‘What started out as a small water awareness campaign…grew into a statewide water celebration’ — Leah Opitz


Here’s the latest installment (Number 51) of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by Leah Opitz. Here’s an excerpt:

What started out as a small water awareness campaign by the Foundation for Water Education grew into a statewide water celebration. Whether residents were in Durango or Fort Collins, there was some kind of “Water 2012” event happening in their town at some point this year. From book tours to displays in public libraries, from water project tours, to contests, Water 2012 offered something for everyone in the hope of getting Coloradans connected and active in water, both locally and at the statewide level.

Here in the San Luis Valley, Water 2012 marked a significant milestone in water history the 100th anniversary of the Rio Grande Reservoir, an engineering feat that represents the hard work, vision, and determination of the people of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District…

To celebrate, Water 2012 the Rio Grande Basin hosted tours of water projects going on around the San Luis Valley. From the Rio Grande Reservoir at the top of the watershed down to the Sanchez Reservoir, they drove many miles to get folks out to see what was going on with water. Folks had an opportunity to learn about new dam construction projects, new ditch construction projects, the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project, and attendees even had a chance to venture underneath the dam at Platoro Reservoir to see the pump room.

The summer tour series started out with a caravan tour through Costilla County, stopping off at Sanchez Reservoir, the historic People’s Ditch, and then to see the Sangre de Cristo Trinchera Diversion Canal.

The next tour took folks down to Conejos County to see the North Fork of the Conejos River Diversion Project and the Platoro Dam Rehabilitation Project.

In August, the San Luis Valley Irrigation District hosted a group up in Mineral County at the Rio Grande Reservoir in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

Lastly, in October, Heather Dutton with the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project brought folks out to see how the RGHRP is working to improve the quality of water, condition of streamside trees and shrubs, and stability of riverbanks along the Rio Grande. The majority of these projects were funded through the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, both from the basin and statewide funding accounts.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Forecast news: Winter storm expected to move out of western Colorado during the day



Snowpack news: The South Platte Basin snowpack (55% of avg) now even with 2002 #CODrought




The snow has started at Gulch Manor (6:15 AM) and the South Platte Basin should move past 2002 (the worst year on record) from the current storm.

From The Cortez Journal (Shannon Livick):

The Dolores River is flowing at around 20 cubic feet per second. But it has been lower, said Mike Preston, manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. Preston estimated that it’s at the third lowest level ever. This is a bit nerve-wracking for water officials, including Preston, as McPhee Reservoir continues to drop.

The reservoir currently sits at 43,155 acre feet of water, about 98,000 acre feet lower than last year. But it has been lower too. On Nov. 1, 2002, the reservoir stored a mere 4,567 acre feet and on Nov. 1, 2003, that number was 21,943 acre feet. “(On Nov. 1, 2011) McPhee had 140,896 acre feet in active storage compliments of Mother Nature and careful water management. Good thing that we started this high or things would be much worse than they are,” Preston said.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Two weeks remain in December and already the snowfall in the city of Steamboat Springs inched past the monthly average of 38.5 inches. Weather observer Art Judson confirmed that December 2012 snowfall at his measuring station between downtown and the mountain unofficially stood at 38.8 inches at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday with heavy snow continuing to fall.

The Front Range Water Council will pony up $275,000 to protect their interests in transbasin diversions in 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Front Range water providers will continue paying a consultant to look out for their interests on the Colorado River next year. The Pueblo Board of Water Works voted Tuesday to chip in $33,000 toward a $275,000 contract between the Front Range Water Council and Grand River Consulting Corp. of Glenwood Springs.

The water council includes the Pueblo water board, Denver Water, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., Northern Water Conservancy District and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Those organizations all import water from the Colorado River basin and collectively serve about 80 percent of the state’s population. Imports among all the groups average nearly 500,000 acre-feet (160 billion gallons) of water annually.

Among topics included in the contract are the continued study of a water bank that would protect Colorado River diversions from downstream calls, follow-up on the recently completed federal Colorado River water availability study, a recreation study and cloud seeding.

Last year, the water board contributed about $30,000 toward the consultant.

More Front Range Water Council coverage here.

Restoration: The Fountain Creek watershed district plans to spend $25,000 for stream bank stabilization in 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek plans to line up more projects next year as it prepares to ask voters for a mill levy at some point in the future. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board agreed Friday to use up to $25,000 of its $240,000 budget for 2013 to leverage other grants for projects to improve stream banks, reduce sediment or make other improvements along the creek.

Projects are being developed in cooperation with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities. “It’s a great opportunity to do some things to make the district more visible,” said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey.

Executive Director Larry Small said up to nine locations along Fountain Creek have been identified for potential work. Many grants require just a 5 percent match, and communities along Fountain Creek have shouldered the bulk of matching funds in the past. Grants could come from either federal or state sources, explained Carol Baker of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Board member Jane Rhodes of Pueblo County, who represents landowners along Fountain Creek, said projects are needed. The district played a role in getting Great Outdoors Colorado grants for trails in Pueblo and parts of El Paso County this year. It also helped the city of Pueblo in a demonstration project aimed at flood control and sediment removal. But landowners have seen further damage from relatively minor flooding.

“I just feel it’s time to look up and down Fountain Creek and get something done for us,” Rhodes said.

The district, formed in 2009 and encompassing all of El Paso and Pueblo counties, has not set a timetable for when it would ask voters to approve a mill levy or decided how much the mill levy would be. State legislation forming the district authorizes it to ask for up to 5 mills.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Aurora hopes to lease 10,000 acre-feet of water in 2013 via the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company #CODrought


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two Rocky Ford­ area ditch company boards agreed Tuesday to work with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to lease water to Aurora next year. The boards of the High Line and Catlin canals cleared the way for the leases, which will be made through the Super Ditch.

“It’s a voluntary program, and shareholders can either agree to participate or not to participate,” said John Schweizer, president of both the Catlin Canal and Super Ditch boards. “How many choose to participate determines how much each person will get.”

Aurora has offered to buy up to 10,000 acre-­feet of water from the Super Ditch next year because its reservoir storage is below 60 percent of available capacity. That is a trigger for leasing in drought­ recovery years under the 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Aurora initially offered $500 per acre­-foot, but that figure is under negotiation, Schweizer said. “The boards agreed that wouldn’t work at all,” Schweizer said.

Super Ditch attorney Peter Nichols will negotiate the rate with Aurora.

The $500 per acre-­foot figure was part of an agreement reached in 2010 with the Super Ditch and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Since then, the price of corn and hay — the major crops grown here — in the Arkansas Valley has nearly tripled during the drought.

“That was a different time,” Schweizer said.

Either an interruptible supply plan or substitute water supply plan would have to be filed with the Division of Water Resources for the lease to occur. That would require engineering and legal resources to meet a possible challenge from other water users in the valley. Schweizer said those costs also will be negotiated with Aurora.

More Aurora coverage here and here.