South Platte Forum (October 19-20): Tom Cech to receive the ‘Friends of the South Platte Award’

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Here’s the release from the forum organizers via the Sterling Journal Advocate:

The 22nd annual South Platte River Forum will be held Wednesday, Oct. 19, and Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Plaza Conference Center, 1900 Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont.

The forum, “Making River Music,” will examine issues such as lower basin groundwater, water economics, energy and its relation to water use, water conservation and water transfers in the South Platte basin. The forum strives to provide an avenue for a timely, multidisciplinary exchange of information and ideas important to resource management in the basin.

Day one of the forum will include an update by John Stulp, water adviser to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, followed by a panel focused on results of the statewide water supply inventory. The keynote luncheon on Oct. 19 will be “A View from Around the State: Global Negotiations,” by Jim Lochhead of Denver Water. The Friends of the South Platte Award will be presented to Tom Cech, former executive director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District.
The afternoon will include a session on economics, which will include discussion on how to finance Colorado’s water future and align it with the values of the population.

Day two of the forum includes several presentations on water conservation. The keynote speaker on Thursday will be Bill Ritter from CSU’s Center for New Energy Economy. The afternoon will focus on different sources of energy from within the South Platte Basin and include discussions on oil and gas exploration, hydraulic fracturing as well as hydropower.

The South Platte River begins high in the Colorado mountains near Fairplay. It flows through Denver and continues eastward into Nebraska, joining the North Platte River near the town of North Platte, Neb.

The South Platte Forum is sponsored by Tetra Tech, Colorado State University Extension, Aurora Water, Denver Water, Northern Water, Parker Water and Sanitation District, St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, Colorado Water Institute, Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Deere and Ault Consultants, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey.

Registration is available at the door for $115 per person. For a schedule of events, visit southplatteforum.org or contact Jennifer Brown at (402) 960-3670 or Jennifer@jjbrown.com.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Neil Grigg: ‘Must we be so conflicted that our decisions are made by federal officials, which was the case when the Two Forks project was vetoed?’

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CSU professor, Neil Grigg, has penned a guest column about the potential solutions to Colorado’s future water supply gap for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado will need much more water to prosper in the future…

What kind of management system will be best? First-in-time, first-in-right will stay with us, but what else is needed to provide the water while protecting our great environment? Must we be so conflicted that our decisions are made by federal officials, which was the case when the Two Forks project was vetoed?[…]

When flexibility can be added to water systems, innovative schemes to change water uses to meet needs come out of the woodwork. Cities, special districts, irrigators, and private businesses are involved in these schemes. They involve public institutions but they also involve private parties and resemble the public-private partnerships (PPPs) that are popular around the world. A PPP is an arrangement where private sector interests can be offered an attractive opportunity to partner with the government to meet a public need…

All kinds of PPP are available for water issues. They range from outright purchases like privatization of facilities to small-scale cooperative projects such as a utility contracting out part of its maintenance to a private company. The PPP that is most unique to Colorado is commodity water, or water that can be bought, sold, and traded as needed. Colorado’s system of water rights makes it hard to do this, but this flexibility is what we need. More flexible management of water helps it to move to its highest-valued uses. Highest-valued means from society’s point of view, not only when someone can pay high prices for this precious resource…

What is required is a good way to trade water — both long-term water rights and short-term uses of surplus water. There is no way to avoid government regulation because environmental needs, and what some call the water commons, require water but there is no identified paying customer.

Meanwhile, here’s a column about Colorado’s future water needs from Jeff Evans writing for the Grand Junction Free Press. Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado water shortages in the future are expected to occur due to increasing pressure and demands from four primary areas of use: population and municipal growth, recreation and the environment, agriculture, and the energy sector. Estimating future demands in all of these areas is difficult at best. Adding to these uncertainties are drought and climate change, and competition with downstream states.

Colorado is considered a headwater state with snow and rain generated in the mountains flowing to large areas of downstream use. The Colorado River belongs to seven states. The 1922 River Compact allocated a portion of available water to Colorado. Historically, 85% to 95% of the states’ water consumption has gone to agriculture use. With Colorado population expected to double by 2050, municipal demands alone are going to increase dramatically, shifting water use to cities and the businesses that support them.

Tourism, a vital component of our economy, also requires water for its future. And it’s not just river and snow sports at issue. The hunting and fishing industry brings in more than $10 billion annually to the state. All these sectors require plentiful surface water with clean, undisturbed lakes and watersheds. How can we protect the viability of our lakes, streams, and rivers? This will become a serious issue in the decades to come.

What will happen to our water supply due to climate uncertainty? A warming climate doesn’t necessarily mean less water, but it does mean that more water will be consumed. As temperatures rise, both plants and humans will require more water. Crops will need more water, too. For the agricultural sector on the Western Slope, decisions will have to be made about the importance of protecting this resource.

Agriculture not only produces essential foods, but provides stewardship of our wild, rural areas. It is an integral part of protecting our natural resources. Agricultural lands support the largest share of our wildlife in open spaces of well-irrigated fields and become habitat for animals and creatures of all kinds.

In the energy sector, oil and gas development each requires high water usage. The Department of Energy estimates that development of western oil shale resources will require significant amounts of water, from 1 to 3 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced. At 2.5 million barrels per day production, this results in water use of 105 to 315 million gallons of water consumption per day (42 gallons per barrel).

More water law coverage here.

Results of a $42,000 study of Upper Arkansas River streamflows show the need for increased communication and more storage

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Those conclusions are the result of a $42,000 study of the Upper Arkansas River by Paul Flack, a former hydrologist for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation area, who was contracted last year under a grant sponsored by the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Flack shared some conclusions of his study Wednesday with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, saying there is a need for all of the users who are concerned about flows in the upper basin to get together to reach solutions. In addition, about 20,000 acre-feet of new reservoir storage is needed to meet all the needs.

The Upper Arkansas has, for years, become a complicated operation as water users have tried to balance releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes and levels in Lake Pueblo with flows for recreation and fish.

Flows also have to be kept in check below Turquoise in the Lake Fork watershed to avoid disturbing old mine tailings that could leach heavy metals into the Arkansas River…

Chaffee County recreational in-channel diversion rights, which support boat courses in Buena Vista and Salida, are problematic because they depend on other river operations…

Flows in the river to meet the needs of fish, a component of a 20-year-old voluntary flow agreement among several agencies, could be a potential source of conflict. “The fishing flow can be in opposition to the needs of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” Flack said.

At Lake Pueblo, Flack looked at the possibility of changing the timing of spring releases for if-and-when or winter water storage accounts. “There could be significant water savings, up to thousands of acre-feet,” he said. “But, there would be a ripple effect upstream.”[…]

Adding 20,000 acre-feet of storage is needed to smoothly operate the increasingly complex river system. Planning should involve those affected, and not just with phone calls to Reclamation in an emergency, Flack said.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.