Colorado River Basin: Denver Water, et al., are operating under the Shoshone Outage Protocol

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Even though the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement has not been executed by all parties, Denver Water and the Colorado River Water Conservation District have provided some of the benefits promised.

The U.S. Forest Service “bypass” flows to the Fraser River can be reduced if Denver Water institutes restrictions. In April, Denver Water enacted a Stage 1 drought calling for customers to voluntarily reduce their water use.

Under the Cooperative Agreement, Denver Water has agreed not to reduce Forest Service bypass flows unless it institutes “in-house” only restrictions. The Cooperative Agreement is not in force yet, awaiting execution by a few remaining parties, but regardless, Denver Water, in the spirit of a new way of doing business, did not reduce bypass flows. As a result, more water stayed in the Fraser River.

In this year of historically low runoff, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating to add flows to the Colorado River for the benefit of irrigation, fish and rafting from the Williams Fork confluence with the Colorado River beyond the Grand County boundary. The additional water is the result of the Shoshone Outage Protocol, a part of the Cooperative Agreement .

The Protocol is designed to add water to the Colorado River when the Shoshone Hydro Plant in Glenwood Canyon is not using its senior water right due to operational issues. The Shoshone water right normally would have the river flowing at 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Dotsero.

The week of June 10, the three reservoir operators (Denver Water, the Conservation District, Bureau of Reclamation) increased river flows by about 450 cfs through releases from Williams Fork Reservoir, Wolford Mountain Reservoir, and Green Mountain Reservoir.

Flows in Glenwood Canyon were boosted to around 1,100 cfs. The 71-year average of flows for this time of the year in Glenwood Canyon is more than 6,000 cfs.

The additional flows provided by the Outage Protocol helped lower water temperature levels in the river to help trout survive.

“The Shoshone Outage Protocol made a real difference in the river,” said Colorado River District general manager Eric Kuhn. “Since we started, you can see by the gauge that the temperature of the water has come down 4 degrees Fahrenheit.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

CWCB: Statewide Drought Conference September 19-20

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is holding a two-day drought conference with discussion themed around “Building a Drought Resilient Economy through Innovation.” The conference, September 19 and 20 at the History Colorado Center in Denver, will highlight the research and experiences of professionals working in regions and economies impacted by drought. Participants will share new and innovative approaches to drought preparedness across various industries and sectors. The conference will also present information on what drought may look like under future climate change conditions.

Colorado Governer John Hickenlooper will be speaking at the event as well as Mike King, executive director for the Department of natural Resources in the state of Colorado, and Jennifer L. Gimbel, Colorado Water Conservation Board director.

More CWCB coverage here.

Drought news: Reservoirs ‘are working as planned’ — Jim Pokrandt

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From the Summit Daily News (Jim Pokrandt):

So how are the reservoirs holding up in this drought year? They are working as planned, but water levels are being drawn down. Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about half full, well below the August average. Clearly it is going to need a good snow year this winter…

But Lake Powell is the big game. Its long-term health will determine in future decades whether Colorado and the other states just mentioned have to curtail water use in order keep required flows heading to Arizona, California and Nevada. In 1922, when negotiators from the seven states divided the river for human use, the Lower Basin States got the better half. They get theirs before we get ours. Powell has made sure that this day of reckoning has never come, and hopefully never will.

But we need more than hope. That’s why the Colorado River District and many of its constituents in Western Colorado are discussing risk management when it comes to future water development projects such as the Flaming Gorge pumpback, for example. Water providers on the Front Range are also engaged. Nobody knows for sure where we cross the line of developing too much water and forcing a curtailment on the Colorado River system that nobody wants, no matter which side of the Continental Divide. The Front Range has a big stake. Colorado River water in amounts between 450,000 and 600,000 acre-feet goes to the east in any given year, depending on conditions. Those transmountain flows are taken under water rights that would be subject to compact curtailment.

Risk management means trying to understand steps that can be taken to right-size a project or even forestall a project until more information is known about water supply and climate change.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.