Implementation of System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP) for Water Year 2024 — #Colorado Water Conservation Board #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Raymond Langstaff irrigates his fields outside of Rifle in May 2022. A water conservation program that pays irrigators to use less water from the Colorado River (SCPP) will be offered by the upper basin states starting in October 2023. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Katie Weeman):

September 21, 2023 (Denver, CO) – the Upper Colorado River Commissioners voted to implement the System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP) for the 2024 Water Year. SCPP provides Upper Basin water users with the opportunity to participate in temporary, voluntary, and compensated water conservation. SCPP simultaneously allows the Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC) and Upper Division States to learn from the piloted conservation efforts, expanding knowledge on aspects like monitoring, measurement, and local benefits or impacts. For water users, it provides opportunities to develop tools to build resilience and adapt to long-term drought.

The revamped SCPP integrates input from Upper Basin water users. Changes include:

  • An earlier application window, beginning in October 2023, to provide operational certainty for applicants.   
  • A transparent pricing mechanism to provide clarity to applicants.  
  • Increased education and outreach to ensure water users are fully informed.
  • Expanded information about project applications in Colorado with the opportunity to provide comment.  
  • Prioritization of projects that support innovative water conservation and development of drought resiliency tools.

“We learned a lot about SCPP last year, so this year’s revamp integrates a lot of input from Colorado water users,” said Becky Mitchell, Colorado River Commissioner for the State of Colorado. “SCPP should—and can—work in a way that makes sense for Colorado. The pilot program can provide flexibility for Coloradans who want or need to explore innovative conservation projects. As we continue to learn together and do what we can to be part of the solution, I continue to push for reductions where it matters most: in the Lower Division States.”  

 “There is no silver bullet for drought resiliency in Colorado,” said Lauren Ris, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “SCPP is one tool in the State’s toolkit that we can all learn from. It can fund innovation, letting water users try something new, because they have that financial certainty. And, because it’s totally voluntary, temporary, and compensated, SCPP lets Coloradans choose for themselves.”

At the September 21 UCRC meeting, Commissioner Mitchell strongly advocated for SCPP reforms that would be responsive to Colorado water users’ input. More information on the revamped SCPP process will be available in the coming weeks. The Congressional reauthorization for SCPP expires in Fall 2024.

Map credit: AGU

Browns Canyon National Monument — Bureau of Land Management #ArkansasRiver

Browns Canyon National Monument protects a stunning section of Colorado’s upper Arkansas River Valley. The area is a beacon to white water rafters and anglers looking to test their skills at catching brown and rainbow trout. Photo by Bob Wick / @BLMNational

Navajo Dam operations update September 22, 2023 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The San Juan River, below Navajo Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

September 21, 2023

Due to forecast sufficient flows in the critical habitat reach of the San Juan River, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 850 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 800 cfs for Friday September 22nd, at 4:00 AM.

Reclamation continues to release project water to fulfill a project water release request by the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s subcontractors, The Nature Conservancy and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, in addition to the normally scheduled release required to maintain the minimum downstream target baseflow.  

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.