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

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Here are the summaries from yesterday’s webinar from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary.

Colorado TU Gives Conservation Award to Grand County

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Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Colorado Trout Unlimited today announced that Grand County government – led by County Commissioners Gary Bumgarner, James Newberry, and Nancy Stuart – is the recipient of TU’s 2012 Trout Conservation Award for its work protecting the Upper Colorado River watershed in the face of Front Range water diversions and other threats.

The award is presented each year to recognize outstanding achievements in conserving Colorado rivers and trout habitat.

“I have never seen a local government place the level of attention, resources, and overall emphasis on river conservation as has been the case with Grand County over the past five years,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “Commissioners Bumgarner, Newberry and Stuart, and County Manager Lurline Curran, have worked tirelessly to preserve healthy river flows along with the wildlife, local communities, and quality of life that depend on them. They have been true champions for the Colorado headwaters.”

“As a resident of Grand County for 40 years, and as a father who wants his children and their children to experience the same natural wonders that I’ve enjoyed here over the years, I am deeply appreciative of the unified effort from our commissioners and staff in their fight to save our rivers and lakes,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of TU. “I am proud of my county for having courageous leaders like these, who are an example to all of the Davids that are facing Goliaths.”

Nickum called Grand County “a longstanding and valued partner” with Trout Unlimited in working to protect and restore the Upper Colorado River watershed. He noted that Grand County officials have invested more than $3 million into assessing and addressing the needs of its rivers, and spent thousands of hours negotiating with Front Range water users and advocating to federal permitting agencies for better protections for the Upper Colorado River watershed.

Among other accomplishments in the past year, Grand County (along with other west slope governments and Denver Water) unveiled a historic “cooperative agreement” that includes many important benefits for the Colorado River and its tributaries, including millions of dollars for river restoration and environmental enhancement; 1,000 acre-feet of water to help with low flows in the Fraser River watershed; guarantees that the vital Shoshone call continues to operate in the future to keep water in the Colorado River year-round; and an agreement that any future transbasin projects will only be pursued with the consent of the West Slope. The agreement is also important in establishing a stakeholder partnership called “Learning by Doing” to provide ongoing monitoring of river health to ensure adequate protection measures.

Grand County has also worked with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to use Windy Gap pumping capabilities to re-manage some “excess” water for the benefit of flows in the Colorado River and has filed for a Recreational In Channel Diversion to help support a new in-river water right on the Colorado mainstem.

Moreover, Grand County leaders are negotiating with Northern for enhanced funding for river restoration projects—including a needed bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to improve Colorado River habitat—and additional water for use in Grand County to boost flows and river health. Grand County is also promoting an agreement to release water for endangered fish in the downstream Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir – thereby benefiting the Colorado through miles of key trout habitat – instead of releases solely from Ruedi Reservoir, as has been done in the past.

For all the progress in recent years, the health of the Upper Colorado River ecosystem will continue to decline unless further protections are put in place to address looming impacts from two new Front Range diversion projects, Denver’s Moffat Tunnel expansion and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project. Nickum noted that EPA recently issued recommendations that supported Grand County and TU’s case for stronger mitigation on the Windy Gap Firming Project.

“Grand County officials understand that the Colorado headwaters are the lifeblood of their communities and of our state’s tourism economy and outdoor quality of life,” said Nickum. “They have set an example for our public leaders of what strong river stewardship looks like.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Logan County approves data collection monitoring well license for high groundwater levels

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From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Judy Debus):

The Logan County Commissioners once again considered a request by the Colorado Water Division to use county-owned property for the installation of monitoring wells for data collection in the groundwater-plagued area of Pawnee Ridge Subdivision and Country Club Hills. Commissioners Jim Edwards, Dave Donaldson and Debbie Zwirn were present for Tuesday’s meeting.

At a previous meeting, the request was addressed in a license agreement, but was tabled due to language problems. This week, the request from removed from the table upon motion by Edwards and then postponed indefinitely. To replace the requests, commissioners then approved lease agreements (rather than license agreements) to provide the approval for the wells to be installed. The data will be collected and then analyzed to determine the cause of the increased groundwater problems in the two areas.

The CDW held a public meeting last month to present their outline of a program to address the water issue. That program will begin with the monitoring program that will last a period of two years with an initial analysis at the end of one year.

More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.

Colorado Water 2012: The Colorado Water Conservation Board is celebrating its 75th anniversary

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Here’s the latest installment in the Valley Courier’s Water 2012 series. Travis Smith details the workings and history of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Here’s an excerpt:

The mission of the Colorado Water Conservation in 1937 is clear, as stated in the authorizing legislation House Bill 6 1937 Section 1: “for the purpose of aiding in the protection and development of the waters of the state for the benefit of the present and future inhabitants of the state, there is hereby created a Colorado Water Conservation Board with powers and duties herein set out. Said board is hereby declared to be an agency of the state and the functions it is to perform as here in set out are hereby declared to be governmental functions for the welfare and benefit of the state and its inhabitants.“

The Colorado Water Conservation Board’s mission today is the same as when written in 1937; 75 years later the CWCB mission statement is: Conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations.

The current board is made up of nine geographic appointees selected by the governor along with the Department of Natural Resources executive director. The five non voting members are the Commissioner of Agriculture, State Engineer, Attorney General, Director of Parks and Wildlife and CWCB executive director.

This 15 member board governs the CWCB responsibilities that range from protecting Colorado’s streams and lakes to water conservation, flood mitigation, water shed protection, stream restoration, drought planning, water supply planning and water project financing. The CWCB is ever vigilant regarding the state’s compact apportionments and issues dealing with downstream states and federal agencies.

The CWCB is self funded and does not receive money from the general fund. The majority of funding appropriation for the CWBC comes from the CWCB construction fund. This fund is the primary funding source for the state’s water user community.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Snowpack/drought/runoff news: San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan basins are at 20% of average, statewide = 16%

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current statewide snowpack map and the Basin High/Low graph for the San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan basins from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The area is about 2 to 2.5 inches of SWE ahead of 2002.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Welcome rains trickled down on a parched Weld County on Sunday night and into Monday morning, providing a bit of relief for [Dave] Petrocco, other farmers and municipal water officials who so far this year have been dealing with historically low precipitation amounts…

In Greeley, rainfall amounted to .43 inches during the 24-hour period between 5:30 p.m. Sunday and 5:30 p.m. Monday, according to figures recorded at the University of Northern Colorado. It was the most precipitation the city had received in a 24-hour period so far this year…

Until this week’s storm, the Greeley area had received only about 1.5 inches of precipitation this year — the third-lowest amount on record for the city. The average through the end of April is 3.81 inches…

City of Greeley Water and Sewer Department Director Jon Monson said that — because of the unusually dry and hot conditions, and because of extensive lawn-watering by residents — the city’s treatment facilities were releasing about 35 million gallons of water per day last week. That’s about 40 percent more than in previous years, he added.

El Jebel: Roaring Fork State of the River meeting tomorrow

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From the Colorado River District via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

To help understand this epic flip-flop and anticipated low flows, the Colorado River District will host its annual “State of the River” meeting for the Roaring Fork River Basin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, at the Eagle County Community Center, 0020 Eagle County Drive, in El Jebel.

Topics will include anticipated reservoir operations, forecasted river conditions and management of water resources for cities, agriculture, recreation and wildlife.

This summer may see some of the lowest river and stream levels since the drought of 2002.

“The River District needs the public’s input, understanding and cooperation as we work with the water management organizations to get through this season,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn.

For information, contact Martha Moore, Colorado River District, 970-945-8522, ext. 226, or mmoore@crwcd.org.

Reclamation will be at the meeting with an update on the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. From email from Kara Lamb:

A quick update on run-off operations for Ruedi Reservoir: we are still releasing about 110 cfs to the Fryingpan River. This is less than the inflow we are receiving. We are trying to fill Ruedi this year, but with the current data available, we do not anticipate we will fill. Weather is still a major factor, of course, but that is how the situation looks right now.

Along those same lines, we do not anticipate diverting much water through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to the east slope. We are forecasting we will only divert about 12,400 acre-feet of water. To give you an idea of where that number stands: the water right for the Fry-Ark allows for a diversion of up to 120,000 acre-feet in any one year. Our annual average over the last ten years is closer to about 54,000 acre-feet. Last year, with our incredible snowpack, we diverted around 98,000 acre-feet–and filled Ruedi Reservoir easily.

To hear the run-off story told in full, visit us Thursday night in El Jebel. We, along with other water managers, will be presenting our run-off forecast information at the Colorado River District’s State of the River meeting for the Roaring Fork Basin.

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here.

Frisco: ‘My best guess is we won’t fill Dillon Reservoir’ — Bob Steger (Denver Water)

Grays and Torreys, Dillon Reservoir May 2017. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

Here’s a recap of the State of the River meeting held yesterday in Frisco, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

With an early March meltdown of the snowpack and continued above-average temperatures, the outlook isn’t good, said Blue River water commissioner Troy Wineland, warning that the entire state and region are facing a severe drought. “The time for action is now,” Wineland said, speaking at the annual State of the River meeting in Frisco, co-sponsored by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Blue River Watershed Group. Wineland commended Denver Water for its early Stage 1 drought declaration and urged the local water community in Summit County to get on the same page with conservation measures. An inconsistent response to the drought could send the wrong message to residents and visitors, he added.

While reservoir levels are still higher than average, many high country reservoirs aren’t likely to get much fuller than they are now, said Bob Steger, manager of Denver Water’s raw water supply. “My best guess is we won’t fill Dillon Reservoir,” Steger, said, pointing to a graph that suggested Dillon won’t climb much above the level it was as of May 8.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.