Water quality experts trek to backcountry streams to sample water straight from the source.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
Precipitation during this USDM week (August 23-29, 2017) was above normal for some of the country’s midsection, the Northern Plains to Upper Midwest, southwestern Florida, parts of New Mexico and much of Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Harvey made landfall north of Corpus Christi as a category 4 storm bringing with it rainfall amounts there were unprecedented. In Houston, the nation’s fourth-most populous city, rainfall totals approached 50 inches in five days resulting in historical flooding. Drier than normal conditions existed for much of the Southeast, mid-Atlantic to Northeast, and western Northern Plains to Northwest. Temperatures were above normal for much of the western third of the nation and parts of the Southeast. Temperatures elsewhere were below normal. Parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan experienced their first freeze of the season, 3-6 weeks earlier than normal…
Precipitation was below normal for much of the High Plains this week prompting the expansion of D0 in southwest South Dakota and western Wyoming. Drought was expanded throughout Montana where long-term precipitation deficits remain. According to the USDA crop reports, 41 percent of Montana pasture and range conditions are rated very poor and 73 percent of the topsoil moisture conditions are rated very short. D0 was expanded and a small area of D1 was introduced in northeast Kansas and southeast Nebraska based on the 30-day precipitation deficits. One category improvements were made in eastern South Dakota where 1-2 inches of rain has fallen during the last two weeks. It was reported that crop conditions are very good in this eastern region…
Abnormal dryness (D0) was expanded in Washington, Oregon and Idaho based on dryness out to 90-days. Temperatures were above normal for the period with readings as much as 10 degrees F above normal in California. For the past month temperatures have been much warmer-than-normal to record warm across much of the Northwest. For the summer, much of the Southwest region experienced record warm temperatures…
The remnants of Hurricane Harvey will slowly drift up the Ohio Valley and Atlantic seaboard during the next 3 days. Heavy rains may produce 2-8 inches across the South and Southeast. Separately, the southern Rockies may see some precipitation amounts totaling 0.5-1 inch. Temperatures will be generally 10 degrees below normal in the east, following the track of Harvey and at least 10 degrees F above normal in West. The longer range forecast calls for increased probability of cooler than normal temperatures stretching from the Gulf Coast into the Ohio Valley. The odds are high that warmer than normal temperatures will persist in parts of the West. The probability of above normal precipitation is highest along the Atlantic seaboard and Southwest. The probability is high that dryness will continue in the Midwest.
PINEDALE, WYO. – When Freddie Botur, 45, whose ranch spans 72,000 acres outside of Pinedale, Wyoming, first heard about a program that was paying ranchers to let water run down the river instead of irrigating with it, he was skeptical. But Nick Walrath, a project coordinator for Trout Unlimited, told him he’d receive about $200 for every acre-foot of water saved by not watering hay on his Cottonwood Ranch.
For Botur, it would mean over $240,000 for fallowing just over 1,700 acres of hayfields for the latter half of the summer of 2015, letting 1,202 acre-feet of water run past his headgate on Cottonwood and Muddy Creeks, tributaries of the Green River, instead of to his fields.
“Oh my God,” he thought, “this is insane.”
Botur, talkative and athletic, was wearing mirrored sunglasses and a cowboy hat when we met in June outside a cluster of old homestead buildings on the family ranch that he operates at the foot of the lofty peaks of the Wyoming Range. For Wyoming ranchers, he explained, the kind of money he received for not growing hay represented as much as a third of their annual revenue.
The money-for-water program that Botur signed up for was a pilot program, launched in 2014 by the four largest municipal water providers in the Colorado River basin along with the Bureau of Reclamation. The goal: See how complicated it would be to pay ranchers to use less water on their fields and instead let the water flow down the Green, Colorado, and San Juan rivers to Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two biggest water storage buckets in the Colorado River system.
The result: After three years, the initiative, known as the “System Conservation Pilot Program,” proved popular with skeptical ranchers like Botur, but water officials called a halt to the program after this year until they work out some big challenges. Their task will not be easy.
But as climate change alters the hydrology of the Colorado River Basin, water planners are searching for ways to adapt a system of century-old water laws to a new reality. If they’re successful, a revamped “system conservation program” could be one way to reshape water management for a hotter, drier West.
The year 2014 marked a new level of urgency for water managers along the Colorado River. In July, Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, dipped to its lowest level since it was filled in 1937. Upstream, Lake Powell was also in bad shape.
Since 2000, a long-term drought had gripped much of the Colorado River Basin and the storage pool of both reservoirs had shrunk to less than half their capacity. For the first time, federal authorities decreased the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead from Lake Powell. And officials from the Bureau of Reclamation said there was a 50-50 chance that by 2015 Lake Mead’s water will be rationed to states downstream.
That, too, had never happened before.
Most alarming, however, were the climate models suggesting that the drought was a harbinger of a future marked by rising temperatures — a future in which city water providers could not depend on what’s left in the Colorado River to meet demands.
For water officials in the Upper Colorado Basin states — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico — the ongoing drought posed an additional threat. If they failed to deliver the mandatory volume of water from Lake Powell to Lake Mead, as required by the law, the Lower Basin states of Arizona, Nevada, and California could make a “compact call” for their water, forcing the upper basin to stop diverting post-1922 water rights from the Colorado River.
“The cutbacks would go very deep,” says Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
In Colorado, for instance, the transmountain diversions that pipe water from the western side of the Rockies to the drier eastern side could be limited or stopped altogether. If that happened, Front Range cities —where more than 4 million people live —could lose up to 50 percent of their water supply.
And yet, water officials had barely discussed how such a scenario might be avoided.
If both Lake Mead and Lake Powell dropped significantly and Upper Basin states faced a compact call on the river, officials had few options to keep it at bay, said James Eklund, the former director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board who is now an attorney with Squire Patton Boggs in Denver. As the drought worsened, officials came to an uncomfortable conclusion, said Eklund: “If it gets really bad, we had no plan.”
The beginning of a crisis
When the first inkling of future water shortages emerged during the 2002 drought, Eklund, who serves on the Upper Colorado River Commission, and other water planners in the Upper Basin, asked the Bureau of Reclamation to model the reservoir levels in Mead and Powell using drier hydrology. The results confirmed what many already knew: They needed to plan for a lot less water in the Colorado River.
A few ideas emerged.
They could release water from Upper Basin reservoirs to keep Mead and Powell full. They could keep cloud seeding, which may help a bit. And they could keep removing the tamarisk from the banks of the Colorado and Green rivers, and that also may help a little. Still, Eklund, said, it felt like they were “just nibbling” at the problem.
Eklund, a fifth-generation Coloradan whose parents operate a ranch near Grand Junction, grew worried. If Lake Powell dropped to so-called “dead pool” levels, the turbines that generate electricity through the Hoover Dam would stop spinning. Without that power, millions of people across the Southwest would see their electric bills skyrocket and the hydro revenue that now pays for environmental programs along the Colorado River like salinity control and fish recovery programs would disappear.
In the Lower Basin too, water managers were growing more and more alarmed at the severity of the drought. The year 2002 showed them how fast reservoirs could shrink, said John Entsminger, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which delivers water to Las Vegas and its surrounding urban areas. “That was the wakeup call,” he said.
Using the water
Both cities and ranchers in the seven states served by the Colorado River have grown increasingly dependent on the river over the last century, even as the amount of water in the system is falling. That scarcity has created a complex, often fraught relationship between municipal water providers and irrigators, with cities often buying ranches for their water rights, a practice known as “buy and dry.” They do so from willing sellers, but the remaining ranchers don’t see a benefit and the permanent removal of water from land in a community can bring unwanted change.
A similarly tense relationship exists between officials in the Lower Basin and ranchers in the Upper Basin. Fears of Southern California or Las Vegas taking someone’s water are culturally ingrained in ranching communities in Colorado and Wyoming. And in Colorado, a longstanding feud exists between the rural western side of the Rocky Mountains, which has most of the state’s water, and the Front Range, where the majority of the people live.
But the severity of the ongoing dry spell has helped drive a new spirit of collaboration among the Colorado River’s competing factions. Over the years, water officials, environmentalists, and irrigators began meeting in conferences, on river trips, in hotel bars and coffee shops, choosing negotiation and trust over potential court battles — in the hopes of avoiding a potential “compact call.”
Seeding an idea
One such meeting occurred over a dinner that Eklund hosted for water managers from the basin states and officials from the Bureau of Reclamation and the Interior Department at Denver’s posh Palace Arms restaurant. On the agenda: negotiating Minute 319, a bi-national water-sharing agreement with Mexico, and ways to coordinate drought contingency plans among the upper and lower basin.
“It was one of those key moments where we could have gone off and done our own thing,” Eklund said. “But there was so much more that we could get out of it if we did things together.”
In the Lower Basin, cities like Las Vegas had invested millions in water-efficiency efforts like paying homeowners to get rid of their lawns, imposing strict water restrictions on golf courses, and reusing almost all wastewater. But Lake Mead continued to shrink and Entsminger, whose Las Vegas service area derives 90 percent of its drinking water from the reservoir, grew increasingly worried.
San Diego and Los Angeles had been paying farmers in the Palo Verde and Imperial valleys to lease their water on a temporary basis for years – a program that helped meet urban needs without drying up farms. If that strategy could work for California, Entsminger thought, it could also work for other parts of the Colorado River Basin.
The seeds of that idea emerged one day in 2013 during a brainstorming session in Hermosa Beach, California, with Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Chuck Cullom, manager of Colorado River programs for the Central Arizona Project, and Jim Lochhead, the CEO of Denver Water. Together, they came up with what would become the System Conservation Pilot Program, which they hoped would strike a balance between their need to avoid a catastrophic water shortage and farmers’ reticence toward selling off their water rights.
Entsminger and the other municipal water managers brought the idea to officials from the Upper Basin states along with the Bureau of Reclamation. In total, they pooled a $15 million fund to compensate people throughout the Colorado River basin for using less water. The program targeted ranchers and farmers — who own the vast majority of water rights on the river — but municipalities could apply too.
It would be temporary and it would be voluntary — and every gallon of water saved would go not to any one state or city, but directly back to the river itself. “No one had done that before,” recalls Entsminger, “you’re investing money and no one’s name is on it.”
A grand experiment
The pilot program worked by soliciting proposals from individuals who volunteered to leave a portion of their water rights unused by letting the water run past their headgates and down their local section of river toward Lake Powell.
Applicants submitted a proposal describing their intended conservation activities, which were then reviewed by program administrators to ensure the proposals would actually leave more water in the Colorado River system.
For instance, low priority water rights — those dated after 1922 — were unlikely to yield much benefit since during dry years since junior water users must stop diverting to allow those with senior water rights their full claim amount.
In total, the four municipal water providers contributed $8 million to fund the program, with an additional $3 million from the Bureau of Reclamation. The fund was spread among projects in all seven Colorado River basin states and when the third year finishes up this fall, according to Michelle Garrison, who managed the program contracts for the Upper Colorado River Commission, it will have left an expected 21,590 acre-feet in the Upper Basin (and almost 98,000 acre-feet in the Lower Basin).
True, it is just a drop in the bucket for Lake Powell, which stores water from the Upper Basin of the Colorado River and had 15,020,378 acre-feet in it as of August 27, but it was the principle, and the experience, behind the System Conservation Program, that may prove most important.
“Nobody really knew how it would go,” said Cory Toye, the Wyoming water project director for Trout Unlimited, about the pilot program.
Would farmers and ranchers in the Upper Colorado River basin even agree to participate? For many of them, wary of the legacy of “water grabs” by big cities, accepting money from Las Vegas or Denver would be a form of betrayal to their communities and their culture.
Among Dennis Schroeder’s friends in the Pinedale, Wyo., ranching community there were fears that the program was actually a secret plot to take away ranchers’ water rights. And when Schroeder, who ranches on 355 acres of high desert, decided to participate, he heard from a few of them – fear-mongering mostly, he said, recalling one rancher’s warning: “Once you do that you’ll never get it back.”
Yet Schroeder understood there was a trade-off in participating — turning off his irrigation water early meant he lost out on some hay production — but when he did the math, the deal offered by the pilot program made sense to him. He participated for the first two years, receiving almost $15,000 each year for turning off his irrigation water in mid-July on 81 acres of land, letting 74 acre-feet of water remain in Pine Creek, a tributary of the Green River, which flows into the Colorado.
Entsminger knew they would have to tread carefully, that convincing Western ranchers and farmers that Las Vegas was “here to help” would not be easy. The program architects agreed that it would not look good if Lower Basin water managers were seen as paying for Upper Basin water, so the two basins used the funding separately.
Money from Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation would only fund projects in the Upper Basin while funding from the other municipalities along with the Bureau was reserved for projects in the Lower Basin.
“We were all sensitive,” Eklund said. “We didn’t want anyone to be able to point to money from Vegas or Phoenix going to fallow fields in the Upper Basin.”
To help navigate those cultural sensitivities Eklund and the other program architects also relied on partnerships with Trout Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. Their staff members would be the messengers, reaching out to irrigation districts and individual farmers with whom they had already worked hard to establish good working relationships.
For Jackson Ramsay, 25, a fifth-generation rancher from Rock Springs, Wyo., such a relationship with Trout Unlimited proved critical to his eventual support for the pilot program. When Trout Unlimited’s Walrath told Ramsay and his two brothers about the program, their first thought was, “What’s the catch?”
“We were kind of skeptical just because there are so many crazy things happening with government programs,” he told me one afternoon in June at a Starbucks in Rock Springs, before mentioning a rancher he knew who got in trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency for building a pond on his property.
Rock Springs is a resource town, surrounded by a honeycomb of old coalmines, the world’s biggest reserve of sodium carbonate, and the huge Jonah gas field. Most locals, said Ramsay, believe that land should be used for multiple purposes and are wary of environmental regulations that might hinder agriculture or extractive industries.
“We like coal, we like gas, we like oil, and we like ag,” Ramsay said. Green groups, he added, not so much.
Jackson and his brothers first met Walrath seven years ago.
“When Nick told us who he worked for,” Ramsay recalled, “we were kind of like, ‘Trout Unlimited — that sounds a lot like ‘Sierra Club.’ What do you guys want?’”
But after Walrath offered to replace a headgate that had washed out during a flood, making it better for fish – a project they could not afford on their own – the Ramsay brothers came around to working with a “green group.” Later, Trout Unlimited dug a pipeline to their irrigation ditch to protect it from future floods and the relationship was sealed.
When Walrath told them about the System Conservation Program, the Ramsays did some research and decided to apply because it made good financial sense. Ultimately, they didn’t qualify for the pilot program because their fields had not been in production for long enough, but Ramsay told me that they would if the opportunity to participate arose again.
As the pilot program matured, ranchers and farmers saw a unique opportunity: the ability to diversify their income by marketing their water rights in a way that hasn’t been available before.
The first year it ran, in 2015, the pilot program saw 15 applications. The second year, there were 32, and by last year, for the 2017 irrigation season, there were 47 applications.
“The third year we were shocked by the number of applicants,” said Garrison.
The numbers showed that with the right incentives, ranchers and farmers were much more receptive to helping cities avert a water crisis than any of the program architects had thought.
For hay and crops, the going rate was around $200 to $250 per acre-foot mostly for split-season irrigation projects — irrigating only at certain times, or stopping altogether on a certain date.
In Colorado, some participants used the program as an opportunity to transition into organic farming, which requires a three-year hiatus from pesticide spraying, while others fallowed certain fields for an entire season.
Near the town of Olathe, between Delta and Montrose, Colo., David Harold farms 700 acres of hay, sweet corn, and other vegetables.
He learned about the pilot program from a farmer-led coalition called No Chico Brush — named after the woody desert plants that covered vast swaths of land in southwestern Colorado before irrigated agriculture arrived in the late 1800s.
The group came together in 2013, a time when farmers in the Lower Gunnison River Basin worried that the ongoing drought might put an end to irrigated agriculture in their region and began researching water efficiency methods for farms.
“I had learned a lot about water rights and I didn’t feel threatened,” Harold said.
For Harold, the program made switching to drip irrigation much easier financially. In the past, he had struggled to improve his irrigation efficiency while growing crops at the same time, but participating in the pilot program provided him with some extra income.
Not everyone shared that perspective, however.
When other farmers learned Harold was signing up, several told him that they thought it was a terrible thing; that it was another form of “buy and dry”; that they would never do it. Others, he said — especially those farmers who were struggling financially — were more receptive.
Harold participated for one year, but with his new irrigation system in place, it did not make economic sense for him to continue participating. Still, he believes the pilot program was a worthwhile experiment in figuring out how to value water.
Water down the river
The program helped water managers figure out something essential as well, says Eklund. In an emergency drought scenario, when the usual conservation methods have been exhausted, when upstream reservoirs have been drained, and water levels in Lake Powell are still falling, what else can they do?
“How much water can we shove down the river in an emergency – how much money do we need to have ready to go?” Eklund said.
But to turn the pilot program into something permanent, Eklund and representatives from the other basin states have some big questions to resolve.
For instance, should farmers be compensated for the historical value of water used on their fields or the full potential usage guaranteed by their water right? What if someone like Harold had decided to plant alfalfa instead of sweet corn, which takes half as much water? How much should that contract be worth?
How can the program scale to include many participants? How can the contracting process for hundreds of irrigators be effectively managed, as it’s resource-intensive if done one-by-one as it was the past three years, when 56 contracts were produced and signed.
Water law, in some states, poses another hurdle. If farmers use less water than their allotment, they could risk losing some of their water rights.
In the future, Garrison hopes to see other states adopt legislation like Colorado has, where enrollment in approved conservation programs mean changes in water use cannot cause a farmer to lose a portion of his water right.
There is also the question of how to ensure the saved water actually, physically, gets to Lake Powell and Lake Mead, as downstream users are free to divert water in the river consistent with their water rights—whether it was destined for Lake Powell under the system conservation pilot program or not.
It’s what Garrison and others call the “shepherding problem.” In other words, how can the water be securely delivered, or shepherded, to Lake Powell without being diverted along the way?
But the hardest question to answer is also the one that proponents are reluctant to even ask: Is it even worth it?
As Gary Wockner, the director of the river conservation group Save the Colorado, pointed out, the same government agencies supporting the pilot program are also supporting new dam and diversion projects in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, that, if completed, would drain a further 250,000 acre-feet from the Colorado River system.
“If the fundamental premise is to stabilize Lake Powell, the last thing you’d want to do is permit new projects to take more water out of the river,” Wockner said. “You could spend millions leasing water from farmers and just barely break even.”
For Eklund, that apparent contradiction is part of a balancing act between the need to avoid future shortages on the Colorado River and protect Upper Basin states’ legal right to develop more water — if it’s available.
This year, heavy snows in the Rocky Mountains helped offset the years of persistent drought throughout the Colorado River Basin, but new research shows that rising temperatures will increase the frequency and severity of future droughts.
Just how much climate change will reduce the Colorado’s flow remains uncertain, but the pilot program at least made one thing clear: Ranchers and farmers are open, despite some negative social pressure, to take good money from metropolitan water providers and in exchange, leave some water in the river.
Last May, Botur left his ranch near Pinedale and traveled to Washington, D.C., along with several other ranchers who had participated in the pilot program, and Toye, from Trout Unlimited, to help secure more federal funding and support for the program’s future.
The trip was a whirlwind, with 12 meetings in two days, including one in Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s office where they were served Utah’s official state snack of Jell-O with marshmallows.
In two years, Botur had gone from skeptic to lobbyist. Faced with looming water shortages, it was better, he believed, to have a voluntary program that rewards people for doing what you want, instead of regulation forcing people to do something they don’t want.
Botur shut his water off even earlier than his contract required and other ranchers he knew did too. Water conservation was one value, but there were other values that the program supported and that Botur believed in — conservation of wildlife habitat, fisheries, and overall watershed health. Not to mention the value in avoiding future conflicts that will likely arise from population and climate conditions.
“It’s more than just money,” he said.
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborated with High Country News on this story. HCN published the story on its website on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017.
Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Marc Miller, Justyn Liff):
The Bureau of Reclamation is initiating negotiations on a proposed repayment contract for the Animas-La Plata Project with the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe for the Tribe’s statutory allocation of project water. The first negotiation meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 13, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. at the Dolores Water Conservancy District office, 60 Cactus Street, Cortez, CO 81321.
The contract to be negotiated will provide for storage and delivery of project water and provisions for payment of operation and maintenance costs of the project.
All negotiations are open to the public as observers, and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the contract during a thirty minute comment period following the negotiation session. The proposed contract and other pertinent documents will be available at the negotiation meeting, or can be obtained on our website at: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/index.html, under Current Focus or by contacting Marc Miller with Reclamation at 185 Suttle Street, Suite 2, Durango, Colorado, 81303, telephone (970) 385-6541 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Colorado Corn (Eric Brown):
Farmers and all others interested are encouraged to submit comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a pair of important issues: The EPA’s proposed 2018 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), and its rescind of the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
Comments on 2018 RVO proposal due Aug. 31
The EPA proposed a 2018 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) for corn-based ethanol at 15.0 billion gallons — matching this year’s level — but proposed to lower the total RVO, including cellulosic and advanced biofuels, below the 2017 volumes.
During the past decade, the RFS has spurred economic growth for farmers and rural America, provided a dependable structure that assists in stabilizing markets, and promoted new technological advancements in the biofuels industry. With the help of the RFS, corn farmers and the ethanol industry have played a significant role in providing cleaner air and promoting energy independence, among other successes.
Learn more about the proposed RVO rule and submit comments here.
Comments on proposal to rescind the 2015 WOTUS rule due Sept. 27
The Trump Administration has proposed to rescind the waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule issued in 2015. With the rescind of the rule, a new rule-making would take place, likely coming in late 2017 or early 2018.
The rule has been a source of friction in recent years. The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had worked on the WOTUS rule in recent years in an attempt to make things clearer for farmers and others regarding responsibilities and permitting under the Clean Water Act. But as details were released, many expressed frustration that it didn’t provide clarity, and was viewed as an expansion of EPA’s jurisdiction.
To learn more and submit comments on the repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule, click here.
From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
A Colorado Springs native, Bostrom was named chief water officer in 2011 after having served as general manager for planning, engineering and resource managment in water services. He also worked in water supply acquisition, water and wastewater infrastructure planning and engineering, and developing regional partnerships. He was instrumental in the development of the Arkansas River Exchange Program, the 1996 Water Resource Plan and the Southern Delivery System permitting process.
Bostrom served as a director on the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, was past president of the Fountain Valley Authority, a director for the Aurora-Colorado Springs Joint Water Authority, and a director for the Homestake Steering Committee. Additionally, he is past president of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company, the Lake Meredith Reservoir Company and the Lake Henry Reservoir Company.
Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
Bureau of Reclamation Acting Commissioner Alan Mikkelsen announced that Reclamation is launching two new basin studies. The Rio Grande Basin Study in New Mexico and Eloy and Maricopa-Stanfield Basin Study in Arizona will help inform water managers within their respective basins.
“Growing imbalances between supply and demand are impacting many basins throughout the West,” Mikkelsen said. “Through collaboration and using the latest science and data we can develop solutions that will help ensure a sustainable water supply.”
The Rio Grande Basin Study in New Mexico is focused on the Middle Rio Grande from the Colorado-New Mexico border to Elephant Butte Reservoir. The basin has been fully allocated since 1907 and future potential conditions in the basin could result in decreased water supply and quality. Reclamation is partnering with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District on this study.
The basin study will enhance existing models and data to evaluate infrastructure and operations. It will also develop strategies to improve water supply reliability and improve stakeholder collaboration and water management in an area of competing needs. Reclamation is providing $498,000 and the non-federal partners are contributing $517,000 for a total study cost of $1.12 million.
The Eloy and Maricopa-Stanfield groundwater basins in Southern Arizona encompass most of the corridor between Phoenix and Tucson. The area receives about 340,000 acre-feet of water annually through the Central Arizona Project, which is used in conjunction with more than 435,000 acre-feet of groundwater for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses. The basins also provide aquifer storage of CAP water to increase regional supply reliability. The groundwater is being overdrafted by about 230,000 acre-feet per year and is causing severe subsidence in the basins, putting critical infrastructure at risk.
The study will help water managers in the basins update existing models, bring together diverse stakeholders and the public, and develop adaptation strategies to better manage groundwater supplies with future uncertainties in Colorado River supplies. Reclamation and the non-federal partners will each contribute $680,000 for a total study cost of $1.36 million.
Reclamation is partnering with the Central Arizona Project, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Pinal County, Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority, Global Water Resources, Arizona Water Company, City of Casa Grande, City of Eloy, Maricopa Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District on this basin study.
The Basin Study Program is part of WaterSMART. 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. To learn more about the Basin Study Program or the projects announced today, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/bsp.
Nine new reservoirs will help Denver Water meet downstream demands while keeping more water in the mountains.
From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):
[Tom] Donnelly and Lew Gaiter met with representatives of Northern Water during their administrative matters meeting Tuesday to consider input previously given to the commissioners from the Larimer County Environmental and Science Advisory Board.
The volunteer citizen members of the committee expressed several concerns with the plan, including the plans for flushing the river, the flow levels and what advisory members considered to be “fuzzy at best” plans for paying for promised mitigations and enhancements.
From Northern Water, general manager Eric Wilkerson and project manager Jerry Gibbens explained to the commissioners Tuesday that those issues had been addressed. They showed figures explaining how the mitigation plan improves the frequency of flushing the river and how it will ensure water in the river through all seasons as opposed to now when there are times that certain sections in Fort Collins are dried up.
“We will deliver day in and day out, every single day of the year, 18 (cubic feet per second) in the winter and 25 cfs in the summer down river,” said Gibbens…
As far as the funding, Northern Water is committing to $53 million in mitigation and improvements. They agreed to pay $13.8 million outright, Gibbens said. While Northern Water will look for partners and other funding sources for the rest ($39.2 million), they will make sure that every aspect of the plan is completed, according to Gibbens…
After hearing from Northern Water, the commissioners decided not to forward any comments to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, which will vote on the plan next week. They said they appreciate the concerns brought forward by their advisory commission and are satisfied that Northern Water has addressed them to the county’s satisfaction.
Commissioner Lew Gaiter said he was pleased that the information presented by both the environmental board and Northern Water served as education for the community…
From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
The Nov. 6 election will be the fourth time voters have been asked to provide longterm funding for stormwater, the other failed attempts coming twice in 2001 and the regional effort in 2014 that went down 47 percent to 53 percent. (Voters in April did allow the city to keep up to $12 million in one-time excess revenue from 2016 and 2017 for stormwater.)
But now, the city faces a lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act filed by the Environmental Protection Agency and state water quality regulators, stemming from the city’s neglect of its stormwater system and waivers the city gave to developers to sidestep building drainage facilities. Suthers says passage of a stormwater fee, which would raise $17 million a year from residents and property owners, would help the city avoid costly fines from the lawsuit, though some city councilors disagree.
Most of the money to be raised by Invest in COS, the “vote yes” committee, will come from business people and construction contractors, says Rachel Beck, government affairs manager with the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC. “They understand the link between reliable infrastructure and their ability to do business and economic health,” she says. The monthly stormwater fee for commercial property owners would be $30 an acre.
Having hired consultant Clear Creek Strategies of Denver, the committee will use mailers, TV and radio, but so far doesn’t have a slogan for the measure, dubbed 2A on the ballot, Beck says.
Suthers interprets a pre-campaign poll that showed the issue passing comfortably as the community seeing stormwater as a priority, he says. “It also indicates the public has confidence in the city’s leadership and hopefully that will result in greater support.”
Laura Carno, a conservative political operative who lives in Monument and opposed the city’s 2C roads tax measure in 2015, might sit this one out, she says, adding she knows of no organized effort to defeat the fee.
[Douglas Bruce], though, is putting together a “true grassroots organization,” though he himself cannot vote, because he remains on probation for a felony tax-evasion conviction that is under appeal.
Bruce also plans to write a statement against the measure, though the city is not required to mail Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights notices to voters, since those are required only for tax hikes, not fee questions.
Bruce says he’ll target the flat rate in his campaign, noting, “The idea that Suthers’s campaign donors who live in mansions in the Broadmoor [area] don’t have to pay any more than grandma in her trailer, that’s an abomination.”
Notably, the city’s now-defunct stormwater fee charged fees based on impervious surface, meaning those that contributed most to the runoff problem, such as owners of large homes and businesses and parking lots, paid more. The city’s Stormwater Enterprise was shut down in 2011, after fees were suspended in late 2009 as a result of a ballot measure Bruce wrote that called for ending “the rain tax.”
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Lauren Truitt):
Monitoring finds Evidence of Quagga Mussel Larvae in Green Mountain Reservoir
State and federal officials have confirmed the presence of invasive quagga mussel larvae, known as veligers, in Green Mountain Reservoir located in Summit County along Hwy 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling.
On Aug. 18, as part of a state and federal initiative to monitor aquatic nuisance species in the state, specialists with the Bureau of Reclamation first confirmed the presence of the veligers, initially through microscopic analysis followed by DNA testing. An independent laboratory contracted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed Reclamation’s findings. It is unknown if the veligers were dead or alive at the time of detection.
CPW immediately increased monitoring of the reservoir for all life stages of quagga mussels. Through a partnership with the Denver Aquarium, CPW’s volunteer ANS scientific scuba dive team surveyed the reservoir last Friday and did not find any evidence of invasive mussels. No adult zebra or quagga mussels have ever been found in Green Mountain Reservoir or anywhere in the state of Colorado, although eight different reservoirs in Colorado have been temporarily suspect or positive for mussel veligers since 2008.
“Although this is very troubling, it’s important to keep in mind that the reservoir is not considered infested, a designation given only to bodies of water that have extensive and reproducing adult populations,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for CPW. “At this point, Green Mountain Reservoir is only considered ‘suspect,’ not positive. A body of water can be considered ‘positive’ only after a second independent specimen collection is obtained and the genetics confirmed by two independent laboratories, which has not yet occurred.”
Officials are most concerned about the possibility that the presence of veligers could eventually lead to a major infestation. This would put the reservoir’s hydroelectric power generation, water quality, drinking water delivery and recreation at risk.
“This is an unfortunate discovery, and something we have been working very hard to prevent,” said CPW Director Bob Broscheid. “It shows why we need a robust inspection program. As more and more people move to or visit Colorado and use our water resources for boating, we must continue to work hard to prevent the spread of these harmful invasive species. We cannot overstate how serious this is.”
All ballast boats, inboard and inboard/outboard engines must have a green seal in between launches or decontamination may take place prior to launching. Boaters are encouraged to inspect their own boat between every use and make sure it is clean, drained, and dry.
The State of Colorado requires boats to be professionally inspected if:
a boat has been in any body of water that is positive, or suspect for ANS a boat has been in any body of water outside of Colorado a boat will be entering any water body where inspections are required
Officials are unsure how the veligers entered the water but suspect a boat that visited an infested body of water in another state may have become contaminated, then launching illegally into Green Mountain Reservoir.
“This situation demonstrates the importance of following the law and going through the required inspection and decontamination process upon entering and exiting bodies of water,” said Reid DeWalt, Assistant Director Wildlife and Natural Resources with CPW. “We could face the possibility of a very harmful infestation that could cause severe damage to the reservoir and its infrastructure.”
The watercraft inspection and decontamination station at Green Mountain Reservoir is operated by the Heeney Marina and funded by a partnership between CPW and the U.S.Forest Service. The station has now begun implementing containment protocols which means that every boat has to be inspected when exiting the reservoir and will be issued a seal and blue receipt. If a boater leaving Green Mountain Reservoir intends to launch in a different water body, their boat must be decontaminated before launching by a certified professional.
Cooperation with Colorado’s mandatory inspection and decontamination program has proven successful to stop the movement of harmful invasive species, such as quagga mussels, into new waters. Public awareness and participation is the best weapon in the prevention of invasive species. Invasive mussels severely endanger our water supply for drinking water, hydropower, agriculture, recreation and natural resources.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of our natural resources,” said Karn Stiegelmeier, Summit County Commissioner. “This news is certainly difficult to hear with the amount of effort and diligence we have put into the ANS program on the reservoir. We will continue working alongside our partners to make sure we educate residents and visitors of the importance of decontamination of boats before and after they are on a body of water. This can be prevented, but we need everyone’s participation.”
Boaters are reminded to take the simple precaution of making sure that they clean, drain, and dry their boat every time they go boating. Due to financial constraints the state does not have additional inspectors that can be sent to assist with boat inspections at Green Mountain. Going into a holiday weekend state and federal officials are asking for the public’s help to prevent invasive species.
“We know this is an extra step for those who have come out to enjoy recreating on the lake, but staying vigilant has proven to be effective throughout Colorado,” said JT Romatzke, NW Region Manager with CPW. “We need to make sure we are balancing our recreation with the integrity of our water resources.”
For more information about zebra and quagga mussels, please visit: http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/ISP-ANS.aspx.
Click here for the inside skinny and to register.
Denver-area teachers get a first-hand look at the ins and outs of their water system, with a little help from Ben Franklin.
Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:
It’s with great pleasure that I share with you the Western Governors’ Association Annual Report. I’m pleased with the many accomplishments we’ve shared together and am especially gratified by the steadfast commitment of my colleagues and our many partners to relentlessly pursue pragmatic and bipartisan policy through our work together. Although we approach our challenges from various locations on the political spectrum, as citizens of the West, we continue to find that we are more closely tied by our similarities than our differences.
While there are, no doubt, many shared experiences and perspectives that allow us to communicate and to compromise across our divides, it is often our landscapes and our western work ethic that together serve as our foundation for tackling some of our region’s and our nation’s most pressing challenges. When I assumed the chair of WGA, I launched the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative to put to work some of our shared strengths in service of our western landscapes and their dire need for restoration. Today our wild re seasons are longer, more expensive, and present increasing risks to the public and fire ghters. Our forests and rangelands face unprecedented threats from insects, disease and invasive species. At risk is our quality of life, our clean air and water, and the fabric of many of our local western economies.
Through the initiative, we’ve convened hundreds of partners through four Western Governor-led workshops, webinars, and other outreach to identify innovative best practices and highlight solutions. Across the West the message we heard was clear: we are making progress and bucking the trends by dedicating ourselves to collaboration and partnership. (Learn more about the Initiative in this Annual Report.)
Western Governors’ bipartisan policy efforts in the past year also included:
• Cross-cutting policy reform efforts aimed at strengthening the state and federal relationship, garnering the support for shared principles for state engagement in federal policy development with associations such as the Conference of Western Attorneys General, Council of State Governments West, Western Interstate Region of the National Association of Counties, and the Paci c NorthWest Economic Region.
• Direct outreach to engage the new administration on emerging priorities through our annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Joining me were Governors Kate Brown, Doug Burgum, Dennis Daugaard, Mary Fallin, Gary Herbert, John Hickenlooper, David Ige, Matt Mead, Butch Otter, Brian Sandoval and Bill Walker.
• Significant stakeholder engagement to identify and re ne a series of policy proposals to adopt best practices in species management and improve the ef ciency of the Endangered Species Act through year two of the Western Governors’ Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, launched in 2015 by then WGA Chairman, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
And those are just a few of the many accomplishments championed by Western Governors over the past year. It’s been an honor to support our efforts, and I thank my fellow Western Governors and the WGA staff for their support.
Steve Bullock, Montana Governor
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jason Kosovski):
The College of Agricultural Sciences will host a summit at Colorado State University to discuss how innovation in the industry can lead to a global impact in the way that populations farm, feed, eat and grow crops.
Local industry leaders will be present at the event to spark the conversation surrounding best practices and future goals for how agriculture can continue to support the growing population, while best utilizing resources. AgInnovation Summit 2.0: Innovate Locally. Impact Globally. is a two-day conference being held Sept. 6-7 and is the second summit of its kind hosted by the college.
Vilsack to deliver keynote
Tom Vilsack, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will deliver the opening keynote of the event. Vilsack now serves as CEO and president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and as part of the CSU System as strategic adviser of Food and Water Initiatives at the National Western Center. The summit will feature other industry and university leaders, including Archer Daniels Midland President and CEO Juan Luciano, Mars Inc. Chief Agriculture Officer Howard-Yana Shapiro, and Kroger Co. Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer Chris Hjelm.
Thought leaders and innovators
“This year’s summit will convene thought leaders and innovators in the agricultural industry, government and higher education,” said Ajay Menon, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Without question, agricultural technology and business models are poised to enhance food systems; ensure that food is safe, secure, and available; and improve resource stewardship through new, sustainable practices. Gathering this group together cultivates the significant opportunity to grow the innovation ecosystem in Colorado and make this state a global leader at the intersection of business entrepreneurship and agricultural invention.”
Menon will join the conversation to discuss how Colorado State is encouraging the process of agriculture through education, awareness and action within the university. Topics to be discussed at panels and roundtables include: What’s Next in the Agriculture Supply Chain; Human Capital – Crossing the Generational Divide; and Financing the Future of Ag Innovation in Colorado.
Vilsack’s keynote address, titled “The Pillars of Food Policy,” aims to inspire a student-led movement in food and agriculture. Luciano’s address will detail his company’s evolution into one of the world’s largest food ingredient providers. Hjelm will discuss how information is transforming the retail landscape and consumer experience. CSU President Tony Frank will share his vision for the National Western Center as a both a global destination for agricultural heritage and innovation and a catalyst for statewide prosperity.
Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown
The first day of the conference will conclude with a roundtable dinner event, with an introduction by Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown, where all guests will engage in response to the challenge of making Colorado a global nexus of agricultural innovation.
Sponsors for this year’s summit include CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the CSU Vice President for Research, Colorado Livestock Association and CH2M. The 2015 summit featured Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, former U.S. Secretary of Energy and former Denver Mayor Federico Peña.
Register to attend
For more information on the summit or to register to attend, visit the Summit website.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Debbie Kelley):
Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy in Colorado Springs School District 11 is one of five middle schools in Colorado selected to participate in a new environmental education program focused on the importance of water.
The program is being funded by a $132,400 grant the National Space Science & Technology Institute received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Participating schools have high percentages of students in demographics under-represented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) higher education programs and career fields.
Other schools involved include Cortez Middle School in Cortez, Lake County Middle School in Leadville, Lamar Middle School in Lamar and Ortega Middle School in Alamosa.
The project will feature hands-on research on community concerns, with educational material selected in collaboration with science teachers.
To support the project, NSSTI will deploy its mobile STEM laboratory, the Mobile Earth & Space Observatory, to each school for Water Week, to expose students to scientific investigation associated with water concerns.
From The Westminster Window (Scott Taylor):
Westminster City Councilors voted 7-0 to approve a replacement project for the two water tanks atop Gregory Hill at their Aug. 14 meeting, criticizing city officials for not notifying neighbors of the work sooner.
Westminster Utilities Engineering Manager Stephen Grooters said he expected the city would issue a notice allowing the work to proceed in early September, with construction beginning mid-month. He expects the project will be entirely finished by April 2019.
The two existing tanks, each holding about two million gallons of water, are due to be replaced. The easternmost tank, at about 82nd and Osceola Street, came online in 1954; its neighbor to the west in 1960. The entire complex would move about 200 feet to the northeast, effectively moving from the dead-end at Osceola Street to the dead-end at Newton Street.
The new tanks would be larger — each would hold about one million gallons of water more and would be nearly twice as tall as the existing tanks. In addition, the city is building a small pumping station to the east to help fill the tanks.
The tanks are key to city efforts to improve or maintain water pressure in zone three, Grooters said. That’s the area roughly between 80th and 104th and Federal Boulevard east to U.S. 36 and Grooters told councilors the tanks connect that area with the Semper Water Treatment facility.
“What we are trying to say here is that water flows downhill so when we put the tanks at the right elevation, the water can freely go where it needs to go to serve our customers,” Grooters said.
The zone three project is budgeted for about $40 million overall, he said. The Gregory Hill portion accounts for about $15 million of that. PCL Construction of Denver was the winning bidder on the work, coming in at $14.5 million — $12.5 million for the work plus a $2 million contingency.
Councilors said the project was important, even necessary but said neighbors should have been notified sooner. Neighbors of the proposed work were notified about the project at a June 21 meeting.
From VoiceOfSanDiego.com (Ry Rivard):
The San Diego County Water Authority, tired of paying a middle man to deliver water from hundreds of miles away, is starting to cast out for ideas once written off as laughable.
One board member has even suggested San Diego may consider building a pipeline of its own to the Colorado River.
The pipeline would give the Water Authority a chance to accomplish a long-held goal: breaking a monopoly held by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s largest water supplier and the owner of the only physical connection San Diego has to the Colorado River.
But it would be among the most expensive, disruptive and ambitious projects ever built in the region. That it would even be discussed reveals how intense the rivalry between the Water Authority and Metropolitan has become.
For years, Water Authority leaders have argued Metropolitan charges too much to deliver Colorado River water to San Diego. If the Water Authority had its own pipeline, it wouldn’t have to pay Metropolitan’s delivery fees, which may amount to $6 billion in coming decades.
That and other disputes with Metropolitan have driven an increasingly wide range of discussions at the Water Authority about what it can do to become “water independent.” In the latest sign of how far officials might go, Water Authority board leaders are asking the agency to consider “any and all options” to increase water reliability and hold down costs.
From The Aspen Daily News (Madeleine Osberger):
Construction on the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District’s new $24 million wastewater treatment building begins today, after a re-bid brought the project cost more in line with what voters approved in May 2016 to spend, according to district manager Kit Hamby.
The district signed a contract Aug. 1 with RN Civil Construction of Centennial for a new 44,000-square-foot plant that can meet heightened state requirements for removal of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia from local streams and rivers. All 44 water treatment districts in Colorado must comply with the new regulations, although Snowmass happened to fall within the first round with a 2020 deadline…
The majority of the cost — now budgeted at roughly $24 million — will be covered by the bond sales, which brought in $23.3 million. The remainder could be taken from a $7 million to $7.5 million capital project reserve fund earned in part from Base Village tap fees.
From The Columbine Courier:
In a special board meeting Aug. 2, the board of directors elected officers and fired Tom Young as the district’s legal counsel.
The meeting initially was called to discuss the firing of Carl Frank, the district’s part-time superintendent. Frank was fired on July 20 after board members weren’t pleased with his performance and worried about a lack of response to employee concerns.
Despite the meeting’s purpose, it quickly grew contentious and strayed from the agenda.
Nelson Goodreau, the board president at the time, grew frustrated, adjourned the meeting and left early. Young and Frank were in attendance but also left when Goodreau adjourned the meeting.
The board’s remaining members — Steve Hosie, Jay Rosenfield, Jon Brady and Angie Oliver-Reed — maintained the meeting really hadn’t adjourned and continued with the meeting.
Since the special meeting
Since the meeting, Oliver-Reed resigned from her position, leaving a vacancy. Several community members are interested, and a decision will likely be made at the board’s September meeting. The person selected would be on the board until May 2018, when all positions are up for election.
Some board members argue that the decisions made at the special meeting are valid. Goodreau, however, said his adjournment was legitimate since the board doesn’t operate under bylaws. He also said the items discussed after his departure weren’t on the agenda. Sean Paris, the district’s temporary legal counsel, agrees with Goodreau.
“For a special meeting, I do believe that only those items that were noticed should be addressed,” he said.
Paris later added: “Therefore if at a special meeting a new issue comes up, I would suggest that the proper way of going about that is to either schedule a new meeting or reserve that issue for the next regular meeting.”
Because of this, the board decided to hold another officer election vote at last week’s meeting. Jon Brady was named president; Hosie was elected treasurer; and Jay Rosenfield is now secretary.
The board also chose to keep Paris on as temporary legal counsel. A team of community members, including Kevin Rees, Cheryl Touryan and Marc Rosenberg, will research potential lawyers — Paris included — and bring several choices before the board for consideration.
Rosenfield, Rosenberg and Randy Evans, the district’s longtime operator, will search for a new operator so Evans can begin the retirement process.
To help avoid some of the past controversy, the Indian Hills Water District is looking to fashion bylaws.
A committee made of several board members and community members was formed to discuss the bylaws. Paris said he could provide a bylaws template and offered guidance based on the needs of the district.
He also advised caution.
“It’s very easy to get too creative writing bylaws,” he said. “It’s fun to have power when you have power. But it’s not fun to be the subject of onerous rules when you’re not (in power). You can’t give too much power to any one person,” Paris said. “The district’s work is done by the board as a whole.”
From The Broomfield Enterprise (Jennifer Rios):
The final nod was received by Northern Water last week, following earlier approvals by Broomfield and Larimer counties.
The agreement includes Broomfield buying 115 Colorado-Big Thompson water units for $25,550 each from Larimer, which would save Broomfield $109,250 if bought at open-market value.
It also includes an “Alternate Transfer Mechanism,” or ATM, that would give Broomfield the right to use 80 C-BT units a minimum of three out of 10 years, while paying an additional fee to use the water in those years to add to the farm’s viability.
The effort is a drought-protection effort that could be increased to five out of 10 years in extreme drought years. That period would be a rolling 10 years, meaning once Broomfield pulls water, the clock starts…
The ATM is the first of its kind in Colorado where water is shared from agricultural to municipal use in perpetuity.
“By piloting this agreement, we’ve demonstrated that, by working together and sharing valuable resources, it’s possible to conserve fast-disappearing farmland at a reduced cost while securing a source of water for Colorado’s growing cities,” Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager for Larimer County, said in a Larimer Department of Natural Resources news release this week. “Hopefully, this creates a model for farmers and municipalities to work together and avoid simple ‘buy and dry’ of farmland.”
Through the agreement, Larimer County was able to conserve 211 acres of productive farmland, along with the farm’s agricultural, historic, scenic, community buffer and educational values, the release states, while reducing the cost of buying the farm and its water by 46 percent.
“Broomfield values a partnership approach to both water conservation and securing future water resources,” David Allen, director of Public Works for Broomfield, said. “We were pleased to work with Larimer County to bring this innovative Alternative Transfer Method to both of our communities.”
Larimer County retained 45 units of C-BT water unencumbered, along with native Handy Ditch water.
According to studies funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program, the water that will remain on the farm will be enough to keep it profitable and productive, according to the release. It will grow corn or sugar beets in wet years and water-efficient crops in dry years. In very dry years, when the farm might normally struggle to grow a profitable crop, the farm may now be better off financially with the ATM in place because it will bring in revenue from the ATM payment associated with the sharing of the water, the release states.
Last Thursday I was talking with Nolan Doesken in the hallway at the Steamboat Grand during the Colorado Water Congress’ Summer Conference and Membership Meeting.
A mutual acquaintance of ours walked up and said to Nolan, “Am I wrong, it just doesn’t seem like we’re having as many 100 degree days as we used to?”
Nolan’s answer, “We haven’t seen many 100 degrees days this summer.”
He went on to relate that, “In Fort Collins we’ve only had one day over 100. In the Greeley area you’ve seen more, but no long streaks of 100s strung together, as we had in 2012.”
Nolan didn’t ask why our friend was asking the question. He didn’t hit him with a barrage of statistics. Nolan just delivered an observation for this season and emphasized the variability of climate.
I’ve known Nolan for a few years now, primarily through our participation in the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Availability Task Force. The State Climatologist’s office always gives the task force a briefing letting us know where we are currently against the historical climate record. Precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, and evaporative demand are all discussed and put into historical perspective, both short-term and long-term. I know that the water providers in the room pay close attention. We’re looking for clues for projecting our water supply in future months. Are we heading into or are we in in a drought? A shortage of supply is a primary focus and a primary focus for Nolan and his staff.
On Thursday Nolan took a similar approach during his last presentation as the State Climatologist (He retired at the end of last week). The title “2017 Water Year” does not come close to conveying the enthusiasm he exhibits during presentations. His historical memory is amazing. He often highlights a data point on a chart and asks those in the room to search their climate memories for events. It’s a great technique for engaging his audience and is much more effective than a death march through a slide show of charts and graphs.
“The drought in 2002 started in 2000 with some dryness, 2001 was near average, then the bottom dropped out in February of 2002, then one storm in March 2013 pulled the Front Range out of drought,” is a statement typical of his style. He relates the numbers to our experiences and that helps climate science come alive.
Nolan assured attendees he was leaving the State Climatologist’s office in good shape with the staff that he had trained. One of his employees told me at Nolan’s retirement celebration that Nolan had taken a back seat to the active research at the office so that those charged with carrying on the mission would have the experience necessary for a smooth transition. What was unstated was that Nolan had imbued a sense of confidence in his staff and also a sense of responsibility to keep a high level of competence and professionalism.
Nolan ended his presentation with the a question, “If you aren’t a member of CoCoRaHS, why the heck not?”
He told me recently that he plans to continue his efforts with CoCoRaHS. The organization, Nolan’s response to the Spring Creek Flood in Fort Collins July 28, 1997, is a highly successful citizen science project that started in Colorado but now has spread across the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas.
As he left the stage on Thursday the crowd rose and gave him a heartfelt standing ovation.
In his typical humble fashion he said, “That doesn’t happen very often in the world of climatology.”
Handing off operations and the setting of priorities was a common theme at the conference.
I was talking to Doug Kemper on Wednesday afternoon after the meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee. He remarked that many of the younger folks at the conference would not have the opportunity to work on the same type of big projects that he did early in his career. Indeed, purchases of ditch systems, the drying up of acres of agricultural land and the associated change cases are probably not in their future, nor are big mainstream reservoirs and dams. The days of the “Water Buffalo” tromping across the landscape without regard to the environment are most likely over.
Those in leadership roles must learn to collaborate and be inclusive. That was the lesson learned from the the Basin Roundtables, IBCC, and the development of the Colorado Water Plan. The plan and the process that led to its publication was a frequent topic of conversation and several presenters mentioned it during their talks.
Those who will be responsible for implementation value collaboration over conflict and conversation over litigation.
An example of this attitude was on exhibit just prior to the conference when an article about the estimated cost of the plan inferred that the original estimate of $20 billion was only half of what would be necessary.
Becky Mitchell, the new Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told the Colorado Independent:
“It’s not productive to get hung up on the cost. That’s divisive…What’s more productive is framing this around how much progress we’ve made coming together around this plan. We have to look at the whole picture right now. We just have to.”
Most know that power politics, eminent domain, and the wealthy outspending the less well-heeled in water court and elsewhere won’t solve the problems associated with Colorado’s growth and the challenges ahead with Global Warming.
“We’re more connected that we like to admit,” says Travis Smith.
I mentioned to Doug that the next generation of leaders have a much bigger challenge than he did. He could count on stationarity in climate and therefore in the Water Cycle, they can’t. Permitting projects now requires an understanding of disparate points of view and the ability align varied interests. Coloradans will not accept environmental degradation in exchange for supply delivery. Balance is the key. Going forward Coloradans have to learn to listen to each other and create an inclusive framework for that conversation.
These issues and understandings were present throughout the conference.
The day before the conference begins is filled with concurrent workshops where members share their ideas and experiences about topical issues and challenges.
Sharing Critical Water Infrastructure Information Ethical Responsibilities
This workshop was designed to get us thinking about critical infrastructure information. Some information has to be kept close to the vest by the owners of facilities. For example, we know that terrorists have hopes to target water treatment plants. Information about the design and construction of those plants could aid those that seek to exploit their vulnerabilities so there needs to be a balance between the public’s right to know and security.
Bill McCormick made the point that Colorado’s dam safety program is really a risk management approach to information sharing.
Doug Kemper said that infrastructure owners need to ask the question, “Who else has a copy of your records?” Think about consultants, regulators, etc.
Dan Hodges added, “We don’t want to fool ourselves that we have this perfect system — there are many vectors to information.”
Another workshop focussed on watershed health and plans. The Colorado Water Plan calls for watershed plans for 80% of Colorado streams.
Heather Dutton said that the Rio Grande Basin is just getting started with a watershed plan. She is very excited about the cooperation and collaboration around the river and the efforts to time reservoir releases to benefit fish and riparian habitat. They have been working with the Division Engineer to administer the releases.
According to Angie Fowler Grand County is working on a integrated management plan to make sure that agriculture, recreation, and in industry are all represented. The Middle Colorado Watershed Council is also moving ahead with an integrated management plan.
Frank Kugel told the workshop that the Gunnison Basin hopes to be a leader in the effort to craft watershed plans. He cautioned that agriculture needs to be involved from the start of the process. Their plan is incorporating the preserving of agriculture, doing more with less, and the development of relationships to determine non-consumptive uses.
Kelly Romero-Heaney gave a report about efforts in the Yampa River valley. The approach here is to start with the smaller watersheds and to address the unfavorable 303d listing due to temperature in the Yampa River. She said that it takes time to find stakeholders and get funding. There is a limit to local capacity but local input is essential. Also, these watershed efforts are expensive, start early on with your fundraising.
Nicole Seltzer reported that there is still a need for education around the hows and the whys of stream management plans. Some communities are taking a wait and see approach. There is a need for storytelling about how the plans can be beneficial to water users and why there is a need for the plans. Her approach is to bring the technical community together to learn what they need from stakeholders, fill the need for coaching, public affairs. and legal assistance. The plans should accomplish a statewide goal. For example, they could roll-up into a non-consumptive needs assessment. Public affairs knowledge and awareness is needed because sometimes politics gets in the way. An overall goal of sustainability and approach to build understanding with the community should also be part of the effort.
On a side note. I was speaking with Nicole later on about how the Colorado Water Congress could engage more environmentalists in the organization. She mentioned that involvement is very expensive and the non-profits, in many cases, cannot afford memberships and travel for the conferences.
Secrets of Water Planning and Policy, Unravelling the Mysteries
On Wednesday there was a panel discussion with Eric Kuhn and Mark Waage that was moderated by John McClow.
Eric Kuhn told the East Slope and West Slope story, 34 years ago and today:
Kuhn said, “34 years later there is not even ‘One Fork'”:
Mark Waage’s presentation was about water planning in 2017.
One huge driver was the 2002 drought when Denver Water’s storage dropped more than 50% in one year, “Something we never thought possible,” he said.
That was when the utility started looking at Climate Change and they realized that they could not have rigid plans. He said that Denver Water’s motto is now, “Keep it simple and practical,” by doing simple vulnerability assessments.
Waage told planners in the audience to plan for multiple futures — Denver Water has embraced ‘Scenario Planning’ because no one controls the future. “Embrace uncertainty,” he said.
Also, “Develop a robust strategy,” ask, “What can you do now that is beneficial in the future?”
“Invest in research and innovation,” he said, “They are pretty cheap, actually.”
Waage stressed the effectiveness of regional cooperation: The approach set up the South Platte Basin pretty well for the Colorado Water Plan and helped bring folks together; The basin can better at conservation; SP players can share resources across the region and build projects incrementally; Don’t export SP problems to other parts of the state; Work with the West Slope in case there is a need for a Compact call insurance policy (Denver Water took the lead in a Upper Colorado River Basin wide demand management program); Continue to pressure the Lower Basin to get them within their Compact allocation. These efforts will go a long way in mitigating Climate Change.
The Significance of Conservation
This session was a panel discussion about conservation, moderated by State Rep. Jeni Arndt.
Kevin Reidy told us that, “You can get some demand reduction from efficiency.” He said that the question is how will it be used, are you storing it for the future or are you leaving it in the river?
Everyone is going to have to conserve and reduce demand over time since we’re going to have 5 million more people in Colorado, he said. Conservation does not have to fuel growth but it can help. Muni and ag perspectives are different, and both action and inaction have consequences.
Frank Alfone from Mt. Werner Water and Sanitation said that they view their conservation efforts in light of delaying capital investments. He added that it is important as a supplier to have a common message.
Jim Yahn told the audience that the South Platte Basin is pretty efficient, using water 7 times before it reaches the state line. He is talking about the the phenomena of farm and municipal return flows. He said he, “Flushes a lot when I go to Denver.”
Western Water Stories with Chris Woodka — Oroville Dam
A big treat for me was Chris Woodka’s presentation about journalism, story telling, and the Oroville Dam near disaster this spring out in California. Chris is a friend and the former water reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain.
Chris is always ready to teach. He told us that much of the material in the Oroville Dam was taken from mining waste left over from the 19th century. The crisis was due to the failure of the main spillway at a time when runoff was exceeding the facility’s ability to be drawn down (huge snowpack and then rain to melt it). The emergency spillway had never been used and once water started flowing severe erosion occurred that could have caused a catastrophic failure.
He laid out the timeline for the events:
He also laid out his approach to telling water stories within the context of the Oroville near disaster:
There was much more to see and hear at the conference. What a great learning experience and chance to network. I have just mentioned a few sessions that were important to me. There is much more in the Twitter feeds from the social media wonks in attendance. Hashtags in use were: #CWCSC17 and #CWCSC2017. To view the Tweets: Click on one of the links above, click the “Latest” tab and scroll to the bottom. You read Twitter feeds from bottom (oldest) to top (newest).
For Twitter coverage of the event check out these folks:
@COWaterCongress; @rscene92; @RBfree850; @Action22SC; @jessicanoelke; @realWaterplease; @CWCB_BenWade; @DenverWater; @PamMas (the new Engagement Champion!); @KerryDonovanSD5; @BagalueSunab; @KKellyClose; @COWaterPlan; @MGoodland; @H2Omg; @EklundCO; @_Water_Sage; @northern_water; @WaterCenterCMU; @AaronCitron; @CWCB_DNR; @H20FoSho; and, @CoyoteGulch.
Take the time to check out Pam Massaro’s (@PamMas) Twitter feed. She knocked it out of the park and in the process dethroned yours truly from my usual position at the top of the engagement heap.
Many thanks to Doug and his staff. I hope to see everyone again next January in Denver.
Click here to go to the World Water Week website.
Click here to go to the Colorado Health Institute website to read their report:
Studies show that climate change and health are linked. Rising temperatures, polluted air and extreme weather, among the most impactful results of climate change, threaten both physical and psychological well-being.10 Children, seniors and people with lung or heart disease are especially at risk.
Coloradans are witnessing climate changes in various forms.
Snowpack is melting sooner and more quickly.11 Erratic weather — snow one day, spring conditions the next — is becoming more common. Wildfires are burning more acreage and igniting with greater frequency. The state’s average temperature has risen by two degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years,12 an increase that ranks Colorado as the 20th fastest-warming state since 1970.13
Two degrees may seem like a small increase but this temperature change has happened unusually fast. Historically, such temperature changes took place over thousands of years.14
A great deal of work is being done at the intersection of climate change and health. The American Public Health Association has designated 2017 the year of climate change and health, calling climate change the nation’s greatest public health challenge.15 The United Nations Environment Program says that climate change is one of the biggest threats to worldwide environmental and human health.16
At the state level, Colorado’s voters passed a law in 2004 creating first-in-the-nation renewable energy standards for electricity producers, which has placed Colorado among the leaders in renewable energy.
The state’s 2007 Climate Plan, created by former Gov. Bill Ritter and updated in 2015 by Gov. John Hickenlooper, calls for regulating greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), conserving water and encouraging community-level action. Colorado is one of 33 states and the District of Columbia with a climate change plan.
Four Colorado cities — Aspen, Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins — have adopted local climate action plans.
This brief delves into the health impacts of three climate-change factors relevant to Colorado: rising temperatures, worsening air quality and extreme weather. It identifies Coloradans who will be most impacted by climate change and looks at the policy actions underway and the policy questions on the horizon.
Making the Connection: Climate Change and Health in Colorado
Colorado, as a landlocked state with complex landscapes ranging from mountains to plains, experiences climate-related events differently than other states. Extreme weather events such as blizzards and droughts are more common in Colorado, while hurricanes and flooding impact coastal states such Louisiana and Florida.
The consequences of climate change tend to be interconnected. Rising temperatures are likely to impact Colorado’s most valuable natural resource — water. Snow accounts for 70 percent of the state’s surface water supply.17, 18 As snow melt drains from the mountains earlier in the spring due to higher temperatures, less water is available later in the year to feed forests and meet agricultural and human needs.
Meanwhile, as Colorado’s climate warms, forests dry out. Thirsty forests, in turn, are ripe for wildfires.
Smoke and dust from fires pollute the air. And dirty air is a health hazard, particularly for people with breathing difficulties.
The following sections delve into the three climate change results that are expected to most affect the health of Coloradans, according to a synthesis of the research.
Heat is one of the biggest climate-related public health threats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).19
Colorado’s average temperature has varied over the past century. Scientists have established a baseline temperature based on a 30-year average. (See Figure 1.) They plotted the annual average temperature relative to that average from 1900 to 2012. The blue bars represent years when the average temperature was below the 30-year baseline. Red bars mark years when the average temperature rose above the baseline.
Colorado’s temperature spiked during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and again in the 1950s. Temperatures began to be consistently higher than the average beginning in the mid-1990s.
Colorado’s average temperature has increased by two degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years. Looking ahead, climate models indicate a warmer future for Colorado. Projections say the state’s average temperature could be five degrees higher by 2050.20, 21 Such increases significantly outpace historical trends.
Currently, average summer temperatures in the Denver metro area are in the low- to mid-80s, but Denver has recorded several summers with 12 or more consecutive days above 90 degrees since 2008.22 Unusually hot temperatures — days above 90 degrees — can potentially harm health.23
It’s possible that 90-plus degrees could become Colorado’s average summer temperature by mid-century, according to the Western Water Assessment Team at CU-Boulder.24
To put that in perspective, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a scientific agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that studies climate, says that as time goes on Denver will begin to feel more like Pueblo in the summer, where average highs are in the low 90s.25, 26
- Extreme heat affects cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems. (See Figure 2.)
Warmer temperatures also can cause heat stroke and dehydration.
- Almost six percent of Colorado’s adults have cardiovascular disease, putting them at an increased risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. A weakened heart has a harder time pumping blood throughout the body to normalize temperatures.
- The seven percent of Colorado’s adults with diabetes can have trouble cooling their bodies on hot days, a result of damage to blood vessels and nerves that impact sweat glands. Higher temperatures can also change how a person with diabetes uses insulin, requiring more frequent blood sugar tests and careful dietary choices.
- The state’s 1.2 million children are especially vulnerable. Children absorb more heat than adults because they have a greater ratio of skin surface to weight.
- The 711,000 seniors over age 65 are at increased risk because chronic illness and age can hinder the ability to regulate body temperature.
From the Associated Press via The Los Angeles times:
Former Interior Secretary Cecil V. Andrus, who engineered the conservation of millions of acres of Alaska land during the Carter administration, has died. He was 85. Andrus died late Wednesday of complications from lung cancer, daughter Tracy Andrus said.
A onetime lumberjack, Andrus resigned midway through his second term as Idaho governor in 1977 to become President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of the Interior, serving until Carter’s term ended in 1981. He then was elected governor two more times, becoming the first four-term governor in Idaho history. He was also the last Democrat to hold the office in red-state Idaho.
Carter declared permanent national monuments on 56 million acres in Alaska in 1978. Despite criticism from many Alaskans, Andrus ordered protection of an additional 52 million acres of public lands in the state the same year.
The threat of additional federal protections by executive fiat forced Alaskan lawmakers to compromise on the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, signed by Carter just a month before he left office. The law set aside an area the size of California as national parks, national forests and refuge areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“In the Lower 48, we have to fight to save some single remnant of an area that’s already been ruined,” Andrus later said. “In Alaska, we have a chance to do it right the first time.”
Andrus’ conservation efforts earned him the praise of environmental groups but the rancor of many Alaskans who depended on resources extracted from public lands for their livelihoods. A popular bumper sticker on Alaskan pickup trucks proclaimed, “Lock up Andrus, not Alaska.”
In a 2003 speech, Andrus criticized the much-debated proposal to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “It is a place that is so fragile it takes 100 square miles for a grizzly bear to forage,” he said. “It takes 50 years for a tree to grow.”
Historian T.H. Watkins once wrote that only three Interior secretaries — Harold Ickes, Andrus and Stuart Udall — understood the importance of wilderness preservation “to the spiritual and ecological well-being of the nation.”
From USDA’s Amber Waves (Glenn Schaible):
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, irrigated farms represented just 14 percent of U.S. farms, but contributed about 39 percent of the country’s farm sales—over $152 billion. The 17 Western States (including Nebraska, California, and Texas) together accounted for nearly three-quarters of all irrigated farms that year. Farm sales for Western irrigated farms averaged $513,272 per farm, over four times the average for Western dryland farms.
To better understand irrigation characteristics, such as acreage and water use, USDA conducts the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) every 5 years. The 2013 FRIS, the most recent survey available, reports data for both irrigation on acres in the open (AIO) as well as horticulture under protection (HUP). Crops irrigated on AIO include corn, wheat, and soybeans as well as vegetables, berries, and nut trees. By comparison, crops irrigated on HUP (such as greenhouses) include floriculture crops, nursery crops, and mushrooms.
In 2013, U.S. farms irrigated about 55.4 million acres. This required the application of more than 88.5 million acre-feet (MAF) of water, equivalent to about 28.8 trillion gallons. The irrigation of AIO accounted for nearly all the water use (98 percent).
Most Irrigated Farms Are Low-Sales Operations, But Large Farms Use Most of the Water
The distribution of irrigated farms and acres and applied water varies significantly across farm size. Most irrigated farms in 2013 were low-sales operations with under $150,000 in annual farm sales: 67 percent of Western irrigated farms and 64 percent of U.S. irrigated farms. These farms are plentiful in number because they are very small—averaging less than 50 irrigated crop acres per farm, compared to 1,200 acres for large-scale irrigated farms.
However, large-scale farms—those with $1 million or more in farm sales—accounted for over half of the irrigated AIO and about 60 percent of applied irrigation water in 2013. Large-scale irrigated farms also accounted for most (about 79 percent) of the value of irrigated farm production. These farms dominate these characteristics largely because their size allows them to spread costs over many more acres. For example, in the West, irrigation pumping costs for large-scale farms generally average about half that for low-sales farms.
The Use of Irrigation Systems in the West Has Changed Over the Years
There are two main types of irrigation systems: gravity and pressurized irrigation. Gravity irrigation uses the force of gravity and field borders or furrows to distribute water across a field. Open ditches or pipe systems along with siphon tubes, ditch gates, pipe valves or orifices deliver the water to the field. Pressurized irrigation, on the other hand, delivers water to the field under pressure in lateral, hand-move, and center-pivot pipe systems with attached sprinklers. It may also use drip/trickle tubes and micro-spray systems with drip emitters or micro-spray nozzles to distribute water.
Comparing data from the 2013 FRIS to previous surveys can reveal trends in how Western farms have used irrigation systems over time. Total irrigated acres and applied water use, for example, remained relatively stable between 1984 and 2013. However, Western farmers have changed how they apply water to farmland. The share of water applied using gravity systems steadily declined from 71 percent in 1984 to 41 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, the share using pressure-sprinkler systems steadily increased from 28 percent in 1984 to 59 percent in 2013.
USDA conservation programs provide financial and technical assistance to encourage the adoption of more efficient onfarm irrigation systems. Efficient irrigation systems can help maintain farm profitability in an era of increasingly limited and more costly water supplies. FRIS data show that Western irrigated agriculture has become more efficient over time. More efficient irrigation (both gravity and pressure-sprinkler systems) accounted for about 37 percent of total irrigated acres in the West in 1994, but increased to nearly half by 2013. More efficient pressure-sprinkler irrigation alone accounted for about 15 percent in 1994, but more than 37 percent in 2013. The share of acres using more efficient gravity systems peaked in the late 1990s, but then declined as farmers increasingly turned to the even more efficient pressure-sprinkler systems.
In general, efficient irrigation increases with farm size. Smaller irrigated farms tend to have more traditional irrigation systems that operate at lower efficiency. Efficient systems require large capital investments that larger farms are better able to afford.
Irrigated Efficiency Varies by Region
FRIS data also reveal that the efficiency of irrigated agriculture varies significantly across U.S. farm production regions. The Southern Plains region, for example, had the highest share (87 percent) of total acres that used efficient irrigation systems in 2013. More efficient pressure-sprinkler systems alone accounted for 80 percent of total irrigated acres for the region. Efficient irrigation has become more important for the Southern Plains because of increasing pumping costs to reach deeper into groundwater aquifers.
In the West, the Mountain region had the lowest share of acres irrigated with efficient systems. This region produces lower-valued crops (like hayland and alfalfa) for which traditional gravity systems remain the most economic choice. In the East, the Delta States region had the highest irrigation efficiency, with more efficient gravity systems accounting for nearly 60 percent of total irrigated acres. The South East region, on the other hand, depends more on the use of more efficient pressure-sprinkler systems, which accounted for about 46 percent of total irrigated acres.
This article is drawn from…Irrigated Agriculture in the United States , by Glenn Schaible, USDA, Economic Research Service, April 2017
Here’s the link to the Women’s Equality Day website.
Here’s the Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Response Information page.
Here’s a composite video from Corrie Motice showing Harvey developing over 72 hours into the Cat 4 storm that made landfall last night.
Kassler plant was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor. Here’s an excerpt:
Precipitation was above normal across much of the nation’s mid-section and below normal in portions of the Deep South, Southeast, Ohio Valley and much of the West. The heaviest rainfall was in southern Minnesota, western Iowa, eastern Nebraska, western Missouri, eastern Kansas and northwest Arkansas. Temperatures were above normal for much of the eastern third of the nation, the Deep South and Far West. The Northern Plains, Southwest and much of the West had below-normal temperatures. Drought and dryness persisted in the northern Plains and expanded westward significantly in Montana…
Precipitation was above normal for much of the Dakotas and Nebraska during the week. Rainfall totals exceeded 5 inches in eastern Nebraska and the eastern Dakotas received 3-5 inches. The precipitation helped ease some of the drought conditions that have persisted in the region for several months. Despite the recent rains, significant long-term dryness still existed so drought conditions continued for much of the region. In North Dakota, it was reported that some ranchers are resorting to drilling new wells as the previously established wells have dried up. In South Dakota, reported impacts include: dry dams or unusable water, lack of well water, failed hay crops, and wildfire danger. In Nebraska, it was reported that crops are beginning to stress due to the lack of rain…
Most of the West region received little to no precipitation for this period, as this time of year is normally the dry season. Temperatures were cooler than average for much of the Southwest and interior West, but 2-4 degrees F above normal for much of Nevada, as much as 2 degrees F above normal for central California and 6-8 degrees F above normal for northern California. Drought continued to expand in western Montana where the extremely dry weather pattern has persisted. It was reported that 98 percent of the topsoil moisture in Montana was rated very short to short and 90 percent of subsoil moisture was rated very short to short. The USDA reported 67 percent of the state’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition. It was also noted that livestock sales have been accelerated 3 to 4 weeks ahead of normal due to the extreme lack of moisture. Wildfires have resulted in poor air quality. The Lolo Peak fire has scorched 32,000 acres thus far…
Looking at the next 7 days, Tropical System Harvey is forecasted to make landfall in southeast Texas Friday morning bringing with it several days of heavy rainfall in eastern Texas, Louisiana, and the lower Mississippi Valley Friday through early next week. Precipitation totals may approach 1 foot in some locations. Elsewhere, precipitation totals may total 1-2 inches in the northern High Plains stretching southwestward into the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico. Another tropical disturbance is forecasted to bring precipitation to southern Florida and depending on its development and track, along the Southeastern coastline. An active weather is expected in the Southwest as weak disturbances move over New Mexico. Temperatures will remain below normal for much of the eastern half of the country while the western half will be above normal. The coolest anomalies will be in the South and Southeast.
Looking ahead 8-14 days, the Climate Prediction Center’s outlook calls for the greatest probability of above normal temperatures in the Northwest while the South and Southeast have the best odds of being cooler than normal. Odds are in favor of precipitation falling in the Southwest and East while the Midwest and Northwest remain dry.
Click here to read the update:
July was characterized by warm and wet conditions. The first half of August has been cool, particularly east of the Continental Divide with near normal precipitation. Reservoir storage remains high, and municipal water providers have no immediate concerns with levels of supply and demand in their systems.
Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 116% of average. After receiving 130% percent of statewide average precipitation in July at SNOTEL stations, August precipitation through August 16 was 110% of average in the mountain areas. Much of eastern Colorado was exceptionally wet in early August. Reference evapotranspiration (ET), an indicator of how much water that can be consumed by crops, has been below normal for the first half of August.
Colorado water and climate professionals are bidding a sad farewell to our longtime State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken. Nolan is retiring after 40 years of service to Colorado. In his presentation to the August Water Availability Task Force meeting, Nolan provided some long-term graphs relevant to Colorado climate and water supply.
A water court referee has advised the city of Aspen it must provide “substantive” responses to issues raised by the division engineer and the court before she issues a ruling in two water court cases tied to the potential Maroon and Castle creek dams and reservoirs.
The issues raised include whether the city can get a permit for the dams, if it can build the dams in reasonable time, if it has a specific plan to build them, and if it needs the water.
The referee, Susan Ryan, wants the city’s responses to those outstanding questions, even if the city reaches a settlement agreement with the 10 parties currently opposing the city’s applications.
“Regarding the response to the summary of consultation, I think it would be useful to see a substantive response prior to the next status conference in this case,” Ryan said at the start of an Aug. 10 status conference on the two cases.
But Cindy Covell, the water attorney for the city, said the city does not want to make its case to the court at this stage of the proceedings.
“Obviously the reason this case is so highly opposed, among other reasons, is that there is a lot of people who think we can’t meet the burden of proof, and that would be the subject of the trial,” Covell said in response to Ryan. “And to the extent that we are putting our case out there ahead of time, it just may make it that much harder to reach a settlement from Aspen’s standpoint, because we know it is a difficult case.”
On July 19 the city issued a statement saying it was seeking “a way to transfer decreed storage rights to locations other than the decreed locations on Castle Creek and Maroon Creek.”
Maroon Creek Reservoir would hold 4,567 acre-feet of water on 85 acres of land, all owned by the USFS. It also would encroach on portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Castle Creek Reservoir, as currently decreed, would hold 9,062 acre-feet on 120 acres of mostly private, high-end residential property, but also flood some USFS land and cross the wilderness boundary.
The city has maintained conditional water-storage rights for both reservoirs since 1965.
“To the extent that you feel that the summary of consultation is asking you to lay out all your evidence, I don’t really see that it is,” Ryan told Covell during the status conference. “I think it is more asking to make sure we have something in the record to support that you’ve met your burden of proof here, before any ruling is entered.”
As water court referee, Ryan’s also charged with investigating the factual and legal aspects of water rights applications before making a ruling.
The issues facing the city were raised in two summaries of consultation that Alan Martellaro, the division engineer, filed with the water court in January after consulting with Ryan about the city’s applications.
Both summaries of consultation filed in response to the Castle and Maroon applications said the city “must demonstrate that it will secure permits and land-use approvals that are necessary to apply the subject water rights to beneficial use.”
They said the city must show that it “will complete the appropriations within a reasonable time” and that “a specific plan is in place to develop the subject water rights.”
They also said the city “must demonstrate substantiated population growth in order to justify the continued need for these water rights” and that it must show it is “not speculating with the subject water rights.”
The U.S. Forest Service, one of 10 parties opposing the city in water court, has told the court it cannot issue a permit for the reservoirs, and so the city cannot complete the reservoirs in a reasonable time. Pitkin County, another opposer, told the court the city has not demonstrated it needs the water and that the city appears to be speculating.
The summaries of consultation required a response from the city to the court, and on July 10, the city submitted only a limited response.
During the Aug. 10 status conference, Ryan told Covell she did not find Aspen’s answers in July to the summaries of consultation “substantive.”
“We’re not trying to play hide the ball here,” Covell then told Ryan, “but a lot of those questions were legal questions, basically asking the city to put out the evidence it is going to use to prove its case at trial, and we just don’t think that’s an appropriate use of the summary of consultation process.”
But Ryan, the water court referee, disagreed.
“I think the purpose of the summary of consultation is to make sure the applicant can support any ruling that is entered in this case. And here the issues raised in the summary of consultation were ‘can and will’ — can the applicant develop this water right within a reasonable amount of time?” Ryan said. “And I do think that is something that needs to be in the record before I can enter any ruling in this case.”
If Ryan is dissatisfied with the city’s responses, she could issue a ruling denying the city’s applications. And the city could then appeal her ruling and take the case to trial before a water court judge. Ryan also can accept the city’s responses and issue a ruling that would maintain the city’s water rights for another six years.
During the Aug. 10 status conference, Ryan agreed to give the city more time (90 days) to respond to the issues raised in the summaries of consultation. The next status conference is set for Nov. 9.
Sometime after that, the city will need to file a substantive response, Ryan said.
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times on coverage of water and rivers. The Times published this story online on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
The pop icon’s 2008 song lyrics had remarkable insight on recent water use and temperature patterns.
New treatment plant and high-capacity pipeline part of one of the largest renovation projects in Denver Water history.
From The Sante Fe New Mexican (Tripp Stelnicki):
A federal court entered a final decree in the Aamodt settlement to much fanfare earlier this summer, ending more than half a century of litigation and negotiation in one of the longest-running water fights in the country. But even with the decree, a flood of questions lingers over the implementation of the settlement, and the Office of the State Engineer’s proposed rules have touched off particular concern in the centuries-old acequia communities, where there is anxiety about being left high and dry in a post-Aamodt environment.
The communities have operated communal river-diverted irrigation systems in a largely informal and entirely internal fashion for centuries. Many say their localized, community-oriented nature is what makes them special. Some call the acequias, with roots in Spanish colonialism, the oldest form of democracy on American soil.
Now the organizations are racing to interpret what the proposed new regulations will compel them to do, preparing for a public hearing this week that amounts to their last best chance to voice concerns and suggest alterations to the Office of the State Engineer before the rules are promulgated by Sept. 15.
In recent weeks, there have been a few informational meetings for those affected, but members of acequia communities say the rules have come upon them too quickly and, until recent weeks, without sufficient input from the hundreds of parciantes, or irrigators, in the Nambé-Pojoaque-Tesuque water district.
“They had the pueblos, the state, the county — everyone. Everyone came before the acequias. We came last,” said Pablo Gonzales, president of the Acequia de los Trujillos. “And unless we go back to fight all this in court again, we’re going to end up being screwed.”
In a statement, the engineer’s office said acequia leaders and irrigators have been invited to participate in “the pending rulemaking process.”
“Like other affected water right owners, they have the opportunity to comment on the proposed rules through the public hearing process,” the statement read, adding that all public comments will be considered before the rules are finalized.
‘A big burden’
The rules concern the distribution and administration of the water supply and water rights in the Nambé-Pojoaque-Tesuque basin. They implement the terms and conditions of the Aamodt settlement agreement and final decree.
One significant change codified in the rules, to be enforced by a water master or masters, is the compilation and submission of an annual report about lands to be irrigated, or TBI, from each acequia.
By March 1 of each year, according to the proposed rules, the mayordomo, or ditch boss, of each acequia must provide to the water master a written report about the acreage under the ditch to be irrigated; maps will accompany these TBI letters. The water master or masters in the engineer’s office will then determine the maximum diversion rate for each ditch in the system.
But obtaining the information and ensuring its accuracy “places a big burden on the mayordomos,” said Edward Romero, mayordomo of Acequia de Las Jollas for more than 30 years, referring to the TBIs.
Mayordomos and commissioners, many if not all of them volunteers, have always been responsible for maintenance and repairs in each ditch, the division of water, watering schedule and more. But these time-consuming tasks have never before been regulated with meticulous scrutiny or from the outside, Romero said…
Paula Garcia, executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, said the nonprofit has been pushing for irrigators to make their concerns about the proposals heard at this week’s hearing. All comments will be considered before a final draft is promulgated…
Another concern for acequias in the proposed rules is protection against priority enforcement by the pueblos. A priority call is the rarely used mechanism, reserved for times of scarcity, in which junior water rights are curtailed so more senior water rights can be met. It “should be a measure of last resort,” according to the state engineer’s website.
Romero, the nonprofit attorney, said a section of the settlement protects parciantes against priority calls by those with more senior water rights, whether pueblos or other acequias — but not if the water right “is not beneficially used for more than five consecutive years,” according to the rules…
How beneficial use will be determined was a cause for concern at the Nambé gathering. Water banking is not addressed in either the settlement or rules, Romero said, and it is unclear as yet whether it will qualify for protection against losing priority.
The need for more documentation of acequia water use than has been compiled in the past, then, becomes ever more important under the proposed rules, Romero said.
“We kind of view all of these provisions as adding more pressure in general to acequias,” Garcia said. “In particular to those individuals who serve as mayordomos, commissioners. They will have to step up their game.”
The state engineer’s rules come out of the terms of the Aamodt settlement, an agreement reached between the United States government, the state, Santa Fe County, the city of Santa Fe and four Northern pueblos — Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque. The settlement established priority water rights for the pueblos, and all water rights in the Pojoaque Basin north of Santa Fe were adjudicated.
But Aamodt developments were hardly finished with the entrance of the final decree in July.
First, the rules governing the administration of water rights in the basin will be finalized.
Hurdles remain, namely the construction of a multimillion-dollar regional water system that is part of the settlement, the funding of which hinges on both state appropriations and the resolution to roadway disputes between pueblos and Santa Fe County. And domestic well users have expressed concerns about the proposed rules, as well. Ongoing road disputes over rights-of-way between the county and some pueblos have also clouded the settlement proceedings.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Water storage may be through surface recharge methods such as ponds and river channels. It may also be through Aquifer Storage Recovery (ASR) wells, Aquifer Storage Transport Recovery (ASTR) wells, Vadose Zone wells or Recharge wells. The objective is to get the water into storage during wet months and years so that it will be available for recovery during dry months and extended droughts. This paper primarily addresses ASR wells.
My campground in Steamboat Springs has charging stations for the tent campers. I was able to connect the Leaf’s trickle charger.
I was a bit worried on the leg from Kremmling to Steamboat Springs. Highway speeds and a climb really knock down the battery charge. I gained a whole bar (8.33%) of charge coming down the west side of Rabbit Ear’s pass due to the regenerative charging system. Did not have to break once, regenerative charging held the speed limit.
Now I’m on my bicycle until the drive home Friday.
Winter Park to Kremmling was a short jaunt. It was difficult to seat the connector in the Leaf at the Town Park. I worried that I was going to have to return to Winter Park and hope a full charge would get me over the hill to Steamboat Springs.
Thanks to the Town of Kremmling!
I made it to Winter Park to the town parking lot and the charging station. Easy as pie to find the hookup. Thanks Winter Park.
Leaf reported ~14 miles of range left on the top of Berthoud and ~1/4 of a charge after the long climb from Denver. After the long downhill, hardly using the accelerator, the Leaf report ~40 miles of range and still ~1/4 charge when I pulled into the parking garage. The regenerative charging system slowed the Leaf really well on the downhill side of the pass. I didn’t need to break very often.
This is my first road trip in the mountains with the EV. Next stop Kremmling Town Park for the charge to get over the hill to Steamboat.
Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:
The Americas Latino Eco Festival is the nation’s premier, public meet up of Latino American environmental minds and a multicultural gathering place for artists, scientists, advocates, public policy leaders and community from across the Americas to discuss novel solutions to advance a healthy environment, locally and globally, through arts advocacy, education, and engagement of culturally diverse populations.This exciting festival with over 500 presenters and participants, and an audience of over 5,000 has something for everyone!
The three-day event will include an environmental film series, leadership artivism trainings, an eco book fair with authors’ presentations, a green exhibitors hall, a Colorado River summit, an international eco drawing arts Expo, a BioBlitz in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service that will engage more than 400 fourth graders in an interactive biological survey of local surroundings, and a whole day devoted to family-friendly events including performances, workshops, eco shorts planetarium shows.
We’re thrilled to bring you an environmental film series, leadership panels, an environmental Book Fair, a Green Impact Fair with vendors and exhibitors, free family-friendly and kid-focused art & activities, and of course a proper ¡Latin fiesta!
From TheDenverChannel.com (Sally Mamdooh):
The homes are concentered near East 26th Avenue and North Peoria Street and East 11th Avenue and North Yosemite Street, the original part of the city.
The city has now sent more than 600 letters to Aurora residents notifying them of the issue and asking to check the plumbing for free.
So far, the city has tested 24 homes, and only one of the tests came back positive for lead…
The city will pay for a replacement line if a homeowner qualifies. Click here to learn about the steps you need to follow.
Here’s an interview with Jim Lochhead from Cathy Proctor and The Denver Business Journal. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
As metro Denver grows, what’s the outlook for its water supply? We went to the source to ask.
Denver Water is the state’s biggest water utility, ensuring that 1.4 million customers in Denver and many surrounding suburbs have enough clean water for drinking, showering, cooking and yard watering.
Jim Lochhead was appointed its CEO and manager in 2010, after working for decades as a lawyer negotiating water rights and uses across the nation.
He sat down with me to talk about Denver’s water future. Here are some highlights.
What challenges lie ahead?
We’re doing an integrated resource plan, a 50-year look ahead to the challenges we face and how we face them — but it’s scenario planning, rather than math. Before, we looked at the past and how much water was available, figured how many people there would be in the future and did the math. But saying “we just need to get more water” doesn’t work anymore. The future will not look like the past for a number of reasons.
On the supply side, there may be more extended droughts, greater severity of weather events, and a warming climate. For demand, we’ve seen demand dropping due to our campaign for water conservation, but it’s also through more efficient fixtures and more density in the city — which means more efficiency.
Economics plans a part to, we could have economic downturns or just chug along, or the millennials moving into the downtown apartments might move to the suburbs. We’re creating different scenarios for all that.
From The Telluride Daily Planet (Tanya Ishikawa):
Whitmore volunteered to oversee Ouray County’s grant application submission to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to get funding for a stream management study and plan. The study is aimed at confirming and expanding the information from a 2016 water needs study by Wright Water Engineers that concluded the county has current unmet needs and will need additional water supplies for the future, especially in the area of storage.
Last year’s study was initiated by the county and the Ouray County Water Users Association, a group organized to represent agricultural water users, and Tri-County Water Conservancy District, which manages the operation of the Ridgway Dam and supplies water to an area including parts of Ridgway, Montrose, Olathe and Delta. The county commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding between the three entities on July 11, to give the county permission “to take the lead in moving forward with development of the water rights” to supply future water projects such as building reservoirs for storage. Tri-County approved the agreement on Wednesday, and the water users group was reviewing the document this week but had not yet approved it…
The stated purpose of the stream management plan is “to assist in balancing water needs amongst various users and the development of additional sustainable multipurpose water supplies including both consumptive and non-consumptive demands.” To complete the plan, the recommended tasks include further evaluation of water needs in the upper Uncompahgre River water supply area, possible storage development, potential development of voluntary water transfer agreements between water rights holders, and identification of ditch irrigation efficiency projects.
Tri-County water rights being considered for potential storage and storage expansion projects are located on Dallas Creek and Cow Creek. Proposed project locations are Dallas Divide, Ram’s Horn and the Sneva Ditch.
The county plans to invite various stakeholders to create a steering committee to manage and implement the stream management plan and grant. Whitmore said that in creating the committee, “We want to make sure we are bringing all our knowledge and experience together so we hopefully have the support of the whole community. The support of the whole community is important because whether we look at exchanges, new water rights or storage, we need to go through water court. If everyone agrees, it’s less likely those plans will run into opposition.”
Pete Foster, Wright Water’s vice president and senior project engineer, and Cary Denison, a Ouray County resident and Trout Unlimited’s Gunnison Basin project coordinator, assisted in developing a draft grant application. Foster will be paid out of the county budget, and possibly some funding from Tri-County and the water users group, for related consulting work on the grant, steering committee administration and plan development and implementation.
The county expects to submit the application for an amount under $100,000 by early October, and if funding is awarded, complete the study by the end of 2018.
From The Greeley Tribune:
Representatives for the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project will host an open house from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 in the cafeteria at Valley High School, 1001 Birch St. in Gilcrest.
Final designs for the recreational facilities changes and environmental mitigation projects for Chatfield Reservoir and the surrounding Chatfield State Park will be on display. Another display will show the agricultural benefits of the project, according to a release issued Saturday from the Chatfield Mitigation Co. The workings of the environmental pool to help time releases of the stored water also will be illustrated with a display.
The $134 million project will allow Chatfield to store up to 20,600-acre feet of additional water.
Representatives from consultant firms working on the designs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the participating water districts all will be there to answer questions.