@CWCB_DNR names water mavens to demand management workgroups — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #DCP

An impromptu workgroup works on a problem on the Colorado River. The group members came together below Doris Rapid in the Grand Canyon after a small raft flipped, and needed to be flipped back over to proceed. The CWCB could be considered to be embarking on a similar exercise in setting up eight workgroups to discuss ways to leave more water in the Colorado River system above Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board on Monday released the names of the 74 people it has asked to volunteer on eight workgroups being formed to investigate how a demand-management program might work in the state.

The list of people asked to serve reads like something of a who’s who of Colorado water mavens, and they will be helping the CWCB investigate what’s billed as a “voluntary, temporary and compensated” demand-management — or water-use reduction — program in the state.

The workgroup meetings, which the CWCB considers similar to staff meetings, are to be closed to the public and the media. However, the CWCB staff members holding the meetings then plan to share the insights they’ve gleaned from the workgroup meetings in open settings, including meetings of the CWCB’s board of directors.

“From our point of view, the workgroups are assisting the CWCB’s project-management team in framing demand management issues for public review, comment, and contributions,” said Brent Newman, the chief of CWCB’s Interstate, Federal and Water Information section. “We want to come to our usual public forums with a more informed initial ‘first stab’ at demand management.”

The workgroups, as currently configured, include Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District; Jim Lochhead, the CEO of Denver Water; Mely Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited on Colorado river issues; Kathy Chandler-Henry, an Eagle County commissioner; Doug Kemper, the executive director of the Colorado Water Congress; Mark Harris, the general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association; and many other notable water managers and experts.

(Please see full list of workgroup participants below).

The workgroups are divided by the following topics: law and policy; monitoring and verification; water-rights administration and accounting; environmental considerations; economic considerations and local government; funding; education and outreach; and agricultural impacts.

A ninth workgroup, on tribal interests, was to be formed, according to a CWCB staff presentation at the agency’s meeting in May, but a tribal workgroup was not included on the workgroup roster released Monday.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District, which is based in Glenwood Springs and represents Western Slope water interests, has five of its employees on five different workgroups.

They are Mueller, who also is an attorney, on the law and policy workgroup; John Currier, the district’s chief engineer, on the monitoring and verification workgroup; Chris Treese, the district’s external affairs manager, on the economic considerations and local government workgroup; Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs, on the education and outreach workgroup; and Dave Kanzer, deputy chief engineer, on the agricultural impacts workgroup.

Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico are each developing demand-management programs after a series of drought contingency-planning, or DCP, agreements were signed last month by representatives of those four states and the three lower-basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada.

The DCP agreements give the four upper-basin states an opportunity to store as many as 500,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell, and three other federal reservoirs in the upper basin, to use as insurance against violating the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

The water in the new demand-management pool must be water that otherwise would have been consumed by fields, pastures, lawns and other uses, but instead has been sent down the river system to be stored.

Before any of the demand-management programs can be launched in the four upper-basin states, they each need to be approved by the Upper Colorado River Commission, which includes representatives from the four states and the federal government.

The commission will hold a demand-management stakeholder workshop in Salt Lake City on June 21. The workshop will be open to the public.

The CWCB plans to hold a series of public demand-management workshops — as opposed to the closed workgroups — throughout the state this year.

Despite the closed-door workgroup meetings, the CWCB plans to hold an orientation webinar in July for the workgroup members that also will be open to the public.

The roster of the invited workgroup participants from the CWCB was slated to be released by June 1, but the effort was delayed after a six-page draft confidentiality agreement that was circulated by the state raised concerns among some of the potential workgroup members.

“We heard from multiple people that it was more than was necessary to achieve the goal of being able to have open conversation, and so we really took those words to heart,” CWCB director Becky Mitchell said of the first confidentiality agreement. “After some reflection, we realized that was just not the direction we wanted to go. So we’re taking a good hard look at that.”

An update sent out last week by CWCB staff said the agency was now “considering an approach that will entail a simpler and less restrictive agreement between the parties.”

Mitchell said the next version of the agreement will be closer to one page, not six pages.

The confidentiality agreements are seen by the CWCB as necessary to create “an environment for frank, candid and open discussions,” according to a recent memo to the workgroup participants.

But the confidentiality agreements are also meant to try to keep confidential some of the information provided by the state to the members of the workgroups.

A workgroup, of sorts, on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Proposed roster of CWCB demand management workgroups

Law and Policy

Facilitator:
Karen Kwon, first assistant attorney general, Colorado

Staff:
Brent Newman, chief, Interstate, Federal and Water Information Section, CWCB;
Amy Ostdiek, assistant attorney general, Colorado

Members:
Andy Mueller, general manager, Colorado River District
Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager, Denver Water
Bennett Raley, attorney at Trout Raley, representing Northern Water
John McClow, general counsel, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
Taylor Hawes, Colorado River Program director, The Nature Conservancy
Anne Castle, senior fellow, Getches-Wilkinson Center, University of Colorado
Beth Van Vurst, attorney, represents Southwestern Water Conservation District
Lee Miller, general counsel, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Monitoring and Verification

Facilitator:
Michelle Garrison, water resources specialist, CWCB

Staff:
Brian Macpherson, decision support systems specialist, CWCB

Members:
Kelley Thompson, lead modeler, Colorado Division of Water Resources
John Currier, chief engineer, Colorado River District
Kevin Lusk, principal engineer, Colorado Springs Utilities
Tom Simpson, manager, Colorado and Arkansas Basins, Aurora Water
Luke Gingrich, Western Colorado area manager, J-U-B Engineers Inc.
Laura Belanger, water resources and env. engineer, Western Resource Advocates
Perry Cabot, research scientist and extension specialist, Colorado State University
Cary Denison, Gunnison Basin Project coordinator, Trout Unlimited
Gerry Knapp, consultant, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District
Robert Sakata, owner, Sakata Farms
Carrie Padgett, engineer, Harris Water Engineering

Water-Rights Administration and Accounting

Facilitator:
Lain Leoniak, assistant attorney general, Colorado

Staff:
Mike Sullivan, deputy director, Colorado Division of Water Resources
Kevin Rein, state engineer, Colorado Division of Water Resources
Ryan Gilliom, water resource scientist, Colorado School of Mines

Members:
Frank Kugel, general manager, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
Rick Marsicek, planning manager, Denver Water
Drew Peternell, Colorado director, Trout Unlimited
Kyle Whitaker, Colorado River programs manager, Northern Water
Dick Wolfe, retired Colorado state engineer
Steve Witte, retired Division 2 engineer
Cleave Simpson, general manager, Rio Grande Water Conservation District

Environmental Considerations

Facilitators:
Lauren Ris, deputy director, CWCB;
Linda Bassi, chief, Stream and Lake Protection Section, CWCB

Staff:
Brandy Logan, hydrologist, CWCB;
Jojo La, endangered-species policy specialist, CWCB

Members:
Kathy Kitzman, water resources principal, Aurora Water
Maria Pastore, senior water resources project manager, Colorado Springs Utilities
Melinda Kassen, senior counsel, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Abby Burk, western rivers regional program manager, Audubon Rockies
Matt Rice, director, Colorado basin program, American Rivers
David Graf, water resource specialist, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Al Pfister, wildlife biologist, Western Wildscapes, LLC
Torie Jarvis, director, NWCOG Water Quality/Quantity Committee
Mely Whiting, Colorado Water Project legal counsel, Trout Unlimited
Karen Wogsland, director of programs, Colorado Water Trust

Economic Considerations and Local Government

Facilitator:
Amy Moyer

Staff:
Amy Ostdiek, assistant attorney general, Colorado

Members:

Chris Treese, external affairs manager, Colorado River District
Alexandra Davis, deputy director of water resources, Aurora Water
Seth Clayton, executive director, Pueblo Water
Sean Cronin, executive director, St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District
Kathy Chandler‐Henry, Eagle County commissioner
Barbara Biggs, general manager, Roxborough Water and Sanitation District
Steven Ruddell, forester and environmental economist, CarbonVerde, LLC
Patti Wells, former general counsel, Denver Water, former CWCB board member
Liesel Hans, water conservation manager, City of Fort Collins
Karn Stiegelmeier, Summit County commissioner
Kelly Romero‐Heaney, water resources manager, City of Steamboat Springs

Funding

Facilitator:
Anna Mauss, chief operating officer, CWCB

Staff:
Russ Sands, senior program manager, Water Supply Planning, CWCB

Members:
Ted Kowalski, Colorado River Initiative lead, Walton Family Foundation
Dave Bennett, director, Water Resource Strategy, Denver Water
Pat Wells, GM, water resources and demand management, Colorado Springs Utilities
Aaron Citron, policy adviser, The Nature Conservancy
Dick Brown, economist
Keith McLaughlin, finance director, CO Water Resources and Power Dev. Auth.
Alan Matlosz, executive VP, Colorado Public Finance Group, George K. Baum & Co.

Education and Outreach

Facilitator:
Brent Newman, chief, Interstate, Federal and Water Information Section, CWCB

Staff:
Megan Holcomb, program manager, Water Supply Planning Section, CWCB

Members:
Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs, Colorado River District
Todd Hartman, media-relations coordinator, Denver Water
Chris Woodka, issues-management coordinator, Southeastern Water
Andy Schultheiss, executive director, Colorado Water Trust
Hannah Holm, coordinator, Water Center, Colorado Mesa University
Doug Kemper, executive director, Colorado Water Congress
Laura Spann, program coordinator, Southwestern Water Conservation District
Lisa Darling, executive director, South Metro Water Supply Authority

Agricultural Impacts

Facilitator:
Alex Funk, agricultural water resources specialist, CWCB

Staff:
Andrew Rickert, program associate, CWCB
Erik Skeie, special project coordinator, CWCB

Members:
Dave Kanzer, deputy chief engineer, Colorado River District
Alan Ward, water resources division manager, Pueblo Water
Eric Wilkinson, former general manager, Northern Water
John Stulp, former water policy adviser to Colorado’s governor
Cindy Lair, program manager, State Conservation Board, CO Dept. of Agriculture
Mark Harris, general manager, Grand Valley Water Users Association
Aaron Derwingson, agricultural coordinator, The Nature Conservancy
Paul Bruchez, rancher, fly-fishing guide, member of the Colorado Basin Roundtable
Travis Smith, senior water consultant, DiNatale Water Consultants
Allen Distel, president, Bostwick Park Water Conservancy District, Montrose
Ken Curtis, chief of engineering and construction, Dolores Water Conservancy District
Tom Gray, former Moffat County commissioner, Colorado River District Board

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. The Times published a version of this story on June 10, 2019.

The latest @CWCB_DNR “Confluence” newsletter is hot off the presses

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

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

H2infO – Water Provider Information Tool

Peak Spatial deployed the initial seven county pilot H2infO water provider/home buyer tool on May 10th. The tool provides realtors and home buyers address specific water provider identification and information in the seven county area of Pueblo, El Paso, Teller, Douglas, Arapahoe, Denver and Adams counties. Peak built the tool with CWP and WSRF grant support from the CWCB and the Metro RT.

The information tool can be accessed at https://h2info-co.com and includes over 320 water providers in the seven counties with links to conservation plans, rates and fees, and consumer confidence/water quality information for home buyers. The Peak team will operate the tool and work with realtor organizations and water providers to continue to refine and support data updates.

For more information or input on the site contact Royal Koepsell at royal.koepsell@peakspatial.com or call (719) 649-3477.

Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #drought contingency plan depends on rights holders bypassing water #COriver #aridification

The looming possibility of mandatory curtailment of water use has raised concerns among Western Slope water managers, who feel that such cuts could harm Western Slope agricultural, such as this hay filed in the Yampa River basin. However, as water levels continue to drop to record lows in Lake Powell, mandatory curltailments are being discussed as a real possibility, especially by Front Range water managers. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Eleanor C. Hassenbeck):

The collective group of [recently signed] agreements is called the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan.

It aims to raise the unprecedented low water levels in the largest reservoirs on the Colorado River system, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, to enable them to continue to deliver water and produce hydropower.

In Colorado, it calls for three possible actions:

  • Creating a bank of stored water in federally owned reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell. This water would be released into Lake Powell in order to make sure Colorado continues to meet obligations to deliver a certain amount of water to downstream states under the Colorado River Compact.
  • Increasing cloud seeding and removing deep-rooted, invasive plants that take up a lot of water, such as tamarisk.
  • Creating a voluntary program that would temporarily pay agricultural water users to fallow their land and send water they have a right to downstream. This is called demand management.
  • Of the options on the table, demand management — the option that would pay farmers not to use their water — is the one most likely to impact Routt County…

    Demand management is still only a hypothetical, so the Yampa River Basin could opt out of a program if it doesn’t work for the area.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board has assembled workgroups on topics related to demand management. These groups are now meeting behind closed doors to develop preliminary reports outlining how the program might work.

    Brown said once these reports are completed and released to the public, there will be opportunities for community members to provide input on the idea. She said there will be the “opportunity for a real, thoughtful conversation, especially in the Yampa and White (river) basins.”

    Demand Management Feasibility Investigations within #Colorado — @DWR_CO

    From email from the Colorado Department of Water Resources:

    [Please find below] two documents relating to the investigation of demand management feasibility – both at the Upper Basin level and within Colorado. First, a statement from Director Mitchell on the path forward on demand management feasibility investigations within Colorado. Also, information regarding an upcoming workshop hosted by the Upper Colorado River Commission on the topic of demand management feasibility.

    For more information on these topics email demandmanagement@state.co.us.

    Demand Management Investigation: The Path Forward

    Colorado water users, stakeholders, and interested parties:

    Now that the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) is finalized, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is beginning its efforts to investigate the feasibility of a potential demand management program within Colorado.

    The strong connection between Coloradans and our water has established a foundation of public input, deliberation, and participation in the decision-making process, which leads to informed and thorough policymaking. This is the model that informed the Colorado Water Plan, and it is this model that the CWCB will utilize to assess demand management: by Colorado, for Colorado.

    At the March 2019 meeting, the Board of Directors of the CWCB approved the 2019 Work Plan for Intrastate Demand Management Feasibility Investigations. Below are highlights of the current and upcoming steps that the CWCB staff will be taking to implement the 2019 Work Plan, including opportunities for engagement, processes to inform the Board, and informational events. These elements are designed to ensure that the CWCB and all interested water users and stakeholders are fully informed of demand management concepts and challenges as they are identified. Through this process, the multitude of considerations demand management presents will be fully understood, to promote an informed and fully realized public policy discourse.

  • General Outreach: Staff will continue to work directly with interested water users and stakeholders to inform them of the process for investigating demand management feasibility within Colorado, and to solicit input on specific elements of potential implementation and solution identification. The direct interaction between staff and the various basin roundtables, policy boards, water users, and stakeholder groups is where the conversations begin. This will then lead to identification of considerations and development of potential solutions, which will be used to inform an evaluation of demand management.
  • Workgroups: Staff has begun to reach out to subject matter experts on various elements that must be considered for any potential demand management program within Colorado. The purpose of these workgroups is to help CWCB staff identify and frame the complex issues associated with demand management feasibility for public and Board consideration. In this capacity, workgroup members operate like “think tanks” to help CWCB staff prepare to conduct meaningful public discussion of the issues associated with demand management based on useful insight and understanding from experts in the field. Workgroup members have been selected for their subject matter expertise and willingness to work in assisting the State as it implements the public process to evaluate a potential demand management program.

    To respect the integrity of the workgroups, members are being asked to participate in a non-disclosure setting. This will allow the participants to brainstorm all sides of an issue, and to have open and frank discussions as they assist CWCB staff in framing demand management considerations for public discussion and evaluation. The decision-making process for consideration of demand management solutions and approaches for potential implementation will be achieved in public meetings and through the comment and input process established in the formulation of the Colorado Water Plan. The workgroups serve as the “think tank” for staff as they begin to develop an understanding of the full complement of considerations, issues, and challenges that demand management presents.

  • Transparency of Process – Demand management investigations and decision-making by the CWCB will be done through an open dialogue. Once the range and multitude of complex topics associated with demand management are identified and framed, they will be introduced in a process akin to the development of the Water Plan, including workshops, basin roundtable presentations, consideration of public comment, and the like. Additionally, the CWCB will be updated regularly in open session on the progress of the demand management investigation process, and provided with any staff recommendations as appropriate.

    Upcoming Demand Management Investigation Events

  • CWCB will be hosting an Orientation Webinar for members of the workgroups in July. This Orientation Webinar will be open to the public. The Webinar will provide an overview of the evolution of DCP and demand management, discuss the statewide perspective for analysis of demand management, and outline the timeline and process for the workgroups’ assistance in demand management issue identification. Information about the Webinar will be forthcoming as details are finalized.
  • The Upper Colorado River Commission will be hosting a Demand Management Stakeholder Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, June 21. The goal of this regional workshop is to provide a baseline understanding of the Colorado River DCP and discuss proposed next steps to examine the feasibility demand management in the Upper Basin. Additionally, Upper Basin State representatives will receive comment and input from interested water users and stakeholders on possible considerations in evaluating the feasibility of a successful demand management program throughout the Upper Basin. When the agenda is finalized, more information regarding the Workshop and registration will be posted on the CWCB website and circulated to interested parties.
  • CWCB staff will be scheduling public demand management workshops around the state, as outlined in the 2019 Work Plan. These workshops will be in addition to the usual array of roundtables, Interbasin Compact Committee, informational forums, and other water meetings in which staff participate to discuss and receive feedback on demand management. Staff hopes to schedule the first intrastate workshop in alignment with the summer conference of Colorado Water Congress.
  • The investigation of the feasibility of a potential Demand management program presents a challenge for the CWCB, water users, and stakeholders across Colorado. The Board and staff take this assessment very seriously, and are committed to providing an opportunity for everyone with an interest in Colorado River system sustainability to make their voices heard, while remaining true to the water values identified in the Colorado Water Plan. For more information, to provide comments, or to learn more about the 2019 Work Plan and demand management feasibility process, email demandmanagement@state.co.us or contact CWCB staff.

    DM Workshop Agenda

    Colorado taking demand-management workgroups behind closed doors — @AspenJournalism

    Home of the CWCB, in Denver. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/AspenJournalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board have consented to let staffers hold closed-door meetings of nine workgroups that would explore a water demand-management program and to let staffers require the participants to sign confidentiality agreements.

    “Workgroup members will be expected to sign a confidentiality agreement to abstain from discussing outside of the workgroup forums any information that is deemed confidential or privileged per the terms of the agreement,” read a slide shown at the state agency’s most recent meeting, which took place here May 15.

    In presenting the closed-meeting plan, Brent Newman, the chief of CWCB’s interstate, federal and water information section, told the agency’s 15 directors: “We need these groups to be able to candidly identify, discuss and examine important issues without undue attribution.”

    Newman also stressed that any recommendations formed in the closed-door workgroups, expected to meet throughout the year, would be shared in a series of public workshops. He also said any decisions about whether, and how, the state sets up a demand-management program will be made by CWCB directors.

    The closed-door meetings about demand management, also known as water-use reduction, are being slated just as the prospect of such a program in Colorado is increasing.

    On Monday [May 20, 2019] at Hoover Dam, representatives of seven states and the federal government signed a set of drought contingency planning agreements to better manage falling water supplies in federal reservoirs, including Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

    The DCP agreements outline a process for the four states in the upper Colorado River basin — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — to each develop demand-management programs.

    And the agreements also create a new regulatory pool to store, mainly in Lake Powell, up to 500,000 acre-feet of water, conserved through such water-use reduction programs.

    Demand management also could get a financial boost this fall if voters approve a statewide ballot question legalizing sports betting in Colorado.

    The betting question, now slated to be question “DD” on the ballot, includes a provision for the state to keep up to $29 million a year from a 10% tax on gambling revenue, most of which is to go to the CWCB to make grants tied to the state water plan.

    A fiscal note prepared for the bill estimated tax revenue of between $9.7 million and $11.2 million for the first full year of the program, while a January study done for a race track near Aurora estimated $361 million in total revenue by 2023, which would produce $36.1 million in tax revenue.

    But the tax revenue, according to [HB19-1327], which sets up the sports-betting program, can be used for more than water plan grants. It can also be used for “expenditures to ensure compliance with interstate water allocation compacts” and “to support projects and processes that may include compensation to water users for temporary and voluntary reductions in consumptive use.”

    The primary compact in question is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which requires the upper basin states to deliver a set amount of water to the lower-basin states: California, Arizona and Nevada.

    Lake Powell, formed by Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in Arizona, serves as the upper basin’s storage vessel to meet its requirements in dry years. Today, the giant reservoir is 41 percent full.

    And while the reservoir’s water level is expected to rise with this spring’s healthy runoff, the Colorado River basin has been in a lingering drought since 2000 and there is a concern the reservoir could drop so low that the upper basin would fail to meet its compact obligations.

    State Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat representing District 5, which includes Pitkin County, was a sponsor of the sports-betting bill. She confirmed that the bill’s language about “temporary and voluntary reductions in consumptive use” refers to a potential demand-management program.

    “It may fund demand management,” she said. “It could. It’s not a ‘shall.’”

    She also pointed out that demand management is referenced in the state’s water plan.

    Demand management in Colorado was also given additional momentum this year when the state legislature approved $10 million in revenue from the state’s general fund for the CWCB, with $1.7 million of that earmarked for both investigating the feasibility of demand management and for outreach and education about the potential program.

    In November, the CWCB adopted a policy to guide the development of a demand management program. The policy said the agency would “investigate voluntary, temporary and compensated reductions in consumptive use of waters that otherwise would deplete the flow of the upper Colorado River system for the specific purpose of helping assure compact compliance.”

    Such reductions are expected to come mainly by fallowing fields and crops or reducing water in urban areas on the Front Range, which rely heavily on water from the Colorado River system delivered via transmountain diversion systems, including at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan river basins.

    In addition to investigating voluntary curtailment though demand management, the state is studying how a mandatory curtailment program, if necessary, might be managed.

    The nine closed-door workgroups are being set up by CWCB staff to explore aspects of demand management: law and policy; monitoring and verification; water-rights administration and accounting; environmental considerations; economic considerations; funding; education and outreach; agricultural impacts; and tribal interests.

    Several veteran water managers in Colorado interviewed for this story said they couldn’t remember the CWCB inviting participants to serve on workgroups in closed-door settings and requiring confidentiality agreements.

    Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead served as CWCB director from 1983 to 1994 and as director of state’s Department of Natural Resources, where the CWCB is housed, from 1994 to 1998.

    He said he has not seen the approach before, nor has he or anyone else at Denver Water yet been invited to serve on a workgroup.

    “I’m just presuming that they want smaller groups that are going to have very candid and frank conversations with the state about how this can be implemented,” Lochhead said.

    And he said any recommendations about any new policies or legislation must be made public eventually.

    While some of the CWCB’s directors had clarifying questions for Newman about the staff’s recommended closed-door approach, none of the directors challenged it during last week’s meeting.

    “I certainly support the idea of allowing these workgroups to operate in the right environment without a lot of public interference,” said director Steve Anderson, who represents the Gunnison River basin.

    Anderson said he was comfortable with that closed-door approach because the product of those workgroup discussions would eventually be shared with the state’s nine river-basin roundtables.

    In an interview Wednesday, Newman said the basin roundtables are already talking about demand management, and he sees the workgroups as engaging in “parallel conversations.”

    For example, the Colorado Basin Roundtable, which meets monthly in Glenwood Springs, has set up a demand management workgroup, for example, and it has developed and circulated a draft list of questions and concerns it has about the program after holding several public meetings and phone calls.

    Celene Hawkins, who represents that San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel river basins on the CWCB, asked Newman if CWCB directors could attend the closed workgroup meetings.

    Newman said no, but that CWCB directors could attend the planned workshops about demand management, which would be open to the public.

    “When you have a decision-making body like this board, having you all directly participate in some of the conversations of these working groups, it contravenes some open meeting requirements, and we don’t want to do that,” Newman told Hawkins and the other CWCB directors “The workgroups are kind of an extension of staff at this point, that’s how we’re seeing them. They’re here to help inform staff about these solutions from a more technically diverse perspective. And then we’re going to bring those solutions to you guys.”

    Invitations to serve on the CWCB’s new workgroups are to be extended to various “subject-matter experts,” who will be told they need to sign confidentiality agreements.

    Newman told the directors that people are not being invited based solely on their affiliation with different water organizations and that, generally, the invitees “are not already an active voice or in a leadership role in other forums and groups discussing demand management.”

    And any professional consultants who want to serve on a workgroup are advised they should not do so if they plan on bidding on related state contracts in the future.

    The final roster of workgroup participants will be posted on the CWCB’s website by the end of the month, Newman said.

    The workgroup participants are expected to gather for an “all-hands” meeting in June, and then meet periodically through 2019 and beyond.

    The development of a demand management program is seen as a large undertaking for the staff at CWCB. Rebecca Mitchell, the director of the CWCB, likened it in scale and intensity to the effort taken by CWCB staff to produce the state water plan in 2015.

    “We all know that this is going to be heavy lift,” Mitchell said during the CWCB meeting in Gunnison. “Some of the folks that are involved in this were involved in Colorado’s water plan, and know what that effort took. And I think this is going to be a similar type effort.”

    Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times. The Times published a shorter version of this story on Friday, May 24, 2019.

    2019 #COleg: HB19-1327 (Authorize And Tax Sports Betting Refer Under Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights) is a “good bet” — @EnvDefenseFund

    Burned forests shed soot and burned debris that darken the snow surface and accerlerate snowmelt for years following fire. Photo credit: Nathan Chellman/DRI

    From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):

    The Colorado Legislature approved a bill [May 3, 2019] for a measure to legalize sports betting and dedicate a 10% tax on net profits to protect and conserve our state’s water. The measure will go to voters for approval this fall.

    The bill enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support, clearing the House in a 58-6 vote and the Senate in a 27-8 vote. Environmental Defense Fund was a key member of a large, diverse coalition of supporters of the bill, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.

    Colorado is one of several states considering a sports betting tax since a Supreme Court decision last year gave states such authority.

    “Colorado leaders are making a safe bet to ensure a more resilient future for our thriving communities, agriculture, businesses, recreation and wildlife. We are hopeful voters will recognize the urgent need to protect our most precious resource, water, and that this measure will be a slam dunk at the ballot box this fall.”

    From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):

    Here’s a pop quiz: What are two finite resources in the West?

    If you answered money and water, you win. This is especially true when it comes to money for water in the state of Colorado, where hurdles for raising new funds are particularly high.

    It’s a rare opportunity when new money bubbles up for water projects in the Centennial State. But that is exactly what is happening as a result of a bill approved this week with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature.

    The bill, HB 1327, proposes to raise new money to protect and conserve water in Colorado by legalizing sports betting and imposing a 10% tax on its revenue. But legislative approval isn’t the final play. State legislators are handing off the measure to voters for a final decision at the ballot box this fall.

    Down payment on much larger need

    The measure could raise roughly $10 million to $20 million a year – a down payment on the $100 million that Colorado’s Water Plan is estimated to need annually for the next 30 years to secure the state’s water into the future. Colorado’s population is projected to double by 2050. But at current usage rates, the state’s water supply will not keep up unless Colorado establishes a dedicated public funding source to protect it.

    Since the water plan was developed in 2015, Environmental Defense Fund and partners have been looking for creative ways to fund and implement it. Nearly a year ago, a Supreme Court ruling authorized states to legalize sports betting. Since then, 40 states and the District of Columbia have proposed or enacted laws to legalize, study or regulate sports betting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Deep bench

    EDF has been a key player on a large, diverse team of supporters of the Colorado measure, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.

    Revenue would go to a Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund governed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to support a variety of water projects, including conservation, river health, storage, water education and outreach.

    Funds from the measure would make an immediate impact across the state. For instance, in Durango, $500,000 would fund the first phase of restoration of the watershed damaged in the 416 fire, which burned 54,000 acres of mostly Forest Service lands last year. Steamboat Springs could begin a $4 million floodplain restoration. Both projects would protect vulnerable water supplies.

    “If you don’t own a water right or rely on water for your paycheck, [water management] is usually an afterthought…Until it isn’t” — Nicole Seltzer

    From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Nicole Seltzer):

    Boring. Arcane. Those are words I hear when I ask people their opinions on water management. If you don’t own a water right or rely on water for your paycheck, it’s usually an afterthought in the grand scheme of things.

    Until it isn’t.

    Until there isn’t enough water in the river to bring in tourism dollars. Until low river levels mean ranchers without senior water rights must stop irrigating hay fields. Until water levels in Nevada’s Lake Powell go low enough to require all Colorado water users to send more water downstream. These realities are at the forefront for only a small percentage of people, but the rest of us will notice the ripple effects eventually.

    One of the reasons I moved to Routt County a few years ago was the slow pace of change. Having witnessed 15 years of Front Range growth, I was ready to celebrate the value of maintaining the status quo. The Yampa River is healthy and hard working, and most water users don’t face imminent threats. But we can’t let the lack of an emergency blind us to a slow accumulation of changes that require good planning.

    That’s why I am involved in helping the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable develop the first Integrated Water Management Plan for the Yampa River basin. The planning effort takes advantage of state grant dollars available for water planning. A coalition of Basin Roundtable members, local water agencies and NGO partners has raised over $500,000 to make progress on roundtable goals and build relationships with water users.

    This plan will combine top-down and bottom-up tactics. The roundtable is currently hiring segment coordinators to meet with water users and other stakeholders to understand the opportunities they see and the challenges they face. They will also hire science and engineering experts to characterize existing conditions and identify future trends.

    The outcome of the plan will be a prioritized list of actions that users can take to protect existing and future water uses and support healthy river ecosystems in the face of growing populations, changing land uses and climate uncertainty. The roundtable has its own grants to help fund implementation of those actions and will identify federal, state and local partners that can contribute as well.

    The plan is just starting to take shape, and there will be ample opportunity for involvement. You can learn more at yampawhitegreen.com.

    Nicole Seltzer is the science and policy manager for River Network, a national nonprofit that empowers and unites people and communities to protect and restore rivers. She lives in Oak Creek and now owns more irrigation boots than high heels.