Agreement Ensures Flows and Funds Dedicated to Restore Living #RioGrande — Wild Earth Guardians

Rio Grande River photo credit Wild Earth Guardians.

Here’s the release from Wild Earth Guardians (Samantha Ruscavage-Barz):

Federal and local water managers, pueblos, and an environmental group finalized an agreement recently with City of Rio Rancho to protect a living Rio Grande and resolve objections to fourteen transfers of water from downstream farm uses to upstream municipal purposes. The city agreed to dedicate a portion of its pre-1907 water rights acquired through water transfers from farms over the years to bolster river flows and to provide funding to and support habitat restoration efforts along the river. Parties to the agreement include the City of Rio Rancho, Pueblo of Isleta, Pueblo of Santa Ana, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and WildEarth Guardians.

“This agreement recognizes the responsibility we all have to protect a living Rio Grande,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, Managing Attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “A healthy river is key for people and wildlife and this accord helps ensure, not only that these transfers will not negatively impact flows in the river, but goes far beyond that to helping restore a living river for future generations.”

The deal crafted brings together key players in undertaking strategic restoration of flows and critical habitat along the river. The city committed to donating a minimum of 2,500 acre-feet (815 million gallons) of water per year to the State’s strategic water reserve to support flows in the Rio Grande solely for the benefit of riverine habitat, the Bosque, and endangered species recovery. An acre-foot is equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water and is enough to supply a family of four for one year. The parties will work together to deliver this water to restore flows to the Isleta reach of the Rio Grande—from just south of Albuquerque to just north of Socorro—at strategic time, places and amounts to benefit the river ecosystem.

Further, the parties agreed to cooperatively work to fund, design, and, construct restoration projects along the Rio Grande that would also benefit the river ecosystem and imperiled species. The City and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District will provide initial funding for the yet to be determined projects that will benefits lands adjacent to the City and the Pueblo of Santa Ana initially. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will provide staff resources and pursue matching funding opportunities for the identified restoration projects.

The parties to the agreement also committed to undertake cooperative efforts to address challenges facing the river, to ensure long-term water planning, and to reform state water policy.

As Southwest Water Managers Grapple With Climate Change, Can A ‘Grand Bargain’ Work? — KUNC #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Here’s an in-depth look at administration of the Colorado River from Luke Runyon and Bret Jaspers that’s running on the KUNC website. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Climate change, growing urban populations and fragile rural economies are top of mind. Some within the basin see a window of opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in the watershed. Others say the best path forward is to take small, incremental steps toward lofty goals, a method Colorado River managers say has worked well for them for decades.

That tension was on full display at a June gathering of water agency leaders, environmentalists, scientists and federal bureaucrats in Boulder, Colorado, where they reflected on the recently signed Colorado River drought contingency plans and began to envision what might be included in a long-term solution. (The conference at the university’s Getches-Wilkinson Center was sponsored in part by the Walton Family Foundation, which also provides funding for KUNC’s Colorado River coverage)

John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s water resources program, and Eric Kuhn, former general manager of the Colorado River District, used the opportunity to shop around a concept they’re calling the “Grand Bargain,” which they say would address the watershed’s fundamental supply and demand imbalance.

From the beginning, Fleck and Kuhn argue in their new book, “Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained The Colorado River,” scientists warned about promising water to too many people in the Southwest, but were sidelined by politicians looking to grow crops and cities. That led to inflated figures in the compact that plague water managers today. The original sin was putting more water on paper than existed in the real world.

That problem has been made clear by a 19-year drought that caused the river’s biggest reservoirs — Lakes Mead and Powell — to drop to their lowest collective volume since they were filled. Studies have shown climate change already sapping the Colorado River’s flow, causing more evaporation, and shrinking the snowpack that feeds it…

The Grand Bargain would rebalance some of the compact’s bad math, Fleck and Kuhn said. In it, the Lower Basin would agree to abandon that longstanding right to demand water from the Upper Basin if it runs short.

In exchange, the Upper Basin would agree to a cap on future water development. For more than a decade, the Upper Basin has used about 4.5 million acre-feet of water annually, well below its compact cap of 7.5 million. But a slate of projects in the Upper Basin represent an attempt to tap into that unused entitlement.

Capping Upper Basin uses and removing the Lower Basin’s ability to call for water would make the whole system more resilient, Fleck said.

“Then both sides are giving up a cherished right and (agreeing to) a compromise that has the potential to then bring some stability and balance in the long run and remove a lot of the risk of really catastrophic conflict,” he said.

@USBR advances water delivery project for Navajo and Jicarilla Apache Nations with contract negotiations for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project’s Cutter Lateral

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Liff, Marc Miller):

The Bureau of Reclamation invites members of the press and public to a meeting where it will begin negotiations for an operations, maintenance and replacement contract with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority for operation of federally-owned Cutter Lateral features of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, located near Bloomfield, New Mexico.

This operations, maintenance and replacement contract for Cutter Lateral will facilitate water delivery to the Navajo and Jicarilla Apache Nations. The negotiations and subsequent contract provide the legal mechanism for delivery of the Navajo Nation’s Settlement Water in the state of New Mexico. WHAT: Public meeting to negotiate the Cutter Lateral operations, maintenance and replacement contract.

WHEN: Wednesday, July 31, 2019, at 1:00 p.m.

WHERE: Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority, 1 Uranium Blvd, Shiprock, New Mexico

WHY: The contract to be negotiated will provide terms and conditions for the operation, maintenance and replacement of specific project features. 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. They can also be obtained on our website at:, under Current Focus or by contacting Marc Miller at 185 Suttle Street, Suite 2, Durango, Colorado, 81301, 970 385-6541,

Installing pipe along the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. Photo credit: USBR

Happy belated #ColoradoRiverDay #COriver #ColoradoRiver

Yesterday was Colorado River Day according to the experts at Audubon and friend of Coyote Gulch Abby Burk:

What’s in a River’s Name? How the Grand River became the Colorado.

Is the name of a river really that important? If it’s the Colorado River, absolutely. The Colorado River serves as a lifeline in the West for people and birds. Today, there is a lot of talk about another dry year in the Colorado River Basin and the increasing need for state and federal funding (and action) to protect the river’s benefits and values. July 25th, Colorado River Day, is the day we pause to celebrate and reflect on the awe-inspiring 1,450 miles of the Colorado River that flow from the high peaks in Colorado to Mexico. But the Colorado has not always traveled this distance.

Though indigenous tribes had most certainly named the rivers of the Colorado Basin, Western Europeans began applying their own names beginning with Spanish exploration in the 16th century. Until 1921, the Spanish name “Colorado”—meaning “red”— flowed exclusively below the confluence of the Grand and Green Rivers deep inside modern-day Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. As Europeans settled into the West, they named the stretch of river between the Green and the Gunnison Rivers the Grand River. Late in the 1800s the name “Grand River” replaced many other river names, and was applied to the growing river flowing from the western slopes of La Poudre Pass on the Continental Divide, in northern Colorado’s present-day Rocky Mountain National Park to the confluence with the Green River in Utah.

Today, the history of the Grand River persists in place names. The Grand River lent its name to Grand Junction, a city on Colorado’s western slope in the Grand Valley, from its location at the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado (formerly the Grand) Rivers. Both Utah and Colorado have a Grand County, named after the river. The Grand Canyon, however, was named by John Wesley Powell purely for the grandeur of the Canyon, not for the river’s upper reaches.

Early in 1921, the Colorado was at the center of a brawl over names and ownership brewing in the State of Colorado and in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Honorable Edward Taylor, a Colorado Congressman, presented a determined case to the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the United States House of Representatives. He had one goal: to convince the Committee to pass a resolution forward to Congress that would officially change the name of the Grand River to the Colorado River. Congressman Taylor had fuel for his case from supportive Coloradans and state legislators for the name change of the river. Colorado’s namesake river.

There was opposition. At that time, the Colorado River began in Utah below the confluence of the Grand and Green Rivers. Politicians from Utah and Wyoming opposed the name change based on the fact that the Green River, which runs through both Utah and Wyoming, is the longer tributary with a larger drainage area. Congressman Taylor rebutted their arguments with two justifications. First, the Grand River contributes a significantly larger volume of water than the Green River. And second, the Grand River originates in the State of Colorado and therefore should be known as the Colorado River.

Congressman Taylor’s efforts were successful. On July 25, 1921, Congress passed House Joint Resolution 460 which officially changed the name of the Grand River to the Colorado River.

Due to the historic name change, July 25th is now known as Colorado River Day. This is a day which honors not only the river’s history, but also its critical importance to both people and the environment. Riparian habitats like the forests and wetlands that line the Colorado River support some of the most abundant and diverse bird communities in the arid West, serving as home to some 400 species. The Colorado River also provides drinking water for more than 36 million people, irrigates 5.5 million acres of farms and ranches, and supports 16 million jobs throughout seven states, with a combined annual economic impact of $1.4 trillion. The value of the Colorado River is important to all of us, and it’s up to us to ensure its future.

Special thanks to Sara Porterfield, PhD, Colorado River historian for content review.


United States. Congress. Renaming of the Grand River, Colorado. Hearing before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives on H. J. Res. 460. 66th Cong., 3rd sess. Washington: GPO Committee transcript Renaming of the Grand River, Colorado 1921

CO Map 1913 Showing Grand River:

Colorado Map circa 1913 Showing Grand River via Colorado State University