Water for #Colorado Coalition Opposes Damaging Proposal to Export San Luis Valley #Water — @Water4Colorado #RioGrande

Photo credit: The Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the release from Water for Colorado:

A recent proposal by Renewable Water Resources (RWR) plans to divert 22,000 acre feet of water annually from the San Luis Valley to Douglas County through a transbasin diversion over Poncha Pass. Douglas County would utilize federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stimulus funds to partially pay for the acquisition and development of water rights in the San Luis Valley. In response, Water for Colorado has issued the following statement:

“This controversial proposal threatens the economy and way of life for those who live in the San Luis Valley, and demonstrates a harmful use of federal funds. Water for Colorado and its nine partner organizations representing diverse interests across the state stand with the residents of the San Luis Valley and Protect our Water Coalition and join state leaders, including Governor Jared Polis, in strong opposition to the proposal and encourage the Douglas County Commissioners to reject it. Our coalition urges collaborative solutions to Colorado’s water supply concerns that do not irrevocably harm one community in favor of another.

Water is the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley — from supporting the potato crops and grains that have grown on family farms for generations, to providing essential refuge for wildlife, to bolstering recreation at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and across the Valley. Water is everything to the Valley and its people.

With an average of only 7 inches of rain a year, there is no renewable water in the Valley to export. The proposed diversion hurts both the communities from which the water is taken and the sources from where the water comes. There are also no requirements for the cities that receive the water to apply more stringent water conservation standards in recognition of the valuable water resources being taken from the Valley.

Using ARPA funding to sap water from a region that plays home to countless species of wildlife including pronghorn, mountain lion, black bear, beavers and pika; supports over 300 bird species and 119,330 acres of wildlife habitat; and provides critical runs for Rio Grande cutthroat trout, is deeply harmful.

Additionally, the price tag could well exceed $2 billion, which would be borne primarily through water ratepayers. We know that we’re facing extreme water challenges now and in the future, but we must prioritize more cost-effective and immediately available conservation and sustainable water use over diversions. Proposals like this mark an irresponsible use of federal funding, and set a dangerous precedent. The recently-released State of the Rockies poll shows 81% of Westerners oppose these kinds of water diversions preferring, instead, projects that utilize water conservation, reduction in use, and increased water recycling.

It’s incumbent upon us all to use every drop wisely, and for every community in Colorado to achieve the highest conservation and water reuse standards possible. Colorado’s locally-based, collaborative approach to water management relies on us all working together rather than pitting basins against one another. When we start approving dangerous water proposals and short term investments like the ones discussed above, we’ve already lost the battle against drought and climate change.”

Douglas County officials will visit the San Luis Valley on March 26, 2022 — The #Alamosa Citizen

Photo credit: The Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the article on The Alamosa Citizen (Chris Lopez):

A morning tour of property owned by Renewable Water Resources, a tour of an irrigated farm, a meeting with elected officials and a community meeting at the Ski-Hi Regional Events Center in Monte Vista is how Douglas County commissioners plan to spend March 26 in the San Luis Valley.

The three Douglas County commissioners – Abe Laydon, George Teal and Lora Thomas – have scheduled the visit to help them decide if they should invest in Bill Owens’ Renewable Water Resources plan and pump groundwater from the Valley to the Denver suburb.

Laydon called it an opportunity to “listen and learn” when the commissioners discussed the visit and tentative agenda on Monday.

Thomas, who has been outspoken in her opposition to the RWR plan because of its impact on the Rio Grande Basin and the Valley communities, said it was important to show respect when Douglas County officials arrive at the end of March.

As for Teal, who supports the RWR plan, he is hoping to find compromise among the Valley’s elected officials to what otherwise has been what he called a lot of unfactual rhetoric coming from Valley residents toward the Renewable Water Resources plan, he said.

“Nine out 10 words we’ve heard is ‘You’re going to dry us to the bone,’” Teal said of the four meetings Douglas County has held so far to study the RWR plan, “while 10 percent has been ‘We’re only taking a little bit and we’re giving something back.’”

By meeting with local elected officials, “hopefully we can get to a workable deal that reasonable people can come to,” Teal said.

He said presentations and comments made to the Douglas County commissioners have been “very contrary to the facts of this case.” He thinks elected officials in the Valley will be more sensible in the conversations.

“What I was hoping for with the elected official lunch is being able to have elected officials talk beyond the simple rhetoric and maybe, yeah, come up with a compromise that could be an element in the town hall,” Teal said to his fellow commissioners as they discussed their visit.

Renewable Water Resources has approached Douglas County about partnering in its water exportation proposal as a way to bring water to the Front Range bedroom community noted for its golf courses and sprawling housing developments. Owens, the former governor of Colorado, is pushing the water exportation plan. Teal was heavily backed by RWR-affiliated money in his 2020 run for Douglas County commissioner.

The RWR plan continues to be met by opposition among Colorado elected officials. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weisner has voiced concerns and opposition to the plan, and so now has Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

Polis, through a spokesperson, told Colorado Politics that he is opposed to the Renewable Water Resources plan. In a statement to Colorado Politics, the spokesman said Polis is “against any inter-basin transfer without local support of impacted communities. This is a proposed inter-basin transfer with deep concerns and opposition in the San Luis Valley and the governor is opposed.”

Visit our water archives to read more on the Rio Grande and Renewable Water Resources: ​​https://www.alamosacitizen.com/slv-water-archives/.

Potential Water Delivery Routes. Since this water will be exported from the San Luis Valley, the water will be fully reusable. In addition to being a renewable water supply, this is an important component of the RWR water supply and delivery plan. Reuse allows first-use water to be used to extinction, which means that this water, after first use, can be reused multiple times. Graphic credit: Renewable Water Resources

Paper: An ecoregion-based approach to restoring the world’s intact large mammal assemblages — Ecography

A European Beaver in Norway. The Eurasian beaver is one of 20 species that could have a significant impact on restoring the world’s ecosystems if reintroduced. By Per Harald Olsen – User made., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=944464

Click the link to read the paper from Ecography (Carly Vynne, Joe Gosling, Calum Maney, Eric Dinerstein, Andy T. L. Lee, Neil D. Burgess, Néstor Fernández, Sanjiv Fernando, Harshini Jhala, Yadvendradev Jhala, Reed F. Noss, Michael F. Proctor, Jan Schipper, José F. González-Maya, Anup R. Joshi, David Olson, William J. Ripple and Jens-Christian Svenning). Here’s the abstract:

Assemblages of large mammal species play a disproportionate role in the structure and composition of natural habitats. Loss of these assemblages destabilizes natural systems, while their recovery can restore ecological integrity. Here we take an ecoregion-based approach to identify landscapes that retain their historically present large mammal assemblages, and map ecoregions here reintroduction of 1–3 restore intact assemblages. Intact mammal assemblages occur across more than one-third of the 730 terrestrial ecoregions where large mammals were historically present, and 22% of these ecoregions retain complete assemblages across > 20% of the ecoregion area. Twenty species, if reintroduced or allowed to recolonize through improved connectivity, can trigger restoration of complete assemblages over 54% of the terrestrial realm (11 116 000 km2). Each of these species have at least two large, intact habitat areas (> 10 000 km2) in a given ecoregion. Timely integration of recovery efforts for large mammals strengthens area-based targets being considered under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Why #Nebraska’s Legal Argument for Canal from the #SouthPlatteRiver Might Not Hold #Water — Nebraska Public Radio

Thornton near the South Platte River November 6, 2021. Photo credit: Zack Wilkerson

Click the link to read the article on Nebraska Public Radio (Jackie Ourada):

The law professor said even if there is enough water to fill the canal system, Nebraska’s rights over that water aren’t clear.

“I don’t know who’s going to have rights to that water. The 1921 priority date is for administration within Colorado, but that 1921 priority date doesn’t necessarily carry into Nebraska,” Schutz said.

This is where Nebraska could get thrown into the deep end if the canal is approved, permitted, and constructed.

“There are a lot of senior users in the basin who would basically be able to take the water, so I’m not even sure legally if this canal would really be able to appropriate water out of the South Platte,” Schutz told the committee…

“The big issue is going to be the federal Endangered Species Act and the Colorado version of it, because a lot of the South Platte River is what’s known as ‘critical habitat’ under the Endangered Species Act for the whooping crane,” Craig said.

Digging into #water savings: Video tour highlights Arapahoe County’s #sustainability in action — News on Tap

Mrs. Gulch’s Blue gramma “Eyelash” patch August 28, 2021.

Click the link to read the article from Denver Water:

Arapahoe County is embarking on a water conservation project this winter at its Administration Building in Littleton to improve the county’s water efficiency.

The project will transform a 3-acre field of Kentucky bluegrass into a native, prairie grass field capable of surviving on the water Mother Nature provides in the semi-arid climate of Colorado’s eastern plains. The change will save the county 1.5 million gallons of water each year.

A 3-acre expanse of Kentucky bluegrass on the west side of the Arapahoe County Administration Building in Littleton will be converted into a field of prairie grass in 2022. Photo credit: Arapahoe County.

Learn more about the roots of Arapahoe County’s water-saving project.

Tour the project, in the video below, as work began in January.

White Paper: Evaluating the Accuracy of #Reclamation’s 24-Month Study #LakePowell Projections — The Future of the #ColoradoRiver Project #COriver #aridification

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the white paper (Jian Wang, Brad Udall, Eric Kuhn, Kevin Wheeler, and John C. Schmidt) from The Future of the Colorado River Project.:

Point Summary:

1. The ‘24 Month Study,’ the Bureau of Reclamation’s monthly-issued forecasting report for elevations at Lake Powell and other reservoirs, relies on two very different estimation techniques that are applied to the first year of the forecast window and to the second year. Projections for reservoir elevations during the next few months are based on predictions of reservoir inflow using a widely accepted watershed hydrologic model run by the Col- orado Basin River Forecast Center. The input data for that model are observed snowpack in the watershed, soil moisture, and anticipated precipitation and temperature. Projections for reservoir elevations beyond the imme- diately proximate winter, a year or more in the future (‘second year projections’), are based on statistical probabilities calculated using analyses of past inflows during a 30-year reference period. Reclamation issues three different forecasts using three different inflows called Maximum Probable, Most Probable and Minimum Probable.

2. Analyses of past inflows use a 30-year reference period that is updated each decade. Until recently, that reference period was the estimated unregulated flows that occurred between 1981-2010. In fall 2021 the reference period was updated to the 1991-2020 period. The medi- an annual inflow from the earlier 1981-2010 reference period was higher than more recent periods—3% higher than the updated reference period and 9% higher than the unregulated inflows that have occurred since onset of the Millennium Drought. Our analysis of the accuracy and bias of second-year projections made in the 24 Month

Studies issued from 2010-2021 demonstrates that the most probable projected inflows were higher than what actually occurred by as much as ~7 million acre feet (maf) in some years, and predicted reservoir elevations were also higher than what occurred in some years.

3. During the years when the 1981-2010 reference period was used for forecasting (prior to fall 2021), the driest conditions of the Millennium Drought were not well anticipated or predicted until January of the year being forecast. In the very driest year, inflow predictions were consistently high until the entire snowmelt runoff season had ended. Multi-year periods of very low inflow were also not well predicted by projections based on the 1981-2010 reference period. These multi-year periods of very low inflow are a significant risk to sustainable water-supply management during the on-going Millen- nium Drought.

4. The accuracy of the first year of the forecast window improves as the winter progresses, and the uncertainty of the projections of reservoir inflow is reduced. However, there remains some uncertainty for inflow projections in the first year of the forecast window, because precipitation and temperature during the last months of winter and spring are also based on the statistical probabilities derived from the 30-year reference period.

5. During years 2010-2021, the Most Probable August 24-Month Study (used for determining the Lake Powell Operation tier for the upcoming year), tended to overestimate the end-of-calendar-year Lake Powell elevation by as much as ~10 feet. The September 24-Month Study came closer to the mark, and was within ~5 feet of what actually occurred. Similarly, the April forecast, used for adjusting the Lake Powell Operation tier in the middle of the water year, either overestimated or underestimated the actual end-of-water-year elevation by as much as 20 feet. The uncertainty of the May forecast was reduced to +/- 10 feet. From an accuracy perspective, the September and May forecasting reports are more accurate tools for determining and adjusting Lake Powell operation tiers than are the August or April estimates.

6. The bias for inflow predictions will likely be reduced now that the reference period includes a more recent, and somewhat drier, span of time, but projections of future inflows are likely to remain biased, because the hydrology of the 1991-2020 reference period was still wetter than the current Millennium Drought. These findings are consistent with Kuhn’s (2021) observation that the hydrology used in the 24 MS does not fully capture the risks of ongoing aridification of the Colorado River basin and that wa- ter-supply planning ought to better anticipate the risks of decreasing inflows to Lake Powell.

This is the seventh in a series of white papers from the Future of the Colorado River Project.

See the full list of white papers and summaries at this link

@SenatorHick and @SenatorRomney introduce a bill to extend the Upper #ColoradoRiver Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs funding for 1 year — The #Durango Herald #COriver #endangeredspecies

Ron Rogers biologist with Bio-West Inc., holds a large razorback sucker captured in Lake Mead near the Colorado River inflow area

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon). Here’s an excerpt:

Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, introduced the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act in the Senate on Thursday to bolster the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs. The legislation would extend the two programs by one year and give communities more time to develop long-term management plans for the fish species they protect…

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs aim to recover and protect four threatened and endangered fish species: humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker…

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs were established in the late 1980s and early 1990s with cooperative agreements between public land agencies, states, tribes and other stakeholders…

The decadeslong conservation efforts have largely been successful with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommending the downlisting of the razorback sucker and humpback chub from endangered to threatened in 2018.

But the added threat of climate change could affect these fish populations, with the razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow and bonytail still reliant on active management from the agencies and their partners.