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Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin #COdrought #ColoradoRiver


Click on the thumbnail graphic for the water year to date precipitation map for the Upper Colorado River Basin from the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to read the current assessment.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting recap


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is pondering whether to endorse its chairman as a state contractor in order to finish its piece of the state water plan. After sending Chairman Gary Barber away from the table Wednesday, the roundtable deliberated over whether Barber could spend the next year leading the group while being paid to put the finishing touches on a basin implementation plan. The $35,000 contract would be funded through the Colorado Water Conservation Board, possibly as a subcontract under CDM Smith consultants that is already held by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

While that made some in the room uncomfortable — state laws prevent board members of special districts from profiting — they were willing to let Barber do both jobs if the state gives its approval. “Gary could be asked to step down, but nobody understands all the moving parts of the roundtable better than he does,” said Alan Hamel, who is the vice chairman of the roundtable and a CWCB member.

Hamel said the Arkansas Basin Roundtable is ahead of others in the state because of Barber’s leadership. Everyone at the table agreed. “Gary has taken us a very long way,” added Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “And there is the question, ‘Who else is willing to be chair?’ ”

The roundtable has members appointed by counties, cities and districts within the Arkansas River basin, but it does not issue contracts, collect fees or pay employees. Members serve in a volunteer capacity.

Barber was appointed in 2005 to represent El Paso County, where he works for a water consulting firm.

The roundtable delayed its decision until next month, when its elections for officers will be held as well.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water projects are notorious for taking years to complete and creating controversy in communities. But a 15-mile line to the Ordway Feedyard from nearby wells was completed in less than six months and in the nick of time to save one of Crowley County’s leading businesses. It was completed with rare cooperation from water interests throughout the Arkansas Valley.

Tyler Karney explained the importance of the pipeline Wednesday to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which recommended state approval for the project. He thanked the roundtable, Crowley County commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, among others for their help. “We came to the roundtable in January seeking approval for the project. Construction began May 1,” said Karney, manager of the 65,000-head cattle operation. “The first water arrived from the pipeline June 28. On July 2, Lake Henry went dry.”

The $3.2 million pipeline project was promoted as an alternative to taking water from Lake Henry to supply the feedlot. Water flowed by gravity from Lake Henry, but is pumped uphill through the new pipeline. Traditionally, the feed yard was able to buy water on the spot market and run it down the Colorado Canal into Lake Henry. But the uncertainty of supply during drought precipitated a change of plans.

Last year, the feedlot signed a 15-year lease to purchase 700 acre-feet of raw water annually from the Pueblo Board of Water Works at more than $250,000 per year. The company also put $600,000 of its own money into the pipeline project, which was matched with a loan of $2.3 million and grant of $275,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which were approved in March.

The feedlot needs as much water as a city of 5,500 people would require for its 65,000 head of cattle. It’s the third-largest employer in Crowley County and has a $50 million impact annually on the local economy. It was built in 1972, but the owners subsequently sold off most of the water rights to large cities.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Colorado Water Plan: Is there any water left on the west slope to send across the Great Divide? #ColoradoRiver


As the IBCC and basin roundtables along with the CWCB gear up to produce Colorado’s first statewide water plan the question is how much water is left to develop? Here’s a report about the early west slope efforts from Hannah Holm writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

According to the “Grand Valley’s Principles for the Colorado State Water Plan,” any statewide water plan that fails to bring in new water will simply shift the burden of an anticipated urban water shortage to farms and streams – both of which, arguably, are already facing shortages of their own.

This document is being submitted to the governing bodies of each of the water providers, including the City of Grand Junction, City of Fruita, Clifton Water District, Town of Palisade, Ute Water Conservancy District, and all of the valley’s irrigation providers, for official approval.

Hickenlooper’s Executive Order directing the CWCB to develop a statewide water plan has set off a flurry of activity by water stakeholders across the state. Under the framework developed by the CWCB, basin roundtables of stakeholders in each of the state’s major river basins plus the Denver metropolitan area are supposed to develop plans to meet their own needs, which will then feed into a statewide plan.

While each basin roundtable is supposed to focus on meeting their internal needs, all are aware that long-running conflicts are likely to heat up as roundtables on the Eastern Slope, home to the most of the demand, look to the Western Slope, home to most of the water, to help meet those needs. As a result, multiple efforts are underway to develop regional alliances around core goals in preparation for what are expected to be intense negotiations.

In addition to the Grand Valley “Principles” document, these include proposed “West Slope Principles” developed by the Water Quality/Quantity Committee of the Northwest Council of Governments (NWCOG) and a draft joint white paper seeking to articulate perspectives shared by basin roundtables on the Eastern Slope.

The “West Slope Principles” proposed by NWCOG, like the Grand Valley document, emphasize the need to ensure that the Colorado Water Plan does not threaten the Western Slope’s water-dependent economic cornerstones: agriculture, resource extraction, recreation and tourism.

Both documents also demand respect for local plans and regulations, environmental protections and measures to limit the risk of a “compact call,” which could result from failing to allow sufficient water to flow down the Colorado River to Arizona, Nevada and California, as required by a 1922 compact between the states that share the river. The NWCOG document, however, focuses on conservation and reuse as measures to reduce Eastern Slope demands on Western Slope water, rather than imports from elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, the draft East Slope Basin Roundtables joint statement, discussed by the South Platte, Arkansas and Metro Roundtables in July, has a different perspective. This draft statement emphasizes the risk of large-scale drying up of Eastern Slope irrigated agriculture if other approaches to meeting Eastern Slope municipal needs are not developed.

It includes many of the approaches called for in the Western Slope documents, including demand management through reuse, aggressive conservation and increased residential densities. The statement also, however, calls for, “when it is needed, development of state water project(s) using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”

It’s worth noting that none of these documents are 100% final. However, they do outline persistent areas of regional disagreement about how to best stretch the state’s limited water supplies going forward, as well as some areas of agreement.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.