Colorado Water 2012: Rio Grande Reservoir tour July 14 to celebrate 100th anniversary


From the Valley Courier:

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rio Grande Reservoir, Water 2012 in the Rio Grande Basin invites everyone interested in the early history of water in the San Luis Valley to take a caravan tour of the historic Rio Grande Reservoir on Saturday, July 14th, 2012.

The tour is co-sponsored by the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, the Colorado Field Institute and the Rio Grande Inter-basin Roundtable. Hosts of the tour include Travis Smith of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District and other special guests.

The theme for the Reservoir’s 100th Anniversary is the past, present and future of Rio Grande Reservoir. A walking tour of the Reservoir and a presentation of the Rio Grande Cooperative Project will be made.

Construction on the Rio Grande Reservoir began in 1912 and was completed in 1914.

The reservoir provides storage for agricultural needs and is used for compact compliance, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and flood control. Rio Grande Reservoir has been in operation since 1912 as the only pre- compact on channel reservoir on the Rio Grande main stem.

The reservoir has endured many issues during the last 100 years including many facelifts. Rio Grande Reservoir represents the vision and determination of the Landowners of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District.

The tour will begin in South Fork at the Visitors Center. The group will meet there at 10:30 a.m. and caravan up to the Rio Grande Reservoir via Highway 149. The tour will arrive at the reservoir at 11:30 a.m. From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., there will be a walking tour of the reservoir. From 12:30-2 p.m., lunch will be served and the San Luis Valley Irrigation District will give a presentation on the history of the reservoir. Lunch will be provided by the San Luis Valley Irrigation District.

Remember, Rio Grande Reservoir is in the high country (approximately 10,000 ft) please bring a light jacket and a hat.

The tour will be capped at 30 people and all participants must register online at,, or To register, click on “Calendar of Events” , select “July 14th Tour” and follow the registration instructions.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Precipitation news: Flash Flood Watch extended (July 7, 2012) #monsoon

Republican River Water Conservation District meeting July 12


From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The Republican River Water Conservation District will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday, July 12, at the Phillips County Events Center in Holyoke. It will begin at 10 a.m. and last until about 4 p.m. Public comment will be heard at 1 p.m. State Engineer Dick Wolfe will be giving an update on the State of Colorado’s efforts to obtain approval from the State of Kansas for the compact compliance pipeline. GEI Consultants, Inc. will provide an update on the pipeline construction project. The board will be discussing whether to exercise the option to lease a portion of the Laird Ditch water right owned by the Yuma County Water Authority, for 2013-15. There will be engineering and legal counsel updates. The 2011 audit report will be presented at the meeting.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Gunnison River Basin: North Delta Irrigation Company tunnel collapse repair will result in increased deliveries


From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

he weeks, now going on months of massive earth moving work by excavators from Beavers Construction of Hotchkiss, achieved a milestone last Thursday when enough material was removed from the tunnel under Cory Bench to allow a four-foot-diameter pipeline to lay on a better grade and increase flow.

Lynn French, irrigation company representative, told the DCI that the excavators were able to lower the pipe about one foot or more. “That was enough to approximately double the water flowing through,” French said, from an estimated 8 cfs to 14 or possibly 15 cfs. “That’s quite an improvement,” he added. Flow volumes are estimates because the water is not measured on the North Delta system in that area, French explained.

The North Delta Irrigation Company has 49-plus cfs that can be taken from its diversion on the Gunnison River near 2100 Road. French explained that future improvements planned for the system will pipe its entire course from 2100 Road to the tunnel section. That will create additional flow head to move greater volume through the pipeline which runs on a virtual flat line grade through the tunnel section.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here and here.

Gunnison River basin: Hartland Dam rehab complete


From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The benefits from the Hartland Dam reconstruction project are several, and important to sportsmen, recreationalists, irrigators, and to environmentalists concerned about native fish habitat.

According to a narrative of the project distributed during the dedication, “The primary purpose of the project was to provide fish passage, but other benefits were considered when designing the project. The Hartland Diversion Dam was an extreme safety hazard to boaters. Addressing those safety issues provided a continuous corridor for boaters and greatly increased safe access to recreation on the Gunnison River.” The dam had been the site of river rafter deaths over the years.

More Hartland Dam coverage here.

2012 Colorado November election: ‘In this November’s election, voters may be asked to destroy Colorado’s system of water rights’ — Craig Green


Here’s an opinion piece in opposition to the Initiatives 3 and 45 writing by Craig Green running on the Independence Institute website:

In this November’s election, voters may be asked to destroy Colorado’s system of water rights. A pair of ballot proposals would confiscate the water rights of cities, water districts, farmers, and ranchers.

The Colorado Constitution has always recognized water as a public resource, subject to claims for private uses. Under our Constitution, water rights can be claimed for beneficial purposes such as irrigation, domestic and city uses. Farmers can own water rights, and so can cities.

The authors of proposed ballot initiatives #3 and #4 propose eliminating the constitutional language which recognizes long-established private claims to water. This change would destroy the water rights of farmers and ranchers, and the water rights of cities and other government entities.

This proposed government takeover of Colorado water rights would be the most extreme confiscation of private property in the State’s history. The amendment would reverse Colorado’s long-standing recognition of senior water rights, recognition that began a quarter century before Colorado became a state.

According to the Colorado Constitution, water that has not been previously appropriated can be claimed for private use. Water rights established by this process, once ratified by a court, are considered to be property rights. This process of claiming water for private use is called “prior appropriation.” It means water rights are ranked by the date at which they were first established.

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs explains: “While the prior appropriation doctrine and western water development has been lampooned and lambasted, no one has made a serious proposal for substitution of a water law system that would better serve the needs of humans and the environment with equal or greater security, reliability, and flexibility – these being the hallmarks of an effective resource allocation system.”

Most water uses return less water to the stream than they divert. This is lawful, as long as a user with junior rights does not deprive a downstream senior user of the water to which he has a right. However, the proposed ballot initiatives would require that a water user return the same quantity of water that he uses. This would be impossible for any user, such as a farmer, who consumes some of the water.

The initiatives explicitly destroy property and contract rights. They would impose the so-called “Public Trust Doctrine,” which makes government control of all water in Colorado “Superior to Rules and Terms of Contracts of Property Law.”

Finally, the initiatives authorize any citizen of Colorado to file a lawsuit against current owners of water rights.

These socialist proposals would devastate irrigation, municipal, industrial and other water uses. Almost all current users would fail the new rule that they must return at least as much water as they take. Almost all current users would be vulnerable to lawsuits from those who oppose human use of natural resources. The result would be the largest confiscation of private property in the State’s history, and none of the victims of the confiscation would receive any compensation.

More Colorado November 2012 election coverage here.

The San Miguel Power Association inks deal to buy power generated by the drop at Bridal Vail falls #CORiver


From The Telluride Watch:

As of May 1, SMPA will buy the hydroelectric energy produced at the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant previously purchased by Colorado’s investor-owned Xcel Energy.

The 500-kilowatt plant will generate approximately 2,000 megawatt hours a year – enough electricity to power about 2,000 average American homes, according to SMPA.

“We’re very excited to bring this power back to our local members,” said SMPA General Manager Kevin Ritter. “Telluride has a rich hydro-electric tradition, but up until now we weren’t able to keep that power local.”

The Bridal Veil Hydro Plant is one of the nation’s oldest hydroelectric facilities. It was constructed in the late 1800s to supply power to a Smuggler-Union Mine. It sits atop at 400-foot cliff overlooking Telluride. The water source for the power plant originates at Blue Lakes and eventually tumbles over the cliff as Bridal Veil Falls.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Drought news: ‘If you don’t have water, nothing grows’ — said Chuck Hanagan (FSA) #CODrought


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Gayle Perez):

The record high temperatures combined with a lack of precipitation has created a dire situation for some farmers, particularly in the Arkansas Valley. “If you don’t have water, nothing grows,” said Chuck Hanagan, county executive director of Otero/Crowley Farm Services Agency.

He said the combination of record heat, a lack of rain and a diminishing snowpack has led to dismal conditions for farmers. Hanagan said there are many Eastern Plains farmers who have left their fields fallow this year. “When you drive from Fowler to Kansas, you see more open ground,” he said. “You can see green here or there from those who have a well. They’re holding on a little better.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

In parts of northwest Colorado, drought conditions were upgraded to exceptional, the most severe category of drought, indicating extremely low stream flows, soil moisture and vegetation conditions. Much of the rest of the state is now in the severe drought category, including nearly all of the West Slope, the central mountains including the Continental Divide and big chunk of the eastern plains.

The arrival of monsoon moisture should help at least start nibbling away at drought conditions in patches where heavy rain falls from passing thunderstorms.

Including only at the 48 contiguous states, 55.96 percent of the country’s land area is in moderate drought or worse — also the highest percentage on record in that regard, officials said. The previous highs had been 54.79 percent on Aug. 26, 2003, and 54.63 percent on Sept. 10, 2002. “The recent heat and dryness is catching up with us on a national scale,” said Michael J. Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL. “Now, we have a larger section of the country in these lesser categories of drought than we’ve previously experienced in the history of the Drought Monitor.”

From the Ag Journal (Candace Krebs):

The unusually mild spring, coupled with a recent wave of unprecedented summer heat, has sapped the area of moisture. “If the trend continues, we’re on target to set a record for the warmest year — ever,” adds Wayne Shawcroft, a retired CSU irrigation agronomist based at Akron’s Central Great Plains Research Station.

Across the High Plains, dryness and heat are feeding off of each other in a vicious cycle that culminated recently in a long series of triple-digit days, stoking dozens of forest fires along the Front Range and accelerating drought conditions with little relief in sight.

“Historically the hottest weather occurs when it is already dry,” said Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken, based in Fort Collins. “The very existence of the lack of moisture and vegetation is very consistent with seeing temperatures soar.”

Don’t assume the smoke spewing up into the atmosphere from the region’s fires will seed the formation of rain droplets, Doesken adds. Opinions vary on whether particulate matter in the air helps or hurts.
“Back in 2002, it was theorized that the widespread smoke from large fires suppressed thunderstorms and reduced their ability to make heavy rains,” he said. “The heavy smoke in the air probably is affecting conditions a bit, but what that effect is isn’t very clear.”

Precipitation news: Monsoon rains expected today, flash flood warnings issued through tonight (July 7, 2012) #Monsoon

Click here to go to the Colorado Flood Threat Portal for the latest forecasts and flooding information. They’ll update later this morning.

From the Montrose Daily Press (Mike Easterling):

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Montrose had received 0.44 inches of precipitation at the automated weather reporting station at Montrose Regional Airport. That was good news for the Uncompahgre Valley and surrounding mountains, as Montrose had received only trace amounts of precipitation in May and June, Colton said. The last time Montrose had received measurable precipitation was in April, when 0.16 inches of rain fell on April 26. Other parts of the city fared even better. Colton said an NWS spotter one mile east-southeast of Montrose reported 0.57 inches of rain in a half hour.