he University of New Mexico water posse had a great visit yesterday with Christopher Scott, the new director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona. Scott spoke a couple of times and met with students at our Community and Regional Planning program, who have been doing a lot of work on wastewater reuse (shoutout to Caroline Scruggs, who’s leading this effort, and who hosted Scott).
Scott talked about the work he’s been doing in this same area, which raises non-trivial questions with deep implications for what happens when you “conserve” water – the fact that the water you “save” was often doing something useful somewhere else, whether you meant it to our not. Like a sewage treatment plant outfall into a river. Or, as from this 2014 paper, water leaking from the unlined All-American Canal on the Lower Colorado River that recharged an aquifer:
Certainly, California’s statewide snowpack numbers are great – over 160% of average in early April – even inspiring Governor Jerry Brown to recently declare the end of the current drought. Upper Basin states are rolling in the numbers as well – the Colorado River basin is currently at 122% and every major river basin in Utah is at or above historical average. But not to throw a wet blanket over this year’s good news, we still have a long way to go before taking our foot off the gas in encouraging everyone across the Colorado Basin towards greater conservation measures, smart water sharing agreements, and stabilization of the system overall.
The Colorado River is currently over allocated to the tune of more than a million acre feet (one acre foot is about 325,000 gallons) per year – there is physically not as much water in the river as is being taken out. The main storage reservoirs in the system, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are both under 50% of their capacity. In order for the system to be sustainable, and in preparation for the uncertainty of more bouts of lingering drought and climate change, we must all work together to support a stable and reliable Colorado River system – from the headwaters in the Colorado Rockies to the lettuce fields of Yuma and beyond.
Here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map from the NRCS.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors meeting Thursday included recognition of two longtime board members, Frank McMurry and Jim McCormick, who both resigned from their positions in recent months.
McMurry, a local rancher and former Chaffee County commissioner, resigned as a conservancy district director after 34 years representing Division 3 (Chaffee County School District R-31).
McCormick, a retired home builder and former Salida city councilman, resigned from his position as treasurer in 2016 after serving in that capacity since the founding of the Upper Ark district in 1979.
The Upper Ark board recognized McMurry’s decades of service by awarding him the George E. Everett Memorial Award, established in Everett’s honor “to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the preservation of water and its historic use in the Upper Arkansas Basin,” said District Manager Terry Scanga…
Prior to his resignation as treasurer, McCormick was the only remaining member of the original district board.
In keeping with tradition, the Upper Ark district commissioned a portrait of McCormick to grace the walls of the district conference room alongside portraits of the other original members.
McCormick’s portrait, painted by Salida artist Carl Ortman, was unveiled at Thursday’s meeting.