Drought news: Instream flow leases help keep water in the Yampa River over the summer

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From the Summit Daily News (Zach Smith/Edalin Koziol):

As Colorado watched state snowpack report maps change from a dull yellow to bright red at the end of 2012’s spring, Yampa River flows at Steamboat Springs dove from 501 cfs on June 1 to 42 cfs on June 27. On June 28, when flows on the Yampa average near 1,000 cfs, Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District began releasing water from a pool of 4,000 acre-feet the Colorado Water Trust (CWT) and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) leased for instream flows. Since that day, flows through Steamboat Springs have ranged from 72 cfs to 138 cfs, staving off what might have been a disastrous summer for the Yampa River.

To date, CWCB and CWT have entered into three such leases in two different water divisions in the state, with several more still in the negotiation and approval stages. In addition, Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked directly with CWCB for a lease of water out of Lake Avery for the White River. But the lease with Upper Yampa, officially approved by the Division of Water Resources on July 11, represents the first use of a drought-response law crafted after the drought of 2002.

These voluntary, market-based transactions form the heart of CWT’s mission: to restore and protect streamflows using such solutions. We are neither an advocacy nor a policy group, but a Denver-based nonprofit organization dedicated to using existing tools within the prior appropriation system to rewet dry streams statewide. Founded in 2001 by a group of water attorneys and engineers, CWT also facilitates the permanent transfer of senior water rights into the CWCB’s Instream Flow Program.

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Chris Forman, Aspen’s city forester, says the yellow leaves popping up in the area could indicate stressed trees and could mean an early and shorter color season.

But Jim Kravitz with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies tells the Aspen Daily News the rain in July and August has helped nourish a lot of the forest. And he predicts the trees’ color will peak the third week of September, which is the time it typically occurs.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The town government on Friday lifted the mandatory watering restrictions it had imposed July 10. Recent rains have increased humidity and vegetation moisture levels, making the restrictions on irrigation less critical.

From email from the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District (Randy Gillette):

The District has been supplying potable water from a combination of deep wells and Lake Woodmoor since May 2012. With the combination of our customers practicing water smart conservation measures and the use of Lake Woodmoor, we were able to meet the peak demands during the summer irrigation season.

The lake level has been lowered approximately ten feet which is within the normal range of operations. The past few months have been warmer than normal and with the lower lake level, changes in water quality can be expected. The District’s water treatment facilities are designed to meet federal and state treatment standards in the event of changes to water quality. With the lake at the lower operating level and recent changes to water quality, we will transition back to using water exclusively from the Denver Basin aquifers.

Customers may notice a change in water quality; however, the transition to well water may take a few days to completely exchange throughout the distribution system.

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