The next Eagle River Watershed Council ‘Waterwise Wednesday’ (April 3) features Nolan Doesken and a focus on drought #codrought


From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

A Peek into Colorado’s Climate: Is Drought Passing, Permanent or Periodic?
by State Climatologist Nolan Doesken

Water Wise Wednesday
Wednesday, April 3rd
5:30-7:00 pm
The Dusty Boot
Eagle, CO

Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken joins the Eagle River Watershed Council for our next Water Wise Wednesday to discuss the state of drought in Colorado. Doesken, who monitors current and long term climatic conditions in Colorado, will provide updates on the current snowpack, summer drought predictions and long term trends in the state.

Nolan Doesken has been with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University since 1977, where he was appointed State Climatologist in 2006. He is currently the president of the American Association of State Climatologists.

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Thanks Secretary Salazar for Protecting Water from Oil Shale Speculation #coriver


Here’s the release from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union:

Today, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union launched an ad campaign thanking outgoing Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar for his smart approach to protecting western water and Colorado farms and ranches from costly oil shale speculation. In the ad, RMFU says, “Thank you Secretary Salazar for not gambling our water away on oil shale!”
(View the ad here.)

The ad will run in seven newspapers across the state, including the Denver Post, Boulder Daily Camera, Longmont Daily Times-Call, Loveland Daily Reporter Herald, Canon City Daily Record, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, and Pueblo Chieftain.

The Salazar plan requires oil shale companies to demonstrate that oil shale technology is commercially viable and will not jeopardize water supplies or air quality before Interior will consider granting commercial leases. The plan also ensures that technologies developed include proper safeguards for western water, land, wildlife, air quality, and local economies.

Agriculture is a keystone of Colorado’s economy and way of life, and as the state moves further into the second year of the worst drought in a decade, water supplies are already overtaxed. One of the greatest threats oil shale speculation poses, is to western water sources.

The Government Accounting Office and industry experts have said oil shale could require up to 140 percent of what Denver Water supplies to residents and local businesses.

“Colorado’s farmers and ranchers applaud Secretary Salazar for protecting our farms, our ranches, and our food,” said Bill Midcap, RMFU Director of External Affairs. “Western farmers believe in common sense, and that’s what the secretary used in determining this approach to protecting our water from costly oil shale speculation. We wish we saw a little more of this common sense approach in other public land policy. Colorado farmers and ranchers are facing the worst drought in more than a decade, and we simply cannot afford to gamble away our scarce water resources on oil shale speculation.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is thanking outgoing U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar with an advertising campaign. The union praises Salazar, a San Luis Valley native, for protecting Western water and Colorado ranches and farms.

The ad is appearing in seven state newspapers, including The Pueblo Chieftain, and it reads: “Thank you Secretary Salazar for not gambling our water away on oil shale!”[…]

“We wish we saw a little more of this common-sense approach in other public land policy. Colorado farmers and ranchers are facing the worst drought in more than a decade, and we simply cannot afford to gamble away our scarce water resources on oil shale speculation.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Forecast news: Mountain snow and rain tonight through Tuesday #codrought #cowx

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

Mostly sunny skies and warm, above normal temperatures will continue today as a quick moving ridge of high pressure slides across the region. Clouds will increase tonight ahead of an approaching Pacific storm system set to impact the area tonight through Tuesday. Expect valley rain and mountain rain and snow with this system. Snow levels will be high with this mild system, somewhere around 9000 ft on Monday and dropping to 7000 to 8000 feet Monday night into Tuesday. Isolated thunderstorms will be possible Monday afternoon and evening. Temperatures will be cooler on Tuesday, with readings closer to normal, before warming back up to above normal readings Wednesday through the end of the week as a ridge of high pressure builds back in.

Brian Bledsoe via Facebook:

Well, all of a sudden the models are showing some decent snow with the system Monday night and Tuesday. GFS and NAM have significant moisture for Southern Colorado and areas to the southeast, while the ECMWF focuses the best moisture to the southeast of Colorado. Models will wrestle with this for another day or two…looks radically different than it did two days ago. We’ll see if that trend continues.

From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:

Mostly dry and mild weather will spread across the state today, with only a few isolated mountain showers expected. Temperatures will warm into the 60s over most locations, with 40s and 50s possible over some of the higher locations. By late tonight, our next low pressure system will begin pushing across the southwestern states and into western Colorado. This will bring an increase in clouds and moisture to the state, with a slightly better chance for precipitation developing along and west of the Continental Divide after midnight. As the surface low moves across New Mexico on Monday, low level moisture should begin increasing from the southeast, with the chances for precipitation gradually working across the mountains and into the eastern plains by Monday night. A chance for precipitation should then continue into early Wednesday morning, as the low moves slowly towards the southeast. Some uncertainties with regards to the temperatures and track of this system rema! in, which will affect how much rain or snow falls across the region. Persons planning travel across the higher elevations through this period may need to watch for later statements on this developing weather situation.

Drought/snowpack news: Low reservoirs in South Park will impact economy this summer #codrought




From The Fairplay Flume (Mike Potter):

The planned drainage of Antero Reservoir starting in April and low water levels at Spinney Mountain Reservoir that have closed boat ramps will likely have negative impacts on Park County this summer.

Kevin Tobey, the parks manager for Eleven Mile State Park and Spinney Mountain State Park, said the boat ramps at Spinney Mountain Reservoir have been closed because water levels are too low.
“The water is currently at the bottom of the North Boat Ramp at Spinney Mountain Reservoir, which is only 47 percent of capacity, and there is little hope that water levels will rise much through the spring,” he said in an email. “If boat trailers backed off the ramp, they’d get stuck in the mud, so we have to close the ramps when we don’t have at least 2 to 2 1/2 feet of water on the ramps so boats can safely launch.”[…]

It’s hard to say how all of that will impact the reservoirs as far as visitation. Tobey said when Antero was drained in 2002, he saw a slight increase at Eleven Mile and Spinney from displaced fisherman. But then when Antero reopened in 2007, he also saw a bump in the use at the other reservoirs. “Visitation at Eleven Mile and Spinney Mountain State Parks actually increased slightly in 2007 when Antero re-opened,” he said…

Park County Commissioner Dick Hodges said the impacts to the county will be most felt by businesses that have relied on people visiting Antero. He said the county would be most affected through the loss of sales contributing to the 1 percent sales tax. Michael “Griz” Egloff, a fishing guide with South Platte Anglers, said the closure and drainage of Antero Reservoir is going to hurt business. “It’s going to kill me this year,” he said. “This drought is just going to wreck Park County.”

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

Trekking atop more than five feet of snow, John Fusaro and Todd Boldt moved mechanically on Thursday, stopping with the same muted routine each time they reached a new point on their map, which looked a lot like a constellation of stars.

A simple line connecting highlighted dots, the 1935 map guided Fusaro and Boldt to 10 spots more than 10,000 feet up the Poudre Canyon, where the pair returns each month to gauge Colorado’s mountain snowpack. Using the same map has provided a level of continuity that allows Fusaro and Boldt — conservationists for the USDA’s National Resource Conservation Service — to calculate averages at each point over a 30-year timespan, they said.

At Cameron Pass, Fusaro and Boldt found snowpack at 75 percent of its normal level. Not great, but certainly an improvement over last year, Fusaro said. One year ago, he and Boldt could casually walk through some points outlined on their map that were normally covered with feet of snow. Of course, yet another year ago — in 2011 — Colorado’s snowpack was so high that the pair had to improvise with their measuring tools to accurately record the hordes of snow that collected there, they said.

Thursday’s readings will come out in the NRCS April 1 report, which will give water districts and municipalities the best estimate of snowmelt likely to trickle down the Poudre Canyon come summertime.

About 85 percent of the snow that collects in the mountains over winter is already there, Fusaro and Boldt said. Typically, if snowpack hasn’t reached an average level by Jan. 1, there is a slight chance — about 10 to 15 percent — that enough snow will fall to fill the gap, Fusaro said.

For many Weld County farmers and ranchers, the lower snowpack numbers confirm what they already knew: that larger cities such as Greeley and Longmont likely won’t have extra water this year to lease to farmers and ranchers.

Last spring, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District set its spring quota for the Colorado Big-Thompson Project, a supplemental water source in northern Colorado, at 100 percent, meaning each unit of C-BT water would yield a full acre foot. Farmers were in need of water during the drought, and the C-BT reservoirs at the time were filled to high levels. But Brian Werner, a spokesperson for Northern Water, said recently the quota this year will likely be set at about 60 percent because those reservoirs have been depleted since last year, and this year’s below-average snowpack won’t be enough to refill them.

According to the Colorado Snotel Snowpack Update Map on Thursday, statewide snowpack was 22 percent lower than the historic average, with the North Platte River Basin at the highest percent of the state average (83) and the South Platte River Basin at the lowest (71).

Some points in the Poudre Canyon, such as Deadman Hill at 10,220 feet, were as high as 83 percent of the snowpack normally recorded at that site. At Big South, where elevation is 8,600 feet, snowpack was 117 percent of the average there, although snow at that level melts so quickly that the reading is hardly indicative of what to expect come summer, Fusaro said. He said details like that, or the quality of the soil beneath the snowpack, don’t occur to most people. “People don’t realize that you have to recharge the ground before you get runoff,” he said, explaining that dry soil will yield less snowmelt, because it absorbs snow before it can run off into the river for cities farther east.

“People just think, ‘Oh, we got 12 inches of snow — the drought is over,’” Fusaro said as he and Boldt worked in synchronized motions, Fusaro recording numbers as Boldt dug into the snow. Hardly a word was exchanged between them. “We’ve been doing this together for 19 years,” Fusaro laughed. “We don’t need to talk.”

Here’s an in-depth look at the potential for a large wildfire near the Colorado River headwaters from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Standing on the shore of Grand Lake, it’s impossible not to look across the water and notice a row of homes on the far shore sitting directly beneath a mountain flanked with countless dead trees. The water pouring from your kitchen faucet in Fort Collins is directly linked to whatever happens on that shoreline when the next wildfire roars through Grand Lake — 50 miles as the crow flies and over the Continental Divide from Fort Collins.

Your morning coffee might not have tasted any different after the High Park Fire torched the Poudre River watershed last summer, but Fort Collins’ primary source of drinking water was compromised as rain washed ash and silt off the burned slopes and into the river and the city’s water treatment plant. The High Park Fire forced the city to temporarily switch its entire water supply from the Poudre River to the clean, ash-free water of Horsetooth Reservoir, which is filled with water piped beneath Rocky Mountain National Park from Grand Lake and the reservoirs of the headwaters of the Colorado River on the west side of the park.

Wildfires don’t occur often in that area because the climate is generally too cool and wet. But with severe drought afflicting forests decimated by bark beetles, a wildfire, when it occurs, is likely to be explosive. “It’s not likely we’ll have a fire in a given summer, but if it occurs, get out of the way,” said Jason Sibold, a Colorado State University geography professor, forest ecologist and fire historian…

Major wildfires burn about every 150 years or more in the Colorado River’s headwaters because the fire season is usually short and limited by the area’s late snowmelt and the summer monsoon season. But recently, the climate conditions in Grand County have changed. “The common thread is drought,” Sibold said. “It’s not fuels. It’s not fuel type. There is a lot of combustible material up there all the time. The thing that drives fire in the system is drought, drought, drought. And that’s kind of bad news for us.”[…]

Once a severe wildfire torches mountain slopes there, intense rainstorms wash soot, silt and debris into rivers and reservoirs — the same reason the Poudre River ran black after the High Park Fire. Large debris can be filtered out of the system, but the sediment and ash may stay in the water as it is piped through the Adams Tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park and into Front Range reservoirs. “There’s no way you can keep out the sediment and the carbon,” said Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner. “That will get into the C-BT system and work its way to the Front Range. It’s a treatment issue. It costs more. The communities that treat water will have to do changes to how they treat water.”

Manganese and other contaminants in the water would spike, possibly affecting the taste and color of tap water and forcing cities to pay more to treat it, said Chris Matkins, water utilities manager for Loveland, which uses the C-BT system as a major source of its water.

From USA Today (Doyle Rice):

The entire state of Colorado remained in a drought. Wednesday, for the first time in 11 years, mandatory water restrictions were ordered for Denver because of the extended dryness. This is what the Denver Board of Water Commissioners calls a “Stage 2” drought, and includes restrictions on lawn irrigation, hotel laundry, car washing and other non-essential uses of water.

“The last time we declared a Stage 2 drought was in 2002,” Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, said Wednesday. “We are facing a more serious drought now than we faced then.”

The entire state of California is considered to be either abnormally dry or in a drought, which is the highest percentage for the Golden State since October 2009. California has endured its driest January and February on record.

As of this week, almost 99% of Texas is either abnormally dry or in a drought. Parts of eastern Texas are 8 to 16 inches below normal precipitation for the past six months, meteorologist Anthony Artusa said in this week’s Drought Monitor. In the Texas Panhandle, he says, the Greenbelt Lake reservoir has dropped to 12% of capacity.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Due to ongoing drought, the city’s “Level 1” restrictions will limit lawn watering to two days per week. Even-numbered residences water Thursday and Sunday; odd-numbered Wednesday and Saturday; commercial, multifamily and HOAs Tuesday and Friday. Watering of trees, shrubs, flowers and gardens will not be restricted, but restrictions are in place for car washing and spraying off pavement.

Permits through Fort Collins Utilities are available for yards with new seed and sod, properties of more than 4 acres, medical hardships and religious objections.

Information: or (970) 416-2881.

From the North Forty News:

While the storm on March 22 and 23 of this year didn’t make everything right, it did add 8 to 12 inches of fairly wet snow to much of the northern Front Range, and even more on the eastern plains. Having available moisture also helps induce more storm activity, but we don’t seem to be out of the woods yet, Doesken said.

Of course, in a larger sense, things remain quite dry. Statewide, the mountain basins were only at 77 percent of normal in advance of the storm, and the South Platte drainage in northeastern Colorado was the driest of the bunch at 67 percent of average. The Colorado basin, where northeastern Colorado gets water from trans-mountain diversions, was only at 77 percent.

While the mountain snowpack is still far below normal, the storm may be an indication that the best possible spring conditions for the state could set up, with Four Corners lows sucking up Gulf of Mexico moisture and pumping that into Colorado’s Front Range. Many global warming models predict that in Colorado more precipitation would move from winter months to spring, and that has also been a trend in the past decade, most notably in 2011, a record-setting runoff year.

In the meantime, Northern Water continued to fill Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs, emptying the big bucket on the Western Slope, Lake Granby. As it did, farmers and municipal water managers alike filled the March water-users meeting, hoping to get the board to bump up its allocation quota for that Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) water.

“There were more people there than I’ve ever seen at any meeting other than an April meeting” when the quota is actually set, Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said.

The big topic of discussion, of course, is how much water the board will allocate this year. Last year, the first year of drought, the board set a 100 percent quota, meaning each C-BT share realized a full acre foot of water.

The system is set up to provide more water in times of drought, with a 70 percent quota being common in years when precipitation is normal. At the beginning of last year, however, reservoirs were full, which is certainly not the case this year, Werner said.

“We’re starting out with a huge hole in our supply — we have 350,000 acre feet less water in storage than last year. That’s two Horsetooth Reservoirs,” he said. The quota this year may be set at 50 percent or lower…

Farmers with more senior rights on the Poudre will probably be able to take that water for use on fields in May, June and, perhaps, into July…

“We’re already dead here,” said farmer Bob Johnson of Wellington, whose farm received only a couple inches of light snow during the March 22-23 storm. “Of our 350 irrigated acres,” Johnson said, “we’re only going to plant 50 with corn.”


From the Albuquerque Journal (John Fleck):

[March 24] was the 179th anniversary of Powell’s birth. Our current drought and water management struggles in New Mexico and across the western United States make this a good time to revisit what Major Powell was trying to explain to the House Committee on Irrigation back in the spring of 1890…

Powell imagined great dams to protect valleys from flooding and store water during times of plenty to use in times of drought, and would likely be pleased with the way we carried out his dreams. He would doubtless be amazed at the massive natural gas-powered groundwater pumps that now step in when river water lags during a drought. And a reading of his 19th century thinking on Western water management suggests he did not contemplate cities the size of Albuquerque, El Paso and Juárez springing up amid the farms of the Rio Grande Valley.

Even then, he clearly understood the water battles of his day between upstream and downstream users, but more important, he saw the seeds of conflict we were planting when we carved up the landscape the way we did.

Powell’s idea, roundly ignored in his day and clearly impossible to implement now, was to build governance in what was to become the western United States around watershed boundaries rather than the arbitrary survey-straight state lines that had been drawn as Manifest Destiny spread across the continent.

Rio Grande Compact Commission meeting recap: ‘My mantra has been let’s try to solve and not fight’ — Scott Verhines


From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Alamosa hosted the annual Rio Grande Compact Commission meeting, which rotates among the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Although the states are currently involved in litigation over compact administration, pending lawsuits were hardly mentioned during the meeting, and state engineers said they hoped the states could resolve their differences.

In January, Texas filed suit against New Mexico over Rio Grande Compact disputes, with Colorado caught in the middle since it is part of the compact. The suit alleged New Mexico was not delivering to Texas the water owed that state under the compact.

“I am just hoping the three states and the commission continue to endeavor to work in a cooperative way,” said Dick Wolfe, compact commissioner for Colorado and the state water engineer.

Scott Verhines, Wolfe’s counterpart in New Mexico, said, “My mantra has been let’s try to solve and not fight … It behooves all of us to look for an opportunity to solve rather than fight.”

Pat Gordon, Texas’ compact commissioner and state engineer, said although he could not elaborate on all of the litigation issues, he agreed with Wolfe’s desire “that hopefully we can resolve all these issues.”

He said, “Water would solve a lot of issues.”

That seemed to be the consensus of all three states, which are entering yet another substandard water year.

“This is our fifth year in a row, consecutive year in a row, of below average conditions,” Commissioner Wolfe said. “We are seeing some pretty sustained below average conditions which certainly makes it difficult not only for users in Colorado but our downstream states as well.”

He said in the last 10-12 years, there have only been two or three years above the long-term average.

Wolfe reminded the water commissioners that 2012 experienced below average flows on the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems, with the Rio Grande producing 65 percent of average and the Conejos system 56 percent. He said 2013 will continue in a similar fashion but may be slightly better than last year. The March 1 forecast predicted 70 percent of average flows on the Rio Grande and 69 percent on the Conejos system, he reported.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.

USFWS designation of habitat for the flycatcher was the talk of the recent Rio Grande Compact meeting


From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently designated critical habitat for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher in portions of the San Luis Valley totaling 27 miles and nine miles along the uppermost portion of New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir, one of the main storage facilities for the Rio Grande Compact. Murphy said the Colorado and New Mexico designations were essential to the recovery of the species, which has been on the federal endangered species list since 1995. Commissioners expressed concern the designations would affect compact administration. Murphy indicated the designations should not affect water administration along the Rio Grande [ed. emphasis mine].

In the engineer advisers’ report to the compact commission on Thursday, Colorado’s Engineer Adviser and Colorado Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten read into the record the advisers’ report, which included the concern the Elephant Butte Reservoir flycatcher designation could impact about one million acre feet of reservoir storage. “Information presented by the [Fish and Wildlife] Service and [Bureau of] Reclamation relating to the impacts of the designation upon reservoir operations was inconclusive,” Cotten read from the engineer advisers’ report. “The engineer advisers are concerned about impacts from the designation on certain elements of the Rio Grande Compact, and to water operations, including supplies at Elephant Butte Reservoir.”

Colorado Commissioner and State Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources Dick Wolfe questioned Murphy why areas in the San Luis Valley had been designated critical habitat for the flycatcher since members of the water community had worked for many years developing a habitat conservation plan (HCP) precluding the need for that designation. Wolfe said the Fish and Wildlife Service had been involved in the habitat conservation plan process and had approved it. “In approving that HCP the service recognized that HCP would provide continued protection to the flycatcher habitat,” Wolfe said. He added there are already more flycatcher pairs in the Valley than the habitat recovery plan calls for. He said 56 flycatcher territories were estimated in this area, and the FWS goal was 50, so he did not see the need for additional critical habitat designation.

Murphy said the goal of designating critical habitat for endangered species like the Southwestern willow flycatcher is to ensure their survival and recovery. He said an area that might not contain the species might be designated because of its connectivity to other habitats along the river corridor. The flycatcher habitat is unique, he said, in that this the only bird that nests in shrubs and trees with branches that are vertically oriented like the willows and saltcedar (tamarisk.)

Texas Commissioner Pat Gordon asked Murphy about the nine miles of critical habitat near Elephant Butte that was designated in January. Murphy said the Elephant Butte habitat “is not only significant to the Rio Grande Basin, it’s significant to the population as a whole. What we look at is an area that is essential to the survival of the species knowing that periodic inundation will occur and we feel that is probably beneficial to flycatcher habitat over the long run, but we could not ignore the fact that there are a significant number of territories there with high productivity levels.”

Murphy said when he moved to New Mexico in 1999 Elephant Butte Reservoir was nearly full, and it stayed that way for quite awhile. When the water levels receded in the reservoir, habitat appeared for the flycatchers, which took advantage of it and experienced a rebounding in their population as a result…

Water commissioners have reason to be concerned over endangered species’ effect on water administration, given the ongoing challenge to keep enough water in New Mexico’s rivers to sustain the Rio Grande Silvery minnows, another endangered species. “The Rio Grande Silvery minnows are at an all-time low,” Murphy reported to the Rio Grande Compact Commission. Last year 51 miles of the main channel of the Middle Rio Grande dried up, so the FWS undertook a salvage operation in which more than 4,200 silvery minnows were salvaged and relocated.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here and here.

Coyote Gulch turns 11 years old


Here’s the link to the post where I announced the new name for my weblog, Coyote Gulch. I wrote that day:

New name, Coyote Gulch. More in line …. I don’t know the people that did the web page that I linked. I’m glad they didn’t do the crack in the wall jacob hamblin loop. That’s my favorite route.

The deep link to photos from a canyon trip is no longer available.

I wrote more that 15,000 posts on the old weblog before moving to WordPress in February of 2009. Since then I’ve added another 8,457 posts, including this one. WordPress tells me that I’ve received 848,029 page views since then.

Thanks very much for coming by to see what is going on in Colorado water issues and the other areas where I occasionally branch out. Say hello if you bump into me along the way. I love to meet readers.

Rio Grande Water Leaders course recap: ‘It opened my eyes’ — Aliesha Carpenter


From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

Water knowledge flowed like a river last week during the Rio Grande Leaders Course, easing the minds of those fearing it will be lost in coming generations. “It makes me happy to see this many people here have been taught,” said Costilla County Conservation District President Harold Anderson at the final ceremony on Friday night. “I thank all of you for doing it.”

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District (SLVWCD), Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative (RGWCEI) and Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP) sponsored course provided 20 community members the opportunity to engage in education and networking to prepare to take a future role in safeguarding, developing and managing the Valley’s water resources. It included information on Valley hydrology, water rights administration, notable court cases, current events and local partners and projects…

Course attendees included young farmers, federal agency employees and community members, making for interesting dialogue and numerous perspectives on water use. “It opened my eyes,” said Aliesha Carpenter, 26, originally from La Jara and now married to a fourth generation Center potato farmer. “It wasn’t just about agriculture. It was about wildlife, the Sand Dunes and life for people. Without it, our agricultural economy would disintegrate. There needs to be a younger generation in agriculture.”

For the federal employees, it revealed the Valley’s many uses and struggles with water. “It was really informative,” said Bureau of Land Management (BLM) assistant field manager Paul Tigan. “I think it is pretty incredible how they can come up with a cross section of the water users across the Valley. There was really good dialogue. It helps set the stage for when it’s needed most. It is not necessarily in that classroom, but it is setting the groundwork. Issues come down every day and you have to have those relationships in place to help weather the issues, whatever they are.”

He added, “I think the course helped with the understanding of the long term context of water management in the Valley. Federal employees have a tendency to come into a place, stay for a few years and then move on. This is a good opportunity to develop a context and to understand. The problems didn’t show up the day you showed up. They have been going on for dozens of years.”

Great Sand Dunes National Park Superintendent Lisa Carrico agreed the course was informative and crucial to making natural resource decisions in the future. “I wanted to learn more about water in the Valley,” Carrico said. “It is an important resource that is a benefit to us all. The national park system, we don’t utilize the water in the same way, but we are certainly going to be at the table to talk about things. This was an awesome opportunity to network and to learn more about the issues and the points of views of a lot of different people.”

More Upper Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.

Forecast news: Widespread Pacific storm on the way, Sunday through Tuesday #codrought #cowx

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

Warm, above normal temperatures and mostly sunny skies will prevail today, with isolated to scattered showers developing this afternoon over the higher terrain. Some thunderstorms will be possible mainly across the north as a weak disturbance moves through the westerly flow. Most activity will be confined to the higher terrain. A Pacific storm system will impact the region late Sunday through Tuesday, bringing an increasing chance of showers and cooler temperatures, with valley rain and mountain snow above 9000 ft. This will eventually drop temperatures back to more seasonal values by early next week.

Drought/snowpack news: La Junta watering restrictions start April 1 #codrought




The check for drought restrictions by zip code click here to go to the CWCB’s drought response portal.

From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Candi Hill):

La Junta has announced water restrictions will begin April 15. La Junta will be in stage 1 watering restrictions at that time, which means no watering can be done between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. This applies to both residential and commercial properties. Watering restrictions will be enforced. Restrictions will be in place until Oct. 15, but during hotter and drier months, adjustments may be made as needed.

The reason behind the watering restrictions is the drought. The city wells are drier (lower static water levels) than they have been at any time since measurements started in 2000, including the drought year of 2002. City officials attribute it to two years the equivalent of 2002. The difference in the local situation this year is that there is enough water stored in Pueblo Reservoir to cover two years. At the end of the second year, however, we would be completely out of water to be used for outdoor purposes.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Agriculture officials said Thursday that Colorado farmers only intend to plant an estimated 1.25 million acres of corn, which is 12 percent below their plantings last year.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows all of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought. A large portion of southeastern Colorado is experiencing exceptional drought, which is considered the most extreme condition on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s five-level scale.

Statewide mountain snowpack was 78 percent of average as of Thursday.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

The [Fort Collins] City Council has voted to approve possible water rates increases for commercial and residential customers in response to the drought. The rate increases, approved at the council’s meeting Tuesday night, would go into effect only if the city decides to reduce water use beyond the Level 1 restrictions that take effect Monday. Rates do not increase under Level 1 restrictions, though officials will consider limiting water use further if the situation worsens.

The city has up to four levels of restrictions outlined in the ordinance, depending on the severity of drought conditions.

> If the city raised restrictions to Level 2, water rates for single-family homes would increase from $2.19 for up to 7,000 gallons to $2.63. Commercial rates per one thousand gallons would increase from $2.20 to $2.90.

> At Level 3, water rates for single-family homes would rise to $3.07 while commercial customers would pay $3.60.

> Water rates would surge to $4.61 for commercial customers and $3.63 for single-family customers at Level 4…

The $3.37 surcharge for every 1,000 gallons of water used will take effect in May. The surcharge will apply to commercial customers because residential customers use much less water, said Laurie D’Audney, the city’s water conservation specialist.

From the Vail Daily (Laura Glenndenning):

The 2011-12 season was one of the worst winter seasons on record in terms of snowfall, but the statewide snowpack only just passed 2011-12 abhorrent levels. Storms have arrived on weekends and when big crowds are in town, and temperatures have generally remained colder than last year, which proves that drought conditions and snow conditions are not always aligned. Surpassing 2011-12 snowpack totals isn’t really much to celebrate, though, said Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The Water District is already planning for this summer’s drought in the same way it planned for last summer, she said.

Last year, the ground was plenty saturated from the previous winter of 2010-11. But because the moisture never came in large enough numbers last winter, the ground this winter is dry. “The previous year’s precipitation was kind of carrying us through,” Johnson said.

Currently, the U.S. Drought Monitor rates Eagle County as “extreme,” or a level 3, the second-to-worst drought rating behind “exceptional,” which is a 4. A year ago, Eagle County was rated “abnormally dry,” or 0 on the 0-4 scale.

“We’re still about 20 percent below normal. But with an active week next week and hopefully continuing into mid-April, we shouldn’t slip any further and may actually make up a little ground,” said snow forecaster Joel Gratz, a meteorologist who runs the powder forecasting site

The current basin-wide totals put the local snowpack at 78 percent of normal, and 118 percent of last year. But last season the snowpack accumulation peaked March 4-8 before declining for the rest of the year, while the snowpack accumulation this season is still rising. It could start to decline any day, or it could continue to rise into April. The average peak date for the Upper Colorado River Basin is April 10.

From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

Approximately 10-12 inches of snow fell in Yuma, and throughout the region, last Friday night and all day Saturday. It came with cold temperatures also, as the low Sunday and Monday was 2 degrees. The National Weather Service in Goodland, Kansas, could not confirm if that was a record low, though it had to be close. The low Tuesday was 10 degrees, with a gradual warmup for the rest of the week…

The storm’s timing was even better in regards to bringing the region moisture. Snow measurements ranged from 8 to 14 inches. It was a very wet snow, so a fairly-safe estimate in regards to actual precipitation is around three-quarters of an inch to 1-1/4 inches. “It’s going to be very helpful for the winter wheat crop,” local agronomist Merlin VanDeraa said. “…very beneficial for pastures and for spring dryland crops.”[…]

“It didn’t end the drought but it should put a dent in it,” said Mike Ferrari, another local agronomist.

The precipitation also is critical to pastureland, which was struggling in the drought conditions. A large swath through the center of the county also was trying to recover from last March’s Heartstrong Fire, putting area ranchers on edge in regards to how much, if any, grazing their herds would be able to do this year.

From the Aspen Daily News (Dorothy Atkins):

Area snowpack is currently 21 percent above what was recorded last year, but it is 23 percent short of the average, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the Roaring Fork Conservancy.

It took a while for this winter’s snowpack to outperform last season’s because the area had little to no snowfall in October and November, said Sarah Johnson, education and outreach coordinator at the conservancy. The amount of precipitation collected in December was about average and snowfalls in January and February were slightly below that. March was the first month that enough snow fell to push past last year’s numbers, she said.

“We’ve finally gotten a little bit above where we were last year,” Johnson said. “But if you look at where we are in terms of averages we’re still well below [the norm].”

Conditions are similar to those during the 2002 drought and that will likely persist throughout the summer, she said. Forecasters expect local river flows to be 50 percent below average this summer, according to a Natural Resources Conservation Services report.

Green Mountain Reservoir is 40% full #coriver


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Shoshone power plant water right call came off the Colorado River today [March 29, 2013]. As a result, we were able to cut back releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue River. Over two installments, we reduced releases from about 125 cfs to 60 cfs. The first change was made at 11:30, dropping the release to about 100 cfs. The second change was made at 3 p.m. and dropped the release to 60 cfs.

Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about 40% full. The reduction in releases should noticeably slow the draw on the reservoir.

Parachute Creek spill: Benzene detected in monitoring wells 30 feet from the creek


Click here to view a photo gallery from the spill site. Thanks to Aspen Journalism for the link.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Three monitoring wells between an oil and gas leak site and Parachute Creek showed “significant groundwater impacts” from benzene, Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said Thursday. The wells are about 30 feet from the creek, but numerous samples of creek water, including ones taken by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, show no evidence of contamination, he said in an e-mail update to reporters.

An investigation into the source of an unidentified liquid hydrocarbon found in a pipeline corridor continues, and investigators are working around a valve box for a pipeline carrying natural gas liquids away from Williams’ nearby Parachute Creek Gas Plant.

Some 6,000 gallons of the hydrocarbon and more than 176,000 gallons of tainted groundwater have been removed from the site.

Hartman said the monitoring wells show benzene at levels from 5,800 parts per billion to 18,000 ppb, with the 18,000-ppb reading coming from the well closest to a recovery trench and the area being investigated as the possible leak source. The state health standard for benzene in water is 5 ppb. “Operators are currently drilling another set of monitoring wells roughly 10 feet from Parachute Creek to further delineate groundwater impacts,” Hartman said.

Investigators believe the creek recharges nearby groundwater, rather than the groundwater feeding the creek, which is helping protect the creek from contamination.

The contamination was first discovered March 8. The site is about four miles northwest of Parachute.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Workers excavated under a valve box Friday that has been a focus of an ongoing investigation into the source of a liquid hydrocarbons leak near Parachute Creek northwest of Parachute.

Crews also continued work on hand-drilling a new set of monitoring wells, a day after the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said three monitoring wells about 30 feet from the creek showed high levels of benzene in groundwater. Additional wells are now being drilled within 10 feet of the creek. So far, creek water samples show no sign of contamination, authorities say.

Some 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons have been recovered in a pipeline corridor about 50 feet from the creek.

The investigation has begun to focus on the valve box, which is for a 4-inch-diameter pipeline carrying natural gas liquids away from the nearby Parachute Creek Gas Plant, owned by Williams.

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff believe the creek recharges nearby groundwater, rather than vice versa, which is helping protect the creek from contamination.

Bob Arrington, a retired engineer in nearby Battlement Mesa and an oil and gas activist, wrote Thursday on the blog of fellow activist Peggy Tibbetts of Silt, voicing concerns over the commission’s theory. He worries that the trench traps being used will allow benzene and other toxins to flow with the balance of groundwater unless the traps go to the bottom of the aquifer. “This newest evaluation does not improve the situation, if anything it makes it worse as plume routing spreads and becomes harder to trace,” he wrote.

On Friday, a conservation group raised the situation on Parachute Creek in criticizing Gov. John Hickenlooper. In a statement, Clean Water Action pointed to the leak and to Hickenlooper’s visit to tar sands operations in Canada this week. “Instead of touring one of the world’s dirtiest sources of energy in Canada, Gov. Hickenlooper needs to get back to Colorado and take care of business here and ensure the public health is protected. It’s time for the governor to stop pretending all is well with the oil and gas industry and force it to operate in a transparent and accountable way,” the group said.

From The Denver Post:

Benzene is polluting groundwater near a plume of hydrocarbons leaking from the Williams Midstream natural gas plant north of Parachute, in some places 3,600 times greater than the level considered safe for drinking, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reported Thursday. Samples of water from nearby Parachute Creek — a source of water for the town and irrigators — have shown no evidence of contamination, COGCC said. Tests of water from three monitoring wells, about 30 feet from the creek, showed benzene levels ranging from 5,800 parts per billion to 18,000 ppb in a well closest to a trench dug to recover fouled water and oil. The state health standard is 5 ppb…

Hydrological consultants for plant operators Tulsa-based WPX and Williams have analyzed groundwater flow in the area and determined that groundwater is recharged by the creek, rather than groundwater feeding the creek. However, company workers are drilling another set of test wells about 10 feet from Parachute Creek to confirm the pollution is not moving toward the stream…

COGCC said the water being pumped from the recovery trench is “enhancing groundwater flow away from Parachute Creek.”[…]

Since the spill was reported, company workers have been excavating to determine its origin. Earlier this week, the company reported a valve box for a pipeline carrying natural gas liquids away from the plant may be the source.

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission sought to reassure Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday that appropriate actions were being taken to contain, and find the source of, a mysterious plume of hydrocarbons threatening Parachute Creek. “They are taking appropriate response actions to identify the source of the release, to clean it up, to keep it from reaching Parachute Creek if at all possible, and hopefully taking actions in the future to prevent similar incidents,” said Matt Lepore, the director of the COGCC, about the two companies involved in the incident — Williams and WPX Energy, a former Williams subsidiary that owns the land where the leak was found.

The location of the plume of liquid hydrocarbons, which the EPA has referred to as “oil,” is 4 miles northwest of the town of Parachute. The plume is 50 feet from Parachute Creek at a point 5 miles above its confluence with the Colorado River…

Commissioner Michael Owsley told Lepore, who was in Pitkin County to talk with local officials, that it sounded as if Williams and WPX were “self-regulating” themselves in handling the incident. “I can’t agree with that commissioner,” Lepore responded. “They are not self-regulating, they are under an order from COGCC to respond to the incident and to clean it up. And they are also working under an order from EPA to respond and clean it up.”

Lepore said the COGCC is the lead regulatory agency on the incident and has had either an environmental protection specialist or an engineer on the site every day since March 15, except for two days. He said a “level of decision making” has been left to the companies, but the COGCC is reviewing those decisions. “We know what decisions they’ve made and we review those to determine, in our view, whether what they are doing is adequate,” Lepore told the commissioners. “And if it’s not, we direct them to do other things.”

“Why hasn’t it been fixed?” Owsley asked about the plume.

“Well, to fix a release, you need to know where it is coming from,” Lepore said.

In an interview after the meeting, Lepore said crews from Williams have inspected two pipelines in the area, a 30-inch line bringing natural gas products to the processing plant, and a 4-inch line leading away from the plant.

Crews dug up 130 feet of the 30-inch line and found nothing wrong. They ran a pressure test on the 4-inch line and found it to be intact. Natural gas wells in the area of the plume also have been pressure-tested and show no signs of anything amiss, Lepore said…

On Wednesday, work was focused on a “valve box” connected to the 4-inch line running from the processing plant, as the soil around the valve box was found to be saturated with hydrocarbons. Special crews trained in handling hazardous materials had to be called in to dig up the saturated soils. Lepore said officials are using the relatively generic term “hydrocarbons” to describe the substance of the plume because the exact substance has yet to be identified…

Documents, maps and photos describing the incident are being posted on the COGCC’s website. From the home page, click on “images” and then select “projects” from the “type” drop-down menu. Then type in the project number, which is 2120. Then hit search.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

An investigation into a hydrocarbon leak northwest of Parachute is focusing on a valve box for a 4-inch-diameter natural gas liquids line, the director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said Monday. “The soil around that valve box is fairly saturated with hydrocarbons,” Matt Lepore told commissioner members at their meeting in Denver.

The line leaves Williams’ nearby Parachute Creek Gas Plant, which removes a mix of propane, butane, ethane and other liquids from raw natural gas produced in the region.

An investigation has been continuing into the source of some 6,000 gallons of an unidentified hydrocarbon liquid that Williams discovered after doing pipeline location work in preparation for building an additional plant at the same facility. Lepore said when excavation began around the valve box as part of the continuing investigation, “they called a halt to the work because of the odors present in the area.”

“They wanted to bring in air monitoring equipment and/or respirators for the workers to be equipped with before they continued the investigation,” he said.

Michele Swaner, a Williams spokeswoman, said work around the valve box had resumed by Monday. “It’s accurate to say that we’re certainly looking in that area as a potential source,” she said. But she said the work is part of Williams’ plan to look at all potential sources.

Lepore said crews have excavated around a 30-inch-diameter raw gas pipeline in the area of the valve box but have found no signs of it having leaked. The pipeline leads to the gas plant.

Lepore also confirmed what WPX Energy has said — that testing of gas pressures involving the cement seals around wells it has in the area shows the wells appear to be sound.

Because both Williams and WPX have infrastructure near the leak site, COGCC staff have issued notices of alleged violation against each of them as the investigation into the leak’s cause continues.

The leak is just 50 feet from Parachute Creek, but authorities say there hasn’t been any sign of the creek having become contaminated. The leak has come in contact with shallow groundwater. Lepore said Williams has been installing groundwater monitoring wells between an interception trench and the creek, and test results are being awaited.

Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said she feels agencies still need to be more forthcoming about the investigation. “We’ve got to have some lines of communication with the public and I just don’t see it there except for (through) the media,” she said.

From The Denver Post:

Oil company workers investigating a weeks-old spill along Parachute Creek are focused on a valve box on a pipeline carrying natural gas liquids away from the Williams Midstream gas plant, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said Tuesday…

“The soil around the valve box is saturated with hydrocarbons,” the commission reported Tuesday. “Williams continues to conduct cautious investigation in an active pipeline environment.” COGCC said the gas company has collected tainted groundwater in trenches, though no measurable amounts of hydrocarbons have been collected since last week, when the total was logged at about 6,000 gallons of oil. The company also collected more than 60,000 gallons of contaminated water.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The price tag for Sterling’s deep injection wells for RO brine escalates from $80,000 to $2.3 million

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (David Martinez):

[Sterling Public Works Director Jim Allen] told the council that Public Works was working on a number of water and sewage issues around the city – most of them directly or indirectly related to construction of the new water treatment plant.

The one that stands out: Deep injection wells used to pump the treated wastewater from the reverse osmosis filtration, estimated to cost $80,000 at the start of the project, will now cost about $2.3 million, according to a March 10 estimate. About $1.3 million of that cost would go toward the construction of one of the two pumps, which is located above the railroad tracks north of the plant…

The wells themselves, buried about 7,000 feet underground, have already been constructed. They were included in one of three bid packages for the project – the other two being a pipeline project and the water treatment plant itself, which is in the final construction stages.

Allen told the council the increased cost comes from the pumping equipment needed, as well as some stainless steel piping needed for the aboveground operation. The pipes might need to handle 2,200 to 2,600 pounds of pressure per square inch, which Allen said is a “monumental number.”[…]

Allen told the Journal-Advocate the $2.4 million also isn’t set in stone; he, Kiolbasa and others will be working with the estimates for a more solid cost…

In related projects concerning the plant, Public Works is continuing to redrill and rehabilitate the city’s raw water wells. The effort is part of a plan to have enough raw water to actually put through to the water treatment plant.

In February the council heard that the plant planned on having the ability to pump more than 7,900 gallons of water per minute, but that it could only pump about 5,500 gallons at that point because of degraded wells.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Forecast news: Isolated mountain showers #codrought #cowx

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

Sunny skies and above normal temperatures will continue today through this weekend, with isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms developing each afternoon and lasting into early evening. Most activity will be confined to the higher terrain. A Pacific storm system will impact the region late Sunday through Tuesday, bringing an increasing chance of showers and cooler temperatures. This will eventually drop temperatures back to more seasonal values by early next week.

From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:

Another weak weather disturbance is expected to move across Colorado today, with isolated to scattered rain and snow showers possible over the mountains, and thunderstorms expected over the eastern plains. Area temperatures will warm into the 60s to near 70 across the eastern plains, with 50s to mid 60s over the high country.

Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack = 78% of avg, Upper Colorado = 80%, South Platte = 71% #codrought




Click on the thumbnail graphics for the statewide snowpack map along with the Basin High/Low graphs for the South Platte Basin and Upper Colorado River basins. Both basins are now above the 2002/minimum line and the South Platte is on line with 2012.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Tom Hacker):

March did not provide a hoped-for rescue for Northern Colorado water users, as the mountain snowpack that feeds rivers enters April still shy of average. In fact, the Rocky Mountain National Park monitoring stations that measure how the Big Thompson River will fare this spring and summer offer some of the state’s worst news. As the Colorado calendar’s wettest month, March is the touchstone for farmers and municipal utilities that supply homes and businesses, and for rafters, fishermen and others with recreation interests. But a mountain snows during the past month were merely average, and after a much drier-than-normal winter, that means less snow up there and projections of less water down here…

Of all the state’s more than two dozen river basins, the Big Thompson and Poudre watersheds are among the driest…

Surveys Wednesday of four stations that gauge the snowpack in mountains west of Loveland show three that have less than 40 percent of the 30-year average snowpack, and the fourth faring only slightly better…

[Brian Werner — Northern Water] on Thursday was returning from meetings on the Western Slope, where conditions are slightly better, with the Colorado River headwaters snowpack at about 80 percent of normal…

Data from monitoring stations at four Rocky Mountain National Park locations tell the story of a dry winter getting drier. Here is how the numbers stack up against the historical average.

Deer Ridge: 30 percent of average.

Hidden Valley: 38 percent of average.

Willow Park: 38 percent of average.

Bear Lake: 61 percent of average.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Pierrette J. Shields) via The Denver Post:

[Levi] Sievers, a soil conservation technician, and Sylvia Hickenlooper, a soil conservationist, hike 10,000 feet up the Longs Peak Trail in Larimer County in January, February, March and April every year to gather data for the U.S. Agricultural Service’s snow survey. The information is compiled with data taken from dozens of other manual sites and automated sites statewide and used to developed the water supply outlook for the state in the run-up to warmer weather and higher water demands.

Hickenlooper and Sievers took 10 samples from designated sites along the measurement location, marked with yellow diamond-shaped signs with a red arrow on them, which has been used as a site for decades. They measured the depth and weight of the snow in the samples, and Hickenlooper then crunched the numbers. “I was hoping it would be a little bit better,” she said, leaning over her calculator and pad, while kneeling in the snow.

The 30-year average for the site is 10.8 inches of water in the snowpack. Her calculations showed for March, the average is 5.4, even after some encouraging snowfall during Colorado’s snowiest month…

Hickenlooper said that most of the state’s snowpack has been at about 70 percent of average, while the Longs Peak site was only at 50 percent from February measurements. Still, that was up from 25 percent in January.

The data Hickenlooper and Sievers gather at their four snowpack measurement sites will be forwarded on for inclusion in the April report. Those reports are watched closely by municipalities and irrigation companies, which likely will have to make plans for a dry season.

Drought news: New storage or conservation to weather future droughts? #codrought



From (Dave Delozier):

Almost a decade ago, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District formulated a plan to deal with the growing demand for water. They came up with two projects: The Windy Gap Firming Project and the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The Windy Gap Firming Project calls for the creation of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, a 90,000 acre-feet facility that would be built near Carter Lake. It would supply water to two water districts, 10 cities and the Platte River Power Authority.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project calls for the creation of two reservoirs: Glade Reservoir and Galeton Reservoir. Glade would be the biggest in the project with a capacity of 170,000 acre feet of water. That would make it a larger water storage facility than Horsetooth Reservoir. It would stretch for five miles and be located northwest of Fort Collins.

Galeton Reservoir would be built northeast of Greeley and have a storage capacity of 45,000 acre-feet of water. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would serve 15 municipal water providers and two agriculture irrigation companies…

“We need more storage to meet that gap between supply and demand,” [Dana Strongin, a spokesperson for Northern Water] said…

“They’re just trying to get the last legally allowed drops of water off the river and we’re saying no. Let’s stop doing that old idea and let’s move forward with a new paradigm in water management where we conserve, we recycle and we start sharing water with farmers. That is going to be the future,” Gary Wockner, director of the Save the Poudre organization, said.

Wockner fears that building the Glade Reservoir will destroy the Cache La Poudre River by lowering water levels in it. He says that will do damage to the economy in northern Colorado by taking away from fishing, rafting and tourism.

“Because here is the bottom-line, if they get the last legal drops of water off the river then in 10 years or 20 years they’re going to have to start sharing and conserving and recycling eventually. We’re saying let’s do it now and protect this river so there’s at least a small amount of water,” Wockner said.

Say hello to Western Resource Advocates Drought portal. From the website:

In 2012, Colorado experienced its worst drought in 10 years and what Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken has called one of the all-time worst droughts in state history. It appears that 2013 will bring a second consecutive drought season which will include many more watering restrictions than Coloradans saw in 2012.

Drought is a fact of life in the arid West, but experts agree that climate change will lead to an increase in drought frequency and severity.

As the population in the West continues to grow, there will be a greater demand for water for all sorts of uses…and drought will have a greater impact.

Click here to download their drought fact sheet.

Drought news: ‘Almost a quarter…of Colorado is…experiencing exceptional drought’ — Bob Berwyn #codrought



From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A big swath of the high country, including Summit and Eagle counties, is still classified as being in extreme drought…

Almost a quarter (21 percent) of Colorado is classified as experiencing exceptional drought, with half the state seeing moderate to severe drought conditions. The entire state is experiencing some level of drought, according to last week’s update at the monthly Water Availability Task Force meeting…

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is forecasting below average spring streamflows for the entire state, with most of the basins falling within the 50-69 percent of average forecast range.

The precipitation forecast for the spring is mixed, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center saying the odds are better for below average moisture, while an experimental long-term forecast offers hope for wet conditions, especially in Southwest Colorado.

From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

Aurora Water officials requested on March 25 that Aurora City Council approve a two-day per week watering schedule for residents city-wide. Council members are set to vote on the proposal at their council meeting April 1. The proposal would require that residents only water their lawns two days per week beginning April 1, with assigned watering days. Aurora residents are currently on a non-scheduled, three-day per week watering plan.

Aurora’s reservoirs are currently at less than 48 percent of capacity, according to city documents…

The mild winter and low snowpack levels have resulted in reservoir levels similar to what the city saw during the 2002-03 drought, water officials say. That drought prompted the city to undertake a $600 million project called Prairie Waters, which is expected to be delivering 10,000 acre-feet of water annually beginning this summer, and increase Aurora’s water supply by 20 percent.

From The Brighton Blade (Crystal Nelson):

Utilities Director Jim Landeck presented the drought management plan to council during their March 26 study session and said he will ask them to begin the process of adopting the plan during their April 2 meeting.

Landeck anticipates the city will need to declare a Stage 1 drought at some point during the summer, as the snowpack is tracking along the lines of the 2002 drought. He said the difference is that when the 2002 drought hit, the city’s reservoirs were full.

“Now we’re seeing a situation that the reservoirs started out the season empty,” he said. “Our reservoir at Ken Mitchell Lake is way down and so we’re starting out with, how do we reserve the supply? If nothing is coming down the river, we’ve got nothing to refill it with.”

Landeck also anticipates the irrigation ditches will have less water for augmentation and Water Resources Engineer Sarah Borgers said the city’s reservoirs are at critical levels and have dropped several feet.

In issuing a Stage 1 Drought, the city tries to reduce the demand on its potable water supplies by 20 percent.

Irrigation would be prohibited between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and residents would be restricted to watering their lawns two times a week. Residents could water their gardens, trees and shrubs on an as-needed basis, and sod permits are available between April 15 and May 21 and again from Sept. 1 to Oct. 21.

Borgers said it’s plausible the city could declare a Stage 2 drought this summer. She explained the city of Westminster is planning to reduce the amount of water it gives to the city by 40 percent, and that it’s likely the Green Sand Plant will be down due to the lack of augmentation water at Barr Lake. Given those factors, it’s likely the demand of water will exceed the amount of water available and a Stage 2 drought warning will have to be issued.

In declaring a Stage 2 drought, the city would aim to reduce the outdoor water demand by 50 percent in order to maintain a reliable supply. Residents would be allowed to water their grass once a week and water gardens, trees and shrubs on an as-needed basis. Because of the restrictions, sod permits would not be granted, residents would not be allowed to use ornamental fountains or water displays, and private swimming pools would not be able to operate although city swimming pools will be available for use.

‘Water management is 10 percent of a well’s cost’ — Russell C. Fontaine


From The Greeley Tribune (David Persons):

The oil and gas boom under way in the Niobrara play in Weld County and northeastern Colorado has been greatly aided by hydraulic fracturing.

Oil and gas officials point out that nearly all of the state’s 45,000 producing wells — including those in the Niobrara — were fracked.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process that involves injecting fluids consisting of water, sand and various chemicals under high pressure into deep rock formations generally found at a depth of 7,000 to 10,000 feet. The fracturing frees up pockets of natural gas and oil that were once thought unattainable.

The key element in fracking is water. Without it, drilling this deep would be next to impossible.

That’s why water sourcing has become an issue and was the lead topic last Monday at the third annual Niobrara Infrastructure Development Summit in Denver. The three-day event, which drew more than 100 representatives of the oil and gas industry, was held at the Magnolia Hotel.

Finding a source of water for fracking and getting it to the drilling site efficiently and economically is an important issue for oil and gas companies, said Russell C. Fontaine, the principal hydrogeologist for Schlumberger Water Services.

“Water management is 10 percent of a well’s cost,” Fontaine said. “And transportation is 60-80 percent of those water costs. The availability of commercial (water) facilities and trucks is also very important.”

Fontaine said his company specializes in what he called “smart planning.” Essentially, that means developing water sources and water disposal close to oil and gas sites.

He said the total water costs for a Niobrara fracking job (including disposal of flowback and produced water) is about $700,000 over 10 years. However, if a water well can be drilled near a pad site, water costs and truck trip costs can be reduced by 65 percent.

Fontaine said another cost consideration is the water itself. Fresh water is the most expensive and controversial. He said it’s more economical (and practical) to use untreated, non-tributary groundwater resources and even brackish (salt) water for fracking. Non-tributary groundwater is considered water found underground that does not interact or affect surface water (rivers, streams, lakes, etc.).

Fontaine added that by recycling flowback water from fracking, oil and gas companies could reduce their water usage costs by another 10 percent. It also reduces truck trips.

Clay Terry, Halliburton’s water liaison for the U.S. Northern Region, said his company puts great emphasis on acquiring water rights at the outset, too. He said Halliburton looks at a number of sources: municipalities, water districts, private sources, industrial waste water and water co-produced by oil and gas operations.

He also suggested that water can be legally obtained from mineral owners, hydrologists, engineers, water commissioners, water haulers, town governments and even elementary schools.

Once the water is secured, Terry said there are other considerations. Among those are storage, diversion and transportation.

Eli Gruber, the president and CEO of Ecologix Environmental Systems, reiterated what others had said about the ecological and economical reasons to recycle water and use brackish water when possible.

“The proper water management can save you $70,000 to $100,000 per well,” Gruber said.

Matt Smith, the director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Worldwide Liquid Solutions, said treating fracking water “is not rocket science. Hell no, it’s a lot more complicated.”

Smith said there are many considerations. Among those: mobile wastewater treatment, stationary water treatment and reinjection waste water disposal.

When talking about mobile waste water treatment, Smith said the goal is to deliver the produced water that can be treated for fracking and identify the problem elements that need to be taken out of the water. The result will be a decrease in the need for fresh water, a reduction in water truck trips, a reduction in waste streams and byproducts, and a reduction or elimination of disposal wells.

Stationary water treatment facilities offer different benefits. They can be engineered for multiple users within a region. Its placement would allow for piping for water delivery and waste/byproduct production. It can also treat multiple waste chemistries. It can also aid in plant-wide air and water compliance.

The considerations associated with reinjection wastewater disposal involves the public’s perception of just how safe the process it, Smith said.

He pointed out that while the process is relatively inexpensive and that it is regulated by federal and state laws, concerns remain about earthquakes caused by this disposal method and the possibility that these waste products might leak into good water sources.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Parachute Creek spill update: ‘…to get to the creek the contamination would have to go uphill’ — Matt Lepore


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The elevation of the water table below Parachute Creek is higher than at the site of a nearby hydrocarbon leak, helping protect the creek from contamination, the director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said Wednesday.

“So the groundwater flow direction should be away from the creek. Put it differently, to get to the creek the contamination would have to go uphill,” Matt Lepore said in an interview.

An investigation into a leak of an unidentified liquid hydrocarbon in a pipeline corridor near the creek northwest of Parachute continues to focus on a valve box associated with a Williams natural gas liquids line coming from its nearby gas processing plant. A 30-inch-diameter gas pipeline leading to the plant also is being excavated and inspected in a process that Lepore said can’t be rushed.

Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said Wednesday that results of water samples taken by the COGCC show no signs of contamination in the creek.

Bob Arrington, a retired engineer in Battlement Mesa who is active with the Western Colorado Congress and Battlement Concerned Citizens groups, questions how groundwater wouldn’t go into a stream located at the center of a valley.

“That groundwater is seeking its way to the stream and it’s got more head (pressure) coming off the hillsides than the stream (groundwater) going up the hillsides,” he said. ” … The whole flow profile is just going to slowly pour into that gully and go down to the (Colorado) River.”

A monitoring well has found liquid hydrocarbons on the surface of groundwater 30 feet from the creek, between the creek and a trench dug to try to intercept the contaminants. Lepore said the trench appears to be creating a vacuum pressure that draws groundwater toward it.

On Tuesday, the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance called on authorities from the COGCC and other government agencies to be more forthcoming regarding information related to the spill, saying a lack of transparency has raised fears that the extent of environmental damage is being kept hidden.

Lepore the investigation is ongoing and “very dynamic,” but the COGCC has talked about what’s being done to identify the source, about the “hot spot” at the valve box, and about monitoring wells and other developments.

“Can we do more, better, faster all the time? Always, yeah, but I’m not quite sure what we’re withholding or are perceived to be withholding,” he said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Colorado State University to Train Denver Area Weather Observers to Monitor Drought, Long-term Climate #codrought


Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Emily Narvaes Wilmsen):

Colorado State University’s award-winning volunteer precipitation monitoring network will train Denver metro area weather observers during April to monitor drought and long-term climate conditions.

In a year where drought conditions conjure up thoughts of a long fire season with dwindling water supplies, the saying “because every drop counts” might mean more now than ever before, said Nolan Doesken, founder of the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network and state climatologist based at Colorado State University.

“Because every drop counts” is the tagline for the network, known as CoCoRaHS. When the organization was founded 15 years ago at Colorado State University’s Climate Center, no one knew just how crucial it would become in monitoring long-term climate conditions.

“CoCoRaHS was intended to help measure precipitation in real time by providing warning during potentially dangerous flood events, like the one that hit Fort Collins in July 1997,” Doesken said.

“Now we’re monitoring drought conditions, water supplies, tropical storms, snow, hail and even evapo-transpiration, not just here in Colorado, but across the entire country and even portions of Canada.”

CoCoRaHS is making a push this spring and summer to expand this volunteer network. The goal is to have at least one person per square mile taking observations along the Front Range and as many as possible elsewhere in the state to better track the remarkable variability in local precipitation.

Schedule of upcoming CoCoRaHS training events:

• April 3 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) Highlands Ranch Library, 9292 Ridgeline Blvd., Highlands Ranch
• April 6 (10 a.m.-noon), Aurora Central Library, 14949 E. Alameda Pkwy., Aurora
• April 13 (12:30-230 p.m.) Castle Rock Library, 100 S. Wilcox, Castle Rock
• April 16 (6:30-830 p.m.) Aurora Central Library, 14949 E. Alameda Pkwy., Aurora
• April 25 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) SE Aurora Library (Tallyn’s Reach), 23911 E. Arapahoe Road, Aurora
• April 27 (10 a.m. to noon), Adams County Regional Park (Fairgrounds), 9755 Henderson Road, Brighton

“We know it’s a lofty goal, but in a place like Denver, where there are literally thousands of backyard weather enthusiasts, it’s obtainable,” said CoCoRaHS National Coordinator Henry Reges. “Of course it will be difficult where there are wide open spaces, like the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, but if we can get as close to that goal as possible, we will be happy.”

Training materials are available online for volunteers who can’t attend. Additional classes will be offered in May around the Denver area.

For more information, or to sign up to volunteer, go to or contact Chris Spears at

CSU to offer low-cost irrigation efficiency audits for farmers #codrought


From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to CSU’s Center for Agricultural Energy will pay for reduced-cost irrigation efficiency audits for growers with center pivot systems. Center pivot irrigation is common on Colorado’s Front Range and Eastern Plains. Water is pumped onto fields by impact sprinklers mounted on overhead pipes that roll in sweeping arcs across farmland.

For $250, a fourth of the usual $1,000 cost, university technicians will conduct up to three pumping plant audits to gauge efficiency of farmers’ systems, recommend changes and estimate potential savings.

Information and a brief application can be found at, or by calling Cary Weiner at 970-491-3784.

More conservation coverage here.

Forecast news: Warm with isolated mountain showers today #codrought #cowx

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

Above normal temperatures can be expected across the region through this weekend with isolated to scattered afternoon and early evening showers each day. Most of the showers will be confined to the higher mountains. The chance for rain and snow will be on the increase Sunday night and Monday as a Pacific storm moves into the Great Basin and another push of cooler air drops south out of Canada. This will eventually drop temperatures back to more seasonal values by early next week.

From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:

here is a chance for thunderstorms Friday afternoon across the far southeast plains as well as possibly a few mountain showers. Forecast models are still in disagreement with the strength and timing of a low pressure system Tuesday morning. The latest model runs have weakened the system and show a less precipitation in our area. Forecast models could revert back to their original solutions however, which would mean more precipitation for our region. Temperatures will stay at or above average levels through the weekend with a cool down Monday and Tuesday.

Drought news: Grand Valley water providers are preparing for another dry season #codrought



From KREX (Taylor Kanost):

Several water providers in Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins announced this week that they will be upgrading to Stage II drought, meaning mandatory water restrictions will be enforced.

Grand Valley water providers have yet to make the upgrade, but plan on reevaluating the water supply in a few weeks once Spring snow pack and runoff values are available. “At that point, we’ll have a good indicator if we are going to stay in stage I drought, which is voluntary water restrictions, or if we’ll move into stage II drought, which is mandatory water restrictions,” said External Affairs Manager for Ute Water Conservancy District, Joseph Burtard.

In stage II drought, water rates are adjusted to discourage residents from overusing water, and restrictions are placed on outdoor water use.

Currently, the average snow pack in Colorado is only at 79% of normal, and is 90% of the snow pack the Western Slope had in 2012. Although above normal precipitation is expected in Western Colorado over the next three months, the Climate Prediction Center still believes much of the state will remain under drought conditions through at least June.

Say hello to the Colorado-Big Thompson Headwaters Partnership


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

…a group of agencies has come together to help improve watershed health around reservoirs in the headwaters of the Colorado River — the source of about half of Fort Collins’ drinking water supplies.

About 90 percent of the trees in the forests around Grand County lakes supplying water to Horsetooth and other reservoirs have been killed by bark beetles, posing a major risk to water supplies.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, Northern Water and the Colorado State Forest Service have agreed to work together to establish a joint program to treat fire-prone forests on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Called the Colorado-Big Thompson Headwaters Partnership, the agencies will work together to improve the watershed health above major Grand County reservoirs that supply water to Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake and other reservoirs that supply water to Front Range cities.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

EPA: Over half the streams in the U.S. are in poor condition


From the Associated Press (Dina Cappiello) via The Denver Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency sampled nearly 2,000 locations in 2008 and 2009—from rivers as large as the Mississippi River to streams small enough for wading. The study found more than 55 percent of them in poor condition, 23 percent in fair shape, and 21 percent in good biological health.

The most widespread problem was high levels of nutrient pollution, caused by phosphorus and nitrogen washing into rivers and streams from farms, cities, and sewers. High levels of phosphorus—a common ingredient in detergents and fertilizers—were found in 40 percent of rivers and streams. Another problem detected was development. Land clearing and building along waterways increases erosion and flooding, and allows more pollutants to enter waters.

Conditions are worse in the East, the report found. More than 70 percent of streams and rivers from the Texas coast to the New Jersey coast are in poor shape. Streams and rivers are healthiest in Western mountain areas, where only 26 percent were classified as in poor condition.

The EPA also found some potential risks for human health. In 9 percent of rivers and streams, bacteria exceeded thresholds protective of human health. And mercury, which is toxic, was found in fish tissue along 13,000 miles of streams at levels exceeding health-based standards. Mercury, which is naturally occurring, also can enter the environment from coal-burning power plants and from burning hazardous wastes. The Obama administration finalized regulations to control mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants for the first time in late 2011.

Click here to read the report

More water pollution coverage here and here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Carter Reservoir 80% full


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick e-mail to let you all know that the routine work we were doing down around Flatiron has completed. As a result, Pinewood water levels are on their way back up to more typical elevations for this time of year. Flatiron Reservoir water levels will start to come back up–and begin fluctuating again, as is normal. And, the pump to Carter Lake will go back on before the end of the day Thursday, March 28. As of this afternoon, Carter Lake is 80% full.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Reclamation Releases a Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities


Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it released a final Supplemental Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities. The supplemental EA and FONSI augments the 2012 Ridgway Hydropower EA and FONSI and addresses additional details and information on the interconnection and transmission facilities.

Reclamation will issue a license agreement to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for construction of interconnection facilities to interconnect Tri-County Water Conservancy District Hydropower facilities to the existing 115-kV transmission line that runs along U.S. Highway 550. In addition, a memorandum of agreement will be signed with Tri-County to relocate dry storage facilities and utilities operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as part of Ridgway State Park.

Tri-County is currently constructing the hydropower facilities at Ridgway Dam on the Uncompahgre River in Ouray County, Colo. and operates and maintains Ridgway Dam.

The final EA and FONSI are available on our website under the “environmental documents” heading [or] by contacting Steve McCall with Reclamation in Grand Junction at (970) 248-0638.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Drought news: Denver Water approves mandatory watering restrictions #codrought


Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

March snows have not done enough to improve the current drought conditions. Most of Colorado is in the second year of a severe drought and above-average temperatures, which has led to low snowpack and low reservoir levels across the state. As a result, at its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring a Stage 2 drought, which means customers will have two assigned watering days a week beginning April 1.

“The last time we declared a Stage 2 drought was in 2002,” said Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “We are facing a more serious drought now than we faced then. Our goal this summer is to insure the availability of high-quality water to our citizens, given current conditions and an unknowable end to the drought cycle, protecting not only the quality of life of our community but also the long-term security of our city’s system.”

Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water said: “Because of the dry conditions, our reservoirs haven’t been full since July 2011. We would need about 7 feet of additional snow in the mountains by late April to get us close to where we should be. Therefore, we need everyone’s help to save water indoors and outdoors this year. Together, we need to save 50,000 acre-feet of water, or 16 billion gallons, by next spring. We’re asking every person to think before turning on the tap.”

Mandatory watering restrictions begin April 1, meaning Denver Water customers may only water two days a week and must follow this schedule:

  • Single-family residential properties with addresses ending in even numbers: Sunday, Thursday
  • Single-family residential properties with addresses ending in odd numbers: Saturday, Wednesday
  • All other properties (multi-family, HOAs, commercial, industrial, government): Tuesday, Friday
  • In addition, customers must follow the standard annual watering rules:

  • Do not water lawns between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
  • Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
  • Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
  • Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.
  • The utility asks customers to be conscientious about water use this spring. While April is a good time to set up and examine irrigation systems, they don’t need to be used yet. Instead, postpone turning on sprinklers and automatic systems and hand-water sloped areas of the lawn or sections that are receiving full sunlight if they are dry. April is typically a cool month with some precipitation, so it may not be necessary to water lawns two days a week, which will help save water.

    Snowpack in the South Platte and Colorado River basins from which Denver Water receives water are 59 percent of average and 73 percent of average, respectively. That snow is what serves as Denver’s water supply.

    As part of the Stage 2 drought declaration, the board also adopted a temporary drought pricing structure to encourage customers to use even less water and help reduce revenue loss to ensure Denver Water’s vast water collection, treatment and distribution system stays operable and well-maintained. Customers will see the pricing on bills on or after June 1 of this year. The drought pricing will remain in effect until the mandatory restrictions are lifted. The utility plans to cut operating expenses, defer projects and tap cash reserves to help balance finances through the drought.

    As always, customers’ bills will vary depending on how much water they use. An average summer bill for a single family residential customer who doesn’t use less water would increase about $6 a month. Most residential customers who significantly reduce their water use will see a reduction in their bill — even with drought pricing — in comparison to normal usage at 2013 rates.

    “Because our primary goal is to ensure water is available for health and safety needs, the first 6,000 gallons of monthly water use will not be subject to drought pricing,” said Lochhead.

    Average monthly indoor use of water is 6,000 gallons. Approximately 70 percent of single family residential customers use 18,000 gallons per month or less during the peak summer months.

    As it does every year, the utility will enforce its rules with a team of employees — this year named the “drought patrol.”

    “The purpose of our drought patrol is as much about educating customers as it is about enforcing Denver Water’s rules,” said Lochhead. “As we have in previous years, our monitors will have face-to-face interactions with customers to discuss our restrictions.”

    Customers who receive repeated watering notices will be subject to Stage 2 drought fines, which start at $250 for a single-family residential customer who has previously received a written warning.

    Citizens who see water leaks or broken sprinklers in Denver’s parks should call 3-1-1. To report water waste elsewhere, call Denver Water at 303-893-2444.

    Find watering tips and more drought information.

    More Denver Water coverage here.

    Obama Administration Releases Updated Principles and Guidelines for Federal Investments in Water Resources

    Here’s the release from President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality:

    The Obama Administration today released updated Principles and Guidelines (P&G) for Federal investments in water resources to accelerate project approvals, reduce costs, and support water infrastructure projects with the greatest economic and community benefits.

    The modernized P&G, which were developed by Federal agencies and incorporate extensive public comment, will allow agencies to better consider the full range of long-term economic benefits associated with water investments, including protecting communities against future storm damage, promoting recreational opportunities that support local business, and supporting other local priorities, as well as their water delivery, navigation, and flood prevention functions. These updates to the P&G, called for in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act, will align Federal policies with the full-spectrum approach many communities are now taking toward water infrastructure projects, and will help the Federal government reduce bureaucracy and make it quicker and easier to pursue projects that communities support.

    “Smart investments in America’s rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coasts are essential to promoting economic growth, ensuring clean drinking water, and building thriving communities,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “This much needed update of the 30-year-old Principles and Guidelines will help agencies better evaluate and expedite water projects that grow our economy and are essential for protecting our communities from floods, droughts, and storms.”

    Since 1983, the Principles and Guidelines have provided direction to Federal agencies when evaluating and selecting major water projects, including projects related to navigation, storm resilience, water supply, wetland restoration, and flood prevention. The 1983 standards used a narrow set of parameters to evaluate water investments that made it difficult for agencies to support a range of important projects that communities want, or in some cases precluded support for good projects. As a result, lack of local support for selected projects has often led to substantial delays, costing taxpayers and leaving communities at risk.

    The updated P&G consist of a final set of Principles and Requirements that lays out broad principles to guide water investments, as well as draft Interagency Guidelines for implementing the Principles and Requirements. Released for public review and comment in 2009, the Principles and Requirements incorporate extensive input from the public as well as the National Academy of Sciences. They will promote responsible taxpayer investments with a transparent, inclusive consideration of the long-term economic and community costs and benefits of projects and ensure that communities are engaged in designing projects that work for them.

    The draft Guidelines, developed with Federal interagency input, will be available for 60 days of public comment and will incorporate feedback from the public and stakeholders before being finalized. These Guidelines will ensure smart, front-end, collaborative planning among Federal agencies, states, local communities, stakeholders, and the public so that projects move faster, stay on budget, and support community needs.

    The updated P&G will foster consistency and informed decision-making across all Federal agencies engaged in water resources planning, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Office of Management and Budget.

    For more information and to view the updated Principles and Guidelines, please visit:

    Here’s the text the Mr. Beckwith was referring to in his Tweet above:

    A. Healthy and Resilient Ecosystems. Federal investments in water resources should protect and restore the functions of ecosystems and mitigate any unavoidable damage to these natural systems. Ecosystems are dynamic complexes of plant, animal, and microorganism communities and the non-living environment interacting as a system. Ecosystems provide important services to humans both directly and indirectly, and they also encompass vital intrinsic natural values, such as biodiversity. In order to protect ecosystems, alternative plans should first seek to avoid any adverse environmental impact, and when that is not possible, alternatives should minimize environmental impacts. When damage to the environment is unavoidable, mitigation for adverse effects should be provided as required by law. Restoration of ecosystems can enhance the health and resilience of the natural environment and should be part of alternative plans, where feasible and appropriate. A resilient ecosystem has the capacity to respond to changes, including climate change. Healthy and resilient ecosystems not only enhance the essential services and processes performed by the natural environment, but also contribute to the economic vitality of the Nation.

    Snowpack/drought news: The storm last weekend helped but did not alleviate drought conditions #codrought



    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    While a windy snowstorm made driving difficult last weekend, it did little to relieve drought conditions for Colorado. In fact, the state’s drought task force says it would have to snow nearly three times as much as normal just to bring snowpack to average levels by mid-April. “It is unlikely that this will be achieved. Consequently, water providers are preparing for continued drought conditions throughout the spring and summer and some have announced restrictions,” said Taryn Finnessey of the Colorado Water Conservation Board in the most recent state drought report Snowpack failed to improve much after storms Saturday through Monday, remaining at just 79 percent of normal statewide. In the Arkansas River basin, snowpack is at 75 percent, while it is at 80-82 percent in most areas of the Colorado River basin. The Rio Grande was listed at 78 percent and the South Platte at 70 percent.

    If there is any good news, it’s that the snow has not begun to melt off, like it did at this time last year, because temperatures have been cooler than normal.

    The bad news is that reservoir storage is only 71 percent of average and 39 percent of capacity statewide. Last year, storage was about normal. Streamflows are projected to be only 50-70 percent of average for the spring and early summer. The threemonth forecast is calling for hotter, wetter than average conditions across most of the state.

    The U.S. Drought Monitor shows the entire state is in some stage of drought, with the most extreme levels on the Eastern Plains and in the Arkansas Valley.

    Farmers are bracing for another tough year — the third in drought. “Some have got the ground bedded out, ready to plant if it starts to rain,” said John Schweizer, a Rocky Ford farmer for more than 50 years. He said most are trying to save the hay crops they have and would plant cheaper feed called “hay grazer.” Cattle selling is likely to continue as the drought deepens. “A lot of people have sold down their herds, and we will too if this keeps up,” Schweizer said. “This is as bad as I’ve seen it, and I’ve been around awhile.”

    From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

    Dry conditions continue to persist in Chaffee County and throughout the state, but forecasts of moisture and cooler temperatures this spring could ease the drought’s grip. Arkansas River basin snowpack is 75 percent of normal and 90 percent of the basin’s snowpack a year ago, according to a Thursday report to the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Availability Task Force.

    The average peak date for snowpack is April 10 but tends to come earlier in drought years, the report said.

    Year-to-date precipitation as of Thursday was 70 percent of average and 80 percent of the basin’s precipitation a year ago, which was bolstered by February precipitation that was 92 percent of average for the month.

    Reservoir storage in the Arkansas River basin is currently at 55 percent of average and 19 percent of capacity. This time last year, reservoir storage was at 89 percent of average.

    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga said Friday it is still too early to forecast the full extent of the drought in the county and what impact it may have on those with water rights. “If we keep getting storms, it could turn around. It has happened before,” he said. “You always have to be optimistic. In 2001, we were on track for a horrible year all the way up until the first or second week in May, when we had 5 feet of snowfall. That changed our whole summer,” Scanga said.

    The time in which snow runoff begins “is going to be critical,” he said, and if the county continues to see colder weather, especially at night, it could extend the snowpack runoff later into summer. If not, Scanga said water rights going back to 1884 or further could be affected this year, and the frequency and length of the impacts could be worse than last year. If agriculture water rights are affected, people can expect to see higher crop prices, which could lead to higher prices of food, especially since the drought is currently affecting much of the southwest U.S., Scanga said. If municipalities’ water rights are affected, Scanga said he expects to see more water-restricting measures in those areas.

    Klaus Wolter, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Diagnostics Center and the University of Colorado Boulder, forecast an increase in moisture over the coming months in Thursday’s report. “My forecast for April-June 2013 is fairly confident that most of Colorado will see above-normal moisture, especially toward the Four Corners region,” Wolter wrote in his report. “This is in stark contrast to 2012, and supported by skillful forecasts over the last decade.”

    Wolter said people should hope for the wettest outcome, but prepare for the driest, especially if this year’s growing season is as hot as last year’s. “The one saving grace of 2013 so far is much cooler weather than last year,” he said. He also reported the next 2 weeks could also bring cooler-than-normal temperatures. “The next 2 weeks hold the promise of an active storm track and ‘normal’ to much-below normal temperatures, especially over the next 5 days,” he said.

    The statewide Surface Water Supply Index value for the Arkansas basin in February was minus 3.3, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources’ March 21 report. For context, a score of zero indicates near-normal surface water supply and a score of minus 4 indicates severe drought. The Surface Water Supply Index, known as SWSI, is developed by the Division of Water Resources and is used as an indicator of mountain-based water supplies in major river basins in the state. SWSI values for every basin in the state decreased last month, while “drought conditions continue to be widespread throughout the state,” according to the division’s report. The Arkansas basin’s SWSI value dropped 0.2 from January, making it the most drought-impacted basin in the state behind the Colorado basin, which recorded an SWSI value of minus 3.4 in February. “Snowpack accounts for the majority of the SWSI in the Arkansas basin and was very low,” the report said. “Water year cumulative precipitation, the other major component of the Arkansas basin’s winter SWSI, was also very low.”

    Reservoir storage in the Pueblo Winter Water Program totaled 60,113 acre-feet at the end of February, which is 53 percent of last year’s storage to date and 48 percent of the past 5-year average, the report said. Conservation storage in John Martin Reservoir had accumulated 4,453 acre-feet through last month, 30 percent of the 15,070 acre-feet accumulated by the end of February last year. “Lack of availability of municipal leased water and expected reductions in yield of other replacement sources have caused each major well association to submit replacement plans at the end of February that project from zero to 30 percent pumping allocations,” the report stated.


    Colorado’s largest water utility is poised to declare a Stage 2 drought, meaning mandatory watering restrictions would kick in Monday. Denver Water’s board intends to make the declaration Wednesday. That would mean that starting next week, customers will be assigned two days per week for lawn watering. Several watering rules also would take effect, including no lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m…

    Colorado Springs Utilities also is limiting outdoor watering to two days per week, on designated days, starting Monday.

    From the Western Governors Association and NOAA (Carlee Brown/Toni Parham):

    Drought conditions remain in much of the West, but improvement is likely for Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, according to the most recent Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook.

    The Outlook features predictions for drought conditions through June, including drought development in Northern California, a region that experienced one of its driest January-February periods on record this year. Additionally, the Outlook includes a snapshot of recent precipitation and snowpack measurements, as well as a summary of climate events from the winter season.

    The Outlook also highlights key bills in Congress that can help western states prepare for drought and flooding. Already, Congress has demonstrated the importance of weather and climate monitoring by including a $150 million budget increase for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed last week. The funding will support satellites, monitoring, and weather forecasting.

    The Outlook is a quarterly publication that was developed by the WGA and NOAA after the two organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in June 2011. WGA and NOAA have also co-sponsored two regional meetings, one in the Pacific Northwest and one in the Upper Missouri basin.

    All of the maps and information presented in the Outlook are also available from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides a number of online drought information tools at Western Governors were instrumental to the passage of NIDIS in 2006. NIDIS is currently up for reauthorization by Congress.

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


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the March 1-24 precipitation summary. Click here to read all the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center.

    Developers of the proposed Sterling Ranch have lined up 4,200 acre-feet of Denver Basin groundwater


    From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

    Officials from Sterling Ranch LLC submitted supplemental information to its zone change application showing the company has an option to purchase 4,200 acre-feet of water a year from the Hier ranching family of Castle Rock, Harold Smethills, president and CEO, confirmed Monday. The developers had to provide the proof in order to move forward with the development after a district judge ruled in August 2012 that the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners overstepped its authority when approving the zone change in 2011…

    The water is non-tributary ground water that the Hier family owns the rights to, records filed with Douglas County show. “We had always planned to do it,” Smethills said of the agreement. “But the judge’s ruling forced us to move forward much more quickly than we had anticipated. … We figured ‘appeals take time, so let’s just move forward’.”[…]

    Developers had previously purchased the rights to up to 186 million gallons of water annually from Aurora Water for the planned subdivision just before King’s ruling came down. After a 45-day comment period, the new information will go before the county’s planning commission and then the Board of County Commissioners, according to a county spokeswoman.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here. More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.

    CWCB: March 2013 Drought Update


    Here’s the update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

    Activation of Phase 2 &3 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan, and the activation of the Agricultural Impact Task Force remain in effect to respond to ongoing drought conditions throughout Colorado.

    Late February and March precipitation coupled with periods of cooler than average temperatures have helped to maintain snowpack levels in the Colorado high country. However, the entire state continues to deal with drought conditions and the eastern plains remain exceptionally dry. Given current conditions, 275% of normal precipitation would be needed to reach average peak snowpack statewide, which typically occurs on April 8th. It is unlikely that this will be achieved. Consequently, water providers are preparing for continued drought conditions throughout the spring and summer and some have announced restrictions. Please visit for more information on restrictions in specific communities.

     As of the March 19, 2013 US Drought Monitor, 100% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought
    classification. D1 (moderate) and D2 (severe) cover 52% of the state, while D3 (extreme) accounts for an additional 27%. 21% of the state is now experiencing exceptional drought (D4), a slight decrease from last month.

     Despite an increase in beneficial moisture during March statewide snowpack has maintained, but not improved, and is currently 77% of average. The highest snowpack in the state is in the Southwest basins (82%) while the South Platte is experiencing the lowest at 67% of normal for the water year. All other basins range from 73-79% of average.

     Municipalities and water providers are actively preparing to respond to continued drought conditions with both mandatory and voluntary watering restrictions throughout the spring and summer demand season. Many major utilities will implement restrictions beginning April 1st. A website has been developed to help individuals determine what the restrictions in their specific community are.

     Statewide reservoir storage is at 71% of average and 39% of capacity, a slight increase from last month. The highest storage levels are in the Yampa/ White River Basin, at 106% of average while the lowest storage in the state is the Rio Grande River basin at 53% of average. All other basins range from 55% to 82% of average and 16% to 65% of total capacity. Last year this time the state was at 105% of average reservoir storage.*

     Surface Water Supply Index values have decreased across the entire state over the last month and all values remain negative. Below average reservoir storage and streamflow forecasts contribute to these values.

     NRCS is forecasting below average spring streamflows for the entire state, with most of the basins falling within the 50-69% of average forecast range.

     The long term experimental forecast for April through June of this year is projecting above normal moisture across most of the state, especially around the four corners region. Additionally, the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA is forecasting above average temperatures and persistent drought conditions across much of the state.

    Here’s the link to the webpage where you can view all the presentations.

    More CWCB coverage here.

    The January/February issue of Colorado Water (Colorado State) is hot off the press


    Click here to read a copy.

    Thanks to the Colorado Water 2012 Twitter feed for the heads up


    More education coverage here.

    Drought news: The drought has dried up municipal leases to farmers #codrought



    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    It’s been a bone-dry search this year for the many farmers and ranchers who depend heavily on leasing water from their municipal neighbors. Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland and Longmont — each typically leasing thousands of acre-feet of excess water per year to local producers — have all said it’s unlikely they’ll have any extra water available in 2013. Dismal snowpack in the mountains and not having city water as a back-up option is putting farmers in a tough spot, local crop growers say.

    With spring planting beginning in the upcoming weeks, many predict they’ll cut back on production even more than they did in a drought-stricken 2012. “There’s just nothing out there to lease,” said Randy Knutson, who farms south, east and north of Greeley, explaining that, on one of his 160-acre farms where he fallowed about 30 percent of his ground last year, he’ll likely fallow about 50 percent of that ground this year.

    Knutson — who sits on the board of directors for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Greeley No. 3 Ditch and Western Mutual Ditch companies — said, based on his conversations with farmers, there will be fallowing aplenty this year.

    Water officials from Greeley and Fort Collins said this is the first time in about 10 years they haven’t been able to lease extra water to agricultural users, and for Loveland and Longmont it’s been even longer, officials from those two cities said.

    Agriculture uses about 85 percent of the state’s water, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, but the ag industry doesn’t own nearly that much of the state’s supply — at least not anymore.

    In 1957, when the Colorado-Big Thompson Project first went into operation, 85 percent of the water in the project was owned by agricultural users, according to numbers from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, that oversees operations of the C-BT Project. But today, only 34 percent of the water in the C-BT — the largest water-supply project in northern Colorado — is owned by agricultural users.

    For years, when there was limited money to be made in ag, growing cities along the northern Front Range bought water rights from farming and ranching families that were getting out of the business. Also, some producers who stayed in business thought it could be more profitable to sell some of their water rights at a certain price to growing cities, and then rent extra water as needed. “I can’t condemn anyone at all for selling their water rights,” said Lynn Fagerberg, an Eaton-area farmer. “Times were tough for a long, long time. “It’s just led to a complicated situation now.”

    A lot of producers today — while owning some of their water rights — play the rental market heavily, according to Brian Werner, the public information officer and historian for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. While only one-third of the water in the C-BT Project is now owned by agricultural users, about two-thirds of C-BT water in most years still goes to ag users, who lease much of that C-BT water from cities who own it, Werner said. Despite the shift of ownership, the C-BT remains the largest, supplemental water supply for ag in the state, he added. But playing the rental market, Werner noted, can make life difficult in dry years when cities are reluctant to lease water — like this year.

    In 2012, the drought forced cities and farmers to use up water in reservoirs, but they did so in hopes that this year’s winter and spring would produce at least average snowfall, or better. But through Monday, statewide snowpack was only 79 percent of average, and only 71 percent of average in the South Platte River basin — not enough to replenish reservoirs back up to levels where cities are comfortable with their supplies. According to the most recent report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, statewide reservoirs were filled to level about 30 percent below-average at the beginning of March.

    Additionally, last year’s wildfires, which took place around many high-mountain reservoirs, caused additional complications.

    Fagerberg and other farmers and ranchers have expressed frustration in that cities which aren’t leasing water to agriculture this year aren’t putting additional lawn-watering measures in place that could save water — water that could then be leased to ag.

    Jon Monson, water and sewer director for the city of Greeley, said the city’s water board will continue looking at potential watering restrictions as the year goes along.

    Monson, Fagerberg and others were quick to point out the economic impact agriculture has on Weld County — amounting to about $1.5 billion agricultural goods, which ranks Weld eighth in the nation, according to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture. In 2011, the city of Greeley leased 25,427 acre-feet of water to agricultural users, but this year, only has enough available to honor its long-term ag-lease agreements of about 5,000 acre-feet, Monson said.

    Many ag water users are tying to decrease their dependency on leased water form cities. The board of directors for the North Weld County Water District nearly a year ago increased water surcharges in order to buy more water down the road. The board cited concerns that dairymen who are customers of North Weld Water don’t own very much of the water they use; collectively, the 20 largest dairies in the district owned only about 7 percent of the water they use, according to their numbers.

    The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District passed a $60 million bond issue last fall to purchase water needed by many of its ag users.

    None of those efforts, though, will help this year.

    In recent years, commodity prices have made farming more profitable, and since 2009, the percentage of CB-T water owned by agriculture has stayed steady at 34 percent — after gradually dropping nearly every year for decades. But the percentage of ag ownership isn’t increasing, and that’s because the water rights agricultural users sold years ago are too expensive for farmers and ranchers to buy now, Werner said. And water rights are certainly pricey in times of drought, Werner added. He said the price of a C-BT share has increased from about $9,000 last year to about $13,500 to $14,000 now. “We’re basically seeing the price increase by about $1,000 per month so far this year,” Werner said, noting that most of that water today is being bought for municipal and industrial uses. “It’s certainly not the farmers who can afford it.”

    Forecast news: Chance for snow today for the Park and Gore ranges #codrought #cowx

    From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:

    Mostly dry and fair weather will continue across the region today, with only a few mountain rain or snow showers expected across the higher elevations. A warming trend will take place over the next few days, with area temperatures warming into the 40s to mid 50s across much of the region this afternoon.

    From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

    A trough will move over the northern half of the area later today and tonight. Scattered rain and snow showers are expected, except over the Park and Gore mountain ranges of northern Colorado, where periods of snowfall will result in 1 to 3 inches of snow accumulating by Wednesday morning. The next significant storm will affect the area next Sunday through Wednesday with widespread precipitation possible.

    Snowpack news: South Platte Basin above 2002 line at 70% of avg #codrought



    Click on the thumbnail graphics for the statewide snowpack map and the South Platte Basin High/Low graph.

    Fountain Creek: ‘Colorado Springs has taken its job very seriously’ — Steve Gunderson


    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Barbara Cotter) via The Denver Post:

    Nearly 10 years, $450,000 in penalties and $170 million in fixes later, Colorado Springs Utilities is done with a compliance plan the state imposed over series of wastewater spills into Fountain Creek and some of the tributaries that feed it.

    “I would say this has been quite a success story, and Colorado Springs has taken its job very seriously,” said Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division of the state Department of Public Health and Environment. “Why we decided to take enforcement action almost 10 years ago is that we were seeing a pattern of problems. Really, it’s amazing how that pattern has largely disappeared.”[…]

    Earlier this month, the Water Quality Control Division sent a letter to Utilities officials notifying them that it was closing the books on the order because all requirements had been met.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    2013 Colorado legislation: SB13-019 moves along to the state house #coleg


    From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    The drought-fueled measure, put forth by state Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, passed unanimously in the Senate last week and now moves to the House, starting with the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, is the sponsor.

    While the legislation, Senate Bill 13-19, was amended to gain the necessary support — losing its most ambitious provisions in the process, Schwartz on Thursday called the measure a critical first step and one that will lead to further conversations this summer about water conservation. With Colorado likely facing a second straight summer of severe drought, Schwartz said she hopes to encourage water conservation among agricultural users without punishing them in the process. “We need to modify our thinking and our attitudes about how we use water,” the senator said.

    The legislation was originally to apply statewide, but concerns among the state’s seven river basins were varied and ultimately, the bill’s focus was narrowed to the Gunnison, Colorado main stem and Yampa/White River basins…

    Under Schwartz’s bill, a water user who enrolls in various conservation programs could reduce their water use in drought years but the reduction would not be considered by a water judge in determining that user’s historic consumptive use. “What we’re trying to say is, ‘If you’re willing to do this, your historical consumptive use is protected,’” Schwartz said.

    The conservation programs include those enacted by local water districts. Last year, for example, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which provides water to the eastern half of Eagle County and is a main user of water from Gore Creek and the Eagle River, worked with its customers to conserve water but also convinced other water diverters to do with less, according to spokesperson Diane Johnson. Entities such as golf courses and the town of Avon, which uses raw water to irrigate its parks, got on board, she said. Schwartz’s bill would mean those entities wouldn’t get dinged in a calculation of consumptive use if that voluntarily reduction is repeated, she said.

    “Gail’s bill is quite significant,” said Basalt attorney Ken Ransford, secretary for the Colorado Basin Roundtable. The group is one of nine in the state that focuses on water-management issues under the umbrella of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Ransford has watched Schwartz’s legislation closely. Its passage would mean an important incentive for conservation, he said. “It’s a significant change in the law. It takes away a disincentive to a landowner who wants to enroll their land in a conservation program,” he said…

    Gone from the legislation, however, are provisions that would have provided incentives to irrigators to increase the efficiency of their watering systems without jeopardizing their water rights.

    More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

    ‘The lower basin is done with its compact allocation, and on occasion they use some of ours’ — Jennifer Gimbel #coriver


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    State water officials say that results of a Colorado River basin study do not support the conclusion that there is no more water in the river to develop. After the Bureau oyf Reclamation released the study last year, environmental groups have portrayed it as meaning the Colorado River is out of water, but that’s not the case, said Jennifer Gimbel, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    “What’s important about it is that it’s a planning study that’s meant to be a tool for folks as they look at the river,” Gimbel told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board last week. “You can play it any way you want it, and some have. They say, ‘a pipeline is impossible,’ or ‘we’re running out of water.’ ” In reality, the lower basin states in the Colorado River Compact (Arizona, California and Nevada) have used their full allocation of water, while upper basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) still could claim water from the river.

    “The lower basin is done with its compact allocation, and on occasion they use some of ours,” she said.

    Ted Kowalski, who specializes in Colorado River issues for the CWCB, pointed to Colorado’s own studies which found that up to 900,000 acre-feet annually within Colorado could be allocated. The states have been working cooperatively to manage the risk of shortages, which have never occurred under the compact, Kowalski said. “Strategies like water banking would reduce the likelihood of shortages,” he added.

    Gimbel added that the study did not take into account that cities that export water from the Colorado River like Los Angeles, Denver and Salt Lake City might find other sources of water to better manage the risks.

    “We have a variable climate in Colorado,” said Alan Hamel, the CWCB representative from the Arkansas River basin. “We shouldn’t give up on developing our Colorado River entitlement.”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    CSU names Mike Lester new State Forester


    Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

    As state forester, Lester will lead the CSFS to provide for the protection of Colorado’s forest resources; ensure forestry education, outreach and technical assistance to private landowners; and carry out the duties of the Division of Forestry within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

    The CSFS is a service and outreach agency of Colorado State University, and provides landowners with technical forestry assistance and outreach via 17 district offices located throughout Colorado.
    30 years experience

    Lester, a CSU alumnus, comes to the CSFS with nearly 30 years of professional experience in state and private forestry. He currently serves as assistant state forester for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, a position in which he is responsible for more than 300 staff, manages 2 million acres of state forest land, oversees the Pennsylvania State nursery manager, and manages a silviculture program that yields $25 million in annual revenues.

    “Mike Lester comes to us with a wealth of knowledge, experience and leadership in state and private forestry, and a tremendous passion for Colorado,” said Joyce Berry, dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources at CSU. “The critical challenges facing Colorado’s forests require the kind of visionary leadership that Mike will bring to the Colorado State Forest Service, and we are very excited that he has accepted this important position.”

    Lester’s resume includes positions with the Procter & Gamble Paper Products Company and the Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. He also has served as past president of the Society of American Foresters, an organization he first joined while a natural resources undergraduate student at CSU and in which he has remained actively involved. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the State University of New York and a Master of Forestry from Duke University.

    ‘Extraordinary changes’

    “Colorado’s forests are undergoing extraordinary changes that provide many challenges – and tremendous opportunities,” Lester said. “This is an exciting time to be involved in forestry in Colorado, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the skilled and dedicated professionals at the Colorado State Forest Service. As a Colorado State alumnus, I’m also happy to be returning to the place where my career as a professional forester began.”

    Previous State Forester Jeff Jahnke retired in 2012 after seven years with the agency. Deputy State Forester Joe Duda has been the acting/interim state forester since March 2012.
    Lester will start on July 1, but plans to visit Colorado before then to engage with CSFS personnel.

    The latest Middle Colorado River Watershed Council newsletter is hot off the press #coriver


    Click here to read this issue. They’re moving forward on the assessment project:

    The technical piece of our two-year plan is off and running! A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has been formed with two meetings held to date to scope the focus and other particulars of the watershed assessment. Raw data and supporting reports are currently being compiled with an eye towards analysis over the summer period. As results of the analyses become available, we will be sharing results with the full Partners group. If your organization has data or reports to share, please contact our coordinator, Laurie Rink.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Colorado Foundation for Water Education: 2013 President’s Award Reception, May 3


    Click here to go the the CFWE website to register and learn all about the event. Click on the thumbnail graphic for a photo of last year’s shindig.

    The venue this year is the Colorado History Museum. Here’s the pitch from the website:

    Join the Colorado Foundation for Water Education on Friday May 3 to enjoy our 2013 President’s Award Reception. Help us honor Jim Isgar, the recipient of CFWE’s President’s Award. The award pays tribute to those who demonstrate steadfast commitment to water resources education. We will also bestow our Emerging Leader Award upon Amy Beatie.

    Jim Isgar, 2013 President’s Award

    Looking at Jim Isgar, a bit grizzled from recent chemotherapy treatments to battle cancer, I see a generous man who stands as tall as Mt. Hesperus. Due north of Isgar’s family farm and ranch, Mt. Hesperus in southwestern Colorado’s La Plata Mountains is one of four mountains considered sacred to the Navajo. Isgar irrigates off the La Plata River outside of Breen, southwest of Durango. Like his father, Art, he has served on the H.H. Ditch Company board of directors, including 25 years as its president.

    Amy Beatie, 2013 Emerging Leader Award

    Amy Beatie fights drought by putting water back into parched Colorado streams for fish, wildlife and people. In the summer of 2012, when Western Slope streams were running precariously low, the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust she leads helped to hold some of the hardest-hit waters together.
    “In February of 2012, the snow wasn’t catching up,” says Beatie. “In March we realized the snow wasn’t coming at all. It looked like a bad drought would hit every basin in the state.”

    More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

    Forecast news: Isolated showers near the Continental Divide today, mainly north #codrought #cowx

    From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

    Isolated snow showers will hug the mountains near the Continental Divide today, mainly north of Interstate 70. Another Pacific system is expected to affect the northern half of the forecast area Wednesday. Then a strong low will approach eastern Utah and western Colorado over the Easter weekend with the chance of precipitation increasing.

    Snowpack news: Dillon Reservoir will probably not fill this year #codrought #cowx


    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    Denver Water officials say there’s a glimmer of hope that Dillon Reservoir might fill, or come close to filling, this summer if there’s above average snowfall for the next few weeks. Under a wet-weather scenario, there’s a 94 percent chance the reservoir could fill sometime in late June or early July, when storage is expected to peak. With average spring precipitation, chances of the reservoir filling are about 68 percent; with dry weather, the odds are less than 50-50, according to Denver Water’s Bob Peters, who released the outlook for Dillon Reservoir operations last Friday (March 22). All the projections can be affected by variable weather, including spring rain and temperatures…

    Denver Water has been diverting water from Dillon Reservoir via the Roberts Tunnel all winter, and some local residents may be surprised at the water level when the ice melts. By the end of March, the elevation of the reservoir will be about 30 feet below full…

    The water level should start rising in April when spring runoff starts. Under the average precipitation scenario, Denver Water expects the reservoir level to peak sometime in June at about 9,002 feet, which is still 15 feet below full pool. By the end of summer, the water level would be back where it is now…

    With less than average precipitation, Denver Water projects that Dillon Reservoir would only rise about six feet from its current level by June, then start dropping again in July. By the end of the summer, the reservoir could be five feet lower than it is now.

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

    More than 8 inches of snow fell on Loveland during a weekend storm that combined with freezing temperatures to make roads especially dicey. The Front Range received anywhere from 7 to 10 inches of accumulation, most of it early Saturday morning, according to Kyle Fredin, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Boulder.

    Drought news: Say hello to Colorado’s Drought Response Portal ( from the CWCB #codrought



    I’m not sure if the CWCB has officially launched the website but you can access it here. The URL is

    I was able to use the search feature by zipcode and it correctly returned Denver Water and Thornton Water.

    NWS Boulder office: 24 hour snowfall totals for northeast Colorado as of 7AM #cowx #codrought

    Forecast news: Unsettled weather over southern Colorado today #codrought #cowx

    From the National Weather Service Pueblo Office:

    An upper level disturbance is expected to drop southward through Colorado today…keeping the weather picture unsettled for the end of the weekend. Snow is expected to develop in the afternoon and through the evening over much of the region, with the best chances for precipitation expected over the eastern mountains and along the I-25 corridor. Temperatures will stay well below average across the viewing area, with generally 20s to mid 30s expected over most areas.

    From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

    Very cold temperatures will repeat tonight. Several record lows were set this morning and more of the same is expected Monday morning. Except for isolated showers over northern Colorado and Utah through Wednesday, high pressure will keep conditions dry. Clouds will start increasing again Thursday as the next Pacific storm develops off the west coast. This storm should bring precipitation to the western U.S. late Easter weekend.

    From The Denver Post (Tom McGhee):

    An early spring snowfall that dumped between 8 and 12 inches on the metro area left streets and roads snow-packed and icy on Sunday and with cold weather on tap for the first half of the week it could be a while before some of the snow melts.

    Snowpack news: The eastern plains hit hard by snowfall in some locations #codrought #cowx


    From The Greeley Tribune:

    Forecasters expect the cold to stick around for a few days. Highs will stay near the low-30s until Tuesday, and more snow could fall tonight. Only about an inch of snow fell Friday night and Saturday in most parts of Weld; Johnstown reported 6.1 inches…

    [Mike] Baker said the heaviest snow fell on the Eastern Plains, where the small town of Agate saw more than 18 inches and snow drifts as high as five feet. The Denver metro area saw about 7-12 inches. He said he wasn’t surprised Greeley didn’t get much snow. “As of the last couple of days, it looked like we were going to have kind of a dry slot up there across portions of Larimer and Weld counties with that northerly wind coming out of Wyoming,” he said. “It’s not a very favorable wind direction.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

    Pueblo was on a winter weather advisory throughout the day. About 1.6 inches of snow fell Saturday.

    From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

    After lagging for most of the winter, the amount of water in the snowpack in Colorado’s part of the Colorado River Basin has finally caught up with last year’s (meager) snowpack for this date. That brings the Colorado Basin snowpack to 73% of the average amount for this time of year. The Gunnison River Basin is at about 75% of average, slightly below where it was at this time last year. These levels are not great, especially with low reservoir levels left over from last year’s drought, but they are a lot better than the sub-50% levels we were seeing in December. Statewide, the snowpack is currently at about 77% of average for this time of year, but the South Platte River Basin is only at 68%, and the Arkansas River Basin is at 73%…

    A big problem with last year’s drought was the way the snowpack rapidly melted in early spring instead of continuing to build, as it usually does. Grand Valley water managers are monitoring the situation closely and will release an assessment and guidance for water users (that’s all of us) in early April.

    The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center predicts that the drought will persist or intensify throughout most of Colorado and the rest of the Southwest between now and the end of May. This may not be the best time to put in a new lawn.