#Snowpack news: Dry across much of the West, it’s still early

Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

Upper Colorado River Basin 7-day precipitation October 31 through November 6, 2016.
Upper Colorado River Basin 7-day precipitation October 31 through November 6, 2016.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

#Drought news: Stubbornly warm October, not much relief in site

One month temperature outlook issued October 31, 2016 via NOAA.
One month temperature outlook issued October 31, 2016 via NOAA.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Unusually warm weather is forcing Opening Day delays for Colorado ski resorts, which produce a $4.8 billion annual boon to the state economy.

Arapahoe Basin remains the only resort open in the state, and Loveland Ski Area will open Thursday after a multi-week delay. Both can thank manmade snow because Mother Nature hasn’t been of much help.

Snow-making wizardry aside, it has to be cold enough outside for the flakes to stick, and overnight temperatures remained stubbornly warm through most of October, Loveland Ski Area spokesman John Sellers said.

“Our patience has really been tested this year,” he said.

Staff started making snow Oct. 3, and it usually takes just a couple of weeks to open after snow-making begins. Overnight temperatures only recently have dropped enough to schedule Opening Day for Thursday.

Copper Mountain Resort cited unseasonable warmth when it pushed its Opening Day back a week, from Friday to Nov. 18.

“The decision to delay Opening Day is always difficult and is not one we make lightly,” said Gary Rodgers, Copper Mountain’s president and general manager, in a press release. “Our teams have been working around the clock to prepare the mountain for the upcoming season, but we do need a little more cooperation from Mother Nature.”

Keystone Resort also pushed back its opening from Nov. 4 to a tentative Friday because of warm weather.

The economic impact of a delayed opening is not good but “not huge,” Sellers said. Bad weather or roads later in the season would be a bigger economic threat, he said.

Last year, Colorado slopes saw 13 million skier visits.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center predicts warmer-than-normal temperatures through the rest of fall, but a lack of early fall snow doesn’t necessarily correlate with a lack of winter snow.

West Drought Monitor November 1, 2016.
West Drought Monitor November 1, 2016.

@ColoradoStateU: Explaining Western water law — November 14

Photo by Havey Productions via TheDenverChannel.com
Photo by Havey Productions via TheDenverChannel.com

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jessica Bennett):

Learning more about the complexities and inner-workings of western water law is the purpose behind the 2016 Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminar series. The series will discuss topics including the history and evolution of western water law; state compacts and federal water law; hybrid water law systems; water quality law; groundwater law; and environmental law. The seminar series will provide attendees the opportunity for in-depth discussion about water-related court cases and interaction with prominent water resource professionals.

Each seminar is held Monday at 4 p.m. in the Behavioral Sciences Building, Room 103. All faculty, students, off-campus water professionals, and members of the Fort Collins community who are interested in water and western water law are invited to attend.

For individuals unable to attend, the seminars will be recorded and uploaded online. The full semester schedule is accessible here. Or there’s more information regarding all of the Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminars.

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Amy Beatie, Nov. 14

Amy Beatie began her tenure at the Colorado Water Trust in 2007, after nearly six years practicing water litigation at two different Front Range water law firms. Beatie will be speaking at the Nov. 14 seminar on “Water Transactions in Colorado.” She will discuss how the reallocation of water rights through voluntary transfers has become a significant part of the water law for Colorado and other Western states. In this seminar, Beatie will provide the basic tools and concepts necessary to understand water transactions under Colorado water law.

Prior to practicing water litigation, Beatie clerked for the Honorable Gregory J. Hobbs of the Colorado Supreme Court. While in law school, she helped create the University of Denver Water Law Review, served as its editor-in-chief, and now sits on the advisory board. She is also a member of the advisory board of Metro State University’s One World One Water Center and the board of directors of the Colorado Water Congress. In May 2013, Beatie received the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Emerging Leader award.

#ColoradoRiver: Moffat Collection System Project update #COriver

Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From The Wall Street Journal (Jim Carlton):

Next year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to decide whether to issue a permit to triple the capacity of Gross Reservoir in the Rocky Mountain foothills, with additional shipments of about 18,000 acre feet of water a year from the Colorado River watershed. An acre foot is enough water to meet the annual needs of an average family of five.

That is one of the last regulatory barriers for utility Denver Water’s $380 million project, for which district officials say they hope to break ground in 2019 to help ensure local water supplies.

“We have an obligation to supply water,” said Jeff Martin, Denver Water’s manager of the project, as he stood recently atop a 340-foot concrete dam that is to be raised by 131 feet under the plan. “It’s not an option to not have water.”

[…]

The Corps of Engineers is expected to decide next year on a proposed new “Windy Gap” project in Colorado, which would divert up to another 30,000 acre feet a year to the Front Range, the heavily populated area where the Rocky Mountains rise up from the plains.

In addition, more than 200,000 acre feet would be diverted for proposed projects in Utah and Wyoming…

Water officials in California and other lower basin states say they aren’t overly concerned about more diversions upstream, because a 1922 compact requires the upper basin states to deliver them about 7.5 million acre feet a year, or one half the river flow set aside for human use north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Much of that water is stockpiled in Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border.

With the Colorado running much lower than when the compact was signed, water experts say there is less water to divert.

“So long as their development doesn’t impinge on their release to us, that is their business,” said Chuck Cullom, a program manager at the Central Arizona Project in Phoenix, which pulls from the river and stands to lose a fifth of its deliveries if a shortage is declared on the Colorado. “If it falls below that, then they would have to figure out how to manage their demand.”

Don Ostler, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, which oversees use of the river in the upper basin states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, agreed that new diversions increase the risk of shortages.

“The more you develop, the more a severe drought can affect you,” said Mr. Ostler. “But we are able to live with a certain amount of shortage.”

In Denver, water officials don’t feel they have much choice but to seek more Colorado water.

In 2002, tons of sediment from a forest fire clogged one of Denver Water’s reservoirs during a drought. “We came close to running out of water in the northern end of our system,” said Jim Lochhead, chief executive officer of Denver Water, a utility that serves 1.4 million people.

That crisis helped prompt the district in 2003 to undertake the Gross Reservoir expansion, which would store more water from an existing tunnel that transfers Colorado River water from the west side of the Continental Divide.

Denver officials pledged to only take the water in wet years and release more into streams when it is dry—measures that drew praise from some conservationists…

Gov. John Hickenlooper in July gave the state’s approval, calling the dam’s expansion vital. “The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future,” the Democratic governor said at the time, “and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment.”

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism