Snowpack news: Good snow Christmas Eve at the Arkansas headwaters #COdrought #COwx


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Christmas Eve snowstorm blanketed the Arkansas River headwaters in white, but did not alleviate drought conditions that have clung to the basin for more than two years. “We went to an early Mass at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and before we got out it had snowed so much that we almost didn’t make it home,” said Rego Omerigic, a Leadville resident…

But more precise measurements by Leadville weather watcher Charles Kuster show that snowfall for the season — July 1-June 30 in the high country — is only about 60 percent of average so far. It’s also been one of the warmest years on record. “On Christmas Eve, we got 4.8 inches of snow, with 0.34 of an inch moisture content. That’s the largest amount this season,” Kuster said.

So far in December — more snow is in the forecast through Friday — Leadville has gotten about 16 inches of snow, compared with the average of about 21 inches. Statewide, snowpack levels as measured at Snotel sites maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service were at 68 percent of average just prior to the storm. The Arkansas River basin was in the worst shape at 57 percent.

Pueblo’s precipitation for the year, not likely to increase by the end of the year Monday, is 4.94 inches, the second-driest year on record. The driest year was 2002, with 3.94 inches, and average is 12.54 inches. If the drought continues, it could influence how water is used in the Arkansas River basin. Winter water storage is at about 83 percent of average. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is planning to recoup water in storage and eliminating spot-market leases next year. Aurora Water is planning to lease water from the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to refill some of its depleted storage.

Norwood and the Lone Cone Ditch Company settle with Telluride over San Miguel water rights application

Lone Cone from the Dolores River

From The Norwood Post (Patrick Alan Coleman/Katie Klingsporn):

The Town of Norwood along with the Lone Cone Ditch and Reservoir Company reached a settlement with the Town of Telluride over Telluride’s opposition to applications for water rights on the San Miguel river. Norwood’s application, which came as a response to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) filing for increased in-stream flow to protect fish habitat, was meant to ensure water for 50 years of future growth along the 85 miles of line in the Norwood Water Commission (NWC) district.

The settlement reduces the proposed 16,300 acre-feet of water in five reservoirs proposed in the original cases filed. That amount was based in part on water commission studies suggesting how much water would be adequate for two percent growth in the NWC district up to the year 2060.

Under the proposed settlement, the Norwood Water Commission will withdraw claims for two of the five reservoirs — the Upper Gurley and Huff Gulch reservoirs — as well as the J&M Hughes Ditch enlargement. The NWC will also accept an overall storage capacity limitation of 2,250 acre-feet and a use limitation of 1,000 acre-feet annually. NWC must also select, within 12 years, one of the alternate reservoirs or a combination of them to develop, with a cumulative storage capacity of no more than 2,240 acre-feet, and abandon storage rights for the reservoirs not selected. In addition, the NWC will have to abandon reservoirs for which construction has not begun within 24 years, and forfeit water for which actual uses do not develop by 2060.

The Lone Cone Ditch and Reservoir Company, meanwhile, will limit its use of water stored in the Lone Cone Reservoir enlargement to 1,750 acre-feet, and not sell its stored water allocation to NWC…

According to Norwood Town Administrator Patti Grafmyer, much of the reason for settling with Telluride was due to the expenses that would have likely been incurred by fighting the municipality in water court…

The water fight began shortly after the CWCB announced that it would be filing for increased in-stream flows in 2010. The announcement had counties and towns along the San Miguel river scrambling to file additional rites on streams, tributaries, and storage along the river in order to ensure that their rights would not be junior to those of the CWCB.

Initially affected parties joined together with the Southwestern Water Conservation District who had completed a study detailing how much water would be needed by the communities in the watershed as they grew into the future.

At that time the Town of Norwood was meeting and working in tandem with a coalition that included Nucla, Naturita, their Montrose county representatives and representatives from San Miguel county. The initial plan was for the parties to file for water in conjunction.

In September of 2010, both Montrose county and San Miguel county pulled out of the endeavor due to legal questions and vagaries of the proposed group filing. While Montrose county continued to support its municipalities by pursuing rights for future water, the dissolution of the initial partnership left the town of Norwood on its own with just one month to file before the CWCB.

More San Miguel River coverage here and here.

Grand Junction: DARCA Annual Conference ‘Water for food, Food for life’ — March 6-8


Here’s the announcement from the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance:

‘Platte River Recovery Implementation Program is creating a place for whooping cranes to stay during their migration’ — Kearney Hub


From the Kearney Hub (Lori Porter):

Large, yellow earth movers circled 180 acres of land southeast of Kearney between the north and main channels of the Platte River, sculpting shallow depressions that will be seeded with wetland plants and, it’s hoped, be filled by spring rains. The goal in this initial “pothole” project is to create habitat attractive to endangered whooping cranes that migrate through the Central Platte Valley. The hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes that make an annual late winter-early spring mid-migration stop also should like the wetland conditions, said Bruce Sackett, land specialist for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. Ducks, geese and small shorebirds also may visit the site, he added. To the south, along the river’s main channel, 300 acres have been seeded to grass that Sackett said needs moisture now to thrive next year.

Both habitat restoration projects are part of an effort to manage 10,000 acres of habitat for threatened and endangered birds — least terms and piping plovers are the other two target species — for the first 13-year increment of a plan to put the entire Platte Basin into Endangered Species Act compliance.

The other major component of the program involving the U.S. Department of Interior, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska is to reduce Platte River streamflow depletions. A successful program will allow all federally licensed or permitted entities within the three states, including Nebraska Public Power District and Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, to comply with the ESA. Otherwise, each project would have to have comply on its own.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: ‘Will now be transitioning in into a statewide Value of Water movement’ — Judy Lopez


Here’s the latest installment in the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by Judy Lopez. Here’s an excerpt:

The “Water 2012” awareness campaign for the Rio Grande Basin is winding down. What started as a celebration of Colorado’s historic water moments will now be transitioning in into a statewide “Value of Water” movement. This proactive crusade will continue on several fronts across all of the river basins in the state with a single goal of getting water on every body’s mind.

Water it is such a simple topic. It is wet stuff that we drink, bathe in, wash our clothes in, grow and prepare food in. It’s used for making stuff; animals use it and plants use it. The point is – it really gets used. That tends to be a problem, especially since there are getting to be so many people that have so many uses for a once plentiful resource. Water education was once a topic left to children as part of their school studies, but since there are now seven billion of us here on the planet, five million in Colorado, our water footprint (demand) or our “splash” is exceeding the supply that we have readily available.

The value of water means different things to everyone. On the most personal level, it is getting a drink of safe water whenever need to quench thirst. It is coveted in household use for food, hygiene and the basic needs. There are also the agricultural needs to grow and process food. Without these needs met then there is loss of jobs, higher food costs and less food security. Most modern manufacturing requires some form of water use, real economic drivers in times like that are the loss of jobs. Finally, there is the environmental need – streams, rivers and lakes require a given amount of water for the survival of aquatic species. That water in turn is key for the economies that survive on those streams, rivers and lakes.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.