Work on the #COWaterPlan continues #ColoradoRiver

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):

Over the past month, readers of this column have learned about several aspects of the Colorado Water Plan Governor Hickenlooper wants drafted by the end of this year. Articles have focused on the efforts of the planning group for the Colorado River Basin (in Colorado) that seek to address needs for community water supplies, agriculture, and streamflows to support the environment and recreational uses.

Here are a few of the points highlighted the series:

• Many headwater communities lack sufficient reservoir storage to weather a prolonged or severe drought.

• Many farmers and ranchers already suffer from periodic water shortages, even as they fear that additional Western Slope agricultural water will be demanded for urban uses or meeting downstream obligations.

• The health of many streams have already been undermined by diversions, and there is concern that the problem could get worse as water demands continue to grow, with consequences for the recreational economy as well as the environment.

Reconciling these competing demands for water even within the Colorado River Basin is no simple task, and the fact that water-short farms and cities east of the Continental Divide continue to seek relief from the comparatively wet western side adds another layer of complexity.

Nonetheless, the water managers and stakeholders that make up the Colorado Basin Roundtable are forging ahead with assessing potential projects and methods to enhance the security of water supplies to meet all of the basin’s needs. A few of these potential projects and methods include:

• Developing small storage reservoirs in the Upper Basin that can release water to support both community needs and fish needs in times of prolonged drought.

• Acquiring the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon, which holds a very senior water right that plays an important role in keeping water in the Colorado River to run through its hydropower turbines.

• Identifying land-use policies that could reduce the growth of urban water needs.

The Colorado Basin Roundtable is continuing to address these options at meetings every two weeks in Glenwood Springs and is seeking additional input from the public at town hall meetings held throughout the river basin.

To learn more and get details on upcoming meetings, go to

From Steamboat Today (Ren Martyn):

The Yampa White Green Roundtable met last week in Craig to further discuss Northwest Colorado’s Basin Implementation Plan that in July will be sent to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to be implemented into the 2015 Colorado State Water Plan…

The imposing task is how to keep the water in our basin and plan for “wet water,” or water that is in the river system not just on paper.

When compared to other Colorado basins, our basin is relatively undeveloped and has limited water usage and storage. Other West Slope basins in close proximity to the thirsty Front Range metro areas with trans-mountain diversions that take West Slope water to the East Slope, have gone through water planning but their rivers lack a normal hydrologic cycle and are dry in comparison.

A quick look at Winter Park’s [Fraser] River will show the water planning did not achieve “wet water,” and millions of dollars now are being spent trying to convince the owner of the water rights, Denver Water Authority, to leave some water in the river.

Past water planning often relied on median flows for projected calculations, but if you lived here in 2011 and 2012, you understand the difficulty in relying on middle flow values.

In 2011, the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs total flow was 598,000 acre feet, but one year later, total flow was 178,000 acre feet. To add emphasis to this dramatic fluctuation, the lowest recorded flow was in 1977 at 122,000 acre feet. “Wet water” planning is no easy task.

The roundtable is a diverse group representing municipal, energy, industrial, recreational, environmental and agricultural interests. The group recognizes the sustainability of our river system and economic health are at risk and is working diligently to address the needs for existing uses, future growth and recreational and environmental values.

During the past month, the roundtable conducted five public meetings in Steamboat Springs, Craig, Meeker, Rangely and Browns Park. The public process has been a valuable component to the BIP process and additional local public meetings likely may be held as the Colorado State Plan is developed.

On March 6, more than 300 water leaders and members of the public from across the state gathered for the 2014 Statewide Basin Roundtable Summit in Golden. Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Gov. Bill Owens each gave a keynote address highlighting the important work of the basin roundtable process and the development of localized Basin Implementation Plans that will comprise a large portion of Colorado’s Water Plan.

As part of the process, the Yampa, White, Green Roundtable is examining years of consumptive and non-consumptive studies, and with public input, will finalize a Basin Implementation Plan that protects an equitable apportionment of the native floes and helps mitigate the risks of over-development of the region’s water resources.

The diverse interests represented on the roundtable agree that planning for “wet water” is a significant challenge but vital to the future sustainability of Northwest Colorado.

For additional information visit or attend the next Yampa, White, Green Roundtable meeting on April 16 in Craig.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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