— U.S. EPA (@EPA) July 25, 2014
"Depopulation of the West seems the only way to manage water for the users. Way too many people." http://t.co/1HOisBWXQ7
— jfleck (@jfleck) July 25, 2014
From Inkstain (John Fleck):
I’ve been arguing that one of the things we see in the Colorado River Basin is an institutional maturity that has thus far had the ability to absorb the changes we’ve seen to date – the 2001 Interim Surplus Guidelines that jiggered Colorado Basin allocations to rein in California’s overuse (pdf), the 2007 shortage sharing agreement, the remarkable Minute 319 deal with Mexico. Those institutions are now wrestling with the fact that none of this has been enough, which is why maybe this week we’ll see the announcement of a system conservation program deal that will be one more brick in that wall.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):
The council voted Tuesday on a resolution, which was merely a public statement of endorsement. It now is up to the El Paso County Commissioners to put the stormwater issue on the November ballot. Commissioners will be asked by the stormwater task force to finalize the ballot language by Aug. 28.
The City Council still must consider, and will vote on, an intergovernmental agreement, which spells out the details of how an authority would operate. The proposed authority is modeled after the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority.
PPRTA, which was created in 2004 by voters in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls. PPRTA collects 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements. Voters approved a list of projects when they approved the creation of the PPRTA.
The Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority includes Centennial, Arapahoe County, and three water districts. The authority sets and collects fees, has a staff and oversees the projects for the region.
Under the Pikes Peak stormwater task force proposal, voters will be asked to approve a stormwater fee based on their property’s impervious surface. The fee could be collected for 20 years. Organizers of the proposal say a typical Colorado Springs residential property owner would pay $9.14 a month, based on the average lot size with about 2,000 to 3,000 impervious surface.
Voters also would see a list of proposed flood control projects as part of the ballot question and a breakdown of what percentage of the collected funds would go toward new construction, maintenance and operations.
Task force leaders are hopeful that El Paso County, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Fountain will join the authority and work on regional flood control projects together.
More stormwater coverage here.
From the Environmental Defense Fund (Aaron Citron):
On Colorado River Day, it’s worth considering how we can write the next chapter in the water story of the American West.
With the recent news that Lake Mead is at its lowest level in history, it’s impossible to ignore the trajectory of America’s hardest-working river. In the Colorado River Basin, we are already using more water annually than is being supplied by snowpack and other precipitation. The Bureau of Reclamation and others predict that this gap in water supply and demand will increase to nearly 4 million acre-feet by 2060, with significant shortages possible as early as 2017.
It has become clear that, over time, our water uses are going to have to change. In thinking about where – in what sectors – this change should take place, we must also consider the environmental, cultural and economic services that each sector provides.
“Buy and dry” is no silver bullet
In the discussions about how to deal with the growing gap between water supply and demand, the default solution too often involves permanently taking water out of agricultural irrigation and transferring it to meet the needs of a growing urban population.
Agriculture uses approximately 80 percent of Colorado River water to irrigate nearly 4 million acres, providing 15 percent of America’s crop output and 13 percent of our livestock production. It is a significant contributor to rural economies and provides a number of environmental, cultural and ecosystem services benefits.
It’s true that all water-using sectors will have to be part of the solution, but the “buy and dry” of farms and ranches around the West has left a litany of problems: remaining irrigators can no longer afford to operate their ditches, farm supply businesses are seeing dramatically reduced revenues, farmworkers are left unemployed, and in some cases, river reaches and wetlands once dependent on return flows are being left to dry.
As water scarcity increases the interest in buying water from farms and ranches, we will need to find ways to address these economic and environmental impacts.
Designing solutions for rivers, people and the economy
There are a number of ways to improve the health of our working rivers while also making water sharing profitable for agricultural water users.
Continued investment in improving agricultural efficiency and infrastructure is an important first step to improve both agricultural and environmental sustainability.
Water banks and markets that pay irrigators a fair price – taking long-term agricultural productivity, regional economics and environmental impacts into consideration – need to be part of a portfolio of solutions to address the significant issues of water shortages exacerbated by drought and climate change.
A portfolio approach
Even though most of the water in the Colorado River Basin and the West is used in agricultural production, there are significant opportunities to conserve water in other sectors.
Urban water use is one sector where demands are projected to increase significantly. If the cities that use Colorado River water want to grow, the first place they should look for water is in their existing supply. After all, urban water conservation is a proven strategy: the Los Angeles region added more than 3 million residents since 1990 without increasing its total water use.
Cities can and must make a significant contribution to the supply-demand gap at lower cost and with fewer impacts to our rural western economies and environmental values.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Supply and Demand Basin Study identified 1 million acre-feet of water-savings potential from municipal and industrial conservation programs and an additional 1.15 million acre-feet from municipal and industrial water reuse programs. Cost-effective conservation savings can be achieved through a number of programs and incentives, including improved water rate structures, conversion to high efficiency appliances, improvements in urban irrigation systems, and other public education and incentive programs.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A draft federal energy and water funding bill includes an additional $90 million for projects such as the Arkansas Valley Conduit, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, said Thursday. The Senate appropriations committee approved the bill, which contains a provision supported by both senators that explicitly makes data collection and design work eligible for funding through these accounts. It will help ensure the Arkansas Valley Conduit is eligible for these funds and sends a clear signal to the Bureau of Reclamation that the conduit is a priority project.
The board of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, conduit sponsor, was dismayed earlier this year when it learned only $500,000 was budgeted for the conduit next year. It is hoping to get at least $3 million for continuing data and design tasks that will lead to construction of the $400 million conduit.
The conduit is the final piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, authorized in 1962. When complete, the 130-mile pipeline will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.
“For more than five decades, folks in Southeastern Colorado have been waiting for the federal government to fulfill its promise to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
That’s far too long for these communities to wait for a reliable source of clean drinking water,” Bennet said.
“I have been proud to work for years to ensure the federal government supports the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This funding brings the people of Southeastern Colorado one step closer to having a clean, safe and reliable source of water,” Udall said.