Rifle: Stream Management Plans. What are they? — #Colorado Ag Water Alliance

Credit: Cattleman’s Ditches Pipeline Project II Montrose County, Colorado EIS via USBR.

Click here for the inside skinny:

What is a Stream Management Plan? Can Stream Management Plans do anything for Ag?

The Colorado Ag Water Alliance (CAWA) and the Bookcliff, Mount Sopris and South Side Conservation Districts want to explore the potential of these projects, if and what they can do for Ag, and why Ag should take a leadership role in these plans. Come listen to other farmers and ranchers about their experience with Stream Management Plans.

Free admission and dinner is provided.



Assistance available to ag producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program

From The Pagosa Sun (Petra Popiel):

Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Through CSP, the USDA’s Natutral Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their entire operation.

NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018. While applications for CSP are accepted year-round, applications must be received by March 2 to be considered for this funding period. Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat — all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land.

CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies conservation options and the and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Tuesday: 2018 Governor’s Forum of Colorado Agriculture ​”Colorado’s Agricultural Impact: Economic, Environmental and Social”

Click here for all the inside skinny.

Photo credit: AgriExpo.com.

@WaterEdCO: 2018 Water Fluency Program Registration is NOW OPEN!

Looking downstream from Chasm View, Painted Wall on right. Photo credit: NPS\Lisa Lynch

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

What is Water Fluency?

Our Water Fluency program is a professional development course for non-water professionals. Learn the language of water and develop tools for navigating water management and policy issues so you can lead with confidence.

Water is critical for every aspect of community vibrancy, from industry to commerce to agriculture, tourism, health, and the environment—but it isn’t always clear how policy and management decisions around water trickle down to affect other sectors or vice versa.

This comprehensive program will help you make those connections.

Now in its fourth year, the program has rotated around the state. This is the first year it will be hosted in the southern Front Range…


Four in-person classroom days; water-focused site visits; and online discussions and homework between classroom days. The scheduled program dates are:

May 22 and 23 in Pueblo

June 22 in Colorado Springs

July 20 in Fountain

The online portion of the program is provided through a partnership with Colorado State University using their online campus to provide participants unique access to the same lectures, discussions and quizzes that degree-seeking students have.

The winter newsletter from the #Colorado Ag Water Alliance is hot off the presses

Lake Powell April 12, 2017. Photo credit Patti Weeks via Earth Science Picture of the day.

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

Should Coloradoans Care about Water Levels in Lake Powell?

We occasionally hear about declining lake levels in Lake Powell or Lake Mead, but – apart from being nice places to boat and fish – what is the relevance of these water bodies to Colorado agricultural producers and rural residents? To understand this, we need to go back almost 100 years to the signing of the Colorado River Compact.

Under the 1922 Compact, Colorado and the rest of the Upper Basin states – Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico – have a shared obligation “not to deplete” the river by more than 7.5 MAF (million acre-feet) per year on average, or 75 MAF over a 10-year period. The three lower basin states – Arizona, Nevada and California – also have an allocation of 7.5 MAF per year, and Mexico gets 1.5 MAF. The Compact essentially obligated the river to supply up to 16.5 MAF per year, which was thought to roughly represent the long-term annual average flow of the Colorado River based on an estimate made at the time.

The problem – as it turned out – was that the original estimate was high. The period 1905-1922, which was used to estimate water production allocated under the 1922 Compact had the highest long-term annual flow volume in the 20th century, averaging 16.1 M acre-feet per year at Lee’s Ferry, AZ. Since then, the average flow has been about 13.9 MAF.

The collective water use of the four Upper Basin states is still well below the 7.5 million acre-feet annual average depletion allowance. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation 5-year retrospective “Consumptive Use and Loss” reports indicate that the Upper Basin water use averaged 4.4 MAF between 2000 and 2015. The highest use among these years was 4.9 MAF.

The Lower Basin states, with greater population and higher evapotranspiration, have a more difficult time managing water demands within the limitations of the Compact. For the last several years, annual releases from Lake Mead have averaged about 9 MAF to meet lower basin water demands. However, Lower Basin water users receive credits for unused return flows. Lake Mead also loses about 1.2 MAF in evaporative and system losses, so the total annual outflow from Lake Mead has been about 10.2 MAF.

The imbalance between Lake Mead’s long-term inflows and outflows is called the “structural deficit.” This volume is estimated to be approximately 1.2 MAF annually. Lower Basin water users, including Mexico, are developing a Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) to address this imbalance by using a comprehensive demand management system that will better match deliveries to variable, and generally diminishing inflows into Lake Mead.

Lake Powell stores water that flows from the Upper Colorado River basin and is used to buffer declines in Lake Mead. Glen Canyon Dam – which creates Lake Powell – also has turbines that generate 5 Billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power annually. The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) distributes this electricity to Colorado and six other states at cost-effective rates. The total value of the electricity produced is about $120 M annually. A small but important portion of the annual power revenue is used to fund salinity control programs that help pay for irrigation infrastructure upgrades on the western slope, and provide funding for the Colorado River and San Juan River endangered species recovery programs.

In 1970, formal “Operating Criteria” were agreed upon by the seven states and the Bureau of Reclamation to provide for the coordinated operation of reservoirs in the Upper and Lower basins and set conditions for water releases from Lake Powell and Lake Mead.6 In 2007, interim criteria were established to specifically enable coordinated operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead that would “minimize shortages in the Lower Basin and help avoid the risk of curtailments in the Upper Basin.” These interim criteria are based on specified reservoir conditions.

Operating Criteria allow the Secretary of the Interior to make releases from Lake Powell to raise the water level in Lake Mead so that the stored volume of the two reservoirs is roughly equal. The upshot is that Lake Powell declines when Lake Mead declines, even if ample flow is entering Lake Powell from the upper basin states.

Since 2000, the two reservoirs have fallen to approximately half of their combined capacity in response to hydrological conditions and to meet Lower Basin water needs and Upper Basin power needs. The current water level of Lake Mead – 1,087 feet above sea level – remains above the “Tier 1 Shortage level” of 1,075 feet, which is the point where water allocations to Arizona and Nevada are reduced under the Interim Operating Guidelines. These reductions become increasingly severe at Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels.

The current level of Lake Powell is about 3,619 feet above sea level. The concern for the Upper Basin states is that if the structural deficit continues and/or a drought returns, Lake Powell could fall to a level below 3,490 feet, which is the minimum level needed to generate electricity (ie. the “power pool”).

The Lower Basin states and Mexico have implemented conservation measures that have saved about 1.2 million acre-feet in Lake Mead since 2014. This has resulted in the lake level being 14 feet higher than it would have been otherwise.

For Colorado and the other upper basin states, the challenge isn’t complying with the depletion limit spelled out in the 1922 Compact. Instead, it is simply how to deal with snowpack variability and potential water supply shortages over a multi-year period. Since many Front Range cities and east-slope irrigation districts rely on Colorado River Basin water via trans-mountain diversions, runoff shortages on the western slope also directly affect eastern slope residents and farmers. And of course, multiple years of drought in the upper basin could result in lowering of Lake Powell to the power pool level simply because of inadequate runoff. When the 2002-2003 drought began, Lake Powell was full. Today it is about 56 percent of its capacity.

In 2015, a program was created to determine whether voluntary, compensated reductions in consumptive use in the upper basin states could be a useful tool to put water into Lake Powell and minimize lake-level declines during drought periods. The System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP) is funded by southern California’s Metropolitan Water District, Central Arizona Project, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Denver Water, US Bureau of Reclamation, and NGOs. About $4.5 M has been spent on the program through 2017 and approximately 22,000 acre-feet of consumptive use water has been conserved through fallow and deficit irrigation, alternative cropping and a municipal water savings program. The program is being continued in 2018.

Lake Powell and Lake Mead tie the Upper and Lower Basin states together. Sustaining a pool level in Lake Powell above the “power band” is in the best interests of Coloradoans due in part to the inexpensive electricity and revenue that the hydroelectric plant generates. Additionally, severe drought in Lower Basin cities could have unexpected and undesirable implications for water and power users in both the Eastern and Western slopes of Colorado. Establishing strategies now that enable structured yet nimble responses to future water shortages downstream will help lessen negative impacts to Colorado agricultural producers.

Pueblo: The 16th annual Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, February 21, 22, and 23

Credit: Cattleman’s Ditches Pipeline Project II Montrose County, Colorado EIS via USBR.

From the Ditch and Reservoir Alliance via The Julesburg Advocate:

The 16th annual Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance will offer a spectrum of informed presentations about agricultural water uses and issues Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, February 21, 22, and 23, 2018 at the Pueblo Convention Center, 320 N. Main St., in Pueblo, CO.

Themed “Your Water, My Water, and Who Has the Rights” the conference features keynote speakers, expert panels and informal discussions in an open, collaborative setting that encourages learning about all aspects of agricultural water.

On Wednesday, February 21 st , DARCA offers a bus tour focused on innovative solutions for agricultural sustainability. The Farming and Water Resources in the Arkansas River Valley Tour will hear from speakers and visit operations focused on irrigation efficiency, soil health, alternative transfer methods, the Super Ditch, infrastructure improvements, water quality and more.

Kevin Rein, Division Engineer with the Colorado Department of Water Resources will begin the conference with Thursday’s keynote address, while retired Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs will deliver the Friday keynote.

Rein will address the conference’s theme by providing an overview of the State’s administration of the many different types of water rights and their uses. Justice Hobbs will present his version of the history of Colorado water and law.

Following the Thursday keynote, a seasoned panel of attorneys will discuss water rights and uses within a decree. Discussion points will be how to resolve disputes between shareholders, transferring shares, transferring rights, expansion of uses, easements, urban encroachment, and return flow impacts to ditches and what to do about it.

Doug Kemper, Executive Director, Colorado Water Congress will explain current legislative efforts with a focus on impacts to agricultural water.
Outgoing State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken and incoming State Climatologist, Russ Schumacher will tag team a report on climatic conditions throughout the state.

Greg Felt, water conservancy district board member and Chaffee County Commissioner, will be the luncheon speaker. Felt will address an overview of the different types of water uses as understood by Colorado water professionals, e.g., augmentation water, native water, trans-mountain water and so on.

Concurrent sessions will begin Thursday afternoon. A session on efforts to address invasive species, urban encroachment and chemical use and the impacts to water quality and infrastructure. A concurrent session will feature agricultural projects that embody sustainability and beneficial water use.

The next afternoon sessions will focus on a Rio Grande basin study that suggest that self-imposed well-pumping fees played an important role in offering incentive for farmers to slash water use and a session on how the use of drones in agricultural applications is the way of the future.

Friday’s morning will open with a look at the history and the future of the Colorado Big Thompson and the Fryingpan-Arkansas projects.

Concurrent sessions on Friday will explain how a Lease-Fallowing Water Accounting Tool currently being used in the Arkansas Basin may have applicability for use in other basins. A second session will address whether “Don’t fix it until it’s broken” is a good infrastructure management practice or if it can end up costing a lot more in the long run.

Following will be a session on a marijuana grower’s perspective on acquiring water and how those water rights are administered by the State. The parallel session will cover financial resources provided through Colorado’s Water Plan that are available to fund reservoir and canal improvements, to develop or improve water storage and to improve efficiencies.

The Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance has established itself as the definitive resource for networking, information exchange, and advocacy among ditch and reservoir companies, irrigation districts, laterals, and private ditches. With an expected attendance of 120 people representing various agricultural water users throughout the state. The conference offers an educational opportunity ripe with knowledge and diverse perspectives.
Sponsorships are welcome and include free registration and an exhibit space in the busy exhibitor hall.

Visit http://www.DARCA.org for more information.

For more information:
Jean Van Pelt, DARCA Conference Manager – darcaconference@gmail.com 719-251- 2845
Mannie Colon, DARCA Board Member – m.colon@colonorchards.com 719-240- 6359