The Taos Land Trust scores $575,000: “It was a beautiful series of serendipitous events” — Kristina Ortez de Jones

From The Taos News (Cody Hooks):

In a partnership between the Coca-Cola Company and the nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association, the land trust was awarded a $575,000 grant to make those visions a reality.

The “timely … and transformational” money will mostly be put toward the revival of the wetland associated with the Río Fernando, according to Taos Land Trust Executive Director Kristina Ortez de Jones.

Some of the funds will also be used to rebuild the Vigil y Romo Acequia on the property so that mountain streams can again irrigate the land, opening opportunities for experiments in community gardening and other agricultural projects.

“The Río Fernando Park is emblematic of the values held by all Taoseños with its seven acres of wetlands and 13 acres of now-fallow land that will be brought back to life with this important award,” Ortez de Jones said. The Romo property and future park are adjacent to Fred Baca Park.

“It was a beautiful series of serendipitous events,” she said of getting the award. “We are grateful for the opportunity to create a public space that meets our community’s need for open space, locally grown food and pathways for walking and bike-riding.”

The land trust purchased the Romo property in December 2015 and moved into the house-turned-office this past April. Since then, a quarter-mile trail was built on the property — laying the physical and mental foundations for the Río Fernando Park that will now come into shape a lot faster thanks to the grant, explained Ortez de Jones.

The beginning of the wetland restoration, she said, will start with “safely and deliberately removing those introduced species,” like Russian olive and Siberian elm. At the same time, the land trust will reintroduce native plants that can help maintain and mitigate the flow of the river through the wetland.

The stream has been channelized, such that water rushes through the stream bed, making it harder for wetland life to really flourish. In some places, the river may need re-engineering to improve the banks.

In the long run, the land trust wants the Río Fernando to be a functional wetland — slowing down and cleaning water. As climate change forces water users to take a hard look at the availability, timing and quality of water in the future, wetlands have come to be seen as an important tool.

At the same time as the land trust works to restore the wetland to peak conditions, the organization will use that momentum to continue planning for more trails and access to public spaces.

“We’ve asked neighbors, the community — What is missing in terms of public spaces and places? What should we do here? Overwhelmingly, people felt this place should be a park. People really want trails,” said Ortez de Jones.

Yet not all parks are created equal. “You have to look at this through the lens of access. You have to make an effort to get to our parks in Taos. And who doesn’t have access to those public places … the immigrant community, people without cars. A lot of people don’t have access,” she said.

The money for the land trust is part of Coca-Cola’s corporate effort to fund water-related projects in important watersheds around the country. Coca Cola’s money has also funded stream and wetland restoration in the Valle Vidal in the Carson National Forest.

USDA awards $1 million for Roaring Fork and #Colorado rivers conservation programs

From the Bookcliff, Mount Sopris and South Side Conservation Districts (Dennis Davidson) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The Bookcliff, South Side and Mount Sopris Conservation Districts have received funding of $500,000 for the next two years to assist agriculture landowners in portions of Garfield and Pitkin counties improve water quality and conserve water use.

The Targeted Conservation Program is part of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Local landowners must match these funds from loans, grants or their own funds. This will make a total investment to improve water quality of nearly $2 million in the Colorado and Roaring Fork river drainages.

The request was developed by the local conservation districts because landowners could not obtain cost share funds through the normal cost share programs of USDA conservation programs. The request targets the need of cost share on larger group projects.

Some of the goals of Bookcliff, South Side and Mount Sopris Conservation Districts that will be addressed with this funding are:

• Improve overall water quality, watershed health and water quantity in the mainstream of the Colorado River and its tributaries.

• Reduce salts and sediments in the waters of the Colorado River.

• Reduce unwanted vegetation such as tamarisk, Russian olive, willow, reed canary grass and other hydrophytic plants.

• Help landowners reduce annual maintenance and disturbances in ditches.

• Improve the habitat for the threatened and endangered warm water fish in the Colorado River below Rifle.

• Reduce labor and production costs for agriculture producers.

The first year’s allocations have already received requests for funds to install irrigation pipelines, irrigation diversion structures and associated management practices.

The consumptive use of agriculture water benefits beyond local citizens, but also extends worldwide in the production of food and fiber. Ecosystem improvement will include the upland, rangeland, forest land, wildlife land and the riparian area along each of the natural streams and rivers, while maintaining the water rights of the landowners.

Our local farmers and ranchers are conservationists striving to improve our environment through the proper use and management of water, plants, soil and animals and maintaining these resources for the current production of food and fiber, and for the future.

For additional information or questions, call the local conservation district office or the NRCS at (970) 945-5494.

Opinion: Two Ways Congress Can Create More Incentives for Water Savings — Water Deeply

Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

From Water Deeply (Kerry Stackpole):

Western legislators can be leaders on two critical issues: water-saving tax reforms and funding the EPA’s WaterSense conservation program, says Kerry Stackpole of Plumbing Manufacturers International.

CONGRESS HAS A marvelous opportunity as members negotiate the various elements of tax reform and the federal budget. Our senators and representatives have the chance to revise tax rules to reward consumers who save water and to authorize the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s WaterSense program, which has saved 2.1 trillion gallons of water over a little more than a decade. Authorization, or codification, would provide the WaterSense program with greater permanence by giving it a direct annual congressional appropriation rather than leaving its annual budget up to the EPA’s discretion.

Members of Congress from California and other Western states can lead this advocacy, which can benefit the whole country. Federal tax reform related to water efficiency rebates and WaterSense authorization can create more incentives for water savings across the entire nation, saving the necessity for a state-by-state approach to this challenge.

Making rebates received for water conservation improvements exempt from federal income tax is “win-win” thinking. Right now, if you receive a $100 rebate for installing a water-efficient toilet you must pay federal taxes on it. That should change.

The bipartisan Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity Act (H.R. 448/S. 1464) amends federal tax law to exclude homeowners from paying income tax on rebates from water utilities for water conservation improvements, including the purchase of manufactured products certified by the EPA’s WaterSense program. This legislation is sponsored by Jared Huffman (D-California) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) in the House and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada) in the Senate.

WaterSense is a voluntary public-private sponsorship program that encourages the use of water-efficient toilets, showerheads, faucets and other plumbing products – most of which are manufactured by U.S. companies. More than 21,000 product models bear the WaterSense label. While saving 2.1 trillion gallons of water since 2006, WaterSense has enabled consumers to keep more than $46.3 billion in water and energy bill savings in their pockets. As a result, the program enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, as well as from plumbing manufacturers, retailers, water utilities, state and local governments and nongovernmental organizations.

The savings achieved by WaterSense, while impressive, would be even greater if more American homeowners and businesses installed water-efficient plumbing products. A 2017 research study released by Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) and the Alliance for Water Efficiency showed that water-efficient toilets could save up to 170 billion potable gallons of water per year across just five states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia and Texas – all facing water scarcity due to drought, regional population growth and other factors.

Three bills have been introduced that include language providing WaterSense authorization: the Water Efficiency Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 1700), the Clean, Safe, Reliable Water Infrastructure Act (S. 1137) and the Water Advanced Technologies for Efficient Resource Use Act of 2017 (H.R. 3248).

WaterSense is a federal program that has achieved quantifiable water and energy savings, a rave review from the EPA inspector general and bipartisan support. Let’s reward this strong track record with authorization and consumer relief on rebate taxes – and set an example of how to encourage all Americans to save water.

@PalmerLandTrust awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner recap

Photos by Allen Tian, The Colorado Independent, and courtesy of Dark Skies Inc of the Wet Mountain Valley.

From the Palmer Land Trust via The Wet Mountain Tribune:

The Palmer Land Trust in Colorado Springs has announced the names of the three award winners, and a prestigious honorary recognition, for the 2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards (SCCA). Among the winners were Valley ranchers Randy and Claricy Rusk. The event recognizes individuals and organizations that are dedicated to stewardship, education and innovation in conservation impacting southern Colorado. The winners were honored at The Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, September 27, with an awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner.

“SCCA showcases the exemplary conservation work being done in southern Colorado. This year’s slate of award winners highlights inspiring stories from an incredibly diverse range of people and projects, including ranching in Westcliffe, recreation in Canon City, and water and land conservation on a statewide scale. We are excited to tell these stories at what has become the premiere conservation event in southern Colorado,” said Rebecca Jewett, Executive Director of Palmer.

Award winners were nominated by the community at large and underwent a rigorous selection process by a Blue Ribbon Panel. The Stuart P. Dodge Award honors a lifetime achievement in conservation.

The winners, Randy and Claricy Rusk of rural Westcliffe, are conservation pioneers. Their vision, leadership, and influence within the ranching community has largely been credited for the conservation success achieved in the Wet Mountain Valley and beyond over the last two-and-a-half decades. Working alongside The Trust for Public Land, San Isabel Land Protection Trust, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the Rusks have inspired their community to band together to conserve the rich ranching and open space heritage that has long defined the Wet Mountain Valley.

The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes an individual or organization that has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to it.

This year’s winner is Kalem Lenard of Canon City. Since 2012, Lenard has improved more than 17 miles of trails enjoyed by hundreds of bikers, hikers, trail runners, and horsemen every year. Without Lenard’s vision, passion, and expertise, the Oil Well Flats trail system might never have come to fruition.

The Innovation in Conservation Award honors an individual, group, project, or program that has advanced the cause of conservation by developing new conservation models, creating new conservation funding mechanisms, or implementing unique partnerships that protect our natural heritage. The winner this year was the Colorado Water Trust.

The Colorado Water Trust was formed in 2001 to partner with Colorado’s Instream Flow Program and amplify its work by supporting and promoting voluntary, market-based efforts to protect and restore Colorado’s streamflows. Today, the Colorado Water Trust is the only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to restoring flows on Colorado’s rivers using market based transactions. The Water Trust has revealed water-sharing possibilities that have never been done before, helping meet the needs of agricultural partners while providing water for rivers.

Also honored was Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) with the Distinction in Conservation award, a prestigious discretionary award recognizing catalytic excellence and influence in conservation in southern Colorado. Since its inception in 1992, GOCO has committed more than $917 million in state lottery proceeds to more than 4,800 projects in all 64 counties in Colorado without any tax dollar support. Through their efforts they have helped protect more than one million acres of land.

Denver: 9th Annual Colorado WaterWise Water Conservation Symposium October 24, 2017

Draft Agenda

Register Here

Join us for the 9th Annual Colorado WaterWise Water Conservation Symposium in Denver, Colorado! We have a great program being created that will appeal to many audiences.

The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

Photo credit Eagle River Watershed Council.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

23rd Annual Eagle River Cleanup

About 300 people participated in this year’s Eagle River Cleanup, which was the 23rd annual. A large youth turnout at this year’s event helped forward one of the goals of the watershed council — to leave a conservation legacy for generations to come.

“It’s a start of environmentalism,” watershed council executive director Holly Loff said Saturday. “It connects the community; everyone has worked hard to do something that does make a difference.”

Loff said they expect to see about 4,000 pounds of trash collected from local waterways as a result of Saturday’s efforts.

While the trash itself isn’t often as detrimental to the river as the pollution you can’t see, a clean riverbank says a lot about a community, said Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney.

“It takes away from the experience when you see trash as you’re rafting past, or when you’re trying to fish,” McQueeney said.

Solving the problem of the declining Ogallala aquifer: “It’s for the generation that’s not here” — Dwane Roth

The High Plains Aquifer provides 30 percent of the water used in the nation’s irrigated agriculture. The aquifer runs under South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

From The Hutchinson News (Amy Bickel):

Because of technology, [Dwane] Roth is working to embrace what might seem like an unfathomable concept in these parts – especially when you can’t see what is happening underground.

Sometimes the crop isn’t thirsty.

“It’s difficult to shut off,” Roth said. “But I called my soil moisture probe guy. He said the whole profile was full and it was only the top 2 inches that was actually dry. So there was no need to turn that irrigation engine on and pump from the Ogallala.”

Now he is hoping to change the mindset of his peers across a landscape where corn is king and the Ogallala Aquifer – the ocean underneath the High Plains – has been keeping the decades-old farm economy going on the semi-arid Plains.

At least it is for now.

Underlying eight states across the Great Plains, the Ogallala provides water to about one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle production in the United States. It’s also a primary drinking water supply for residents throughout the High Plains.

But the aquifer that gives life to these fields is declining. It took 6,000 years to fill the Ogallala Aquifer from glacier melt. It has taken just 70 years of irrigation to put the western Kansas landscape into a water crisis.

An economy centered on water is drying up.

With his own water levels declining, Roth wants to make sure there is water for the next generation, including his nephews who recently returned to the farm.

On this hot, summer day, water seeped out of a high-tech irrigation system he is testing on his Finney County farm. Soil probes are scattered about, telling him what is happening below the surface.

Roth also has pledged to the state to cut back his usage by 15 percent through changing farming practices and implementing new technology.

He wants to make a difference, but, he stressed, he can’t slow the decline alone.

For the past two years, Roth’s fields have been part of a closely watched demonstration project aimed at showing farmers how to use less irrigation water on their crops. Now he he is taking it a step further.

With some areas in northern Finney County declining by more than 70 feet since 2005, Roth is helping spearhead a regional effort to curtail pumping through a Local Enhanced Management Area. LEMAs were implemented five years ago as a tool to extend the life of the state’s water resources.

He’s not the only one looking toward the future. A small but growing group of irrigators are considering different tools to cutback water use. Some are implementing technology. Some are looking at LEMAs. Others are forming their own, farm-wide plans for mandatory cutbacks.

“It’s for the kids you don’t see yet,” Roth said of why he’s doing this. “It’s for the generation that’s not here.”

Ogallala aquifer via USGS