From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):
Snowpack in the Yampa and White river basins is at 110 percent of its long-term median snow water equivalency, which is a measure of how much water is contained within the snowpack. Snowpack typically peaks in April, so snowfall — or lack of it — could still force that number away from the median.
… the city of Steamboat Springs has enough water to provide for current demands for a decade under 2012 conditions — the third worst drought episode in Colorado’s history — according to city water resources manager Kelly Romero-Heaney. Romero-Heaney said this would be a “doomsday scenario.”
“I don’t know if there are many communities in Colorado that can say that,” she said in an update to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Jan. 15.
One of the ways managers seek to minimize the risk of a compact call is demand management, she said. This is a spot where Steamboat has hit beyond the mark. In 2011, the city’s water conservation plan sought to reduce water consumption by 5 percent, said Michelle Carr, city water and sewer distribution and collection manager. The city exceeded this goal, and as Steamboat’s population has grown, it’s demand for water has fallen, she explained.
From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):
The Windsor Town Board voted unanimously Monday to approve the second water rate increase of the year for residents as officials look to strengthen their plans to add more water supplies.
The increase will bring rates up by an additional 6.21 percent, a hike that will appear on water bills April 1. In December, the board approved an annual increase of 3.29 percent that will be reflected on the March bill.
For water users, the increase means average single-family monthly consumption charges will be about $38.37. In 2018, bills were $35.06 per month on average.
During Monday’s meeting, town board said they didn’t come to the decision to raise the rates easily.
When one resident expressed concerned about how the rate increase might impact residents, Mayor Kristie Melendez said town officials came to the decision over several meetings…
The town, which currently owns shares in the North Poudre Irrigation Company and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, is seeking to strengthen its participation in the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a massive project that will result in two new reservoirs and serve 11 communities and four water districts along the Front Range…
As it stands now, Windsor owns 4,100 acre-feet of water. But it’s going to need another 15,800 acre-feet in the future to keep up with demand, officials said…
In the town’s agreement with Northern Water, which manages the supply project, the town is scheduled to pay $100 million to the project by 2026, Town Manager Shane Hale said. The town won’t have enough money on its own to pay for that, he said, so officials will need a base of between $30 million and $33 million to issue debt to help pay for the cost in the future.
Of the total cost Windsor will pay toward NISP, 12 percent will come from water users who will pay the rate approved Monday. The other 88 percent comes from town development fees.
But Hale said town officials didn’t want to place the burden solely on developers and discourage them from coming to Windsor.
Windsor has worked with consulting firms since 2009 to work on ways to secure water. Most recently, officials worked with Stantec Consulting to develop a plan to pay for Windsor’s place in the water supply project and operations, including collecting, cleaning, filtering, disinfecting and testing water.
From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):
Windsor’s residential water rates will increase by 6.21 percent to help fund the town’s involvement in the Northern Integrated Supply Project…
The rate increase, paired with another increase that took effect Jan. 1, will raise the average single-family residential water bill from $35.06 a month in 2018 to $38.37 a month in 2019.
Windsor is one of 15 municipalities and water districts that will receive water from the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, a proposal to build two new reservoirs and fill them with Poudre River water. Participants are funding the costs of the project, and Windsor’s involvement will cost over $100 million, according to Mayor Kristie Melendez…
The town is looking to ratepayers to fund about 12 percent of the project cost. The other 88 percent will come from a water resource fee leveled on each new home in Windsor, an approach that Melendez called “growth pays for growth.”
NISP will supply about 3,300 more acre-feet if it jumps through all regulatory hoops. An acre-foot of water is equivalent to the average annual water use of 2 to 3 urban households.
In all, NISP is expected to provide about 40,000 acre-feet of water to its participants. Windsor’s share of NISP is the third-largest among municipalities involved in the project.
The two proposed NISP reservoirs include Glade Reservoir, which would be located near Ted’s Place north of Fort Collins, and Galeton Reservoir, which would be located northeast of Greeley.
For comparison’s sake, Glade Reservoir’s capacity of 170,000 acre-feet is about 108 percent of the capacity of Horsetooth Reservoir. Galeton would hold about 46,000 acre-feet.
The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue a record of decision on NISP in 2019. Affirmation from the Army Corps will likely trigger a legal challenge from NISP opponent Save the Poudre. Northern Water expects to begin storage in Glade Reservoir in 2025.
From Arizona Central (Ian James):
The House Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee held a marathon meeting Tuesday on a series of bills that outline how the state will share cuts as part of the Drought Contingency Plan.
They voted 12-0 to pass the plan, which is expected to head to the House floor Wednesday for debate. A Senate committee also is set to begin work on the deal Wednesday.
More than 100 people filled the hearing and watched the discussion from two overflow rooms as lawmakers debated for five hours, stretching into the evening.
There was little doubt the bills would clear their first hurdle and get the committee’s approval. Lawmakers from both parties have signed on to sponsor the bills — a rare sign of bipartisan cooperation.
“We’ve heard from other speakers about how important this is,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. “We know we are dealing with a drier future.
“We, Arizona, want to avoid going at it alone.”
While lawmakers agreed on the bulk of the plan, tensions ran high as farmers, business owners, lobbyists and conservationists spoke during the hearing.
Nothing in the bills was new for the parties, but lawmakers were meticulously reviewing the details after months of careful negotiations about how water cutbacks will be spread among affected areas.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said he’s hopeful the deal will be finished on time. He had previously said meeting the deadline wasn’t his chief concern.
Pinal County farmers get deepest cuts
One of the most controversial pieces is House Bill 2540, which would affect Pinal County farmers who would be hit hardest by the cutbacks.
The bill would earmark $5 million from the state’s general fund for groundwater irrigation projects to help those farmers lessen the economic burden. A few dozen farmers, many wearing plaid shirts and baseball caps, filled the hearing to express their reluctant support for the change…
HB 2540 is one of five bills that make up the plan. Another, HB 2541, would create a fund to repay those who forfeit some or all of their water in order to keep Lake Mead’s levels from dropping too low…
Other bills include changes in how water users can earn and exchange long-term storage credits for groundwater stored in aquifers.
The Arizona Senate will begin this same process with identical bills…
Sierra Club: Plan does little for conservation
But the plan was not without its critics. Some, like Sandy Bahr of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, called the plan shortsighted and said it does not address long-term problems.
Bahr said the bill does little to address water-conservation efforts, adding that there had been no mention of climate change in the hearing.