#ColoradoRiver: Milestone decree protects environmental flows in Grand County — @DenverWater

Here’s the release from Denver Water:

A major milestone in implementing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was reached last week when the water court signed a decree to secure and preserve environmental water flows in the Fraser, Williams Fork and Colorado rivers.

The decree protects releases of 2,000 acre-feet of water made available from Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System and Williams Fork Reservoir to preserve and improve the aquatic environment in the Fraser and Colorado rivers all the way through Grand County — a continuous stream reach of 73 miles — and beyond.

“This is truly a unique transbasin collaborative and milestone that provides the additional environmental flows on the Fraser River as contemplated by the CRCA,” said Grand County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Jane Tollett.

Once the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is complete, Denver Water will be able to provide more water for county streams by delivering water to the Fraser River Basin at diversion points along its system, and by releasing water from Williams Fork Reservoir to the Colorado River.

The decree also provides for the delivery of 375 acre-feet to a number of Grand County water users for municipal and snowmaking purposes. If the water is not needed for those purposes, it can be added to the water being provided for environmental benefit.

The decree represents the most recent success in meeting the agreements outlined in the CRCA.

“In only a few short years since the CRCA went into effect, we’re already seeing that through collaboration, we can help improve the health of the Fraser and Colorado rivers,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager. “This decree is another step in ensuring that we are prepared to fully implement the CRCA conditions as they become effective.”

In 2014, Denver Water made a payment of $1.95 million to Grand County for two water supply projects. The Jim Creek Bypass and Pipeline, which Winter Park Water and Sanitation District is already designing, will help protect water quality at its water treatment plant in low-flow periods, and provide system flexibility. And, the Fraser River Pump Station, Pipeline and Discovery Park Pond project, pays for much-needed improvements that will help stabilize the business of Winter Park Resort and other businesses in the upper Fraser Valley.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will use the delivered water to preserve and improve the natural environment through its Instream Flow Program.

“The CWCB is extremely pleased to be able to work with Grand County and Denver Water to implement this important agreement,” said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “This is a great example of how effective the state’s Instream Flow Program can be in the context of multipurpose projects.”

The CRCA ushers in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water, West Slope entities and conservation groups to create a spirit of cooperation instead of litigation over water resources through “Learning By Doing,” a monitoring and adaptive management program with the goal of maintaining, and where possible, improving the health of Colorado River headwater streams in Grand County.

“Thanks to the Learning by Doing framework, we’re finding ways to maintain healthy flows for fish and wildlife in the Upper Colorado,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited. “We’re learning — by doing — that collaboration and cooperation can help ensure the health of our rivers while meeting other diverse needs, like municipal water. These flows will make a real difference for the river and for Grand County’s important recreation economy.”

Partner contact info:
Grand County: Ed Moyer, emoyer@co.grand.us, 970-725-3102
Denver Water: Travis Thompson, travis.thompson@denverwater.org, 303-628-6700
Colorado Water Conservation Board: Linda Bassi, Linda.bassi@state.co.us, 303-866-3441 ext. 3204
Trout Unlimited: Mely Whiting, MWhiting@tu.org, 720-375-3961

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A state water judge has signed off on a deal between Denver Water and Grand County to leave 651 million gallons of water a year that otherwise would be diverted in headwaters of the Colorado River.

That water would be left each year for the purpose of improving stream health — habitat for fish and other wildlife — once Denver completes its Moffat Project to divert more water under the Continental Divide to the heavily populated Front Range.

Denver Water officials said the water, at least 2,000-acre feet, is enough to sustain 5,000 metro households each year.

State water judge James Boyd signed the decree last week.

The deal was done under the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, finalized in 2013 between Denver and western slope communities, to try to balance growing urban demands with environmental needs.

Colorado’s Water Conservation Board would protect the water left in streams and use it to preserve natural conditions.

Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead said the deal shows Denver is prepared to fully implement the agreement.

Grand County authorities could not be reached for comment.

Under the agreement, Denver Water must conserve and recycle water and transfer up to 45,000 acre-feet a year in treated wastewater to suburbs on the condition that the suburbs agree not to pursue their own diversion projects and pay a surcharge. Western Slope communities, not including Grand County, would drop opposition to Denver’s Moffat Project.

CSU-led team receives $10 million to study Ogallala Aquifer


From Colorado State University (Jason Kosovski):

Main source of agricultural and public water

For more than 80 years, the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the world, has been the main source of agricultural and public water for eastern Colorado and parts of seven other states in the Great Plains. Now, Colorado State University will take a leading role as part of a USDA-NIFA funded university consortium to address agricultural sustainability on the Ogallala Aquifer.

$10 million over four years

The consortium, comprised of CSU and seven other universities as well as USDA-ARS, has been awarded a USDA Water for Agriculture Challenge Area CAP grant which will provide $10 million over four years for innovative research and extension activities to address water challenges in the Ogallala Aquifer region.

The Ogallala, along with many of the world’s aquifers, is declining on a path many consider to be unsustainable. The Ogallala Aquifer region currently accounts for 30 percent of total crop and animal production in the U.S and more than 90 percent of the water pumped from the Ogallala Aquifer is used for irrigated agriculture.

Cutting-edge science and technology

“This project will integrate cutting-edge science and technology with an evaluation of policy and economic strategies as well as outreach to foster adaptive management,” said Meagan Schipanski, assistant professor of Soil and Crop Sciences, and the project’s lead investigator. “Our interdisciplinary team has an exceptional track record of work in the region, and this project offers an opportunity for much-needed integration and collaboration to extend the life of our shared groundwater resources.”

Meagan Schipanski, assistant professor of Soil and Crop Sciences
Meagan Schipanski, assistant professor of Soil and Crop Sciences

Tremendous impact on rural economies

“Irrigated crop production has a tremendous impact on rural economies and Colorado’s overall agricultural output,” said Ajay Menon, dean of the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences. “Professor Schipanski brings her leadership along with the collective expertise of the CSU scientists to a team of Land Grant University researchers who are positioned to make a major impact on our understanding of the aquifer system by determining what approaches can improve the productivity and resiliency of this important region.”

The multi-disciplinary team includes scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, New Mexico State University, Texas Tech University, West Texas A &M University, Texas A & M AgriLife and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service.

To learn more about the project, visit the USDA news site.

#WorldWaterDay: Watershed –The Race To Save The #ColoradoRiver

Published on Mar 17, 2016
What’s happening to the Colorado River is tragedy on an epic scale – for the Native Americans whose water has been poisoned; for a western United States parched by drought and sliding towards chronic, irreversible water shortage; for the planet as a whole, as the rapidity with which the river is drying up is signaling how climate change is already reshaping our world.

Collectively’s Cayte Bosler traces the stories along the course of the Colorado from the air – joining a group of students and Aspen’s Eco-Flight project, who are working to raise awareness of, and find solutions for, the source of this iconic river’s alarming decline.

Republican River Basin Study Informs #Colorado, #Kansas and #Nebraska about Future Water Management

Republican River Basin by District
Republican River Basin by District

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation has released the Republican River Basin Study, which identifies adaptation strategies that address water management challenges in the basin. This study, which includes a study area of 2.7 million acres of irrigated agriculture served primarily by groundwater supplies, represents an extensive collaborative effort among Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.

“The Republican River Basin is a complex and important basin for these states,” Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said. “Because of its importance, new ground and surface water modeling tools were developed to evaluate future hydrology and operations within the basin. These tools will assist water managers as they make decisions to build resiliency against future climate change, while also maintaining compliance with the Republican River Compact.”

The Republican River basin covers approximately 16 million acres and lies primarily within the Ogallala Aquifer. It originates in the high plains of eastern Colorado and flows east into Nebraska and Kansas.

The basin study found that climate change may impact future supplies and demands across the basin. Nebraska focused on augmenting the supply of Swanson Lake and creating new surface water storage on Thompson Creek, a tributary of the Republican River, while Kansas evaluated alternatives that increase the storage volume at Lovewell Reservoir. The modeling tools that were developed for the study evaluated alternatives to improve the supply reliability at the Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District in Nebraska, as well as the Bostwick-Irrigation District of Nebraska and Kansas.

Surface water supplies include a system of seven Reclamation reservoirs and one U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir. These projects provide flood control benefits, as well as supplies to six irrigation districts that serve approximately 140,000 acres. The Republican River is subject to an interstate compact between Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas that was ratified in 1943.

The Republican River Basin Study is a part of Reclamation’s WaterSMART Program. The report is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/bsp.

WaterSMART is the Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

Interior Department Releases Report Underscoring Impacts of #ClimateChange on Western Water Resources


Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Jessica Kershaw):

Putting the national spotlight on the importance of water sustainability, the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation released a basin-by-basin report that characterizes the impacts of climate change and details adaptation strategies to better protect major river basins in the West that are fundamental to the health, economy, security and ecology of 17 Western states.

The SECURE Water Act Report, produced by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and its state and local partners, was released following today’s first White House Summit on Water in observance of World Water Day.

“One of the greatest challenges we face is dealing with the impacts of climate change on our nation’s water, which is really the lifeblood of our economy,” said Interior’s Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor. “We need to continue to develop collaborative strategies across each river basin to ensure that our nation’s water and power supplies, agricultural activities, ecosystems, and other resources all have sustainable paths forward.”

The report identifies climate change as a growing risk to Western water management and cites warmer temperatures, changes to precipitation, snowpack and the timing and quality of streamflow runoff across major river basins as threats to water sustainability. Water supply, quality and operations; hydropower; groundwater resources; flood control; recreation; and fish, wildlife and other ecological resources in the Western states remain at risk.

The report, which responds to requirements under the SECURE Water Act of 2009, shows several increased risks to western United States water resources during the 21st century. Specific projections include:

  • a temperature increase of 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century;
  • A precipitation increase over the northwestern and north-central portions of the western United States and a decrease over the southwestern and south-central areas;
  • A decrease for almost all of the April 1st snowpack, a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin runoff; and
  • a 7 to 27 percent decrease in April to July stream flow in several river basins, including the Colorado, the Rio Grande, and the San Joaquin.
  • These projections will have specific basin-level impacts that include:

  • Southern California: In Southern California, warming and population growth are projected to increase water demand, reliance on imported water and the use of groundwater in the area, leading to development of alternative water supplies, such as recycled water.
  • Colorado River Basin: Reductions in spring and early summer runoff could translate into a drop in water supply for meeting irrigation demands and adversely impact hydropower operations at reservoirs.
  • Klamath and Truckee River Basins: Warmer conditions may result in increased stress on fisheries, reduced salmon habitat, increased electricity demand, increased water demands for in-stream ecosystems and increased likelihood of invasive species’ infestations.
  • Columbia and Missouri River Basins: Moisture falling as rain instead of snow at lower elevations will increase the runoff during the wintertime rather than the summer, translating to reductions for meeting irrigation demands, adversely impacting hydropower operations, and increasing wintertime flood-control challenges.
  • Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins: Earlier season runoff combined with a potential for increasing upper watershed evapotranspiration may reduce the capacity to store runoff in Reclamation’s Central Valley Project and state water resources reservoirs.
  • Rio Grande Basin: Reduced snowpack and decreased runoff likely will result in less natural groundwater recharge. Additional decreases in groundwater levels are projected due to increased reliance on groundwater pumping.
  • stopcollaborateandlistenbusinessblog

    “Reclamation, its customers and stakeholders have adapted to various climate conditions for more than 100 years,” the Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said. “Now changing climate is creating a greater challenge; but through collaboration and cooperation, we will work to ensure a sustainable and secure water supply now and into the future.”

    While climate change poses significant risks to Western water resources management, Reclamation is already addressing vulnerabilities through adaptation strategies being developed with water managers across the West. For example, under the WaterSMART Program, collaborative basin studies evaluate the impacts of climate change and identify a broad range of potential options to resolve current and future water supply and demand imbalances.

    Reclamation has forged collaborative relationships in 15 of the 17 Western states with a diverse group of non-Federal partners, including state water resource agencies, tribal governments, regional water authorities, local planning agencies, water districts, agricultural associations, environmental interests, cities and counties. These partnerships focus on identifying and developing adaptation strategies to address the vulnerabilities related to drought and climate change.

    In addition to the new Report, the Interior Department launched an online tool enabling the public to visualize the regional impacts and potential adaptation options. The tool allows users to check, by basin, how temperature, precipitation and snowpack are projected to be affected by climate change and how climate change may affect runoff and water supplies. The viewer can also check the projected flow of a river at specific points and times of the year and display adaptation options.

    The Report and visualization tool provides a five-year update on the river basins listed in the SECURE Water Act—the Colorado, Columbia, Klamath, Missouri, Rio Grande, Sacramento-San Joaquin and Truckee river basins— as well as other Western river basins.

    During the White House Summit, the Administration announced new efforts and commitments from the federal government and more than 100 external institutions to enhance the sustainability of water in the United States. For more information, click here.

    The SECURE Water Act Report, fact sheets on projected climate change impacts on the eight western river basins, and the visualization tool are available at http://www.usbr.gov/climate/secure.

    The Bureau of Reclamation is the largest wholesaler of water in the Nation. It provides more than 10 trillion gallons of water each year for municipal use and provides water to approximately 10 million acres of irrigated farmland that collectively produce 60 percent of the Nation’s vegetables and 25 percent of the Nation’s fruits and nut corps. Additionally, Reclamation is the largest supplier of hydroelectric power in the Western United States, operating 53 power plants that serve 3.5 million households.

    #ColoradoRiver: It’s #WorldWaterDay — Sinjin Eberle #COriver

    From Medium (Sinjin Eberle):

    10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Hardest Working River in the West

    On World Water Day, especially with this year’s theme of “Water and Jobs,” we should celebrate the waterways we all depend on and love — and redouble our efforts to ensure our vital water resources are available for generations to come.
    Unfortunately, one of our country’s most important rivers, the Colorado River, is also one of our most threatened. The drought in the West has only served to make a bad situation worse — for the cities that depend on the river for drinking water, the farmers who depend on it to grow the crops that feed the nation, the wildlife that depend on it as part of their habitat, and the local recreation economies that depend on it for jobs.

    Fortunately, the communities in the Colorado River Basin are coming together and collaborating with government at all levels to put into place water conservation and drought resiliency efforts that will protect this vital river and all who rely on it.

    The Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Basin is outlined in black.
    The Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Basin is outlined in black.

    Whether you’ve boated on Lake Powell or Lake Mead, rode the rapids in the Grand Canyon, or fished the blue ribbon streams that feed the river, there are countless ways in which the Colorado is the lifeblood of the Southwest and an economic engine for the entire country.

    Here are just a few key facts about the hardest working river in the West:

  • The Colorado River winds 1,450 miles through the Southwest, providing water to seven states and Mexico.
  • Demand for water from the Colorado outstrips supply, and the drought and rising temperatures are making the imbalance more precarious.
  • The Colorado River is the hardest working river in the West, supporting 16 million American jobs in agriculture, energy production, and recreation, among others. The economic activity supported by the Colorado River accounts for 10 percent of our national GDP.
  • The Colorado supplies clean drinking water to more than 36 million people.
  • More than 5.36 million people use the river for recreational activities each year, providing a boon to the economy.
  • The Colorado River irrigates nearly 5.7 million acres of land, which grow 15 percent of the nation’s crops.
  • For most of the last half century, the Colorado River has dried up before reaching the sea.
  • Lake Powell, a major driver of tourism in the Southwest and the United States’ second-largest reservoir, recently fell below 40 percent of capacity, its lowest level since 1937.
  • The iconic Hoover Dam has the capacity to produce 2074 megawatts of energy, but as water levels in Lake Mead continue to drop, power capacity has been reduced to only 1735 megawatts in recent years — which means energy shortages equivalent to the power needs of more than 200,000 people.
  • The Colorado River is home to 30 endemic fish species and attracts anglers from across the country each year, bringing nearly $2 billion into the economy of the river basin.
  • As we work to protect the river — and the jobs, people and wildlife it supports — it’s encouraging to see the Obama Administration and Congress taking this issue seriously. On World Water Day, the White House Water Summit is highlighting the need for increased coordination among federal agencies responding to the drought, enhanced funding for conservation programs, and ongoing action and innovation to protect the Colorado River and the livelihoods that depend on it. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to provide critical support for water conservation efforts in the Colorado River Basin.

    Fertilizer applied to fields today will pollute water for decades — Univ. of Waterloo

    Here’s the release from the University of Waterloo:

    Dangerous nitrate levels in drinking water could persist for decades, increasing the risk for blue baby syndrome and other serious health concerns, according to a new study published by researchers at the University of Waterloo.

    Nitrogen fertilizer applied to farmers’ fields has been contaminating rivers and lakes and leaching into drinking water wells for more than 80 years. The study, published this week in a special issue of the journal Environmental Research Letters, reveals that elevated nitrate concentrations in rivers and lakes will remain high for decades, even if farmers stop applying nitrogen fertilizers today.

    View of runoff, also called nonpoint source pollution, from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants run off unprotected farm fields when heavy rains occur. (Credit: Lynn Betts/U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service/Wikimedia Commons)
    View of runoff, also called nonpoint source pollution, from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants run off unprotected farm fields when heavy rains occur. (Credit: Lynn Betts/U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service/Wikimedia Commons)

    The researchers have discovered that nitrogen is building up in soils, creating a long-term source of nitrate pollution in ground and surface waters.

    “A large portion of the nitrogen applied as fertilizer has remained unaccounted for over the last decades,” said Nandita Basu, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The fact that nitrogen is being stored in the soil means it can still be a source of elevated nitrate levels long after fertilizers are no longer being applied.”

    Their paper presents the first direct evidence of a large-scale nitrogen legacy across the United States’ Mississippi River Basin.

    Forced to invest millions of dollars to upgrade their water treatment plants, Des Moines Water Works, Iowa’s largest drinking water utility, is currently suing three upstream counties for failing to address harmful surface-water nitrate levels that are more than twice the US federal drinking water standard.

    Such nitrate concentrations are likely to remain stubbornly high, according to the Canadian research team.

    Professor Basu and her group analyzed long-term data from over two thousand soil samples throughout the Mississippi River Basin to reveal a systematic accumulation of nitrogen in agricultural soils. In many areas, this accumulation was not apparent in the upper plow layer, but instead was found from 25-100 cm beneath the soil surface

    “We hypothesize that this accumulation occurred not only because of the increased use of fertilizers, but also increases in soybean cultivation and changes in tillage practices over the past 80 years,” said Kim Van Meter, a doctoral student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science.

    Their modeling results suggest that this nitrogen legacy could still be leaching into waterways more than three decades after nitrogen is no longer being applied to fields.

    Similar to phosphorus, nitrogen is a limiting nutrient for plants and when applied as fertilizer helps increase crop yields.

    Unfortunately when too much nitrogen is added, the excess enters waterways, causing hypoxic conditions such as the Gulf of Mexico’s massive dead zone and threatening drinking water quality. Exposure to excessive nitrate in drinking water causes serious health problems, including Methemoglobinemia or blue baby syndrome in infants.

    Since the 1970s, farmers and policymakers alike have worked hard to reduce the amount of fertilizer leaking from agricultural fields to groundwater and nearby lakes and streams. Yet in some rural areas, nitrate levels have been found to be more than ten times the drinking water standard.

    “The presence of this legacy nitrogen means it will take even longer for best management practices to have a measurable benefit,” said Professor Basu, also a member of the Water Institute. “If we’re going to set policy goals, it’s critical we quantify nitrogen legacies and time lags in human impacted landscapes.”

    Basu and other researchers at the University of Waterloo are currently exploring nitrogen legacies across North America as well as at the global level.


    World Water Day 2016

    A Coyote Gulch reader suggested that I highlight the plight of the Colorado River for this year’s World Water Day so I want to point you to my Colorado River categories on both the pre-2009 blog and the current Coyote Gulch:

    Original Coyote Gulch posts that mention the Colorado River.

    Current Coyote Gulch Colorado River category.

    Have some fun taking a walk down memory lane.

    #Drought news: Hotter Droughts, Forests and the Leaf to Landscape Project — USGS #climatechange

    From the United States Geological Survey:

    In recognition of World Water Day and in conjunction with the White House Water Summit, the U.S. Geological Survey is raising awareness of water issues and potential solutions in the United States.

    Yep. It’s Getting Hotter and Drier Out There

    “Hotter droughts,” which are severe droughts associated with human-caused climate change, are an emerging but poorly understood threat to forests worldwide. As climate change drives much of the nation into hotter, drier conditions, forest managers and scientists are not able to rely on historical patterns of temperature and precipitation for planning and decision making. Yet it is critical to identify forests and tree species most at risk.

    Thus, USGS scientists and their collaborators are using California’s recent hotter drought (2012-2015) as a preview of the future, gaining the information needed to help forest managers adapt to a warming world.

    Drought is More Than a Low Water Supply – And Why That Really Matters

    We usually think of droughts as periods of low water supply caused by less rain or snow, but often overlook the other side of the equation: the drying power of the atmosphere, or atmospheric water demand. For example, if we look only at precipitation records, California’s recent drought would rank as severe but not unprecedented; comparable periods of low precipitation occurred during the Dust Bowl era of the 1920s and 1930s. However, compared to the Dust Bowl era, temperatures during the 2012-2015 California drought averaged about 1º C (about 2º F) warmer. Even though this may not seem like much, it significantly increased the atmospheric water demand and easily made this the most severe drought in California’s 120-year instrumental record, and perhaps much longer.

    Additionally, water supplies for California’s cities, agriculture, industry and forests all depend on the accumulation of a thick mountain snowpack each winter, which then melts and slowly releases water during the otherwise dry summer months. But the higher temperatures of the recent drought meant that virtually no snow accumulated during the winter, and the little bit that did accumulate melted far earlier than usual in the spring.

    California’s hotter drought has already killed millions of trees, particularly in low-elevation forests. (Photo credit: N. Stephenson, USGS)
    California’s hotter drought has already killed millions of trees, particularly in low-elevation forests. (Photo credit: N. Stephenson, USGS)

    2016 #coleg: HB16-1228 (Ag Protection Water Right Transfer Mechanism) moves forward

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    Some Western Slope lawmakers are concerned that a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Monday could lead to water being permanently taken off of the state’s farms and ranches.

    Reps. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, and Don Coram, R-Montrose, said the measure, HB1228, could create a situation where half of an agricultural operation’s water could be removed on a permanent basis.

    Brown became so concerned about the measure after it was altered in the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee earlier this month that he’s planning to take his name off of it.

    He signed onto the bill initially because he believed it was aimed at protecting agricultural water rights’ owners when they lease water that they don’t need.

    “The concern is that farmers are going to have to go to court proving that they are not harmed by somebody else doing this,” Brown said.

    As the bill is written now, the Colorado River Water District is opposed to it because of the harm it could cause water rights’ owners who aren’t involved in such diversions, which is known as a flexible water right.

    Coram said the Legislature approved a new law a few years ago that allows for such flex water leases for up to three out of every 10 years, requiring a water rights’ owner to obtain a new decree in water court for each diversion.

    This new bill allows for up to 50 percent of an agriculture water right to be leased for non-agricultural use, and be renewed twice without having to go through water court as long as that lease doesn’t change, he said.

    “They say this is to prevent buy and dry, but lease and cease is the same thing,” Coram said. “It’s one thing to take the water out three out of every 10 years, but if you take it forever it’s very devastating for communities.”

    But Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, one of the main sponsors of the bill, said neither lawmaker needs to worry.

    Becker said he has an amendment to fix their main problem with the bill, which deals with in-stream flows.

    That amendment is to be tacked onto the bill when it is debated in the Senate, where Sens. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, are sponsoring the bill.