Fight for Water Heats Up as Statewide Plan Comes Together — #COWaterPlan

CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring  a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.
CWCB director James Eklund with manager in Water Supply Planning, Jacob Bornstein bring a box containing the draft water plan to the Capitol.

From (Taylor Kanost):

By 2050, Colorado’s population is expected to jump from 4.5 million to approximately six to eight million people. Meanwhile, Colorado’s water supply isn’t growing.

“Everybody woke up to the fact that if we’re going to grow our state, we have to take a serious look at water supply,” said Jim Pokrandt, Chair of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable.

Through a series of roundtable meetings in each of Colorado’s nine water basins, officials are attempting to formulate a plan that meets the needs of several entities – Municipal, environmental, recreational, and agricultural.

Historically, when Colorado’s water supply has fallen short, the state will buy the water rights from local farmers to fill the void. The problem is this “Buy and Dry” strategy has devastated Eastern Plains communities in the past. On top of that, global warming is requiring farmers to use more water than they have ever had to use before.

“Under hotter temperatures, all plants take more water,” said Holm.

Ultimately, water leaders want to avoid this strategy.

“It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Colorado, whether it’s fruit security or other things agriculture provides like wildlife habitat and environmental benefits,” said Carlyle Currier, Colorado River Basin Representative on the Inter-Basin Compact Committee.

Another option being considered is adding even more water to the 500,000 acre feet sent from our side of the state to the Front Range.

Even though most of Colorado’s river water is on the Western Slope, additional diversions would put a lot of stress on the Colorado River Basin, an area that is already obligated to divert water to other western states.

“Our obligation is to let at least 75 million acre feet flow downstream from Lake Powell over each ten year period,” said Holm.

If the Eastern Slope ends up taking more water, it will be tougher for the Colorado River Basin to meet these obligations.

“That water will have to come from somewhere, and if we take more from the river we will have to add more back to the river primarily by drying agriculture,” said Pokrandt.

Even in this hotly-debated topic, the one constant among the majority of Western Slope leaders is the focus on conservation.

“They would like to see the Front Range cities do as much as possible on the conservation and reuse front as they can before they come looking to the West Slope for water,” said Holm.

Other solutions being tossed around range from cloud seeding to proper forest management to reducing city water use.

The public comment period on the first draft of the plan ended at the beginning of May, but the public will have the opportunity to place further comments once the second draft is released on July 15th.

The final Colorado Water Plan will be submitted to the Governor on December 10th.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Upcoming Events in the Land Trust Community — Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas

Browns Canyon via
Browns Canyon via

Click here to to the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas website to view upcoming events:

<blockquote>Moth Madness program highlights lesser-known Wildlife – July 17
Conserve the land — boogie with The Hazel Miller Band – July 24</blockquote>

More conservation coverage here.

Colorado Springs Utilities to pay $7.1 million to settle lawsuit with Pueblo County rancher — Colorado Springs Gazette

Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation
Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

Utilities announced the settlement Thursday. It had appealed the jury decision May 7, followed by Walker’s appeal May 14. Under the settlement, both appeals will be dismissed.

The city-owned utilities company also will fence revegetated areas on the ranches to protect them from cattle and will erect berms to reduce erosion across the 5.5-mile easement Walker provided for installation of the Southern Delivery System pipeline.

The rancher and Utilities had agreed that the easement was worth $82,900, and the pipeline was installed there in 2012…

But the SDS easement caused problems, Walker said at trial, with rain eroding the pipeline scar and Utilities introducing soils contaminated with seeds of invasive species. He also said the pipeline jeopardized a $25 million conservation easement he was negotiating with the Nature Conservancy for $1,680 an acre on 15,000 acres.

The settlement says both parties are committed to work together to manage and maintain the right-of-way.

Utilities said the pact gives it “additional certainty” about SDS costs, thus minimizing risk to ratepayers.

“It has always been our intent when working with property owners to use the court process as a last resort,” SDS program director John Fredell said in a news release. “By successfully resolving these issues with Mr. Walker, we can focus on completing the required revegetation on his property and finishing the SDS project on time and under budget.”

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo County rancher Gary Walker have come to terms to settle a lawsuit over land needed for the Southern Delivery System water pipeline.

The city-owned utility will pay Walker Ranches $7.1 million, ending litigation that led to a jury award of $4.75 million earlier this year and subsequent appeals filed by both the city and Walker.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.

“There are no ‘thou shalts’ in it” — John Stulp #COWaterPlan

Photo via Bob Berwyn

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A final draft of Colorado’s Water Plan will be released next week, triggering a few more months of activity before reaching its completed form in December.

The plan is moving toward its final version after Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered it in 2013. The first draft was completed last year by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The state’s nine roundtables also have completed basin implementation plans that will become a part of the completed plan.

The draft of the final plan is scheduled to be released on July 15, with public comments accepted through Sept. 17.

The plan seeks to ease the strain increased urban population will put on the state’s water resources, with particular emphasis on preserving agricultural and the environment. It has been driven by public comments through numerous meetings over the past two years.

“We don’t want to get in the same situation where California is in,” said John Stulp, Hickenlooper’s top water adviser. “We want a plan in place before there is another drought.”

The plan will have more concrete solutions to state water needs than the draft submitted to the governor last year, Stulp said.

There is, for instance, a target for municipal conservation savings — 400,000 acre-feet as a “stretch goal” — along with some steps that could be taken to get there.

“There are no ‘thou shalts’ in it. For one thing, we don’t as a state have that authority. It’s more about education and timing,” Stulp said.

“The municipalities have done a great job since 2002-03, with about 20 percent less use. That’s been done through incentives and education.”

The plan also talks about how future water projects could be financed, again without committing state funds to any project.

“It talks about general concepts, and publicprivate partnerships,” Stulp said. “It gives wider latitude to the CWCB for drinking water projects and to the Colorado Water Power and Development Authority for other types of projects.”

The two agencies are the major public lenders for water projects, but their roles have become stratified.

“We want to work more cohesively so folks won’t have to be shopping for loans,” Stulp said.

The plan also will talk about removing state and federal bureaucratic hurdles that have slowed down the construction of water projects.

“There will be more emphasis on multipurpose projects, and groups working with each other rather than trying to gain leverage,” Stulp said.

“We’re hoping we can get state agencies involved early on and address concerns earlier in the process.”

There are also suggestions for policy changes and future legislation, based on the activities of the past 10 years among roundtables and the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee. Among those are demonstration projects, such as the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, which seek to create ways to share agricultural and municipal water. The legislative interim water resources review committee, co-chaired by Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, and Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, is planning a series of hearings in each basin to hear comments on the plan. The Arkansas basin hearing will be 6-8 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Salida Community Center, while the Rio Grande basin meeting will be 6-8 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Inn of the Rio Grande in Alamosa.

Specific projects are well represented in the basin implementation plans.

The Arkansas River basin plan alone has about 500 projects listed, with roughly 50 of those in Pueblo County. Not all of the projects will be funded or built, but are included for future consideration as the state meets future water challenges.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.