The Pagosa Area #Water and Sanitation District implements voluntary #drought restrictions — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Colorado Drought Monitor April 13, 2021.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney and Randi Pierce):

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) is asking water users to practice responsible water use, with the district currently in a voluntary drought stage in compliance with its 2020 Drought Management Plan.

According to a press release from PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey, “The primary driver of this drought stage is the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM),” which indicates that “our area is in a Severe to Extreme Drought.”

Ramsey’s press release notes that Hatcher Lake is lower than the median volume for this time of year, “however the lake is currently filling.”

“The flow of water in the San Juan is currently above the median flow for this time of year,” the press release further notes.

Ramsey also noted in his press release that so far this spring Pagosa Country has seen higher-than-normal temperatures.

He explained that the higher-than-normal temperatures combined with “a reduction in late spring precipitation will lead to a quicker-than-normal melting of the snowpack,” which will reduce the volume of available water and “could lead to water use restrictions.”

According to the press release, there are no mandatory water use restrictions, “however PAWSD does encourage responsible water use.”


River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 606 cubic feet per second (cfs) in Pagosa Springs as of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13.

Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 514 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1985 at 1,930 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 120 cfs, recorded in 1977.

As of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 492 cfs. Based on 58 years of water re- cords at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 784 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 2,600 cfs in 1985. The lowest recorded rate was 128 cfs in 1977.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 18, 2021 via the NRCS.

Snow report

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 33.8 inches of snow water equivalent as of 10 p.m. on April 13.

That amount is 79 percent of the April 13 median for this site.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins were at 61 percent of the April 13 median in terms of snowpack.

@GreeleyWater: Dive into a look at the city’s water rights — The #Greeley Tribune

Seaman Reservoir upstream of confluence of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

In the past year, Greeley officials purchased about 1,000 acre-feet of water, equivalent to about 1,000 football fields covered in a foot of water. Adam Jokerst, deputy director of water resources for the city, said it’s more water than city had acquired in the past 10 years. Jokerst, who manages the water acquisition program, said the program has about a $9 million budget this year…

What is a water right?

Colorado’s waters are owned by the state and all its citizens, but water rights dictate the right to use the water. Water decrees, issued by water courts, confirm water users’ rights to that water.

Older water decrees were simple, Jokerst said, giving the example of a decree for the city’s senior direct rights, meaning the city has priority to divert water for direct application to beneficial use. Throughout the year, the city can use 12.5 cubic feet per second. That’s about it, he said.

Newer decrees can range from dozens to hundreds of pages, detailing how the water is to be diverted, measured and accounted for.

“Greeley owns a portfolio made up of many different water rights,” Jokerst said. “Some of those water rights are direct diversions from the Poudre River. Some are ownership in irrigation companies.”

Irrigation companies that historically provided irrigation water to farmers can issue shares of stock, basically selling a piece of the water rights held by those companies. The city converts that water from agricultural to municipal use to change the water right, though the city does rent some water rights to agricultural users, maintaining the historic use.

The city also owns water through the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects, as well as water diverted from the Laramie River. With a lot of variability across these different sources, the city’s water experts always plan for the worst case scenario: How much water could we provide to our customers in a drought situation?

Through the current plan, the city can provide about 40,000 acre-feet per year to its customers, well above the roughly 25,000 acre-feet of demand the city sees in a typical year. In a wet year, the city could potentially deliver up to 70,000 acre-feet, to give an idea of the impact of the planned drought.

When the city can, it rents a lot of that water to agricultural partners, renting about 20,000 acre-feet in the past year. In addition to maintaining historic use, this provides a source of revenue and supports Greeley’s agricultural economy, Jokerst said.

Jokerst said he’d consider the city’s “Big Three” sources to be:

  • Senior direct rights from the Poudre River
  • Ownership in the Greeley-Loveland Irrigation Company, which feeds the city’s Boyd Lake System
  • Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) and Windy Gap projects
  • Jen Petrzelka, water resources operations manager, added the direct and C-BT water is available year round, whereas a lot of the ditch directs only come in during irrigation season, which typically starts about now to early May and runs through the end of September or into October.

    Accounting for the city’s diverse portfolio

    The city must account for its water on a daily basis, submitting a monthly report to the state. Petrzelka said they manage about 10 different spreadsheets for all the city’s water right decrees…

    Petrzelka keeps an eye on the city’s water supply to help prevent the need for watering restrictions. In all, the city has four engineers and scientists who manage the various decrees and operations, plus three workers out in the field, according to Jokerst.

    The state ensures water users aren’t causing injury to other users’ water rights, with local river commissioners dedicated throughout the state. Jokerst compared the commissioners to a referee in a sports game.

    “Any time we change the way we’re operating, whether that be our releases or operating an exchange, we have to get their approval,” Petrzelka said.

    When agricultural water rights are changed, Jokerst said, some water is owed back to the river, just as the water historically returned to the river and groundwater after agricultural use.

    “A lot of what we do is add water back to the river to compensate for those irrigation rights that we changed,” he said.

    In addition to enforcement by river commissioners, everybody watches their neighbors, keeping track of what other users are doing on a day-to-day basis. Part of that monitoring happens in water court, where decisions about decrees are settled…

    Greeley has a steady stream of water court cases the city must defend in court, according to Jokerst, as well as cases involving other entities in which the city enters opposition to protect its water rights. As of this past week, the city was involved in 32 water court cases.

    “Water court cases are really just a structured negotiation where the applicant and the opposers reach agreement on whatever it is the applicant is trying to do,” Jokerst said. “All the parties involved negotiate an outcome that protects all their water and gets the applicant what they need.”

    Petrzelka and Jokerst estimated the city’s water court costs at about $500,000 this year, mostly covering the costs of outside attorneys and engineers. Internal legal counsel also helps guide the department, Jokerst said.

    ‘We’re making progress’ — Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project moves ahead on Navajo Nation — The #Farmington Daily Times #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

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

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation construction inspector Kenny Redhouse carefully watched crewmembers install a section of pipe in an area south of Newcomb on April 15 as construction continued on a pipeline that will eventually deliver San Juan River water to Gallup and communities on the Navajo Nation.

    The water will replace dwindling groundwater supplies and meet future demand…

    Project broke ground in 2012

    It was in June 2012 when then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. and others broke ground for construction of the first phase of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

    Almost a decade later, construction proceeds on the San Juan Lateral, the largest of two segments that comprise the project. This lateral will eventually pump water from the San Juan River near Waterflow then deliver it south to Gallup and to Navajo Nation chapters along the pipeline and that surrounds the city.

    As the lateral approaches Gallup, it branches east toward Crownpoint while another branch will serve Window Rock, Arizona, and areas along New Mexico Highway 264.

    The bureau marked in October the completion of the Cutter Lateral, which will deliver water to several chapters on the eastern side of the Navajo Nation and to the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

    Bart Deming, the project’s deputy construction engineer, said construction of the San Juan Lateral is about 50% complete…

    Seven more years of work

    The total cost of the project is about $1.5 billion, and the entire project will be operational in 2028, he said.

    It is not difficult to notice construction activities alongside U.S. Highway 491 in Newcomb and Sheep Springs.

    Rick Reese, field engineering division manager for the bureau’s Four Corners office, said sections of pipe near Burnham Junction, in Naschitti and portions of Newcomb have been installed within the last year and a half…

    The area of focus now is south of Newcomb into Sheep Springs.

    Completion on this portion of the lateral is on track to end in early 2022, Reese said…

    The bureau awarded in September 2020 a nearly $46 million contract to Archer Western Construction LCC of Phoenix to build the pumping plant and a second one in Twin Lakes.

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    US West prepares for possible 1st #water shortage declaration — The Associated Press #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    At full pool, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume, but two decades of drought have dramatically dropped the water level behind Hoover Dam as can be seen in this photo. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

    From The Associated Press (Sam Metz):

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released 24-month projections this week forecasting that less Colorado River water will cascade down from the Rocky Mountains through Lake Powell and Lake Mead and into the arid deserts of the U.S. Southwest and the Gulf of California. Water levels in the two lakes are expected to plummet low enough for the agency to declare an official shortage for the first time, threatening the supply of Colorado River water that growing cities and farms rely on.

    It comes as climate change means less snowpack flows into the river and its tributaries, and hotter temperatures parch soil and cause more river water to evaporate as it streams through the drought-plagued American West.

    The agency’s models project Lake Mead will fall below 1,075 feet (328 meters) for the first time in June 2021. That’s the level that prompts a shortage declaration under agreements negotiated by seven states that rely on Colorado River water: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

    The April projections, however, will not have binding impact. Federal officials regularly issue long-term projections but use those released each August to make decisions about how to allocate river water. If projections don’t improve by then, the Bureau of Reclamation will declare a Level 1 shortage condition. The cuts would be implemented in January.

    Arizona, Nevada and Mexico have voluntarily given up water under a drought contingency plan for the river signed in 2019. A shortage declaration would subject the two U.S. states to their first mandatory reductions. Both rely on the Colorado River more than any other water source, and Arizona stands to lose roughly one-third of its supply.

    Water agency officials say they’re confident their preparation measures, including conservation and seeking out alternative sources, would allow them to withstand cuts if the drought lingers as expected.

    “The study, while significant, is not a surprise. It reflects the impacts of the dry and warm conditions across the Colorado River Basin this year, as well as the effects of a prolonged drought that has impacted the Colorado River water supply,” officials from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project said in a joint statement…

    Colby Pellegrino, director of water resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, reassured customers that those preparation measures would insulate them from the effects of cuts. But she warned that more action was needed.

    Home Lake being drained, improvements planned — The #MonteVista Journal

    HomeLlake via

    From Colorado Parks & Wildlife via The Monte Vista Journal:

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife is draining Home Lake and making plans to improve the local fishery.

    “We know this will be a disappointment for some local folks, but this will help us better utilize our water right and improve the fishery,” said Tony Aloia, a water technician for CPW in the San Luis Valley.

    The lake is a popular fishing spot, but a lack of water caused a fish die-off in early April. Water was too low in early winter to utilize a floating solar-powered machine that normally can keep sections of the lake free of ice. This winter the lake froze over completely, was covered with snow and all the fish died.

    No water will be diverted into the lake this spring and the ground will be allowed to dry — a process that will take all summer. After it dries, CPW will use heavy equipment to remove the fine silt sediment that has accumulated over the years which will help to make the lake deeper. Work to remove the silt will begin after it is dry, probably in October.

    CPW staff will also test the sediment to determine if it could be used as a soil supplement for compost and possibly be used at farms and in gardens.

    CPW usually stocks the lake with rainbow trout, catfish, bluegill and bass.

    CPW will also use this time to rebuild the pump system that is used to bring water to Home Lake.

    In the meantime, low water and exposed mudflats are proving to be a boom for birds. Eagles and osprey are scavenging the dead fish. Shore birds, which are migrating through the San Luis Valley now, are feeding along the edges of the water.

    “It’s a good time for some bird watching at Home Lake,” Aloia said.

    Photo courtesy of CPW Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff have removed aerators from Home Lake in preparation of draining the small reservoir.