#Snowpack news (December 23, 2020): The #ColoradoRiver Basin SWE in #Colorado is at or below 2002

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

Here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for December 23, 2020 via the NRCS.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled snowpack map December 23, 2020 via the NRCS.

Western Water Legislation Advances Conservation, Resilience, and Equity — Audubon

Ridgway’s Rail. Photo: Rick Lewis/Audubon Photography Awards

From Audubon:

Newly passed western water package will support 21st century infrastructure, water supply security, and ecological resilience.

Tucked away in the giant omnibus spending legislation passed this week was a small package of bills focused on western water. Western rivers provide important benefits to rural communities, the recreation economy, and bird and wildlife habitat, in addition to providing critical water supplies for cities, irrigated farmland, and tribes.

More than 40 million people rely on the Colorado River or its tributaries for water, and the Colorado also irrigates over five million acres of ranch and farmland, providing food for the entire nation. Reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin, filled to the brim at the end of the 20th Century, are at historic lows due to a 19-year drought and growing demands. Diminished stream flows now pose serious challenges for cities, farms, wildlife, and recreation. Western birds like the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Ridgway’s Rail, and Wilson’s Phalarope depend on ecosystems and habitat throughout the west.

This package of bills expands and improves grant programs within the Bureau of Reclamation that address water conservation and efficiency, drought response, and ecological resiliency. These bills will reauthorize and expand participation in the Cooperative Watershed Management program, an important, collaborative conservation program. In addition, the WaterSMART program is expanded to make non-governmental entities eligible in some circumstances and to fund natural and nature-based projects.

It also establishes a new program to fund fish passage and other improvements to fish and wildlife habitat. The package also includes two sections which provide important funding for scientific advances and improved technology for water desalination and snow supply forecasting.

Finally, the package supports the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement Act and the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Completion Act. Audubon supports the recognition of Tribal water rights and providing funding for water infrastructure in these communities. Read more about the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement Act from my colleague, Jennifer Pitt.

This western water package which will help Tribes, states, communities, and ecosystems throughout the West move towards a more resilient water future for birds and people.

#Dolores #water and sewer rates to increase — The Cortez Journal

Dolores

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Funds will upgrade plants, replace aging pipelines

An increase in monthly water and sewer service rates in Dolores will go into effect in January.

The base water rate will increase by $5 to $30.84 per month, up from $25.84.

The base sewer rate will increase by $2.50 to $31.16 per month, up from $28.66.

Rate increases were approved by the town board in March, but implementation was delayed until 2021 because of economic challenges due to the pandemic.

The last time water and sewer rates were raised was in 2015. The town is reviewing a senior, income-based exemption from the latest rate increase.

Inflation and the need for infrastructure upgrades are the reasons for the rate increase, said Mayor Chad Wheelus.

While both the sewer plant and water plant are in good condition, outdated pipelines are deteriorating and need replacement.

Many water service pipelines are more than 50 years old, and their 4-inch diameter size is insufficient. The undersized pipes puts limitations on fire protection needs.

Wheelus said the town has replaced aging leaking water and sewer collection lines, more needs to be done…

Priority needs for the water and wastewater pipeline system in Dolores are estimated to cost $2.7 million, according to a recent assessment from SGM Engineering.

Rate increases will help cover current and future repairs and upgrades at the water and sewer plants over several years, town officials said during recent budget discussions.

In the fall, 10 deteriorated water lines passing under Colorado Highway 145 were replaced. The job was a priority because the highway through town is scheduled to be repaved by Colorado Department of Transportation in 2021. An upgrade to the water treatment plant also was completed this year.

To cover the approximate $800,000 cost, the town secured a $292,363 grant from the Department of Local Affairs, and a $25,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Remaining costs were covered from town reserves and a loan from Dolores State Bank.

The water rate increase will go toward paying off the loan…

According to town documents, there are numerous other infrastructure needs pending within the next 5 to 10 years in Dolores. The rate increase will help build up the reserve to pay for future water and sewer upgrade and maintenance projects.

The increase will also help offset ordinary inflation of costs to operate and maintain water and sewer utilities, officials said.

Dolores has significant remaining capacity in both treatment plants, they said, and both plants are also meeting state standards for water quality. Regarding water quantity, SGM said water supply, and the water and sewer treatment systems are sufficient, and the plants have capacity to meet growth in town without major repairs or expansion.

#COVID19 Relief Package Includes Navajo Settlement, Funds For Infrastructure — Fronteras #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Snowmelt is an important part of the freshwater system in the Colorado River Basin. Photo: NASA/ Thaddeus Cesari

From Fronteras (Ron Dungan):

A recent COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress includes assistance for Navajo Nation water development in Utah, where more than 40% of Navajo homes lack running water or adequate sanitation…

But the COVID-19 relief bill included legislation that will secure Navajo water rights, including a portion of Utah’s Colorado River apportionment.

The bill included funds for water infrastructure, as well as health, education and transportation needs.

Navajo Nation. Image via Cronkite News.

From The Salt Lake Tribune (Zak Podmore):

In June, the Senate unanimously passed the Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement Act, a long-awaited piece of legislation aimed to do just that for the Utah portion of the reservation. The legislation would recognize the Navajo Nation’s right to 81,500 acre feet of water from the Colorado River basin in Utah — enough to meet the annual needs of an estimated 160,000 typical American households. It also would settle the tribe’s current and future water rights claims and provide $220 million to build much-needed water projects in San Juan County.

Despite its bipartisan passage, outgoing President Donald Trump threw the entire funding and relief package into uncertainty Tuesday night when he sharply criticized it as “wasteful and unnecessary.”

Over 40% of Navajo Nation homes in San Juan County — where tribal water rights have never been formalized — lack running water and many residents have to fill containers at public taps, a time-consuming and expensive process. Others rely on water delivery from nonprofit organizations.

The bill, made more urgent by the pandemic, garnered bipartisan support after nearly 18 years of negotiation. Every member of the Utah delegation to the House of Representatives, three Republicans and one Democrat, cosponsored it, and the public appeared to back its premise as well…

But months passed and nothing happened. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, put out a joint news release in October urging the House to pass the bill. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez spoke to a water conference at Colorado Mesa University in November, and worried that if the legislation did not go to a vote in the House before the end of the year, it could continue to founder in Congress like it has since first being introduced by then-Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in 2016.

On Monday, however, the legislation finally saw renewed life when it was included in the massive Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, a $2.3 trillion spending bill that includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief and a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package. The legislation is now waiting for Trump’s signature.

“This is truly a historic milestone for the Navajo people and the state of Utah,” Nez said in a statement Monday. “For years, Navajo leaders have advocated for the passage of the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act to provide clean water for our people that reside in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation. The COVID-19 pandemic has punctuated our critical need for more clean water resources to keep our people safe and healthy.”

Nez thanked the bill’s advocates in Congress, including Romney, McAdams and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, as well as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state’s governor-elect.

Black Phoebe. Photo: Rick Derevan/Audubon Photography Awards

From Audubon (Jennifer Pitt):

For decades, too many Native American tribes in the Colorado River basin have been denied their fair share of water. Too many families on too many reservations have not had the access to clean water that most Americans enjoy. Today, Congress took a step in the right direction with the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement Act, a bill included in the large omnibus package, the final legislative act of 2020. Audubon supported this settlement and its many benefits including:

Long-needed water infrastructure for citizens of the Navajo Nation in Utah, as well as access to freshwater and wastewater facilities

Affirmed allocation of 81,500 acre-feet of water for the tribe in Utah

More than $200 million from the federal treasury and $8 million from the State of Utah to develop infrastructure for water services on the Navajo reservation in Utah

The right to lease their water off reservation (a right currently denied other tribes in the Colorado River Basin)

Final settlement of all claims for the Navajo Nation in Utah, avoiding the need for future litigation.

As climate change impacts increasingly threaten the Colorado River, the Navajo-Utah settlement will make certain that underserved communities on the Navajo reservation have access to water. Moreover, it ensures the Navajo can realize the full benefit of their water rights as they choose, for their families, their economy, and for the Colorado River and every living thing that depends on it, including hundreds of species of birds.

Audubon will continue to advocate for sensible water legislation and policies at the local, state, and federal levels.

Chaffee County commissioners extend Nestlé 1041 permit to August 4, 2021 #ArkansasRiver

A plane flying across the Sawatch Range in Colorado in the approximate location of Monarch Pass in February 2017 showed the string of 14,000-foot peaks commonly called the Collegiate Peaks to the north. Photo/Allen Best

From Heart of the Rockies Radio (Joe Stone):

The Chaffee County Commissioners approved a contract for Denver-based Harvey Economics to conduct an economic impact study of Nestlé Waters North America’s local operations.

In corresponding moves, the Commissioners voted to extend Nestlé’s existing 1041 permit to Aug. 4, 2021, and voted to continue the permit hearing to Jan. 19, 2021.

The existing permit allows Nestlé to pump up to 196 acre-feet of water per year at Ruby Mountain Spring, and Nestlé has applied for a 10-year permit extension.

The Commissioners have temporarily extended the original permit by more than a year, and this most recent extension will allow Nestlé to continue its operations while the economic study is conducted.

The extension also allows time for county officials, Nestlé and members of the public to review and comment on the economic study.

In discussing the timeline for the ongoing 1041 hearing, the Commissioners indicated they expect Harvey Economics to complete the study in approximately 3 months, after which Nestlé will have the study reviewed by a consultant.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to review the study, review Nestlé’s response, and comment on both documents, with Commissioners expecting to render a decision on Nestlé’s permit application by early June.

If the Commissioners deny the permit extension, Nestlé would have until Aug. 4, 2021, to phase out its Chaffee County operations.

Commissioners Chairman Greg Felt raised the issue of plastic bottles and asked Nestlé Natural Resource Manager Larry Lawrence about the feasibility of converting an existing bottling plant to use biodegradable bottles.