The latest Eagle River Watershed Council newsletter “The Current” is hot off the presses

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

While most people would consider it blessing enough to have just one incredible asset such as the Eagle River flowing through their communities, Eagle County residents are lucky to live in close proximity to two remarkable rivers. The Colorado River flows through Eagle County for 55 miles and is known locally as the Upper Colorado. It is the economic and cultural lifeblood for much of our state and most of the Southwestern U.S.

The Upper Colorado plays a vital role in our mountain community identity, as well as our tourism and recreation-driven economy. Locals and visitors log tens of thousands of river days each year, and the region’s difficult geography preserves much of the classic Western Slope Colorado culture and scenery that remains undeveloped in Eagle County.

Texas-based builders fined $310,000 by EPA for stormwater violations at Air Force Academy construction site — @bberwyn

#ColoradoRiver water conservation project gets $11 million in funding

From the Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

The money will primarily be used to buy or lease water rights from ranchers and farmers in the Upper Colorado River Basin, including Colorado. Instead of being diverted for irrigation, the water will flow to Lake Powell, the giant desert reservoir in southeast Utah.

Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Southern California want to boost flows to Lake Powell, because if the reservoir’s water level drops below a certain threshold, it changes everything.

In a worst-case scenario of extended drought, Denver Water might have to send water from its reservoirs down to Nevada and California, cutting the amount of water available to water bluegrass suburban lawns.

Under the deal announced last week, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Central Arizona Water Conservancy District, Denver Water and the Southern Nevada Water Authority pledge to work cooperatively with farmers and ranchers to find new and flexible ways of managing existing water supplies to avert a crisis.

Conservation is one of the ways to manage water supplies, and includes everything from fixing rusty, leaking irrigation pipes to installing high-tech soil moisture monitors that ensure efficient irrigation. The new agreement also specifically aims to pay farmers and ranchers in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico to stop irrigating some of their land, at least temporarily, and letting it lie fallow, or uncultivated.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said the agreement is not a water grab by cities.

“This is about water security,” Lochhead said, explaining that, in times of shortages, it’s important to manage the existing water supply as efficiently as possible. “We have to put our money where our mouth is,” he said. “Part of this is to try and determine really how much water we can obtain for the system through programs like this.”

A key principle of the agreement is demand management, which means focusing on water use rather than on building new diversions or dams. It can include using water more efficiently, and the sale or temporary lease of water rights. Since water managers only have a finite amount of water to work with, shifting around uses within the system is one of the few options for avoiding interstate conflicts while meeting projected gaps in supply…

The agreement looks good on its surface but raises a slew of thorny new legal issues, said Mark Squillace, a leading water law scholar at a University of Colorado natural resource think tank. According to Squillace, agreements reached under the new program could violate state laws that govern water allocation. Participants to voluntary agreements can bind each other legally with a water contract, but the new multi-state program doesn’t address what happens if those deals affect other water users not party to the agreement, Squillace said. At this point, the transfers envisioned under the agreement are probably more of a Band-Aid than the major surgery that may be required to equitably distribute Colorado River water during times of shortage, according to some water law experts.

Along with colleague Douglas Kenney at CU-Boulder’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment, Squillace has been advocating for revisions to the basic legal framework to reflect 21st-century realities, including climate change and shifts in the demand for water away from agriculture and to municipal use.

And with agriculture using so much of the water, those changes would mainly have to address concerns related to water use by farms and ranches. Squillace said the governing laws need to give farmers more flexibility to save water without losing their water rights.

“Right now, the incentives are for agriculture to use as much water as they can,” Squillace said. Instead, there should be incentives that would encourage farmers to switch to crops that use less water, he explained.

For example, if a farmer switches from growing alfalfa to growing a less water intensive crop like barley, he or she shouldn’t lose their water rights, which is the way things are under the existing use-it-or-lose-it doctrine. Instead, that farmer should be able to market the “extra” water, Squillace explained.

Once the basic laws have been revamped, market-based transfers of water like those envisioned by the new agreement have a much better chance of succeeding, he concluded.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Another transmountain diversion for the Front Range? #COWaterPlan

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

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

The nascent Colorado Water Plan has begun to materialize in the form of draft implementation plans for each of the state’s eight largest river basins. And Front Range interests are once again looking toward the Colorado River to cushion water demand in the face of rising populations and interstate water obligations on the other side of the divide…

Each roundtable released its draft plan last week, and the joint draft plan from the South Platte and Metro roundtables, which includes the Denver Metro Area, identifies new Colorado River water supplies as one of the “four legs of the stool” to address water needs in the South Platte River Basin.

The draft plan cites a growing population in the South Platte River Basin and obligations to send water to other states as major factors that justify additional trans-mountain diversion.

As of yet, the South Platte and Metro roundtables haven’t established just how much extra water it would need to divert from the Colorado River.

“There’s a lot of speculation out there from different folks, but I think the basin plan was very deliberate not to put a number to it because it really seemed to stall the conversation,” said Sean Cronin, the chair for the South Platte Roundtable. “It really felt like it was more prudent that we ought to be having a discussion about additional supplies, and we ought to be having a discussion about what those additional supplies would look like.”

The South Platte and Metro roundtables saw that the gap between water supplies and water demands on the West Slope left room for additional diversions, Cronin said. Additional diversions would also be limited to wet years, when more water is available.

“In the end, it really wasn’t a matter of how much water,” Cronin said. “It was simply a matter of do we want to pursue this idea for the greater good for Colorado.”

But the Colorado River Basin Roundtable’s draft plan doesn’t view its resources as expendable.

“We think that a new project should be the last thing that’s sought in that there still might not be enough resources or water to make that viable,” said Jim Pokrandt, chair of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable. “We base that on the fact that the we are already big donors of water to the Front Range.”[…]

But as Mark Koleber, chair of the Metro Roundtable, explained, Denver Water doesn’t supply all of the Denver-Metro area and outlying parts of the South Platte River Basin.

“The metro area is much larger than that outside of the Denver water system,” Kobeler said. “So what might be provided by the Moffat-Gross expansion wouldn’t necessarily go to areas outside of the Denver Water service area unless they have a contract for it.”

This means another entity could seek permitting for a transmountain diversion project from the Colorado River, which wouldn’t fall under the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.

But Pokrandt said any additional diversions to the South Platte, in theory, would have to come from other basins like the Yampa or the Gunnison.

“Some new big transmountain diversion would probably have to go somewhere else,” Pokrandt said. “It would have to go somewhere else that’s not hard hit.”[…]

The draft basin implementation plan issued from the Colorado River Basin Roundtable has found that additional transmountain diversion would damage agriculture and degrade environmental conditions in the Colorado River basin.

“There’s already so much water taken out of the headwaters that we don’t think that there’s any more water to give without severe economic and environmental degradation,” Pokrandt said…

Each roundtable will submit its final plan to the Colorado Water Conservation Board in April 2015. The board will submit the final state water plan to the governor in December 2015.

For more information on each roundtable’s draft plan, visit http://coloradowaterplan.com.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

The latest newsletter from the #ColoradoRiver District is hot off the presses

Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs
Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

Click here to read the newsletter from the Colorado River Water Conservancy District. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado River District is working with partners on a new regional program to study agricultural conservation projects involving fallowing or deficit irrigation and is advocating the focus be larger than just Western Colorado agriculture, that Front Range agriculture and all municipal users also “share the pain.”

In discussing the subject at the July quarterly meeting of the Board of Directors, General Counsel Peter Fleming said that some degree of temporary fallowing and deficit irrigation may be required to manage the Colorado River Basin under a future dry scenario.

The River District would need to monitor closely and participate in pilot project proposals to ensure that West Slope agriculture and its related economies are best protected, he said.

General Manager Eric Kuhn said that as regional efforts focus on work in Colorado, they need to reach out more broadly than just Western Colorado agriculture. A successful program needs to explore methods to reduce Colorado River demands among all use sectors in the state: municipal, industrial, East Slope agriculture, as well as West Slope agriculture.

A program focused solely on West Slope agriculture will not be successful, he said.

More Colorado River Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Fun @MyDesert slide show of the flood that created the Salton Sea more than a century ago — John Fleck

No more fluoride dosing for Uncompahgre Water

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south
Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

From The Watch (William Woody):

Last week, the Project 7 Water Authority, which provides drinking water to the Montrose, Olathe and Delta communities (and the Menoken, Chipeta and Tri-State water districts, as well) stopped using sodium silicofluoride in its water treatment to boost fluoride levels.

At Monday’s work session of the Montrose City Council, Public Works Director John Harris explained he has already received some positive comments about the change. Harris, who also sits on the Project 7 board, said the supply of sodium silicofluoride, produced by a manufacture in Louisiana, was interrupted due to hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said that supply never recovered, leaving municipalities in the United States looking elsewhere, including China.

In July — just as supplies were running out — Harris said the Project 7 board voted in favor to end the practice.

“I’m not willing to take a risk on a Chinese-based project,” Harris told The Watch Monday. “Something would have to change to make us rethink that.”

Harris said residents can use supplemental fluoride found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, but because of the shortage, fluoride “just wouldn’t be added to the drinking water.”

Although fluoride can occur naturally, sodium silicofluoride has been used in America’s public drinking water for more than half a century, for prevention of tooth decay.Studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest there has been an 18-to-40 percent reduction in cavities, in children and adults, as a direct result of water fluoridation.

In a press release, Project 7 said “sodium silicofluoride will no longer be added to boost the naturally occurring fluoride in the water to the “optimum level” as defined by the EPA…

“We can no longer obtain sodium silicoflouride that is manufactured in the USA, with the only supplier being China,” ” said Adam Turner, manager of Project 7. “We are not comfortable with the long-term quality control of the product we would be adding.”

According to the Project 7 website, water supplied to Project 7 from the Blue Mesa Reservoir contains a concentration range of naturally occurring fluoride (from 0.15 to 0.25 mg/l); the EPA limit of fluoride in water is 4 mg/l. Consuming levels higher than 4 mg/l, the EPA states, can cause bone disease and, for children, pits in their teeth…

For more information visit: http://www.project7water.org. or call 970/249-5935.

More water treatment coverage here.