…as the gap between supply and demand from the Colorado River grows – its forecast by the Bureau to be 4 to 6 million acre-feet by mid-century, roughly one-third its entire annual volume – the long-term implication is inarguable: change is coming to the Southwest U.S. Have water today? You may not in the future – and for some the near-future. We may not be “running out,” but a radically new supply regime could transform our economy – with new water have’s-and-have not’s, new means to regulate ownership and distribution, new projects and infrastructure, and profoundly, new industry that displaces water-intensive business that simply can’t operate in the West…
Water prices are rising. Circle of Blue, a global water information resource, reports an 18 percent rise in 30 major U.S cities since 2010 – and a 7 percent increase last year alone. In south metro-Denver, in the suburbs of Phoenix and Las Vegas, in Albuquerque, they’re certain to rise more for consumers and business.
At the same time businesses are refining they way they assess water-related risk. The value of water – or the lack of it – is increasingly quantified. For businesses looking to expand or relocate here, the prospect of rising water costs and supply shortfalls may add up to trouble for economic developers in the West…
Water delivery and wastewater management in the United States is a decidedly local affair. A dizzying maze of water districts, associations, and civic authorities manage a network of over 55,000 water utilities and about 16,000 wastewater facilities. In Colorado alone, around 300 separate entities deliver water to residents and businesses.
But can the interests of local utilities dovetail with those of regional planners? Northern Water in Fort Collins, Colo., has a bright future, serving thousands of users in northeastern Colorado via a huge system of water assets including the Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects. Less than a hundred miles south, along I-25, the water future of communities like Castle Rock and Parker is far less certain – some would argue in crisis. Is there incentive for Northern to act in Parker’s interest? The governor of the state might say yes; residents of Ft. Collins, not so much. ‘Local control’ may hamper collective planning throughout the Southwest.
From email from 90by20.org via the Colorado Watershed Assembly:
Western Resource Advocates and the Colorado Environmental Coalition, in collaboration with other groups across the CO River Basin, have just launched a drought awareness/urban water conservation campaign called “90 by 20.”
Ultimately, the campaign is about connecting this year’s drought to more than just personal inconveniences like watering restrictions – we’re trying to
tee up larger issues of how drought affects river flows, tourism economies, our quality of life in the West, and the like. As a way to deal with future droughts, climate change, and the existing supply/demand imbalance on the CO River, we’re also asking residents to work to reduce their per capita water use to 90 gpcd by 2020 and select utilities in the Denver Metro area, Las Vegas Valley, and Sun Corridor to adopt a goal of the same (combined residential use to 90 gpcd by 2020). We believe a renewed focus on water efficiency will be proven to be more cost-effective, flexible, and beneficial to the Basin than ‘traditional’ approaches to water supply.
There’s a website (of course) that has some good information and a nice policy brief on the importance of the CO River to the Basin as a whole. There’s also a calculator for people to compute their own per capita use – and the ability to tweet it.
Click here for a historical look at the reservoir from Kathy Browning writing for the Delta County Independent. Here’s an excerpt:
To celebrate Paonia Reservoir’s 50th anniversary there will be a day full of interesting activities Monday, Aug. 6, during the Delta County Fair and Rodeo. The event coincides with the 2012 Year of Water in Colorado. Participating agencies include the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, the North Fork Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservancy District and the Fire Mountain Canal and Reservoir Company, the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Join them to “Reflect on the Past and Focus on the Future” of the Paonia Reservoir.
Hop on one of the buses at Heritage Hall at the Delta County Fairgrounds for Tours of the North Fork Aug. 6, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Yvon Gros will welcome visitors to the beautiful Leroux Creek Vineyards on Rogers Mesa. Tour organic farms at The Ela Family Farms and Kropp Brothers. Campbell and Sons, a Midway cattle ranch, will be another stop. Learn where your food comes from and how water use has changed over the years. Another tour will take visitors to the West Elk Mine in Somerset.
Mary Spencer, who was elected to the board of directors in 2006, sent a resignation letter to district manager Frank Jaeger June 29 that highlighted her growing frustration with the board…
When reached by phone July 16, Spencer said she became tired of her colleagues blaming past boards for a range of issues. Dissenters and “two sitting board members have made a disastrous decision to destroy not only the district but the reputations of past board members,” the letter said…
During the interview, Spencer also sharply criticized a recent decision to fire the water provider’s longtime lobbyists, whom she says have helped kill legislation that would have cost the district, and therefore ratepayers, millions of dollars. Spencer said the $48,000 that was paid annually to the lobbyists was well worth it. She also bemoaned the recent firing of Floyd Ciruli, a public relations specialist and political analyst who was contracted by the PWSD…
Spencer, whose term was set to expire in May 2014, said the decision to leave was difficult because she still believes in the district’s mission, but it was “not worth the stress” to deal with the fallout from the attempted board recall in 2009 and subsequent conduct that has had a “detrimental” affect on the water district.
The problem, says Molly Mugglestone, a coordinator for Protect the Flows, is that western growth and drought are putting undue demands on the river’s water. “The supply and the demand scenarios over the next 50 years, they’re not looking good. We’re putting strain on the river, and it’s challenged in terms of being able to provide for what we need in the future.”[…]
“Spending taxpayer dollars on massive projects is not necessarily the right way to go. There’s other things that we need to be doing first before we start spending those types of taxpayer dollars on these massive projects.” She says some of those ideas include using drought-tolerant plants in city landscaping, which can save up to 65 percent of municipal irrigation demands – and using pool covers on outdoor facilities, which can save an average of 16,000 gallons per pool each year.
Many fiscal conservatives and conservationists met Wednesday to figure out how to be more efficient, and how to act on ideas as quick as possible. “We support solutions that again that look at conservation and efficiency. Things like better urban conservation, better agricultural efficiency and water banking, and some of those creative ideas that people are coming up with to try and solve those imbalances,” said Molly Mugglestone, Protect the Flows, project coordinator.
“It seems like there’s just such an emphasis on increasing supplies, rather than decreasing demand,” said Kate Graham, a public lands organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition…
“They’re doing basin study right now at the Department of Interior, so my group, Protect the Flows, has been really active in trying to influence the basin study with some of those things like urban conservation,” said Protect the Flows project coordinator Molly Mugglestone.
The group is gathering signatures on a bi-partisan letter that outlines solutions to the river’s issues that can be implemented on the municipal or individual level. “Our goal is to get 10,000 signatures, and then the letter will go to the Department of Interior, Secretary Salazar, and the governors in the seven Colorado River states,” said Mugglestone. The main point of the letter is efficiency.
“We need to administer the river very carefully and make sure that it’s not over-appropriated,” said Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, who spoke at the event.
Flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage continue to fluctuate with the periodic rainfall. Reclamation intends to meet the flow target of 900 cfs at the Whitewater gage through the end of July. The target will drop to 890 cfs starting August 1st. Releases from Crystal Dam will continue to cause flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon to fluctuate between 500 cfs and 600 cfs.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Organizers said that, as of this week, they were able to collect about 30,000 signatures, with about 86,000 needed for ballot certification. With an Aug. 6 deadline looming, the backers said they didn’t think there was enough time left to gather the needed support.
The state’s entrenched water establishment, and even most environmental organizations, opposed the measures, and exaggerated potential impacts of the public trust doctrine, claiming the changes would threaten Colorado’s antiquated water appropriation scheme.
Backers of the measures claimed that a 100-[day] delay by the Colorado Supreme Court in approving the initiatives cost them precious time needed to gather the signatures. The delay came after the state’s water establishment filed a procedural lawsuit, challenging the sufficiency of the ballot titles. The Supreme Court dragged its feet on a relatively minor naming issue, initially taking the case January 19, but not issuing a ruling until April 16.
“That DELAY of ca.100 days of “decision rendering time” by the Colorado Supreme Court was the fatal element in the defeat of this petition collecting process . . . for, after the Supreme Court ruled, the initiative petition forms then needed to be approved by the Secretary of State’s staff (required by statute) – a process that took another two weeks – and then, the petitions could be printed for circulation,” backer Richard Hamilton wrote in an email announcing the decision to withdraw the initiatives.
Vilsack is waiving restrictions on the federal Conservation Reserve Program to allow ranchers to graze livestock or cut hay on land otherwise set aside for recovery and enrolled in the federal conservation program. The CRP pays ranchers and farmers to leave land out of production. The secretary issued similar rule changes in the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Federal Crop Insurance Program…
As for crop insurance, Vilsack is asking insurers to give farmers a 30-day extension on unpaid insurance premiums and, in return, USDA will give a grace period to insurance companies in collecting those premiums.
The federal department has designated 1,297 counties in 29 states suffering disaster conditions, making all of those farmers and growers eligible for lowinterest emergency loans.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Kirk Webb):
…it’s OK to fish the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, but I encourage anglers to get an early start in the mornings and to be off the water by 3 p.m. to minimize any possible negative impact to the fish. Generally speaking, the rivers are at their coldest at 6 a.m. and are at their warmest at 6 p.m.
When handling trout, take the time to fully revive them prior to release and to keep the fish in the water as much as possible. This also means that I discourage the use of taking the obligatory “grip and grin” fish pictures.
Quiet water on the edges of the main flow is the ideal water type to revive and resuscitate fish to let them “catch their breath” again, ensuring an ethical release. I also try to fish with the heaviest leader and tippet that I can get away with to land fish as quickly as possible, which is a practice that all should do, regardless of water temperatures or time of year.
Don’t overlook the middle and upper Roaring Fork River either, where high water temperatures are not an issue. The cold water of the Fryingpan River empties into the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, which aids in regulating and cooling the warmer waters of the Roaring Fork, acting much like a swamp cooler for the river.