La Junta: The 20th Annual Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 22-24

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Click here to go to the forum website for all the details.

From the Lamar Ledger:

Nominations are now being accepted for the 10th Annual “Bob Appel -Friend of the Arkansas” Award; presented each year at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum meeting.

The award is designed to honor an individual who has over the years demonstrated their commitment to improving the condition of the Arkansas River as it flows from its headwaters near Leadville to the Colo. state line.

The award is meant to recognize someone who has helped to promote the best management practices in the usage of water in the Arkansas River basin. Their efforts may include contributions in the general areas of development, preservation, conservation and/or leadership. The ability to reach out to as many constituents as possible, and cooperation and consensus building, is an important aspect in the consideration of this award.

Other considerations include, but are not limited to the nominee’s length of service in the area of water resources, the impact of their accomplishments, and their respect within the water community of the Arkansas River basin.

Nominations should include a thorough description of why the individual is being nominated as well as any testimonials or letters of recommendation.

Nominations may be sent to Jean Van Pelt at Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District 31717 United Ave. Pueblo, Colo. 81001, e-mail – jean@secwcd.com, fax – 719-948-0036.

Nominations need to be received no later than Friday, March 21, 2014. If you have any questions about the award or the nomination process, please email or call Jean at 719-948-2023.

The Forum will be held on April 23 and 24, 2014 at Otero Junior College, in La Junta, Colo. Forum information is available at arbwf.org.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack/Drought news: (% of normal): South Platte =142%, Upper Rio Grande = 83% #COdrought

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Despite recent moisture, Southern Colorado still is struggling with the impacts of prolonged drought. Clouds of dust continue to roll across the prairies, bringing piles of tumbleweeds with them. Miles of roads are lined with the weeds and sometimes clogged by them.

“We’ve had 45 miles of roads impacted by tumbleweeds, and have even had to keep some closed when they became impassable,” said Crowley County Commissioner Frank Grant.

Crowley County has spent at least $75,000, used snowplows and purchased a forage chopper to clear roads since late October when the tumbleweeds began appearing.

“It’s a lot like herding balloons. You push them off, and they keep coming back,” Grant said. “Pueblo County road crews have been hitting it hard, too.”

Area soil conservation districts have applied for grants to purchase equipment. Canal companies are dealing with miles of tumbleweeds plugging up ditches in prepara­tion for water that will begin flowing in less than a month. And some homeowners in rural areas have had trouble reaching or leaving their homes.

“Every time the wind blows, you see them pile up,” said J.D. Wright, who lives in eastern Pueblo County on the Crowley County line about 15 miles north of Colorado 96. “This is a very serious situation. It’s nobody’s fault, just a matter of dealing with the tumbleweeds.”

The weeds have damaged rangeland because they break off more beneficial grasses as they roll across the ground.

“The sandhills in the Hanover-Boone area that have been stable for the last 50 years are beginning to blow,” Wright said.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

After 3.1 inches of fresh snow was recorded in town Thursday morning, the snowfall total for October 2013 through February to date was 165.6 inches, according to the regional climate center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That compares to the full-season average (1981 through 2011) of 169.7 inches. And there’s likely more on the way…

Season-long snowfall in town always is significantly lower than it is at midmountain at Steamboat Ski Area. And this winter is no different, with the ski area reporting 279 inches for the season thus far…

Monthly snowfall in the city of Steamboat consistently has been above average this fall and winter, with 16.8 inches in October, 27.9 inches in November, 38.3 inches in December, 52.2 inches in January and 30.4 inches as of Thursday for February.

The #ColoradoRiver Basin Roundtable is soliciting input for the #COWaterPlan

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

A looming water shortage for Front Range cities is largely driving current efforts to develop a Colorado Water Plan, but that doesn’t mean that towns and cities on the Western Slope are entirely prepared for their own water future.

According to Louis Meyer of the consulting firm SGM, most water providers that serve households in communities from the Colorado River’s headwaters in Grand and Summit Counties on down to Grand Junction have done a pretty good job of planning for the range of climate conditions that have been seen over the past several decades. However, most are not prepared for the more extreme droughts that both climate change models and ancient tree ring studies indicate could occur in the future.

SGM is working with the Colorado Basin Roundtable to assess water needs and potential projects for a “Basin Implementation Plan” that will help inform the Colorado Water Plan that Governor Hickenlooper wants drafted by the end of this year. The Colorado Basin Roundtable, like its counterparts in other major river basins around the state, is a group of water managers and stakeholders charged by the state legislature with doing “bottom-up” water planning. Meyer and his team have been interviewing domestic water providers throughout the river basin to determine what their needs are and what kinds of projects would help them be more prepared for the future.

One factor making communities vulnerable to prolonged or extreme droughts is the fact that many lack sufficient reservoir storage upstream from their water treatment plants. These communities rely largely on water in streams to serve their customers while releasing water from reservoirs in other drainages to satisfy any downstream senior calls on the river. This is more of an issue in headwaters communities in the upper Fraser, Eagle, Blue and Roaring Fork than in the Grand Junction area, where water providers enjoy access to reservoirs that are physically, as well as legally, upstream.

Today’s regulatory and permitting requirements for reservoirs have resulted in planning horizons which can take longer than 20 years. Permitting costs can exceed many millions of dollars with no assurance that reservoirs can even be permitted. Both in order to ease permitting and to respond to increasing competition for water between different user groups, Meyer argues that, “reservoirs of the future must provide multiple benefits to provide water for safe drinking water, agricultural irrigation and water to provide in-stream flows to protect environmental and recreational needs.”

Another challenge for water providers attempting to plan for the future is the wild card of population growth. This region is expected to grow at the fastest rate in the state, and much of that growth could occur outside of established municipalities. In unincorporated areas, water supplies tend to be less developed and secure. Increasing conservation is one way to reduce the impact of population growth, and many water providers have strong conservation programs, but there is a lack of consistency in these efforts across the basin.

Forest health is also important to many Colorado Basin water providers. While having intakes high up in pristine tributaries has great benefits in terms of water quality, it also means that a catastrophic wildfire in a source watershed could be particularly devastating.

Increasing reservoir storage, promoting conservation and addressing forest health all require money, and increasing storage requires permits as well. The small size of many water providers in the basin limits their capacity to take on big projects, so Meyer and his team have suggested more regional cooperation may make projects to increase the reliability of community water supplies more feasible.

Water customers also have a role to play in determining the capacity of their water utility to plan and prepare for the future. If customers are not willing to help pay the necessary costs through their rates, it limits a utility’s capacity to act. Water providers are not only faced with providing safe drinking water to customers at prices that are often less than 1/10th of one penny per gallon, but now customers are much more aware of water demand impacts on local stream health.

How do you think water utilities should prepare for the future, and what are you willing to pay for?

To let the Colorado Basin Roundtable know your thoughts, answer a quick survey by clicking on this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CommunityWater.

To learn more about the Colorado Basin and statewide water planning processes, go to http://www.coloradobip.sgm-inc.com.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

‘…if the system [#ColoradoRiver] crashes, there will be no winners’ — Pat Mulroy

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

From the Palm Springs Desert-Sun (Ian James):

She noted that water levels in Lake Mead are expected to drop more than 20 feet this year, and she predicted that while the Rocky Mountains now have a bit more than their normal amount of snowpack, the Colorado River will face growing stresses in the future. Those stresses have been compounded this year by California’s record drought.

“It is an interconnected web. You cannot push on one end of it without seeing the consequences on the other end,” Mulroy said. She added that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides drinking water to nearly 19 million people, has no choice but to take water out of Lake Mead.

“And the rest of us in that basin cannot start screaming. We can’t be parochial. We can’t sit in Las Vegas and wring our hands and say, ‘Oh my heavens, the lake’s going to drop even further,’ ” Mulroy said. “There is great strength in that interdependence because there is a shared stewardship of the system.”

She said that’s a sharp contrast from the past, when battles over water rights often have been fought in court.

“What we never think of ourselves as is that we are citizens of a water system. We never look at it as a larger system,” Mulroy said. “We have to, as the water community, silence the strident voices. If we don’t silence the strident voices, this can spin out of control real quickly.”

“We’re telling the community there (in Las Vegas), if the system crashes, there will be no winners,” she added. “If the system crashes, everybody crashes, and it doesn’t matter where you are on that system, so protecting that system is all-important, and understanding our role as a citizen of that basin and of that water system is going to be enormous for us. It is a real mind shift.”[…]

“The time has never been more critical than now,” Mulroy said in an interview after her speech. “I’m a big believer that the future is about being very flexible, being very adaptive, having as many enabling agreements as you can possibly put in place on the table and avoiding court at all costs.”

“We are going to have very difficult water conditions,” she said. “We all have to live with less, and we have to be able to back each other up.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Reclamation Releases a Draft Environmental Assessment for Piping the Slack and Patterson Laterals

Rogers Mesa
Rogers Mesa

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it has released a draft environmental assessment on piping Roger’s Mesa Water Distribution Association’s Slack and Patterson Laterals off the Fire Mountain Canal, located in Delta County, Colo. The project involves replacing approximately 9.4 miles of unlined earthen laterals with buried water pipeline. The purpose of the project is to improve the efficiency of water delivery to ditch users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

The draft environmental assessment is available our website or a copy can be received by contacting Reclamation.

Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Comments can be submitted to the email address above or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments are due by Friday, March 14, 2014.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Greeley: ‘One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less’ — Jon Monson

watersprinkler

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

Greeley’s water supply will run out in about 30 years if we continue to consume water the way we do now, city officials say. By 2050, they say, half of the demand for water in Greeley will be to irrigate outdoor lawns That estimate has prompted Greeley officials to dig for more solutions to water conservation this year, which could include new landscaping and development policies.

Everything is still in its early stages, but the city’s water experts this spring will hold a set of public meetings to spread awareness about Greeley’s water use and what could be done to curb it, said Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director.

Greeley has been moved to action now but the city is not alone in facing limited water resources, a statewide issue. In fact, Greeley has done well purchasing water rights and creating the infrastructure to store it for future use, Monson said.

And the city has more recently been recognized for encouraging residents to be more efficient with their water through the city’s showerhead exchange program, lawn watering schedule and water budget included on water bills.

But conservation has been less of a focal point, Monson said.

“One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less,” he said, by reducing demand.

For example, the amount of water needed to irrigate a front lawn is reduced by using native plants instead of buffalo grass.

Monson and Brad Mueller, Greeley’s director of community development, discussed the city’s water situation and possible solutions with the city council last month.

Mueller said the city is taking a slow approach with a number of public meetings before moving forward with any decisions or even a direction on how to lower water use.

“We don’t want people to just go into the reaction of saying we need to be a desert, or let’s just make sure we have all of the water we could possibly buy, because both of those extremes are probably not consistent with Greeley’s values or its history,” Mueller said. “Greeley is probably not going to be a desert hole in the middle of that donut” of agricultural land, he said.

At a council work session in January, Greeley city planner John Barnett presented some possibilities for landscaping that include a mixture of trees and native and non-native plants.

Greeley has a semi-arid environment, meaning rain dries up quickly. With shrubs and ground cover that require low water use and trees that require medium water use, Barnett projected the city could cut back on water use by about 30 percent.

Mueller said the city this fall will take questions to the public that include whether the mix and match option is a good one. Greeley residents will also have a chance to say how much water they think should be used for their lawns and other purposes, what the city should do differently to conserve water, what Greeley’s landscape should look like, and, if there are any new requirements that come of this process, how they should be applied to existing properties. There is no set schedule yet for when those public meetings will be, but Mueller said the city is aiming for late March or April. Monson said they hope to get input from builders, developers, homeowners and more before going back before the city council to present their findings.

“To do something different, it’s going to take a little more effort, and it could be more expense, but we could save quite a bit of water doing it,” Monson said. “There’s always trade-offs.”

More conservation coverage here.

NOAA: Global Analysis — January 2014

significanclimateanomalieseventsjanuary2014vianoaa

Click here to read the analysis from NOAA. Here’s an excerpt:

Global Highlights

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for January was the warmest since 2007 and the fourth warmest on record at 12.7°C (54.8°F), or 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F). The margin of error associated with this temperature is ± 0.08°C (± 0.14°F).

The global land temperature was the highest since 2007 and the fourth highest on record for January, at 1.17°C (2.11°F) above the 20th century average of 2.8°C (37.0°F). The margin of error is ± 0.18°C (± 0.32°F).

For the ocean, the January global sea surface temperature was 0.46°C (0.83°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.5°F), the highest since 2010 and seventh highest on record for January. The margin of error is ± 0.04°C (± 0.07°F).