#EagleRiver Watershed Council: Planning for our community’s water future

The Eagle River roils with spring runoff in June 2011 near Edwards, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From the Eagle River Watershed Council (Lizzie Schoder) via The Vail Daily:

In low snow years like last year, the effects to our community can be felt immediately from the loss of revenue from ski tourism to low flows in our rivers in the following hot summer months leading to voluntary fishing closures and a lackluster whitewater season. Our angling, boating, recreation, wildlife and aquatic communities all feel the impact. While it seems Ullr has different plans this year, as we are in the midst of back-to-back storm cycles refreshing our snowpack and currently putting us at about 136 percent of normal, we aren’t nearly in the clear of the drought in the Colorado River Basin, or its long-term companion, aridification.

Research shows earlier runoff timing, higher ambient air temperatures, the dust-on-snow effect, and lower flows aren’t just periodic concerns, but more a representation of our new normal. The Eagle River and its tributaries support a wide array of uses inextricably tied to the wellbeing of our local economies and our high quality of life, not limited to: drinking water, agriculture, boating, angling, wildlife and biodiversity, aesthetics, lawns and gardens, snowmaking, and industry and power production. The effects of climate change, coupled with increasing demand from our ever-growing population, and the likelihood of future water storage projects, underline the need to plan for our community’s water future.

The Eagle River Watershed Council — with the help of its many community partners and stakeholders — has undertaken an exciting initiative to be on the forefront of water management planning and engage the community through the Eagle River Community Water Plan. While the council has undertaken successful planning and assessment initiatives in the past, including the Eagle River Watershed Plan and the Colorado River Inventory & Assessment, these completed plans have largely focused on water quality issues in our watershed. The Community Water Plan will place a greater focus on future water quantity issues and will address increasing demand shortage scenarios.

What is a community water plan?

Colorado’s Water Plan, adopted by the state in 2015, set a goal of communities implementing community water plans, also known as stream management plans, on 80 percent of Colorado’s locally prioritized streams by the year 2030. The plan seeks to identify the desired environmental and recreational flows in our watershed and will provide the opportunity to safeguard the environmental, recreational, agricultural, tourism, and municipal uses of the river. In other words, the plan will allow for the protection of river health as well as the other uses of water the community values.

Focusing on the entire length of the Eagle River, from its headwaters on Tennessee Pass to the confluence with the Colorado River in Dotsero, the plan will consider past, present, and future human and river health values to identify opportunities to correct historical degradation and mitigate against non-desirable future conditions due to stressors such as climate change and population growth.

The plan’s diverse stakeholder group includes: local governments, fishing and rafting guide companies, the Eagle County Conservation District, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, American Rivers, the National Forest Foundation, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Division of Water Resources, and the Eagle River MOU partners, including Climax Molybdenum Company, Vail Resorts, the Colorado River District, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, and the partners in Homestake Reservoir (the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora).

The plan will culminate in a set of recommendations for projects, policies or management actions that can be used to mitigate stressors and encourage land and water management actions that promote ecosystem health.

The stakeholder group is committed to striving for equitable outcomes through engaging and listening to a broad range of community members. Community meetings will be held throughout the planning process to provide an opportunity for the community to engage in the process. Although the first round of community meetings were held in late February with presentations about the plan and current river conditions, the opportunity to submit formal input through online surveys still exists.

To have a truly representative Community Water Plan, members of the community are encouraged to complete these surveys that inquire about how the community uses the river, and which degraded segments of and threats to the river are most concerning. A recording of the presentations, surveys (in English and Spanish) and more information are available online at http://www.erwc.org. The Watershed Council and its partners encourage the community to make their voice heard in this important planning process and to stay tuned for future community meetings planned for this summer.

Eagle River Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. To learn more, call (970) 827-5406 or visit http://www.erwc.org.

Pi Day! Yum. Yum. (And the math is awesome, too!) – News on TAP

Denver Water loves pie and also pi, which gets used every day around here.

Source: Pi Day! Yum. Yum. (And the math is awesome, too!) – News on TAP

Sustainability showcase: Erase the e-waste – News on TAP

How Denver Water recycled more than 9 tons of electronic waste last year.

Source: Sustainability showcase: Erase the e-waste – News on TAP

#Drought news: North central #Colorado into Carbon County, #Wyoming saw as much as 2-category drought improvement to return to drought-free conditions

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor website.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

As spring nears, winter has kept its grip over much of the country. Temperatures were below average across the contiguous U.S, up to 25 degrees below normal for the week in the North. Following the wettest winter (December-February) on record for the contiguous U.S. as a whole, storms continued to bring heavy rain and snow, piling on snowpack and filling reservoirs in the West, but also causing avalanches in Colorado. Generally, heavy snow fell across high elevations in California, the Rockies into the Upper Great Lakes and Mid-Mississippi Valley, with heavy rain across parts of Southern California and the Tennessee Valley. The abundant precipitation in the West led to more widespread drought improvement. Little to no precipitation fell across the southern tier of the U.S., continuing a pattern of below-average rainfall seen over the last 2-3 months in parts of the Southeast, as dry conditions begin to emerge improvement to return to drought-free conditions. In this region reservoirs are expected to fill and there is deep snow, unfortunately with problematic avalanches…

High Plains

Most areas of the High Plains were free of drought or saw little change in current status, the exception being Colorado, where heavy snow continued to build snowpack but also caused avalanches. With well-above average precipitation in February and adequate precipitation in March to date, improvements were made across the Yampa/White Basin. The Gunnison Basin, already well past its normal seasonal peak, received an additional 2-4 inches of precipitation over the last week. Severe drought (D2) improved to moderate (D1) over the San Juan Basin east through the San Luis Valley, where the San Juans have received well-above-average precipitation and basin-wide snowpack is already past the normal seasonal peak. North central Colorado into Carbon County, Wyoming saw as much as 2-category drought…

West

Well-above-average precipitation continues in the West, improving long-term soil moisture deficits, building snow pack, and filling reservoirs, therefore leading to more widespread drought improvement. Areas of western Utah received up to double their typical precipitation in the last month, improving conditions across the region. From northern California into Oregon and Idaho, snowpack continues to build at mid and high elevations, compensating for long-term dry soil moistures. Reservoirs have also continued to fill. Improvements were made across this region, including a vast reduction in severe drought (D2) in Oregon and a return to normal conditions across most of Idaho and northern Nevada. Idaho’s central mountains received more snowfall in February than the previous three months combined. Snow there continued to accumulate, with continuing colder-than-normal temperatures. As such, no irrigation issues are anticipated and water supplies are expected to be adequate. Dry conditions also improved to normal to the north across parts of eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana. Precipitation in recent months, including for the water year to-date, has been above average and enough to erase long-term impacts. In the Southwest, improvements were seen along the Mogollon Rim and White Mountains of eastern Arizona. Many of the lakes are full and spilling, and snow remains to melt in the higher elevations. Normal conditions also returned to most of southwestern Arizona to the Salton Sea in southeastern California. The rest of the region in Southern California is still abnormally dry due to very dry previous years. Reservoirs in San Diego County are only at 65% capacity. Big Bear Lake was down 18 feet in early March, although expected to continue to rise…

South

Drought-free conditions continued across most of the South. Western Oklahoma and northern and western Texas received rainfall late in the drought week that allowed some retreat of both moderate drought (D1) and abnormal dryness (D0). South central and southern Texas received little to no precipitation and D0 conditions expanded slightly eastward…

Looking Ahead

The central U.S. is anticipating a very strong storm from the 12th to the 14th, with the threat of blizzard conditions from the Rockies to the Central and Northern Plains to the Upper Midwest, and severe storms with hurricane-force winds from the Southern Plains to the Mid-Mississippi River Valley. Heavy rains in the Midwest and Great Plains may melt snow that lead to significant flooding. The storm is expected to impact 70 million people. Looking further out into the next week, much of the nation may see dry, cool weather, with below-average temperatures and below-average precipitation forecast across most of the eastern half of contiguous U.S. Looking two weeks ahead, increased chances of above-normal precipitation are forecast for Alaska, the southern Florida Peninsula, and the western half of the contiguous U.S. The eastern half, on the other hand, is forecast to continue seeing drier-than-normal conditions.

Here’s the one week change map through March 12, 2019.