Public Comment Period for CWCB Guidelines to Review and Evaluate Drought Mitigation Plans

A picture named spainsunflower.jpg

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

Proposed revisions to the CWCB’s Guidelines to Review and Evaluate Drought Mitigation Plans were presented to the CWCB Board at the May 2011Board meeting, and are now available for public comment beginning June 1, 2011. The public comment period will close at 5pm on June 30, 2011. The Guidelines are available for review on the CWCB website.

The Guidelines for the Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning (OWCDP) to Review and Evaluate Drought Mitigation Plans were last adopted in May 2005. Since that time, the OWCDP has developed extensive resources to assist in the development of local drought mitigation and response plans. These resources reflect the latest knowledge on drought planning and have been vetted with numerous entities and stakeholders representing geographically diverse water users throughout Colorado. The Municipal Drought Planning Guidance document, developed as part of the 2010 Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan, creates a clear and concise how-to-guide for drought planning that previously did not exist in Colorado.

The proposed changes to the Guidelines ensure that the tools and resources available for the entities to develop drought mitigation & response plans coincide with the Guidelines that will be used to review the plans once submitted to the CWCB for approval.

The revised Guidelines will be presented for approval at the July 12-13,2011 CWCB Board Meeting in Walden, CO.

More CWCB coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

A picture named utwycoprecipitationmay1thrumay282011

Here are the notes from this week’s webinar from the Colorado Climate Center.

Here’s an excerpt:

 precipitation. The
valleys received 

precipitation since


More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Montrose: ‘Gunnison State of the River’ meeting June 6

A picture named gunnisonriverbasin.jpg

From the Montrose Daily Press:

Streamflow conditions, reservoir operations and an exploration of the critical decisions facing the Gunnison River Basin and its tributaries will be discussed at the annual Gunnison State of the River meeting set for 7 p.m., Monday at the Holiday Inn Express, 1391 Townsend Ave. in Montrose.

The public meeting is an annual event of the Colorado River District and is presented as an opportunity for the public to learn about this year’s snow melt season and critical water supply issues for the long-term.

The keynote presentation will be a Gunnison Basin Roundtable discussion of “Looking Ahead Water-Wise: the Statewide Water Supply Investigation as It Relates to the Gunnison Basin.” The investigation looms large as the Gunnison Basin comes to terms with its own water supply needs and the fact that some in the state believe the basin has a role in solving statewide water challenges.

Additionally, Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District, will detail a historic proposed agreement in the Colorado Basin that balances the water supply and environmental needs of the West Slope against Denver Water’s quest for new water supply.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Runoff news: The monster snowpack is starting to come off, flood warnings issued around the state

A picture named floodwarningscolorado06012011

From Associated Press via the Columbus Republic:

The Colorado Flood Task Force meets Wednesday morning in Denver to exchange data and discuss ideas. Later in the day, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies will talk to northern Colorado residents in LaPorte about flooding.

Here’s the link to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s online applications Flood DSS. Here’s the link to the USGS’ Water Watch website where you can get a graphical view of all their gages across the state. Here’s the link to the Colorado Division of Water Resources Surface Water page where you can track your favorite gages.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

“Effects of the runoff are already being reported around [Summit County],” said Sheriff John Minor. “We’re seeing rising waters in those low-lying areas that typically experience springtime flooding, like the Lakeview Meadows and South Forty subdivisions.”[…]

“We haven’t seen these conditions since 1984, 1995 or 1996, all years where we saw significant flooding issues throughout the county,” said county emergency manager Joel Cochran. Just because your property hasn’t experienced flooding before, don’t automatically assume you’ll stay dry this year, Cochran said. As of Tuesday afternoon, some streams just north of Summit County were already at near-flood levels, with the Colorado River, Troublesome Creek, Muddy Creek and Willow Creek all flowing at, or just above, bank-full levels. “Considerable inundation of low-lying areas can be expected in and around Kremmling … and also along Troublsome, Muddy and Willow creeks,” the National Weather Service wrote in its May 31 flood advisory.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

A flood advisory is in effect until 9:30 tonight for much of the state northwest of Georgetown, as a snowpack two to three times its normal depth for this time of year faces its first sustained dose of spring weather…

Numerous waterways could flood by the weekend, including the Colorado, Yampa, Gunnison, Crystal, Elk, Little Snake and Illinois rivers, as well as Fortification, Troublesome, Muddy and Willow creeks. Several were already at or above their banks Tuesday, with more snowmelt on its way, the Weather Service said. The Colorado River near Kremmling was at 348 percent of its seasonal flow Tuesday, with a depth of more than 14 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Flood stage is 15 feet. Front Range and foothills rivers and streams were still running at or below normal Tuesday, including Clear Creek, which was at 76 percent of normal flow at just over 5 feet deep near Golden. Flood stage is 10 feet. In Steamboat Springs, homes and businesses along the Yampa River were seeing troublesome evidence Tuesday, as several driveways off U.S. 40 were already under a foot of water.

From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

The slow rush could begin today, with a high-mountain sun glaring down like a magnifying glass on a record snowpack that is more than 260 percent above normal; 80- and 90-degree temperatures are expected the rest of the week. Already this week, Poudre River flows are 50 percent higher than they were last week, topping out Monday at 1,220 cubic feet per second at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. By Tuesday morning, flows were at 1,150 cfs, which had dipped further to 1,000 by 5:30 p.m. From the canyon mouth in west Fort Collins, the water typically takes 12 hours to reach Greeley…

Last year, water escaped the banks of the Poudre — which traverses Greeley on its north side before a southward switchback moves it through east Greeley along 8th Street — at a high point of 4,770 cubic feet per second. Several areas along the Poudre flooded, from residences out west to businesses due east. The city closed streets and bridges throughout town. The county monitors flooding further east at the confluence of the Poudre and South Platte rivers…

But several factors could slow the tide. City and water officials throughout northern Colorado stand ready to divert water into Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins or irrigation ditches. The city of Greeley recently drained Poudre Ponds to make room for extra water.

From (Kelly Asmuth):

“…by the end of this week we’ll see the Colorado River at flood stage,” according to Mesa County Emergency Manager Andrew Martsolf. Currently, a flood advisory is out for the Colorado River near the Utah border…

The main areas of concern are Cameo and other Plateau Valley communities, Rosevale Road and parts of I-70 like near Skipper’s Island by mile marker 17…

There’s a wet ride ahead, as the Colorado River rushes into summer.

From (Ryan Budnick):

Lake Estes acts as a collection point for much of the snow pack melting in neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park. Also part of the Colorado River is also drawn into the lake as part of the Big Thompson project. Kara Lamb with the Bureau of Reclamation said 98 percent of the water in Lake Estes is collected from the Colorado River and sent to the east side of the Continental Divide via the Alva B. Adams Tunnel. Lamb said if runoff gets to be too much, they can close the tunnel to partially regulate how much water Lake Estes collects…

“Everybody was projecting an easy runoff last year,” Lamb said. “Every year is different. There is a ton of snow up there, and we don’t know how it is going to come down.” The Big Thompson River runs from Lake Estes downhill toward Loveland and Larimer County and eventually meets up with the South Platte River.

From (Tom Livingston):

There has been a lot of concern around flooding lately. The Bureau of Reclamation does not have the authority for flood control which means they’ll have to pass that water down the canyon, and with the anticipation of a record, or near record run off, that means a lot of water. “So we could see releases this year from the Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon upwards of 1100 cubic feet per second,” said Lamb…

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re thinking it’s about ready to pop, everywhere at once,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s going to really start rolling, especially toward the end of the week.”[…]

The flow of the Arkansas River at Parkdale, west of Canon City, climbed to 1,800 cubic feet per second on Tuesday and is at the seasonal average for the first time this year…

Ironically, the Southeastern corner of the state remains in severe to extreme drought, which has already prompted several counties to be listed as agricultural disaster areas and created an early, intense fire season.

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

The National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Pueblo reports expected warm temperatures over the next several days will produce high stream flows along the Arkansas River near Leadville because of above-average snowpack in the area. The latest forecasts from the River Forecast Center indicate the Arkansas River near Leadville may reach minor flood stage of seven feet by Saturday or Sunday. If the river reaches minor flood stage, considerable lowland flooding would occur…

The Colorado Water Conservation Board “Flood Threat Bulletin” also warns of an “appreciable uptick” in snowmelt and accelerating increases in streamflow during the next seven to 15 days.

The U.S. Natural Resources Center lists average snow depth in the Arkansas River basin at 95 percent of average but snow-water equivalent at 138 percent of average. At the Fremont Pass snow-telemetry weather station, snow depth remains at 66 inches with a snow-water equivalent of 25.5 inches…

For the latest forecasts and flood warnings, visit the National Weather Service in Pueblo at

Colorado Supremes uphold the Water Court Division One ruling in the FRICO case

A picture named barrlake.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

In a 77-page decision, Justice Gregory J. Hobbs emphasized that “in order to prevent an unlawful enlargement” of agricultural water rights the suburban provider had purchased, those water rights had to be limited to the 200 cubic feet per second historically diverted from the South Platte River and used for irrigation above Barr Lake…

In this case, the high court backed up a water-court decree that “contains appropriate conditions to prevent injury to other water rights resulting from the change of water rights,” Hobbs wrote.

The case arose from a 2003 deal between the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District (ECCV), the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Co. (Frico), Burlington Ditch Land and Reservoir Co., Henrylyn Irrigation District, and the United Water and Sanitation District. Under the deal, United was to acquire agricultural water from Burlington and Frico and then petition the water court to convert it for municipal use by ECCV’s suburban clients…

The case consolidated several disputes and resolved an appeal that followed a 16-day trial in 2008. The state water court had sharply reduced the historical “consumptive use” — used to calculate the amount of previously agricultural water that municipalities can use.

“Old decrees were imprecise. Measurement was imprecise. As the value of water increases, the challenge of finding just how much a person’s or district’s water right might have been in the past is very difficult,” said [University of Colorado Law School dean David Getches], a water-law expert and former director of natural resources for the state. “So the court has to take its doctrine of historical use and apply it with this kind of modern scrutiny that peels back the imprecision of old decrees and understandings and measurement facilities,” he said.

More coverage from The Associated Press via (Wayne Harrison):

On Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with a water court ruling that limited what could be considered the irrigation companies’ historical consumptive use of their water, which helps determine how much water can be converted to municipal use. The water court had said it was trying to protect against harm to other water rights…

The cities of Denver, Thornton, Brighton, Aurora and Englewood were among those with interests in the case.

Here’s the opinion from Leagle.

More water law coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson update: 400 cfs in the Big Thompson below Lake Estes

A picture named coloradobigthompsonmap.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

With the weather warming up, it looks like we might see more melting snow pack. However, we don’t have any major changes at Olympus Dam at this time. [Monday] afternoon, we scaled releases from the dam to the canyon back by 50 cfs and are currently only sending 400 cfs downstream. Maintaining that release actually dropped Lake Estes about a foot today. That gives a little space for regulating whatever inflow comes in later tonight.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The warm weather over the weekend bumped up activity on the west slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Inflows to Willow Creek picked up. As we continue to match outflow with inflow, releases from the dam were increased to around 1200 cfs. If the warm weather sticks around, we could see releases in that range for a while. We will do our best to keep releases from going over 1200 cfs through run-off by starting to store some water behind the dam, raising the water level elevation. In fact, the water level elevation at Willow Creek rose about a foot today, already. Currently, it’s at an elevation of 8099 feet.

Granby continues to release around 430 cfs. There was not much change in water level elevation at Granby. So far today it has only picked up about a tenth of a foot and is around 8253 feet.

The primary change was at Shadow Mountain, which releases to the Colorado River before it flows into Granby. With run-off starting to come down, there will be increased releases from Shadow Mountain Dam, both through the dam and over the spillway. In fact, I think we went over the spillway yesterday (Memorial Day). We got up to about a 1200 cfs release yesterday. We’ve since scaled back to about 500 cfs. But, if the warm weather continues, it could go up again as early as tonight.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.