Rising Colorado water leaders meet with Colorado River District board

By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

The Government Highline Canal is managed by the Grand Valley Water Users Association, and serves as a major source of irrigation water in the Grand Valley.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A group of water leaders in Colorado, most new to their posts, appeared before the board of the Colorado River District Tuesday in Glenwood Springs.

Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Kevin Rein, state hydraulic engineer for Colorado, both of whom took their current positions in July, introduced themselves to the River District board, which includes representatives of 15 Western Slope counties.

Mitchell said it was important for the state to develop a long-term source of funding for new water projects in both the Denver metro area and the Western Slope, but she said the various river-basin plans in the state needed to be prioritized before a funding question is put to voters.

“We don’t want to take some ballot measure up that won’t pass,” said Mitchell, who was promoted to her new position at CWCB after working on the 2015 state water plan. “We want to make sure we get everything prepared so we have the most chance for success, because this is such an important issue.”

Rein, who serves as the state’s water-law enforcer, said he intends to continue the policies and practices of his predecessor, Dick Wolfe, and that he hopes to administer water rights and respond to water court applications with consistency and transparency.

“It all comes down to balance for me,” Rein said, in trying to administer water rights against competing demands.

Jayla Poppleton, who has been the executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education since January, also went before the River District board Tuesday, describing her organization’s new brand positioning.

Created by the state Legislature in 2002 to inform citizens about water, the organization is changing its name to Water Education Colorado, and its new logo is based on the layout of the state’s eight river basins.

The logo for Water Education Colorado seeks to convey a conversation about the eight river basins in Colorado as defined by the state’s basin roundtables, which are represented in the logo in clockwise fashion, and include, from the top left, the Yampa/White, North Platte, South Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, Gunnison, Southwest/San Juan/Dolores, and Colorado basins.

Andrew Mueller, who starts as new general manager of the river district on Dec. 1, was also at the meeting.

An attorney at a law firm in Glenwood Springs, Mueller once lived in Ouray and represented Ouray County on the River District’s board from 2006-2015. He was hired in September upon unanimous consent by the River District’s board.

At the district’s next quarterly board meeting in January, Mueller will officially replace Eric Kuhn, the district’s current general manager, who is retiring after 37 years.

Kuhn has a deep understanding of Colorado River issues, and he and John Carron, an engineer with Hydros Consulting Inc., presented to the board the latest findings of an ongoing “risk study” focusing on ways to keep enough water in Lake Powell in the face of another sharp drought.

Also presenting at Tuesday’s meeting was Mark Harris, the general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association, which diverts water out of the Colorado River in De Beque Canyon, at the red-roofed roller dam.

Harris was before the river district’s board seeking financial support for the second year of an experimental program that pays irrigators to fallow fields or crops, lower their consumptive use, and leave water in the river to help keep Lake Powell operational.

The association is one of the big three diverters in the Grand Valley, and provides water to 25,000 irrigated acres on the north side of the valley from Palisade to Mack via the 55-mile-long Government Highline Canal.

In 2017, the association compensated 10 large irrigators, whose names have not been disclosed, to fallow a total of 1,252 acres of irrigated land on parcels ranging from 60-240 acres.

A map showing, in red, the participants in the Grand Valley Water User’s Association program in 2017 to conserve consumptive use in the Grand Valley near Grand Junction.
An irrigated hay field in the Grand Valley irrigated by the Government Highline Canal. Summer, 2017.

The 2017 program, which concludes this month, will result in 3,200 acre-feet of water not being used for irrigation.

The association funded the program with $1,039,000. Of that, it put $145,000 in an infrastructure fund, used $169,000 for program management, and paid $725,000 to irrigators. (That works out to about $225 per acre-foot of “conserved consumptive use” to the irrgators).

Major funding sources for the program included The Nature Conservancy, the state of Colorado and Denver Water. The association intends to run the program again in 2018.

Harris said the association continues to learn about how such a fallowing program in the Grand Valley might work in the face of a drought or other challenge to complying with the Colorado River compact, which requires Colorado and other states in the upper Colorado River basin to provide a set amount of water to California, Arizona and Nevada, even in dry years.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on the coverage or rivers and water.

@ColoradoWater: #ColoradoRiver District annual seminar recap #COriver

Click here to go to the Colorado River District website for all the good stuff:

2017 Water Seminar
Themed “Points of No Return,” the 2017 seminar highlighted some of the toughest issues facing the Colorado River and the more than 40 million people who rely on its water. The seminar’s program featured presentations and panel discussions with a variety of water experts focusing on agriculture and irrigation issues, Upper and Lower Basin drought contingency planning, collaborative conservation efforts, and more.

The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar was held on Friday, September 15th in Grand Junction, Colorado and was attended by record-breaking numbers.

Water managers seek certainty in Colorado Basin — @AspenJournalism

The Colorado River, not far below the Utah-Colorado state line, flowing toward the lower basin.

GRAND JUNCTION — Bringing more certainty to an unruly and unpredictable Colorado River system was a common theme among water managers speaking at the Colorado River District’s annual seminar Friday­­.

Although the drought that has gripped much of the Colorado River Basin for the past 16 years has eased up a bit, population growth and the long dry spell have pushed the river’s supplies to the limit, with every drop of water in the system now accounted for.

Meanwhile, the effects of climate change on the Colorado’s future flows are still a big question mark, and it could mean wide variability in the years to come, with periods of punishing drought followed by a sudden record-setting wet year, as California recently experienced.

Bill Hasencamp, general manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, described how in April 2015, snowpack in the Sierras was at an all-time low. But by this spring, it was at an all-time high, after a winter of heavy precipitation.

The change in snowpack eventually led to huge fluctuations in water prices – from $1,800 per acre-foot at the height of the drought to just $18 per acre-foot this year, Hasencamp said.

That kind of turbulence places enormous pressure on the Colorado River Basin’s big municipalities, which must secure their water supplies for millions of people, said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the River District, which is based in Glenwood Springs and helps protect western Colorado’s water resources.

Kuhn is retiring next year and was making his last formal presentation as general manager of the river district. As he heads into retirement, he’s working on a book with author John Fleck about the history of managing the Colorado River and the creation of the Colorado Compact.

“The reality is — and we all have to accept this — big-city providers need certainty,” he said. However, Kuhn said he didn’t think that means more transmountain diversions from the Western Slope.

The most obvious source of additional water for cities is agriculture, which holds the lion’s share of senior water rights on the Colorado River, but no one is eager to see rural areas sacrificed for urban growth, Kuhn said.

So, he added, water managers throughout the basin are figuring out ways to adapt 19th-century water laws to a 21st-century reality.

The upper Colorado River below the Pumphouse put-in.

System conservation

Cooperative agreements between irrigators and municipalities are one option, providing cities with additional sources of water during dry periods.

Already, a three-year pilot initiative called the System Conservation Pilot Program has shown that farmers and ranchers are open to using less water in exchange for compensation.

Beginning in 2014, four of the big Colorado River Basin municipalities and the Bureau of Reclamation contributed $15 million to fund water conservation projects throughout the basin.

The program was in limbo after this year while officials worked out some issues, but Hasencamp said Friday that the funders have agreed to continue the pilot program for another year, in 2018.

For water managers, these kinds of flexible arrangements, along with rigorous water efficiency, recycling, and reuse efforts, are the key to finding “certainty” on an inherently volatile river system.

Still, those solutions will not be easy.

As Bill Trampe, a longtime rancher from Gunnison County, explained, less irrigation often comes with unintended consequences such as diminished return flows to the river and nearby fields.

And as Lurline Underbrink Curran, the former county manager for Grand County, described, efforts to heal the destructive impacts of existing water diversions on the Fraser River, a tributary of the Colorado, means accepting that future diversions will in fact take place.

“We tried to form friendships that would help us do more with what we had,” she said.

California’s Salton Sea presents another dilemma, which reaches back up into Colorado River system.

The salty inland lake, created by an accidental breach in an irrigation canal, is drying up.

Since 2002, the state of California has been paying the Imperial Valley Irrigation District to keep the Salton Sea on life support by delivering 800,000 acre-feet of water, but that initiative expires at the end of this year.

Continuing the water deliveries means using up more of the Colorado River’s dwindling supplies, but letting it dry up means exposing local residents to a lakebed full of toxic dust.

None of these problems is new, but as many of the speakers at the river district’s annual seminar explained, water managers now have more tools than ever before to address those challenges — and new urgency with which to apply them.

Recent successes include the successful negotiation of an updated binational water agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, called Minute 232, that is expected to be signed this month. It will outline how the two countries share future shortages on the Colorado River.

“We’re at a point where we can work together, and the success we’ve had is from collaboration,” said Becky Mitchell, the new director of the Colorado River Conservation Board. “It’s really all hands on deck.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water. The Post Independent published this story in its print edition on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Aspen Times published it in its print edition on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The Vail Daily published it in its print edition on Sept. 18, as did the Summit Daily News.

@ColoradoWater: #ColoradoRiver District names lone finalist for GM position #COriver

Andy Mueller photo credit MountainLawFirm.com.

From the Colorado River District via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The Colorado River District’s board of directors has named Andrew (Andy) A. Mueller of Glenwood Springs as its sole final candidate to succeed Eric Kuhn as general manager of the multicounty water conservation district.

Kuhn is retiring after 36 years with the district. The river district board met Tuesday and voted unanimously naming Mueller as the lone finalist for the position.

Mueller is an attorney and a former river district board member. He also served as board president and vice president.

“The board was impressed with Mueller’s credentials, background and vision for the district,” board President Tom Alvey from Delta County said in a news release. “We were fortunate to have an outstanding pool of candidates from which Mr. Mueller rose to the top.”

The release quoted Mueller as saying, “I’m honored and humbled by my selection. I’ve long held the Colorado River District in the highest regard. I look forward to working with the board and staff of the district to continue the district’s history of excellence and protection of western Colorado’s vital stake in the Colorado River system.”

Mueller was selected after a nationwide search. Per state law, no offer of employment can be made for at least 14 days following Mueller’s selection. No starting date or other details of employment have been established, the release said.

The general manager reports to the 15-member River District board of directors and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the district and management of the 25-member staff.

Mueller is currently a partner with the Glenwood Springs law firm of Karp Neu Hanlon. He was previously the managing partner at the Ouray-based firm of Hockersmith & Mueller. Mueller served as Ouray County’s director on the Colorado River District’s board from 2006 to January 2015.

The Colorado Legislature created the Colorado River District in 1937 “for the conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River and its principal tributaries.”

Eric Kuhn: “100 years ago the #ColoradoRiver was a beast” #CRDseminar #COriver @R_EricKuhn

Eric Kuhn detailing Upper Colorado River Basin issues at his final Colorado River District Seminar as the General Manager. Photo credit: Sinjin Eberle.

Eric Kuhn prepared for his final Colorado River District Seminar, “Points of No Return,” by riding his bike east to west across the Colorado National Monument the day before. He has announced his retirement from the district and I’m sure he’ll make good use of the time on his road bike, mountain bike, and kayak. He undoubtedly has outdoor interests that I don’t know about. He will be missed by those of us that have learned to listen to his wise counsel about the hardest working river in the world, the Colorado River.

Subject of Eric Kuhn’s morning presentation at the Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.

He assured folks in the room, on Twitter and live on Facebook that the seminar was not his last, just his last as the GM of the district he worked at for 34 years. In his early retirement he is authoring a book on Colorado River hydrology that he hopes will “de-nerdify” the subject and appeal to a wide audience. The water nerds in the room all hoped to snag a copy as soon as is it avaiable.

He explained the politics and history of the River. “100 years ago the Colorado River was a beast,” he said, adding, “and we were in a wet time but already seeing shortages.” The beast would unleash huge floods in the Lower Basin, submerging towns and farms and destroying headworks and other facilities. Late in the irrigation season the river often failed to deliver water to finish crops.

Photo of one of Eric Kuhn’s slides at the Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.

Kuhn detailed the US Supreme Court decision in Wyoming v. Colorado where the court ruled that Wyoming irrigators were senior to a proposed project on the Laramie River in Colorado. Both states relied on “The Doctirine of Prior Appropriation” within their boundaries.

Coloradans, led by Delph Carpenter, realized the danger to development of water in Colorado if prior appropriation prevailed on the Colorado River. The Lower Basin states of Arizona and California were first in time and the Upper Basin states were at risk of not being able to develop the farms, cities, and industry at a fast enough pace. The result was the Colorado River Compact which allocated water equally to the Upper Basin and Lower Basin based on the hydrology at Lee Ferry.

Delph Carpenter’s 1922 Colorado River Basin map with Lake Mead and Lake Powell shown. The two giant reservoirs have always been part of the governance of the river.

The Lower Basin needed storage to manage the river and the Upper Basin needed time. Boulder (now Hoover) Dam, and Lake Mead would fulfill the need for flood control, hydropower, and late-season irrigation water. Lake Powell was slated to store the Upper Basin water for downstream deliveries.

A hundred years later:

Photo of one of Eric Kuhn’s slides from the Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.

During his talk Eric stated that the West Slope, “Should not support and more transmountain diversions,” because that would put, “plans at risk.”

While not being a “not one more drop” line in the sand it still is a pretty strong statement. Kuhn cited protection of West Slope agriculture, the power pool at Lake Powell, and the Upper Basin delivery requirements under the “Law of the River,” the recreation industry, water quality, and the environment, as reasons.

“River governance must be as flexible to meet a wide range of future possibilities”, he said.

He believes that we need to reduce consumptive use on the river. He added that, the Lower Basin will have to make the lion’s share and they are doing that. Then he backed it up with the numbers:

Streamflow at Lee Ferry via Eric Kuhn Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017. Photo credit: Abby Burk.
Colorado River water budget from Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.
Realities of the Colorado River Basin, Eric Kuhn Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.

Mr. Kuhn said that, “If we had a 1950s drought we would probably drain Lake Powell.”

Moving forward:

Photo of slide by Eric Kuhn Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.
Tweet by Luke Runyon KUNC Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.

Eric was preceded on the program Bill Hasencamp from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. He said that 1 in 17 Americans get their water from the district (and their members), 19 million folks all told.

“I am from the Lower Basin and we’re about as different as can be,” he said,

Metropolitan recently approved documents for Minute 323 and money to continue the Lower Basin System Conservation Program.

Metropolitan’s water supplies come from the Colorado River, Northern California, and locally through conservation and reuse:

Photo of slide from Bill Hasencamp Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.
Tweet from Ruth Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University September 15, 2017.

California has an active water market, he said, but there is great variability in price:

Price per acre-foot for California water markets.

Demand for water is low this year due to huge winter snowpack:

“The Salton Sea will a dramatic effect on how water is managed going forward,” said Hasencamp. The water body, formed when the Colorado River destroyed an irrigation headworks during construction and has become important habitat for birds displaced by San Diego’s growth. Now it is drying up due to the lack of irrigation return flows and has become a health hazard for residents nearby.

Tweet from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.

Hasencamp stressed the importance of solving California’s Bay Delta problem. The proposed project will cost $17 billion and firm up the water supply from Northern California:

Photo credit Sinjin Eberle Colorado River District Seminar September 15, 2017.

Hasencamp closed by quoting Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Dave Kanzer from the Colorado River District moderated a panel about irrigation efficiency. The goal is to avoid unexpected consequences such as increased salinity or less water in the streams due to lower return flows.

Panel member Bill Trampe said that society has to tell irrigators what is required. The return flows from irrigation provide habitat for wildlife and after a 150 years or so that habitat is part of the fabric of the watershed. Absent direction from society ranchers and farmers will go where the money is because the business is very tough.

There was a long session about challenges and successes in Grand County with Lurline Curran, Paul Bruchez, and Mely Whiting. The county at the headwaters of the Colorado River sees 60% of its water exported to the East Slope by Denver Water and Northern Water. The two water agencies are working on projects to firm up supplies and the result could be that more headwaters flows could move east.

One project will rebuild the channel of the Fraser River to better fit the lower flows to keep river temperatures colder. Rocks are being placed to create pools for trout.

Another project, in concert with Northern’s Windy Gap Firming project will create a new natural channel around the reservoir to take it off-channel. The hope is that there will be greater scouring of the Colorado River below the reservoir to support stonefly populations that have been severely impacted.

Proposed bypass channel for the Colorado River with Windy Gap Reservoir being taken offline, part of the agreements around Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming project.

At lunch Jack Schmidt explained his research into the Glen Canyon Institute’s proposal to drain Lake Powell to dead pool and store the water in Lake Mead. He said that their numbers with respect to evaporation and seepage may not be supported by the studies he has found. He confirmed that under a changed hydrology due to climate change that the option of re-drilling the original bypass tunnels around Glen Canyon Dam to completely drain Lake Powell might work to restore the Grand Canyon.

Afternoon sessions included a panel with Heather Hansman and Eric Kuhn with their thoughts on telling water stories and concluded with a panel of members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and its new Director, Becky Mitchell.

The Colorado River District staff knocked it out of the park again this year. Thanks again.

Take a trip through the Tweets from the conference. The hash tag was #CRDseminar. Be sure to click on the “Latest” button at the top of the page, scroll down to the bottom and read upward from oldest to newest Tweets.

Luke Runyon and Coyote Gulch getting set for the Twitter fest at the Colorado River District seminar September 15, 2017.

Water managers seek certainty in #ColoradoRiver Basin — @AspenJournalism #CRDseminar #COriver

The end of the tunnel that brings water from Hunter Creek to the Fryingpan River drainage, and then on to the eastern slope. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism.

From Aspen Journalism (Sarah Tory) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Bringing more certainty to an unruly and unpredictable Colorado River system was a common theme among water managers speaking at the Colorado River District’s annual seminar Friday­­.

Although the drought that has gripped much of the Colorado River basin for the past 16 years has eased up a bit, population growth and the long dry spell have pushed the river’s supplies to the limit, with every drop of water in the system now accounted for.

Meanwhile, the effects of climate change on the Colorado’s future flows are still a big question mark, and it could mean wide variability in the years to come, with periods of punishing drought followed by a sudden record-setting wet year, as California recently experienced.

Bill Hasencamp, general manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, described how in April 2015, snowpack in the Sierras was at an all-time low. But by this spring, it was at an all-time high, after a winter of heavy precipitation.

The change in snowpack eventually lead to huge fluctuations in water prices – from $1,800 per acre-foot at the height of the drought to just $18 per acre-foot this year, Hasencamp said.

That kind of turbulence places enormous pressure on the Colorado River Basin’s big municipalities, which must secure their water supplies for millions of people, said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the River District, which is based in Glenwood Springs and helps protect Western Colorado’s water resources.

Kuhn is retiring next year and was making his last formal presentation as general manager of the river district. As he heads into retirement, he’s working on a book with author John Fleck about the history of managing the Colorado River and the creation of the Colorado Compact.

“The reality is — and we all have to accept this — big-city providers need certainty,” he said. However, Kuhn said he didn’t think that means more transmountain diversions from the West Slope.

The most obvious source of additional water for cities is agriculture, which holds the lion’s share of senior water rights on the Colorado River, but no one is eager to see rural areas sacrificed for urban growth, Kuhn said.

So, he added, water managers throughout the basin are figuring out ways to adapt 19th century water laws to a 21st century reality.

Cooperative agreements between irrigators and municipalities are one option, providing cities with additional sources of water during dry periods.

Already, a three-year pilot initiative called the System Conservation Pilot Program has shown that farmers and ranchers are open to using less water in exchange for compensation.

Beginning in 2014, four of the big Colorado River Basin municipalities and the Bureau of Reclamation contributed $15 million to fund water conservation projects throughout the basin.

The program was in limbo after this year while officials worked out some issues, but Hasencamp said Friday that the funders have agreed to continue the pilot program for another year, in 2018.

For water managers, these kinds of flexible arrangements, along with rigorous water efficiency, recycling and reuse efforts, are the key to finding “certainty” on an inherently volatile river system.

Still, those solutions will not be easy.

As Bill Trampe, a longtime rancher from Gunnison County, explained, less irrigation often comes with unintended consequences such as diminished return flows to the river and nearby fields.

And as Lurline Underbrink Curran, the former county manager for Grand County, described, efforts to heal the destructive impacts of existing water diversions on the Fraser River, a tributary of the Colorado, means accepting that future diversions will in fact take place.

“We tried to form friendships that would help us do more with what we had,” she said.

California’s Salton Sea presents another dilemma, which reaches back up into Colorado River system.

The salty inland lake, created by an accidental breach in an irrigation canal, is drying up.

Since 2002, the state of California has been paying the Imperial Valley Irrigation District to keep the Salton Sea on life support by delivering 800,000 acre-feet of water, but that initiative expires at the end of this year.

Continuing the water deliveries means using up more of the Colorado River’s dwindling supplies, but letting it dry up means exposing local residents to a lakebed full of toxic dust.

None of these problems is new, but as many of the speakers at the river district’s annual seminar explained, water managers now have more tools than ever before to address those challenges — and new urgency with which to apply them.

Recent successes include the successful negotiation of an updated binational water agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, called Minute 232, that is expected to be signed this month. It will outline how the two countries share future shortages on the Colorado River.

“We’re at a point where we can work together, and the success we’ve had is from collaboration,” said Becky Mitchell, the new director of the Colorado River Conservation Board. “It’s really all hands on deck.”

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

#ColoradoRiver District seminar recap @ColoradoWater #CRDseminar #COriver

Rebecca Mitchell was named to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on July 5, 2017. Photo credit the Colorado Independent.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Becky Mitchell, who has been the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board for about two months, spoke Friday at the Colorado River District’s annual water seminar in Grand Junction.

She told attendees that when it comes to meeting the state’s water needs, “it’s really all hands on deck. Everyone here plays an important role. … What you’re doing is equally as important as anything we’re doing.”

Steps already taken by entities ranging from her agency to the river district to agricultural interests, environmental stakeholders and members of river basin roundtables “have really shown me that we are at a point where we’re ready to work together and that the success that we’ve had has been because of collaboration,” Mitchell said.

In comments to the group and in an interview, she addressed the monetary challenges for Colorado in meeting its future water needs. An initial estimate for paying for projects identified in the new water plan in coming decades was about $20 billion — already a daunting amount — but Mitchell’s agency now believes the price tag could be twice that much when the cost of water quality projects, generally involving water or wastewater treatment, are included.

The state water board is looking into the cost issue through a statewide water supply initiative analysis that is expected to come out next year…

She said it will be important to rely on a prioritization of projects by roundtable groups in each river basin. Also key is to focus on projects that provide multiple benefits, because having multiple interests in a project could lead to multiple sources of money to pay for it, she said.

“It’s not necessarily the responsibility of the state to come up with the entire amount to implement the water plan,” Mitchell said. “A lot of it goes back to the local level and how we can support work that’s being done on the ground.”

Mitchell worked on developing the plan as a staff member of her agency before being promoted after her predecessor, James Eklund, left to take a job as an attorney with a legal firm.

“We’re at a really important time in the state where we have a capability to make a big difference in how we’re looking at our water future. It’s an exciting time and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Mitchell said.

As for Eastern Slope/Western Slope water matters, “I am optimistic that we’ll be able to work through issues like we have done. When we’ve found solutions, it’s when we’ve come together regardless of the side of the (Continental) Divide. I think where we’re going to see solutions is where we come together,” she said.

Eric Kuhn along the banks of the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, general manager of the Colorado River District. Photo via the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

From KJCT8.com:

The Colorado River is the hardest working river in the world, that’s according to local experts. Hundreds of water experts are gathered in the valley to put together their game plan to tackle the biggest challenges facing the river.

The General Manager Colorado River Water Conservation District, Erik Kuhn, says there are a lot of ideas to better manage the Colorado River, before it runs out in southern California. In order to stretch the water even further, one idea is to move the waters in Lake Powell to Lake Mead.

“So it would allow for the recovery of lands that are now inundated by water in Lake Powell, natural recovery of those. It’s called the ‘Fill Mead First’. He’s talking about that. We don’t think that works very well for a number of reasons. But it’s one of those things that’s caught a lot of press attention of late,” Kuhn said.

The Colorado River helps supply water to people in Denver all the way to about 20 million people in the Los Angeles, California area.

The Colorado River Basin is divided into upper and lower portions. It provides water to the Colorado River, a water source that serves 40 million people over seven states in the southwestern United States. Colorado River Commission of Nevada