#ColoradoRiver District GM unveils manifesto on water-use reductions — @AspenJournlism @ColoradoWater #COriver #crdseminar

A slide presented by Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River District, on Sept. 14, 2018 at the district’s seminar called ‘Risky business on the Colorado River.’ The slide shows how water from the Colorado River system, within the state of Colorado, is used.

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River District, presented six principles last week to guide an emerging federal and state program designed to reduce water use in order to avoid a compact call on the Colorado River.

Mueller spoke at a seminar produced by the River District in Grand Junction that attracted 265 people. The theme of the seminar was “Risky Business on the Colorado River.”

(Also see, “River planning muddied up?” by Dennis Webb in Grand Junction Sentinel on Sept. 14).

The first two principles Mueller described Friday at the meeting relate to a legal bucket-within-a-bucket that the upper-basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming plan to create through federal legislation in Lake Powell, which would allow the three states to control water that they deliver to the big federal reservoir through a demand management, or water-use reduction program.

The River District’s first principle is that such a storage program in Lake Powell should be “free of charge” and designed “for the benefit of the upper basin to avoid a compact violation.”

The district’s second principle says water stored in Lake Powell from a demand-management program should “not be subject to equalization or balancing releases from Lake Powell.”

That principle stems from a set of interim guidelines approved in 2007 by the upper-basin states and the lower-basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada that seek to use water from Lake Powell, when it is at certain levels, to keep Lake Mead operational.

Mueller and other upper-basin regional water managers think the guidelines, which expire in 2026, now allow the lower basin to take more water than they deserve under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

Mueller told his audience that the demand-management pool to be created in Lake Powell is “for preventing lower-basin entities from sucking too much water down that river.”

So, the second principle is meant to protect the upper basin from the lower basin.

The other principles are designed to either protect the Western Slope from the state, which is discussing potential mandatory cutbacks in water use in order to avoid a compact call, or from the Front Range, which may support such a measure, according to Mueller.

Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River District, addressing a crowd of 265 water managers, users and stakeholders in Grand Junction on Friday at a River District seminar called ‘Risky business on the Colorado River.’ Mueller spelled out six principles the River District wants the state to embrace as it develops a ‘demand management’ program designed to get the state’s water users to reduce their water use in order to bolster levels in Lake Powell.


The River District’s board members are determined to protect agricultural interests on the Western Slope, which use about 1.4 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River system every year, mainly for irrigating alfalfa fields and pastures.

By comparison, Front Range cities use about 360,000 acre-feet of water a year from the Colorado River Basin through their transmountain diversion systems, which are junior to the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

And if those cities have that water cut off in the face of a call under the compact, Mueller said they would come buy out willing irrigators on the Western Slope and dry up their fields.

The River District’s third principle is that any use-reduction program in the upper-basin states must be “voluntary, temporary and compensated” and “must reflect proportionate contributions from each upper division state.”

Mueller said the River District supports a “guided market” approach to paying water users to use less water and let it flow instead to Lake Powell.

“What we’re opposed to is some form of mandatory uncompensated curtailment of water rights, whether it is pre- or post-compact,” he said.

The fourth principle is that there must be “no injury to other water rights.”

The fifth principle is that there must be “no disproportionate impacts to any single basin or region with Colorado.”

Mueller said Friday that the demand-management program must “make sure that the pain that comes with the reducing consumption of water is actually equitably distributed and applied to all users, everybody with a straw in the river.”

Mueller explained that the post-1922 water rights in the Colorado River basin are roughly split equally between the transbasin diverters on the Front Range and users on the Western Slope.

“These junior water rights that are diverting significant amounts of water to the Front Range, along with our junior water rights on the West Slope, are the ones that need to be willing to share in this demand-management program, in the intentional reduced use,” Mueller said.

The sixth principle is that a demand-management program must be consistent with what’s known as “the conceptual framework” in Colorado’s 2015 water plan relating to future potential transmountain diversions.

“We’re not going to curtail our uses on the West Slope and send demand-management water down to Lake Powell, only to have another transmountain diversion come in and suck water to the East Slope,” Mueller said. “That’s what the state agreed to when it agreed to the state water plan, and we’re saying that needs to be upheld.”

One of the slides in Andy Mueller’s presentation deck on 9.14.18.

Bar fight?

Mueller’s last slide said “the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the state engineer should agree to abide by these principles and not go beyond them without unanimous agreement among those entities charged with protecting the state.”

He plans to deliver that message to the CWCB when it meets Wednesday in Steamboat Springs.

On Tuesday, the River District also released a series of letters and a draft resolution on the issue, including a letter from the River District and the Southwestern Water Conservation District to the CWCB board, a draft resolution from the River District and Southwestern they want the CWCB to approve, a letter from the Colorado Basin Roundtable to the CWCB, and a letter from the Front Range Water Council to the CWCB.

The letter from the Front Range Water Council, an ad hoc collection of the largest water providers on the Front Range, was dated Sept. 13. It includes a reference to the possibility of a non-voluntary water curtailment program in the upper Colorado River basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

“If the quantity of conserved water made available through a voluntary compensated demand management program is not sufficient to ensure compliance with the Colorado River Compact,the state of Colorado and the Upper Colorado River Commission may need to adopt alternative measures to generate water for storage in an Upper Division storage account,” the letter states. “We will work with the state of Colorado to develop an alternative mechanism for generating conserved water for the Upper Division storage account.”

In its letter to the CWCB, the Colorado River District and the Southwestern River District, stressed the need for consensus, and their inclusion, on any sort of mandatory curtailment program.

“We are concerned about recent discussions that a demand management program might morph into a mandatory ‘anticipatory curtailment’ program or something else that has not been publicly vetted,” said the letter. “That is the reason we request that the CWCB adopt of (sic) formal resolution or policy-statement regarding a demand management program, and that the CWCB commit that such a program be consistent in particular with Principle 4 of the Conceptual Framework set forth in the Colorado Water Plan.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily and other Swift Communications outlets on the coverage of rivers and water.

#ColoradoRiver District annual seminar “Risky Business on the Colorado River” recap #COriver #crdseminar

From Western Slope Now (John Madden). Click through for the TV footage:

Since there is no substitute for water, many gathered at the Two Rivers Convention Center to discuss current conditions of the river, and plans by western states on what to do to protect our water supplies.

The Colorado River District held their 2018 Water Seminar focused on the Colorado River.

They discussed handling the growing demand for water, how other states like Utah use the river, plans to combat drought, and climate change conditions.

The seminar went over several studies including one that looked at how Lake Powell could be drained if the current drought continues and how that would impact Colorado.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The general manager of the Colorado River District on Friday voiced strong criticism over what he fears is a lack of transparency when it comes to discussions over how to manage water in response to drought.

Andy Mueller raised his concerns during a district water seminar in Grand Junction that focused on contingency planning measures aimed at responding to the potential of a continuation of a long-term drought within the river basin.

Mueller specifically cited the district’s understanding that Colorado and other states may execute a series of documents as soon as the end of the month, including a demand-management plan for states in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

“We have a very serious concern that we haven’t seen the demand-management document. We haven’t seen what it is our Upper Colorado River commissioner is potentially going to sign within the next month,” Mueller said.

He worries that the result could be an agreement that is harmful to western Colorado water users, particularly in the agricultural sector.

“We haven’t seen those documents that are about to be executed. We’ve been told that we don’t need to see them. We’re not OK with that. We don’t think it’s acceptable. We think those documents need to be shared with us and frankly the impact of those documents needs to be shared with the water users of the Western Slope and the state of Colorado,” he said.

Colorado’s representative on the Upper Colorado River Commission is James Eklund, an attorney with family ties to the Collbran area and a former director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Reached for comment Friday, Eklund expressed surprise about Mueller’s concerns, and said the river district and other interested parties will have plenty of opportunity to provide input before things are finalized.

“We are not in any way rushing to get something inked that he and the (river) district and the other advisers in the state on Colorado River issues don’t get a full chance to evaluate and look at and analyze,” he said.

He also provided a different timeline than Mueller did, saying the goal is to get documents ready for review by interested parties by the end of this month, allowing for subsequent consultation with them, with a goal of wrapping up agreements by the end of the year.

He said those parties have been involved all along the process, and that will continue to be the case…

Mueller’s concerns arise over drought contingency planning to respond to falling water levels in Lake Powell. That reservoir is used by Upper Basin states to meet water-delivery obligations to Lower Basin states under a 1922 compact. The river district and other entities are looking at demand management as one means of trying to shore up water storage in Powell to avoid a compact call on Upper Basin holders of post-1922 water rights to meet downstream obligations.

The river district supports the idea of a demand-management program, which could involve measures such as temporary fallowing of lands by agricultural producers, as long as the measures are voluntary and compensated, and the burdens of reducing demand are shared proportionally among all users.

One concern for the river district is that while Colorado Water Conservation Board staff have expressed similar thoughts on the matter, a memo the staff prepared for the board for its meeting next Wednesday says that key issues to be considered include whether a demand-management program should be limited to temporary, voluntary and compensated activities “or be expanded to include something more.”

“What is that expansion? Who is it that’s calling for the expansion? It’s not the West Slope, I can tell you that,” Mueller said. “We don’t think it should be expanded to an involuntary uncompensated mechanism of reducing water use.”

Also of concern to the river district is the memo’s raising the question of whether the program would be used to help assure continued compliance with the river compact “or something more.”

Mueller thinks some Front Range operators of transmountain diversions want to set up individual accounts within the pool of water created through demand-management efforts so that after a compact call occurs they can protect their own diversions while West Slope users get shut off.

He’s likewise concerned about a reference in the memo to the issue of trying to understand “the extent to which the state would engage and work in tandem with stakeholders on rules for compact administration before considering a pivot from temporary, voluntary, and compensated demand management to something more akin to mandatory curtailment.”

Mueller said the idea of mandatory curtailment of use has never been discussed by water roundtables around the state.

“It’s one that needs to see the light of day and we need to understand it before the state signs those demand-management documents,” he said.

Eklund sees such matters as intrastate issues to be resolved within the state of Colorado. His focus at the interstate level when it comes to the demand-management program is to reach an agreement under which conserved water can be stored in Powell in a separate account rather than just being subject to downstream release under existing agreements.

Without such an agreement about where to put the water, he views the discussion about what constraints and sideboards such a program should have in Colorado as being meaningless.

“I think our focus at the interstate level, my focus on behalf of the state of Colorado at that level, is on making sure that we have the table set for the discussion, so that it’s not just an academic, theoretical discussion,” he said.

Mueller said the river district’s concern is that creating a place to put water for a demand-management program ahead of creating the program’s sideboards and rules could lead to wealthy, Front Range water interests using the pool “for very different purposes” than just avoiding a compact call.

Click here to view the Twitter hash tag #crdseminar for all the real-time coverage from the seminar.

@CoyoteGulch’s commute September 14, 2018 #crdseminar @ColoradoWater #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Woo hoo! I made it on time to the Colorado River District’s Annual Seminar.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum scholarships for water resources students and working professionals

Bents Fort photo via Greg Hobbs

Click here for all the inside skinny and to apply:

Scholarship Details

With the assistance of our sponsors, the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum offers scholarships each year offers scholarships each year to students and working professionals in support of their education and research in water resources, watershed studies, hydrology, natural resources management, and others. We offer scholarships in the amount of $2,000 and $1,000, plus free admission to the 2019 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum.

The requirements of the scholarship are as follows:

The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum (ARBWF) preference to award students scholarships who are from the Arkansas Basin and whose work the ARBWF Board expects will provide a benefit to Colorado’s Arkansas River Basin.

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

2018 South Platte Forum October 24-25, 2018

Click here to go to the website. Click here to register.

…we are excited to share with you some of the topics that will be explored at the conference:

  • Women in Water
  • Environmental Justice
  • Stream Health
  • Agriculture
  • Conflict Resolution in the South Platte Basin
  • 5 Year Anniversary – 2013 Flood Recovery Update
  • & More!
  • Planning for an Uncertain Future: #Drought Contingency Planning, Demand Management and the West Slope October 23, 2018

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

    On October 23, 2018 Grand Valley Water Users Association is providing an opportunity for West Slope agricultural producers and irrigation providers to hear directly from water officials concerning current and upcoming policy issues that will impact the future of water management and agriculture on the western slope. Please see the attached agenda to see the complete list of confirmed influential decision makers who will be joining us. At the top of the list is Amy Haas, the new Director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, who will share an Upper Basin perspective. Ms. Haas will be followed by representatives from the State of Colorado and some of our regional Water Conservation District Managers. Between the two perspectives Eric Kuhn will provide an update on the Basin Risk Study III and the potential implications of the results.

    We hope you can join us for this unique opportunity to hear from a very well informed group of water community professionals who have the tough task of hammering out solutions to ever increasing pressures on Colorado River water supplies in Colorado and the Upper Basin. The solutions that are created and implemented will affect us all.

    Our focus is on agricultural water users. So Irrigation District, Association, Ditch Company, and agricultural organization managers, staff, boards of directors, members, and stockholders are all welcome. Farmers and ranchers are particularly welcome.

    You can find a complete agenda here.

    Please register no later than October 15 to let us know you are coming, and spread the word.

    Thanks and we hope see you on October 23.

    Mark Harris, General Manger
    Grand Valley Water Users Association

    Luke Gingerich, P.E
    J-U-B Engineers
    Grand Valley Water Users Association Conserved Consumptive Use Pilot Project

    Katherine Hayhoe: The challenges of communicating #climate #science in a politically polarized environment @KHayhoe #ActOnClimate #RiseForClimate

    Yesterday afternoon Dr. Katharine Hayhoe gave a presentation about communication as one of CIRES Distiguished Lecturer Series. It was a real treat for me since I had never had the opportunity to see her in person and she is one of my heroes in the climate change world.

    She is one of Coyote Gulch’s favorite climate science communicators. Her series with PBS, Global Weirding, takes on the myths and arguments against the reality of climate change in a clear and understandable way.

    I’m in the water business and we are very worried about the fact that stationarity is dead. Stationarity can be characterized by the statement, “The past predicts the future,” but when the water cycle is changing due to global warming there is uncertainty about using historical hydrological data to predict future streamflow. We’re seeing the effects of higher temperatures on snowpack and runoff here in the West.

    Dr. Hayhoe explained stationarity in one Global Weirding episode in this way [Paraphrasing]:

    She lives in west Texas where there is a lot of flat land and open spaces. It’s possible to drive down the highway and steer your car by keeping the road in view by looking in your rear view mirror. Problems arise when the road has a turn in it. You are likely to crash if you haven’t been looking ahead of you.

    She detailed some of the experiences that helped shape her approach to climate education, from the very first lecture, full of charts and graphs and detail, when, at the end, she called on a questioner, and he said, “Are you a Democrat?” She learned from subsequent speaking engagements that it was very hard or impossible to connect with a majority of folks by presenting the data. She also showed a series of slides that tracked climate change views by political affiliation which clearly illustrated the divide in the U.S. in 2018.

    Dr. Hayhoe is an accomplished speaker telling stories and using humor to make a point.

    The first step in communicating, she says, is to create a bond with the audience.

    Below is her communication template.

    Thanks CIRES and Dr. Hayhoe for a great presentation. Note to Hayhoe: I left feeling inspired.

    Tomorrow is Rise for Climate with events all over the world. Acting on climate is essential as is voting for the environment.