Jeffrey Kightlinger, General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, plans to retire at the end of the year

Jeffrey Kightlinger via Twitter.

Click here to read his letter to his board:

March 2006, 14 years ago, was my first Metropolitan Board meeting as General Manager. It was one of the most important and special days of my life. Today, with more than a little sadness, I would like to announce my intent to step down as General Manager at the end of this year.

I have discussed my plans with Chairwoman Gray and we agree that it is important to the district to ensure a smooth succession. Accordingly, I am announcing my plans at this time to provide the Board with sufficient time to run a thorough recruitment and interview process.

I look forward to working closely with Chairwoman Gray and the Board on a successful transition to new leadership over the remainder of this year. Generally, it has taken about six months to recruit someone for the General Manager position. Assuming a new General Manager is brought on by late fall, I will make myself available to assist her or him in the transition process through the end of the year.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Metropolitan’s General Manager. Metropolitan is the premier public sector water utility with an outstanding work force that is second to
none. People always tell me how impressed they are with Metropolitan’s staff. I consider myself so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a talented workforce.

I want to thank Chairwoman Gray for her strong leadership and personal support for me. She is the right leader at the right time for Metropolitan. I would like to thank the Board for always putting Metropolitan first in its thinking and for making the sound decisions that will ensure water supply reliability for Southern California for generations to come. I want to thank the member agencies and my water colleagues for their friendship and guidance. And most of all, I want to thank all of the employees at Metropolitan for making these past years so richly rewarding on both a personal and professional level. It has been my pleasure to work with each and every one of you.

We have quite a lot to accomplish the rest of this year with regards to Delta conveyance, the State Board’s Water Quality Control Plan update, our Integrated Resource Plan 2020 revision, a review of our rate structure and critical decisions on our Regional Recycled Water Project. And I intend to work hard with everyone to make progress on all of these issues and more in the coming year.

@mwdh2o scouting team looking for where to site our Colorado River Aqueduct intake on the Colorado River. Boats powered w Model T motor! — Jeffrey Kightlinger via Twitter. I will miss the photos that Mr. Kightlinger published from the Metropolitan archives.

I asked Mr. Kightlinger about the genesis of his Twitter handle 8thGenCA. Here’s his response.

@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. Here’s the summary:

Summary: March 10, 2020

Mostly dry, warmer than average conditions prevailed across the IMW over the last week. Some exceptions include northeastern Colorado where they received 0.25-1.00” of precipitation with the greatest accumulation over Weld County. Northern San Juan basin and southern Gunnison basin did see about 0.10-0.25’ with some areas seeing up to 1.00”, however this is low for early March and SPI values are continuing to show degrading conditions in this area. Northern Utah also received decent precipitation, northern Cache county received 1.0-1.50” of precipitation over the last week.

The high elevations of the IMW by and large had a drier week than normal for early March. Snowpack is still strong through most of the IMW with a few stations already over 100% of normal peak values such as Upper Colorado River Basin and the Yampa and White River Basins. However, recent dryness has led to a regression in snowpack values for the southern portion of the region. The San Juans in Colorado have regressed to 88% of average for this point in the season. Snowpack is also below normal in Arizona and western New Mexico. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center is anticipating low cumulative runoff numbers for this spring and summer from the San Juan Basin southward due to low snowpack and very low soil moisture prior to the start of the cold season. Snowpack numbers are above normal east of the Continental Divide.

Surface water supplies are in generally average to above average conditions for small-to-medium reservoirs across the IMW. This is thanks in large part to a high snowpack in 2019. The giant exceptions are Lake Powell, and Lake Mead, which have been consistently lower than normal for years. Powell and Mead would need an anomalous cool, wet period spanning multiple years to return to levels seen in the 1980s and 90s.

Grasslands east of the Continental Divide are seeing mixed surface conditions, but things have been trending drier. According to the NLDAS NOAH model from nationalsoilmoisture.com, northeastern Colorado is seeing widespread dry topsoils and root zone soils. This is adversely impacting winter wheat and rangeland condtitions prior to greenup. Soil moisture in northeast Wyoming and Utah are in better condition.

Dry weather is in the forecast for much of eastern Colorado but the remainder of the UCRB is forecast to see decent precipitation in the next week. The Tetons, Uintahs, and western Colorado Rockies are forecasted to receive 1.00-3.00” of moisture in the week to come. The 8-14 day outlook will be important to keep an eye on. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center currently favors below average temperatures and an increased chance of above normal precipitation over the IMW region with highest probability over southern Utah, southern Colorado, all of Arizona and northern New Mexico. Given the persisting drought conditions, and deteriorating snowpack, in the four corners region, a widespread precipitation event over this area would be valuable.

Interview with Daryl Vigil [Ten Tribes Partnership]: ‘This system cannot be sustained’ — @HighCountryNews #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The High Country News [March 10, 2020]: (Anna V. Smith):

The Colorado River Basin is the setting for some of the most drawn-out and complex water issues in the Western U.S. In 2019, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan — a water-conservation agreement between states, tribal nations and the federal government for the basin, now in its 20th year of drought — passed Congress. This year, it goes into effect.

2020 will also see the start of the renegotiation of the Colorado River Interim Guidelines. The guidelines, which regulate the flow of water to users, were created in 2007 without tribal consultation and are set to expire in 2026. The 29 tribal nations in the upper and lower basins hold some of the river’s most senior water rights and control around 20% of its annual flow. But the tribes have often been excluded from water policymaking; around a dozen have yet to quantify their water rights, while others have yet to make full use of them. Most of the tribal nations anticipate fully developing their established water rights by 2040 — whether for agriculture, development, leasing or other uses. Drought and climate change are still causing shortages and uncertainty, however. Already, the Colorado River has dropped by about 20%; by the end of this century, it could drop by more than half.

Daryl Vigil, water administrator for the Jicarilla Apache Nation, has pushed for increased tribal participation in Colorado River renegotiation discussions. Courtesy of Bob Conrad via The High Country News

High Country News spoke with Daryl Vigil (Jicarilla Apache, Jemez Pueblo and Zia Pueblo), water administrator for the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Vigil, the interim executive director of the Ten Tribes Partnership, helped co-facilitate the Water and Tribes Initiative, coalitions focused on getting increased tribal participation on Colorado River discussions. Those efforts are critical, Vigil says, “because left to the states and the federal government, they’ve already proven that they will leave us out every time.”

HCN and Vigil spoke about “the law of the river” — the colloquial term for the roughly 100 years of court cases, treaties, agreements and water settlements that govern the Colorado — as well as tribal consultation and climate change.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

High Country News: Sometimes it can be hard to really understand the core value of water, because it gets so caught up in things like policies and laws and bureaucratic language. Could you boil it down a bit and explain, at the core, what’s so important about this?

Daryl Vigil: Through the Water and Tribes Initiative (in 2018), we did over a hundred interviews of all the major stakeholders in the basin: states, water providers, tribes, NGOs, conservation groups. And it was pretty amazing, to find out that when you talk to all these folks, almost universally they’re all committed; they have a personal relationship to the river as a living entity that needs to be sustained. And so there’s two different mindsets looking at ’07 guidelines and some of the policy that’s been created around the river. One really looks at the Colorado River as a plumbing system, getting water to people who need it, versus the other end of the spectrum — when you start to look at tribes and others who have similar values, who look at it as a living entity, who look at it as an entity that provides life. And so we started to try to articulate traditional, cultural values and integrate that into current policy so that people can understand. Because we know most people want to see a healthy, sustainable Colorado River, but they also have their constituencies that they protect. And so, how is it that we bridge that divide? Because people really do care about the basin, and they really do want healthy environments and healthy ecosystems. And so that’s proven part of the conversation that we were having — that the next set of guidelines absolutely needs to be able to capture not only the water-delivery issues that already are at the forefront, but really start to address the cultural, environmental, traditional values of the Colorado River and integrate that into the next set of planning. Because if we don’t, this system cannot be sustained.

HCN: How does climate change figure into the discussion?

DV: We’re already seeing the impacts. And I think that’s something that absolutely has to be considered in the planning of the future, because right now — with 41 million people in the basin — as of 2010, the imbalance between supply and demand is already a million acre-feet. It’s projected, according to the basin study, to be 3 million acre-feet by 2060. We continue to act surprised when something new comes about in terms of a fire or a flood or an incredible drought. We’re making an impact on this planet, and it’s not a good one. That’s where, with the Ten Tribes Partnership, (we’re) really trying to make sure that we integrate those traditional, cultural values and spiritual values that the tribes have for the river as we move forward. Because if we’re not going to address it, it looks pretty catastrophic to us. And so I think, when we start talking about climate change, absolutely pushing to make sure that we’re thinking about a mindset of how we fit into nature, rather than nature fitting into us.

HCN: These kinds of discussions, compromises and negotiations can often, especially around water in the West, go on for decades. I’m curious what gives you momentum to keep working at it and putting so much energy into it.

DV: A few different things. You know, those hundred-plus interviews that we did, we got to know people on a real personal basis. We got to know who they are and their commitment — many of these people have had decades working in the Colorado River Basin and doing the best that they could, given the structure. And everybody understands and agrees that the current system is not sustainable, and it doesn’t work; it’s not inclusive of the voices that need to be included into this process. And so that gives me great hope. And then you see things like the pulse flow, where they got water all the way to the Sea of Cortez. And to look at the faces of those Mexican kids who had never seen water in the Colorado River in their whole life come out, and just the wonder and the magic in their eyes of seeing what water does.

And then we just recently had our second basin-wide workshop and gathering up in Phoenix. We had a hundred-plus of the major stakeholders: states, feds, water providers, tribes and four tribal chairman present at this particular meeting, which is just huge, a bunch of people all in this room all talking about their joint commitment to the river. It’s moving to me because, I mean, I think that’s what it’s going to take.

HCN: Every tribal nation is different, but how might a tribal nation view water similarly or differently than a city or a state or the federal government in terms of water and management?

DV: That’s the thing that we’re really trying to create awareness of. Because in the Colorado River Basin alone, you have 29 distinct sovereign entities — geographically, culturally, languages, and mindsets and traditions and culture in terms of how they think about the river. A lot of it’s really about the same, but in terms of the reverence and the spiritual connection that most tribes have, they look at it in different ways. For instance, invasive species of fish: You get tribes who are really aggressive about wanting to remove them because they’re not part of the natural environment that was always there. Then you get other tribes who are just like, eh, who cares and it’s not on their radar. And that’s why it’s important that a conversation about the next set of guidelines for the Colorado River has to include all 29 tribes — in terms of at least the opportunity to participate and at least having the information to determine whether they want to or not.

HCN: What are some big things that you would like people to better understand about the discussions around water in the Colorado River Basin?

DV: I would like them to understand, from a tribal perspective, the incredible role that tribal water already plays in the basin. The other thing I would like people to understand is that this current law of the river is not sustainable. At some point in time there’s collapse. And I think if we don’t address it quickly, that collapse could happen sooner than later. And I really would like to have them understand that the way that the law of the river is structured — upper, lower basins, and how they’re managed differently, and how there’s different requirements and how states are engaged — it’s really complex and doesn’t make any sense, and, ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to get us where the broader consensus wants us to go in terms of a healthy, sustainable river, and still provide water to all living creatures and plants in the basin.

HCN: Specifically, what is it that tribal nations are bringing to the conversation that was lacking in the 2007 agreements?

DV: I think absolutely a point of view about the sacredness of the river that most people really do share, whether they’re tribal or not. And then the other thing is the unique role that tribes are going to continue to play in the West — the large land areas and our resource development and how we move forward. It creates this mindset, in my mind, of building a pathway of who we want to be in the future. But a huge thing, too, is tribes bring certainty to the table. You know, it’s like, wow, what if we negotiated together about being able to move water where it needs to move, and work from a standpoint of collaboration and need rather than protect, defend and win, lose.

HCN: That’s a good point. Because that’s how water is so often talked about, as somebody versus somebody.

DV: And I think that’s what the law of the river does. It’s contentious, and it automatically puts you in a position to protect and defend. And if that’s the foundation we’re operating from, what does that get us? It’s just going to get us this recurring, vicious cycle that we’ve been stuck in. The work that we’re doing at the partnership and Water and Tribes Initiative hopefully has broader implications in terms of tribal sovereignty, and looking at tribal sovereignty from the standpoint of an opportunity to create your future.

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at annasmith@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor. Follow @annavtoriasmith.

Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Finalists Selected for Colorado Leopold Conservation Award — The Sand County Foundation

Aldo Leopold

Here’s the release from the Sand County Foundation:

Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2020 Colorado Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes ranchers, farmers, and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working lands.

In Colorado the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The finalists are:

  • Collins Ranch of Kit Carson in Cheyenne County: Toby and Amy Johnson’s family are cattle ranchers who have implemented a grazing system focused on the long-term sustainability and improvement of grass and soil health. By utilizing more, but smaller, pastures their rotational grazing system protects against overgrazing. Cattle are moved to fields of corn stalks during the winter. Water tanks for cattle and wildlife have been moved away from meadows and creeks to reduce erosion.
  • LK Ranch of Meeker in Rio Blanco County: The innovative grazing management, fencing and watering systems implemented by the Klinglesmith family have made their ranch more ecologically and economically resilient. Conservation easements placed on the ranch ensure that water rights will remain for agricultural and wildlife in perpetuity. New irrigation equipment reduces the amount of water needed to irrigate hay fields, and any late season hay growth is left standing to feed mule deer and elk.
  • May Ranch of Lamar in Prowers County: From a carbon credit offset program and rangeland health assessments, to how cattle are properly cared for, rancher Dallas May and his family utilize a variety of third-party verifications to measure and manage conservation success. In addition to managing the grasslands his cattle graze, the Mays have installed wildlife-friendly fencing, improved wetlands and streams, restored playas, and planted native trees. They actively work with conservation groups by hosting surveys of bird species, tours and biological inventories on the ranch.
    This year’s recipient will be announced in April. The formal award presentation will take place on Monday, June 15 at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s 2020 Annual Convention, which will be held at the Colorado Springs Marriott in Colorado Springs.
  • This year’s recipient will be announced in April. The formal award presentation will take place on Monday, June 15 at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s 2020 Annual Convention, which will be held at the Colorado Springs Marriott in Colorado Springs.

    “Agriculture producers positively benefit the environment, our communities, and our economy while feeding a growing society through sustainable production practices that produce more by using less,” said Steve Wooten, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association President. “This approach is the very backbone of stewardship that the Leopold Conservation Award honors and CCA celebrates the award recipients and applicants, and also all of Colorado’s farmers and ranchers for their conservation contributions.”

    “The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust is proud to celebrate the voluntary conservation accomplishments of Colorado’s farmers and ranchers,” said Erik Glenn, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust Executive Director. “The 2020 Leopold Conservation Award nominees and applicants showcase the diversity of agriculture in Colorado and the dedication that farming and ranching families have to the lands they steward, their communities, and their families.”

    To learn more about previous recipients, including the 2019 recipient, Livingston Ranch of Stratton, Colorado, visit https://www.sandcountyfoundation.org/our-work/leopold-conservation-award-program/state/colorado.

    The Leopold Conservation Award in Colorado is made possible by generous contributions from the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Sand County Foundation, Gates Family Foundation, Stanko Ranch, American AgCredit, The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, and McDonald’s.

    Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

    For more information on the award, visit http://www.leopoldconservationaward.org.