Two trips around the Sun for the #COWaterPlan

Here’a report from Marianne Goodland) writing in Colorado Politics. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The 567-page plan sets nine goals, but its biggest focus is for a subset: Conservation and storage, with agricultural sharing and water recycling further down the list. The conservation goal asks for savings of 400,000 acre-feet of water, most of it to be born by municipal water providers and their customers. Storage needs hit the same number — 400,000 acre-feet — a gap that is most likely to be handled by water providers through new or expanded storage projects, such as those currently in the works in the Northern Front Range: the Windy Gap Firming Project, scheduled to break ground for a new reservoir near Loveland in 2019, and the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which is planning new reservoirs on the Poudre and South Platte rivers.

Now that the water plan has hit its two-year anniversary, what kind of progress has the water plan made? It depends on who you ask. Those who favor more storage, particularly in northern and northeastern Colorado, claim not enough money is being devoted to increasing storage capacity. Those who favor environmental goals say not enough money is being spent in that area, either.

According to a draft implementation update that is likely to become public in December, the water plan has made significant progress in the past year. That includes:

• Water plan grants to begin addressing the supply-demand gap: $2 million was set aside from a $10 million appropriation from the General Assembly in 2017 to pay for nine water plan grants, which the draft update said would reduce the municipal/industrial water supply gap by 48,000 acre-feet.

• Integrated water resource planning, part of the conservation goal: 22 water providers have submitted water efficiency plans to the CWCB, with 18 approved and 4 in review. These plans allow water providers to set local goals on indoor and outdoor conservation activities, including incentives, regulations, education and pricing mechanism. The CWCB has so far awarded more than $800,000 in grants for conservation planning and public education.

• $1 million (out of the $10 million for the water plan) to conservation and land use activities, drought planning, water meter replacements and projects to reduce water loss.

• The water plan sets an objective that by 2050, 75 percent of Coloradans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving activities into land-use planning. The draft implementation report notes that the CWCB has teamed up with other organizations and state agencies to train more than 300 participants on how to integrate water and land-use planning.

• The water plan sets a goal of finding 50,000 acre-feet of water through agricultural sharing. In the past two years, the draft implementation report said, the CWCB and its partners have worked on education and assistance programs for farmers and ranchers that will promote water sharing, as well as $1 million for grant and loan programs that would improve aging agricultural infrastructure or other water efficiency projects.

• Under the goal of increasing water storage, the draft report notes a study underway to investigate storage possibilities along the South Platte, primarily near Sterling. The results of that study are expected relatively soon.

• Another $3 million funds water projects that will lead to the development of additional storage, according to the draft implementation report. That includes recharging water into aquifers and expanding existing reservoirs to provide more storage…

One of the organizations that has worked with the CWCB on water projects is Western Resource Advocates. Drew Beckwith, water policy manager, told Colorado Politics recently that the state has made good progress in the first two years, and that $10 million per year is “a sound start.”

The problem and urgency, as Beckwith sees it, is how to meet clean, safe and reliable drinking water standards and protect rivers. “We have to pick up the pace” to protect clean drinking water and preserve Colorado’s agricultural heritage, he said.

Progressive 15 Ag-Water Conference recap #COWaterPlan

Yuma Colorado circa 1925

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief advisor on water issues, told the Progressive 15 Ag-Water Conference Wednesday that Denver already has made great strides in water conservation, but now storage is needed to meet ever-growing demand.

“Denver is using the same amount of water today as it did 30 years ago, but serving 350,000 more people,” Stulp said. “Denver Water has said we cannot water the next 5 million people like we did the first five million people in Colorado.”

Stulp alluded to the supply-demand gap of 560,000 acre feet by 2050, most of which will be in the South Platte River Basin. That number comes out of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, commissioned by Hickenlooper two years earlier.

If nothing is done to close that gap, Stulp said, between 500,000 and 700,000 acres of irrigated ag land will be lost, in addition to the 1 million acres already lost over the past century.

“It’s not that we’re gonna run out of water, but we’re gonna get it somewhere else, from agriculture or the Western Slope, and we’re both feeling the pressure,” he said.

The major hurdle in providing storage is financing. Water storage projects, of whatever form they take, are expensive, and the costs are going up all the time, Stulp said. While the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has struggled to build the Windy Gap Firming Project for water storage near Loveland, the cost of building the project rises by about $1 million a month.

“In terms of funding (water storage) we need to invest $20 billion in the next 20 to 30 years, and a lot of that is going to come from rate payers,” he said. “But even at that, there’s still a $3 billion gap, and there’s no obvious source for that funding.”

A traditional source of water funding, Colorado’s severance tax revenues, have declined sharply lately as the oil and gas industry has endured a prolonged slump in the U.S. Combined with a judgment against Colorado that forces the state to refund $125 million because tax deductions were not properly calculated, Stulp said, the severance tax fund could actually run a deficit in the near future.

There may be other sources of revenue, however. Stulp said one idea being batted around is a penny-per-bottle fee on bottled water.

“Apparently, we drink a lot of bottled water in Colorado,” he said, “so we may see that as a source of revenue down the road.”

Basin roundtable boundaries

Stulp said there is reason to be optimistic about the state’s water future. He said the nine river basin roundtables — one in each of the state’s eight river basins and one for metro Denver — are working together like never before to resolve the water shortage.

“We’ve got people working together who never saw each other except in court when they sued each other,” he said. “But now they’re collaborating, and that’s a very good thing.”

@AmericanRivers: The big picture of @ColoradoWaterPlan – two years in

Click here to listen to the podcast. From the American Rivers website:

Last week, the state celebrated the second anniversary of Colorado’s Water Plan. Over the last two years, the state has made solid progress funding grants to advance water projects and increase funding for stream management plans. However, the challenges identified in the plan are significant. A swelling population is stretching our water resources, and climate change is having an impact, by reducing flows on the Colorado River. We need to pick up the pace toward implementing all of the Plan’s water solutions if we are to reach our goal of securing clean reliable water for our communities, preserving our agricultural heritage, and protecting our rivers. Over the next few months, We Are Rivers will highlight the Colorado Water Plan through a series of episodes breaking down the opportunities, challenges, and successes to date from Colorado’s Water Plan. Join us for the first installment, as we look back at the last two years of the water plan and identify a sustainable path forward.

Growing up in New York, I envied the posters pinned up in my middle school hallways that honored Colorado landscapes like the Maroon Bells, Dinosaur National Monument, the Great Sand Dunes, and of course the Colorado River as it weaves through canyons and deserts. But moving to Colorado six years ago, tacking on to Colorado’s growing population, I haven’t exactly made life easier for the state’s water managers. Without the native badge, I empathize with the influx of people flooding into Colorado who have recreational fervor, career hopes, and of course adventure in mind, straining the West’s already overtapped water supply.

Colorado’s population is projected to double by 2050, with most of the growth occurring on the Front Range, where about 80% of the people live. With about 80% of the state’s water coming from west slope snowpack, the imbalance is striking. Additionally, like many other states across the Southwest, Colorado is experiencing higher temperatures, reduced precipitation, and earlier and faster runoff. With growing population and climate change impacts, how can Colorado work to close our gap in supply and demand? Through increased collaboration, dialogue, and efficiencies, the Colorado Water Plan sets out to address this grand dilemma.

The Colorado Water Plan sets a goal of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water by 2050. By 2025, if the Water Plan objectives are met, 75% of Coloradans will live in communities that have water-saving actions incorporated into land-use planning. Furthermore, by 2030, the plan sets out to A) re-use and share at least 50,000 acre-feet of water amongst agricultural producers, B) cover 80% of locally prioritized rivers with Stream Management Plans, and C) ensure 80% of critical watersheds with Watershed Protection Plans. In order for a project to utilize the Water Plan’s budget to meet these goals, the proposed conservation project must be appropriate in that it addresses real needs and is cost-effective, sustainable, and supported by local stakeholders.

The state has taken a great step forward by allocating $10 million per year for Water Plan Implementation grants. While this is a first step, we must further fund the plan’s broader strategies as well. Public investment in water projects must be smart, which starts with meeting all of the “criteria” in the Colorado Water Plan. Before any new, significant projects are proposed, the state should apply all of the Water Plan’s criteria in order to demonstrate that the state is committed to investing in (or endorsing) only projects that use public resources wisely, protect rivers and wildlife, and reflect community values. The last two years have seen state funding disproportionately spent on costly structural projects while sustainable, cost-effective methods, such as water reuse and flexible water-sharing agreements have been undervalued and underfunded. Creative conservation projects are essential in upholding the Water Plan to sustain the natural beauty of Colorado’s rivers and streams and ensure a safe and reliable drinking water supply.

However, it is important to note that there is nothing legally binding in the Water Plan that requires Colorado to abide by its outlined goals. Therefore, the success of the plan solely relies on the motivation of everyday people to work together as a community to hold politicians and basin roundtables accountable with respect to the plan. I encourage you to learn more about where your water comes from and what you can do as an individual to reduce your water consumption. We all need to work collaboratively to reduce our demand for water.

As we celebrate the second anniversary of Colorado’s Water Plan, we have an opportunity, and a responsibility to rally behind the premise of the Plan, keeping Colorado beautiful and sustainable for all. Join us over the next few months as we dive into the mechanics of Colorado’s Water Plan, and why it is so important to see it succeed.

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Sterling: Northeast Livestock Symposium recap

North Sterling Reservoir

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Increased water conservation along Colorado’s Front Range doesn’t translate into increased water supplies in the farmlands along the South Platte River.

That was part of the message Jim Yahn had for the Northeast Livestock Symposium in Sterling Tuesday. Yahn, who is manager of the North Sterling and Prewitt reservoirs and who represents the South Platte Basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, briefed the three dozen people attending the symposium on the Colorado Water Plan of 2015 and how that plan is being put into effect.

Yahn repeated the assertion that, by 2030, the need for water in Colorado will exceed supplies by 560,000 acre feet, or 182 billion gallons per year, and most of that is here in the South Platte River Basin.

The Colorado Water Plan is the road map to closing that gap…

Yahn said the plan is important because developers along the Front Range, where the building and population booms continue unabated, have no plan to provide water for the growth other than to heavily promote water conservation. The Colorado Water Plan calls for conservation measures to save 400,000 acre feet of water per year by 2030. While conservation is important, Yahn said, it’s not nearly enough to close the gap between supplies and demand.

“When cities start conserving (water) less water comes downstream, and we rely on those return flows to irrigate,” he said. “So the 400,000 acre feet of conservation does not apply directly to the gap. It’s not a one-to-one return, one for one, so if municipality has xeriscaping, we don’t see that runoff down here for agricultural use.”

That’s why increasing storage is vital to closing the water gap by 2030, Yahn said. He told the symposium that $21 million in water supply reserve funds already has been approved to find new storage and more than $65.6 million in loans has approved since the governor’s receipt of the Colorado water plan two years ago.

Yahn also pointed to what are called “alternative methods of transfer” to temporarily move water from agricultural uses to non-ag uses when the water isn’t needed for irrigation. He said there are seven known ATMs in Colorado; two in the Arkansas River Basin, four in the South Platte basin and one in the Colorado River basin.

Two of the four in the South Platte basin are with the North Sterling Irrigation Co., which Yahn manages; one is for 3,000 acre feet with Xcel Energy for its Pawnee Generation Plant at brush, and one for 6,000 acre feet with BNN Energy for hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells in Weld County.

Yahn pointed out that ATMs aren’t a panacea to closing the water gap, but are better than permanent sale of irrigated crop land to obtain water rights.

Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Round Table seeks to fill 10 vacancies on board in November

Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Rio Blanco Times (Jennifer Hill):

The Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Round Table is a group of 32 stakeholders from Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties who work on local water issues. Established in 2005 when the Colorado General Assembly passed the Colorado Water Act for the 21st Century and officially beginning 2010 by order of the governor, the Round Table often uses studies, system modeling and projects with the goal of preserving the quantity and quality of water. Their goals include protecting the Y-W-G Basin from the Colorado River Compact curtailment of existing decreed water uses and some increment of future uses, protect and encourage agricultural uses of water in the Y-W-G Basin within the context of private property rights, improve agricultural water supplies to increase irrigated land and reduce shortages, identify and address municipal and industrial water shortages, quantify and protect non-consumptive water uses, maintain and consider the existing natural range of water quality that is necessary for current and anticipated water uses. They also seek to restore, maintain, and modernize water storage and distribution infrastructure while developing an integrated system of water use, storage, administration and delivery to reduce water shortages and meet environmental and recreational needs.

In November the Round Table will need to fill 10 vacancies on their board. Areas that will be open for re-election or new appointments include representatives for recreation, domestic water provider and industrial water user, as well as four at-large representatives plus three individuals or entities who reside outside the basin but own water rights within the basin. Eligibility requirements vary between the positions. Those interested in serving or seeking more information should contact April McIntyre, Round Table Administrative Assistant at 970-985-9924 or mcintyreapril6@gmail.com.

Those who are interested in protecting and directing the future of the Yampa, White and Green River Basins are encouraged to get involved. Changing population distributions and water demands across the west will only serve to raise the level of importance these rivers play making groups like the Round Table ever more vital.

Comment deadline for #COleg Water Resources Review committee for @COWaterPlan looms

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Under a bill approved by the Legislature in 2014 a year before the plan was implemented, the committee that reviews and suggests new legislation dealing with water issues is required to review specific elements of the plan.

Although it is not required to, the committee then can suggest bills altering that plan, but such measures would require the full approval of the Legislature and the governor.

The committee is scheduled to vote on final recommendations on the plan on Oct. 5.

The current plan, called for by Gov. John Hickenlooper back in 2013, sets a number of goals for water basins in the state to meet by 2050 in order to ensure there is enough water for a growing population, while still maintaining adequate in-stream flows for environmental and recreational purposes.

A new report released earlier this month updating how the plan is being implemented says those goals are being met.

#ColoradoRiver District seminar recap @ColoradoWater #CRDseminar #COriver

Rebecca Mitchell was named to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on July 5, 2017. Photo credit the Colorado Independent.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Becky Mitchell, who has been the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board for about two months, spoke Friday at the Colorado River District’s annual water seminar in Grand Junction.

She told attendees that when it comes to meeting the state’s water needs, “it’s really all hands on deck. Everyone here plays an important role. … What you’re doing is equally as important as anything we’re doing.”

Steps already taken by entities ranging from her agency to the river district to agricultural interests, environmental stakeholders and members of river basin roundtables “have really shown me that we are at a point where we’re ready to work together and that the success that we’ve had has been because of collaboration,” Mitchell said.

In comments to the group and in an interview, she addressed the monetary challenges for Colorado in meeting its future water needs. An initial estimate for paying for projects identified in the new water plan in coming decades was about $20 billion — already a daunting amount — but Mitchell’s agency now believes the price tag could be twice that much when the cost of water quality projects, generally involving water or wastewater treatment, are included.

The state water board is looking into the cost issue through a statewide water supply initiative analysis that is expected to come out next year…

She said it will be important to rely on a prioritization of projects by roundtable groups in each river basin. Also key is to focus on projects that provide multiple benefits, because having multiple interests in a project could lead to multiple sources of money to pay for it, she said.

“It’s not necessarily the responsibility of the state to come up with the entire amount to implement the water plan,” Mitchell said. “A lot of it goes back to the local level and how we can support work that’s being done on the ground.”

Mitchell worked on developing the plan as a staff member of her agency before being promoted after her predecessor, James Eklund, left to take a job as an attorney with a legal firm.

“We’re at a really important time in the state where we have a capability to make a big difference in how we’re looking at our water future. It’s an exciting time and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Mitchell said.

As for Eastern Slope/Western Slope water matters, “I am optimistic that we’ll be able to work through issues like we have done. When we’ve found solutions, it’s when we’ve come together regardless of the side of the (Continental) Divide. I think where we’re going to see solutions is where we come together,” she said.

Eric Kuhn along the banks of the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, general manager of the Colorado River District. Photo via the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

From KJCT8.com:

The Colorado River is the hardest working river in the world, that’s according to local experts. Hundreds of water experts are gathered in the valley to put together their game plan to tackle the biggest challenges facing the river.

The General Manager Colorado River Water Conservation District, Erik Kuhn, says there are a lot of ideas to better manage the Colorado River, before it runs out in southern California. In order to stretch the water even further, one idea is to move the waters in Lake Powell to Lake Mead.

“So it would allow for the recovery of lands that are now inundated by water in Lake Powell, natural recovery of those. It’s called the ‘Fill Mead First’. He’s talking about that. We don’t think that works very well for a number of reasons. But it’s one of those things that’s caught a lot of press attention of late,” Kuhn said.

The Colorado River helps supply water to people in Denver all the way to about 20 million people in the Los Angeles, California area.

The Colorado River Basin is divided into upper and lower portions. It provides water to the Colorado River, a water source that serves 40 million people over seven states in the southwestern United States. Colorado River Commission of Nevada