Denver: Water Marketing –The Essentials of Buying and Selling Water Rights December, 8-9

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From email from the CLE International:

The conference promises to keep participants current on issues surrounding the buying and selling of water rights in Colorado. The conference will be at the Grand Hyatt in Denver. Download the conference brochure or visit CLE International for more information or to register.

More water law coverage here.

CSU to present six week non-credit adult education course — ‘Whiskey’s For Drinking; Water is for Fighting: The Social Organization of Water in Colorado’, starting October 26

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From email from Colorado State University:

The non-credit adult education water organization course at CSU addresses how a succession of conflicts were each resolved by self governing organizations: On the irrigation ditches (mutual companies, irrigation districts); among ditches on the rivers (State Engineers Office); how supplemental supplies were organized via water exchanges; trans-mountain imports (mutuals and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District); groundwater use (4 varieties of augmentation organization); incorporation of a federal endangered species agenda (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the U.S. Department of Interior); and finally, the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) will be reviewed along with alternatives. Find more information here.

The Save the Colorado River Fund donates $170,000 for restoration efforts in 2011

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Here’s the release from Save the Colorado (be careful clicking on the link at work):

For the second year, the Save the Colorado River Campaign Fund has made donations to 15 environmental groups up and down the basin – from Denver to Las Vegas to San Diego – to help protect and restore the Colorado River. This year’s funding mostly focuses on efforts to promote and enhance water conservation in municipalities throughout the basin. The river’s water supplies are being stretched thin, and the river itself has been stretched beyond the breaking point – although 2011 was a historic year for the amount of runoff in the basin, the Colorado River’s 5 trillion gallons of water were once again drained completely out and never reached the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. (Here’s a photo of the bone dry Colorado River Delta where it no longer meets the Sea.)

“Everyone in the Colorado River basin needs to conserve more water,” said Gary Wockner, Coordinator for the Save the Colorado River Campaign. “These environmental groups are doing an excellent job at educating the public and policymakers about the need for more water conservation so that people and businesses, as well as the river itself, can thrive in the future.”

Environmental groups that received grants included the groups below in the geographic area noted:

– Bonneville Environmental Foundation (Basin-wide)
– Aspen Global Change Institute/Pete McBride (Basin-wide)
– Citizens for Dixie’s Future (Southern Utah)
– Colorado Environmental Coalition (Colorado)
– Living Rivers (Moab, Utah)
– Great Basin Water Network (Las Vegas, Nevada)
– San Diego Coastkeeper (San Diego, California)
– Sonoran Institute (Colorado River Delta/Mexico)
– Earthjustice (Basin-wide)
– Sheep Mountain Alliance (Southwest Colorado)
– Gila Conservation Coalition (New Mexico)
– Grand Canyon Youth (Grand Canyon Area of Utah/Arizona)
– Trout Unlimited (Colorado)
– Glen Canyon Institute (Glen Canyon Area of Utah/Arizona)
– Grand Canyon Trust (Grand Canyon Area of Utah/Arizona)

Of note, renowned filmmaker Pete McBride received support to promote his new documentary film about the Colorado River, “Chasing Water,” (see trailer) which in the last few weeks has received awards including “Best Documentary” at The Clearwater Film Festival and “Best in Category” at the CINE International Film Festival as well as being a finalist in several upcoming film festivals. (To request a showing of the film at a group or meeting, contact Pete at PeteMcBride.com.)

The Save the Colorado River Campaign is led by New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado. The Campaign Fund is further supported by donations from Patagonia, Clif Bar & Company, Kenney Brothers Foundation, Teva, National Geographic, Environment Now, and The Environment Foundation. Save the Colorado is a Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, a 501c3 charitable organization.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

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

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Here’s the link to the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the precipitation summary.

Paonia: The Colorado Water Trust is holding their ‘Water on the Land workshop’ November 9

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado Water Trust via the Delta County Independent:

Colorado Water Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring and protecting streamflows in Colorado, will be offering the Water on the Land Workshop in Paonia on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

The workshop will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Community Room at Paonia Town Hall, 214 Grand Avenue.

This full-day workshop is packed with information about basic Colorado water law, instream flow transactions, and the state’s Instream Flow Program.

Anyone interested in water is welcome to come learn about the tools available to restore instream flows or to ask questions about Colorado water and conservation. Registration is free but required; space is limited. Please call (720) 570-2897 or e-mail chartman@coloradowatertrust.org to register.

More from the CWT website:

Colorado Water Trust is traveling the state to present Water on the Land—a full-day workshop packed with information about basic Colorado water law, instream flow transactions, and the state’s Instream Flow Program. With generous support from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), as well as local sponsors, the workshops are free and open to the public. Scheduled workshops are listed below, but check back regularly as we continue to add to the list. Five workshops will be offered throughout 2011.

For more information or to register for a workshop, call 720-570-2897 or email admin(at)coloradowatertrust.org.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 Paonia

Rio Grande River basin: Conejos River irrigators will shut down on October 20 to meet Rio Grande Compact requirements

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Because more water flowed through the Conejos River system this year than was originally forecasted, more must be delivered downstream to New Mexico and Texas to satisfy Rio Grande Compact obligations. To meet that compact obligation before the end of the year, irrigators must shut off their water early this year. The presumptive ending date for the irrigation season in the Rio Grande Basin (the Valley) is November 1. This year on the Conejos, the season will end on October 20…

[Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten] had recommended the early or middle part of next week for the shut-off time and said that would give his office time to notify the public. He said even if the irrigation season had ended yesterday, the compact obligation still might come up short this year. Cotten said the only alternative would be to end the year with a debt to downstream states, but the debt would have to be paid next year, and next year may not provide a more generous water supply than this year. He said going to debt is allowed but not recommended…

Cotten said the annual forecast on the Conejos River system is now 255,000 acre feet, up 5,000 acre feet from the month before. “We don’t know where the water is coming from sometimes,” he said…

Of the 255,000 projected annual index on the Conejos, 78,400 acre feet must be delivered downstream. From Oct. 8-31, 5,800 acre feet must be delivered, which would require an 85 percent curtailment on irrigators, Cotten explained. Irrigators have been under a 50-percent curtailment on the Conejos system since September 20…

Lawrence Gallegos, who owns water rights on one of the oldest ditches in the state, asked if the Valley’s aquifer was depleted further this year. Cotten said the Rio Grande Water Conservation District’s monitoring system in the central part of the Valley indicated a significant drop in the unconfined aquifer this year, in fact even slightly lower than the 2002 drought year levels. “Actually the aquifer is lower than it ever has been before,” Cotten said. He said if the aquifer dropped in the central part of the Valley, it undoubtedly dropped in the southern part of the Valley as well.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters adds 10,000 acre-feet of supply to treated water supply system over the last year or so

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

“The process from day one has cranked out excellent water,” said Kevin Linder, Binney’s plant supervisor. The facility, with its massive pumps and state-of-the-art machinery, has processed and treated “downstream” water from the South Platte River and Aurora Reservoir as part of the drought-hardening Prairie Waters project. The water is collected from river-bank wells a few miles below the point where treated sewage water is poured back into the Platte. The project broke ground in July 2007 and came online in October 2010 with the goal of collecting water from the South Platte River in Brighton and delivering it to the city through a 34-mile-long, uphill pipeline. Prairie Waters has increased Aurora’s water supply by about 20 percent and delivered 10,000 acre-feet of water over the past year…

The project came to fruition because city officials realized they had reusable return rights in the South Platte River that they weren’t taking advantage of. Reusable return rights allow the city to reclaim water that has been used already. The city has owned those reusable return rights for decades, but until now, there was no mechanism in place to return the water directly from the South Platte River to the city.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission honors John Fetcher’s conservation legacy

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Here’s the release from PWC:

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission honored the legacy of local rancher John Fetcher, a water visionary who was instrumental in the creation of Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach Reservoir State Parks, during its monthly meeting Thursday in Steamboat Springs.

Fetcher’s son, Jay, was presented with a partnership award from Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Rick Cables while a number of family friends and local dignitaries observed from the audience.

“As you all know, Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach Reservoir State Parks play a vital role in the quality of life in the Yampa Valley,” said Cables. “We are very proud to manage these properties and the many others that benefit this part of the state.”

John Fetcher, who also helped develop the Yamcola Reservoir on the Yampa headwaters in the late 1970s, served as the manager of the Upper Yampa Valley Water Conservancy District from its formation in 1966 to his death at age 97 in 2009.

In the early 1960s, Fetcher was approached by Colorado Game Fish and Parks, who asked him to consider building a lake in the Hahn’s Peak Basin. Steamboat Lake, which inundated 70 percent of the cattle ranch that Fetcher and his brother purchased in 1949, filled during its first snowmelt season. Fetcher paddled across the new lake on a surfboard to attend the dedication.

“Those of you who knew my dad knew his passion for water,” Jay Fetcher said. “He had a vision that this land was worth more as a recreational asset than for agriculture and he was right.”

During the late 1980s, Fetcher played a leading role in the creation of Stagecoach Reservoir, which joined Steamboat Lake as a fixture in the region’s recreational economy. Fetcher, who grew up in Chicago and learned to ski in Switzerland, also left his mark in the design of safer ski-jumping hills and is credited with helping to bring Steamboat Springs Resort into the modern age. His name is enshrined in the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

The partnership award was presented to the Fetcher family “in recognition of our outstanding partnership and your family’s dedicated service to the people of the Yampa River Valley.”

More coverage from Lynn Ackert writing for the Examiner. From the article:

Fetcher’s son, Jay, was presented with a partnership award from Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Rick Cables while a number of family friends and local dignitaries observed from the audience…

In the early 1960s, Fetcher was approached by Colorado Game Fish and Parks, who asked him to consider building a lake in the Hahn’s Peak Basin. Steamboat Lake, which inundated 70 percent of the cattle ranch that Fetcher and his brother purchased in 1949, filled during its first snowmelt season. Fetcher paddled across the new lake on a surfboard to attend the dedication.

More Yampa River basin coverage here and here.

The Castle Rock town council hears the pitch from the WISE partners touting the project as a long-term source to replace non-renewable groundwater

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From the Parker Chronicle (Rhonda Moore):

Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer made the opening remarks to introduce the team that presented the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency proposal, the last of four bids submitted to the town of Castle Rock. The WISE proposal is a partnership between the Denver and Aurora water departments and the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a co-op of 15 Douglas and Arapahoe county metro districts and municipalities. The authority, which includes the towns of Castle Rock and Parker, has been working since 2008 with Denver and Aurora to draft the WISE proposal, touted as a financial boon for Aurora Water and a first-of-its kind regional water partnership for the Front Range…

The presentation was made before a joint meeting between the town’s utilities commission and Castle Rock town council, which will eventually make the decision on which provider reaps the benefits of an investment worth millions in the town’s long-term water future…

If Castle Rock opts to go with WISE, it will be a permanent agreement and water will be delivered to a master meter. The authority’s cooperating agencies will be responsible for delivery of water from the master meter to their respective customers. The estimated cost to Castle Rock residents to complete that cycle is expected to be upwards of $200 million, said Ron Redd, Castle Rock utilities director and executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. The final estimate will be assessed when the town’s utilities department compares the bids on the table for council recommendation, he said, and it is possible the town could ask voters for a tax increase to finance the long-term water plan. The cost of water purchased in the WISE plan will vary from year to year, depending on rates determined by Denver and Aurora. Water rates will be based on a calculation that compares to that used to calculate cost to the providers’ existing customers, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water…

“Both Denver and Aurora are longtime commitments. We’ll be here a long time,” Pifher said. “You’ll know where to find us 50 years from now if you have a problem under the contract. When you look at WISE, it’s the quintessential conservation project, it maximizes the efficient use of resources we already have.”[…]

Town councilmembers asked the utilities department to arrange public hearings to gauge input from the community before making its decision. Town staff plans to meet in the coming weeks to decide on the next steps and timelines for bringing the water provider information to residents, said Kim Mutchler, Castle Rock spokeswoman.

More coverage of the WISE project from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Aurora struck a tenative deal Oct. 4 that will grant water to 15 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties in times when Aurora has excess, and that will likely be most of the time. Aurora Water Spokesman Greg Baker said the proposal is momentous. “What makes it historic is the fact that you had all these entities and they came to a consensus on how to solve an issue of this scale,” Baker said.

Aurora Water, Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority — which represents 15 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties — formed a partnership that will provide the southern metro water authority with at least 5,000 acre-feet of water per year by June 2013 and at least 10,000 acre-feet per year by 2020. The amount of water delivered annually could eventually equal up to 60,000 acre-feet per year. Denver Water will also be able to access its unused water supplies in the South Platte River to make it available to water entities in the water authority or use the same infrastructure to use the water in Denver for emergency use. Denver Water can also provide 3,000 acre-feet of water currently allocated to DIA. The partnership is dubbed WISE, Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency.

The partnership is crucial for the authority, which has historically been mostly reliant on groundwater and deepwater nonrenewable aquifers. The aquifers, and wells, are hundreds of feet deep into the ground and extract water as old as the glacial period, Baker said. It takes decades and sometimes even centuries for the water to replenish, Baker said…

Aurora will receive a substantial revenue stream from the deal — equal to a net revenue of about $10 million per year after 2020. The water authority is paying for a $20-million expansion to Prairie Waters slated for completion by 2020, and they are leasing the water at a rate of $5.38 per thousand gallons, which is more than the $5.27 that Aurora residents pay for water rates. The deal will benefit Aurora residents in that their water rates will remain stable, Baker said.

More WISE project coverage here.

Wiggins: The town council is navigating through water court, USDA loans and buying water rights to bolster raw water supplies

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The current plan to build a pipeline from a well site northwest of town and augmentation ponds north of town is still the least expensive option, [Tim Holbrook of Industrial Facilities Engineering, which is organizing the project] said. Wiggins still has to buy more water to make the plan work, but the town council met in a lengthy executive session to instruct its water attorneys to continue working to purchase some water. An offer has been made on nine more shares of water, and town officials are waiting on a response, Rogers said. That should mean that the town has the 240 acre feet of water it uses annually. Officials expect a contract to be signed in the next couple of weeks, said Miranda Larsen-Funk of LeonardRice Engineers Inc.

The USDA funding includes the money to buy these new water rights, Holbrook said. The USDA wants to see that contract before the project can continue, but that extra water would be included when the whole case goes to water court, he said. That means the town would have use of the water under a temporary water plan while the case goes through the court…

Another major concern was whether the water the town has purchased will be changed from agricultural use to municipal use. Some worried that all this effort would come to nothing if the water court decided against it. The best legal opinions say that the water use will be changed and Wiggins will be able to use the water, Holbrook said…

Council members have worked to make sure that the costs were kept down in order to impact households and businesses the least possible while buying the most water rights the town could, Bates noted. It looks like the base rate will rise from about $49 a month now to $90 a month once the town is paying off the loan, which is considerably less expensive than it once seemed it would be, he said.

More Wiggins coverage here.