‘The point is every stream flows out of the State of Colorado has an interstate compact obligation’ — Jeris Danielson


From The Trinidad Times (Steve Block):

A recent meeting in Trinidad hosted by the Purgatoire River Water Partnership provided information about those water rights issues, specifically the compact established by state legislation in 1950, often known as the Kansas Compact, that determines how much of the available water each state is entitled to. The partnership was put together within the last year to try to explain water rights, and how to avoid conflicts between states over water.

Jeris Danielson, State Engineer and Director of the State Division of Wildlife Resources from 1979 to 1992, was on hand to give a brief history and interpretation of the Kansas Compact and what it means for water rights in this region. Now a private consultant and manager of the Purgatoire River water Conservancy District, Danielson gave a Power Point demonstration of interstate water rights in general, and those that directly impact Colorado…

“The point is every stream flows out of the State of Colorado as an interstate compact obligation,” Danielson said. “He described an interstate compact as, ’An agreement between two or more states to settle particular difficulties involving the adjustment of political rights not susceptible to Federal Action alone.’”

Danielson showed an image of the multiple compacts Colorado has, then described how those contracts were put into place. He said each compact first requires the approval of the state legislatures of the affected states, followed by approval from Congress and then from the president…

Eve McDonald is an expert on water rights and Federal Indian water rights law. McDonald is counsel to the State Division of Engineers and to the staff of the Colorado Water Conservancy Board (CWCB). She said that when an interstate stream is divided between two states, a 1907 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a dispute between Colorado and Kansas established the principle of ‘equitable apportionment.’

“That’s a division of water based on need,” McDonald said. “That means one state has to prove to the Supreme Court that the other state has substantially infringed on its need for the water. That’s usually based on how much use and reliance on the water has already been established and how many acres are already being irrigated. Instead of litigating it, the nice thing to do is enter a compact, because the doctrine, if you’re litigating it and not deciding by contract between two states through Congress, the doctrine led to a tendency to hurry up and use the water and develop the water lines so that you’re equitable apportionment would be greater than the other state’s.”

McDonald said compacts allow states to agree on present and future water needs. The agreements can be enforced only through the states. She said no individual rights supersede equitable apportionment, even if they date from before the date the compact was created. She said two state agencies, the CWCB and the State Engineer’s Office, have responsibility for enforcing water compacts. She said that as water supplies are reduced for various reasons, that can impact the water compacts themselves.

More water law coverage here.

Colorado River: Water managers manage to keep 500 cfs in the river at Palisade for endangered fish #CODrought #coriver


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

While the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program wasn’t able to meet its dry-year flow goals of 810 cubic feet per second at Palisade, Grand Valley and upstream water managers worked cooperatively to maintain an average flow of 500 cfs this summer, well above the flows during Colorado’s last significant drought in 2002.

And warm temperatures in the river, while not optimal for non-native trout, may have helped some of the young endangered fish like the Colorado Pikeminnow put on a bit of extra weight, a key factor to surviving their first winter, said Tom Chart, director of the interagency recovery effort.

“Everybody breath a sigh of relief when September came around,” Chart said. “We were in a better position with upstream reservoir storage … and we managed to limp through.”

First results from late-summer monitoring in the Lower Colorado River and the Green River suggest that spawning numbers and initial survival rates for Colorado pikeminnow were near average, despite drought conditions, Chart said, adding that the size of the young fish was above average — good news for the fish going into the winter…

“After two decades of effort by Recovery Program partners to construct these fish screens, fish passages and water management facilities, it was gratifying to see all water users working together collaboratively to minimize the impacts of the extreme drought conditions,” said Brent Uilenberg, technical services division manager for Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office.

From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is praising the voluntary efforts of several private water organizations in the area for their efforts in helping endangered fish during a year of drought.

The agency has sent letters of acknowledgement to entities that have assisted in the efforts of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

On the Colorado River, three private organizations helped boost flows to support endangered Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail and humpback chub in 15 miles of critical habitat from Palisade to the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.

The Orchard Mesa Irrigation District operated a check structure in the Grand Valley Power Plant discharge canal to make water available for the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, an action that preserved stored water in the upstream Green Mountain Reservoir for future use.

The Orchard Mesa district also continued work to implement an automation project that will help conserve water when completed in 2015.

Fish and Wildlife also recognized the Grand Valley Irrigation Company for taking advantage of low flows to remove a cobble bar that was deposited in the river during last year’s high flows. The cobble bar prevented operation of a screen that keeps fish from becoming trapped in the irrigation canal.

Fish and Wildlife credited the Grand Valley Water Users Association for managing to intermittently operate a fish screen on its canal despite low flows. In addition, the association operated the Grand Valley Water Management Project, a collaborative project with the Recovery Program that improves the efficiency of the canal system to conserve water.

While Fish and Wildlife wasn’t able to meet its recommended dry-year flow target for endangered fish of 810 cubic feet per second at Palisade this year, Grand Valley and upstream water managers worked cooperatively to maintain an average flow of 500 cfs this summer. That compares with just 171 cfs on the same stretch of river during the drought of 2002.

Fish and Wildlife also credited the Palisade Irrigation District for taking advantage of low flows to repair extensive 2011 high-water damage to the fish passage at the Price-Stubb Diversion Dam.

In addition, it recognized the Redlands Water and Power Co. for operating its fish passage and fish screen from April through September, with the help of the Bureau of Reclamation’s operations of upstream dams on the Gunnison River. As of early August, more than 9,000 fish had used the passage, Fish and Wildlife Service said. Of those, 90 percent were native fish, including 10 Colorado pikeminnow.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Check out this cool interactive water history of Colorado from Patricia Rettig and the Colorado Water Institute


Click here for a great interactive timeline of Colorado’s water history from Patricia Rettig and the Colorado Water Institute.

Thanks to Colorado Water 2012 (@ColoWater2012) for the link:

More education coverage here.

Drought news: NOAA expects the drought to persist, Managing Drought Workshop on Dec. 11-12 in Wray, #CODrought


Click on the thumbnail graphic for the October 18 Drought Outlook from NOAA.

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map from NOAA for Oct. 18, 2012 through Jan. 31, 2013, shows drought persisting or intensifying across much of the Midwest and West during that time frame, while drought development is considered likely in the Northwest.

Recent moisture has lowered the drought severity in southern Logan County from exceptional to extreme, and parts of Colorado have improved to moderate drought conditions over the last few weeks. However, precipitation levels for 2012 remain far below average in Logan County — as much as 50 percent of normal — according to the High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Area reservoirs are showing the effects of the drought and corresponding high demand for irrigation water. According to the end-of-month reservoir readings from Brent Schantz of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, North Sterling Reservoir had virtually no water in it at the end of September. Prewitt and Jumbo reservoirs were each 17 percent full. That marks a steep decline from the end of May, when North Sterling was 82 percent full, Prewitt was 87 and Jumbo was at 96 percent…

Northeast Colorado livestock producers concerned about drought impacts are invited to attend a Managing Drought Workshop on Dec. 11-12 in Wray, hosted by the Yuma County Conservation District and Natural Resource Conservation Service. The workshop series will include sessions on online resources, such as a spreadsheet that can calculate profit estimates based on a number of variables, as well as drought indicators, plant drought response and drought planning. Ranchers may attend any part or all of the workshop sections.

For more information about the workshop, visit ycconservation.com.

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

Despite warmer weather this month — and still no sign of the first snow in Greeley — many residents complied with city officials’ pleas to stop watering their lawns by Oct. 1 instead of the city’s usual recommendation to stop by Oct. 15. The result was a savings of 96 million gallons of water, said Natalie Stevens, spokeswoman for Greeley’s water department…

“You can tell a lot have stopped watering,” [Natalie Stevens, spokeswoman for Greeley’s water department] said. “We knew citizens are water efficient and would step up to the plate when it’s needed, so we weren’t surprised. But we are happy.”[…]

Compared with water demand last year, Greeley used 111 million fewer gallons of water this season, Stevens said…

If Greeley continues to see little precipitation, it’s still a good idea for residents to water their trees and shrubs, experts say. Old or new trees, or stressed trees such as those that suffered in last year’s heavy snowstorms, tend to be more susceptible to winter kill, according to Greeley’s water and sewer department.