Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

Introduction
The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

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Snowpack news: Statewide = 140% of avg. as of November 26, storm due tonight and tomorrow

Colorado snowpack November 26, 2013
Colorado snowpack November 26, 2013

It’s a good start to the season but we have a long way to go. The South Platte was at 21% of average peak on November 26.

‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

“We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

“The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

“There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

“It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[…]

The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

“This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

“Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Drought news: Little relief in Bent, Crowley and Otero counties #COdrought

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Despite some encouraging snowfall in November, large parts of the state remain on drought alert, according to the latest report from the state drought task force. Conditions in the Arkansas Valley, particularly Bent, Crowley and Otero counties, are listed as exceptional drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor, an interagency monitor of long-term weather conditions. About three-quarters of the state is in some sort of drought. Only the South Platte and North Platte basins are listed as drought-free.

“Storage levels are strong and better than they were this time last year, easing concerns of municipal providers,” said Taryn Finnessey of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Early season snow has been decent, but long-range forecasts paint an unclear picture as to what we can expect throughout the winter months.”

Snowpack moisture statewide is slightly above average after the November snow. The northwest corner of Colorado is at about 115 percent, while all other basins are hovering around 100 percent. Water supply cannot be predicted from early snowfall reports, since the majority of snow typically falls in March and April.

Water storage levels have increased to about 83 percent of average statewide, up from 66 percent at the same time last year. Levels have increased by 10 percent since Sept. 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Storage in the Arkansas River basin is only about 72 percent of average and only 18 percent of capacity. In the Rio Grande basin, it is only 47 percent of average; 12 percent of capacity. Pueblo Board of Water Works storage is at about 55 percent capacity, which is close to the annual target for storage. The water board was able to increase the amount of water stored by about 37 percent this year, mostly by cutting back on raw water leases.

Colorado Springs Utilities reports its water storage is at 56 percent of capacity, or about 70 percent of average for this time of year. A report estimates it will finish the year with 1.6 years of supply in storage.

Aurora, which exports water from the Arkansas River basin, lists its reservoir storage at 67 percent of capacity systemwide, slightly below its target levels. A cool spring and September storms led to fuller reservoirs and reduced use, spokesman Greg Baker said.

Because of the September flooding, Denver Water reservoirs are nearly full.

Bureau of Reclamation: Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin water use pegged at 4.281 MAF in 2011

Colorado River Basin via Rand JIE
Colorado River Basin via Rand JIE

From inkstain (John Fleck):

According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s new Consumptive Uses and Losses Report (pdf), consumptive use of Colorado River water in the states of the upper basin (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and a sliver of Arizona) reached 4.281 million acre feet in 2011, the highest on record.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.