Colorado Water 2012 Book Club: Peter McBride took us on a trip down the river tonight

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The river that matters to many that is.

Tonight Peter McBride was first up for the Water 2012 Book Club series. He took us down the Colorado River from the headwaters to the delta, showing his photos and a little bit of video. He pointed out that the river is under stress having to support 30 million people, including the Gulch clan, large industries and most of the winter vegetables you eat.

“Love the river,” he says.

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More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Snowpack news: The northern Colorado plains are doing fairly well so far this winter season

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Soil moisture is doing well with the abundance of upslope storms so far this winter. The snowpack chart on the right reflects only Snotel sites and was generated before the beautiful snow over the weekend.

Here’s a report about conditions on the plains from Eric Brown writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The 10-year average for snowfall in Greeley and the surrounding area is about 36 inches per year, and already this year, some parts of Weld County have received nearly 40 inches — a total of 39.4 inches of snow has been reported just outside of Greeley. Even the lowest snowfall amount on record in Weld County so far this winter — 22 inches in Fort Lupton — is more than what was recorded in all of last year…

Bruce Bosley — a crop systems specialist with Colorado State University Extension services, who serves all of northeastern Colorado — agreed that this year’s winter wheat is off to a much better start, but conditions locally haven’t been perfect. Early-on moisture was beneficial, but warm and windy weather since then might have been harmful in some fields, Bosley explained. Warm weather at this time of year can cause some wheat to break out of dormancy too early. Wheat is supposed to remain dormant through late February, and Bosley said he’s concerned that some of the area’s wheat has already emerged from its dormancy. Freezing conditions can cause serious damage to a crop that emerges from dormancy prematurely…

What Cooksey, Bosley and wheat farmers across the region are hoping for now is a cold and wet finish to the winter that will last through early spring…

“It’s really kind of a crapshoot right now,” [Scott Entrekin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder] said. “With a La Niña pattern like the one we have now, dry conditions are common. But that certainly hasn’t been the case around here, considering all of the snow we’ve seen.” On the other hand, snowpack in the mountains is well behind where it should be. It’s just been an interesting year so far.”

San Luis Valley: Area growers try to assess the potential impact of withdrawing acreage irrigated by groundwater pumping

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

…the commercial agriculture that built up the valley is large-scale and competitive, and relies on center-pivot irrigation devices that pump heavily from underground aquifers. Commercial production of potatoes and hay — using 6,000 wells and 2,700 center-pivots to irrigate 120-acre crop circles — exploded after the 1950s. The pumping has depleted aquifers by more than 1 million acre-feet since 1976 and now is affecting surface streams…

By May, center-pivot farmers must activate a plan to reduce the water pulled from the aquifer by about 30,000 acre-feet a year. “They’ve got to start to restore it,” state engineer Dick Wolfe said. To avoid state shutdowns of wells — as happened in 2009 in northeastern Colorado — commercial farmers propose to pay to pump or purchase new surface-water rights and use these to offset pumping from aquifers…

“These communities, and no doubt other communities around the world, are coming to the realization that business as usual has to change,” said Mike Gibson, manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District and chairman of the Rio Grande roundtable that participates in statewide planning…

But the time has come for commercial farms “to pay for the impacts they are causing to the river,” said Steve Vandiver, manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and the leader of efforts to find water to replace water pumped from wells.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

2012 Colorado November election: Congressman Gardner talks water at Berthoud town hall meeting

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

“Conditions at the beginning of 2012 are similar to the beginning of 2002,” Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner said at a town meeting in Berthoud on Monday…

“We must have the water that is necessary to thrive and grow,” Gardner said. That includes water storage, such as the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, as well as water conservation, Gardner said…

Decreasing business regulations, supporting water storage projects, protecting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are all in his purview this session, he said. So is supporting collaborations between private industry and the public sector — such as the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology project in Loveland, which will bring jobs to the region — protecting agriculture from federal legislation that could harm the industry and urging renewable and traditional energy development.

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Alarmed that the NRCS warned him this year’s mountain snowpack conditions are dangerously similar to those of 2002 – the year of the Hayman Fire and one of the Rockies’ worst droughts in recent memory – Gardner said these kinds of conditions will hurt Colorado farmers and the economy if more water storage isn’t available during dry years. “If we are going to have a long-term outlook for economic growth, we must have the water that is necessary to survive and grow,” he said. “That’s not only to meet the needs of the population, that’s to meet the needs of agriculture and industry. That’s why I think we need to go forward with projects like NISP, and we need to go look for other new projects.”[…]

Gardner said EPA regulations imposed by other federal agencies should not be used to stall new water storage projects, including NISP. The EPA criticized an environmental review of NISP for insufficiently addressing the project’s impacts on water quality and other issues. “The numbers speak for themselves: 69 percent-of-average snowpack,” he said. “Two-thirds of the value of the state’s agricultural production occurs in the South Platte Basin. Last year, a million acre-feet of water left the state that we could have stored right up here (in Glade).” Monday’s NRCS snowpack data show the South Platte River Basin, which includes the Poudre River, has a snowpack 72 percent of average, while the Laramie-North Platte River Basin, which includes Cameron Pass west of Fort Collins, has a snowpack 61 percent of normal. The driest river basins in the state are the Gunnison and Colorado river basins, which are at 56 and 57 percent of normal, respectively.

From the Greeley Gazette (Craig Masters):

The location at Northern Colorado Water was symbolic of what may well become a critical issue this coming year in much of rural Colorado; water for agriculture and industry. In his opening remarks, Congressman Gardner reviewed the current snowpack statistics, since snow on the ground in the winter is critical to water in the rivers during spring and summer growing seasons…

The 4th U.S. Congressional District, Gardner’s district, is only one of the several U.S. congressional districts spanning several states dependent on the flow of Rocky Mountain snowmelt feeding into the Platte River system.In response to audience questions about their concerns over the storage of Colorado River water for Mexico being considered by the Obama administration, Gardner stated he supports strong state control over water usage within the state. But he emphasized that to minimize federal intervention, it is important to establish workable cooperative agreements with downstream states. He further assured the resident, who identified himself as a local rancher, that no agreement for storage beyond 2013 had yet been worked out with Mexico. (The concerns were over a Dec. 2010 agreement to store 260,000 acre feet of Mexico’s Colorado River water in Lake Mead until 2013. This was to allow Mexico time to repair earthquake damage to water delivery infastructure in northern Mexico.)

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.