AWRA Colorado: Holiday Happy Hour, January 9

Republican River Basin: Compliance pipeline a go for 2014

Republican River Basin
Republican River Basin

Here’s an insider’s look at operating the compliance pipeline in 2014, from Deb Daniel, Republican River Water Conservancy District General Manager, running in The Yuma Pioneer:

Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado have unanimously approved a resolution that allows Colorado to operate the Compact Compliance Pipeline and deliver water to the North Fork of the Republican River for one year – 2014.

It was hailed as being made possible thanks to the continuous efforts and cooperation of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD), the Sandhills Groundwater Management District and the State of Colorado.

On May 5, 2013, Colorado submitted to the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA) the resolution approving and Augmentation Plan for the Colorado Compact Compliance Pipeline (CCP). Nebraska and Colorado voted in favor of the resolution. Kansas voted against it. Colorado then instituted mandatory non-binding arbitration disputing Kansas’ decision and requesting the arbitrator find Kansas had acted unreasonably. During a three-day hearing, October 1-3, 2013, arbitrator Martha Pagel, listened to testimony regarding the pipeline proposal. She published her decision on November 27 regarding the arbitration – finding that, although Colorado had met all the requirements for approval of the pipeline, Kansas nevertheless did not act unreasonably in not approving it.

However, one day before her decision was published, Kansas Chief Engineer David Barfield reached out to Dick Wolfe, state engineer for Colorado, with a proposal that would allow Colorado temporary use of the pipeline.

Colorado and the RRWCD carefully considered the proposal from Kansas, and with the cooperation of the Sandhills GWD, drafted and presented a new resolution during a special meeting of the RRCA held Thursday, December 19. During the special meeting, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska discussed the resolution for the temporary use of the pipeline. Barfield stated that Kansas and Colorado have made great strides in closing the gap of disagreement concerning the use of the pipeline. Kansas continues to not agree to the resolution which Colorado presented to the RRCA in May 2013, but Barfield said he saw the temporary approval as a way of gaining experience and insight into pipeline operations.

Brian Dunnigan, RRCA Commissioner from Nebraska, stated Nebraska supported the resolution from Colorado. Dunnigan also pointed out that this resolution does not give long-term assurances to Colorado water users in their extensive efforts to try to reach compact compliance. He stated that he hoped the RRCA could reach permanent resolution of all outstanding issues.

Wolfe thanked his staff and the Colorado Attorney General’s staff in all their efforts to negotiate with Kansas. He thanked the Republican River Water Conservation District and the Sandhills GWMD for all that they have done to assist Colorado in trying to reach compact compliance. Wolfe also stated his appreciation to the legal counsel and engineering consultants for the RRWCD and their efforts in assisting Colorado with this monumental task.

Following Wolfe’s request for a vote approving the resolution, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska voted unanimously in favor of approving the use of the compact compliance pipeline in 2014 as stated in the resolution.

Since the RRWCD will be operating the Compact Compliance Pipeline in 2014, the RRWCD Board of Directors has terminated the water lease to Cure Land, LLC and Cure Land II LLC.

Dennis Coryell, RRWCD board president, stated, “This is a great day for the people of the Republican River Basin; it is a monumental step forward towards permanent compact compliance. It supports the certainty of the future of agriculture and the economy it supports within the basin.”

“Although this approval is only temporary, it allows Colorado to show the other states the CCP can be operated and will provide a benefit to the water users in Nebraska and Kansas,” he continued. “Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era where the states can work together to solve the problems facing all three states and we can soon have permanent approval to operate the CCP.”

Coryell went on to thank Barfield for initiating this temporary approval. He thanked Wolfe and the personnel of the State of Colorado for all of their hard work. Coryell also expressed his appreciation to Barfield and Dunnigan for supporting Colorado’s resolution to operate the pipeline.

“Thanks to the Sandhills Groundwater Management District and District Manager Nate Midcap for their approval to export water from their district,” he added.

“I especially want to thank the water users within Colorado’s Republican River Basin for their long-standing and continued support of the efforts of the RRWCD,” Coryell concluded. “It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we work together and succeed in finding a way to move forward toward our goals.”

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

GOCO Grants Will Conserve More than 40,000 Acres for Public Use, Wildlife Habitat

Elk on Trail Ridge Road August 2011
Elk on Trail Ridge Road August 2011

Here’s the release from Great Outdoors Colorado (Todd Cohen):

COUNTIES AND CITIES: Basalt, Chaffee, Colorado Springs, Creede, Dolores, Eagle, El Paso, Grand, Kremmling, Las Animas, La Junta, Meeker, Mesa, Mineral, Palisade, Pitkin, Poncha Springs, Rio Blanco, Salida.

The Great Outdoors Colorado Board has approved $8.8 million in grants to preserve more than 40,000 acres of land in nine counties to establish new public open spaces, protect scenic landscapes and river corridors and protect vital habitat for big game and protected species.

One grant will also conserve a working ranch that contains the site of the historic 1879 “Meeker Massacre,” the incident that resulted in the Ute’s forced removal to reservations in Utah. Another will conserve more than 33,000 acres in southern Colorado that offer refuge for a variety of wildlife including sensitive native species populations.

The land trusts and local governments receiving these grants plan to leverage the money for more than $21 million in matching funds and land donations. Fund requests in this grant cycle outstripped available funds by more than $2 million.

The grants will:

  • establish new public open spaces in El Paso, Eagle and Mesa counties;
  • create new public access for hunting in Mineral County, and enhance existing public fishing opportunities in Rio Blanco County;
  • conserve more than 4,100 acres of lands on scenic byways and nearly 300 acres visible from major interstates and U.S. highways;
  • conserve more than 2,600 acres of wildlife habitat and linkage corridors for federally designated threatened and endangered species; and
  • conserve more than 20 miles of riparian habitat and river corridors. Continue reading

Opinion: How not to kill the #ColoradoRiver — Steve Goetting/Margaret Bowman

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

From the Arizona Central (Steve Goetting/Margaret Bowman):

U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell gave a speech Dec. 13 to the major water users in the Colorado River Basin, calling on them to take immediate action to address the region’s water supply challenges.

The challenges in the Colorado River basin are large, but the good news is that cost effective solutions are available and already being tested in different parts of the basin. Implementing these solutions now will be good not only for the region’s iconic Colorado River, but also for the region’s economy…

We can reverse the river’s fate and address the water supply challenge – and do it in a way that benefits the region’s economy. By combining municipal and agricultural conservation, water recycling and other techniques to share water supplies flexibly, the region can provide enough water to meet future demands.

This is not an untested set of solutions. Communities in Arizona and across the basin are already using promising practices that can serve as a model for others across the region.

For instance, farmers on the Diamond S Ditch in Camp Verde partnered with The Nature Conservancy to automate the structure that diverts water from the river to farm fields. Farmers now can divert only the water they need, while the extra water can benefit the river – and the farmers can do all of this using their smartphones rather than driving out to the river.

And last year, Sierra Vista became the first city in the country to require certified water-efficient appliances in new homes. They are also dedicating recycled water for groundwater recharge near the San Pedro River, reducing the impact of the city’s groundwater use on the river.

A more efficient water future will not only create a more secure water supply, but will also provide a boost to the economy. Farmers can increase productivity and use less water by upgrading aging irrigation systems. And they can reap financial rewards from voluntarily sharing some of their saved water with cities and rivers.

These innovative approaches can allow cities across the basin to secure future water supplies in a cost-effective fashion without resorting to costly diversion projects.

Solving water shortages without draining rivers will preserve the Colorado River Basin’s $26 billion recreation economy that draws tourists from across the globe for fishing, hiking, rafting, camping and other activities. Arizona generates $6 billion alone, which provides nearly 54,000 jobs in the state.

To capitalize on those benefits, the region’s leaders need to take bold action to immediately implement the common-sense water conservation solutions that can put the river and the region on a path to recovery. As secretary Jewell said, “We have to do more, we have to do it more quickly, to take on the challenges that are going to be harder that what we’ve tackled before.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack news (% of normal): Upper Colorado = 104, South Platte = 96, Arkansas = 101

Everywhere is still average or above. No need to panic. Do your snowdance.

Lower Rio Grande Basin Study Shows Shortfall in Future Water Supply

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins
Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor released the Lower Rio Grande Basin Study that evaluated the impacts of climate change on water demand and supply imbalances along the Rio Grande along the United States/Mexico border from Fort Quitman, Tex., to the Gulf of Mexico.

“Basin studies are an important element of the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART initiative and give us a clearer picture of the possible future gaps between water demand and our available supplies,” Commissioner Connor said. “This study of the lower Rio Grande basin will provide water managers with science-based tools to make important future decisions as they work to meet the region’s diverse water needs. In addition, the study will help inform water management discussions between the U.S. and Mexico through the International Boundary Water Commission.”

Among the findings and conclusions of the Lower Rio Grande Basin Study:

  • Climate change is likely to result in increased temperatures, decreased precipitation and increased evapotranspiration in the study area. As a result of climate change, a projected 86,438 acre-feet of water per year will need to be added to the 592,084 acre-feet per year of supply shortfall predicted in the existing regional planning process in 2060, for a total shortfall of 678,522.
  • Water supply imbalances exacerbated by climate change will greatly reduce the reliability of deliveries to all users who are dependent on deliveries of Rio Grande water via irrigation deliveries.
  • The Study includes an acknowledgment that all water management strategies recommended through the recently adopted regional water plan are part of a needed portfolio of solutions for the Study Area.
  • Seawater desalination, brackish groundwater desalination, reuse and fresh groundwater development were examined as alternatives to meet future water demands. The study found that brackish groundwater development was most suitable. Further analysis was conducted; it was found that regional brackish groundwater systems would best meet the planning objective. An appraisal-level plan formulation and evaluation process was conducted to determine potential locations of each regional brackish groundwater desalination system.

    The Lower Rio Grande Basin Study was developed by Reclamation and the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority and its 53 member entities. It was conducted in collaboration with the Texas Region M Planning Group, Texas Water Development Board, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and International Boundary and Water Commission. It covered 122,400 square miles. The study cost $412,798 with the RGWRA paying for 52 percent of it.

    The basin study was conducted as part of WaterSMART. WaterSMART is the U.S. Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. Basin studies are comprehensive water studies that define options for meeting future water demands in river basins in the western United States where imbalances in water supply and demand exist or are projected to exist. Since the program’s establishment, 19 basins have been selected to be evaluated. For more information see http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/bsp.

    More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.

    The CPC is forecasting a likely return of #COdrought to western Colorado, SLV, South Platte and Arkansas basins

    Seasonal drought outlook for December 19, 2013 to March 31, 2014 via the Climate Prediction Center
    Seasonal drought outlook for December 19, 2013 to March 31, 2014 via the Climate Prediction Center

    Click here to go to the CPC website.