Celebrate #ColoradoRiver Day tomorrow

colorado-river-day-final-colored-logo

From the Colorado News Connection (Eric Galatas) via The Durango Herald:

Saturday is Colorado River Day, marking the date in 1921 when the river was officially renamed from the Grand River to the Colorado. The future of the river is uncertain because of water shortages and increasing demand, and it features prominently in an emerging Colorado water plan.

Steve Ela, a fourth-generation organic fruit farmer on the Western Slope, said the river is a critical part of the state’s heritage and way of life.

“Whether it’s the mountains and the recreational opportunities there, whitewater rafting or the fruit that I grow and we all eat, Colorado as a state and especially with it being the headwaters to the Colorado River, we use that water in so many ways,” he said.

A celebration on Saturday in Denver will focus on urban conservation measures outlined in the plan and the need for state leaders to do more. Ela said that in the plan’s second draft, delivered earlier this month, the chapter on actions the state would take was heavy on goals but light on specifics.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Colorado’s water plan: an end to mega projects? — High Country News #COWaterPlan

From the High Country News (Sarah Tory):

The latest draft of the plan sets strict guidelines for approving new diversions over the Rocky Mountains.

Underneath the surface of Colorado’s new water plan is an unspoken acknowledgment: the days of moving large amounts of water up and over the Rockies are probably done.

On July 7, the second draft of the statewide plan was released, the latest step in a decade-long process that will direct how Colorado’s water should be managed for years to come. The new draft sets a statewide water conservation target of 400,000 acre-feet and incorporates input from Colorado’s nine Basin Roundtables, groups of citizens and experts tasked with thinking about their region’s water needs. But the biggest addition is a revised set of guidelines for making decisions about new supply projects that could spell the end of any new big water transfers over the Continental Divide.

The guidelines acknowledge what for years seemed unthinkable to many Coloradans: there may not be any water left to develop, without cutting into the water rights already in use.

That admission represents a huge shift in what the state publicly acknowledges about Colorado’s water supply, says Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River District and one of the people who helped draft the guidelines. “Just a few years ago no one was questioning whether there was more Colorado River water to develop,” he says…

That new mindset, encapsulated in the guidelines, challenges a long-held assumption that the state can and should develop its full allotment of water from the Colorado River under the 1922 Compact. The law requires that the Upper Basin states send 7.5 million acre-feet annually to the Lower Basin plus an additional 750,000 acre-feet for Mexico before splitting the remainder among themselves. According to the most recent study by the Colorado Water Conservation Board on the availability of supplies in the Colorado River Basin, Colorado has anywhere from one million to zero acre feet left to develop — depending on which climate model plays out.

On the West Slope, home to 84 percent of Colorado’s water supply, that possibility is driving calls for “not one more drop” of water diverted to the Front Range. Even Denver Water, the largest municipal water utility in the state with 1.3 million customers, acknowledges that protecting existing supplies is paramount. Their comments on the second draft state: “Denver Water receives about 50 percent of its total supply from the Colorado River. Therefore avoiding a ‘Colorado River Compact Call’ is critical to our ability to meet our obligations to our customers.”

But the lingering uncertainty over just how dry or wet Colorado’s future will be means Denver Water is covering both bases. Another section in its comment letter maintains that “the ability to develop new projects should be protected.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

NISP water project hearing draws support at Greeley hearing — The Greeley Tribune

Click on a thumbnail graphic for a gallery of NISP maps.

From The Greeley Tribune (Catherine Sweeney):

A Northern Colorado water project had its second public hearing in Greeley on Thursday night, and speakers were overwhelmingly in favor.

About 150 people attended the meeting for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which aims to cure the region’s water woes by diverting from the Cache la Poudre River via pipeline into two newly constructed reservoirs.

The Army Corps of Engineers held the meeting. The agency is acting as the project’s federal supervisor, making sure it is in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and it will ultimately decide whether the plan will come to fruition.

More than 30 people offered to speak, and less than a handful voiced opposition to the project. Those who spoke in favor — which included local farmers, government officials speaking on behalf of their constituents, water policy experts and environmentalists — were passionate. Some were angry, others on the verge of tears.

The project, which has been in the planning process for 12 years, had its first public meeting in Greeley seven years ago. The Corps had released its first report on the project’s potential environmental impacts. Participants in that meeting and a similar one in Fort Collins raised enough concerns to prompt the Corps to conduct a second report. It was published this year.

In 2008, the Greeley meeting’s speakers were predominantly in favor of the project, according to Tribune reports from the time.

Fort Collins’ speakers were staunchly opposed, said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway. This time, he said, it was 60-40 in support.

The commissioner chalked it up to two changes since 2008: the Corps’ second environmental report and natural events that have transpired since the last meeting.

He said the second report calmed some fears residents might have had. But more importantly, since 2008, Colorado faced one of the worst droughts in its history, as well as some of the worst floods.

It made people realize the need for a water system like NISP, he said…

Proponents voiced their support for a variety of reasons; fear for future generations’ water needs, the damage of “buy and dry” deals, and the effect of population growth. Opponents were inspired by environmental concerns and lifelong love for the Poudre River.

Josh Cook, a speaker who said he has worked for several water districts, approached the stand with a shaking voice.

“I don’t know what we’ll do without NISP,” he said. “I don’t know where my children are going to get food. I don’t know where farmers are going to get water.”

There is already a water shortage in Colorado, said Conway said in his speech. He was speaking on behalf of the South Platte Roundtable.

The current water gap is estimated at 190,000 to 630,000 acre-feet across Colorado, he said.

The gap illustrates the difference between how much water the state needs and how much is available. One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

NISP is projected to add 40,000 acre-feet to the region’s water supply.

One solution Coloradans have used to cure water shortages is “buy and dry” deals. Here, municipalities and water districts lease land from farmers to use their water.

These arrangements render farmland useless.

U.S. Congressman Ken Buck’s area representative, Wes McElhinny, was one of the many who raised population growth concerns.

“The population has doubled since 1970, but our storage abilities have barely increased,” McElhinny said.

The region is one of the fastest-growing in the nation, and the discrepancy is only going to get worse.

One of the opponents was Gina Jannet, a Fort Collins resident and Save the Poudre member. She raised water quality concerns. Namely, reducing the amount of water in the river could lead to a higher concentration of pollutants.

“What may appear to be modest changes to water quality… can have significant impacts on the bottom line of Fort Collins,” she said.

This was the last open meeting the Corps has scheduled, but the public input period, during which people can write in to the agency, lasts until September 3rd.

The Corps will take about a year to analyze all of that input and public the final environmental impact report, said John Urbanic, a project manager for the Corps. It’ll be another year until a final decision is made.

“We’re feeling confident,” said Brian Werner, a spokesman for Northern Water, which is overlooking the project.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) coverage here and here.

Study documents ubiquity of bee-killing pesticides

Summit County Citizens Voice

dsfg Can bees survive the age of pesticides? @bberwyn photo.

Findings suggest human health risks from inhaling pollen laced with neonicotinoids

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists with Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health say their new study examining pollen and honey shows there’s a need to develop public policies that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure.

After working 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, the researchers found more that 70 percent of the samples contained at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated the steep decline of honeybee populations, specifically colony collapse disorder, when adult bees abandon their hives during winter.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may…

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Pueblo Board of Water Works approves participation in #ColoradoRiver conservation pilot program

Alan Ward stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate,
Alan Ward stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate,

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A pilot program that would leave some of Pueblo’s water on the Western Slope — for a fee — was approved by the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday.

The program would pay Pueblo Water about $400,000 over the next two years to leave 600 acre-feet (195 million gallons) in the Colorado River basin. It’s part of an $11 million pilot project to test tools that could be part of a Colorado River drought conservancy plan.

The program is sponsored by the Upper Colorado River Commission, Bureau of Reclamation, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Denver Water, Central Arizona Water Conservation District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

About $2.75 million is set aside for conservation programs in the Upper Colorado states, which are Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Pueblo would contribute the water in a fairly painless way by shutting down the diversion of the Ewing Ditch, which brings water into the Arkansas River basin from Piney Gulch in the Eagle River basin.

The diversion is one of the oldest in the state, constructed in 1880 at Tennessee Pass.

The diversion ditch originally was dug by the Otero Canal and was purchased in 1954 by Pueblo Water. It delivers an average of about 920 acre-feet, but in wet years like this one, not all of the water is taken.

Pueblo’s storage accounts are full this year, with 52,174 acre-feet in storage, equivalent to two years of potable water use in the city. Pueblo’s total water use annually, including raw water leases and other obligations, is usually 70,000-80,000 acre-feet.

Typically, about 14,700 acre-feet would be brought across the Continental Divide, but this year, only about 5,760 acre-feet has arrived from all transmountain sources.

“There’s no place to put it,” Water Resources Manager Alan Ward told the water board this week. “It’s close to as much as we’ve ever had in storage.”

The Ewing Ditch contribution is about 37 percent of average this year, similar to Twin Lakes, which was shut down when the reservoir near Leadville reached capacity in May. Pueblo Water brought over 71 percent of its Busk-Ivanhoe water even though it was trying not to take any, Ward said.