AWRA #Colorado Section Annual Symposium recap @AWRACO

Map of the United States showing routes of principal explorers, from 1501 to 1844. [Click to enlarge]
Map of the United States showing routes of principal explorers, from 1501 to 1844. [Click to enlarge]
What a successful event Friday. Katie Melander and her colleagues managed to engage speakers that covered a wide range of topics, educated, and entertained.

One of the highlights was Greg Hobbs’ journey through the history of Colorado Water Law. His presentation included maps from the first surveys and expeditions to the West, along with the additions to the inventory of federal lands through purchase and war.

Confederate Texas’ forces and their intent to capture Colorado’s gold fields led to Colorado’s borders surrounding the headwaters, he told the attendees during his lunch hour keynote. The lines around the gold fields coincided with the headwaters of the Colorado, Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande.

US Westward expansion and the acquisition of federal land, via
US Westward expansion and the acquisition of federal land, via

I always enjoy the presentations by the AWRA Colorado Section scholarship recipients.

Adrianne Kroepsch’s talk, “Oil & gas Development in the South Platte River Basin: An Evolving Energy-Water Nexus,” highlighted the different ways that information sources “frame” the discussion. For example, while industry and the Colorado Division of Water Resources emphasize the small amount of water consumed by Oil and Gas exploration and production, environmentalists point out that the water is lost forever to the water cycle.

Cynthia Kanno’s presentation, “Quantifying the Impacts of Spills At Unconventional Oil and Gas Production Sites on Groundwater Quality,” explained her approach, using a groundwater model, to determine what types of spills could be expected to reach groundwater. This could possibly inform the first responders and industry about the type and level of responses.

By attending the Symposium you can help support the AWRA Colorado Section scholarship effort.

Nolan Doesken -- Colorado Water Foundation for Water Education President's Award Presentation 2011
Nolan Doesken — Colorado Water Foundation for Water Education President’s Award Presentation 2011

The information firehose didn’t stop with Hobbs’ luncheon presentation. Colorado State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken’s presentation, “Stepping Through Time: Colorado’s Climate, Water Resources, and Technology,” demanded your attention. Nolan went through some Colorado climate history, the origins of his position, and the data collection systems used over time. He also issued several predictions for Colorado climate: Summers will continue to be warmer than winters; Precipitation in Colorado will still vary greatly from place to place with changing seasons; We will still get some precipitation as snow; There will be future drought; and, “I guarantee that whatever comes next will be interesting.”

Doesken also made a pitch for the very successful citizen science effort CoCoRAHS.

Esther Vincent (Northern Water) talked about the loss of clarity in Grand Lake since the completion of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. In sum, the shallowness of Shadow Mountain Reservoir encourages weeds, sediment mobilizaiton, and algae growth which is then transported to Grand Lake in order to send transmountain water through the Adams Tunnel to the Front Range. She and the Clarity Working Group were recently successful in getting a sliding-scale clarity standard from the State of Colorado.

Other presentations included: Aurora and Colorado Springs’ planning and adaptive strategy facing climate change and increasing population; A method that utilizes GIS to integrate aerial photography and SNOTEL data for improved estimates of snowpack; How conservation is included in the Colorado Water Plan; The Arkansas Basin Roundtable Watershed Health Toolkit and it’s genesis (Need determined during the West Fork Fire); An introduction to the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University in Denver (My alma mater!); and, finally, a panel discussion, “Changes in Water Administration — A Conversation with the Boots that Run the Water,” with DWR water commissioners and the lead from the Division 1 accounting group.

All of my notes (Tweets) from the event can be accessed here. If you don’t have a Twitter account you can still view them. Enter into your browser or click on the link above, click on the Live button at the top of the page, scroll down to the bottom and read backward since Tweets are in reverse chronological order.

I also want to plug the venue, the Mount Vernon Country Club. Near and dear to Coyote Gulch, fast Wi-Fi and a great luncheon buffet.


2016 #coleg: HB16-1276 (Conduct Emergency Responses At Legacy Mining Sites) passes State Senate, next stop Gov. Hickenlooper

Colorado abandoned mines
Colorado abandoned mines

From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources will soon be able to respond to emergency situations at more of the state’s abandoned mines.

The Senate approved a bill Monday that allows the department to tackle situations threatening public safety or the environment at nearly any mine site.

DNR’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety had been limited to sites under its direct authority.

The House previously passed the bill, which now goes to the governor’s desk.

The bill was inspired by August’s Gold King Mine spill above Silverton. That spill sent millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River.

While DNR’s emergency response budget is $100,000 this fiscal year, backers say it’s a start. The governor can make more funding available for large-scale emergencies.

“…we’re all tied to the #ColoradoRiver” — John Stulp

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows
Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Would you be willing to pay an extra penny or two on every beverage container you purchase for the next 30 years or so, if it could assure Colorado will meet its future water needs?

John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s special advisor on water policy and director of the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee, put that question to an audience of more than 50 people in Steamboat Springs on Monday, and he was surprised at how many hands shot up.

Now that Colorado has its new statewide water plan in place, Stulp said it’s time to begin thinking about where the state will get the billions of dollars needed to close the water supply gap the state faces to support another estimated 5 million residents.

“The governor believes every conversation about water should start with conservation,” Stulp said. “I’ve always said, ‘You can have as much fun as you can afford.’ The state’s role might be something to the tune of $3 billion,” suggesting the residents of the state need to plan to raise about $100 million annually.

And that’s a lot of beverage containers…

Stulp, who comes from a cattle ranching/wheat growing background in southeastern Colorado, thinks our futures are bound together by the urgent need for more water supply.

“I say it pulls us and ties us together,” he said, “and we’re all tied to the Colorado River, because if anything happens there, it happens to all of us.”

Denver Water, which supplies water to 25 percent of the taps in the state, is doing more than many might realize, Stulp pointed out. The biggest water provider in Colorado is serving many thousands more users than it did 30 years ago but is using the same amount of water, thanks to conservation measures including the re-use of water.

After all, Denver Waster’s customers want to enjoy the rivers of the Western Slope, too, Stulp said.

There has been a paradigm shift in the way the Front Range looks at water, Stulp continued. Former Department of Natural Resources Chief Mike King, who is the new director of future water supply for Denver Water, grew up on the Western Slope in Montrose and understands the water outlook from this side of the Continental Divide.

But the agency also knows if the lower basin states ever made a call on the Colorado, demanding their share of water, it would hurt the Front Range more than the Western Slope, Stulp said. In part, because every acre-foot of water that wasn’t diverted to the eastern side would be felt doubly, because the water is used more than once.

Asked by Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who also serves on the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District board of directors, if Gov. Hickenlooper is putting pressure on governors in the lower basin states such as California, Arizona and Nevada to use their water more wisely, Stulp replied, “Yes.” But he quickly added that diplomacy in the form of the relationships Colorado Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund has built with his counterparts is essential to Colorado’s relations with other Western states.

Marsha Daughenbaugh, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, asked Stulp for his reaction to the fact that 40 percent of food produced in the U.S., much of it with the help of irrigation, is wasted.

“It goes to show you how cheap food is in this country and how cheap water is,” he concluded.