Drought/runoff news: Gunnison River basin suppliers and users are feeling the pinch #CODrought #CORiver

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the current map from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought, long-term and short-term, is widespread.

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

Inflows into Taylor Park Reservoir were 55 percent of normal in May, and down at Blue Mesa things were even drier. Inflows there were 33 percent of normal, and the reservoir is currently at 60 percent of capacity. With more dry weather in the forecast, the lack of water is posing some real challenges across the valley, including ranching, fire fighting and even road maintenance…

The valley is also being affected by demands from the Uncompahgre Valley, which relies on the Gunnison Tunnel for irrigation needs. The Upper Gunnison District is releasing what is known as the second fill, its storage right from the Taylor Reservoir, in anticipation of a call on the Gunnison Tunnel…

[Blue Mesa Reservoir] is at roughly 7,478 feet—that’s 41 feet below the spillway and a marked contrast to last year, when Blue Mesa was nearly brimming. Davidson said that current projections show the reservoir sinking to an elevation of 7,460 feet by the end of August and 7,448 feet by September. Releases will slow as the irrigation season ends, and the reservoir is likely to stay at that level through December, placing it about 40 feet below the target for that time of year.

From The Durango Herald (Emery Cowan):

Most Fort Lewis Mesa farmers’ irrigation rights were shut off in May, more than a month earlier than usual for most. Their crops are withering and finding places to graze their cattle is getting increasingly difficult, forcing many to make tough choices to survive while they wait, and pray, for rain…

Knowing water would be scarce, Trent Taylor said he cut back on all his spring planting this year. Usually Taylor, owner of Blue Horizon Farm, plants hundreds of acres of wheat to supply his business making whole wheat products. This year, he will be forced to rely on what he stored from last year…

Matt Isgar has produced a fraction of the hay he usually gets and had to cut his crop a month early before it started to die from lack of water. If their hay crop ends up dying this year because of lack of water, many farmers worried they will have to reseed hundreds of acres next year…

Florida Mesa farmer Gary Zellitti’s first hay cutting was one third of what he usually brings in. Zelletti said he is now using storage water from Lemon Dam since his water rights on the Florida River were shut off last month, two months earlier than normal. Because Lemon didn’t fill up this year, he also expects his supply of reservoir water to run out in August, when usually it lasts until October…

Farmers near Delta have faced reduced irrigation and some may be completely cut off in July, said extension agents in the office near Grand Junction. Losing irrigation is especially damaging to fruit tree growers in the Grand Junction area because a lack of water affects the trees roots and fruit production for years afterward, extension agent Curtis Swift said…

But for now, farmers’ only hope is that the summer monsoons will come on strong and early, said Darrin Parmenter, director and horticulture agent at the La Plata County Extension Office.

From Steamboat Today:

Underscoring the extreme drought conditions plaguing Northwest Colorado, city of Steamboat Springs residents and businesses were hit Friday with mandatory water restrictions.

The Stage 2 restrictions, which went into effect immediately, dictate the permissible uses of treated municipal water during times of drought. The restrictions include all water customers of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, City of Steamboat Springs Water District, Steamboat II Metro District and Tree Haus Metro District. Those four districts provide treated water to all of Steamboat Springs and the immediate surrounding residential areas.

In a news release Friday, water officials from each district cited the historically low flows of the Yampa River, discharges from Fish Creek Reservoir that are exceeding natural inflows and the likelihood for continued drought conditions as the biggest factors in their decision to move forward with the mandatory restrictions.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Hot temperatures have created a record-high water demand, causing [Loveland] residents to experience low water pressure in their homes. The city system logged 27 million gallons of water Wednesday – 35 percent higher than a typical June day. To lessen the demand, residents are encouraged to water only on even or odd days, corresponding with address number. For example, people with an even number address should water on even calendar days.

Drought news: Water Restrictions in Telluride, North Metro Denver #CODrought

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

Telluride’s restrictions were put in place last week by town council to conserve the town’s dwindling water supply. Though restrictions are at the lowest level [phase one], several mandatory items are in effect.

“We divert directly from two tributaries this time of year and both tributaries are showing rapid decline in volume of water,” Town Manager Greg Clifton said. “So we have very genuine concerns about the ability to meet the demand of water for the entire town.”

According to a June 12 Telluride administrative order, using treated city water is prohibited for washing exterior hard surfaces, power washing structures, filling pools or landscape features, installing new landscaping as well as commercial and non-commercial car washing unless done with a bucket.

Watering landscaping such as trees and other features is limited to 30 minutes a day between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. on specific days for odd or even addresses in town. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays residences and businesses with odd numbered addresses can water. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays residences and businesses with even numbered addresses can water. On Sundays everyone can water, and water used to grow plants for sale is not restricted.

From The Denver Post — YourHub (Joey Kirchmer):

The cities of Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, in addition to the South Adams County Water & Sanitation District, are teaming up in an effort to ask residents to use water more efficiently this summer. Broomfield and Arvada are also part of the conservation campaign, which comes largely in response to low snowpack levels this year.

The reservoirs that Thornton draws water from are currently standing at about 70 percent of capacity, which is pretty typical for this time of year, said Emily Hunt, water resources manager for the city of Thornton. “But the snowpack from the mountains is already melted out,” Hunt said. “Normally, we would be seeing that capacity going up right now, but not this year. Usually we’re close to 100 percent full at the end of the spring runoff.”

Water usage among residents is also ticking up this year due to the hot weather. Summer temperatures began kicking in around April, which has led to a 10-percent spike in customer usage over last year, Hunt said. “We’re trying to get customers to cut back 10 percent this year,” she said. “The goal is to get back to the levels from last year.”

San Miguel River: Montrose County water rights filing denied as speculative

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From the Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

District Court Judge J. Steven Patrick issued a summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs/opposers Sheep Mountain Alliance in a case involving water rights on the Johnson Ditch. The county applied for the rights in 2010, it stated, to support industrial and residential growth anticipated to accompany the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill. Sheep Mountain’s attorney’s argued that Montrose County’s uses for the water were speculative, and the judge agreed…

In the just-dismissed case, the county had filed on water belonging to the Uravan Water Trust, rights that were held as part of the “decommissioning of milling activities at the [defunct] Uravan mill.” According to court documents, “Upon termination of the Trust, the water rights will be conveyed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).” Montrose County’s filings on the San Miguel River were made, in part, to beat an instream water rights filing by the CWCB to protect habitat and recreational uses on the Lower San Miguel.

Opposers to the Johnson Ditch filing claimed the “applicant must demonstrate . . . that its intent to appropriate is not based upon speculative sale or transfer . . .” And Judge Patrick concluded Monday that Montrose County failed to establish standing to seek the water right and that “the Applicants’ intent in the Johnson Ditch water rights is too speculative as a matter of law to satisfy the ‘can and will’ test.”

From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

Montrose County did not establish the standing necessary to secure water rights on the Johnson Ditch, a judge ruled Tuesday, dismissing its 2010 application for those rights…“I think it’s great news,” SMA attorney Jenny Russell said. “I think it supports our claim that Montrose County’s applications are speculative.”

More San Miguel watershed coverage here and here.

Drought news: Colorado River trout face ‘brutal summer of survival’ — Bob Berwyn #CORiver #CODrought

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

…Trout Unlimited is asking anglers to voluntarily restrict their fishing on portions of the upper Colorado River until conditions improve…

To help protect the fish, anglers should avoid fishing on the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers during the hottest part of the day. A better option for fishing these days might be in higher elevation lakes or in river reaches just below dams that aren’t hit as hard by warm temperatures…

Water temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit can be stressful or fatal to trout. Peak temperatures on the Fraser River near Tabernash have surpassed 70 degrees in recent days. Anecdotal reports indicate that similar high temperatures are found on the Colorado River between Windy Gap and the Williams Fork. Warm water makes the fish more susceptible to stress from handling and also promotes the growth of algae that can suck nearly all the oxygen out of the water during the night.

From the Westminster Window (Tammy Kranz):

Thornton City Council declared a Stage 1 Drought Watch at its May 22 meeting. The city’s goal is to reduce water-customer demand by 10 percent by encouraging residents to follow voluntary water practices, such as only watering lawns early in the morning and in the evenings twice a week…

The cities of Arvada, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, as well as South Adams County Water and Sanitation, and the City and County of Broomfield issued a joint statement on June 11, asking residents to be mindful of their water usage…

“We hope that this frankly isn’t the first year of an extended drought, and that it’s a fluke of unusual dry weather,” said Thornton City Manager Jack Ethredge at the May council meeting. “But you never know. So, we should prepare as if this might in fact be a first year so that we’ll be in better shape the second year.”

‘The Colorado Basin Roundtable has spent significant time and money to learn about its own consumptive and nonconsumptive needs’ — Jim Pokrandt #CORiver

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Jim Pokrandt):

With this reality in mind, the Colorado Basin Roundtable has spent significant time and money to learn about its own consumptive and nonconsumptive needs — to make sure our economic potential, recreation economy and environmental concerns are properly balanced in the statewide equation.

On the consumptive side, we commissioned a study on the potential demand from the energy industry and developed a placeholder requirement of approximately 120,000 acre feet for a fully developed oil shale industry. This is now being used in model portfolios being developed by the CWCB for the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Roundtables.

We also know from SWSI and other work by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that we have our own agricultural water supply and M&I gaps. The Nonconsumptive Study has identified stream stretches that are environmentally challenged while also evaluating desirable flows for recreational purposes. Recreation in the Colorado high country and downstream on the Colorado is an important economic factor for the West Slope and the state…

The planning currently underway looks at a 2050 horizon, when the state demographer is predicting a statewide population of 10 million people. But life continues after 2050. The decisions we make based on 2050 will dictate what happens afterward. If the policies developed in the next five years (as per Gov. Hickenlooper’s request) result in an overemphasis on new water development in lieu of dealing adroitly and decisively with conservation, reuse, agricultural transfers and land use, we are only putting off until 2050 what should be happening within our lifetimes.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here and here.

#WaldoCanyonFire photo gallery from CBS News and Time, President Obama declares disaster

Colorado Springs Utilities is looking at watershed protection needs due to #WaldoCanyonFire

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While maintaining water service is the immediate concern, [Colorado Springs Utilities] will face some issues with its long-term water supply. “The fire has burned up against Rampart Reservoir,” Bostrom said. “We will have to do some post-fire mitigation. We’re still assessing what needs to be done.”

Rampart Reservoir, located northwest of the city, is the terminal storage for the Homestake Pipeline, which supplies more than half of Colorado Springs’ water.

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here and here.