Colorado River Compact signing November 24, 1922. Credit: Courtesy U.S. Department of Interior
This year, as you’re brining your turkey or traveling to see family and friends, realize that today, November 24, is the 93rd anniversary of the 1922 Colorado River Compact signing.
Colorado’s Delph Carpenter joined with other members of the Colorado River Commission at the signing of the compact on this historical day. The signing took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover presiding.
From CFWE’s Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Interstate Compacts, with a updated version now available for preorder:
Although subject to intense negotiation among the seven Colorado River Basin states, the compact, signed in 1922, is simple in concept. It apportions the right to consume water from the river and its tributaries between the upper basin states and the lower basin states. The dividing point between the…
Following a very warm and dry start to the fall, November to-date has seen more seasonal temperatures west of the divide and increased precipitation on the west slope and northeastern plains. This has helped to alleviate abnormally dry conditions over parts of the state. Storage levels in some basins are at the highest levels since the turn of the 21st century and water providers have no immediate concerns going into the snow accumulation season.
September ended water year (WY) 2015 well above average for temperature across Colorado, ranking as the warmest September on record. The start of WY 2016 began much the same with October ranking the 3rd warmest on record. Both months saw average temperatures more than 50F above the long term monthly average, setting the state up to see the warmest three month September/October/ November period on record.
Overall precipitation during the October 2014- September 2015 water year was above average and the wettest water year since WY1999. Evapotranspiration rates were also some of the lowest recorded, since record keeping began 23 years ago.
Statewide water year-to-date precipitation is near average across most of the state. Recent storms resulted in increases in many basins including the basins of the southwest, Upper Rio Grande, Gunnison, Upper Colorado and South Platte which are all above average for the water year to-date at 140, 105, 113, 110 and 121 percent of average, respectively.
Reservoir Storage statewide is at 109 percent of average as of November 1st . The Arkansas basin has the highest storage levels in the state at 132 percent of average; this is the highest reservoir levels have been in the Arkansas in more than 15 years.
The Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 87percent of average; this is also the only basin with below average storage. However, the Rio Grande levels are 28 percent greater now than this time last year and the highest they have been since 2009.
The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) is highly variable across the state with sub-basins ranging from extremely dry to extremely wet. At this time of year the index reflects reservoir storage, which is largely above normal statewide, streamflow forecasts will be incorporated into the index beginning in January.
El Niño conditions remain strong, and are projected to continue into early spring. Strong events do not favor increased precipitation during the winter months in the central and northern mountains of Colorado, as storm tracks tend to move in a more southerly pattern. However, the likelihood of good spring snowfall in this region is better, especially along the Front Range. The best combination would be for the El Niño to weaken over the winter, and then come back strong in spring.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
2015 Water Year Comes to an End
The 2015 water year (Nov.1 – Oct. 31) started slowly, but precipitation later in the spring more than made up for it. April and May storms brought much needed moisture to the mountains and plains, and set in motion another very good water year for Northeastern Colorado.
Deliveries in 2015 were more than the record low year of 2014, but were still below average. This year the C-BT Project delivered 187,291 acre-feet to East Slope water users. The historical average is 211,000 AF. Deliveries to agricultural users spiked in late summer due to dry conditions. These late-summer deliveries also made space available in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake, which will allow water to be transferred from Lake Granby to the East Slope this winter. This will also create space in Lake Granby for the spring runoff.
In 2015, the total C-BT Project spill was 191,000 AF, with 148,500 AF from Lake Granby and 42,500 AF from Willow Creek Reservoir.
C-BT Project reservoir levels started the 2016 water year in good shape with more than 500,000 AF in storage. The average for Nov. 1 active storage is 442,413 AF.
Work is resuming on a dangerous portion of Fountain Creek through Pueblo.
The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing a $750,000 project to install articulated concrete blocks — held together by cable in a mat and anchored to the ground — along the Fountain Creek bank near the 13th Street Exit on Interstate 25.
Work should be complete within three months and Pueblo contractor Pate Construction is doing the work while flows are low.
The project started in April, but was interrupted by heavy rains in May and June that increased flows on the Fountain to well above normal for more than six weeks. Waters only recently receded to the point where workers could get in the channel.
Fountain Creek will be temporarily rechanneled to the east of the area while work is underway, said Jeff Bailey, assistant city manager for stormwater.
The area had been secured by a gabion — wire-wrapped rock — which washed out during the September 2013 flood on Fountain Creek.
Fountain Creek hits the bank at a right angle at 13th Street, threatening railroad tracks and roadways in the area. While the Corps is responsible for the work and funds it, the city is the sponsoring agency and coordinates such things as local permits and access, Bailey explained.
There are several other projects still in the planning stages to repair damage from this spring’s flooding, Bailey said.
The city will be removing the debris such as large trees that were deposited at the Eighth Street bridge in the near future. “We need to get that clear so the water doesn’t start undermining the supports,” Bailey said.
The city is also working on restoring trails and repairing the berm at the flood detention pond behind the North Side Walmart.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Transportation is working on projects to repair the Colorado 47 bridge and the trail in that immediate area, as well as clearing debris at the East Fourth Street bridge.
State Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, may propose a water bill ambitious enough that she may need to win a second term to see to fruition.
The proposal is an offshoot of her bill introduced last year to create a flexible use market for water rights, which essentially aimed to let water rights holders sell some of their water instead of feeling forced to use it all due to use-it-or-lose-it rules.
Arndt’s new proposal, which hasn’t been formally introduced but was discussed with the Coloradoan’s editorial board Monday morning, likewise aims at “taking away the disincentive” for a water rights holder to conserve water they don’t need. In essence, her proposal would create a virtual water market where water rights holders could take water they won’t use and put it up for bid by other water users in the basin. As long as it’s not more than 30 percent of the rights holder’s allocation over a 10-year period, it won’t affect their historic use patters, which can jeopardize how much they are allocated each year.
She used the example of an alfalfa farmer wanting to try his hand at growing hemp, a low-water crop, but facing the concern of losing water rights moving forward — and with it, the ability to grow enough alfalfa if he wants to return to his roots.
“There’s some flexibility in the system, but nothing like this,” Arndt said.
She acknowledged that this bill could be a big push, and that it could take a multi-year effort to reach a vote.
From the Columbia Water Center (Lakis Polycarpou):
America’s once world-class water infrastructure is crumbling and will cost, by some estimates, upwards of $1 trillion to fix. How can municipalities and water utilities find the revenue and capital to make the investments we need to preserve access to this vital resource?
Join us on the next America’s Water Webinar as Christine Boyle, Founder & CEO of Valor Water Analytics, discusses innovative approaches to address the water infrastructure challenge.
Webinar Date: Tuesday, December 7th, 2015 at 12pm EST