Colorado College: The State of the Rockies Conference takes place this week along with the release of the ‘State of the Rockies Report Card’

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From the website:

As a culmination of this year’s State of the Rockies Project work on the Colorado River Basin, the Project will be hosting a conference on the Colorado College Campus on April 9th and 10th, 2012. In addition to the release of the 2012 State of the Rockies Report Card, we will have a stellar line-up of speakers addressing the future management of the Colorado River Basin. Speakers for the Conference will include the Honorable Ken Salazar, Seceretary of the Department of the Interior, Marcia McNutt, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

More from the State of the Rockies director, Walt Hecox, running in The Denver Post. From the guest column:

At the annual State of the Rockies Conference in Colorado Springs this week, the 2012 State of the Rockies Project Report Card will focus on “Managing the Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability for the Next Generation.” Five undergraduate researchers will present their findings, including their recommendations to save the basin…

The state of the Colorado River Basin is dire: decades of population growth, climate change, damming and diversion for municipal and agricultural water use have endangered multiple animal species, diminished in-stream flows and led to the river’s lower section running completely dry. Experts predict that by 2050, there won’t be enough water in the river to meet the needs of the communities that depend on it.

As Podmore and Stauffer-Norris finished their journey [ed. from the headwaters of the Green River to the Colorado River Delta] in January, photographing and blogging as they went, they witnessed the most graphic evidence of this stark reality on the southernmost section of the river. In the Delta, once a lush network of wetlands, there is now normally only dirt and dying tamarisk. In their willingness to confront such a reality and their commitment to changing it, these two young men stand in direct contrast to the apathy evidenced by much of their generation. Not only that, they also aim to enlist their peers in efforts to resolve the messes created by previous generations.

“We need to view the Colorado River and its tributaries as a single body of water. Our actions can affect portions of the river thousands of miles downstream,” Podmore wrote in a February Huffington Post article. “As water becomes a more hotly contested resource in the Southwest, we need to recognize the benefits of protecting the whole river system.”

To change present basin management, we must pursue water conservation, innovative ways to share water between agriculture and municipalities, and find sufficient water to sustain riparian areas while fairly dealing with water claims of Native Americans and Mexico. No generation is more vital to this effort than today’s Millennials, who will soon hold the reigns of decision-making.

Colorado Water 2012: Broomfield showing of ‘The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?’ May 8

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From the Broomfield Enterprise (Joe Rubino):

In Broomfield, Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library and Environmental Services are leading the Colorado Water 2012 charge. Having already hosted a well-attended class about Xeriscape gardening — the practice of planting native and other water-thrifty plants to limit irrigation needs — Shirley Garcia, Broomfield Environmental Services coordinator, said the city has numerous other water-friendly classes planned this summer…

While Environmental Services and the Parks Department focus on ways to practice water conservation, staff at the library are taking on another side of the Colorado Water 2012 campaign: Awareness. The library next month will host a trio of programs dedicated to emphasizing the historical and ongoing importance of water in Colorado, including an expected May 6-19 visit from the traveling Colorado Water 2012 display…

Reference librarian Cindy Eubank is heading up the water projects at the library. The Water 2012 exhibit, when coupled with a May 8 screening of the film “The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?” and a photo exhibit documenting the effects the Dust Bowl had on Colorado farmers in the 1930s, should be eye-opening, Eubank said.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

NRDC: Colorado could do more hardening of water supplies to mitigate climate change effects

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental agency, rated all 50 states on how they are preparing for impacts of climate change on water resources. Colorado ranked highest among all Rocky Mountain states. Essentially, Colorado earned a B, ranking behind nine other states, using the criteria chosen by the council…

“Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events are impacting our families, our health and our pocketbooks. Water is a matter of survival. It powers our lives and industries, and it keeps our natural systems healthy,” said Steve Fleischli, a water policy analyst. “This report is both a wake-up call and a road map for all communities to understand how vital it is to prepare for climate change so we can effectively safeguard our most valuable resources.”[…]

Gov. John Hickenlooper, through his water policy adviser John Stulp, has asked for a state water plan by 2016.

In Colorado, water rights are privately held and administered through court decisions. There is no central state water authority, and decisions about supply, planning, funding projects and water quality are split among several state agencies…

Individual metro water providers — including Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and Pueblo — are incorporating the possibility of long-term climate change into their planning efforts. The Colorado Water Conservation Board also incorporated weather pattern variance in its investigation of Colorado River supply.

More Climate Change coverage here and here.

Metro Roundtable reception recap: ‘We’ve had water issues in Colorado, but we’ve never had a crisis because we have planning’ –John Stulp

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve had water issues in Colorado, but we’ve never had a crisis because we have planning,” state water adviser John Stulp said Thursday. “Water is one of those essential things for life, and we all have an opinion about it.”[…]

Stulp praised the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, or WISE, partnership among Denver, Aurora and 15 South Metro water suppliers as a new example of collaboration that will help prevent more encroachment of city needs into water supplies needed for agriculture and recreation. Historically, the state’s great water projects arose from a need followed by years of planning and major changes in how water policy developed, Stulp said…

Stulp noted that the Chinese character for crisis combines the symbols for danger and opportunity. “I see that we have great opportunities in the future of water for Colorado,” Stulp said. “There’s only going to be enough water through cooperation and collaboration.”

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

“They [South Metro water providers] all rely on the same diminishing groundwater supplies,” explained Joe Stibrich, deputy director for water resources at Aurora Water. “The WISE partnership uses existing capacities. . . . It’s the largest conservation program in the state.”
Stibrich explained the WISE partnership at a public presentation of the Metro Roundtable Thursday at Metro State College. More than 200 people attended.

The partnership is possible because Aurora has built the Prairie Waters Project, a $650 million system that captures reusable wastewater flows, treats them and returns them to the water supply. “Prairie Waters was first identified as a project to meet Aurora’s needs,” Stibrich said. “It’s a drought hardening process that gives us supplies we can rely on, but don’t always need.”

The WISE partnership will allow the South Metro communities to purchase an average of 10,000 acre-feet annually from Denver and Aurora. Eventually, that could be as much as 60,000 acre-feet. It also gives Denver a firm supply of 15,000 acre-feet during drought years through the Prairie Waters Project, while protecting all of Aurora’s interests in the project. During a drought, the South Metro users will still have their groundwater resources to fall back on. Many of the individual water districts in the group have continued to search for other sources.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.