Steamboat Springs: The Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference August 21 to 23


Click here for the pitch and links for registration. From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

The 2013 Colorado Water Summer Conference is now just over 7 weeks away. We are excited to release the program outline for the first day of the conference, Wednesday, August 21 and a description of some of the POND activities. Additional conference details will be released over the next several days.

Our conference this year will bring to a close a run of 3 consecutive years in Steamboat Springs. It may be another 2 or 3 years before we return for our summer event. So this will be our chance to say farewell for a while. Our POND Committee has organized an evening on the mountain again this year – ride the gondola up to the Thunderhead deck on Thursday for a great evening of music and networking.

The Interim Water Resources Review Committee will meet on Wednesday morning. Their work will begin in earnest on what promises to be an energetic 2014 Legislative Session.

We will have 3 workshops on Wednesday morning. Emily Brumit, our new Communications Coordinator, will lead a session on how to use social media to stay informed and for professional development. We will begin a program called Snow School. Most every water professional in Colorado should have a deep understanding of snow accumulation by river basin, the factors that drive snowmelt, and how to track snow water equivalent. Our third workshop will be on recent Supreme Court cases and legislation of importance in water storage and changes of use.

We are very excited to open the Summer Conference with Dan Keppen who is the Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance. A dynamic speaker, Dan runs one of the most effective water advocacy groups in the Western U.S. He will give an agricultural perspective on the Colorado River Basin Study and discuss the economic importance of irrigated agriculture.

Certainly the Colorado Water Plan has the water community buzzing with concerns and expectations. The plan will be the focus of the early part of the conference. Our State Affairs committee begins work next week to coalesce the water community’s reaction to the plan and will present their thinking. For some additional perspective, we are excited to have Tim Quinn representing the Association of California Water Agencies, back this year to talk about the California Water Plan and other California activities of interest to us. And we will do something unique that we are calling the Gallery of State Water Plans. This will be an entertaining opportunity to learn about the planning activities in many other Western States in a very condensed format. You can decide which State you think is doing the best job.

We are pleased to announce a collaboration with the Water Law Section of the Colorado Bar in a ceremony recognizing the careers of several of our water attorneys. The induction of the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Water Buffalo will be held on Wednesday evening.

Our focus on Day 2 of the conference will be on agricultural conservation as a source of water supply for instream flow and municipal water supply. We will lay the foundation for the discussion on this controversial topic that will be a major area of focus for us over the next several months.

On Day 3, we will turn our attention to a very serious issue that has evolved over the past 30 days. Both California and Texas have withdrawn from the National Water Resources Association that has represented Colorado and other western states in Washington D.C for about 80 years. As a result, the future of the organization is in peril. We are actively working on next steps as we develop how we will engage on water matters at the federal level.

The conference will conclude with a presentation on the survey of public attitudes toward water that the Water Congress has just commissioned. This is the first time that we have contracted to do such a survey. It is the first substantive work product of the Public Trust Special Project that is off to a strong start.

And we will spend some time reviewing how this water year went as we somewhat nervously look ahead to the 2014 snow accumulation season.

The July issue of Denver Water’s Water News is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver


Click here to read the news. Here’s an excerpt:

…Dillon Reservoir, the largest in Denver Water’s system, is celebrating 50 years as one of Denver Water’s most important water storage sites.

Water leaders began tossing around the idea for the project in the early 1900s when it became apparent that Denver could not subsist on South Platte River water alone. After years of geologic studies, engineering reports and legal wrangling, Denver Water began making formal plans to build the project. Lawyers worked to buy the rest of the town, offering to help people move structures or rebuild on a site east of the reservoir.

Denver’s $77.6 million Blue River Diversion Project was a massive plan to divert water from the West Slope to the East Slope. It included building the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel — which conveys water from Dillon Reservoir, 23.3 miles to the South Platte River — as well as buying land, securing water rights and building Dillon Dam.

Originally, Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners planned to build a small dam and diversion structures to send water to the tunnel. But the Board rethought those plans, opting instead to build what became Denver Water’s largest reservoir.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Drought/runoff news: Greeley June precipitation = 1/3 of an inch #COdrought


From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Well below average rainfall in June put the Greeley area back in the “drought” category, and also evaporated some of the optimism local farmers had earlier in the growing season.

Weld County and the rest of the South Platte River basin entered June with a snowpack that was about 50 percent above normal. The snowmelt from the mountains, farmers thought at the time, would keep their irrigation ditches running with water well into the summer.

But the Greeley area last month received about one-third of an inch of rain — less than 20 percent of the historic average — and the dry conditions forced some local farmers to use more of their irrigation water than originally anticipated.

Northern Colorado is now back in a “moderate drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, after it had briefly shaken its drought status in early June.

The lack of rain and increased use of irrigation water last month now has ditch levels dropping, local farmers say. “If we don’t get some decent rains in the next 10 days to two weeks, things could get ugly pretty quickly,” said Dave Eckhardt, a LaSalle-area grower of corn, onions, sugar beets and wheat.

Storm clouds rolled into the Greeley area only a few moments after Eckhardt made those comments Monday afternoon, and rains were expected again Friday and Saturday. Local farmers are hoping it will be enough to keep their crops growing, since irrigation water for some of them might run out before the end of the growing season.

Artie Elmquist, a Mead-area farmer, said he’s wanting to see 60-70 percent of his sugar beet crop survive. He got a late start planting this year because rains in April and May muddied his fields. The June dryness set in not long after he finally planted his beets. He’s typically finished planting in April, and then uses May rains to get the crop growing out of the ground. But this year, with June giving him little moisture to work with, he had to irrigate his crop out of the ground — something he has to do only once every 10 years or so, he noted. Crop insurance can help, if it stays dry and his crops suffer, Elmquist said. But, in many cases, insurance payments only help re-coup some of the farmer’s input costs. “You’re certainly much better off if you can just grow a crop,” Elmquist said.

Despite the lack of rain last month and increased water use, overall conditions are so far better now than they were a year ago, Eckhardt and Elmquist said. In 2012, the two irrigation ditches that run water to Eckhardt’s fields ran dry by mid-June. On one ditch, the Eckhardts could use extra water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — the largest water-supply project in northern Colorado. Last year, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board of directors, which oversees C-BT operations, set a high water quota, and that freed up additional water for the Eckhardts and other farmers in the region. However, the other irrigation ditch used by the Eckhardts doesn’t have access to C-BT water, and last year the Eckhardts had to let 700 acres of crops along that ditch dry up.

Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a quota each year to balance how much water could be used through the growing seasons and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. The Northern Water board upped its water quota to 100 percent last year, because reservoirs were filled to historically high levels, thanks to a record snowpack in 2011. But that extensive use during the 2012 drought drained some of the C-BT Project’s 12 reservoirs to historically low levels, and they now need to be filled back up, Northern Water board members have said.

Cities in the area, which in many years lease extra water to local farmers, are also holding on tight to their water, trying to re-fill their low reservoirs. Additionally, a number of farmers in the area are limited in their ability to pump water out of the ground to make up for any lack of rain. In the mid-2000s, augmentation requirements were made more stringent in Colorado. Augmentation water is required to make up for depletions to the aquifer. With those changes, many farmers and their irrigation ditch companies today can’t afford enough augmentation water to get their wells pumping at full capacity. With groundwater-pumping limitations and city officials and Northern Water board members reluctant to release water from their reservoirs, farmers are left to hope that Mother Nature cooperates better in the upcoming months than it did in June.

Helping a number of farmers, including Alan Frank, who farms near LaSalle, is the fact that they planted more acres of wheat — a crop that requires less water. Many farmers in Weld County doubled or even tripled their wheat acres back in the fall, anticipating water-availability issues when the spring and summer rolled around. “It’s helped save water,” Frank said of growing more wheat this year. “But we’re still going to need more help from the weather to make sure everything else can survive.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

If you thought June was exceptionally hot and dry . . . Not even close. In terms of temperatures, it was just the seventh hottest June since record-keeping began in the 1890s. But June can be very dry in many years, and it was only the 16th driest on record. The average temperature for the month was 74.3 degrees, which is well above the average of 70 degrees. The hottest June was 77 degrees in 2012.

Just 0.27 inches of rain fell in June. In June 1990, the driest, there was no rainfall. Try telling that to your lawn or garden. So far this year, Pueblo has received just 2.2 inches of precipitation, even less than at this time last year, which ranked right behind 2002 as the driest.

Puebloans poured water on their lawns, but not as much as last year. The 1.3 billion gallons pumped by the Board of Water Works was 3 percent above average, but 7 percent lower than last year. Pueblo is not under water restrictions, but wise use of water still is encouraged and customers are advised to avoid watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, flows on the Arkansas River have dropped as runoff slowed in the past two weeks. The flow near Salida was 776 cubic feet per second at the end of June, about one-third of the peak reached earlier in the month.

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is close to meeting its goal of 47,231 acre-feet of imported water across the Continental Divide. So far, about 44,750 acre-feet have been brought over, which is helping to fill some of the holes left in reservoirs by three years of drought. But hot, dry weather is expected to continue, so levels should continue to decline until winter storage begins in November.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

After a short-lived burst of late spring moisture, much of Colorado is veering back toward drought conditions, with soil moisture declining in many parts of the state. Even the north-central mountains, which saw above-average precipitation in late April and May, are drying out again, and parts of Summit and Grand counties are once again designated as experience “moderate” drought conditions, according to the June 18 drought monitor. The far southwestern corner of the state slipped back into “extreme” drought conditions…

Nearly all of the state (with the exception of a tiny area in the far southeastern corner) saw less than 50 percent of average June precipitation, which isn’t very high to begin with. A significant portion of western Colorado received less that 25 percent of average precipitation for the month.

June temperatures were near average across much of the mountains, but slightly warmer than average to the west and east of the Continental Divide…

For Summit County, the second half of July and the first part of August is often one of the wettest periods of the year — if the Southwest monsoon develops normally to deliver periodic afternoon thunderstorms.
Late August and September can go either way. An extended monsoon can sometimes persist through late August, and a developing El Niño can bring autumn moisture, but there’s no indication yet that an El Niño is forming out in the Pacific Ocean. In fact, most long-term climate models are suggesting that the equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures will continue to hover near neutral or perhaps slightly below, with better odds for yet another La Niña year, continuing a string that’s somewhat unprecedented in recent times.