State drought recovery workshop recap: ‘It’s time to get more storage for this basin [Arkansas]’ — Jim Broderick #CODrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Mother Nature can be a harsh, but effective, teacher.

A panel at the state’s drought recovery workshop Monday at the Colorado State Fairgrounds said lessons from this year’s drought should include the need for more agricultural water storage and cooperative programs that share water resources for multiple uses.

Changes in how water is managed after the 2002 drought also were reviewed at a meeting designed to improve state, local and federal actions in future droughts.

“It’s time to get more storage for this basin. The time has come that agriculture deserves storage,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “This year’s bad, but next year could be worse, because municipalities won’t have water to share.” One of the worst years on record for precipitation followed one of the wettest in terms of water available to the Arkansas River basin from the Colorado River. But two years of drought have depleted the water farmers hold back to either start crops in a dry spring or finish them in a dry autumn, he said.

Cities, on the other hand, increased water in storage after the 2002 drought, and were even able to share some this year.

“In good times, we are able to deliver water to canals,” said Gerry Knapp, manager of Aurora’s operations in the Colorado and Arkansas River basins. “Long­term relationships need to be built.”

Aurora currently has agreements with the High Line and Holbrook canals, as well as the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The city east of Denver began directly reusing flows through the Prairie Waters Project, a direct outcome of the 2002 drought.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two­ thirds of the United States is suffering from the impacts of drought, and it’s anyone’s guess whether things will improve next year. So federal, state and local officials gathered Monday at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo to plan for action should drought persist. “This is not just an agricultural event or a Colorado issue,” said Thomas Guevara, who heads the federal Economic Development Agency’s regional affairs office. “The federal government is taking an all ­hands on­ deck approach.”

At the regional drought recovery meeting Monday, those hands included representatives from a dozen federal agencies, state officials from several agencies, farm agency representatives, water district officials and county commissioners. More than 100 people attended the event, hosted by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

“I don’t think there has even been a real coordinated effort like this in reference to drought,” Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar said. The daylong workshop was one of four — others are in Nebraska, Arkansas and Ohio — designed to share information about how states are responding to drought.

“The drought affects two thirds of the U.S., but it’s all local,” said Colleen Callahan, who is coordinating the workshops for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We have to work across state and federal lines. . . . We are more effective when we are flexible, rather than rigid.” Paul Wolyn, science operations officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said

Southern Colorado has been in a two ­year drought that would be expected to occur only once every 50 years.

Forecasts through mid­ 2013 predict it will be warmer, with equal chance of precipitation.

“Drought could persist over much of the nation,” he said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

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