CU working on saving only Greenback cutthroat population from extinction


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Larry Lopez):

How much do Coloradans really know about their state fish?

Did you know, for example, that there are only an estimated 750 of them in the hundreds of miles of state waters.

In case you didn’t know, the greenback cutthroat trout was designated Colorado’s official state fish of Colorado in 1994, to recognize a true Colorado trout. Previously, the state fish was the rainbow trout — a fish that had been imported into Colorado in 1882.

Originally considered indigenous to many small streams and rivers throughout the Arkansas and South Platte river basins in Colorado, the greenback eventually wound up on the verge of extinction at the time of its designation, as loss of good habitat and the introduction of additional species of trout took a toll.

The recent release of a new research by scientists at the University of Colorado noted that the last surviving population of true greenbacks in Colorado is limited to Bear Creek, a tiny stream on the slope of Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs.

“We’ve known for some time that the trout in Bear Creek were unique,” said Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife Service.

“But we didn’t realize they were the only surviving greenback population,” Krieger added.

The findings of the CU researchers, Jessica Metcalf and Andrew Martin, were startling, said Theo Stein of the service’s Denver office.

“It opened the window of this fish that surprised a lot of people. We didn’t know we’re one stream away from extinction of the state fish,” Stein said.

The number of greenback living in the four­mile reach of Bear Creek was estimated from fish sampling completed in 2011. However, the actual number could vary as sampling in these type of headwater streams can be difficult.

The study also found that a previously undiscovered San Juan Basin cutthroat and the yellowfin cutthroat trout (which was originally found in the upper basin around Leadville) also are extinct.
It has meant a change in the service’s thinking on management of the greenback.

To complement the new research findings, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout Recovery Team has begun working with Colorado State University to reexamine the physical characteristics of Colorado cutthroats. When completed, scientists will compare results from physical examination with the genetic analysis in hopes of further clarifying the evolutionary relationships among native cutthroat trout.

In the meantime, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have begun growing a broodstock of greenback in two hatcheries with hopes of transplanting a new population back to the wild by 2014. Krieger is optimistic about the future of greenback cutthroats and suggests that, “This fish was found in many streams before settlers came to Colorado, and we hope to expand greenbacks to more places so that people can enjoy this legacy once again.”

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

The Colorado Water Innovation Cluster will host Innovation After Hours from 4-6 p.m. Thursday


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The Colorado Water Innovation Cluster will host Innovation After Hours from 4-6 p.m. Thursday at the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, 320 E. Vine Drive, Fort Collins.

Carbo Analytics LLC, OptiEnz Sensors and Logimesh Technologies will present on Northern Colorado projects taking place.

To register for the event, visit

‘I think they [developers] should guarantee 200 years worth of water’ — Paul Ransford


From The Aspen Times (Paul Anderson):

The state is already challenged to provide enough water for current residents and also provide for new growth and development in Front Range cities. Urban planners are now beginning to look long term at water consumption by requiring developers to ensure water supplies a century or more into the future.

“I think they should guarantee 200 years worth of water,” says [Ken Ransford, a water expert with the Colorado Basin Roundtable], who believes that the availability of water is a critical issue if Colorado is to have a sustainable future. Ransford is looking that far ahead because of sobering tree ring studies that forecast a dry future.

The New York Times published a bold headline on August 12: “Hundred-Year Forecast: Drought.” The article describes how tree ring evidence in the American West reveals fluctuating patterns of rain and snowfall.

Since about 1980 the West has seen high moisture levels. According to tree rings, this is a spike that hasn’t been seen since the age of Christ 2000 years ago. The West has been enjoying a very wet 30 years, at least compared with historic droughts, but all that is sure to change if the tree rings speak the truth.

“How will we adapt to a rise in population and a drop of water levels?” asks Ransford. Not only have Westerners become habituated to having plenty of water, we have not looked very seriously at the eventuality of considerable shortfalls.

One solution is to dewater farms and ranches in favor of other, higher paying water users, like subdivisions in urban growth areas where developers are better able to afford high water prices than farmers and ranchers.

The implications are dire if water becomes extremely expensive and agriculture is unable to compete with other water customers. Food production will become more distant and more likely done by agribusiness.

Cool, clear water will become one of our most precious commodities, as it certainly has for some Missouri Heights homeowners. This most essential element of life will be channeled more and more into large population areas, dewatering our rivers and streams on the Western Slope.

Ransford advocates for water efficiency rather than dewatering traditional agriculture and riparian ecosystems, but political support and vision for that option is lacking. It will be up to the public, he says, to come up to speed on water issues and support the least disruptive solutions to reduced supplies in the future.

Perhaps we water users should all start singing “Cool, Clear Water” in a plaintive Western chorus.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Snowpack news: Colorado off to a slow start for the water year #COSnowpack #CODrought


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The Copper Mountain SNOTEL site was reporting 4 inches of snow a few weeks ago, but is now back to zero, for example, and numerous other SNOTEL sites are also reporting at zero. Exceptions are in the far north, where the Tower site is reporting 5 inches on the ground, and the Never Summer site, leading the state with 10 inches. Grizzly Peak is reporting 3 inches, while Fremont Pass is at 4 inches.

The snow drought is particularly pronounced in the Southwestern mountains, although that could change dramatically this weekend, with a storm expected to drop 12 to 18 inches of snow — and perhaps more across the most favored high elevations of the San Juans. The Silverton-based Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies reported only 1.26 inches of October precipitation at the high-elevation Senator Beck site, about 30 percent of the average amount for that location, going back to 2004…

Years with a weak El Niño or neutral Pacific Ocean conditions show a slight trend toward favoring the northern mountains with snow in mid-winter and the southern mountains in late winter and spring, according to Grand Junction-based National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Ramey, who offered a winter outlook at the annual Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Leadville.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin


Click here for the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Voters approve the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District’s bond issue


From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Randy Ray was “pumped” after voters of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District overwhelmingly approved a pair of water measures he says will “significantly” help farmers.

With votes cast by about 87 percent of Weld County’s eligible, active voters, 66.25 percent of those who live in Central’s boundaries had checked “yes” on Measure 4A. Measure 4A approves a $60 million bond issue to pay for three of Central’s endeavors. “This is so huge for us,” said Ray, executive director of Central.

Central, based in Greeley, is one of 15 water providers looking to take part in the proposed Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project, a $184 million undertaking that would provide an additional 2,849 acre­feet of water to some of Central’s users. Central Water officials also are considering the construction of gravel pits for an additional 8,000­9,000 acre­feet of storage, and buying 1,000 acre­feet of senior water rights with the bonds. Taxpayers within Central Water’s boundaries will now pay an additional $1.13 each month per $100,000 in property value for the next 25 years, Central officials estimate.

About 65 percent of Central voters approved Measure 4B, which allows Central’s Groundwater Management Sub­district to accept state and federal grant funding to construct projects.

Central’s district is mostly in Weld County, but its boundaries also stretch into Adams and Morgan counties. Central voters in Morgan County supported 4A by a 25­16 margin, and 4B by a 17­6 margin. Numbers for Adams County alone on the issues were not available as of press time.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Fountain Creek: ‘The creek we used to play in is a filthy mess’ — Melissa Esquibel


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A stormwater structure for Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities has to be in place before Southern Delivery System goes online. That’s a must for a downstream water district, and a top priority for Colorado Springs.
Two members of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board met Tuesday with two Colorado Springs City Council members to begin talks aimed at clearing the air on stormwater issues. The meeting was hosted by Pueblo County Commissioner Anthony Nunez; more meetings are expected.

“I’m cynical. I grew up a block from Fountain Creek,” said Melissa Esquibel, a member of the Lower Ark board. “The creek we used to play in is a filthy mess.”

“Waldo Canyon (Fire) has created a sense of urgency for you,” Nunez added. “We’ve had that sense of urgency for 100 years.”

Colorado Springs council members Merv Bennett and Brandy Williams sat at the other end of the table and said they are diligently working on a regional stormwater solution. Bennett said the collections of $15 million per year that would have occurred under the now­ defunct stormwater enterprise may not have been enough to fix Fountain Creek. He touted the $28 million for stormwater in next year’s Colorado Springs budget and asked for patience and trust.

“We’ll prove our trust by our behavior,” Bennett said.

Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, emphasized that the district met with a different set of council members in 2005, only to start over on the same issues now. He said Colorado Springs will be a regional water provider through SDS, which makes it imperative that Colorado Springs takes the lead in controlling flows into Fountain Creek.

“We’ve set a lofty goal with the stormwater task force,” Williams said. “We have to establish what the region’s needs and expenditures are.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Pueblo: The PBOWW is eyeing a water rate increase of 2.75% in their new budget


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While you were dumping all that water on the lawn last summer, you were keeping your water rates down. The Pueblo Board of Water Works got a detailed look at the proposed 2013 budget Tuesday, with no major surprises in the picture. A public hearing will be Nov. 20.

This year’s dry, hot weather meant a lower-than-expected increase in next year’s water rates — a 2.75 percent increase.
Why? Metered sales were projected to bring in $22 million, but all the extra watering meant an additional $800,000 in projected revenue. “Any time we have a situation where expenditures are lower or revenue higher, our customers get a benefit,” said Seth Clayton, director of administrative services and finance.

The water board also will see revenue of $7.6 million — in a $32.3 million budget — from water leases next year, including $5.2 million to power companies. While spot leases are not expected, the water board has several long-term contracts that provide additional revenues.

Expenditures are expected to be relatively flat, as opposed to this year’s steep hike in electric rates. Electricity purchases amount to about $3.4 million. A 1.49 percent salary increase is included, along with a 1.25 percent hike in health insurance and 5 percent drop in dental insurance.

An end to the drought could hurt next year’s revenues, which are based on consumption of 8.35 billion gallons for residential use. Outside lawn watering is the biggest variable for revenues, Clayton said. “Our customers are using their water wisely,” he said. “If we see a normal year, we will not see the consumption we have this year.”

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.

Gary Barber resigns as Two Rivers Water Company President and CEO


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Apparently as a result of the emphasis on farming and perceived diminution in responsibility, Gary Barber, the company’s president and chief operating officer, whose primary work experience and expertise lie in municipal water operations, without notice and unexpectedly notified the company on (Monday) via email of his resignation,” Two Rivers founder and CEO John McKowen said in a news release.

“No comment,” said Barber, adding that he will now be looking for other opportunities.

Barber chairs the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, a group that meets monthly on basin water issues. He previously represented El Paso County water interests and was the first executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.