Community Agriculture Alliance: River planning

An irrigated hayfield along the lower Yampa River. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From the Friends of the Yampa (Eugene Buchanan) via Steamboat Pilot & Today:

The key to river planning is collaboration, and the Yampa River Basin is doing just that. There are water users everywhere — agriculture diverting water to grow food and raise animals, municipalities securing drinking water and treating wastewater, ski resorts making snow, power plants producing steam to create power, recreationists fishing and paddling, and wildlife using it as sustenance and a home. With all of these various purposes, how do we manage water use?

The key is planning and working together. There is an understanding among river users that, without this collaboration, there is a risk that one of these stakeholder groups might not receive the water they need.

To that end, there exist such entities as Friends of the Yampa, the Yampa-White-Green River Basin Round Table and Yampa River Integrated Water Management Plan to help all these water use stakeholders.

According to its website, “The Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable is leading the development of an Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP). The process will combine community input with science and engineering assessments to identify actions 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 Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable and the Integrated Water Management Plan are great examples of collaboration,” said Friends of the Yampa President and Basin Round Table Recreation at-large member Kent Vertrees. “A lot has been accomplished in a short time because of this. People look to our basin here in the Yampa Valley as a great example of how to work together to ensure water for our future.”

Another entity helping the cause is the newly formed Yampa River Fund, whose goal is “to establish a sustainable, voluntary funding source for the Yampa River in order to: enhance water security for communities, agriculture, the economy and the natural environment in the Yampa Valley; support a healthy, flowing river and enhance critical low flows through water leases from reservoirs; and maintain or improve river function through a holistic approach to restoration of riparian and/or in-channel habitat.”

The fund’s first funding cycle of grants was announced in May, awarding a total of $200,000 to various projects. The projects include riparian habitat restoration in Steamboat Springs and in the Lower Elkhead Creek; recreational access improvements in Moffat County; water releases out of Stagecoach Reservoir facilitated by Colorado Water Trust; and stream improvements in Oak Creek.

Of special importance this year is the fund’s funding mechanisms to absorb some of the basin’s variability as well as its environmental and recreational vitality. While 2019 was heralded as a banner water year, we currently stand at 30% of average discharge to the river, meaning the use of water leases could come in especially handy this year. And stakeholders working together will be more important than ever.

Eugene Buchanan is a board member of the Friends of the Yampa and local author. Lindsey Marlow is the program manager for Friends of the Yampa.

#Water-Related Outdoor Recreation in #Colorado Generates Over $18 Billion Annually — The Business for Water Stewardship

In the Gunnison River gorge, CPW Aquatic Biologist Eric Gardunio, holds a whirling-disease resistant rainbow trout. CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

From the Business for Water Stewardship (Claudia Hensley):

New study finds Colorado’s waterways support over 100,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue across the state

Anew​study​releasedbyB​ usinessforWaterStewardship​todayfoundthat water-related outdoor recreation in Colorado ​produces $18.8 billion in economic output, and contributes $10.3 billion to the state gross domestic product (GDP) overall​. According to the study:

  • 6.7 million people participate in water-related outdoor recreation​ in Colorado annually, whether in the form of hiking, jogging, camping, fishing or other water-related activities on or around Colorado’s waterways.
  • Water-related recreation supports over ​131,000 jobs a​ round the state that provide​ $6.3 billion in household income ​and generate an estimated ​$2.7 billion in tax revenue.
  • “The access to unparalleled outdoor recreation is part of what makes living in Colorado so special. But it’s not only about quality of life — outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the state economy, and Colorado’s waterways are an essential economic engine,” said ​Molly Mugglestone, Director of Communications and Colorado Policy, Business for Water Stewardship​. “Investing in clean and plentiful waterways isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business. Continued stewardship of Colorado’s waterways is essential to the long-term health of Colorado’s economy, ecosystems, and communities.”

    “The access to unparalleled outdoor recreation is part of what makes living in Colorado so special. But it’s not only about quality of life — outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the state economy, and Colorado’s waterways are an essential economic engine,” said ​Molly Mugglestone, Director of Communications and Colorado Policy, Business for Water Stewardship​. “Investing in clean and plentiful waterways isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business. Continued stewardship of Colorado’s waterways is essential to the long-term health of Colorado’s economy, ecosystems, and communities.”

    The study, conducted by ​Southwick Associates​, presents economic contributions based on estimated retail spending in Colorado attributable to time on or along the water spent engaging in one of nine target activities (trail sports, camping, picnicking or relaxing, water sports, wildlife-watching, fishing, snow sports, bicycling or skateboarding and hunting or shooting) across nine river basins (Arkansas, Colorado, Gunnison, Metro, North Platte, Rio Grande, San Juan / Dolores San Miguel, South Platte, Yampa / White Green). Of the nine basins surveyed, the Colorado River mainstem alone generates $3.8 billion in economic output annually and supports 26,768 jobs.

    “We believe it’s critically important to promote the outdoor industry’s importance to Colorado’s economy and our way of life. These figures are staggering, but not surprising,” said ​David Dragoo, founder of Mayfly Outdoors.​ “At Mayfly, we see the impact that recreation and engagement has on our community in Montrose as well as across the state. We think it’s part of our job to help ensure our communities can access and enjoy our rivers and waterways. Protecting river resources is even more important than ever as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    In releasing this study BWS has partnered with the Outdoor Industry Association to promote the critical need to protect Colorado’s rivers and waterways. “Outdoor recreation is a huge economic driver in the state and Colorado is home to many outdoor businesses and to our industry’s largest gathering, Outdoor Retailer, said ​Lise Aaangeenbrug, executive director,​ ​Outdoor Industry Association.​ “While we can’t gather as an industry this summer in Denver, watching the growth of people going outdoors during the pandemic and the release of this important data gives the industry great hope for the future. Protecting our state’s public lands and waterways are more important than ever to provide places to go outside and support the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

    “We know that our great outdoors, including Colorado’s beautiful rivers, are a huge part of what makes our state such a great place to call home, drawing millions of people from around the globe every year and bringing industry and business here. But we can’t stop at enjoying nature – we must also protect it for the future. This study shows how much our state’s economy depends on preserving our rivers. We must continue to protect our quality of life and keep our environment as a top priority,” said ​Kelly Brough, President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

    A raft, poised for action, on the Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Denver Post (Judith Kohler) via The Broomfield Enterprise:

    The report released Monday by Business for Water Stewardship said 6.7 million people participate in water-related recreation annually, supporting more than 131,000 direct and indirect jobs. That translates to $6.3 billion in household income, $2.7 billion in tax revenue and roughly $10 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, according to the analysis by Southwick Associates.

    “The general message is the importance of rivers, waterways, to our economy,” said Molly Mugglestone, director of Colorado policy for the business organization. “We need to preserve and protect these areas that people want to go to and spend time on.”

    […]

    The report relies on spending data collected by Southwick Associates for the Outdoor Industry Association and a survey that looked at where people recreated. The report includes responses from 1,252 people and targets such activities as swimming, rafting, kayaking and other sports on the water as well as trail running along the water, fishing and wildlife watching.

    The report analyzes statewide data and date for nine river basins in the state…

    The Business for Water Stewardship’s promotion of keeping waterways healthy is a big benefit for the outdoor industry, [David] Dragoo said. “As an industry, we don’t really have any infrastructure, if you will. Our corporate infrastructure is our public lands and our waters.”

    #RioGrande Basin to assist in #COWaterPlan update — The Conejos County Citizen

    From the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project via The Conejos Citizen:

    In 2015, then-Governor John Hickenlooper signed a momentous document into being — the Colorado Water Plan. At the time, decades of analysis concluded that a gap was widening between the limited supply of water and an increasing demand from users.

    This gap in water supply and demand would only grow worse and more insurmountable without decisive action. Simply conserving water wasn’t enough. The drought of 2002 drove home the fact that a decreasing and erratic snowpack would become the norm, wreaking havoc on communities and river systems across the state. Lawmakers, farmers, water managers, and others saw the writing on the wall and determined to be strategic and proactive.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the government agency tasked with overseeing water supply and management and utilizing technical data and analysis to assist decision-making, were key partners in spearheading the unprecedented strategy. They couldn’t undertake the entire process on their own and looked to the Roundtables for on the ground planning.

    Just as in the first BIP process, stakeholders from the Rio Grande Basin are encouraged to participate in subcommittees on each of the five target areas.

    This update process will be facilitated by a local expert who has been trained in coordination with Local Experts from other basins by the state’s general contractor for the 2021 Water Plan. The Rio Grande local expert is the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP) staff, with Daniel Boyes as lead expert. The RGHRP was involved in the first BIP and works to improve the health of streams and riparian areas across the San Luis Valley and recently completed Stream Management Plans for the Rio Grande, Conejos River and Saguache Creek.

    Boyes and the other RGHRP staff have begun holding meetings to determine project possibilities and data gaps within the five key areas with community members providing valuable input. These meetings will determine what projects, goals, and objectives represent the Rio Grande Basin’s priorities for each of the key areas, providing once again valuable input to the overall state water plan.

    With a below average snowpack for 2020 and no guarantee of continuing moisture or increased snow in 2021 or beyond, the Rio Grande Basin will face similar challenges as the rest of the state over the coming year: The creation of subdistricts to meet aquifer sustainability requirements, newly approved well rules and regulations for groundwater use, and the new SLV radar are unique local responses to these challenges. Participating in identifying and prioritizing new projects and goals is a simple way for the community to involve themselves with these crucial water decisions. With the help of the community, Rio Grande water leaders are working diligently to ensure our resources are able to meet needs and continue our San Luis Valley way of life.

    The Roundtables, one for each major river basin plus an additional Roundtable serving the Denver metro population, were created in 2004 as a regional answer to address water needs as identified by a variety of stakeholders. All of these partners were needed to become the task force, which created the first-ever Colorado Water Plan.

    These five hundred plus pages of graphs, data, photos, and text combined to tell the story of each of Colorado’s major river basins. But more than that, it creates a compass for Colorado’s basins to identify and implement projects in their region that addressed a multitude of issues such as stream flows, reservoir storage capacity, agricultural sustainability, environmental needs, water administration and even education and outreach on water topics. The Colorado Water Plan includes five major areas of water use: Municipal & Industrial, Agriculture, Environment & Recreation, Water Administration and Education & Outreach. Each of these areas affects all the river basins; however, water leaders recognize that the plan could not be a one size fits all effort. Geography, population, tourism, and other factors affect each region differently, so state officials decided to utilize the leadership of local roundtables. The resulting comprehensive state plan was made possible by thousands of hours of donated time from people in each basin who created an individual plan outlining the needs of their region and highlighting potential projects to address those needs. This basin implementation plan process, or BIP, allowed each basin to prioritize projects and informed the larger Water Plan’s goals and objectives. With many projects completed and numerous goals met over the past five years, new ones are needed to answer the increasingly pressing question of how to adequately meet diverse water needs with an ever-dwindling supply. To that end, the Colorado Water Plan is in its first iteration of updates, scheduled for completion in 2021.

    For the past two years, CWCB staff has worked with stakeholders in all basins, as well as engineering firms, to complete data analysis through Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) using updated data and the most up-to-date modeling tools available. These teams created five potential future scenarios facing Coloradans in the next 20-50 years. Each scenario incorporates existing data from the basins regarding current water use coupled with projected water use, population and economic growth, and, in some scenarios, potential impacts of climate change on water supply and use.

    These technical updates necessitate an updated Basin Implementation Plan incorporating the modeling and identifying where other data gaps exist. In addition, projects which will address the gaps and meet Basin goals and objectives need to be prioritized for the next five years.

    The current Colorado Water Plan can be found at https://www.Colorado.gov/pacific/cowaterplan/plan and the Rio Grande Basin Implementation Plan is online at http://rgbrt.org/rgbip-update/. To get involved or receive information about the current Rio Grande BIP process, please contact Daniel Boyes at daniel@riograndeheadwaters.org. Any community member from the six counties of the San Luis Valley is encouraged to attend Rio Grande Basin Roundtable’s monthly meetings (currently held virtually, with agenda and meeting information available at http://www.rgbrt.org , visit the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable’s Facebook page, or sign up for the quarterly Roundtable newsletter at info@riograndeheadwaters.org to learn more about upcoming BIP meetings and timelines.

    Screen shot from the Vimeo film, “Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project: Five Ditches,” https://vimeo.com/364411112

    Webinar: “Gunnison State of the River” — The Colorado River District #GunnisonRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Upper Gunnison watershed May 2019. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

    Gunnison State of the River

    Description
    Learn about current Gunnison Basin water conditions, drought, and water planning at the virtual Gunnison State of the River meeting hosted by the Colorado River District.

    Agenda

    •Bob Hurford, Division 4 (Gunnison Basin) engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, will talk about the weak winter snowpack, the dry spring and how these factors are affecting streamflows, reservoir storage and water rights administration.

    •Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River District, will address the “Protection of West Slope water as we face an uncertain future.”

    • Molly Mugglestone, director of communications and Colorado policy for Business for Water Stewardship, will present on a study that found Colorado’s rivers are major economic drivers producing nearly $19 billion in output annually from people recreating on or near rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and waterways.

    • Tom Alvey, head of the projects committee for the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, and Jim Pokrandt, community affairs director for the River District, will discuss hot water topics in the basin including drought, fruit freezes, an update of the roundtable’s water plan for the region, how the new crops of hemp and hops are working and the River District’s Lower Gunnison Project.

    Time
    Jun 24, 2020 06:00 PM in Mountain Time (US and Canada)

    Map of the Gunnison River drainage basin in Colorado, USA. Made using public domain USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69257550

    We are rivers podcast: We can make a lot happen when we have a plan — @AmericanRivers #COWaterPlan

    From American Rivers (Page Buono):

    Join us for a two-part miniseries of our podcast series We Are Rivers. We’ll learn more about Stream Management Plans, an innovative planning tool prioritized in Colorado’s Water Plan, from people working with stakeholder groups and communities across Colorado to put them in place.

    Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

    Water has always been the architect of life in Colorado. Communities have worked within the availability, demands, and constraints of water to engineer lives and livelihoods. Water designs our lives as much by its availability as it does by scarcity—perhaps even more. In 2013, the State of Colorado recognized the impending impacts of rising populations, increasing demand across the state and the West, and a changing climate, then-Governor John Hickenlooper called for a plan to address these issues. He directed the Colorado Water Conservation Board—the government entity tasked with conserving, developing, protecting and managing the state’s water—to work with diverse stakeholders and develop Colorado’s first water plan. You can learn more about the Plan from Episode 6 in our podcast series.

    Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

    In some ways, Colorado’s Water Plan articulated and formalized ways to meet the needs of agriculture, land use, and storage that were already in place. But it also did something else: for the first time, the Colorado Water Plan called for the consideration and integration of environmental and recreational flow needs. This decision came from growing recognition of the critical role rivers play in local economies, and the immense ecosystem services that healthy, functioning rivers and streams provide for all values—human and environmental. With this in mind, the Water Plan outlined a goal of inspiring community-driven development of Stream Management Plans for 80 percent of locally prioritized rivers and streams.

    In the first episode of this miniseries, we hear from Nicole Seltzer, Science and Policy Manager of River Network, who talks us through the fundamentals of the stream management planning process. Holly Loff, Executive Director of Eagle River Watershed Council, shares on-the-ground experiences of a community planning effort along the Eagle River, and Chelsea Congdon-Brundige, a watershed consultant in the Roaring Fork Valley, shares her highlights from a similar but unique effort for the Crystal River.

    As you’ll hear in the podcast, a critical component of Stream Management Planning is the diversity of stakeholders and interests at the table; the important and foundational role of science; and the way each Plan is unique to the community that builds it. SMP’s (as they’re often referred to) are really more about process than a final product, and the greatest win is the long-lasting trust inspired through tough but important conversations across values. SMPs aren’t designed to prioritize any one interest, but instead to bring agriculture, the environment, municipal needs, and recreation alongside one another for the best possible solutions for all.

    Screen shot from the Vimeo film, “Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project: Five Ditches,” https://vimeo.com/364411112

    If you’re inspired by this first Episode, and we suspect you will be, make sure to tune in for part 2 (coming 6/1/20) . We’ll hear from some of the same voices and from new ones from the Rio Grande Basin – including Heather Dutton with the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District and Emma Reesor with Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project – about the groundbreaking and inspiring ways communities are working together to plan for the future of the rivers and streams that bind them, and all of us, together. Join us – and listen in today!

    Water future: Community input sought — The Pagosa Sun #COWaterPlan

    Here’s a guest column from Al Pfister that’s running in The Pagosa Sun:

    We are living in an age where we are facing drier and warmer times ahead. While we have had a few wet years over the past two decades, looking over that entire time span, we have been in a drought. We are currently in a severe drought with gradually worsening conditions in southern Colorado over the past few months. This scenario is believed to be a foreshadowing of our future.

    The Colorado Water Plan, completed in December 2015, recognized these conditions and outlined numerous strategies to guide all water users in collaboratively addressing our challenging water future.

    One of those strategies was the development of stream management plans (SMPs). SMPs are intended to compile a community’s understanding of a watershed’s collective environmental, recreational, agricultural and municipal water needs, identifying information gaps, and promoting projects and processes that meet those needs and gaps.

    In 2018, community representatives formed a group, now called the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP), to better understand current and future local water use and needs through the Colorado Water Plan’s SMP process. Funding for this local effort is provided by the state through Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Southwest Basin Roundtable, San Juan Water Conservancy District, Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs, Banded Peak Ranch and numerous other partners.

    Envisioned as a three-phase process, the ultimate purpose of this effort to explore opportunities to conserve the Upper San Juan Basin streams and their uses with wide-ranging community support and decisions based on local input and current science and assessments. In order to ensure a broad representation of the community’s interests are brought forward and maintained through the process, a steering committee was formed. Representatives of agricultural, environmental, recreational, and municipal water users, private landowners, business owners, and local government comprise the steering committee.

    While forming the steering committee and informing stakeholders about this endeavor, the local water users decided to call it the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership to recognize the voluntary and collaborative nature of this effort. Phase I, just completed, of this effort entailed formation of the steering committee and outreach to stakeholders, identification of our community’s collective values on issues, opportunities and the geographic scope of the WEP. Funding for Phase II has been obtained and is now awaiting formal approval from the CWCB in order to proceed with implementation.

    Phase II will focus on assessing the environmental, recreational, and agricultural structural water needs and values of our community. We will be working with partners, San Juan Conservation District and Lotic Hydrological, to evaluate current and future water needs via community input and scientific analysis. Our goal is to complete an assessment that can prioritize projects and processes to meet those needs. This assessment will inform the development of an Integrated Water Management Plan that lists goals, potential projects and actions in Phase III, as determined by the local community.

    In order to accurately assess and identify projects that align with local values and needs, the WEP is again asking for community input throughout Phase II. To help the WEP and our partners better understand environmental, recreational and agricultural structure needs this year, our partners will be working directly with ditch companies, land owners, governmental agencies, as well as providing updates to the general public throughout the process. We greatly appreciate your involvement and input, helping our communities in the San Juan River Basin better prepare and secure our water future.

    More detailed information on the WEP can be obtained at our website: http://www.mountainstudies.org/sanjuan/smp, or by contacting Al Pfister at (970) 985-5764.

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    #ColoradoRiver drought study advances as participants call for fairness between cities, ranches — @WaterEdCO #COriver #aridification

    Lake Powell would become home to a special 500,000 acre foot drought pool if Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico agree to save enough water to fill it. Credit: Creative Commons

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    If Colorado decides to join in an historic Colorado River drought protection effort, one that would require setting aside as much as 500,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell, can it find a fair way to get the work done? A way that won’t cripple farm economies and one which ensures Front Range cities bear their share of the burden?

    That was one of the key questions more than 100 people, citizen volunteers and water managers, addressed last week as part of a two-day meeting in Denver to continue exploring whether the state should participate in the effort. The Lake Powell drought pool, authorized by Congress last year as part of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, would help protect Coloradans if the Colorado River, at some point in the future, hits a crisis point, triggering mandatory cutbacks.

    But finding ways to set aside that much water, the equivalent of what roughly 1 million people use in a year at home, is a complex proposition. The voluntary program, if created, would pay water users who agree to participate. And it would mean farmers fallowing fields in order to send their water downstream and cities convincing their customers to do with less water in order to do the same. The concept has been dubbed “demand management.”

    Among the key issues discussed at the joint Interbasin Compact Committee and demand management work group confab last week is whether there is a truly equitable way to fill the drought pool that doesn’t disproportionately impact one region or sector in the state.

    In addition, a majority of participants reported that they wanted any drought plan to include environmental analyses to ensure whichever methods are selected don’t harm streams and river habitat.

    Some pointed to the need to identify “tipping points” when reduced water use would create harmful economic effects in any given community, and suggested that demand management be viewed as a shared responsibility.

    Flipping the narrative of shared responsibility, participants said sharing benefits equally was important as well. They want to ensure that people selected to participate would do so on a time-limited basis, so that a wide variety of entities have the opportunity to benefit from the payments coming from what is likely to be a multi-million-dollar program.

    “People are starting to get it,” said Russell George. George is a former lawmaker who helped create the 15-year-old public collaborative program which facilitates and helps negotiate issues that arise among Colorado’s eight major river basins and metro area via basin roundtables. He chairs the Interbasin Compact Committee, composed of delegates from those roundtables.

    “It’s understood that we have to be fair about this and we have to share [the burden] or it won’t work. I think we’re making great progress,” George said.

    The Colorado River is a major source of the state’s water, with all Western Slope and roughly half of Front Range water supplies derived from its flows.

    But growing populations, chronic drought and climate change pose sharp risks to the river’s ability to sustain all who depend on it. The concept behind the drought pool is to help reduce the threat of future mandatory cutbacks to Colorado water users under the terms of the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

    The public demand management study process, facilitated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, has caused concern among different user groups, including farmers. Because growers consume so much of the state’s water, they worry that they are the biggest target for water use reductions, which could directly harm their livelihoods if the program isn’t implemented carefully and on a temporary basis.

    In early 2019 the seven states that comprise the Colorado River Basin—Arizona, California and Nevada in the Lower Basin, and Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in the Upper Basin—agreed for the first time to a series of steps, known as the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan, to help stave off a crisis on the river.

    Colorado River Basin. Map credit: The Water Education Foundation

    And while Lower Basin states have already begun cutting back water use in order to store more in Lake Mead, the four Upper Basin states are still studying how best to participate to shore up Lake Powell. For the drought pool program to move forward, all four states would need to agree and contribute to the pool. George pointed to Colorado as a leader among the four states, saying it would likely be responsible for contributing as much as 250,000 acre-feet to the pool.

    “We appreciate the focus, dedication and collaboration of our work group members,” said CWCB Director Rebecca Mitchell in a statement. “This workshop was the next step in sharing ideas for Colorado’s water future, and positioning our state as a national leader for cooperative problem solving.”

    The eight major volunteer work groups, addressing such topics as the law, the environment, agriculture and water administration, will continue meeting throughout the year, with a mid-point report based on their findings to date due out sometime this summer.

    Travis Smith, a former CWCB board member from Del Norte who is now participating on the agriculture work group, said he is hopeful that the work groups will be able to come up with a plan the public will endorse. Any final plan will likely have to be approved by Colorado lawmakers.

    “Coming together to address Colorado’s water future is something we’ve been practicing through the [nine river basin roundtables] for years. Will we get there? Absolutely,” Smith said.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

    The February 2020 “Gunnison River Basin News” is hot off the presses

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

    Attention K-12 teachers in the Gunnison River Basin – NEW financial assistance for water education now available (for example: bring your students to the Eureka Science Museum in Grand Junction). Please visit our website for more information.

    The confluence of Henson Creek (left) and Lake Fork Gunnison River (right, against the wall) in Lake City, Colorado. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73852697

    2020 #COleg: HB20-1095 [Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans]. “Everybody has to do something in order to create sustainability” — Greta Follingstad

    From The Colorado Sun (Moe Clark):

    To ensure that they don’t develop beyond the limits of their water supply, Riley says [Woodland Park] has closely integrated its land-use decisions with local water conservation and efficiency goals that align with the Colorado Water Plan.

    A new bill at the Colorado Capitol hopes to encourage more local governments to do the same. House Bill 1095 says that if a community identifies it will need more water to grow, it should also include conservation measures for its existing supply.

    “In a state that hates mandates, this is a gentle nudge for communities to make sure they are planning for the future when it comes to water,” said state Rep. Jeni Arndt, a Fort Collins Democrat who is bringing the bill.

    Woodland Park via Ute Pass Cams.

    The Colorado Water Plan five years ago set the goal that by 2025, 75% of Coloradans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning.

    Currently, 24 communities have completed the Sonoran Institute’s Growing Water Smart Training, a leading program that helps communities integrate land use planning and water conservation efforts, said Sara Leonard, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Leonard estimates that 15 to 20 more communities have participated in similar workshops, but many more would need to take part in order to meet the state’s goal…

    HB20-1095 would also make permanent a temporary, partially grant-funded position in the Department of Local Affairs that assists local governments in integrating water conservation in their land use planning — though there is currently no money allocated in the bill to support the position.

    “Historically, water resource planning and land-use planning have been implemented on parallel tracks. By separating these planning areas into different silos, the impacts from each on the other are not fully addressed,” Leonard said.

    “With a growing population in Colorado, it is imperative to synchronize land and water planning to help planners to better understand the impact of new growth and redevelopment on future water demand in our urban areas.”

    Today, Woodland Park has added dozens of regulations and ordinances into its zoning and building codes that focus on water conservation. It also limits the number of houses that can be built each year by setting a cap for how many new taps can be installed.

    What the bill would do –– and what it wouldn’t

    One of a dozen water bills introduced this session, ranging from water well inspections to fee exemptions, House Bill 1095 requires that if a local government’s comprehensive plan includes a water supply element, it must also include conservation policies.

    A comprehensive plan is an advisory document that outlines long-term goals for community development, and often includes guidelines for things like transportation, utilities, land use, environmental protection, recreation and housing.

    But comprehensive plans are not regulatory documents.

    These conservation policies may include “goals specified in the state water plan, and may also include policies to implement water conservation and other state water plan goals as a condition of development approval, including subdivisions, planned unit developments, special use permits, and zoning changes,” the bill says.

    Jeni Arndt. Photo credit: ColoradoCapitolWatch.com

    Though state statute requires every municipality or county in Colorado to have a comprehensive plan, it doesn’t require them to include water element. But if it does, water conservation measures must be added the first time the plan is amended after the bill takes effect, but no later than July 1, 2025.

    Gretel Follingstad, a Colorado-based land use planner and consultant who specializes in water resource management, said the language in the bill makes the recommendations “optional” and minimizes the bill’s potential impact.

    “If you really want a strong policy around water, and you really want the state water plan goals to come to fruition, you need a will, not a may,” she said. “Because otherwise communities won’t do it if they don’t have the funding for it or they don’t have the political will, or if they don’t feel like they have a problem.”

    But just by adding water into the local comprehensive plans, it’s changing the conversation, she said.

    “We can’t change the fact that Colorado uses water districts as water suppliers and that those water districts are separate entities from their community,” Follingstad said. “All we can do is to teach the community planners that water is not infinite.”

    […]

    In July, the Colorado Water Conservation Board released a technical analysis and update to the state’s supply and demand projections. The update examined water supply under five scenarios, with the two biggest drivers for water supply gaps being population growth and a warming climate.

    The scenarios project that municipal and industrial water users may see water supply gaps ranging from 250,000 to 750,000 acre-feet by 2050. Approximately one acre-foot can support the needs of two families of four to five people a year, according to the Colorado Water Center at Colorado State University.

    “It’s unlikely that conservation efforts can completely close the gap,” Arndt said. “But it can certainly help.”

    Colorado Counties Inc., which lobbies on behalf of the state’ county governments, testified at the bill’s Feb. 3 hearing before the the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee that its members worry the measure could open the door to formal regulations…

    Gervais also added that counties and local governments already have the authority to include water planning in their land-use planning process. A 1991 law requires water utilities with a demand of greater than 2,000 acre-feet annually to have a water conservation plan.

    “I’m glad we have that, but that’s not a substitute for a five- or 10-year visionary master plan,” Arndt said.

    For Follingstad, comprehensive plans are crucial tools for communities envisioning the future. And that they can provide a policy framework for zoning and development regulations…

    Avoiding the worst case scenario

    Even though the bill doesn’t give local governments more authority, advocates hope it helps bring water conservation into the land-use conversation at the beginning of the community planning process, not the end.

    “So, basically, utilities have been expected to come up with a supply to meet the demands,” Follingstad said.

    “But when you insert population growth that’s beyond the capacities of many watersheds and water systems, and you insert climate change, which is making water, especially in the West, especially in Colorado because of the Colorado River compact, much more scarce — that’s not a sustainable system.”

    Follingstad helped create the Growing Water Smart handbook — a guidebook that helps local governments integrate water conservation measures into their land use planning.

    Since 2017, Colorado’s Water Conservation Board has worked with the Sonoran Institute and Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy to host Growing Water Smart workshops in communities across Colorado. The next workshop is May 6-8 in Breckenridge.

    The training focuses on reducing the demand for water by utilizing three key strategies: decreasing water use by modifying consumption behaviors; using technology and optimizing building or site designs to use less water; and increasing water recycling.

    She says Colorado lags behind other states in terms of integrating water conservation into land use plans. And that lack of governmental guidance has created a false sense of security for some communities.

    “Everybody has to do something in order to create sustainability,” she said. “And this is a way of making sure that towns and communities across Colorado, No. 1, understand that there is a state water plan and that the goals in that plan are real and serious and have consequences. And two, that there is a way at the local level that they can make a difference.”

    If signed into law, the bill would take effect on Aug. 5.

    The February 2020 “Confluence” newsletter is hot off the presses from @CWCB_DNR

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

    Colorado Water Leaders Gather for Annual Water Congress Convention

    On January 29 – 31, the Colorado Water Congress hosted its annual convention in Westminster, where hundreds of attendees discussed the biggest water issues facing Colorado this year. The Colorado Water Conservation Board moderated a variety of workshops and panels – covering the ongoing Demand Management Feasibility Investigation, Instream Flow Recommendations, Stream Management Plans, Water Conservation and Efficiency, Agriculture, Climate Change, and updates on the Colorado Water Plan.

    Other highlights included a forum for Colorado state legislators to share their perspectives on upcoming water policy, as well as addresses from Attorney General Phil Weiser and Governor Jared Polis.

    PHOTO: Chane Polo (Colorado Water Congress), Dianna Orf (Orf & Orf), Sen. Kerry Donovan, Rep. Dylan Roberts, Rep. Donald Valdez, Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, Rep. Marc Catlin

    2020 #COleg: Legislative Water Priorities in 2020 for #Colorado’s Rivers, Birds, and People — @AudubonRockies #ColoradoRiver #COriver #DCP #aridification #COWaterPlan

    Rocky Mountain National Park October 2019. Photo: Evan Barrientos/Audubon Rockies

    From Audubon Rockies (Abby Burke):

    Policy priorities for the 2020 Colorado legislative session.

    Colorado lawmakers returned to the Capitol on January 8th to kick off the 2020 legislative session. Even before bills were introduced, it was clear that the General Assembly will wrangle with issues that will touch every corner of the state and impact the daily lives of Coloradans. Water is one of these key issues.

    Despite the optimism from a snowy December, Colorado’s snowpack is now starting to fall closer to average. Although Colorado is perched at 108 percent average snowpack statewide, much of the West Slope remains in drought conditions. With enough snowpack, flurries will melt and become flows for healthy rivers that support all of us. But as water supplies are becoming more unpredictable, sharing a limited water supply—statewide—between urban, rural, agriculture, industry, environmental and recreational needs is the challenge at hand.

    Audubon Rockies is working with lawmakers and partners to prioritize water security for people, birds, and the healthy rivers that we all depend upon. Colorado’s birds and people cannot thrive unless our rivers do too. Here are three water priority areas for Audubon Rockies in the 2020 Colorado legislative session.

    Funding Colorado’s Water Plan

    Water security for Coloradans, birds, and rivers begins with implementing the state Water Plan. In the light of climate change and booming population growth, Colorado’s Water Plan, finalized in 2015, aims to ensure a sufficient supply of water for the various users across the state including environmental, agricultural, municipal, industrial, and recreational needs. Implementing Colorado’s Water Plan is projected to cost $3 billion in total, or $100 million a year over the next 30 years.

    In November 2019, voters approved Proposition DD to legalize sports betting and a 10% tax on these casino revenues which will result in an estimated $12 million to $29 million annually, the majority of which will go toward the Water Plan. Proposition DD is expected to generate more than $7 million in new tax revenue for the Colorado Water Plan in 2020, a significant bump up from past funding sources.

    At this point, it is not clear how the state will spend these dollars given the various priorities and the considerable Water Plan funding gap. The language in DD was vague and will need refinement and transparency. Stakeholders and lawmakers will likely explore options with the legislature to guide how DD funds are spent on Water Plan implementation.

    Audubon will advocate for spending that supports healthy rivers for the birds and people that depend on them, as we support a fully funded Water Plan.

    Supporting the Colorado River

    In 2019, the Drought Contingency Plan was adopted by the upper and lower Colorado River basin states. One of next steps for Colorado and the other upper basin states is to investigate the feasibility of a demand management program. The Water Resources Review Committee recommended SB20-024 to create a robust public engagement process similar to the development of the Water Plan before adopting any rules or recommendations regarding demand management. While public input is nearly always a positive, this process seems to get ahead of the process established by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) demand management workgroup. Audubon is monitoring SB20-024.

    With Colorado’s water supply becoming more unpredictable and valuable, particularly on the West Slope, concerns were raised by the Water Resources Review Committee to address anti-speculation. Specifically, concerns were raised that agricultural water rights are being sold to entities with no real interest in farming or ranching in Colorado that are holding those rights for future, more profitable transactions. SB20-048, Study Strengthening Water Anti-Speculation Law, would create a working group to explore ways to strengthen anti-speculation laws and report its findings and recommendations to the committee next year. Audubon is in favor of SB20-48 to keep Colorado’s water out of the hands of risky transactions. We need to support our agricultural heritage and the habitats our working landscapes provide.

    Instream Flow

    For the second year, Colorado lawmakers will see the return of two similar bills attempting to expand the instream flow program. Since 1973, the instream flow program has given the CWCB the unique ability to hold instream flow rights—water rights with the sole purpose of preserving the natural environment by remaining in streams or lakes. First, HB20-1037, Augmentation of Instream Flows, is essentially a rerun from last year with key benefits for the Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins. The bill permits the CWCB to use water for instream flow purposes, if the water has been decreed for augmentation without seeking a further change of use in water court. (Augmentation water restores water uses that are out of priority.) This would create a new pool of water, with lower administrative costs, which could be available for instream use.

    The second bill, HB20-1157, Loaned Water For Instream Flows To Improve Environment, looks to expand the existing instream flow loan program. Under the current law the instream flow loan program allows water right holders to loan water for three years out of a 10-year period to the CWCB to preserve water for rivers where there is an existing instream flow water right. The current program participation is not renewable.

    HB20-1157 looks to expand the instream flow loan program by increasing the years of participation from three to five years in a ten-year period, and allow for two additional ten-year renewal periods. It also supports greater notification to local water users, provides for an expedited process to address water-short river emergencies, and adds a longer term procedure for loaning water to instream flow decreed river segments for improvement of the environment. The instream flow loan program is completely voluntary and allows greater flexibility for the water right holder to use their property right in a beneficial way.

    In 2019, a similar bill to HB20-1157 passed the House of Representatives only to die in Senate Committee. Perceptions around the potential impacts to soil health from fallowed fields and on historical irrigation return flows from leaving water in stream rather than applying it on the land may have caused the bill to fail. With robust engagement and input from Audubon, partners, stakeholders and the Colorado Water Congress over the past year, bill sponsors are more optimistic for successful instream flow loan expansion in 2020.

    Audubon supports multiple tools in the toolbox to support healthy rivers, agriculture, and economies. HB20-1157 and HB20-1037 bring greater flexibility and beneficial options for rivers and water right holders.

    A new Colorado bill would allow water users to divert less water during dry years, helping to keep rivers flowing. Amid climate change, our rivers need this kind of flexibility. Urge your representative to support HB20-1157.

    Guest Column: Should a water management plan be developed for the White River? — The Rio Blanco Herald-Times #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridificatiion

    White River Basin. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69281367

    Here’s a guest column from the White River Conservation District that’s running in The Rio Blanco Herald-Times:

    The State of Colorado adopted the Colorado Water Plan in 2016. The Plan proposes to create a water management roadmap to achieve a productive economy, vibrant and sustainable cities, productive agriculture, a strong environment and a robust recreation industry. Specific to protecting and enhancing stream flows, the plan calls for 80% of locally prioritized rivers to be covered by Stream Management Plans (SMP) by 2030.

    Through this effort, locally-led groups are encouraged to develop plans that will help meet the above 80% goal. The Water Plan initially encouraged only SMPs using biological, hydrological, geomorphological and other data to assess the flows or other physical conditions that are needed to support collaboratively identified environmental and/or recreational values.

    However, experience across the State has shown the need to incorporate a more holistic approach including consumptive uses (agriculture, municipalities, energy, etc.). These types of plans are often called an Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP). The local community is encouraged to determine what they want to accomplish and then find the right planning effort to help them achieve their goals.

    The White River and Douglas Creek Conservation districts embarked on an effort in 2019 to identify what local needs can be met through the development of a plan and to determine community support for this effort. The districts are working with a Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) made up of 16 individuals representing agriculture, municipalities, industry, environment, recreation and land/water right holders. The committee is well balanced geographically within Rio Blanco County and members have strong knowledge of water rights, water quality and quantity concerns, water planning efforts, and local customs and cultures.

    During December, district staff conducted approximately 25 interviews of local citizens identified by the committee. Questions developed by the committee were used for the interviews. The information gathered from the interviews are being used to develop a starting point for the much broader discussion within the community during January…

    More information on the process and Planning Advisory Committee is available on the districts’ website at http://www.whiterivercd.com. Please contact the district office at 970-878-9838 with any questions. We look forward to your input.

    Submitted by White River Conservation District

    The January 2020 newsletter is hot off the presses from the Water Information Program

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

    Demand Management – a Hot Topic!!
    There was an in-depth conversation around the Demand Management topic!

    Celene Hawkins stated that the Demand Management workgroups are just at the beginning stages of work and there are still many questions. There is a greater need for coordination and keeping a steady pace of the work, while not moving too quickly so as to not miss things, as these are very complicated issues and need to take that time that is needed to do the work. There will be a joint IBCC and Demand Management work-group meetings that will take place March 4-5 where discussion could take place about that better coordination and how the CWCB can support the work-groups moving forward.

    Russell George stated that the IBCC is not a work-group in Demand Management, they intentionally stand aside because they wanted to be ready as the IBCC to pick any particularly thorny question with the statewide implication that needed their help. The IBCC believes that at this point in time, and because of what’s going on with the river as a whole and the water levels of the big reservoirs, Demand Management becomes probably one of the most important issues for discussion on Colorado water issues that there is today. George explained that we owe it to the other Upper Basin states who are going through this drill, to work together to find an approach that works in all four states or to learn together that Demand Management can’t be done. Whatever conclusion is reached, it needs to be based on open and careful consideration of Demand Management as a tool that is being evaluated, as called for in the Drought Contingency Plans and Legislation.

    Southwestern Water Conservation District Area Map. Credit: SWCD

    Durango: “Securing Our Water Future,” from 6 – 8 p.m., Thurs., Jan. 23, 2020 — @ConservationCO #COWaterPlan

    From The Durango Telegraph (Miss Votel):

    Conservation Colorado, which has offices across the state to help organize citizen activism and engagement, will be hosting “Securing Our Water Future,” from 6 – 8 p.m., Thurs., Jan. 23, at 4Corners Riversports. The goal of the event is to discuss what local residents and businesses can do to help curb water usage, build drought resilience and support the goals of the [Colorado Water Plan]. The meeting will be held in partnership with local members of the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance, which has 40 members in Southwest Colorado. In addition to free food and drinks, the evening will include an expert panel: Celene Hawkins, of the Nature Conservancy and Colorado Water Conservation Board; Marcie Bidwell, from the Mountain Studies Institute; and a representative from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

    “The point is not to shame people for their water use,” Goodman said. “Instead, we will present more efficient irrigation strategies and programs.” Goodman said the biggest hurdle to implementing the state’s water plan right now is money. It’s estimated that putting the plan into action will require $100 million a year – which might seem like a lot but is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the state’s other budget items, he said. State legislators are currently looking at adding $10 million to next year’s budget toward the plan, and the recently passed Proposition DD, which legalized sports betting, will add about another $10 million a year (that number will be significantly less in its first year of implementation).

    Goodman said he hopes next week’s meeting, in addition to providing a dialogue, will spur local citizens to get active and encourage their representatives to fund the water plan.

    “This is a good starting point, our legislators need to know this matters to us and to make it a reality,” he said. “As great as the water plan is, if we don’t have money behind it, we won’t see results.”

    Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

    Colorado River District working to protect West Slope water users — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    A large irrigation canal in the Grand Valley, which relies on water from the Colorado River to irrigate fields. The state is exploring how a voluntary, temporary and compensated water-use reduction plan, known as demand management, might work. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Here’s a guest column from Andy Mueller that’s running in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

    At the Colorado River District, we are working to ensure that whatever the future holds, there’s water on the West Slope to support our way of life.

    Whether you grow food, rely on clean water from your kitchen tap, or recreate on our rivers, the River District is working to develop every tool possible to ensure that West Slope water users are represented and protected.

    In fact, the District recently received a $315,000 “WaterSMART” grant, which we will use to analyze many of the risks that we face on the West Slope in an uncertain water future.

    Despite the optimism from recent snowfall, Colorado is still amid a prolonged decline of flows in the Colorado River — and facing more variable weather conditions and snowpack with each passing year. When you combine that with growing population in the Colorado River basin, both in Colorado and downstream, we’re looking at an uncertain water supply.

    Under the Colorado River Compact, Colorado and other states in the Upper Colorado River Basin are required to keep a certain amount of water flowing to states in the Lower Basin. But declining flows have signaled a risk to that obligation. And continued drought could mean water users in the Centennial State might have to reduce water use in the future without compensation in order to meet this compact commitment.

    As part of a multi-state plan to avoid that, Colorado is exploring the feasibility of a program called demand management, which would pay farmers, industry and cities to voluntarily and temporarily reduce water use in order to bank it in reservoirs for use in preventing an uncompensated call. At the Colorado River District, we have concerns about whether such a program is advisable or necessary, but even as we seek answers to those concerns, others are looking at how such a program will be structured.

    Right now, there are a lot of questions. As Colorado decides if and how demand management would be implemented, we want to advocate for rules that are the best possible for West Slope water users. We are studying the hypotheticals and talking to a broad set of water users to understand what might work in western Colorado.

    The Colorado River District received its $315,000 WaterSMART grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of a federal water planning program. We will be working with the Southwestern Water Conservation District, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, The Nature Conservancy, Basin Roundtables, the state of Colorado and others to study risks to our water supply. Leveraging these federal funds and partnerships allows us to do more to protect West Slope water users.

    Agricultural producers play a critical role in our local economies, whether it’s equipment repairs at a local mechanic or a ranch hand buying a burger at the local diner. Our main street businesses could see changes if farmers, even temporarily, aren’t farming.

    To understand how our local economies might be affected by demand management, the River District is sponsoring a study of the potential secondary economic impacts that such a program could have on the businesses and communities that West Slope agriculture supports.

    The grant will also fund the next phase of a multi-year study to understand the risk to Colorado’s water users if a call under the Colorado River Compact requires that we use less water. This study is designed to give us all an idea of what water rights might be curtailed by a compact call, giving water users across the West Slope a better idea of what could happen to their water.

    Finally, the WaterSMART grant will help us bring West Slope water users together to understand how to create a program that makes sense for them. While we can’t get the thousands of water users in the Colorado River District in a room to decide what demand management should look like, we’ll be working with a broad cross-section of water users from different industries and communities in the district to do just that. We want to be sure that if demand management is implemented, it works for ranchers, towns, and rivers in western Colorado.

    All these studies and conversations will give West Slope water users the information and tools they need to decide if they should take part in demand management. They will also better allow the Colorado River District to advocate for those users and protect water on the West Slope in an uncertain future.

    Brad Udall: “…latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
    @GreatLakesPeck

    Who should pay for water conservation in the West? Water managers wade into discussion — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #DCP #CRWUA2019

    Seen from the air, Glen Canyon Dam holds back the Colorado River to form Lake Powell. The state of Colorado is looking into how to fund a program that would pay irrigators to reduce their consumptive use in order to send water downstream to a savings account in Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Water managers from throughout the Colorado River Basin took the stage at the Colorado River Water Users Association conference earlier this month to talk about conserving water in the face of the twin threats to the river: increasing demand and climate change.

    The state of Colorado is currently exploring a water-use-reduction program that is largely designed to pay farmers and ranchers on the Western Slope to voluntarily conserve water. While there’s still debate whether such a program should be implemented, the first question many ask is how to pay for such a program. In recent months, some water managers have come up with innovative ways to fund the controversial water-use-reduction plan — known as demand management — that wouldn’t rely entirely on taxpayers.

    The drought contingency plan, which water leaders inked at last year’s annual CRWUA meeting, set up a reserve account of 500,000 acre-feet of water that the Upper Basin — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico — could use to store water in Lake Powell as an insurance policy against dwindling reservoir levels.

    In November, Colorado voters passed Proposition DD, which is projected to funnel roughly $16 million a year to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, or CWCB, by taxing sports betting. Demand management is one of the two things money from Proposition DD could fund (the other is Water Plan grants).

    However, it’s widely accepted that $16 million is not enough to fund either of those things in their entirety. Demand management needs other sources of money.

    Although the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District still isn’t convinced that a demand-management program is the right approach for the Western Slope, general manager Andy Mueller told the Las Vegas crowd that the Upper Basin has to reduce its water consumption — and explore creative solutions to accomplish that.

    “I often talk about the Lower Basin overuse and how that’s driving the problem, and I will say they in the Lower Basin need to fix that problem,” Mueller said. “I will also say we in the Upper Basin … need to reduce our use. The science is pretty clear. Water we all thought was there even 15 years ago is not going be there. You can’t have water for the environment and the people if we are not reducing consumptive use throughout the basin.”

    General Manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District Andy Mueller speaks at the district’s annual seminar in 2018. Mueller told the audience the Upper Basin needs to reduce its consumptive use at the Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas earlier this month. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Who should pay?

    So, if nearly all water users on the Colorado River, including those in the Lower Basin — California, Nevada and Arizona — would stand to benefit from a demand-management program, who should pay for it?

    Not Colorado taxpayers, Mueller said, at least not entirely.

    “Eighty million (dollars) a year would need to be out there in payments to get the appropriate amount of water in Lake Powell,” he said. “That cost to taxpayers is too high. So you turn to: Who else benefits from us creating a storage account in Lake Powell?”

    One answer: power providers in both the Upper and Lower Basin states, who all need Lake Powell to remain above 3,525 feet, the minimum level required to continue generating hydropower. Some Upper Basin power cooperatives such as Western Area Power Administration, which sell power to local communities, including Aspen and Glenwood Springs, purchase hydropower generated at Lake Powell. Adding a small demand-management surcharge to customers’ bills is something that should be explored, Mueller said.

    “Power customers should share in the costs of us storing for demand management,” Mueller said.

    Another potential source of funds could be nonprofit environmental groups, since sending more water downstream to Lake Powell would also benefit stream health. The federal government, whose Bureau of Reclamation operates Lake Powell and Lake Mead, also has a role to play, Mueller said.

    But no matter where the money comes from, Mueller said it must be channeled through the CWCB in a heavily regulated market to prevent speculation by private buyers.

    “We have been very clear it needs to be a guided market if it’s going to happen, with lots of thoughtful, proactive rules to prevent lots of serious consequences,” he said.

    This field in lower Woody Creek is irrigated with water that eventually flows into the Colorado River. The state of Colorado is exploring how to fund a program that would pay irrigators to reduce their consumptive use in order to send water downstream to a savings account in Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    State-led exploration

    The CWCB currently has a workgroup devoted to exploring how to fund demand management. The group has met twice so far, but CWCB facilitator Anna Mauss said the two biggest questions the group is grappling with are these: how much water is needed and what would the cost be. The workgroup, she said, will dive deeper into funding strategies at the next meeting, scheduled for the end of January.

    “We are baby-stepping into this, trying to be diligent,” Mauss said. “It’s really just looking at scenarios at this point.”

    The state is also encouraging innovative ideas from the private sector. The CWCB recently awarded $72,000 to 10.10.10, a Colorado Nonprofit Development Center project that aims to tackle “wicked problems” in water and climate. Under the program, 10 entrepreneurs will, over 10 days, attempt to tackle 10 systemic issues that are not adequately addressed by government, organizations or institutions.

    “Yes, we are looking at demand management, and it could be one of the wicked problems we address,” said Jeffrey Nathanson, president of 10.10.10.

    Water from the Colorado River irrigates farmland in the Grand Valley. The state of Colorado is looking into how to fund a program that would pay irrigators to reduce their consumptive use in order to send water downstream to a savings account in Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Platform for payment?

    While some people work on finding sources of funding, others are already creating a platform to pay irrigators once the money is in place. Southwest Colorado water managers Steven Ruddell and David Stiller think a reverse auction to compensate water users for using less is the best way to go.

    A reverse auction, which features many sellers (farmers and ranchers) and one buyer (the state of Colorado through the CWCB), would allow water-rights holders to set the lowest price they are willing to accept to voluntarily send their water downstream. According to Ruddell and Stiller’s paper on the subject, a reverse auction would remove paying for demand management from a political process and move it into a market-based process that lets water-rights holders bid the fair-market value of their water. It would also keep costs down for the CWCB.

    Ruddell and Stiller presented their reverse-auction idea at the Upper Colorado River Basin Forum at Colorado Mesa University last month.

    “We’ve tried to bite off a small piece of demand management by suggesting we use an auction that people are familiar with,” Ruddell said. “It’s used to determine the value of something, especially in the ag world.”

    There are still many questions surrounding how a demand-management program might be paid for.

    “There are all sorts of options,” Mueller said. “We shouldn’t just focus on raising taxes in our state.”

    Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story appeared in the Dec. 30 edition of The Aspen Times.

    Click here to view the Twitter hashtag #CRWUA2019 from the conference.

    2020 #COleg: #Colorado lawmakers to tackle #ColoradoRiver issues, funding water projects, and environmental streamflows in 2020 — @WaterEdCO #COriver #aridification #COwaterPlan

    From Water Education Colorado (Larry Morandi):

    Saving water on the Colorado River system, funding the state water plan, and preserving more water for streams are expected to top lawmakers’ water agenda when the Colorado General Assembly begins its work Jan. 8

    Saving Water on the Colorado River

    Last May the seven Colorado River Basin states signed a drought contingency plan that requires the three lower basin states, Arizona, Nevada and California, to cut water use. It also gives the four upper basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — the option to create a large-scale water conservation program that would add more water to storage in Lake Powell. That water would be credited to the Upper Basin states and protect them from cutbacks if levels in Powell start to fall below those needed to generate power and to meet water delivery obligations to the Lower Basin. Colorado and other Upper Basin states are exploring whether such a conservation program, known as demand management, is feasible. Any water users who contributed to the new Powell storage account would do so voluntarily and would be paid for their participation.

    Where would that water come from? Since irrigated agriculture is the largest user, most of it is likely to come from farmers and ranchers. That troubles Colorado Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, former manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association in southwest Colorado. “We’re still looking at agriculture as a living reservoir that we don’t have to build,” he says.

    But Catlin sees “some shifting in the conversation” about sharing water cuts with East Slope communities, where there’s a growing recognition that “if it hurts western Colorado, it hurts the whole state.” That’s because East Slope urban water providers rely on transmountain diversions for much of their water supply. Denver Water, for example, counts on Colorado River imports for half its water. And since most of those rights are junior — acquired after the 1922 Colorado River Compact was signed — the metro area, along with irrigators in the South Platte and Arkansas River valleys that receive water via transmountain diversions, would also be affected by any cutbacks in Colorado River water deliveries. It is anticipated that those entities and regions would participate in conservation alongside West Slope irrigators.

    While the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is now examining whether to create such a program, lawmakers this year will consider a bill that would require CWCB to involve the public and the state’s nine river basin roundtables in developing a demand management program. Although CWCB would have final say, it would have to submit any draft program to the Water Resources Review Committee and consider its feedback.

    Funding Colorado’s Water Plan

    Implementing Colorado’s Water Plan is projected to cost $3 billion over the next 30 years, or $100 million annually. The CWCB and the General Assembly have provided some funding for the water plan, but those amounts cover only a fraction of the water plan’s estimated costs.

    Enter Proposition DD, approved by voters in November. It legalizes sports betting and assesses a 10 percent tax on casinos’ net proceeds. The state can collect up to $29 million per year, with more than 90 percent of that going into a newly created Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund run by CWCB. Experience with sports betting in other states suggests that no more than $16 million in tax revenue will be generated annually, and during the first year just $7 million is expected.

    Lawmakers are expected to discuss options giving them some say in how CWCB allocates that revenue, but those talks may not result in legislation this year.

    Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, a member of the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) and prime sponsor of the general fund water appropriations last year, does not expect Proposition DD to affect JBC’s water plan funding recommendations this year. Last year, for the first time, lawmakers approved $10 million in general fund money for the water plan. But Rankin cautions that appropriating another $10 million in general funds to support water plan implementation and demand management development will depend on how revenue forecasts shake out.

    Instream Flows

    Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, said he plans to introduce a bill that would expand the existing instream flow loan program. Under current law, a water right holder can loan water to the CWCB to further preserve water for rivers on stream segments where the board already holds an instream flow water right. The loan may be exercised for no more than three years in a single 10-year period. Roberts’ bill would increase the number of years the loan could be exercised from three to five, and allow for two additional 10-year periods.

    The proposed bill is similar to one that passed the House of Representatives but was defeated in Senate committee last year. Opposition to that bill centered on the potential impact on historical irrigation return flows from leaving water in the stream rather than applying it on the land, the effects on soils fallowed for long periods, and the tight comment period allotted after a loan application is filed in which opponents can make their case. Those issues were discussed during the interim session, but the Water Resources Review Committee took no action.

    Roberts says that recommendations developed by a Colorado Water Congress working group to provide water right holders with more opportunities to comment and protect downstream users will be incorporated into the new bill. With those changes, he’s optimistic that “we have arrived at a place where more of the water community feels comfortable with the program’s expansion.”

    Other Issues

    The Water Resources Review Committee recommended three other bills for consideration this session. One would address water speculation, with concerns raised that agricultural water rights are being sold to entities with no real interest in farming that are holding those rights for future, profitable transactions. The bill would create a working group to explore ways to strengthen anti-speculation laws and report its findings and recommendations to the committee next year.

    Another bill would task the University of Colorado and Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Center with studying new technologies to improve monitoring, management, conservation, and trading of water rights and report back to the committee in 2021.

    The final bill would increase the number of state water well inspectors and require rulemaking to help the state engineer identify high-risk wells for inspection.

    And although no legislation has yet been drafted, Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Wolcott, said she anticipates discussion of how to better dovetail water planning with land use development to ensure large new communities have sustainable water supplies.

    Larry Morandi was formerly director of State Policy Research with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, and is a frequent contributor to Fresh Water News. He can be reached at larrymorandi@comcast.net.

    Fresh Water News is an independent, non-partisan news initiative of Water Education Colorado. WEco is funded by multiple donors. Our editorial policy and donor list can be viewed at http://www.wateredco.org.

    George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

    The latest “Gunnison River Basin News” is hot off the presses from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable

    Sean Cronin and John McClow at the 2014 CFWE President’s Award Reception

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

    Here are a few of the reasons 2019 was a year to
    CELEBRATE in the Gunnison River Basin

  • Year of plenty with full reservoirs & ditches!
  • The Gunnison Basin Roundtable had another successful year in their continued support of water users, water education and through management of grants for important projects from headwaters to mouth.
  • Completion of significant water use efficiency improvements within the Lower Gunnison Basin Project.
  • Blue Mesa played a huge role in meeting flow targets in the critical reaches while providing full supply to irrigators; Taylor Park, Paonia, Crawford & Ridgway Reservoirs met both human & environmental needs. as well.
  • Major agreements were signed benefiting not only our basin but all of the much larger Colorado River Basin as evidenced by the Drought Contingency Plan, approved by all seven basin states & Congress helping to ensure that we keep our eye on the prize – healthy Lake Powell & Lake Mead levels to maintain vital hydropower generation & compact compliance for all.
  • And one more of the many reasons to celebrate, one of our own,- John McClow was named Aspinall Water Leader of the Year.
  • Estimate of Proposition DD revenues in fiscal 2020-21 = $1.5 – $1.7 million #COWaterPlan

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Colorado Sun (Jesse Paul):

    When Colorado voters OK’d Proposition DD last month, they were told sports betting would deliver millions in tax revenue toward solving the state’s water problems.

    But a new analysis from the Polis administration shows that likely won’t happen in the first full year of wagering.

    The Division of Gaming expects sports betting, which starts in Colorado in May, to generate between $1.5 million and $1.7 million in tax revenue in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. That amount isn’t enough to reach the threshold under which funds would be transferred to water projects.

    The projection is wildly different from what state lawmakers anticipated when they put the measure on the November ballot. In fact, it’s about the same amount the Colorado General Assembly’s fiscal analysts projected would be generated in the first two months of sports betting.

    The annual revenue expectation also is far less than the $16 million in tax revenue that legislative analysts forecast would be collected each year for the first five years of sports betting in Colorado. The state is authorized to collect up to $29 million in sports betting tax revenue annually under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights…

    The Division of Gaming’s estimates were presented Thursday to the Joint Budget Committee as it prepared to draft the $30 billion-plus spending plan for the coming fiscal year. And members of the panel expressed concern…

    It’s likely that enough tax revenue will be generated in future years to go toward the water plan, but how much water managers can expect appears lower overall given the latest projections by the gaming division. Proponents of sports betting are bullish that tax revenue figures will rise once the industry matures in Colorado, though they admit initial estimates were likely too high.

    A spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, which oversees the Division of Gaming, noted “that all of these numbers are still projections.” She added that the department has been consistently conservative in its assumptions about sports betting revenue when speaking with lawmakers and legislative analysts…

    One reason revenue projections are lower: The gaming division doesn’t believe the state’s casinos, which will operate sports betting, will be willing to pay the $125,000 per license — which would have to be renewed every two years — to offer wagering as originally projected. Instead, gaming officials think that the most they could reasonably charge for a license fee would be $40,000 and possibly much less, according to a memo presented to the JBC on Thursday.

    Because the cost to implement sports betting is expected to exceed the tax revenue generated in the first months, it could actually end up costing taxpayers money.

    If that deficit were to happen, the Joint Budget Committee would likely ask the Department of Revenue to dig into its pockets to cover the difference. The funds could, however, ultimately have to come out of the legislature’s discretionary fund, which goes toward paying for things like transportation and education…

    The division’s revenue estimates came after the agency gathered 75 people representing gambling companies and operators from around the world to help create its rules around sports betting. The agency also visited other states where sports betting has been legalized, like New Jersey, to better understand how to implement the wagering in Colorado and what to expect.

    #RioGrande Basin Roundtable meeting recap

    The northern end of Colorado’s San Luis Valley has a raw, lonely beauty that rivals almost any place in the North American West. Photo/Allen Best

    From The Valley Courier:

    Once the proceedings were underway, Wayne Schwab of the Trinchera Irrigation Company recognized Emma Reesor, Vice-Chair of the Roundtable, for being named “Basin Hero” for the Rio Grande Basin by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Later, Bethany Howell of the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative gave a funding request preview to add a staff position to the Public Education and Public Outreach (PEPO) program in the Basin. Howell pointed out that PEPO is becoming increasingly important because there is a growing lack of local and statewide water knowledge and a lack of communication between various entities that have the potential to collaborate. Also, she mentioned that PEPO could promote the work in the Basin along with highlighting “cutting edge” projects such as the new Doppler Radar System. Howell’s final presentation and the request will come at the January meeting.

    Following Howell’s remarks, Virginia Christensen of the Terrace Irrigation Company also gave a funding preview and request. The Terrace Irrigation Company is seeking to replace diversions that makeup its canal system in 2020. Upon approval, the project anticipated to improve the administration of the system’s water along with numerous other benefits.

    Western Water Plans: How do Western states incorporate regional engagement into water resource planning? — @WaterEdCO

    Frozen Colorado landscape. Photo credit: Water Education Colorado

    From Water Education Colorado (Hannah O’Neill):

    This four-part series contrasts the processes behind the Colorado Water Plan with four other recent western water plans: California, Texas, Montana and Oregon.

    The production cycle of the Colorado Water Plan is a three-phase process, which involves regional engagement and project planning through basin roundtables and Basin Implementation Plans; statewide modeling, published in the Technical Update, and the publication of a comprehensive statewide plan. Not all states directly involve regional groups in state water plan development. Within the five Western water plans researched for this series, two states mandated the production of a high-level statewide policy document; while three states, including Colorado, mandated a regional or “basin” planning effort to inform statewide processes.

    These approaches can be described as “top-down” and “bottom-up.” A top-down approach produces a water plan entirely directed and developed through state agencies, with designated periods for public comment. The final product of a top-down approach, exemplified by the California and Oregon state water plans, is described by state agencies as a high-level policy plan. In contrast, a bottom-up approach is rooted in the recruitment of regional planning groups. These groups develop unique basin plans that directly inform the content and directives of the state water plan. Examples of this planning approach include Colorado, Montana and Texas. The product of a regional approach constitutes multiple products: multiple basin plans and a single comprehensive state water plan. This idea is embodied in the figure below, which features Colorado’s nine Basin Roundtable boundaries.

    This figure distinguishes two types of water plan production: a “top-down” process, executed and directed by state agencies; and a “bottom-up” process, where the production of regional plans informs the content and policy directives of a comprehensive statewide document.

    A legacy of collaboration

    The choice to pursue one strategy or another is rooted in the history of each states’ water governance, as well as contemporary policy and budgetary requirements. The Colorado Water Plan’s mandate for regional planning directly builds on the legacy of the basin roundtable process. The basin roundtable process was established in 2005 by the passage of House Bill 05-1177, “Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act.” This bill codified a deeply collaborative approach to addressing regional water concerns and visions for the future. This legislation also established the Interbasin Compact Committee to operate as a statewide forum for basin roundtables. The success of these volunteer groups directly informed the engagement efforts mandated in the 2013 gubernatorial executive order that called for the production of Colorado’s first statewide water plan.

    Trends across Western water plans: expanding regional engagement, water education, and data accessibility

    Regardless of the degree of regional authorship within a state water planning process, there is interest across Western state water plans in investing in locally identified water projects. For example, documents associated with California’s most recent “2018 Update” underscore a state interest in funding regional priorities. The report “Funding Mechanism Inventory and Evaluation” identifies watershed or river basin assessments as a potential vehicle for the state of California to fund locally-identified management actions.

    This trend in regional engagement is concurrent with an effort to expand water education programming and water policy accessibility. To this end, state water plans including Texas, California, and Colorado have developed (or are currently developing, in the case of Colorado!) interactive online components that will accompany their water plans. While the 2019 Utah Water Plan was not explicitly examined for this blog series, it will notably prioritize a new webpage interface over traditional printing.

    Recently published Western state water plans reflect an increasing emphasis on data transparency and accessibility, as well as state planning processes that better integrate stakeholder and regional perspectives into state water policy.

    Hannah O’Neill. Credit: Water Education Colorado

    Our next post, to be published the week of December 9, will contrast how uncertainty is incorporated across Western water plans. Read the first post in our Western Water Plans series, “How does the Colorado Water Plan compare to our neighbors,” here.

    Hannah O’Neill is a graduate student at CU-Boulder studying environmental policy and western water management. Hannah is a fifth generation Coloradan and Denver native, who has a professional background in fossil exploration and National Environmental Policy Act compliance. Hannah obtained a BS in Geology-biology from Brown University in 2014.

    Western Water Plans: how does the #Colorado Water Plan compare to our neighbors? — @WaterEdCO #COWaterPlan @CWCB_DNR

    This figure captures when the most recent water plan was published for each of these five Western states, as well as the length of the planning cycle. Colorado’s first comprehensive state plan was published in 2015, and set a seven-year planning cycle. Graphic credit: Water Education Colorado

    From Water Education Colorado (Hannah O’Neill, Bianca Valdez and Jakki Davison):

    This four-part series contrasts the processes behind the Colorado Water Plan with four other recent western water plans: California, Texas, Montana and Oregon.

    State water plans account for contemporary water resource challenges, detail supply projections and future demands, and catalyze community discussions around cooperative management. How does the Colorado Water Plan—both the final document and the planning processes involved—compare to other Western states?

    As we approach the second iteration of the Colorado Water Plan (set to begin in 2020, per the schedule outlined in the 2015 water plan), this blog series will explore a diversity of water planning processes. There are currently 17 U.S. states with water plans. Here, we explore five Western state plans that were all published in the last five years: Colorado, Oregon, Montana, Texas and California.

    What’s in a water plan?

    State water plans identify current water demands, project future water supply, and explore potential water projects that will close the gap between projections of future needs and availability. Every state water plan is unique and is largely rooted in the political context of an individual state. Creating a state water plan involves an enormous amount of stakeholder engagement and number crunching in order to understand statewide trends in population, climate and hydrology; articulate state and regional values with regards to water consumption and diversion; and identify both broad regional goals and local water projects to meet those goals.

    Unique Western states; unique water resource challenges

    Importantly, the states featured in this blog series represent two different legal frameworks in how water rights are administered: Colorado, Oregon and Montana operate under prior appropriation, while Texas and California operate under a dual regime of riparian rights and prior appropriation. Prior appropriation, or “first in time, first in right,” allocates water based on the chronology of water diversions for “beneficial use,” or the public good. In contrast to prior appropriation, riparian rights governance associates the ownership of water rights with the ownership of land adjacent to water bodies. Proposed water policies and projects are fundamentally shaped by how water rights are defined; in this manner, the legal framework within a given state provides essential context for how planning processes are applied.

    Each state planning process is informed by the state’s unique combination of legal doctrine of water governance, history of water planning and development, and current statewide priorities. Every state is working to meet unique planning and regulatory requirements in the implementation of water projects and programs; the discussion of differences within this blog series is not intended to imply differences in plan quality. Like any good policy, the water plans reviewed here all aim to keep pace with emergent environmental, social and fiscal needs.

    In the following three blog posts, we will contrast distinguishing components of these five Western water plans in order to better understand the planning process in Colorado. The focus of our discussion will contrast various strategies for executing regional engagement, modeling future scenarios, and incorporating uncertainty; all across our five states of interest: Colorado, Texas, Montana, Oregon and California.

    Our next post, to be published the week of December 2, 2019, will contrast regional engagement strategies across Western water plans.

    This series was developed by Hannah O’Neill, Bianca Valdez, and Jakki Davison, three graduate students studying environmental policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Masters of the Environment program.

    La Plata County commissioners seek applicants for Southwest Basin Roundtable — The Durango Herald

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From the La Plata County Board of Commissioners via The Durango Herald:

    The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners is seeking applicants to serve on the board of the Southwest Basin Roundtable.

    There are nine basin roundtables in Colorado, each of which facilitates local discussion about water issues and encourages locally driven, collaborative solutions on interstate water issues and works with other roundtables on interbasin and interstate water issues.

    Applicants with education and/or experience with local and state water concerns are preferred.

    Term length is five years, and meetings are held quarterly, alternating between Durango and Cortez.

    This position is advisory only and is not monetarily compensated.

    Applications are available at http://www.co.laplata.co.us/cms/one.aspx?pageId=1633876 or from the La Plata County Administration Office in the County Administration Building, 1101 East Second Ave.

    For more information, call 382-6219.

    Colorado Basin Roundtable OKs grant to study Crystal River backup water supply — @AspenJournalism

    The Colorado River Water Conservation District and the West Divide Conservancy District gave up their conditional water rights in 2011 that could have allowed for a reservoir on the Crystal River at Placita. A proposed back-up water supply study has some groups worried that the idea of dams on the Crystal could be resurrected. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    The fight over damming the Crystal River has been resurrected, this time before there are even any dam projects to fight over.

    The Colorado Basin Roundtable voted Monday to recommend the state give $25,000 toward a water study in the Crystal River basin, despite calls from some to deny the Water Supply Reserve Fund request because of concerns that a study might conclude there is a need for water storage.

    The Colorado River Water Conservation District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District brought the grant request to the roundtable in Glenwood Springs in an effort to solve a long-acknowledged problem on the Crystal: In dry years, there may not be enough water for both irrigators and some residential subdivisions.

    On Nov. 18, the Gunnison Basin Roundtable gave its unanimous support to the grant application, even though its support was not necessary. Although the Crystal is in the Colorado River basin, its headwaters are in Gunnison County, and so the Gunnison roundtable decided to voice its support.

    The feasibility study would look at water demands and options for creating a basinwide backup water supply plan, known as an augmentation plan. The study will look at small storage alternatives, probably off the main stem of the Crystal. Until the study is completed, it’s unclear how much water is needed for a basinwide backup supply.

    But some fear that the plan could include dams and reservoirs on the free-flowing Crystal, and they opposed the grant unless storage was off the table.

    Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury requested two amendments to the grant application: that any reservoir would be off the main stem of the river and would only be located downstream of the Sweet Jessup Canal diversion (about 2 miles downstream of Avalanche Creek) to preserve the possibility of designating 39 miles of the Crystal River as Wild and Scenic.

    “We are not going to support this application as it’s currently written,” McNicholas Kury told roundtable members Monday. “The county continues to support Wild and Scenic designation on the Crystal.”

    McNicholas Kury and two other roundtable members voted against the funding: recreation representative Ken Ransford and Eagle County representative Chuck Ogliby, who owns the Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Hot Springs in the Crystal River Valley.

    The Crystal River Caucus, which doesn’t have a seat on the roundtable, also objected to the grant application and passed a resolution at its Nov. 14 meeting to that effect. In a letter to the roundtable, the caucus said it does not support the grant and urged voting roundtable members to deny the request. The caucus would, however, support a study and augmentation plan that evaluates options other than storage.

    But others downplayed the threat of dams, insisting they won’t happen.

    “You’re not going to see a dam on the main stem of the Crystal,” said Colorado River District President Dave Merritt. “It’s not going to happen. The river district is not predisposed to dams. There is a need for a small amount of augmentation water up there. We are talking tens of acre-feet, probably.”

    The Sweet Jessup Canal’s diversion structure is on the Crystal River about two miles downstream from Avalanche Creek. Pitkin County wants any storage on the Crystal that an augmentation study might recommend to be located below the Sweet Jessup to keep open the possibility that the upper portion of the Crystal can one day qualify as Wild and Scenic. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    No backup supply

    During the historic drought of late summer of 2018, the Ella Ditch, which irrigates agricultural land south of Carbondale, placed a call on the river for the first time ever. This means, in theory, that junior-rights holders upstream have to stop taking water so that the Ella Ditch, which has water rights dating to 1885, can receive its full decreed amount.

    Most junior-rights holders have what’s known as an augmentation plan, which lets them continue using water during a call by replacing the called-for water with water from another source, such as a reservoir or exchange. The problem on the Crystal is that several residential subdivisions don’t have augmentation plans.

    Without an augmentation plan, these entities — which are the town of Carbondale, the Marble Water Company, Chair Mountain Ranch, Crystal River Resort, Crystal View Heights and Seven Oaks Commons — could be fined for every day they are out of priority and could potentially have their water shut off, if there is a call on the river.

    Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 5 engineer Alan Martellaro said instead of each subdivision coming up with its own augmentation plan, a basinwide approach makes more sense.

    “We think it would save everyone money if we had a reasonable regional solution,” he said. “It looks a lot to us that a call from the Ella Ditch is going to be more common in the future.”

    The Ella Ditch, which irrigates agricultural land south of Carbondale, placed a call on the Crystal River for the first time ever in 2018. Water managers are seeking solutions in the form of a basin-wide augmentation study, which the Colorado River Basin Roundtable recommended for grant money. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Contentious history

    To understand why some groups are opposed to even just a study whether storage is an option, it helps to review the contentious history of water development in the Crystal River Valley.

    In 2011, the West Divide district and the Colorado River District abandoned their conditional water rights for nearly 200,000 acre-feet of water storage on the Crystal River after local groups — Crystal River Caucus, Pitkin County and Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association — opposed the reservoirs tied to the conditional rights. Known as the West Divide project, the now-defunct conditional water rights were tied to a dam on the Crystal just downstream from Redstone, which would have created Osgood Reservoir, and a dam on the Crystal at Placita, which is at the bottom of McClure Pass.

    To try to prevent the specter of dams coming back to haunt the Crystal in the future, Pitkin County and other local groups have pushed for a federal designation under the Wild and Scenic River Act of 1968, which requires rivers to be free-flowing. The Colorado River District opposes the designation.

    “With our challenging history with both the river district and West Divide … this is why we are very nervous whenever we hear discussion of any dams on the Crystal River,” said Bill Jochems, Redstone resident and member of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers board.

    In the end, the roundtable approved the grant request. A motion to amend the request with a no-storage requirement failed.

    “Obviously, storage is not the first choice,” said Ken Neubecker, the roundtable’s environmental representative and Colorado project director for environmental organization American Rivers. “But you have to look at all the options, including storage, or you’re just not being responsible.”

    The two conservation districts plan to ask for a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Plan grant fund in early 2020 to fund the roughly $100,000 project. West Divide plans to contribute $15,000 and the Colorado River District $10,000.

    Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of The Aspen Times.

    Map of the Roaring Fork River drainage basin in western Colorado, USA. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69290878

    Avoiding #LakePowell’s Day Zero — @WaterEdCO #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #COWaterPlan #DCP

    Lake Powell, created with the 1963 completion of Glen Canyon Dam, is the upper basin’s largest reservoir on the Colorado River. But 2000-2019 has provided the least amount of inflow into the reservoir, making it the lowest 20-year period since the dam was built, as evidenced by the “bathtub ring” and dry land edging the reservoir, which was underwater in the past. As of October 1, 2019, Powell was 55 percent full. Photo credit: Eco Flight via Water Education Colorado

    From Water Education Colorado (Lindsay Fendt):

    While the ink was still drying on the final draft of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), policy makers in Colorado were turning their attention to the bigger challenge ahead.

    With the agreement’s signing in May 2019, the state and its neighboring upper Colorado River Basin states of New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were granted the ability to bank conserved water in Lake Powell and other upper basin reservoirs in case of a future water crisis—but only if the states agree on an upper basin demand management program. Getting all the parties on the Colorado River to agree to that so-called “drought pool” in Lake Powell was difficult, but designing the demand management program to get water into the pool will be much harder. Determining when to release water from the pool could also prove challenging.

    Demand management is water conservation on such a large scale that it reduces the amount of water drawn from the river in a significant, measurable way. If the upper basin states develop a demand management program, they will collectively use less water, then track, deliver and bank those savings in upper basin reservoirs. That water could be sent downstream when flows are low to meet the upper basin’s commitment to the lower basin states and Mexico, as outlined under the 1922 Colorado River Compact and subsequent agreements.

    The compact stipulates that the upper basin states must not deplete the flow of the river at Lee Ferry below 75 million acre-feet based on a 10-year running average. Although the upper basin is a long way from running out of water, if the future brings more dry years and low reservoir levels, as is projected, it will become increasingly difficult to send water downstream while still meeting upper basin water needs. If the lower basin does not receive its share of water, a legal battle could ensue, threatening water rights in the upper basin—so the upper basin complies with the compact to maintain control over its own water supply.

    The DCP lays out processes for how this might be achieved but is only in effect through 2026, at which time the federal government, in consultation with all Colorado River Basin states, will reconsider how the system should be operated.

    Exploring demand management is just one of the upper basin’s commitments under the DCP—the other two elements include a new plan to move water from smaller upper basin reservoirs to Lake Powell, and finally, water supply augmentation. As a whole, the upper basin’s DCP aims to maintain storage volumes at Lake Powell, enabling continued hydropower generation, thereby funding continued operation of the reservoir system and use of Colorado River water in the upper basin. But demand management could be part of the upper basin’s strategy. So work is underway to determine what demand management might look like, if a program is developed. “There are still a lot of big ifs,” said Brent Newman, the former interstate and federal section leader for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, during a presentation in August.

    Newman was addressing about a dozen people gathered in the Summit County Library in Silverthorne for the first meeting of the Economic and Local Governments Working Group on demand management. The group of county commissioners, lawyers, consultants and utility managers will spend the next year identifying critical issues for the feasibility of a demand management program.

    As the meeting closed, the group filled three large boards with sticky notes of questions and possible problems with demand management, issues to be hashed out in the coming months. Similar brainstorming sessions are playing out across the state in eight other working groups, each dedicated to exploring demand management from a different perspective, like agriculture and the environment. Simultaneously, each of the other upper basin states is also examining how it could approach demand management. Unless all four upper basin states agree, there will be no demand management program.

    This massive planning effort from four different states will cost millions of dollars and require tough negotiations. And while each upper basin state is putting its best foot forward to create a plan, there is no guarantee that conditions will get bad enough that it will be needed. There’s also no guarantee that a demand management plan will be adopted—and even if adopted, will it be adopted in time to make a difference?

    The DCP and Colorado

    Over the last 20 years, the Colorado River has experienced extreme drought, unprecedented in modern history. Now, states throughout the West are planning for a future with less water, and for good reason—modeling shows an increasing likelihood of water shortage in the basin. According to Phase III of the Colorado River Risk Study, an effort completed in June 2019, the upper basin faces a 45 percent chance of a water shortage in the next 25 years at current water use levels. If upper basin water use increases by just 11.5 percent, that risk doubles, creating a 90 percent chance of coming up short, the study says. Instead of tumbling unprepared into shortage, representatives from the seven states that rely on the Colorado River created the DCP to stave off a future water crisis by readying for dry times.

    The objective of the DCP, which is really two plans, one for the upper basin and one for the lower, is to prevent water in the river system and its two primary reservoirs—Lake Powell and Lake Mead —from dropping too low. Reaching these critical levels would trigger a crisis-level response in the region with some states taking significant reductions in their water allocations and some areas losing access to clean power due to the loss of production from the reservoirs’ hydroelectric dams. The revenue earned from hydropower contracts is used to fund conservation for rivers and programs like endangered fish recovery. The loss in funding would also limit the government’s ability to run the dams and distribute any water remaining in storage.

    The lower basin’s DCP laid out cuts in lower basin water use that are tied to projected reservoir levels. But the upper basin is in a different position. Its DCP gives the upper basin tools to manage its water supply in case of shortage, which should help it meet its obligations under the 1922 compact and avoid involuntary cutbacks. The first of these tools, which is really the basin’s first line of defense in protecting Lake Powell’s storage levels, is a new mechanism to move water from upstream reservoirs down to Powell when Lake Powell is facing a critically low level, what is known as the Drought Response Operations Agreement. The second is a 500,000 acre-foot storage pool in upper basin reservoirs, which the basin can use to store water from a demand management program, if such a program is deemed feasible and adopted. The third, known as augmentation, which is already in use, is a combination of cloud seeding to stimulate precipitation, and the control of phreatophytes like tamarisk and Russian olive, which are deep-rooted non-native plants that soak up water from riverways.

    Over the next several years, the upper basin will use these tools and determine whether to bank water for shortage. While the upper basin’s work is just beginning, it could shift the way water has been managed in the West for more than a century.

    This possible shift matters to water users across Colorado, that’s why the scene of the demand management workgroup in Summit County yielded three boards covered in questions and concerns. The Colorado River starts as snow high in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. In the spring, it melts down into a web of tributaries that flow across the upper basin states into the river’s mainstem. Each of the basin states relies heavily on water from the river, but Colorado, in particular, plays an outsized role in how the Colorado River water system works. Colorado snowmelt contributes about 70 percent of the total flow of the Colorado River.

    But Colorado also gets the lion’s share of the upper basin’s water—it can use 51.75 percent of the upper basin’s allocation per the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact of 1948. Colorado’s average annual consumptive use of Colorado River water is about 2.5 million acre-feet, according to the Colorado River Risk Study. And though only about 20 percent of the state’s population lives in the greater Colorado River Basin—which in Colorado includes not only the Colorado Basin but all West Slope rivers such as the Gunnison, Yampa, White, San Juan, San Miguel, and other smaller tributaries—more than 570,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water is piped across the Continental Divide each year, reaching the Rio Grande, South Platte and Arkansas basins. More than 80 percent of the state’s population lives along the Front Range, where transbasin diversion water accounts for about 60 percent of water use. Users of Colorado River water range from municipalities to farmers to industrial users like oil and gas operations.

    If a severe water shortage resulted in the upper basin not meeting its compact obligations, water rights across the state would be at risk of curtailment. Although no curtailment procedure has been decided upon, water rights adjudicated after 1922, the year the compact was signed, are often considered to be more at risk than pre-1922 rights. In Colorado, transbasin diversions serving the state’s population center constitute more than half of the state’s post-compact depletions, which means that Front Range municipal water users, though geographically disconnected from the Colorado, have an extreme interest in protecting the river and Lake Powell reservoir levels—thus in seeing the upper basin DCP succeed. If the actions in the upper basin’s DCP aren’t sufficient to protect reservoir levels in Lake Powell and if releases below Lee Ferry were too low and violated the compact, a compact deficit could result and lead to involuntary curtailment.

    Drought Response Operations Agreement

    Rather than a step-by-step plan, the upper basin’s DCP is all about process. The new elements of the DCP, the Drought Response Operations Agreement and demand management, are plans to create a plan if conditions warrant it. The plan first lays out strategies to maintain water levels in Lake Powell during a drought. If those operations are not enough, the agreement describes how water from the three federal storage projects in the upper basin—Fontenelle in Wyoming, Flaming Gorge in Wyoming and Utah, Navajo in New Mexico and Colorado, and the Aspinall Unit which is composed of Blue Mesa, Crystal and Morrow Point reservoirs in Colorado—could be used to bolster storage volumes in Lake Powell.

    The agreement does not designate how much water will be sent downstream or specify which reservoir will make the release, it simply says those negotiations will begin once the Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-month study models indicate that Lake Powell might fall below the target elevation of 3,525 feet mean sea level.

    The three reservoir units, along with Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, were authorized with the Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP) Act in 1956 to stabilize the upper basin’s water supply against variability in the Colorado River. Since the CRSP units were built, their water has been used to fulfill water rights throughout the upper basin, satisfy increasing water demand, and meet environmental standards for river flows. The U.S. Interior Secretary oversees the reservoirs and determines their operations every year.

    While the original CRSP Act was designed with the idea of storing and releasing water to meet the compact agreements, it does not clarify the states’ roles in this process. By laying out this process in the Drought Response Operations Agreement, the upper basin states and the federal government clarified how they would interact—hopefully avoiding future conflict—if reservoir releases become necessary to protect Lake Powell storage.

    “But if we have 10 years of hydrology just like this [year], it may never come to pass”, says Amy Haas, the executive director and secretary of the Upper Colorado River Commission.

    The agreement also sets ground rules for how those negotiations would play out. First, any water releases from the reservoirs would need to fit within the existing records of decision and biological opinions, including each reservoir’s existing environmental impact study in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Any reservoir releases also must come with a plan to refill the water that was released to Lake Powell once hydrological conditions improve. The agreement also stipulates that if a facility makes a release one year, the other two facilities will be considered first if further need arises, before tapping the same reservoir twice.

    The Drought Response Operations Agreement is the first plan of attack for the upper basin in case of a shortage. While this could be executed without too much controversy, there are still some concerns with the agreement.

    The first concern is that while the agreement places three of the upper basin’s federal water storage projects on the table for water releases, both the Aspinall Unit and Navajo Reservoir have very little additional water available each year. This puts a burden on Flaming Gorge as the reservoir most likely to make a release. The second issue is that, while all of the states’ attorney general’s offices call for actions taken under the Drought Response Operations Agreement to fit in existing NEPA permitting, some believe that a new environmental impact study under NEPA might be required before releases can be made to Lake Powell. Even with these issues, the Drought Response Operations Agreement is mostly uncontested. It’s the second element of the Upper Basin DCP—demand management—that could mark a paradigm shift in Western water law.

    Demand Management

    When people think of water conservation, they typically think of home-grown efforts to take shorter showers. But with a demand management program, the upper basin states would work collectively to use less water and bank those savings in Lake Powell or other CRSP reservoirs. If necessary, that water could be sent to the lower basin to comply with the compact. Although this may seem like a common-sense solution, it’s complicated by the laws surrounding water rights.

    “The reason that it is a problem legally is that our whole water law framework is set up to encourage maximum utilization of water,” says Anne Castle, senior fellow at the University of Colorado’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment and former assistant secretary for water and science with the Department of the Interior. “So the way our laws work is that if you’re not using your full entitlement of water then other people get to use it.”

    Because of the legal framework surrounding Western water, water conservation is not simply a matter of turning off the taps. Large-scale conservation only occurs when conserved water is accounted for and, in the case of demand management, that water must also reach its target area without being diverted by a downstream user, a process known as shepherding. This is more complicated when moving water through multiple states, as the water authorities in each state must shepherd the water downstream. Calculating the quantity of conserved water is also challenging. Some of the water saved through demand management will evaporate or be lost through transit as it moves down the river, and lost water isn’t considered conserved.

    These legal and technical issues must be solved before a demand management program is implemented, but the DCP didn’t create a program, the DCP simply makes exploring such a program possible.

    Before diving into the details of how to conserve water, the upper basin needed the ability to bank its savings in a CRSP reservoir. While there is room in Lake Powell—which has been hovering at around 50 percent full—prior to the DCP, any water in Lake Powell was considered unused by the upper basin and therefore was subject to release to the lower basin. But the DCP authorized a pool of up to 500,000 acre-feet for the upper basin to store water in CRSP reservoirs to be used, if needed, to comply with the compact. This water can be tracked and accounted for, and cannot be called for by the lower basin.

    “This is a big change to the Law of the River, and a new wrinkle in the way the river is managed,” says Newman, who was leading the demand management work for the CWCB. “But there is a lot to do before one drop of water can be stored in that pool.”

    First, each state must assess the feasibility of a demand management program. The states are considering everything from specifying how much water each state would need to contribute to the pool, to identifying what laws to modify, if any. Each state also needs to ensure that water users participating in the program can do so voluntarily and temporarily and will be compensated for the water they conserve. The costs of such a program are still unclear, but the four-year System Conservation Pilot Program, which ended in 2018 and can be likened to demand management, paid an average of $205 per acre-foot for conserved water. The pilot program was implemented on the ground in various places, including with the Grand Valley Water Users Association, where 10 members took more than 1,000 acres of land out of production and, in 2017, received $560 per acre to help make up for the crops they would have grown otherwise. That year, the project returned an estimated 3,200 acre-feet of water to the Colorado River—a drop in the bucket.

    That program and the Colorado River Water Bank Workgroup, which started in 2009 and has since evolved, gave Colorado a head start into considering some of these questions. But there’s more to learn, says Taylor Hawes, Colorado River Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, who has long been involved with these water banking discussions.

    Taylor Hawes, Colorado River Program director for the Nature Conservancy, has been involved with water banking discussions and studies since 2009 via Water Education Colorado.

    Even after years of studies, the workgroup made the most significant progress when the System Conservation Pilot Program put water banking to the test on the ground. So Hawes recommends piloting demand management. “It’s in our best interest to have a program up and running, to see what the kinks are and what the critical needs are, to be in a better position to negotiate for that,” Hawes says. Negotiations to determine what will happen in 2026 could begin next year, so there’s reason for Colorado and the other upper basin states to get practice. “We could easily overcomplicate it. We need to be really systematic in our thinking on how to work through these issues. It is feasible so I hope we can put a plan in place and start to test it a little bit to make sure it can work for all sectors in the long run.”

    In addition to the technical logistics, the upper basin states must account for attitudes about demand management. “There’s a general curiosity about what demand management will or could be,” says Kelsea Macilroy, a Ph.D candidate in Sociology at Colorado State University. Macilroy, in a project for The Nature Conservancy, spoke with 34 West Slope agricultural stakeholders in May 2019 to hear about perceptions and barriers to demand management. She heard from an equal number of people who said they would never participate in a demand management program and people who were excited about it. She heard people question if demand management is an opportunity, a burden, or both.

    She also unveiled cultural beliefs that shape how the West Slope responds to the idea of demand management. “When the demand management conversation arises, it triggers these historical injustices,” Macilroy says, like loss of other natural resource industries such as logging in southwestern Colorado, for example. “I heard, almost unanimously, people referencing buy and dry. Not only that water could be taken away but that a way of life is under attack. That this is just the next thing that threatens the way that we live that’s coming from the Front Range,” she says.

    Brent Newman, head of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Interstate and Federal Section, is coordinating nine work groups around the state to discuss, study, and determine whether Colorado will develop a demand management program. Pictured here, the Economic and Local Governments Working Group first met in August 2019 at the Summit County Library and came away with a slew of questions via Water Education Colorado.

    But Front Range water managers are eager to share in demand management. “From a Front Range perspective, this problem of reducing demand is not a Front Range [versus] West Slope issue. It’s a whole state issue. It’s an upper basin issue,” said Jim Lochhead CEO/manager of Denver Water at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in October 2019. Denver Water, which receives about 50 percent of its supply from Colorado River sources developed after the 1922 compact and serves about a quarter of the state’s entire population, has a lot to lose if supplies are curtailed without a plan in place. Thus, the utility plans to cut water use along with other water users if a demand management program is created. “Our participation is not just funding someone else to use less water,” Lochhead says. “Our obligation is to participate equitably with other geographic regions in Colorado to create wet water that will get to Powell.”

    Questions around demand management are deep and many, but for the time being, each state has separated to internally assess whether a program is feasible. In Colorado, the process is with the CWCB’s nine workgroups. The CWCB has $1.7 million for demand management at its disposal, which will be used for meeting logistics, for commissioning some consulting work to study feasibility for demand management, and for other relevant needs. This first round of funding expires in June 2020.

    As every state conducts its own process, interstate issues are also being discussed through the Upper Colorado River Commission. If any one state decides that demand management is not feasible, it could serve as a veto for the entire basin.

    While there is no hard deadline for the formation of a demand management program, the DCP agreements expire in 2026, and the availability of the 500,000 acre-foot conservation pool arrangement for upper basin use is only guaranteed until then.

    If the states reach consensus and create a program, it will be reviewed by the lower basin, and subject to approval from the Upper Colorado River Commission and the Department of the Interior. The DCP also requires the upper basin to create a plan for verifying the amount of water conserved by demand management. The plan could then move forward only if the Upper Colorado River Commission determines that conservation is necessary in order to maintain compact compliance.

    If the region has another series of wet years, the plan may never go forward. But in the face of climate change, many believe demand management is critical.

    “Our goal is to avoid a crisis,” Hawes says.

    The latest “#GunnisonRiver Basin News” is hot off the presses from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable

    Sonja Chavez via Gunnison Basin Roundtable.

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

    Chavez to Take the Lead at UGRWCD

    Sonja Chavez has been selected to serve as the General Manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. When asked about her new role, Ms. Chavez said, “I look forward to working with my local community and our Upper Gunnison Board of Directors and staff to continue to ensure that all water needs within the Upper Gunnison basin are being addressed, with other regional water users to speak with one voice on water resource issues affecting west slope communities, and with other state and federal entities to make informed decisions and have respectful dialogue around our current and future water use.”

    As a native Coloradan, Sonja’s passion for water and agriculture is deeply rooted in her family’s ranching heritage. She grew up in a small community in southwestern Colorado along the banks of the Purgatoire River.

    Ms. Chavez received a BA in Environmental Biology and an MA in Limnology (study of freshwater systems) from the University of Colorado. Her areas of expertise are in water quality, water resources management, funding acquisition, environmental and natural resource sciences, and policy and planning.

    Early in her career Sonja worked in both the private and public sectors in Colorado (Water Quality Control Division, Department of Transportation and Summit County Government). In 2002, she moved to the Gunnison community and started her own consulting firm, assisting west slope water providers and water users planning and implementation of over $38 million dollars of water-quality and agricultural efficiency improvement and hydro-electric projects.

    In 2015, she left the consulting world to join the Colorado River Water Conservation District as a Water Resource Specialist where her responsibilities included the management of off- and on-farm agricultural efficiency, system optimization and water-quality improvement projects, environmental compliance, funding acquisition, and grant management, and drought contingency planning and demand management including the evaluation of water banking.

    From http://www.ugrwcd.org

    The Yampa/White Basin Roundtable is developing a #YampaRiver integrated water management plan #COWaterPlan

    Serene corner on the Yampa River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the Yampa/White Basin Roundtable (Gena Hinkemeyer) via The Craig Daily Press:

    The Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable is one of nine basin roundtables in Colorado established to address the ever-increasing water challenges facing our state.

    As part of its mission and to meet the Colorado Water Plan, the roundtable is developing an Integrated Water Management Plan for the Yampa River Basin that best represents the interests and needs of all water users. These interests include agricultural, recreational, environmental, municipal, industrial and water providers. The first phase of the Management Plan focuses on the Yampa River main stem and the Elk River basin.

    In order to make the Management Plan a success, the roundtable seeks to provide the community with meaningful opportunities to participate and provide valuable input for the Management Plan. To do this, two subcommittees where formed — stakeholder and technical — to complete related tasks.

    The stakeholder subcommittee is working to implement a community outreach program designed to listen and learn in an open communication process. This subcommittee will provide a forum for dialogue on water related issues for all water users, including agriculture, recreational, municipal and environmental aspects of a healthy river.

    The technical subcommittee was formed to look at the science-based river health for each of the identified geographic segments. One of the many related tasks is working with a private engineering contractor to conduct 40 to 50 voluntary water diversion assessments within the Yampa River Basin.

    The goal is to learn more about the diversion effectiveness and incorporated environment aspects at the diversion site. Ultimately, this may help identify water projects that have positive impacts for the water diversion and broader river health.

    The Management Plan recognizes the importance of agriculture to the Yampa River Basin. One of the roundtable priorities is to protect and maintain agricultural water rights in the region in consideration of increasing water demands and water availability fluctuations. Another goal is to help identify potential funding for water infrastructures that have multiple benefits and are in need of improvement for interested and volunteering agricultural stakeholders.

    Two segment coordinators, Gena Hinkemeyer and Jerry Albers, are working as contractors on this project to listen, learn and seek input from agricultural stakeholders. Hinkemeyer has lived in the Yampa Valley for most of her life and will be working in the lower and middle Yampa River regions. Albers has lived in Stagecoach for the last 15 years and will be working in the Upper Yampa and the Elk River Basin.

    The coordinators will be reaching out to members of the agricultural community to better understand water related issues confronting agriculture and seek input on planning efforts. If you are interested and would like to learn more visit the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable site at yampawhitegreen.com or contact Gena Hinkemeyer gena@yampawhitegreen.com.

    Colorado Bets on New Funding for Water Plan — @AudubonRockies

    Common Mergansers. Photo: Lynn Cleveland/Audubon Photography Awards

    From Audubon Rockies (Abby Burk):

    The four-year-old Colorado Water Plan—the Centennial State’s proactive response to drought, flood, unpredictable water supplies, climate change, and a booming population that is likely to rise from 5.7 million today to nearly 9 million Coloradans in the next 30 years—is now guaranteed some of the annual $100 million needed to implement the plan. This month, Colorado voters narrowly approved Proposition DD to legalize sports betting (and a 10% tax on these casino revenues) which will result in an estimated $12 million to $29 million annually, the majority of which will go toward the Water Plan.

    While we likely won’t see $29 million for the first several years, DD revenues bring Colorado’s first dedicated funding source to Water Plan implementation. The sports-betting tax money will flow into a new fund overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Revenues from DD are a drop in the bucket that renew every year, and represent a much-needed down payment toward the full $100 million per year for the Water Plan.

    Revenues from DD could be used for a variety of Water Plan purposes including: stream and watershed management improvements, urban water conservation and efficiency, improved irrigation infrastructure for farms and ranches, and storage projects. At this point, it is not clear how the state will spend these dollars given the various priorities and the considerable funding gap. The language in DD was vague and will need refinement, and transparency. Stakeholders will likely explore options with the legislature to guide how DD funds are spent on Water Plan implementation.

    Audubon will engage to advocate for spending that supports healthy rivers for the birds and people that depend on them—as we support a fully funded Water Plan. But even with the revenues DD will provide, additional dollars, heightened public awareness, and action will be critical to ensure healthy rivers—and the sustainable water future they enable for Colorado’s birds, economies, communities, recreation, agricultural heritage, and quality of life.

    Audubon is proud to have supplied nearly 20 percent of the nearly 30,000 public comments that informed Colorado’s inaugural Water Plan, and Audubon will be there every step of the way through Water Plan implementation. Colorado cannot thrive unless its rivers do too.

    Everything we love about Colorado is connected to water. We need your help in raising awareness about water and healthy rivers throughout Colorado. Spread the word. Join us as Audubon works across the state for a water-secure future for people and the environment.

    Colorado Ag Celebrates Proposition DD — AgInfo.net

    Longs Peak

    From AgInfo.net (Maura Bennett):

    Download the report

    The Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemens’ Association and most agriculture organizations are celebrating the measure approved by voters to allow sports betting in the state. But it’s not a cure-all for what ails us.
    The Farm Bureau’s Shawn Martini says it was a given they would support Proposition DD, as it is a way to guarantee future funding for the state’s Water Plan. The Water Plan – a blueprint for ensuring stable water supplies in the years and decades to come.

    Martini: “And thus far it has not been funded anywhere close to what it needs. That initial figure of about 100 million dollars a year we need to fully fund the state’s water plan. While this doesn’t get us up to a 100 million a year, it at least provides us a dedicated revenue stream of maybe even up to 30 million a year to help continue to implement and build the projects that are a key part of the state’s water plan.”

    Martini says they are waiting to see how much the state legislature will add to the Water Plan funding on a yearly basis. But with the passage of Prop. DD there is now a dedicated stream of funding that will allow the state to begin to chip away at the backlog of projects that need to be done to fulfill the state’s future water supply.

    DD will legalize sports betting in Colorado and create a 10 percent tax on casinos’ house winnings that would largely benefit the Water Plan. Colorado’s 33 casinos will be able to offer in-person and online wagering on professional, collegiate, motor and Olympic sports beginning in May 2020.

    It was a squeaker, but Colorado voters say yes to sports betting, cash for state’s water plan — @WaterEdCO

    Urban areas and ski counties say yes to sports-betting, water initiative. Source: Colorado Secretary of State. Nov. 6, 2019 via Water Education Colorado

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Colorado voters narrowly approved a new sports-betting tax whose proceeds will help fund water projects across the state, including conservation programs, stream restoration, and new reservoirs.

    The vote is a major victory for the bi-partisan coalition that backed the measure and represents the first voter-approved effort to fund the four-year-old Colorado Water Plan.

    The nail-biter margins, 1.5 percent at press time, provide a cautionary tale on how much support exists for water funding and how much more will be needed in the future, backers said.

    “I was surprised. It was super close,” said Alec Garnett, D-Denver, the lead sponsor of the bill that referred Proposition DD, as it was known, to voters. “But it’s a reminder to everyone that Colorado is a fiscally conservative state.”

    Proposition DD legalizes sports betting and imposes a 10 percent tax on casino revenue derived from this new form of gambling. A statewide map of the vote count showed voters on the Front Range and in ski counties, such as Eagle, Summit and Ouray, had the most enthusiasm for the measure, while rural counties on the West Slope and Eastern Plains rejected it.

    Garnett said he was proud of the consensus on water demonstrated by the win, and the power of the bi-partisan coalition of politicians, environmentalists, water utilities, and agriculture groups that came together to back the campaign.

    “Any legislator will say, ‘You’re electing me to go in to help solve problems and bring people together,’ and I’m proud of how we did that here,” he said.

    The vote sends an important signal to lawmakers and others, according to political pollster Floyd Ciruli.

    “There is no better conversation to have than a ballot issue. You get everyone’s attention. This vote shows people do believe water is important and that this is a good way to [fund] it,” Ciruli said.

    Early on, Prop DD was barely showing up on voters’ radar, with early polls indicating little support. But a digital and TV ad campaign launched last month helped turn the tide, Ciruli said.

    Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, opposed the measure and said he remains concerned that there isn’t enough transparency in how the money will be managed and that it is improper to use a so-called “sin tax” to pay for something as fundamental as water resources.

    “Water is such an important issue we should pay for it out of the general fund or out of severance taxes,” Sonnenberg said, adding that he will continue to fight in the Legislature to ensure the money is used for the water plan.

    Estimated to total between $12 million to $29 million annually, the sports-betting tax money will flow into a new fund overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). It could be used for a variety of purposes, including water-saving programs for cities and farms, habitat restoration programs, storage projects, land use planning, and environmental water supplies for water-short streams.

    Since 2015, the CWCB has financed the water plan using income derived from severance taxes, the state’s general fund, and other sources. Those amounts have varied widely, with the state setting aside $30 million this year, up from $5 million in 2015, according to the CWCB.

    Backers characterize DD as a valuable down payment on the water plan. Assuming the tax is able to eventually generate $29 million a year, that’s still less than one-third of the $100 million a year the state has previously estimated it will take to protect scarce water resources and to prevent future water shortages.

    This year, another group emerged whose intent is to raise additional money for the water plan. For The Love of Colorado, backed by the Walton Family Foundation (also a funder of Fresh Water News) and the Gates Family Foundation, is preparing to run a large public awareness campaign about the critical nature of the state’s water challenges and the need for funding.

    The group’s executive director, Tim Wohlgenant, said the close vote demonstrates how much more work is needed.

    “It’s great that voters did this. But I need to emphasize it’s literally only a drop in the bucket. And even though it passed, it barely passed. We have more work to do.”

    David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said he hopes Prop DD will stimulate environmental and water conservation programs, much like Great Outdoors Colorado has. GOCO is the 1992 ballot initiative that has helped preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of historical ranches and open space across Colorado, protecting them from development. It is funded with state lottery proceeds.

    “We’re pleased that Colorado voters are making a decision to invest in our resources, using the water plan as a road map for that,” Nickum said.

    “Hopefully it will lead to a proliferation of projects, much like GOCO did,” he said.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

    Colorado Conservation, Sportsmen Groups Celebrate Passage of Proposition DD for Colorado’s Water — Western Resource Advocates #COWaterPlan

    From Western Resource Advocates (Jennifer Talhelm):

    DD secures an important down payment for Colorado’s Water Plan, but full funding is still needed

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

    A coalition of environmental and sportsmen groups today hailed passage of Colorado Proposition DD to help conserve and protect the state’s rivers and streams and drinking water. The coalition – which includes Conservation Colorado, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, Business for Water Stewardship, and the Colorado Water Trust issued the following joint statement:

    “Passage of Proposition DD is a big win for Colorado and the quality of life we enjoy here. Taxing the revenue from legalized sports betting will create a dedicated down payment to help ensure that Colorado has healthy rivers and enough water for all. Still, it’s important to remember that this is just the first step toward addressing the growing gap between the water we have and the water we need.

    “Four years ago, Coloradans came together to create Colorado’s Water Plan to protect all the things we love about our Colorado way of life – from healthy flowing rivers, to farming and ranching, and even beer. Our rivers contribute over $9 billion annually to the state’s economy, yet Colorado has not lined up adequate funding for the plan, despite overwhelming bipartisan support from across the state.

    “Proposition DD will help generate a much-needed revenue stream to improve wildlife habitat, protect our agricultural heritage and the open spaces that come with it, and strengthen our economy. But the plan estimates the total need to be $100 million a year for the next 30 years, and we must keep working to ensure Colorado fully funds our water future.”

    Proposition DD places a 10 percent tax on casinos’ profits from sports wagers, up to $29 million annually, and the majority of the revenue raised will go to implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. The annual funding is expected to be between $10 million and $15 million annually in the first few years.

    Blue Mesa Reservoir

    From The Colorado Independent (John Herrick):

    It was a squeaker, but sports betting will be legal in Colorado beginning in May 2020.

    Voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure 51% to 49% to legalize and tax betting on certain professional and collegiate games at casinos and online, according to results from the Colorado secretary of state. The vote was too close to call until mid-afternoon Wednesday. The Associated Press called the race at 2:33 p.m.

    Revenue from a 10% tax on the net proceeds companies make on sports betting will help pay for some of the state’s critical water needs. It is, in other words, a narrowly focused tax targeted for a widespread need.

    The vote was far from the slam dunk many expected. While the success of its sister ballot measure, Prop CC, was always uncertain, Colorado voters have historically been more receptive to so-called sin taxes.

    But the measure had critics on both sides of the political spectrum. For conservatives, the question about raising taxes may have been a non-starter. And for liberals, a regressive tax paid by gamblers, some of whom may struggle with addiction to gambling, perhaps was too problematic to support.

    “This has always been a white-knuckles job,” said Josh Penry, a former Republican state Senator and political strategist who worked on the Prop DD campaign. “There is real skepticism. It’s not a traditional right-vs-left issue.”

    More than 90% of that new tax revenue, estimated at an average of $16 million per year, and as much as $29 million, would help pay for managing the state’s dwindling water supplies. That tax revenue alone is not enough to meet the state’s water needs, but in the minds of most of its supporters, it represents the best shot yet to pay for the general projects outlined by the 2015 Colorado Water Plan.

    “The Colorado Water Plan will have a permanent, dedicated funding source,” said Becky Mitchell, the director for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, in a statement. “Sports betting tax revenue for the Water Plan will support critical environmental, agriculture, and storage projects as well as promote outdoor recreation opportunities across the state.”

    Coming up with the money to help better manage Colorado’s water supplies is seen as critical to maintaining the state agriculture and recreation industries and preserving healthy river ecosystems threatened by slow flows and warming waters. The estimated cost of implementing the water plan is $100 million a year.

    Lawmakers have struggled to find that money. They pulled together nearly $30 million in one-time money for water projects and planning last session, a historic yet insufficient amount. Prop DD, which was referred to the ballot by state lawmakers, was seen as the best shot at getting at least some funding and getting it fast.

    “This is not the best way to fund such an important need, but we have to take the opportunities that come to us,” said Scott Wasserman, the president of the Bell Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank.

    Opponents had concerns about paying for the Colorado Water Plan because it calls for possibly damming rivers to build reservoirs. The margins of victory in Boulder and Larimer counties were tight, areas where projects to expand or build reservoirs are planned. The Water Plan also calls for lining irrigation ditches, upgrading flood gates and paying farmers to use less water.

    The measure struggled despite a $2.4 million campaign to promote it. FanDuel Group, a New York City-based sports betting company, spent $1 million backing the measure, according to campaign finance records with the secretary of state. Other top donors include DraftKings, a Boston-based sports betting company, Twin River Casino Hotel from Rhode Island and the Colorado Gaming Association.

    A coalition of environmental groups backed DD, including American Rivers, Business for Water Stewardship, Colorado Water Trust, Conservation Colorado, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, and Western Resource Advocates. The Colorado Farm Bureau also supported the measure.

    Colorado already allows limited stakes gambling — under $100 — in the towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. Some supporters saw Prop DD as a way to regulate underground sports betting.

    “Black markets aren’t conservative and they aren’t good for Colorado. Bringing sports betting into the daylight, regulating it, and leveraging it for the benefit of our water future is a common-sense approach,” said House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a Republican from Littleton, in a statement.

    A wetland area along Homestake Creek. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):

    Water in Colorado — one of the state’s most important natural resources — scored a major win today when voters approved Proposition DD. Prop. DD will provide up to $29 million a year for water projects from revenue raised by legalizing and taxing sports betting.

    This funding will support critical projects to implement Colorado’s Water Plan and keep Colorado the state we know and love, with healthy rivers, clean drinking water, productive agriculture and abundant recreation.

    EDF and EDF Action were key advocates for Prop. DD. We are thrilled voters approved the measure because it shows Coloradans across the political spectrum care deeply about building a more resilient future for our state.

    Closing the water funding gap

    Colorado’s Water Plan identified a funding gap of $100 million a year for 30 years to conserve and protect key elements of the state’s water system, including the environment, in the face of climate change and a growing population. Prop. DD will provide an impactful down payment to fill this funding gap.

    Achieving voter approval of tax measures is always challenging, especially in Colorado, but EDF, EDF Action and our partners in the state worked hard to earn broad support for Prop. DD. Every major newspaper in Colorado endorsed it, and there was strong bipartisan support among state leaders and lawmakers who referred the measure to the ballot.

    Uncommon partners rally around common-sense water solutions

    The list of Prop. DD supporters was long and diverse, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Colorado Farm Bureau, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates, among many others. Working side by side with some of these unlikely allies paves the way for more collaboration to deploy the funding to Colorado’s highest water priorities and best projects.

    The success of Prop. DD clearly demonstrates to our state lawmakers that water is a priority issue for Coloradans, and we hope policymakers will continue to focus on ensuring our water system meets our state’s needs for decades to come.

    We can’t wait to roll up our sleeves to help effectively implement Prop. DD and usher in this important new era for water funding and resilience in Colorado.

    Engaging ag producers on watershed and stream management planning — #Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK #COWaterPlan

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    From the Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK (Phil Brink) via The Fence Post:

    The Colorado Water Plan includes twin goals of having 80 percent of the state’s critical watersheds covered by watershed management plans and 80 percent of the locally prioritized streams covered by stream management plans by 2030. Successful watershed and stream management planning involves people representing all local water interests, and that nearly always includes the agricultural community. Through ownership and leasing, agricultural producers control most of the water and land in Colorado. Agricultural input and cooperation is essential to achieving needed improvements in our streams and watersheds.

    Irrigation water is a vital component of Colorado’s agricultural industry. Without it, crop and forage yields are dramatically lower. Colorado agricultural statistics indicate that an irrigated field of corn, for example, will produce almost three times more grain than a non-irrigated field of corn. Irrigation water is a big part of the reason Colorado agriculture contributes $41 billion to our state’s economy.

    We often say that agriculture provides food, fiber and fuel, but Colorado agriculture accomplishes much more. It preserves open space and extraordinary vistas, provides wildlife habitat — including habitat for threatened and endangered species — and connects us with our agricultural heritage, helping to create a sense of place and community. Consider the farmer’s markets and Colorado-made foods and beverages we enjoy. Much of it would not be possible without irrigation water.

    Agricultural producers want to engage on local water-related planning activities. Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK’s 2019 state-wide survey of agricultural producers found almost one-fourth of respondents were “very interested” in participating (see chart). Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they were at least “somewhat interested” in getting involved in local watershed management planning efforts.

    Like other stakeholders, agricultural producers have specific interests around water. Farmers need to utilize their water rights to grow crops and forage and to water livestock. For surface water users this means diverting water from rivers and streams and other surface water bodies and conveying it to fields for application.

    The top three water-related challenges expressed by survey respondents were all irrigation-related (see chart below). Note that the survey allowed producers to select more than one challenge, so the percentages exceed 100 percent when totaled. Not having enough water (“amount of water”) was closely followed by water delivery infrastructure. These two challenges along with “water storage” — which was the fourth most frequently cited challenge — are often interrelated and addressing them can be capital intensive. Demand for grant and cost-share funding chronically exceeds available financial resources.

    MULTI-BENEFIT

    Through the watershed and/or stream management planning process, funding for irrigation water diversion and delivery infrastructure and source water protection can be obtained from a wider range of sources than is typically available to agriculture as long as projects are multi-benefit in nature. One example is the combination of stream channel and embankment improvements with a diversion dam replacement — which may also incorporate a fish passage that allows aquatic life to move past the diversion structure. Projects like these help wildlife, aquatic life, water quality and irrigators alike. Because this type of project benefits multiple uses, it can garner more funding and reduce the cost to irrigators.

    The third greatest challenge cited by ag producers was irrigation efficiency. One of the benefits of watershed and stream management planning is that the process involves assessment and analysis of prioritized problems. This helps to ensure that solutions fix existing problems without creating unintended negative consequences. For example, how should individual farmers and ranchers best address irrigation ditch seepage and irrigation efficiency?

    Increasing irrigation efficiency — like switching from flood irrigation to sprinkler — can reduce or even eliminate deep percolation of water as well as runoff from the edge of the field. Lining earthen ditches with concrete improves the delivery of water to fields by eliminating seepage. This can also improve water quality in streams by reducing the selenium and salinity content of seep water in areas where shale is near the surface.

    However, leaky irrigation ditches also provide watering spots and seasonal wetlands — serving as an oasis for wildlife and birds in otherwise dry areas. Also, flood and furrow irrigated fields and meadows release water slowly back to streams and rivers later in the summer and fall, enhancing flows after snowmelt and summer rains have dwindled. This supplemental flow helps sustain fish and wildlife, and extends recreational use in some cases. So, a thorough evaluation of a canal or ditch system is crucial to understanding how to help agricultural producers and other stakeholders achieve multi-benefit solutions.

    The ultimate goal of watershed and stream management planning is to implement actions that benefit watersheds and streams, as well as the stakeholders that use and rely upon them. Engaging agricultural producers and getting to know them and their water-related challenges will help achieve outcomes that benefit all stakeholders.

    Phil Brink, Brink, Inc, is the Consulting Coordinator of Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK (http://www.agwaternetwork.org). Phil can be reached at phil@brinkinc.biz.

    Graphic via: Ag Water NetWORK
    Highlights of the 2019 Survey of Colorado Agricultural Producers on Watershed Management Planning

    The latest “E-Newsletter” is hot off the presses from the Hutchins Water Center

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

    CO DEMAND MANAGEMENT GROUPS
    The state-led work groups investigating feasibility and technical issues related to a potential program to trim upper basin demands on the Colorado River are continuing to meet. You can find the schedule of upcoming meetings and reports from past meetings here.

    Prop DD seen as ‘priming the pump’ for water plan — The Montrose Press

    From The Montrose Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

    Although it went down in Montrose County, statewide, voters lifted Prop DD to victory; 712,405 yes, to 692,377 no, according to unofficial results from the Colorado Secretary of State.

    The revenue from taxing sports betting, estimated at about $30 million, is to be used to implement the Colorado Water Plan — a drop in the bucket, so to speak, of the billions implementation is expected to cost over the next few decades.

    The Colorado River District, which supported Prop DD, viewed it as help with a “downpayment” for plan implementation. The water plan is a longer range strategy to balance water supply against growing needs; its provisions include more infrastructure for water storage, as well as conservation methods.

    State Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, who represents House District 58, and who also represents Montrose County on the river district, left the county courthouse Tuesday night assuming DD was going down in defeat; after an initially favorable showing, the “no” votes began to dominate. But, by early Wednesday, the final unofficial results showed a win.

    “We kind of raised the profile of water, but it had to come on gambling. I think people voted against gambling, rather than against water,” Catlin said.

    “Now it’s up to the state of Colorado, and me — all of us in the state that have anything to do with this. Now is the time for a good project to be picked up in rural Colorado.”

    Although to Catlin, urban areas seemed to support DD more than did voters in rural areas, a need for such projects is on the Western Slope and other non-metro areas, he said, and it’s time for the state to “square up” by offering feasible projects that will assure water plan success.

    “It certainly is not going to fix all issues Colorado has with water, but it does prime the pump. That doesn’t mean the Legislature can now ignore it. Now is the time we really take it on in the state,” Catlin said.

    He acknowledged the money DD is supposed to raise will not come close to fully funding the water plan.

    Proposition DD barely squeaks by — @AspenJournalism #COWaterPlan

    The east end of the Independence Pass tunnel, bringing water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River to the East Slope

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Colorado voters have narrowly passed a measure that will legalize sports betting and use the taxes raised to fund projects outlined in the Colorado Water Plan.

    As votes trickled in Tuesday night, the measure remained too close to call; at some points, the margin was just a few hundred votes. But by Wednesday evening the “yes” votes had decisively pulled ahead.

    The unofficial results from the Colorado Secretary of State website show that 50.81 percent of voters supported Proposition DD and 49.19 percent were against it — a difference of more than 23,000 votes.

    Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties passed the measure, with 61 percent, 59 percent and 58 percent of voters, respectively, supporting it. Fifty-two percent of voters in Garfield County voted against Proposition DD.

    Beginning May 1, 2020, the state is authorized to collect a 10 percent tax up to $29 million (but probably closer to $15 million) a year from casino’s sports-betting proceeds. The money will go toward funding projects that align with the goals outlined in the water plan, as well as toward meeting interstate obligations such as the Colorado River Compact.

    The funds would be administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a statewide agency charged with managing Colorado’s water supply.

    District 5 State Sen. Kerry Donovan, who was a sponsor of the legislation behind Proposition DD, said going into Election Day she wasn’t sure whether it would pass. With Colorado’s growing population and the looming threat of climate change, the Western Slope will see an increasingly large burden when it comes to water supply, she said.

    “As a rancher and a Western Slope native, I am really excited the state has decided to invest in the future of water in Colorado,” she said.

    Wolford Mountain Reservoir. An aerial view of Wolford Reservoir, formed by Ritschard Dam. The Colorado Water Plan outlines many different types of projects, including reservoirs and dams, that need funding.

    Water Plan funding

    Funding the water plan could mean a number of things. Outlined in a 567-page policy document, the water plan does not prescribe or endorse specific projects, but, instead, sets Colorado’s water values, goals and measurable objectives. According to the water plan, there is an estimated funding gap of $100 million per year over 30 years, but CWCB officials have said that number is an estimate and not precise.

    Some of the projects outlined in the water plan stand in opposition to one another — for example, stream-restoration projects with an emphasis on environmental health and building or expanding dams and reservoirs that would divert and impound more Colorado River water.

    CWCB director Becky Mitchell highlighted that the money could indeed go toward many different types of projects.

    “I think the most exciting thing for us is that we will have a more permanent pool of funding and it will support all types of projects,” Mitchell said. “So, whether it’s a watershed health or agricultural project or storage project or recreational project, the benefit of a more permanent source of funding is to have secure funding for all types of projects.”

    In addition to being distributed in the form of water-plan grants, the revenue could also be spent to ensure compliance with interstate compacts and to pay water users for temporary and voluntary reductions in consumptive use. That could mean a demand-management program — the feasibility of which the state is currently studying — in which agricultural water users would be paid to leave more water in the river.

    Pitkin County is using this irrigation system to grow potatoes for vodka on county open space land. The state is exploring how a voluntary, temporary and compensated water-use reduction plan, known as demand management, could incentivize irrigators to leave more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Broad support

    The measure had received broad support from environmental organizations, agriculture interests, water-conservation districts and even Aspen Skiing Company.

    Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District also supported Proposition DD. While the estimated $15 million a year is a good start, river district community affairs director Jim Pokrandt stressed it’s not enough to implement all the projects outlined in the water plan.

    “What this does is creates a funding stream,” he said. “And it’s really only a down payment. What we don’t want to see is the other funding streams diminish because everybody will say ‘Oh, you got (Proposition DD).’”

    Although there wasn’t much organized opposition to Proposition DD, the measure asked voters to consider three complex topics in one question: a new tax, legalizing sports betting and funding the water plan.

    Political Action Committee Yes on Proposition DD spent more than $2.3 million, which came mostly from casino and gaming interests, on its campaign. The only registered group in opposition was small-scale issue committee Coloradans for Climate Justice, which argued that fossil-fuel companies should pay for the damage to water-supply systems caused by climate change.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of rivers and water. This story appeared in the Times Nov. 6 edition.

    From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Sara Leonard):

    Colorado voters have officially passed ballot measure Prop DD (50.71% Yes to 49.29% No), which will legalize sports betting in the state and create a tax of 10% on proceeds to fund the Colorado Water Plan Grant Program.

    Official statement from Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Rebecca Mitchell:

    “Thanks to Colorado voters’ approval of Proposition DD, the Colorado Water Plan will have a permanent, dedicated funding source. Sports betting tax revenue for the Water Plan will support critical environmental, agriculture, and storage projects as well as promote outdoor recreation opportunities across the state.”

    The South Platte River runs by a utility plant near I-25 in Denver.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

    It took until Wednesday afternoon, but Colorado’s Water Plan is getting a significant financial boost.

    Proposition DD, the statutory measure that institutes a 10%, $29 million tax on recently legalized casino sports betting, was still too close to call Tuesday night, but by Wednesday afternoon around 2:30 p.m., the ayes had it. DD won a 50.7% approval with about 12% of the vote left to count.

    A yes vote means the water plan, a multi-faceted, highly complex living document that seeks to implement measures to conserve and protect Colorado’s precious water resources, would receive some much-needed funding.

    Proposition DD received broad bi-partisan support across the state, from the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association to Democratic and Republican legislators and environmental groups.

    But there were detractors. Some Weld County farmers felt the water plan left them out, and at least one local state senator, Jerry Sonnenberg, didn’t feel gamblers should have to pay for a tax that benefited all Coloradans.

    Proponents admitted that the water plan isn’t perfect, and that there are some crucial compromises made in the implementation, but said that the nature of its construction, which uses local roundtables to build and develop the plan for the sake of each distinct basin in the state, is the best way to achieve the kind of broad and dynamic action needed to save the resource in the growing state long-term.

    Bill Jerke, a former Weld County commissioner and former statehouse representative, has said that Proposition DD is a win for bipartisanship. Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president Terry Frankhauser invited those concerned to get involved.

    From Colorado Public Radio (Ben Markus):

    It was a nail-biter, but Proposition DD has passed, ushering in the state’s first legal sports bets.

    Colorado has joined 19 other states in jumping on the bandwagon after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the near-nationwide ban on sports gambling in 2018…

    Where do the taxes for sports gambling go?

    Casinos will essentially pay a 10 percent tax on profits from sports gambling wagers. That is expected to raise about $15 million annually by the second full year of taking wagers. The bulk of the collections will go to the Colorado Water Plan, a long list of projects agreed to by lawmakers to help prepare for future population growth and make the state more resilient to climate change. It’s not a lot of tax revenue, but advocates say it’s a start to handling some of the $3 billion shortfall for the plan. Some of the money will also go to behavioral health services and addiction hotlines for gamblers.

    #COWaterPlan: Analysis and Technical Update — @CWCB_DNR

    From the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

    In 2016, the CWCB launched an update and upgrade of the state’s supply and demand projection data and tools underpinning Colorado’s Water Plan. The process has come to be known as the Analysis and Technical Update to Colorado’s Water Plan (or simply, Technical Update, formerly “SWSI”). This statewide supply study serves two primary purposes to: (1) provide a consistent statewide framework for examining future water supply and demand under different scenarios and (2) provide tools and data for Basin Roundtables to update their Basin Implementation Plans and develop detailed local solutions to supply and demand gaps.

    The July 2019 CWCB Board and IBCC joint meeting marked the preliminary release of the Techincal Update. The final report was presented to the Board September 2019. The full July presentation was recorded and remains available for viewing on the CWCB YouTube channel.

    The 2019 Technical Update replaces the document known as the Statewide Water Supply Initiative 2010 (SWSI).

    The broad priorities of the Colorado Water Plan as put forward by Becky Mitchell in a June 20, 2017 presentation to three Front Range roundtables. The slide reflects the competing priorities in Colorado when it comes to water and rivers.

    Community Agriculture Alliance: Roundtable reaches out to community — Steamboat Today #COWaterPlan

    Niche ag, along the Yampa River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the Community Agriculture Alliance (Patrick Stanko and Mark Williams) via Steamboat Today:

    The Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable is one of nine basin roundtables in Colorado established to address the ever-increasing water challenges facing our state.

    As part of its mission and to meet the Colorado Water Plan, the roundtable is developing an Integrated Water Management Plan for the Yampa River Basin that best represents the interests and needs of all water users. These interests include agricultural, recreational, environmental, municipal, industrial and water providers. The first phase of the Management Plan focuses on the Yampa River main stem and the Elk River basin.

    In order to make the Management Plan a success, the roundtable seeks to provide the community with meaningful opportunities to participate and provide valuable input for the Management Plan. To do this, two subcommittees where formed — stakeholder and technical — to complete related tasks.

    The stakeholder subcommittee is working to implement a community outreach program designed to listen and learn in an open communication process. This subcommittee will provide a forum for dialogue on water related issues for all water users, including agriculture, recreational, municipal and environmental aspects of a healthy river.

    The technical subcommittee was formed to look at the science-based river health for each of the identified geographic segments. One of the many related tasks is working with a private engineering contractor to conduct 40 to 50 voluntary water diversion assessments within the Yampa River Basin.

    The goal is to learn more about the diversion effectiveness and incorporated environment aspects at the diversion site. Ultimately, this may help identify water projects that have positive impacts for the water diversion and broader river health.

    The Management Plan recognizes the importance of agriculture to the Yampa River Basin. One of the roundtable priorities is to protect and maintain agricultural water rights in the region in consideration of increasing water demands and water availability fluctuations. Another goal is to help identify potential funding for water infrastructures that have multiple benefits and are in need of improvement for interested and volunteering agricultural stakeholders.

    Two segment coordinators, Gena Hinkemeyer and Jerry Albers, are working as contractors on this project to listen, learn and seek input from agricultural stakeholders. Hinkemeyer has lived in the Yampa Valley for most of her life and will be working in the lower and middle Yampa River regions. Albers has lived in Stagecoach for the last 15 years and will be working in the Upper Yampa and the Elk River Basin.

    We will be reaching out to members of the agricultural community to better understand water related issues confronting agriculture and seek input on planning efforts. If you are interested and would like to learn more visit the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable site at http://yampawhitegreen.com.

    Patrick Stanko and Mark Williams are with the Community Agriculture Alliance.

    The latest “#GunnisonRiver Basin News” is hot off the presses

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

    Funding opportunities in the Gunnison River Basin

    Funding opportunities for water projects that help improve and conserve water and land resources can be found on http://gunnisonriverbasin.org, including:

  • US Department of Agriculture federal grants and loans
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board state grants and loans
  • Additional Grant Funding Opportunities
  • Click here to view a table of grand funding opportunities.

    Upper Gunnison watershed May 2019. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    The Southeastern #Colorado Water Conservancy District supports Proposition DD

    Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

    District Supports Sports Betting for Water Projects

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board of Directors [September 17, 2019] voted to support a measure that would allow sports betting in Colorado as a revenue source for water projects.

    Proposition DD would provide money for water projects by collecting a tax of 10 percent on net proceeds from sports betting operations at casinos in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek. Proponents say this could amount to $10 million to $16 million annually. The money would be part of the funding package for Colorado’s Water Plan.

    “It ties into the water plan, but would be just one of the methods to generate revenues,” said Alan Hamel, a member of the Southeastern board.

    The board voted 10-3 to support Proposition DD.

    The water plan calls for $3 billion in new revenue for water projects over a 30-year period beginning in 2020.

    Proposition DD was placed on the Nov. 5 ballot as a referendum by the Colorado General Assembly under HB1327.

    The Southeastern District is the sponsor for one of the state’s largest pending water projects, the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a pipeline project that will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. The Bureau of Reclamation estimates the AVC will cost $600 million, of which 35 percent will be paid by sources within Colorado.

    Photo credit Dave Scadden Paddlesports.

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

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

    Leaders Across the 9 Colorado Basins Collaborate on Water Plan in Winter Park

    On September 25 – 26, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) hosted a statewide summit of Colorado’s nine basin roundtables (the C-9 Summit) at the Headwaters Center in Winter Park, which brought together over 200 water stakeholders to discuss the process for updating each basins’ implementation plans and, ultimately, the Colorado Water Plan.

    CWCB recently released the Analysis and Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan (Technical Update), which includes state of the art approaches to analyzing state water needs and includes impacts from climate change. The C-9 Summit provided a forum for sharing Technical Update findings and highlighting key goals for the upcoming Basin Implementation Plans.

    Prior to the panel presentations and discussions, the CWCB organized three water project tours for attendees, which featured Fraser River enhancements, watershed health research in the Experimental Forest, and an innovative education and outreach exhibit called the Headwaters Center River Journey.

    Additionally, the C-9 Summit served as a platform to present Basin Water Hero Awards to peer-nominated individuals who have shown continued commitment for water initiatives in their basins. Congratulations to the following winners:

    Arkansas: Chelsey Nutter, Colorado: Paul Bruchez, Gunnison: Julie Nania, Metro: Emily Hunt, North Platte: Kent Crowder, Rio Grande: Emma Reesor, South Platte: Mike Shimmin, Southwest: Mike Preston, Yampa-White-Green: Jackie Brown

    Proposition DD garners support from state legislators

    State Capitol May 12, 2018 via Aspen Journalism

    Here’s a guest column that’s running in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

    Proposition DD isn’t a tax increase on citizens or most businesses. DD requires that casinos pay a tax on the profits from sports betting in a similar way they pay taxes on other casino earnings. It allows Colorado Mountain Casinos to offer sports betting, which is something they aren’t able to participate in.

    In 1992, Congress gave Las Vegas a monopoly on sports betting, through an ill-conceived measure in an omnibus package. Thankfully, the Supreme Court overturned this ridiculous law, last year, in the case of Murphy v. The National Collegiate Athletic Association. Justice Alito wrote in the majority opinion that the regulation of sports betting should be left to the states. Our response to this opportunity: Proposition DD.

    Proposition DD authorizes operating mountain casinos to offer sports betting, so Las Vegas doesn’t maintain their monopoly. It also allows for a small tax on these same casinos’ profits. The revenue from this tax goes to regulation costs, gambling addiction services, and the Colorado Water Plan.

    While Colorado’s population continues to explode, competition for water is reaching a fevered pitch. It’s time for Colorado to take action to preserve the future of our water. Proposition DD will address water infrastructure needs.

    Proposition DD would provide an estimated $29 million in funding to expand reservoirs, invest in water quality, manage watersheds decimated by wildfires, and protect access to flowing rivers and streams for fishermen and rafters. Conservatives and citizens who recognize the importance of water to the future of our great state — should vote yes.

    DD will provide the funding necessary to protect Colorado’s water. It addresses core challenges like the need for water infrastructure with targeted approaches that do not increase taxes on the general public. By doing this, we keep the pressure for new taxes off the taxpayers in our great state.

    Colorado must seek ways to address infrastructure needs without resorting to major tax hikes or the weakening of your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. There is zero need to resort to these measures to fix Colorado’s infrastructure needs. That is why Proposition DD is a reasonable proposal that engages our needs while maintaining low taxes.

    Sports betting would be a new enterprise for Colorado, but Proposition DD would limit this enterprise to existing casinos and gambling establishments. It is a modest approach to the gambling industry, while still being viable enough to address our state’s obligations. If the voters approve Proposition DD in November, it is a win for agriculture, a win for the environment, and a win for all Coloradoans.

    That’s why, as conservative Republicans, we are proud to join the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Farm Bureau, the Colorado Dairy Farmers, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Trust, Club 20, Action 22, the Grand Junction, Rangeley, and Denver Chambers, and dozens of key water leaders in rural, urban and suburban Colorado in supporting Proposition DD.

    The following Colorado legislators contributed to this column: Senate: John Cooke, Owen Hill, Rob Woodward, Don Coram. House: Patrick Neville, Mark Catlin, Matt Soper, Janice Rich, Dave Williams, Kevin Van Winkle, Rod Pelton, Shane Sandridge, Colin Larson.

    Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on Propositions CC, DD — Steamboat Today

    From the Steamboat Today editorial board:

    Coloradoans are being asked to decide two statewide ballot issues this fall, and we encourage voters to approve both measures, which have garnered widespread bipartisan support.

    Proposition CC

    Proposition CC proposes to eliminate the state’s revenue cap and reallocate that excess revenue to fund transportation and education. It is not a new tax but instead, would allow the state to retain tax revenue rather than refunding it back to taxpayers. The retained revenue would be equally divided and specifically spent on public schools, higher education and transportation projects.

    The proposition mandates that the third of the revenue earmarked for transportation be divided between the Colorado Department of Transportation, counties and cities. According to Steamboat Springs City Council member Kathi Meyer, who serves on the executive board of the Colorado Municipal League, which has endorsed Proposition CC, Steamboat and Routt County stand to gain millions of dollars in revenue that can be spent on local roads and bridges during years when there is a Taxpayers Bill of Rights — or TABOR — excess.

    In addition to helping to fund Colorado’s crumbling transportation infrastructure, Proposition CC would also boost funding for education, which we think is crucial to the future of our state, which currently ranks in the bottom third of the nation when it comes to per-pupil funding at the K-12 level.

    Proposition CC also requires an annual audit of funding, which ensures transparency and allows taxpayers to know exactly how money is being spent.

    We realize that Proposition CC is a De-Brucing at the state level, but we believe TABOR needs to be addressed due to the unintended consequences it has had on the state’s ability to fund core services. Proposition CC provides a mechanism to address TABOR’s flaws, and that is one of the reasons why we believe it deserves voter support.

    Proposition DD

    With broad support from across the state and at the capitol, Proposition DD seems like a no-brainer. The proposition is asking voters to legalize casino sports betting and tax profits to fund the Colorado Water Plan, and we think the measure deserves a resounding “yes” vote.

    DD, if approved, will provide a dedicated, predictable revenue stream to help address Colorado’s future water needs. Funding from DD will help keep water in rural Colorado through the support of projects that are prioritized by the state’s various basin roundtables. And with the Yampa River flowing through downtown Steamboat, our communities know first-hand how important water and water quality are to recreation and our local agriculture community.

    Sports betting is going to happen whether DD is approved or not, and we believe it’s smart for Colorado to tax it and use that revenue to fund water projects. The proposition also will create a regulated betting market as opposed to the black market, and a small portion of the revenue will be used to support resources to combat gambling addiction — an amount that was established with input from key stakeholders.

    Supporters of Proposition DD offer a great analogy for how they believe the proposition will impact Colorado. They think DD will do for water what Great Outdoors Colorado, funded by the Colorado Lottery, did for open space across the state.

    DD won’t provide the $20 billion needed to meet all of Colorado’s water demands, but it does create a significant down payment that can be leveraged in a big way.

    Ninety percent of the revenue will be placed in a cash fund for Colorado Water Plan implementation. This fund will support the allocation of grants to support projects that focus on water storage, supply, water conservation, land use, agriculture, the environment and recreational uses, which all have the potential to positively affect our local community.

    A screenshot from the website for Colorado’s Water Plan.

    From Colorado Politics (Joey Bunch):

    The group Yes on Proposition DD said the coalition of ag interests in support includes the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Corn Growers Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, the Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Pork Producers and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union…

    “Most farmers and ranchers could care less about sports betting. But this is a smart way to pay for the critical water infrastructure that Colorado’s future needs,” Chad Vorthmann, the executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said in a statement.

    Sports betting ballot question off to a slow start in early polling; backers raise $430,000+ for ads — @WaterEdCO

    The broad priorities of the Colorado Water Plan as put forward by Becky Mitchell in a June 20, 2017 presentation to three Front Range roundtables. The slide reflects the competing priorities in Colorado when it comes to water and rivers.

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    With just weeks left before the Nov. 5 election, a proposal that would legalize sports betting in casinos, then use the proceeds to help pay for water infrastructure and environmental programs, has yet to win widespread recognition from the public.

    Backers say that could change this week with the launch of a wave of television ads touting Proposition DD, as the sports betting proposal is known.

    As of Sept. 17, Yes on Proposition DD had raised more than $433,000, according to filings at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. It is money that analysts said could be enough to push it to a successful vote in November. The funds came from some Central City casinos, a New York-based gaming company, FanDuel, and the Environmental Defense Fund, among others.

    But much work remains to be done to educate voters on what the measure would accomplish, backers said.

    “It’s not a slam dunk,” said Colorado House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, who was a sponsor of the bill that referred the measure to the ballot so that voters could weigh in. “There’s a lot on the line here.”

    As written, DD would impose a 10 percent tax on sports betting in casinos and dedicate the tax revenue to helping fund the Colorado Water Plan, launched at the end of 2015. Initial estimates by the legislature indicate DD could raise $10 million to $20 million a year to go toward implementing the water plan. The money would flow into a new fund overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). It could be used for a variety of purposes, including water-saving programs for cities and farms, habitat restoration programs, storage projects, and legal and planning work.

    Since 2015, the CWCB has financed the water plan using income derived from severance taxes, the state’s general fund and other sources. Those amounts have varied widely, with the state setting aside $30 million this year, up from $5 million in 2015, according to the CWCB.

    Even as lawmakers were sending Proposition DD to the ballot, another group, For the Love of Colorado, was examining ways to secure even more funding for water projects. It hopes to sponsor a second statewide ballot initiative in future years, say in 2020 or 2021, that would raise far more than DD will generate.

    They look at DD as a sort of down payment on the $3 billion in additional funding the state has previously estimated it needs to fully implement the water plan between now and 2050, including projects to protect streams and rivers even as new water supply projects are developed to meet looming shortages.

    “Tax measures are really hard in Colorado,” said Brian Jackson, a western water specialist with the Environmental Defense Fund and a key architect of DD. “They all die, even for things people care deeply about — roads, children, education. But DD is an opportunity that couldn’t be missed, so we’re not missing it. It’s a good down payment. But we have a lot of hard work to do.”

    Key among the tasks backers must accomplish is to clarify, despite ballot language that describes a statewide increase in taxes, that the measure would actually raise taxes only on casinos who implement sports betting programs, Garnett said.

    Polls conducted last month in Adams County by pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli showed 40 percent of likely Adams County voters supported the measure, with 42 percent opposing it and 18 percent undecided.

    Gary Wockner, founder of Save the Colorado, is chair of the issue committee opposing DD. In an email, Wockner said his group would battle any effort that raises money for environmentally damaging water projects.

    “We oppose DD because it would pay for new river-destroying dams and diversions,” Wockner said in an email. Coloradans for Climate Justice, as the anti-DD campaign is known, also states on its Facebook page that it sees DD as a tax on Coloradans to pay for damage caused by climate change on the state’s river systems, and that “if taxes are to be raised, they should be raised on entities which caused climate change, principally the fossil fuel corporations.”

    Ciruli and others said that Coloradans for Climate Justice will have difficulty defeating DD without cash to launch a statewide opposition movement. The committee had not raised any money according to its last finance filing. Wockner did not respond to a question regarding his committee’s fundraising to date.

    With campaign coffers full, DD could get a yes from Coloradans, Ciruli said.

    “The public, over the years, has demonstrated that water is very valued and the water plan itself was popular,” Ciruli said. “Right now, beyond extreme environmental interests, [DD] isn’t generating much opposition. It could be a good sell.”

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org.

    #ColoradoRiver District looks to sports-betting tax to help fund #COWaterPlan — The Montrose Press

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Montrose Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

    The river district, which represents 15 western Colorado counties, including Montrose, recently announced its board backs Proposition DD. The ballot proposition would both legalize sports betting in the state and direct most of the revenue from it to implementing the water plan, including a possible water-demand management program to address the multi-state Colorado River Compact.

    Prop DD also places a 10-percent tax on net proceeds of casinos that offer sports betting…

    As described by the river district, revenues from sports betting could then be used for Water Plan Implementation Grants that fund water projects in: agriculture; conservation and land use; water supply and infrastructure; engagement and innovation and environmental and recreation. The revenues could also be used to ensure compliance with interstate water compacts.

    Prop DD is estimated to bring in between $10 and $15 million per year — falling well short of the estimated $100 billion annual funding gap for water plan implementation.

    From Westword (Conor McCormick-Cavanagh):

    Despite the focus on water in these DD spots, money for the campaign is barely trickling in from water-industry stakeholders. Instead, 97.5 percent of the $403,000 donated to the Yes on Proposition DD campaign in the first eleven days of September has come from the gaming industry, though betting is largely an afterthought in these commercials…

    The Proposition DD ballot question reads: “Shall state taxes be increased by twenty-nine million dollars annually to fund state water projects and commitments and to pay for the regulation of sports betting through licensed casinos by authorizing a tax on sports betting of ten percent of net sports betting proceeds, and to impose the tax on persons licensed to conduct sports betting?”

    Asked why the ads focus on the water plan, Hubbard says that the commercials are designed to help make up for what he considers confusing wording on the ballot proposal. “One of the challenges we’ve seen is that it’s unclear if you just read the ballot language that this is a tax that casinos pay and that the vast majority of the money raised goes to fund Colorado’s water plan. That’s what we’re trying to highlight for people,” Hubbard notes.

    Although the ballot language may be a bit convoluted, it’s clear where the Yes on Proposition DD campaign money is coming from.

    The August “#GunnisonRiver Basin News” is hot off the presses

    Click here to read the newsletter from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable. Here’s an excerpt:

    August in the Basin: High and Dry!

    Bountiful snowmelt and increased soil moisture conditions, resulted in “boomer” inflows, boosting basin reservoirs levels and causing an amazing recovery from last year’s low levels – this included Blue Mesa, Colorado’s largest reservoir – with over 160 percent of average inflow volume. Although most of the snow has melted, the Upper Basin rivers are still flowing at higher than average rates, even in the face of drying conditions (July and August precipitation has been generally below average).

    Also, very importantly Lake Powell – the Upper Basin’s largest water storage and management facility received an inflow volume of 145% of average.

    Current conditions and Aspinall Unit operations

    Aspinall Unit dams

    The latest “Gunnison River Basin News” is hot off the presses from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable

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

    Snow Melt Promises to Fill Reservoirs

    While it is mid-July, when you look to the mountain peaks, you will likely see snowcaps – another reminder of the extraordinary winter Colorado experienced. We saw huge storms well into spring and cooler than average weather which kept snow on the ground longer than usual. In particular, cold temperatures in April and May helped boost snowpack levels to record highs. The snow and the resulting runoff is filling the reservoirs across Colorado.

    As reported on The Denver Channel.com, “The snowmelt boost couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Greg Smith, a hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. There’s a big sense of relief this year that we’ve kind of rebounded.” The forecast center’s conditions map indicates above average water supply forecasts for reservoirs.

    Say hello to FortheLoveofColorado.org #COWaterPlan

    Click here to go to the website and learn about what you can do to help implement the Colorado Water Plan:

    Everything you love about Colorado is connected back to water: kayaking, fishing, peaches, beer, the thriving economy. But the fact is, we’re using more water than the Colorado River supplies. Our population is booming. And snowpack, which feeds our rivers, has been below average all across Colorado most years since 2000. This year’s snowpack has been great, but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to how much we’ll need. So in order to keep this amazing state a great place to live, work, and do business we need to support Colorado’s Water Plan.

    From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

    Colorado has launched a public messaging campaign aimed at increasing public awareness of water scarcity as well as to promote the state’s water plan.

    The campaign, For the Love of Colorado, was created to educate the public about water conservation, leaning on sobering facts and figures about the Colorado River.

    For one, Colorado’s population is expected to double by 2050. The campaign also notes that 80% of the state’s water comes from snowpack runoff, which could shrink by as much as 50% by the end of the century.

    To avoid a slow-building water supply catastrophe, the state has drafted its own water plan — which integrates work done by Colorado’s nine Basin Roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and other organizations — since 2005 to implement water management plans.

    For the Love of Colorado is trying to push the water plan into the public consciousness, inviting residents to engage in the process and learn more about efforts to protect one of the most critical water supplies in the country.

    OPINION: Support for ‘Demand Management’ Water Policies — The Pagosa Daily Post #ColoradoRiver #COriver #DCP #aridification

    Hoover Dam. Photo credit: Air Wolfhound Flickr Creative Commons

    Here’s a guest column by Matt Rice, Bart Miller, and Aaron Citron that’s running in The Pagosa Daily Post:

    After 19 years of drought across the Colorado River Basin, we know that our state’s water supplies are vulnerable, and we can’t rely on fluctuations in the weather — or a season of above-average snowpack – for the water security we need.

    We are using more water than we have. As our population continues to grow, we need to implement structural, far-reaching conservation solutions to support healthy communities, businesses, and ecosystems. Although snow has been plentiful this winter, last year’s drought devastated local businesses, communities, and fish and wildlife across the state. We can’t afford to forget the images from just months ago: firefighters dropping gravel and mud on wildfires because there wasn’t enough water in the rivers, a first-ever “call” because of record-low water on the Yampa River, farmers standing in dry alfalfa fields, outfitters unable to operate because of low rivers, and fish so stressed from warm temperatures and low flows that anglers were urged to stay away.

    Governor Polis has already shown leadership in his commitment to funding Colorado’s Water Plan, which lays out a blueprint for addressing the risks and uncertainties of a continued dry future. In his State of the State address, Gov. Polis committed to providing bipartisan, sustainable funding for the plan, and pledged that his administration would do its part to implement the Plan. He commended the work of his predecessor, Governor Hickenlooper, but acknowledged that there is much more work to do. He also requested $30 million this year to help pay for the water plan.

    We recently learned that the budget proposed to the Colorado legislature would cut this $30 million in proposed funding down to $10 million. This reduction primarily cuts funding to lay the groundwork for the implementation of a multi-state Colorado River strategy that will be reviewed by Congress this week. The conservation strategies envisioned in that process can increase our water security and introduce more flexible water management strategies to the benefit of all Coloradans.

    To implement this program, all Colorado River Basin states will need to reduce their use of water for the benefit of the whole system. In Colorado, this “demand management” would be a voluntary and market-based approach to conservation. It would be a flexible, dynamic way to provide greater water security, with benefits for the entire Colorado River Basin. The program would pay willing water users like farmer, ranchers, industries, cities and towns to temporarily reduce their water consumption, thereby keeping more water in our rivers and reservoirs. Those reductions can result from temporarily reducing the number of acres under irrigation or switching to crops that use less water, or similarly instituting drought restrictions in cities and towns.

    This multi-state program, including demand management, is premised on stabilizing the levels in the Colorado River Basin’s largest reservoirs, providing greater certainty that we will have enough water in dry times. Conserved water would then be delivered to Colorado’s water “bank account” in Lake Powell, supporting the health of our rivers along the way. These increased water-flows support small businesses, rural communities, the outdoor recreation industry, and river habitats as well as birds and other wildlife.

    On March 19, seven Colorado River Basin states finalized their drought contingency plans (DCPs), setting the stage for a more secure water future. A key part of the DCP for Colorado is the opportunity to store saved water in Lake Powell. It’s now up to Colorado to create a demand management program and starting putting water into it. Colorado has an opportunity to start building the framework we need to protect our water, but we can’t do it without the resources and support to construct proactive conservation measure like our demand management program.

    We know how critical it is to protect our state’s rivers, provide clean, reliable drinking water supplies for our communities, and preserve our agricultural heritage. Colorado has made some progress toward implementing the Water Plan, but further action and investment is urgently needed.

    Authors of this essay include Matt Rice, American Rivers; Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates; and Aaron Citron, The Nature Conservancy.

    2019 #COleg: Current version of SB19-207 (FY 2019-20 Long Bill) still includes funding for #COWaterPlan

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    Colorado lawmakers, citing lower revenue forecasts and competing needs, have dramatically reduced proposed funding for the Colorado Water Plan and Colorado River drought work, providing roughly one-third of what Gov. Jared Polis had requested in his budget for this year.

    This year, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the agency charged with overseeing the state water plan and developing the Colorado River drought contingency plan, said it would have $30 million to work with as a result of the governor’s request.

    Of that, $20 million would be used to pursue work on a historic, multiyear initiative to find ways to reoperate reservoirs and voluntarily cut back water use to relieve pressure on the drought-stricken Colorado River. The rest would go toward grants to fund entities across the state that are working to implement the Colorado Water Plan.

    But lawmakers aren’t required to honor all budget requests from governors, and Joint Budget Committee members said they would provide just $10 million.

    That appropriation leaves intact the $1.7 million the Colorado Water Conservation Board had budgeted this year to do public outreach and technical studies for the drought contingency plan.

    The rest, $8.3 million, will be used to fund water plan grants over the next three years and comes in addition to the annual funding toward water plan implementation that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been providing from its budget.

    Even with the reduction, state officials said they are pleased that, for the first time since it was finalized in 2015, general fund money is being dedicated to the water plan.

    Polis’ office said the new general fund allocation is an important step forward.

    “There is always more work to do, but we are excited the JBC has provided unprecedented general funds to make progress toward the state’s water plan,” the office said in a statement.

    Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said the reduction in funds is manageable. “The $1.7 million we had expected for this year is still there. And we have $8.3 million for the water plan. With that, we feel like we can still move forward.”

    Two weeks ago, the Colorado Water Conservation Board formally approved the drought contingency plan effort and expects to begin recruiting people to serve on several public drought work groups this week…

    Colorado water leaders have been pleading with the state to move quickly on the drought contingency plan to ensure there is some protection should Colorado and its neighboring states in the Upper Colorado River Basin be unable to meet legal obligations to deliver water to Arizona, California and Nevada.

    This year’s task is to determine if there is an equitable way to cut back on water use, where and how those cutbacks would occur, how to measure the reductions and how to protect the environment, local economies and the legal rights of water users while the drought plan is in effect. Up to 500,000 acre-feet of the water saved through such efforts, known as demand management, could be stored in Lake Powell via the new seven-state drought agreement.

    Despite the need for action, Andy Mueller, general manager of the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, said the enormity of crafting a statewide demand management plan requires that the state be prudent in data gathering and analysis.

    “If you do the math on voluntary, compensated demand management, you know it will cost tens of millions of dollars a year to run. That is a frightening concept, but in a complex situation like this, where there are so many multifaceted components, you have to plan.”

    Financing water projects in Colorado has rarely been easy, particularly in small, rural communities or when there is no clear connection to taxpayers. After finalizing the Colorado Water Plan in 2015, officials estimated the state would need roughly $100 million a year to fully fund it and help close the gap on water shortages the state is likely to face by 2030.

    Four years later, though, little progress has been made on securing a permanent funding source, although several nonprofits, such as the Walton Family Foundation, together with the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee are exploring funding options, including a possible ballot initiative in coming years. The committee represents the state’s eight major river basins plus the Denver metro area and was involved in the Colorado Water Plan’s development.

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

    The state Senate on Thursday adopted Colorado’s $30.5 billion budget, often termed the “long bill,” for 2019-20 and sent it on to the state House for the next step.

    The budget includes a last-minute compromise between Senate Democrats and Republicans, who have been at war for the past two weeks in an effort to delay action on items like the “red flag” bill and other measures.

    The compromise added $106 million to the state’s transportation funding, using existing general fund revenues. With that addition, the Colorado Department of Transportation might have $336 million in one-time money available for road and bridge projects. That amendment still must be adopted by the House in order to be included in the final budget.

    Despite the compromise, lawmakers indicated they are nervous about the prospects of another recession and what it could do to the state budget. That included Joint Budget Committee Chair and Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, who noted a recent revenue forecast “erased” $250 million in expected revenues, due to a growing economic slowdown.

    The budget did not increase the state’s rainy-day fund, which would help weather such a downturn. As passed by the Senate, the rainy-day fund is at 7.25 percent of general fund revenue, or about $843 million. However, economists have warned that Colorado needs a rainy-day fund at least double that amount to survive even a moderate recession. A slowdown like 2008’s Great Recession would require $2 billion, according to a George Mason University study from a couple of years ago.

    While most of the budget package sailed through, one bill drew more opposition than one might expect. Senate Bill 212 puts $10 million in general fund revenue into continued implementation of the state water plan. But that’s $20 million less than was sought by the previous administration (Gov. Jared Polis didn’t say one way or the other how he felt about it) and for the first time tapped general fund dollars, rather than severance tax revenues.

    #RioGrande “State of the Basin” recap #COWaterPlan

    Map of the Rio Grande watershed. Graphic credit: WikiMedia

    From the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District via The Monte Vista Journal:

    During the 2019 “State of the Basin Symposium” at Adams State University, the Rio Grande Basin was reminded that Colorado has a water plan as Heather Dutton, manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District and Rio Grande Basin representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, shared some insights on the Colorado Water Plan.

    Officially completed on Nov. 19, 2015 by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the statewide effort followed an Executive Order from Governor John Hickenlooper and represents a great deal of work and input from many experts across the state. Dutton opened her remarks by giving a brief history of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District. Next, she turned the focus of her presentation to some of the components of the plan and the work of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Dutton noted that the plan was designed to address the major water issues that Colorado faces. Some of the key areas that the plan focuses on include agriculture, conservation, land use, the supply-demand gap, storage, and watershed health environment, funding, and outreach and education. The plan has been called a roadmap for the future of Colorado’s water. There are numerous goals that the plan has outlined such as maximizing alternatives to permanent agriculture dry-up and the promotion of water efficiency ethic for all Coloradans. The overarching goal of the plan is to help Colorado meet its water needs relative to growing population levels and reach a degree of sustainability by 2030.
    Dutton also mentioned the Colorado Water Plan Grant Program, which is the funding portion of the plan that is designed to provide needed financial assistance for vital water projects across the state. “The CWCB is putting its money where its mouth is,” said Dutton.

    Dutton further noted that part of the process of creating the plan included gathering input from each of Colorado’s respective basin roundtables. Each basin was required to submit its own plan. This led to the Rio Grande Basin Implementation Plan. The result was the San Luis Valley water community having a voice in the entire process. Dutton acknowledged the work of many of the leaders that were present.

    While the implementation process is ongoing, Dutton expressed optimism that Colorado Water Plan will continue help the Rio Grande Basin and the rest of the state see a brighter future when it comes to water.