The January, 2019 Western Rivers Newsletter is hot off the presses from @AudubonRockies

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click here to read the January, 2019 Western Rivers Newsletter (Abby Burk). Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado’s legislative session is off to a caffeinated start. The session began on January 4 and runs through May 3, 2019. Governor Polis—along with his new administration and new Democratic leadership in both the State House and Senate—are setting the scene for a busy legislative session.

There are two main dynamics charting the work of Colorado’s lawmakers in water: the ongoing 19-year Colorado River Basin drought and funding for Colorado’s Water Plan.

Due to plummeting water levels in the Colorado River’s two main reservoirs (Lake Powell and Lake Mead) the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted in November, 2018, to support a Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Colorado joined neighboring Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico in support of the DCP in December. Now, all eyes are on the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada, and Arizona as they also evaluate support for a DCP by the looming January 31, 2019, deadline imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. If the DCP and the necessary water sharing practices are to be successful, Colorado and other states will need improved water policies and funding to protect rivers and compact water deliveries.

In light of climate change, drought planning, and population growth, birds and people need the objectives and actions for increased water security contained in Colorado’s Water Plan more than ever. However, funding for Plan implementation has fallen short. The Water Plan calls for funding needs of $100 million annually from 2020-2050. That’s roughly $3 billion to sustainably fund increased water conservation and efficiency for cities and towns, methods to keep agriculture thriving, and stream and watershed health improvements.

With the DCP and drought top of mind, there has been some positive movement for Water Plan funding. Governor Polis’s budget contains the $30 million investment initially proposed by Governor Hickenlooper to fund the Colorado Water Plan and help mitigate drought, particularly for relief in rural communities. Also, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has proposed $20 million for Water Plan implementation in the 2019 “Projects Bill” that will be submitted later in the session for legislature approval. That’s $9 million more than in 2018.

Water legislation in 2019 is already off and running with much more to come. As we make decisions about water, there is a lot at stake for birds, other wildlife, agriculture, and communities. Audubon is at pace with and fully engaged on conservation and water legislation every step of the way. We will be calling on you to engage in action alerts and education events in 2019. Register for Getting Green Laws, an event that will include legislation training on the evening of February 19th in Denver and a rivers action day at the State Capitol on February 20th.

For Colorado’s rivers and streams, we thank you for your engagement.

Early-session Colorado water legislation that Audubon is engaged with:

HB19-1082 Water Rights Easements – Concerning the rights of a water rights easement holder

HB19-1050 Encourage Use Of Xeriscape In Common Areas – Concerning the promotion of water-efficient landscaping on property subject to management by local supervisory entities

HB19-1015 Recreation Of The Colorado Water Institute – Concerning the recreation of the Colorado water institute

HB19-1113 Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts – Concerning the protection of water quality from adverse impacts caused by mineral mining

SJM19-001 Memorial For Arkansas Valley Conduit – Memorializing the United States Congress to fulfill the commitment of the federal government to provide funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit project. From the Water Resources Review Committee

SJM19-002 Corps Of Engineers To Dredge Lower Arkansas River – Concerning memorializing the United States Congress to enact legislation directing the United States Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction and cooperation with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, to dredge a portion of the Arkansas River

@ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

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

#ColoradoRiver Delta groundwater essential to restoration efforts and levels are dropping #COriver #aridification

Martha Gomez-Sapiens, a monitoring team member and postdoctoral research associate in the UA Department of Geosciences, stands on a riverbank next to willows and cottonwoods that germinated as a result of the pulse flow. (Photo: Karl W. Flessa/UA Department of Geosciences)

From The Arizona Republic (Alex Devoid):

The restoration site is one of three south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been claimed by cities and farms.

Although water snakes through an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites, another source is increasingly important for restoring these patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor: groundwater.

Scientists who monitor restoration in the delta wrote in a November 2018 report that a shallow water table, one with higher groundwater levels, is essential to the survival of riparian vegetation in the broad expanses of the delta.

“The trees, the cottonwoods and willows, they need to be connected to the groundwater directly,” said Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta, a scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology who has worked to restore pockets of the delta for over 20 years with the non-profit Pronatura Noroeste. “They have shallow roots so the groundwater level is very important to their survival.”

But groundwater levels have declined, much like the river’s surface flows that once flowed into the Gulf of California. Some of the declines may be due to drought, some to overpumping and some to the loss of agricultural runoff as farmers become more efficient.

Historically, so much water poured into the aquifer that it overflowed, creating a vast wetland, said Eloise Kendy, a scientist at the Nature Conservancy who worked on the 2018 study.

Now, researchers warn that a groundwater “depletion zone,” where levels have dropped too far to support riparian vegetation, is extending both upriver and downriver from an area near the border. Such zones are created when the groundwater pumped out exceeds what is replaced, either naturally or through artificial recharge.

“If (groundwater levels) continue to go down there’s not going to be enough water to fulfill the restoration objectives,” Hinojosa-Huerta said, while stressing there’s currently still “amazing opportunities for restoration” in key areas in of delta.

Although restoration efforts in the delta have shown progress, habitat within the riparian corridor is more and more vulnerable to declining groundwater levels, according to a 2017 report that assessed the vulnerability and sustainability of the region under different scenarios.

When groundwater levels are deeper, trees like cottonwoods need more time to sink their roots into the water table, which means they’ll need to be irrigated for longer, Hinojosa-Huerta said. In some cases, they’ll have to be irrigated forever.

@UteWater’s “Unfolding Colorado Experience” introduces 4th graders to water education

The Colorado River in De Beque Canyon, near Grand Junction, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From West Slope Now (Star Harvey):

Ute Water rolled out a giant map and an assortment of colorful ropes in the gym at Appleton Elementary School Tuesday morning.

The water district has designed a program called Unfolding Colorado Experience where they plan to go into every 4th grade class in School District 51 by the end of this year.

Their goal is to expose these students to a wide variety of Colorado history, including how certain landmarks and water systems are tied into communities.

Ute Water says it’s a really unique experience for these 4th graders because they get the hands-on application, which they believe is often over looked when educating the youth.

“We went through and aligned all of the lessons that we teach on the map, kids get on the map and they’re interacting and those lessons align with 4th grade state standards, we also use this map for adult learning, so we’ve done everything from kindergarten through adult leadership course, where we’re using the map for team building,” said Joseph Burtard, External Affairs Manager of Ute Water Conservancy District.

The water district says they’re not just here to provide their customers with water, but also to educate the community on the importance of being responsible stewards of water.

Dolores: Dolores River Boating Advocates annual river permit party on Jan. 25, 2019

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Connect with boaters, learn about river permits

The Dolores River Boating Advocates will have their annual river permit party on Jan. 25 from 6-10 p.m. at the Dolores Community Center.

The event features films, food, drinks, a silent auction with river-themed items and live music by Halden Wofford and the Hi Beams. The Dolores River does not require a permit, but there will information on the regional rivers that do.

The event is a chance to meet new boaters, plan river adventures and connect with the local river-running community.

Every year at the Permit Party, a community slideshow of Dolores River photos is presented at the beginning of the event…

Advance tickets for the permit party and concert are $12, or $15 at the door. Go to the website of the Dolores River Boating Advocates to buy online.