate change.

“The WaterSMART program provides a strong foundation for the Department’s efforts to improve water conservation and help water-resource managers make sound decisions about water use,” said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science, Anne Castle. “As climate change adds to the challenges we face in managing our water supply, meaningful engagement between the River Basin states and the Department of the Interior will continue to be essential.”

To develop the report, Reclamation used original research and a literature synthesis of existing peer-reviewed studies. Projections of future temperature and precipitation are based on multiple climate models and various projections of future greenhouse gas emissions, technological advancements, and global population estimates. Reclamation will develop future reports to Congress under the authorities of the SECURE Water Act that will build upon the level of information currently available and the rapidly developing science to address how changes in supply and demands will impact water management.

The Bureau of Reclamation is the largest wholesaler of water in the country, providing water to more than 31 million people and to one out of five Western farmers for irrigation of more than 10 million acres of farmland. Reclamation is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the western United States with 58 power plants generating nearly a billion dollars in power revenues and producing enough electricity to serve 3.5 million homes.

The SECURE Water Act Report, with fact sheets highlighting climate challenges and impacts in the eight western river basins, is available online at

More information about Reclamation’s WaterSMART program is available at

More coverage from John Flesher writing for the Associated Press. From the article:

A report released Monday by the Interior Department said annual flows in three prominent river basins — the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin — could decline by as much 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades. The three rivers provide water to eight states, from Wyoming to Texas and California, as well as to parts of Mexico.

The declining water supply comes as the West and Southwest, already among the fastest-growing parts of the country, continue to gain population.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called water the region’s “lifeblood” and said small changes in snowpack and rainfall levels could have a major effect on tens of millions of people.

The report will help officials understand the long-term effects of climate change on Western water supplies, Salazar said, and will be the foundation for efforts to develop strategies for sustainable water resource management.

More coverage from the Huffington Post. From the article:

Meant to assess the risks of climate change, the report noted that fluctuations in temperature and precipitation are expected to cause significant changes in the future. Among the projections are temperature increases between 5 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and a decrease in snowpack. [Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar] said the report is meant to provide the starting blocks for strategies geared toward sustainable water resource management.

More coverage from Amy Joi O’Donoghue writing for the Deseret News. From the article:

…warmer conditions may result in more stresses to fisheries and specific aquatic species and facilitate an acceleration in the growth of non-native or invasive species. Such warming would also pose substantial risks to farmers because reservoirs would be subject to “significant” evaporation, decreasing water supplies to farm fields and pasture lands…

Salazar said the water report will serve as a blueprint for Colorado River water users on steps that need to be taken in light of changing climates and increased demands.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The report consolidates previous studies on Western water in eight major basins, including the Colorado River, Rio Grande and Missouri River basins that affect Colorado. The Arkansas River basin was not included. The report does not provide solutions to future water woes, but lays a foundation to build on, Salazar said. “This report provides the foundation for understanding the long-term impacts of climate change on Western water supplies and will help us identify and implement appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies for sustainable water resource management,” he said…

Colorado water groups are struggling with how much more water can be developed under the Colorado River Compact, with estimates ranging from none to 900,000 acre-feet. Climate change throws in curves both on the demand side — growing seasons will be longer — and the supply side of the equation. For the South Platte, which flows into the Missouri River, projections show a 10 to 12 percent drop in river flows, despite an overall increase in moisture throughout the larger Missouri watershed. The South Platte is the most densely populated region within the watershed, particularly in the Denver metro area, although it is relatively close to the headwaters in Colorado.

The good news for the Colorado River basin is that water storage projects have been designed to deal with the historically wide variability of flows. The Colorado River has a higher proportion of storage to flows than other rivers included in the study.

More Reclamation coverage here.

Denver Water: Announcement of historic proposed agreement for cooperative water management and supply

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Here’s the announcement from Denver Water (Lori Peck/Stacy Chesney):

Governor Hickenlooper to stand with Colorado water leaders: Announcement of historic proposed agreement for cooperative water management and supply

WHO: Governor John Hickenlooper
Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District, General Manager
Jim Lochhead, Denver Water, CEO/Manager
James Newberry, Grand County, Commissioner
Thomas Davidson, Summit County, Commissioner
Glenn Porzak, Attorney, Eagle County water agencies and ski industry
Keith Lambert, Middle River, Mayor of Rifle

WHAT: Leaders from Denver Water and the West Slope will give details of a proposed, unprecedented agreement that addresses water supply challenges for Denver Water and the greater metropolitan area, as well as water supply and environmental needs on Colorado’s West Slope. The proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement is the result of five years of “global negotiations.”

WHEN: Thursday, April 28, 2011, 9 a.m.

WHERE: Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Broad Axe Barn
3530 County Road 83
Tabernash, CO 80478



Editor’s Note: Members of the news media are asked to bring their press credentials.

Additional Information: Media packets will be provided at the event.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

The Denver Post calls out the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority on their $153 million ‘Flow Project’ reservoir

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From The Denver Post (Karen Crummy):

Gary Atkin, the general manager of the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, also said ACWWA has not yet put together design plans or cost estimates on how and where the water will leave the [planned new] reservoir and be delivered…

The reservoir, under construction at South Chambers Road and E-470 in Douglas County, is a component of the ACWWA Flow Project, a $153 million renewable water and infrastructure endeavor…

A review of the reservoir planning process by The Denver Post found:

• ACWWA never formally studied the need for the reservoir. Atkin said an “initial needs analysis was done through the Cherry Creek Project Water Authority,” of which ACWWA is one of four members. Susan St. Vincent of the Cherry Creek project said she could not find anything in its files that resembled a needs analysis.

Her group, she said, has reviewed building or using existing reservoirs to provide each member with a percentage of storage space. In 2007, it looked at constructing one at the Chambers site but dismissed it because it was too expensive. The cost estimate was more than what ACWWA paid, according to records.

• ACWWA doesn’t have any records showing a comparison of its reservoir to Rueter-Hess reservoir a few miles south in Parker. ACWWA is paying $10,000 an acre-foot for storage, according to its contract, while Rueter-Hess is $5,500 an acre- foot, said Frank Jaegar, district manager for Parker Water & Sanitation District.

Atkin told The Post in an e-mail that during ACWWA’s “review and comparison of Chambers to RH we discovered that the price of constructing lines to RH, the additional evaporative loss due to the larger footprint at RH, and the advantage of ownership and complete operational flexibility, made the decision for a vessel such as Chambers a good one.” When asked to provide documentation of the review, Atkin said he “could find no documents in ACWWA’s possession.”

• Robert Lembke, head of United, appears to have done well on the deal. In addition to the contract with ACWWA, Lembke’s private company, Chambers Reservoir Equities LLC, which he says is an “enterprise” of United, has contracted to receive $2 million from another company for the dirt dug up for the reservoir…

• ACWWA does not have a plan regarding how the water will leave Chambers reservoir and where it will be delivered. ACWWA has also not conducted any cost estimates for this, Atkin said when asked by The Post.

• ACWWA hasn’t determined what water is going into the reservoir. Some of it is expected to come from junior water rights on the Cherry Creek, Atkin said.

Water from the South Platte River (part of the flow project) may also be stored after being treated to drinking-water standards, he said. Water experts say it’s typical that raw water is stored in open reservoirs, and it’s unusual to spend money on treating and piping in water that will only get dirty again…

Atkin also said he expects many details about the reservoir to be dealt with in the master plan. And, he said, one reason not to use Rueter-Hess was because of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirement that the agency review renewable sources of water stored in Rueter-Hess to determine the impacts of transferring and storing it.

More Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority coverage here.

Crystal River: The Colorado River District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District both approve abandonment of some storage rights

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From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The decision takes away the long-simmering prospect, however thin, that two Ruedi-sized dams would be built on the Crystal River, including the 129,000-acre-foot Osgood Reservoir, which would have put Redstone underwater. “It was not economical, it wasn’t politically feasible, and there certainly was not institutional or local support for such a project,” Chris Treese, the external affairs director for the Colorado River District, said about the Osgood Reservoir. “There is no support for, or frankly, desire by the staff or the River District board to flood the town of Redstone.”

The decision to walk away from most of the conditional water rights tied to what’s called the West Divide Project was good news to Bill Jochems, a Redstone resident who has called for the rights to be abandoned as a member of the Crystal River Caucus, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Agency and the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board. “The Osgood Reservoir seemed so outlandish that I don’t think it was a real palpable fear, yet there was always this possibility that future conditions might change enough so that someday it might be economic and might actually happen, so there was that haunting prospect,” Jochems said.

The decision by the two districts, however, may increase the likelihood that a more feasible — and less threatening — small reservoir gets built someday on the upper Crystal River at Placita, the site of an old coal mine at the bottom of McClure Pass. The districts voted to reduce the size of a potential Placita reservoir from 62,000 acre-feet to a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir, which is about a quarter of the size of the 16,000-acre-foot Paonia Reservoir on the other side of McClure Pass…

But members of the West Divide Water Conservancy District board said the day may come when residents of the Crystal River Valley see a small reservoir at Placita as a benefit, as it could store water in the spring and release it in the fall when the lower Crystal is nearly dried up from heavy irrigation diversions above Carbondale…

And another West Divide board member, Dan Harrison, pointed out that the districts do plan on maintaining the water rights for a hydropower facility at the smaller Placita Reservoir. The plant would be powered by 150 cubic feet of water per second, which is nearly three times the amount of water proposed for a new hydropower facility in Aspen. “The uses there could include supplementing the flows in the river, depending on what the future brings, and also help with the electric power generation up there,” Harrison said. “All those things would be dependent on how the area grows and the character of the area.”[…]

The decision by the water districts would also allow for another potential small dam in the Crystal River watershed, as the districts plan to retain the right to build a 5,000-acre-foot reservoir on Yank Creek, which is off of Thompson Creek, which in turn flows into the Crystal above Carbondale. The original Yank Creek Reservoir was planned to hold 13,700 acre-feet of water.

Another significant result of the boards’ decisions is that water from the Crystal River likely will never be diverted and transported to the dry mesas south of Silt and Rifle, a scheme that was first registered with the state water engineer in 1909.

More Crystal River watershed coverage here and here.

The drought across the eastern Colorado plains is particularly acute in Baca County

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’d take hail just for the moisture,” [joked one farmer].

The last steady rain was in August 2010, and there are broad consequences for a county that has seen more than its share of droughts. Agriculture will take the biggest hit, with 500,000 acres and thousands of cattle at risk. There have been nearly a dozen major fires, with a couple of homes destroyed…

One of the consequences of drought could be to close federal grazing leases on the Comanche grasslands, which will be evaluated according to the conditions on a case-by-case basis. The county commissioners are studying whether to ask for disaster relief, which could open Conservation Reserve Program ground to grazing…

Joe Rosengrants, 76, still helps his sons with farming, but his “hobby” is Sand Arroyo Energy, which markets wind turbines and solar panels. He decided he couldn’t beat the sun and wind, so joined them. While excavating the site of a wind charger recently, he found no sub-moisture 3 to 5 feet deep, where it normally would be encountered. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it any drier. It’s not as nasty as I’ve seen, but the farming methods have improved so much,” Rosengrants said. “We used to have storms where you couldn’t even see the hood ornament on your car, back when cars had hood ornaments.”[…]

Another major improvement came with high-production irrigation wells in the 1960s. “Most the wells are in the Ogallala Aquifer, which is dropping by about 2 feet per year,” said Commissioner Peter Dawson. It’s expensive to drill deeper, so some wells have been abandoned or farmers make do with less. “A well that was pumping 800 gallons per minute 30 years ago, might be just 150 to 200 gpm today. On the other hand, irrigation practices have improved so much.” At first, furrow irrigation was widely used, but more have switched to center pivots, with heads that drop closer to the ground. Some farmers are using drip irrigation.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.