#Colorado #Water Congress Summer Conference Day 2: The Airborne Snow Observatory does not replace SNOTEL, in fact we need an expanded SNOTEL network — Taylor Winchell

Sunset August 24, 2022 Steamboat Springs.

Day 2 included a “Rapid Topics” session with moderator Kelly Romero-Heaney, CO Dept of Natural Resources:

RAZORBACK SUCKER The Maybell ditch is home to four endangered fish species [the Humpback chub (Gila cypha), Bonytail (Gila elegans), Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), and the Razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus)] © Linda Whitham/TNC

Colorado and San Juan River Endangered Species Program: Julie Stahli, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This map shows the snowpack depth of Castle and Maroon valleys in spring 2019. The map was created with information from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which will help water managers make more accurate streamflow predictions. Jeffrey Deems/ASO, National Snow and Ice Data Center

Colorado Airborne Snow Measurement Group: Taylor Winchell, Denver Water

Screenshot from the http://water22.org website.

Water ‘22: Jayla Poppleton, Water Education Colorado

Denver Water crews dug up old lead service lines from customers’ homes for years of study that led to the utility’s Lead Reduction Program. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Eliminating Lead in School Drinking Water Facilities: Mike Beck, CO Water Quality Control Division

Winchell told the attendees that, “ASO is an extremely powerful #climate adaption tool.”

He’s right, stationarity is dead so Colorado needs to incorporate new strategies for measurement of snowpack and that is exactly what the ASO technology provides.

Bennet, O’Dea offer contrasting visions of a #ColoradoRiver in crisis — #Colorado Newsline #COriver #aridification

by Chase Woodruff, Colorado Newsline
August 24, 2022

Along the winding rural highways and forested watersheds of northern Colorado, the paths of Colorado’s two U.S. Senate candidates intertwined on Tuesday at a series of events that put a spotlight on the all-important Colorado River Basin and what fate awaits it in an age of catastrophic climate change.

Standing atop the dam at Windy Gap Reservoir in Grand County, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet joined state and local officials in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Colorado River Connectivity Project, a mile-long diversion aimed at improving the flow and ecological health of the Colorado River as it runs west from the Continental Divide. Nearly 40 million people across the western U.S. get their water from the Colorado River or its tributaries, which make up a basin that drains westward from high in the Rocky Mountains through seven states and into Mexico.

“More than ever, the future of the Colorado River is in doubt,” Bennet told a small crowd assembled under a tent beside the river. “You know what’s happening. Climate change is bearing down on us, and it means less snowpack and more evaporation. Flows are down 20%. Farmers are fallowing their fields. Outfitters are wondering if they’ll have a business in five years.”



Windy Gap is among the first reservoirs to dam the Colorado River as it flows down from its headwaters on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Since the dam’s construction in the 1980s, conservation groups have raised alarm about the damage it’s done to the river’s ecosystem, blocking the passage of fish while letting through sediment that muddies the river downstream.

The $27 million diversion project, funded with federal dollars from the Natural Resources Conservation Service as well as private donations, will dredge a new channel for the river alongside the reservoir. Advocates like Mely Whiting, an attorney with conservation group Trout Unlimited, say the diversion will restore habitats, improve stream flows and “prepare the headwaters of the Colorado River for a much hotter and drier future.”

Bennet passed the microphone to a string of dignitaries that included Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Brad Wind, general manager of Northern Water, the utility that owns and operates the Windy Gap Reservoir.

Another key player in the project, meanwhile, observed proceedings from the back, joining in the applause while posing for photos: Joe O’Dea, Bennet’s Republican challenger in Colorado’s closely-watched 2022 Senate race. The first-time candidate is the CEO of a Denver-based construction company, Concrete Express Inc., which was tapped by the CWCB last year as the Windy Gap project’s general contractor. Clad in a hardhat and a safety vest, O’Dea arrived shortly before the groundbreaking and departed shortly after.

We have a crisis … If you look at graphic depictions of the Colorado River — it is dramatic. This is serious.

– Dennis Yanchunas, of Northern Water

O’Dea, who has consistently pitched his candidacy as a crusade against what he calls “reckless spending” by the federal government, wrote on Twitter Tuesday that the project — for which CEI has been paid $348,000 to date for design work, according to CWCB records, ahead of a projected $22 million construction phase — was an “incredible public, private partnership that promotes the health and vitality of the Colorado River.”

“It was good to see Sen. Bennet and other leaders from around the state there today,” O’Dea said.

Following the event, a campaign staffer for O’Dea denied an interview request, claiming a Newsline reporter was “biased” but repeatedly refusing to specify any substantive objections to Newsline’s reporting. Throughout the race, O’Dea and his campaign have repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding the candidate’s positions on climate change.

In June, O’Dea told an interviewer that he believes “there’s still a debate” to be had about the causes of global warming — a claim at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus that fossil fuel emissions and other anthropogenic factors account for virtually all of the planet’s observed temperature increase since 1850.

A map of the planned Colorado River Connectivity Project, which will restore one mile of the river along the south bank of the Windy Gap Reservoir near Granby. (Northern Water)

‘A very dark and foreboding time’

Dennis Yanchunas has worked in water management for over 30 years. He currently serves as president of Northern Water’s municipal subdistrict, which provides water to six Front Range municipalities via the Windy Gap Reservoir and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a “transmountain” diversion of water from the west side of the Continental Divide to the east.

Speaking at Tuesday’s groundbreaking event, he called the new plans for Windy Gap “a beacon of light in what is otherwise right now a very dark and foreboding time along the entire Colorado River.”

“We have a crisis,” Yanchunas said in an interview. “If you look at graphic depictions of the Colorado River — it is dramatic. This is serious.”

As the West’s water woes continue to worsen, federal officials last week ordered a series of emergency measures to further cut 2023 water allotments from Lake Mead along the Nevada-Arizona border, after the seven Colorado River Basin states missed a deadline for a voluntary agreement.

The “megadrought” that has gripped the Colorado River Basin since 2000 is the most severe dry spell the region has experienced in at least 1,200 years. Nearly half of the severity of the drought can be attributed to the rising temperatures caused by climate change, researchers say.

“There are two possible new normals,” wrote scientists with the Colorado River Research Group in 2018. “First is a continuation (and likely acceleration) of the current drying trend and the accompanying increase in variability … A second, and better, new normal would be to establish regional hydrologic conditions at a steady new level — a step change — that results from the stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at some new equilibrium.”

“It is time for water managers to both adapt for the profound changes the future holds and to advocate within the political sphere for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” the researchers added.

A ‘bathtub ring’ of mineral deposits left by higher water levels is visible at the drought-stricken Lake Mead on June 24, 2022, in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Bennet and O’Dea followed the groundbreaking at Windy Gap with separate appearances at the annual convention of the nonprofit Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs.

In an appearance that lasted 20 minutes, O’Dea touched only briefly on the climate crisis, and did not clarify what he believes the causes to be.

“What has raised the stakes and added to the complexity of solving our water challenges is the climate change,” O’Dea told the crowd. “There is no doubt that the climate is getting warmer and drier. Layer on to that rapidly growing populations in Colorado, and what you get is one hell of a policy dilemma.”

An hour later, Bennet spoke at length about the impacts of climate change and Democrats’ passage of a $370 billion package of clean-energy spending aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“I was here several years ago to ring the alarm on how climate change threatened the future of western water, and since then, matters have only gotten more challenging,” Bennet said. “The people in our state, on the Front Range and the West Slope, are deeply worried about what’s happening to the quality of their lives.”

“One of the best moments that I have had in this job,” he added, “is when I called my oldest daughter, Caroline, and told her that we had finally done something on climate — that we’ve finally done something to make it a little bit better for her generation, right when they really had started to give up hope.”

The clean-energy provisions in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act could help reduce total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 40% by 2030, according to independent estimates. Such reductions are likely to help stave off the worst-case scenarios for global temperature increases, but still fall short of the scale and pace of action that scientists say would do the most to limit the most catastrophic impacts of warming.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet takes questions from the audience at the Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs on Aug. 23, 2022. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

‘Collaboration and innovation’

Echoing the position held by many of Colorado’s municipal and agricultural water interests, both Bennet and O’Dea called on “lower basin” states like California, which use a higher proportion of the basin’s water, to cut back first, and praised Colorado water users for their successful conservation efforts. But they offered starkly different visions of the role the federal government has to play in managing the West’s drought crisis.

O’Dea emphasized the role of “collaboration and innovation” in solving water supply problems, rejecting the “heavy hand” of the federal government. He has railed against the Inflation Reduction Act, telling Axios that he “didn’t see anything in there that I like.”

The bill, signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month, includes not only substantial tax credits and subsidies for clean energy but also $4 billion in funding for Western drought resiliency projects, a result of last-minute negotiations to secure Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s support.

“We were able to get the language that we needed,” Bennet told the Water Congress. “In drafting that language, we spent hours on the phone with Colorado water leaders to make sure it worked for our state.”

As water managers both in Colorado and downriver continue their high-stakes negotiations — not only over short-term cuts but major revisions to the 100-year-old Colorado River Compact ahead of a 2026 deadline — Bennet said the fight to safeguard the West’s water future is only just beginning.

“We have to keep going,” he said. “We have to build on the historic progress that we’ve made — by making sure this funding gets to the right projects and lifts up the hard work of our state and local leaders, by fighting to defend Colorado’s seat at the table in the American West, and by continuing to push for more investment. Because we know this is only a down payment on what’s required.”



Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

#Water confab: #Colorado politicos call for more water storage, smart growth — @WaterEdCO

olorado Water Congress hears from Gov. John Hickenlooper at its summer convention in Steamboat Springs. Aug. 24, 2022. Credit: Fresh Water News

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

Colorado needs more reservoir storage and ways to manage urban growth in order protect its water supplies, prominent politicians said Tuesday at a major gathering of water officials in Steamboat Springs.

“Water is central to our livelihoods and its increasing scarcity is a challenge of the first order for everyone who calls the American West home,” said Joe O’Dea, a Republican challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet for one of Colorado’s U.S. Senate seats.

O’Dea spoke, along with Bennet, Gov. Jared Polis, and republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl at the Colorado Water Congress’s summer convention. The Colorado Water Congress is a statewide association that represents water districts, utilities, environmental groups and tribal communities.

“You can’t solve our problem without talking about storage. We know this region is getting drier and large-scale weather events are coming at unpredictable times,” O’Dea said. “That makes it all that more important to store water resources whenever they do appear.

“But we need a more rational process to approving them. Chatfield took the better part of 23 years to permit a single common sense project. Environmental review and public comment are central to good decision making, but they shouldn’t take decades,” O’Dea said.

O’Dea was referring to the successful effort to convert some of the space in the federally owned Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Denver for storage rather than simply flood control, which was its mission when it was built in the 1960s.

Gov. Jared Polis, too, pointed at climate change as a key driver that will shape how Colorado and other states manage their water supplies in the coming decades.

“Over the past two decades we have faced forces that threaten our access to water. The chronic, extreme drought, the changing nature of precipitation across the West. These pressures threaten water security, not just of our farms, cities and rivers, but the entire region,” Polis said.

“As a headwaters state, our resources flow to 18 states and Mexico. The entire region relies on Colorado to be a good steward. We’re proud of that responsibility and we take that responsibility very seriously,” he said.

To fulfill that responsibility within and outside the state’s borders, Polis called for more major investments in water sustainability, citing as an example the $60 million that Colorado lawmakers approved this year to fallow land in the Rio Grande and Republican River basins to improve aquifer health and ensure the state can meet its obligations to deliver water to New Mexico and Texas, which also rely on the Rio Grande, and Kansas, which relies on the Republican River.

“As we look to the future of our state, we need to understand the connectedness of water to the many challenges we face,” Polis said. “We are facing consistent growth in Colorado. But we can’t afford the water profile of exurban sprawl. We need to grow in a sustainable way,” he said, citing the need to develop more housing that reduces Coloradans’ per capita water use.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl also called for more water storage and promised to limit federal intervention in Colorado’s water affairs, including negotiations over how to reduce water use among the seven states that rely on the Colorado River. These include the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada.

“The Upper Basin states have done just fine working through water issues. But expanding water storage is a must … and we must go in a different direction [regarding federal permitting requirements],” Ganahl said, adding that she would push the federal government to streamline water project approval processes.

She also criticized the Colorado Water Plan, a multi-million dollar collaborative effort by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to ensure the states’ major river basins are able to plan for and secure the water they need. Ganahl said it was too expensive and bureaucratic and that the current work to update the plan, first approved in 2015, “misses the mark. As governor I would simply work to develop more water.”

Bennet urged the conference attendees to look ahead and continue the hard work that has already been done.

“The conditions are as dire as we’ve seen, and we have a very difficult negotiation in front of us,” he said. “The people in this room have stepped up and made sacrifices,” he said. “But we know temporary Band-Aids are not going to cut it. All parties have to live with what the Colorado River can provide. This is an opportunity to make decisions that will strengthen the West for the next 100 years and fulfill our responsibility to the next generation.”

Political pollster Floyd Ciruli said that so many candidates spoke at the water conference was an indicator of the national attention that Western water shortages are generating, and he gave the politicos credit for providing on-point suggestions for what could be done.

“All four of these candidates were ready for today,” Ciruli said. “All of them talked about water.”

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

Major municipal #water providers across #ColoradoRiver Basin announce commitment to significant reductions in water use — @DenverWater #COriver #aridification


Map credit: AGU

Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water Website:

Large water providers from across the Colorado River Basin announced today a commitment to substantially expand existing efforts to conserve water, reduce demands and expand reuse and recycling of water supplies.

The agreement includes water providers in both the upper and lower basins of the Colorado River, stretching from Colorado’s Front Range to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The providers invite other utilities in the basin to join in the commitment to increasing water-use efficiency and reducing the demand for water.

The agreement comes amid a two-decade drought on the river that affects 40 million people who rely on it for drinking water, agriculture, power production, landscape irrigation, recreation and more. Demands for water in the basin have exceeded available supply, reducing storage levels in lakes Mead and Powell to critically low levels.

The water providers are outlining their commitments in a Memorandum of Understanding that was delivered to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton today. Some providers have committed to pursuing the MOU’s intent while awaiting final approval through their various governing boards.

“We are developing prudent municipal water conservation actions that every community that relies on the Colorado River should be using,” water providers said in the letter to Touton. Moving forward, “We will describe the steps our organizations will take now and codify our commitment to continued effort as we work to ensure our river and the communities it serves continue to thrive. We sincerely hope our commitment to action inspires other stakeholders that share the river to do the same.”

Specifically, the agreement will focus on several key areas as pathways to cutting water use, including:

  • Develop programs to replace non-functional or passive cool weather turf grass (grass that serves primarily a decorative role and is otherwise unused) with drought- and climate-resistant landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies where appropriate.
  • Increase water reuse and recycling programs where feasible.
  • Continue and expand conservation and efficiency programs to accelerate water savings.
  • “Achieving the protection storage volumes needed to preserve water and hydropower operations within the Colorado River basin cannot be met by a singular country, basin, state, or water use sector,” continued the letter to BOR. “While municipal water use represents only a small fraction of total Colorado River water use, progress begins with one and then many until we are all moving in the same direction.”

    While not all the conservation strategies under consideration may make sense for each community, utilities say the agreement demonstrates the commitment that municipal water providers have not only to coordinating and collaborating on strategies to conserve and manage water demands, but to also help protect the Colorado River system.

    Links to the letter to the BOR, the MOU and a support letter from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Quotes from signatories to the BOR letter:

    “The water supply challenges we are facing on the Colorado River are accelerating at an alarming pace. Everyone who relies on the Colorado River must take bold and immediate action to reduce their use on this vital water source,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This agreement represents our commitment to working with our municipal partners on the river to come up with innovative, collaborative approaches to better manage our Colorado River supplies and promote a more sustainable future for our communities.”

    “With climate change and aridification affecting the entire Basin, improving the health of the Colorado River system requires a swift and collective effort of all water users — in all sectors — to reduce water use and implement actionable strategies, policies and programs to protect this vital resource and balance water supplies with demands,” said John Entsminger, Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager.

    “Climate change and overuse of the Colorado River have put us squarely within the crisis we long saw coming. The bottom line now: We all need to work on solutions, no matter our individual impacts on river flows,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water. “While we have long been a conservation leader, Denver Water has consistently said it is prepared to do even more, and the commitments contained in this agreement reflect our readiness to take further important steps to keep more water in the Colorado River Basin.”

    “Water issues in the arid west are accelerating,” stated Aurora Water General Manager Marshall Brown. “Aurora is embracing these conservation pathways through Colorado’s largest potable reuse system, an aggressive turf replacement rebate program and a new ordinance that prohibits nonfunctional turf in new developments. We’re doing what needs to be done to ensure a reliable water supply for our community in unpredictable times and we challenge other municipalities to do the same.”

    “Colorado Springs Utilities is committed to conservation programming that ensures a clean, reliable water supply for years to come. Building on our customers’ successful 41% reduction in per capita use since 2001, we continue to pursue and implement water efficiency and reuse initiatives that support our vibrant community and make wise use of this valuable resource,” said Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Aram Benyamin.

    “The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District supports the efforts of the Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC), the State of Colorado, and municipal and agricultural water providers in the basin, to collaborate in bringing the system into balance,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the district.

    Aspinall unit coordination meeting August 25, 2022 #GunnisonRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Map of the Gunnison River drainage basin in Colorado, USA. Made using public domain USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69257550

    From email from reclamation (Erik Knight):

    The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Aspinall Unit is scheduled for Thursday, August 25th, 2022, at 1:00 pm.

    The meeting will be held virtually via BOR WebEx. The WebEx link is included below along with the option to call in by phone.

    The meeting agenda will include a review of hydrology and operations since the April meeting as well as discussion of the weather outlook and planned operations for the fall and winter.

    Handouts of the presentations will be emailed out prior to the meeting.

    Here’s the WebEx link for the meeting