Summit State of the River, May 14, 2020

Map of the Blue River drainage basin in Colorado, USA. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69327693

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

Learn about current conditions and issues in the Blue and Colorado river watersheds at the Summit State of the River. Presentations will include forecasts of how much water will be in area rivers and reservoirs later this summer, how Summit County fits into forecasted shortages facing the larger Colorado River Basin, an update on Summit County reservoirs, transmountain diversions and information about how you can participate in Blue River planning efforts to assess and sustain this valuable resource and its associated ecosystem.

Agenda

• Protecting West Slope water as we face an uncertain water future – Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River District (20 minutes)
• An outlook on our water supply and updates from the Division of Water Resources – Troy Wineland, Summit County water commissioner at the Division of Water Resources (15 minutes)
• Green Mountain Reservoir and Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations – Victor Lee, hydrological engineer at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (15 minutes)
• Dillon Reservoir and Denver Water operations – Nathan Elder, Denver Water’s manager of water supply (10 minutes)
• Blue Lakes and Hoosier Pass system operations – Kalsoum Abbasi, Colorado Springs Utilities water planning supervisor (5 minutes)
• The Blue River Integrated Water Management Plan – Peggy Bailey, V.P., and Erika Donaghy, executive director of Blue River Watershed Group (15 minutes)
Time

May 14, 2020 06:00 PM in Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Water use patterns provide a sense of normalcy — News on TAP

Denver Water employees keep watchful eye on the system through COVID-19. The post Water use patterns provide a sense of normalcy appeared first on News on TAP.

via Water use patterns provide a sense of normalcy — News on TAP

#Runoff news: @USBR is expecting below a normal season on the #AnimasRiver #snowpack

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

“I think, unfortunately, it’s one of those years that’s kind of a bummer,” said Ashley Nielson, a senior hydrologist with the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center. “Everything is going to be below average.”

Animas River Basin SNOTEL snowpack graph May 3, 2020 via the NRCS.

Snowpack in the San Juan Mountains this winter hovered near historic averages, according to Snotel sites, which track snow depth.

But Snotel sites tell only part of the story.

For one, there are a limited number of sites in the basin. And this year, elevations above most Snotel sites around 11,000 feet didn’t receive as much snow as usual.

To make matters worse, drought conditions last summer and fall caused the ground to dry up significantly, so soil likely will absorb more snowmelt than normal, at the expense of rivers and streams.

As a result, the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts the Animas River will receive about 70% of the water it usually does in spring, Nielson said.

The forecast center also predicts the Animas River likely will hit a peak flow of 2,300 to 2,500 cubic feet per second, though as much as 3,000 cfs is possible…

As of Friday, Snotel records show Southwest Colorado’s snowpack is melting at an accelerated rate: Snowpack in the San Juans is 70% of normal historic averages for this time of year.

Jarrod Biggs, assistant utilities director for the city of Durango, said a heavy snowpack year in the winter of 2018-19 provided good storage for the town’s reservoir, which should help water reserves during a below-normal runoff.

The city of Durango gets most of its water from the Florida River and supplements supply from the Animas River when demand increases…

Water is not being pulled from the Animas River to Lake Nighthorse this year, said Russ Means, general manager of the reservoir, as crews work on the intake structure across from Santa Rita Park.

On Friday, the Animas River was running at 1,700 cfs, which is 25% higher than average for this time of year, said Frank Kugel, director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Now, more than ever, we need tribes at the water negotiating table — #Arizona Central #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Graphic credit: Western Water Assessment

Here’s an opinion column from Dennis Patch and Ted Kowalski that’s running in The Arizona Republic:

Opinion: We need each other if we are going to protect and save the life of the Colorado River that supports us all.

A study recently published in the journal Science found that global warming and climate change have led to an emerging “megadrought” in the western U.S. – and that the drought we’ve been experiencing over the last 20 years is as bad or worse than any in 1,200 years.

It’s a sobering prospect for those of us who call the West home – especially at a moment when the coronavirus is underscoring just how essential a healthy and available water supply is to public health.

The findings underscore the urgent necessity of continued efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and work together to make progress for the environment.

The study’s release coincides with the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Drought Contingency Plan. It was about a year ago that leaders from the seven states of the Colorado River Basin – as well as leaders from the U.S. and Mexico – agreed to one of the largest voluntary water conservation plans in history to respond to the ongoing drought.

Reaching the agreement to protect the water supplies for roughly one in eight Americans was a long and complex process, and tribal leaders and environmental advocates played an integral role. Both of our organizations are proud to have contributed to this effort.

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

Tribes have rights to 20% of this water

There are 29 federally recognized tribes across the Colorado River Basin. Together, these tribes have water rights to roughly 20% of the water that flows through the river annually. In Arizona, the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) and the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) were critical partners in making the Drought Contingency Plan possible.

For CRIT, this was a choice that reflects deeply rooted values, including the spiritual and cultural significance of rivers and wildlife. Supporting water conservation also puts a clear value on basic human needs that are important to us all.

Regardless of individual reasons for supporting water conservation that brought such a wide group of interests together, it is now more evident than at any other time in our lives how we are all connected to each other, and to our natural resources. And with that in mind, there is great work yet to be done to make sure that all water users are truly part of a more sustainable future.

Tribal nations have historically been left out of planning and negotiations that develop river management across the Colorado River Basin. Meaningful tribal inclusion going forward will not be an easy task.

It requires leadership from all involved to authentically understand each other’s interests and responsibilities. It requires sharing expertise to build tribal capacity so that we are in equitable positions to negotiate. Diversity, equity and inclusion enhance the process for all of us.

We need each other to save the Colorado

Beyond that, we also know that homes on our tribal reservations are 19 times more likely than homes off the reservation to lack running water. This is not a situation that we can or should accept, particularly at a time when it is acutely clear that access to secure, clean water is a cornerstone of public health.

All communities across the Colorado River Basin deserve to be part of the discussions as decisions about managing the river are made. All water users, water managers and elected leaders need to work together to address the inequities in water availability in the basin.

That process started last year in Arizona with the CRIT and GRIC participation in the drought plan, and it needs to continue as plans develop for our water future. We need each other if we are going to protect and save the life of the Colorado River that supports us all.

In this moment of such dire need, and in the face of one of the most severe droughts in over a century, it is time for each of us to recommit to what connects all of us – and what it means to conserve and live in a responsible, sustainable way, together.

Dennis Patch is chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, whose reservation in Arizona and California is bisected by the Colorado River. Ted Kowalski leads the Colorado River Initiative for the Walton Family Foundation, which encourages water conservation and a healthy, sustainable Colorado River Basin.