Saturday, September 26th: The 2015 Alpine Bank #ColoradoRiver Cleanup — Middle Colorado Watershed Council


Click here to register. From the website:

The 2015 Alpine Bank Colorado River Cleanup presented by the Middle Colorado Watershed Council is happening on Saturday, September 26th at Grand River Park in New Castle, Colorado. Come join us to help restore this beatiful 6-mile strech of river between South Canyon and New Castle. The Day will begin with registration at 8:30am at Grand River Park, then volunteers will venture out to remove trash and debris from the banks and river channel. The day will conclude with a barbeque lunch at the park in New Castle. Pre-registration is required.

Saturday, September 26, 2015 from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM (MDT)
Grand River Park – Park Drive New Castle, CO 81647

2016 Colorado legislation: Another showdown over precipitation harvesting?

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

A legislative committee Tuesday approved drafting a bill that would legalize rain barrels. Colorado is the only state where they are illegal.

The Water Resources Review Committee won’t officially vote on whether to introduce the measure as a committee until October. If the committee approves the bill, then it would be introduced at the start of the next session in January. There’s also the option for a lawmaker to carry the measure separate from the committee, or run a completely separate bill.

While the legislation signals that the issue is far from dried-up, certain caveats in the measure could cause an outcry. For one, the bill would require users to register their barrels with the state. Another provision would require water providers to replace water taken from rooftops.

Rain-barrel supporters worry that the current proposal is burdensome to water providers, and that would result in failing to approve barrel collection. They point out that rain barrels help with conservation, and that 97 percent of water falling on residential property never ends up in a river or stream.

But it may be their best shot after a similar effort drowned during the previous legislative session. That legislation was stalled in committee after concerns from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, over water rights. Had the bill received a floor vote, it likely would have passed thanks to support from Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.

Just when it looked like the bill had a chance to receive a late floor vote in the Senate, sponsors and legislative leaders agreed to let the bill die so that discussions could continue for future compromise legislation. Enter Sonnenberg’s current proposal.

“This is more about process,” Sonnenberg said Tuesday during the committee hearing. “This is more about honoring the prior appropriations system and saying, ‘If we’re going to have rain barrels, the right thing to do is to figure out how we replace that water.’”[…]

Under Sonnenberg’s proposal, Coloradans would be allowed to use up to two containers with a maximum capacity of 55 gallons each. A consumer’s residence would need to contain four or fewer residential units.

Rain-barrel supporters say legislation should make it easy.

“Numerous studies have consistently shown that rain barrels have no impact on downstream users,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “Any proposals to put additional red tape and bureaucracy on a rain-barrel program disregard these studies and will only serve to dissuade and burden Coloradans.”

Big Thompson Watershed Forum’s 2015 Watershed Meeting: Thursday, September 24

From the Big Thompson Watershed Forum via the Estes Park Trail-Gazette:

The Big Thompson Watershed Forum (The Forum) will have its 14th Watershed Meeting, “FROM FLOOD TO FUTURE ~ RISING FROM MUD AND ASHES” on Thursday, September 24, 2015.

The Big Thompson River watershed, an area encompassing over 900 square miles, provides drinking water to numerous cities in northern Colorado including Berthoud, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Fort Morgan, Greeley, Loveland and Milliken. The Big Thompson River watershed is vital to more than 800,000 people, as it carries water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT) to be used for residential, commercial, agricultural, ranching, recreation, and wildlife habitat purposes.

We will welcome several great speakers and professionals with on-the-ground experience, research, and tales from the 2013 Big Thompson River flood. We will also be presenting the findings and results from our major water quality report and answering the question…. “is our water getting better or is it getting worse?” The assessment and presentation will discuss the findings from 15 years of data from the Forum’s most recent water quality analysis of the Big Thompson River and its major tributaries, and pre and post-flood water quality monitoring results.

Panels & Topics for 2015…

  • Your River & Who Runs It ~ Functionality & Monitoring in the C-BT System
    Big Thompson Watershed Forum, Northern Water, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • The 2013 Flood ~ Impacts on Operations & Infrastructure
    City of Loveland, Northern Water, Larimer County
  • From Flood to Future ~ Rising from Mud and Ashes
    AloTerra Restoration, Big Thompson Conservation District, City of Loveland, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Colorado Water Conservation Board, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey
  • 2015 State of the Watershed Water Quality Report
    Big Thompson Watershed Forum, Hydros Consulting
  • The watershed meeting will be held at the Fireside Café, Group Publishing Building, Loveland, CO from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The cost is $50 per person and includes a continental breakfast, snacks, drinks, and Italian theme buffet lunch. Cash or check at the door please. Seating is limited. For additional details and to register, please contact Zack Shelley at 970-613-6163 or

    Fly fishing below Olympus Dam (Colorado-Big Thompson Project) September 17, 2015 via the Bureau of Reclamation
    Fly fishing below Olympus Dam (Colorado-Big Thompson Project) September 17, 2015 via the Bureau of Reclamation

    Tuesday, September 22: Waters of the United States Workshop — Colorado Water Congress

    If you’re tired of hearing, “They are trying to regulate every puddle,” from the usual suspects and would like an in-depth look and thoughtful analysis for the issues around the EPA’s new Waters of the US rule click here and register for the Colorado Water Congress’ workshop tomorrow.


    2013 Colorado legislation: Willow Creek provides test case for SB13-019

    Willow Creek via the USGS
    Willow Creek via the USGS

    From National Geographic (Sandra Postel and Todd Reeve):

    A groundbreaking 2013 Colorado law provides new flexibility that allows water rights owners to allocate water to a river during times of critical low flow.

    In the Colorado River headwaters, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, Willow Creek is providing a test case for the new law.

    There, Witt Caruthers, a ranch owner with rights to divert a portion of Willow Creek’s water, decided to develop a plan allowing him to leave water in the creek for up to five years during a 10-year period—without the threat of the “use it or lose it” provision.

    The water for Caruthers’ ranch, which is delivered through two irrigation ditches not far from where Willow Creek meets the Colorado River, fills stock tanks for cattle and irrigates 70 acres (28.3 hectares) of pasture. Typically, the diversions begin in May and continue through late summer. By that time, rivers and streams that rely on snow melt are running low – and after diverters take their share of water, many streams are at risk of running completely dry. Such was the case with Willow Creek.

    For Caruthers the conservation project offered a chance to do something positive for Willow Creek and to set a precedent for other rivers in the drought-stricken West.

    “Colorado’s water system created an incentive to use our water even in times when it’s not absolutely necessary,” Caruthers told the Denver Post. “When you’re under that pressure to use it or lose it, you’re almost forced to abuse it. That’s to the detriment of all.”

    Caruthers and his partners worked with the Denver-based Colorado Water Trust (CWT) to design the project. It essentially involves curtailing diversions from Willow Creek when flows drop dangerously low. Because there are no other diverters immediately downstream, the enhanced flows will benefit not only the lower half mile of Willow Creek, but also some 4.3 miles of the upper Colorado –including populations of brook and brown trout.

    Although the project restores only a small volume of water to the stream, that additional flow at crucial times of the year can help keep Willow Creek connected to the Colorado River, enhance water quality, and sustain fish and other aquatic organisms.

    This past June, the chief engineer of the Colorado River District approved the CWT-Caruthers conservation program.

    The Willow Creek project also sets a precedent that could be a game-changer for other Colorado rivers, as well as for farmers and ranchers that have the ability to use less water and share any surplus with a river. For those who desire to balance economic productivity with recreation interests, fish and wildlife needs, and community benefits, this new law offers a positive step forward.

    The beauty of the new law, says Amy Beatie, CWT’s Executive Director, “is that it allows for a very simple, low-risk and flexible way for a water user to experiment with leaving water in a river.”

    “It is one of the most straightforward programs the state has ever created to allow flexibility in water use,” Beatie continued, “and it has potential to benefit entire water user communities that are interested in collaborating to keep water in the river.

    This 2013 Colorado law provides added flexibility and longer-term benefits for rivers than a 2003 state law that was designed to ensure that rivers aren’t denied water when they need it most.

    The 2003 law was first tested during the drought of 2012 on the Yampa River, another upper Colorado tributary and the heartbeat of the popular tourist town of Steamboat Springs. That law allows farmers, ranchers and water districts to temporarily lease water to rivers and streams in times of need.

    The following year, CWT and partners replicated that leasing approach on several other rivers, including the Fraser, another headwater tributary. The Fraser suffers not only from low flows during droughts, but also from trans-continental tunnel systems that divert its water to the Denver area.

    Colorado’s 2013 law also gives water-rights protection to participants in the Colorado River System Conservation Program, an $11 million pilot initiative of the US Bureau of Reclamation and the water agencies supplying the four largest cities drawing upon the Colorado River – Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Some $2.75 million will be spent in the upper Colorado River Basin.

    Although a small step for the restoration of the state’s rivers, Colorado’s new law breaks important new ground. And it may just inspire other western states to add flexibility to their systems of water rights so that more rivers can keep flowing.

    Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project and Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society. Todd Reeve is CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. They are co-creators of Change the Course.

    Change the Course, a partnership of National Geographic, Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Participant Media, provided funding to support the flow restoration projects in the Willow Creek, Fraser and Yampa Rivers.