Colorado Water Workshop: John Salazar — ‘Demand worldwide for food has outstripped supply’


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“As long as agricultural water is cheap and inexpensive, ag dry-up will continue, but it’s not good for agriculture, it’s not good for the state, and it’s sure as hell not good for the Western Slope,” Salazar told the Colorado Water Workshop.

The summer workshop, now in its 36th year, annually focuses attention on state water issues. This year’s three-day program at Western State College focuses on risk, opportunities and leadership, and about 150 participants are signed up.

Demand for agricultural products in Colorado increased 323 percent in the first quarter of 2011, Salazar said. “Agriculture is in the driver’s seat,” Salazar said. “Demand worldwide for food has outstripped supply.”[…]

“Much of the future electrical generation will happen in the Southwestern U.S. and will occur in areas already stressed by water demands,” said Tom Iseman, program director for water policy with the Western Governors Association. The group represents 19 states and is developing studies to understand the water needs of new energy development. “We have to consider the economic trade-offs of land and water transfers,” Iseman said…

“We are not generating enough young farmers,” [Pat O’Toole, president of the Family Farm Alliance] said. “How are we going to produce enough food with less farmers, less water and less farmland?”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We’re a nation that is frankly spoiled by food prices — less than 10 percent of income is spent on food,” Bill Trampe, a Gunnison rancher told the Colorado Water Forum on Thursday. “As food prices rise, it’s going to be interesting to see how consumers react. Will we save enough acres to provide food in the future?”[…]

Dan Henrichs, an Avondale rancher and superintendent of the High Line Canal, said water transfers already have devastated parts of the Arkansas Valley. “The Arkansas basin is the poster child of how not to do transfers,” Henrichs said. The answer is to keep agriculture healthy through temporary sales of water through leases rather than large-scale dry-ups…

He downplayed concerns about water leases drying up the valley, since there is not enough infrastructure to move most of it. At the same time, the price of water has increased because of past water sales and leases. Farmland on the High Line Canal is selling for $7,500 per acre, up from $3,000 an acre prior to the Aurora lease. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is paying $10,150 per share (which irrigates one acre) on the Bessemer Ditch…

The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, which would pool water rights on several canals to market to meet other water needs, is one of the potential solutions, and will launch a pilot program next year with a 500 acre-foot lease to El Paso County communities.

In the Colorado River basin, groups are looking at a water bank program that would curtail older water rights as a way to potentially meet a compact call, Trampe said.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Colorado College: State of the Rockies 2011 research focus topic is ‘The Colorado River: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability as if the Next Generation Counts’


An July 15, 2011 email from Rhiannon Hendrickson got buried in my inbox. She describes the students’ research topic this year. A thousand pardons. From her email:

I’m working with Colorado College to help promote its State of the Rockies project which seeks to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rockies. This year’s research focus topic is “The Colorado River: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability as if the Next Generation Counts.” I thought you might be interested to know that a group of Colorado College students are currently on a research road trip following the Colorado River from high in the Rockies down through the southwest. Stops along the route will include:

– Glenwood Springs, CO
– Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
– Moab, UT
– Canyonlands National Park
– Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam
– Grand Canyon National Park
– Las Vegas and Boulder City, NV
– Imperial Valley of California
– Yuma, AZ
– The Navajo Indian Reservation

The two-week trip wraps up on July 24. You may follow the student’s travels and progress on their blog, as well as on Facebook and YouTube. More information about the State of the Rockies Project can be found at


Check out this excerpt from Natalie Triedman’s post from Glen Canyon Dam:

As we descended hundreds of feet in the Glen Canyon Dam elevator, our knowledgeable tour guide led us through the history of the dam. Construction lasted only three years, in part due to the around the clock work regimen. While efficient, this construction approach was grueling, taking the lives of 18 workers. We were able to see one of the twelve enormous buckets that were used to carry an aggregate five million cubic yards of cement during construction.

After our initial elevator descent, our group travelled down even further in order to see the powerplant’s eight generators. Each generator produces 165 mega watts when the reservoir is near capacity. Annual output from hydroelectric power is about five billion kWh- enough to support the annual electrical needs of 400,000 houses. In addition to the turbines that are currently in use, we saw one that had been recently removed after logging 41 years so it could be replaced by a more efficient and durable design.

More education coverage here.

Mississippi River basin: Pat Mulroy (Southern Nevada Water Authority) pushes pipeline from the river to points west at National Conference of Chambers of Commerce


From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

Mulroy was one of the featured speakers during the organization’s conference at Mandalay Bay. She told attendees that the nation will need to pursue large, cooperative solutions to the problems posed by population growth and climate change…

Under Mulroy’s vision, floodwaters from the Mississippi and its western tributaries would be captured and diverted to irrigate crops as far away as Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Those agricultural areas could then be taken off the Colorado River system, leaving enough water for Las Vegas and other growing Western cities well into the future.

About 350 million acre-feet of water a year runs down the main stem of the Mississippi River when it isn’t flooding. That’s roughly 25 times more water than the Colorado River carries in an average year.

Mississippi floodwater also could be diverted to the Central Plains to recharge the massive Ogallala Aquifer, which covers about 174,000 square miles from Texas to South Dakota…

Las Vegas-based consultant Tom Skancke said water is a national issue that requires a national solution. “We’ve got to start breaking down these walls that are keeping us from protecting our country and our children’s future,” he said.

As it stands now, the United States has no cohesive water policy. Water issues are managed by a patchwork of disparate federal agencies and fought over by state and local entities in disputes as old as the Wild West, Mulroy said. If the nation’s interstate highway system were built the same way as its water infrastructure, “you couldn’t leave one state and travel to another state. It would stop at the border,” she said.

Wednesday’s panel discussion was held as part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Invest in Water” initiative. The event and others like it will be used to help the organization develop a policy position on water and urge lawmakers to act on it.

More pipeline from the Mississippi coverage here.

Rio Grande River basin: Revised runoff numbers trigger 22% and 46% curtailments on the Rio Grande and Conejos rivers repectively


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The adjustment, which came in part because of a high-elevation snowpack that eluded runoff forecasts, means irrigation ditches on the Rio Grande and Conejos rivers will face increased curtailments. Between now and October, the state will have to send 24,000 acre-feet downstream on the Rio Grande and another 17,000 acre-feet will have to come from the Conejos, Division Engineer Craig Cotten said Tuesday. Irrigation ditches on the Rio Grande will face a 22 percent curtailment, a 16 percent increase from June 1. Ditches on the Conejos will have a 46 percent curtailment, up from 13 percent June 1.

This year differed from the prior two runoff seasons when stream flows fell sharply after peak runoff occurred. “It started dropping at about the time that we anticipated it dropping but it didn’t drop nearly as fast,” Cotten said…

While this year’s runoff remained below average, water managers were expecting even less water in the stream system and a smaller compact requirement. State water officials typically base their runoff on a number of factors, including the 10 snow gauges the Natural Resources Conservation Service has set up in the mountains above the Conejos and Rio Grande. This year’s snowpack included heavy pockets at elevations above those gauges, Cotten said.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap: The board approves dropping challenges to Aurora’s 2007 deal for excess capacity storage in Lake Pueblo


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A new agreement that removes Aurora’s connection with federal legislation that would look at enlarging Lake Pueblo was approved Wednesday by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The Aurora City Council would have to approve the agreement to put it into place. The agreement would end any further attempts by the Lower Ark district to challenge Aurora’s 2007 contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. the district sued Reclamation in federal court shortly after the contract was awarded…

Under the new agreement with the Lower Ark district, Aurora would support federal legislation to enlarge Turquoise Lake and Lake Pueblo without its previous insistence on including provisions that allow Aurora to use Fry-Ark facilities. The new agreement also would require Aurora to support using its payments on the contract to help fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.