Grand Junction: CMU 2013 Water Course – Feb. 11, 18, 25 #COriver


Here’s the link to the announcement from Colorado Mesa University:

CMU University Center Ballroom, Grand Junction, CO

The public is invited to this evening seminar series on how water is managed in our region.
Continuing education credits will be sought for water system operators, attorneys, realtors, and teachers. Certificates of completion will be provided.

More education coverage here.

Forecast/snowpack news: ‘Significant Winter Storm brings widespread snow and strong winds through Saturday’ — NWS #COdrought #COwx


From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction put the possibility of snow Friday at 80 percent and 50 percent Friday night, with 1 to 2 inches of new snow possible. The chance for snow on Saturday tapers off quickly…

Snow accumulation on Lizard Head Pass on Colorado Highway 145 south of Telluride is expected to be 3 to 5 inches, Shanks said…

The state’s water-supply outlook for this month, prepared by the National Resources Conservation Service, shows the Animas, San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel basins, which began December with a snowpack 37 percent of normal, bounced back with the help of several late-month storms. The late-month storms brought December’s precipitation to 105 percent of average for the month.

The accumulation brought the region’s four basins back to 70 percent of normal on Jan. 1.

Reservoir storage in the four basins stood at 106 percent of normal at the end of May, but fell to 66 percent of average on Dec. 31. Total current reservoir storage in the region is 248,000 acre-feet, compared with 400,000 acre-feet at the same time last year…

The state as a whole fared slightly better than Southwest Colorado. The collective snowpack on Jan. 1 stood at 91 percent of the same date in 2012. The Jan. 1, 2013, level replaced last year as the fourth lowest in the last 32 years.

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

According to Griffith, the [cloud-seeding] program started in the middle of November this year but didn’t begin seeding until December. So far, six storms have been seeded. The burners’ yellow flames, including one that can be seen near Three Rivers Resort in Almont, burn a mixture of sodium and silver iodide into the lower layers of clouds. That silver iodide can cause water droplets to turn to snow at warmer temperatures than they otherwise would.

[North American Weather Consultants] estimates that they boost winter storms by about 10 percent to 15 percent. Last August, prior to the program’s permit renewal, Griffith reminded the Gunnison County commissioners that while effective, cloud seeding is not a silver bullet that can reverse drought conditions like the county saw last year.

“If you’re going to have 50 percent of snowfall naturally, and you get a 10 percent increase from cloud seeding, that would still result in a snowpack 55 percent of average,” Griffith explained. “There’s still a drought—it’s just going to be a little less dry than it would be naturally.”

The total cost of the program is right around $95,000 per year, and NAWC estimates that produces additional water to the tune of about $1 per acre-foot. Matching funds from the state bolster local contributions to reach the full amount.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Heather McGregor):

Remote snowpack telemetry sites in the upper Fryingpan basin and on Independence Pass show the worst readings. Nast Lake, at 8,700 feet in the upper Fryingpan, has just 11 inches of snow holding 1.1 inches of water, just 30 percent of normal for Jan. 9. The Kiln telemetry site, also in the Fryingpan basin, at 9,600 feet has 16 inches of snow holding 2.5 inches of water, just 42 percent of normal. And the Independence Pass telemetry site at 10,600 feet has all of 19 inches of snow holding 3.2 inches of water, just 39 percent of normal. The deepest snow in the whole Roaring Fork River basin is at Schofield Pass above Marble. Even there, the remote telemetry equipment recorded 39 inches of snow holding 10.3 inches of water, 66 percent of average…

“Last December, the soil moisture was in good shape, and everything was above average because we were coming off a good year,” Nielson said. “This year, it’s much below average, below 50 percent of normal in a lot of areas, because we are coming off a really dry year…

Snowstorms that swept across the state in December pushed Colorado’s snowpack up from very low levels, said Phyllis Ann Philipps, state conservationist for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

2013 Colorado legislation: Northern Water hopes to push graywater reclamation bill this session #COleg


From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Colorado water law allows just one use of water before it goes down the drain, through a wastewater treatment plant and back into the river for others to use. There are exemptions, however. For instance, Denver International Airport is allowed to use graywater from its sinks for sprinkler water on remote fields that are closed off to the public.

Republican lawmakers in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee narrowly defeated the bill in a 5-4 vote in committee last year. Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, will reintroduce the bill [HB13-1044: CONCERNING THE AUTHORIZATION OF THE USE OF GRAYWATER], which he thinks stands a better chance of drawing bipartisan support this year.

Fischer, chairman of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, explained that he believes House Speaker Mark Ferrandino will help send the bill to the full House. Water bills are usually first considered in the agriculture committee.

Fischer also has tweaked the bill slightly to win support from lawmakers, including addressing concerns about water rights, he said. The bill also rights, he said. The bill also would authorize the state Water Quality Control Commission to create rules for graywater use, a provision meant to address public health concerns…

“I think it’s very important to have as many tools available as possible to promote wide use of our water sources,” Fischer said.

Northern Water agrees and plans to endorse the bill in its role as a member of the Colorado Water Congress, a water advocacy group comprised of districts throughout the state, officials said…

Northern Water also plans to back a bill from Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, that will ensure water left in reservoirs is not considered abandoned and released.

“Water storage is critical to Colorado’s water needs going forward,” Hodge said in an email. “Clearly defining its use is vital.”

The bill would reverse parts of a state Supreme Court decision in Upper Yampa Water Conservation District v. Wolfe from 2011. The high court upheld a lower court’s decision that to keep a water right, a water district must show it has used the resource.

Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson supports the bill because he has concerns that the court decision will prevent use of water in reservoirs that see occasional use but serve the important purpose of storing water for use during droughts.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Governor Hickenlooper: Colorado is still experiencing a difficult drought #COdrought


Click here to read the Governor’s prepared remarks from the State of the State speech yesterday. Here’s an excerpt:

As the wildfires remind us, Colorado is still experiencing a difficult drought. About 95 percent of Colorado is under severe or worse drought conditions. Our snowpack is well below average. This affects far more than the outdoor recreation industry; it impacts all of Colorado.

That’s why we set a goal of crafting a state water plan by 2015 … and much work has already been done. While expanding reservoir capacity makes sense, and rotational fallowing of agricultural land shows great promise, every discussion about water should start with conservation [ed. emphasis mine].

The Interbasin Compact Committee and Basin Roundtable process affords stakeholders in each basin a forum for discussion. Our water plan will stand on the shoulders of their work. We know that a plan is not a silver bullet, but it is an essential next step if we are to shape how Colorado will look in the future. As farmers and ranchers brace for what could be another hard year of drought, every property owner who lives in the mountains to our west will need to make their own preparations…

Many scientists believe that our severe drought, the bark beetle epidemic and the terrible fire season are further evidence of climate change. While no state can address the issue in isolation, reducing pollutants and promoting sustainable development, ought to be common ground for all of us.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.