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

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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

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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

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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: http://www.fcgov.com/water-restrictions 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.”

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.