2020 #COleg: #Colorado lawmakers to tackle #ColoradoRiver issues, funding water projects, and environmental streamflows in 2020 — @WaterEdCO #COriver #aridification #COwaterPlan

From Water Education Colorado (Larry Morandi):

Saving water on the Colorado River system, funding the state water plan, and preserving more water for streams are expected to top lawmakers’ water agenda when the Colorado General Assembly begins its work Jan. 8

Saving Water on the Colorado River

Last May the seven Colorado River Basin states signed a drought contingency plan that requires the three lower basin states, Arizona, Nevada and California, to cut water use. It also gives the four upper basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — the option to create a large-scale water conservation program that would add more water to storage in Lake Powell. That water would be credited to the Upper Basin states and protect them from cutbacks if levels in Powell start to fall below those needed to generate power and to meet water delivery obligations to the Lower Basin. Colorado and other Upper Basin states are exploring whether such a conservation program, known as demand management, is feasible. Any water users who contributed to the new Powell storage account would do so voluntarily and would be paid for their participation.

Where would that water come from? Since irrigated agriculture is the largest user, most of it is likely to come from farmers and ranchers. That troubles Colorado Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, former manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association in southwest Colorado. “We’re still looking at agriculture as a living reservoir that we don’t have to build,” he says.

But Catlin sees “some shifting in the conversation” about sharing water cuts with East Slope communities, where there’s a growing recognition that “if it hurts western Colorado, it hurts the whole state.” That’s because East Slope urban water providers rely on transmountain diversions for much of their water supply. Denver Water, for example, counts on Colorado River imports for half its water. And since most of those rights are junior — acquired after the 1922 Colorado River Compact was signed — the metro area, along with irrigators in the South Platte and Arkansas River valleys that receive water via transmountain diversions, would also be affected by any cutbacks in Colorado River water deliveries. It is anticipated that those entities and regions would participate in conservation alongside West Slope irrigators.

While the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is now examining whether to create such a program, lawmakers this year will consider a bill that would require CWCB to involve the public and the state’s nine river basin roundtables in developing a demand management program. Although CWCB would have final say, it would have to submit any draft program to the Water Resources Review Committee and consider its feedback.

Funding Colorado’s Water Plan

Implementing Colorado’s Water Plan is projected to cost $3 billion over the next 30 years, or $100 million annually. The CWCB and the General Assembly have provided some funding for the water plan, but those amounts cover only a fraction of the water plan’s estimated costs.

Enter Proposition DD, approved by voters in November. It legalizes sports betting and assesses a 10 percent tax on casinos’ net proceeds. The state can collect up to $29 million per year, with more than 90 percent of that going into a newly created Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund run by CWCB. Experience with sports betting in other states suggests that no more than $16 million in tax revenue will be generated annually, and during the first year just $7 million is expected.

Lawmakers are expected to discuss options giving them some say in how CWCB allocates that revenue, but those talks may not result in legislation this year.

Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, a member of the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) and prime sponsor of the general fund water appropriations last year, does not expect Proposition DD to affect JBC’s water plan funding recommendations this year. Last year, for the first time, lawmakers approved $10 million in general fund money for the water plan. But Rankin cautions that appropriating another $10 million in general funds to support water plan implementation and demand management development will depend on how revenue forecasts shake out.

Instream Flows

Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, said he plans to introduce a bill that would expand the existing instream flow loan program. Under current law, a water right holder can loan water to the CWCB to further preserve water for rivers on stream segments where the board already holds an instream flow water right. The loan may be exercised for no more than three years in a single 10-year period. Roberts’ bill would increase the number of years the loan could be exercised from three to five, and allow for two additional 10-year periods.

The proposed bill is similar to one that passed the House of Representatives but was defeated in Senate committee last year. Opposition to that bill centered on the potential impact on historical irrigation return flows from leaving water in the stream rather than applying it on the land, the effects on soils fallowed for long periods, and the tight comment period allotted after a loan application is filed in which opponents can make their case. Those issues were discussed during the interim session, but the Water Resources Review Committee took no action.

Roberts says that recommendations developed by a Colorado Water Congress working group to provide water right holders with more opportunities to comment and protect downstream users will be incorporated into the new bill. With those changes, he’s optimistic that “we have arrived at a place where more of the water community feels comfortable with the program’s expansion.”

Other Issues

The Water Resources Review Committee recommended three other bills for consideration this session. One would address water speculation, with concerns raised that agricultural water rights are being sold to entities with no real interest in farming that are holding those rights for future, profitable transactions. The bill would create a working group to explore ways to strengthen anti-speculation laws and report its findings and recommendations to the committee next year.

Another bill would task the University of Colorado and Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Center with studying new technologies to improve monitoring, management, conservation, and trading of water rights and report back to the committee in 2021.

The final bill would increase the number of state water well inspectors and require rulemaking to help the state engineer identify high-risk wells for inspection.

And although no legislation has yet been drafted, Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Wolcott, said she anticipates discussion of how to better dovetail water planning with land use development to ensure large new communities have sustainable water supplies.

Larry Morandi was formerly director of State Policy Research with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, and is a frequent contributor to Fresh Water News. He can be reached at larrymorandi@comcast.net.

Fresh Water News is an independent, non-partisan news initiative of Water Education Colorado. WEco is funded by multiple donors. Our editorial policy and donor list can be viewed at http://www.wateredco.org.

George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

Wild rainbow trout population growing in the Gunnison Gorge — #Colorado Parks & Wildlife

A tiny rainbow trout fry is giving CPW biologists hope that wild fish are reproducing naturally in the Gunnison River Gorge and that will eventually help to restore wild rainbows to rivers throughout the state. Photo credit: CPW

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Work to restore wild rainbow trout in the Gunnison Gorge is starting to pay off as the population of the species is slowly increasing, according to surveys conducted recently by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. CPW biologists are hopeful that the success on the Gunnison will eventually help bring wild rainbows back to all Colorado’s rivers and streams.

Rainbow trout once dominated the renowned Gunnison River; but in 1994 CPW biologists found fish there infected with whirling disease and their population drifted toward zero. Brown trout, which are much more resistant to whirling disease, quickly took over and now are the dominant fish in the gorge and many other Colorado streams. Whirling disease infected streams and rivers throughout the state and imperiled rainbow trout populations.

The most significant observation from the Gunnison survey completed in October showed an abundance of “young of the year” fish that hatched in mid-summer and that showed no symptoms of whirling disease.

“We found the highest number of rainbow fry we’ve ever seen since the 1990s and they were spread over multiple sites in the canyon,” said Eric Gardunio, aquatic biologist for CPW in Montrose. “We’re seeing natural reproduction throughout the canyon and survival of wild fish in the life stage where they can be affected by whirling disease. It’s very encouraging.”

Rainbow Trout

For adult fish, the survey found 630 rainbow trout per mile in the survey sections. That’s significantly fewer than the 1,500-2,000 rainbows found per mile in the days before whirling disease; but improvement from the last few years is evident. In 2014, surveys found just 173 fish per mile; 489 fish per mile in 2016; and 522 fish per mile in 2017.

By comparison, brown trout now number about 5,000 fish per mile.

“It’s a very healthy river, but for rainbows we have a long way to go before we’ll be comfortable saying they are fully recovered,” Gardunio said.

CPW continues to stock whirling-disease resistant rainbows in that section of the Gunnison and at other rivers throughout the state.

The recovery plan for the fish started tentatively in 2003 when CPW obtained a whirling-disease resistant strain of rainbows from a hatchery in Germany. The fish, however, had been hatchery-raised for decades and were “domesticated”, meaning they had no experience in the wild. CPW researchers crossed the spawn of these fish, known as Hofers, with several other strains of rainbow trout. The crosses showed significant resistance to whirling disease and exhibited a “flight response” when placed in reservoirs.

In the spring of 2007, biologists started stocking the Hofer-cross fry in rivers and reservoirs statewide. Results were mixed throughout the state, but biologists found that the new strains did best in the East Portal section of the Gunnison River where CPW had, for many years, spawned wild trout to supply state hatcheries. That spot continues to be a productive area and rainbows are spawned there every year. They’ve even been given their own name – Gunnison River Rainbows.

Finding the young wild fish downstream in the Gunnison Gorge provides another encouraging sign that the 20-year journey to recover rainbow trout has been worth the effort. The abundance of brown trout, predators that feast on small fish, are perhaps the biggest challenge in the Gunnison and other rivers.

“The wild fry are the best thing for us to see down there,” Gardunio said. “As those fish grow into adults we’ll have more and more fish and hopefully, a self-sustaining population. We hope to see a continuing gradual increase.”

And if they thrive in the Gunnison, biologists are confident they’ll eventually take hold in big rivers throughout the state.

Looking downstream from Chasm View, Painted Wall on right. Photo credit: NPS\Lisa Lynch

#ColoradoSprings councillors approve permanent watering restrictions #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

Colorado Springs is following the lead of Denver and other Front Range cities that have instituted permanent water restrictions amid mounting concerns about future water shortages.

Under the new rules, residents and businesses that use sprinklers and other irrigation systems to water lawns and gardens may only do so three times a week. From May 1 to Oct. 15, landscape watering must take place before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

The restrictions, which won final approval from the City Council on Thursday and will take effect Jan. 1, make exceptions for recently planted vegetation and turf grass on sports fields.

Residents may still water gardens or potted plants more than three times a week if they are using a handheld hose with a nozzle, a watering can or other handheld container or a low pressure, low volume “drip irrigation” system, such as a bubbler, drip emitter, in-line tubing or soaker hose…

Colorado Springs Utilities has for years recommended that its customers follow these parameters. In some dry periods since the early 2000s, the city has required them.

Meanwhile, municipalities including Denver and Fort Collins have mandated that residents and businesses abide by similar restrictions at all times.

“Right now, we’re playing catch up,” Gaebler said. “Considering we get up to 70% of our water from the Western Slope and the Colorado River, we do need to be leaders in this area.”

Utilities is competing with tens of millions of people in Colorado and six other Western states who also depend on the Colorado River Basin’s water supply. And as the Pikes Peak region’s population increases, so does the demand for the dwindling resource in the arid high desert of Colorado’s Front Range and plains…

Other water providers in El Paso County are mainly dependent on dwindling groundwater and are facing more pressure to find reliable water sources — ones replenished regularly by precipitation — rather than deep aquifers that are slow to recharge.

Countywide, the water supply needs to increase by more than a third over the next 40 years to avert a shortage, according to the county’s water master plan. The current supply is about 146,000 acre-feet per year, but demand is expected to increase to about 206,000 acre-feet per year by 2060, according to the document…

Utilities expects the permanent restrictions will save up to 1,000 acre-feet of water annually over the next 50 years. That would account for about a tenth of the agency’s long-term water conservation goals, said Pat Wells, Utilities’ general manager of water resources and demand management…

Water customers can apply for a permit if they must break the rules to establish new grass or plants. They can seek a water allocation plan, as well, if they need more flexibility.

The rules will also prohibit residents from using water to clean sidewalks, driveways and patios, “except when cleaning with water is necessary for public health or safety reasons or when other cleaning methods are impractical or inappropriate.” Utilities customers will be barred from allowing water that’s meant for irrigation to pool on paved surfaces or accumulate in gutters and drains.

The regulations also advises against watering landscapes during high wind or precipitation events and recommend that hoses with nozzles be used to wash vehicles and that restaurants refrain from serving drinking water unless a patron requests it.

In addition to instituting permanent restrictions, the City Council also updated its three-tiered water restriction system. Stage I emergency restrictions, which mirror the rules that are to become permanent, will be replaced with irrigation restrictions for nonpotable water users, which account for a small fraction of Utilities customers.

Colorado River Basin. Graphic credit: Water Education Colorado

Montrose: City approves more funds to help refurbish aging water tank as decades-old structure needs more work — The Montrose Press

Water tower in Orr, Minnesota.

From The Montrose Press (Andrew Kiser):

City Council voted unanimously Tuesday for $87,000 to Farnsworth Group for out-of-scope design services associated with the Sunset Mesa Tank Replacement project.

The below-ground water storage tank on Sunset Mesa has been around the 1960s. The storage was nearing the end of its usage as structural damage has caused the need for a new tank, located next to the Sunset Mesa Sports Complex baseball fields…

Throughout this design effort, numerous out-of-scope items were required for the completion of the project.

In the city council packet, the Farnsworth Group provided detailed information into what changes needed to occur for the water tank project.

The company listed more evaluations and extras services for increased interconnectivity, operational flexibility, operator access and safety needed to be included.

The structure also needed easier access in locating interconnecting piping in the lower level of pump station as that will provide more convenient expansion in the future and safer access for operations staff.

The design will also help staff as it’ll provide a mounted valve actuator system and housing which will be safer and more convenient access. This will require increases in building size and electrical and instrumentation system designs.

It will also complete several design iterations to efficiently connect inlets, outlets and drains of the proposed and future standpipes; as well as additional pumps and drains.

The Farnsworth Group also suggested the project should have designs for potential future additions of disinfection residual control system and forced air ventilation system for THM removal.

The company said the water tank should have added flow metering for both inflow and outflow pipes. Control descriptions should be prepared for the operation of the pumps and the standpipe inflow valve and valving operations, Farnsworth Group wrote.

Finally, the Farnsworth Group determined a splitting project into two separate bid packages while adding contractor coordinator requirements. The intent is to stay away from the general contractor price markup on the tank portion of the project.