What’s Up With #Water – January 17, 2023 — Circle of Blue @circleofblue

Shasta Dam, north of Redding in California, is the only dam in the state a UC Davis study identified as being capable of replicating natural cold-water patterns for aquatic species. (Ron Lute/cc BY-NC 2.0)

Click the link to listen to the podcast on the Circle of Blue website (Eileen Wray-McCann):

A new report says that the world’s dams are filling up – but not in a good way. Rivers are depositing sediment into the reservoirs behind dams, reducing their capacity to hold water. Researchers affiliated with the United Nations calculated how much storage might be lost in the next three decades at the world’s 50,000 large dams. The report estimates that a quarter of the original water storage capacity will be lost by 2050 because of sediment buildup. This will hurt irrigation, power generation, and flood protection. The largest loss of storage capacity will occur in the United Kingdom, Panama, Ireland, and Japan, with the U.S, not far behind.

Arizona Rivers Map via Geology.com.

In Arizona, newly elected leaders wasted no time in tackling the state’s urgent water problems. Katie Hobbs was sworn in as governor on January 2 and began her term by calling water issues “the challenge of our time.” After a week in office, Hobbs established an expert council to recommend updates to the state’s groundwater laws. She also unveiled a previously unreleased report from the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Hobbs’s predecessor had withheld the report from the public. It shows that a high-growth area west of Phoenix does not have enough groundwater to sustain a planned mega-development of 100,000 homes. According to the Arizona Republic, homebuilders must now find other water supplies to finish the development. Hobbs said the area’s inadequate groundwater should be a wake-up call. She said “This report unequivocally shows that we have to act now, or this will only be the first new area that faces this kind of shortage.” Meanwhile, Arizona’s new attorney general hopes to undo a farming deal with a Saudi Arabian company that’s adding to local groundwater declines. Kris Mayes campaigned on a promise to repeal a land lease that the state made with Fondomonte. The firm got below-market rates, leasing 10,000 acres in western Arizona to grow alfalfa for export to Saudi Arabia as cattle feed. Residents in the area have seen their wells run dry as the farm pumps groundwater to irrigate the alfalfa.

Photo credit: Kim Delker/University of New Mexico

In New Mexico, some communities could get millions to rebuild their water systems after the largest wildfire in state history tore through their watershed last year. The funds are a lifeline for areas ravaged by a drying climate. They also underscore the financial and ecological vulnerability of small, impoverished communities in the face of extreme weather. In the this year’s budget, Congress allocated nearly one and a half billion dollars for post-fire recovery in New Mexico. That’s in addition to the two and a half billion dollars that lawmakers had already directed to the state, bringing the total amount of federal aid after the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire to nearly $4 billion. The year-end appropriations package included a line item of particular significance: $140 million for water treatment systems for communities in the area scarred by the fire. That includes the small town of Las Vegas, just 12 miles from where the fire started. Las Vegas has about 13,000 people. What is does not have is high-quality water. The town’s main water source, the Gallinas River, is surrounded by scars from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire. The fire ignited in April, after a prescribed burn by the U.S. Forest Service grew out of control. The fire was the largest on record in New Mexico, burning well over 300 thousand acres of public and private land. The Gallinas River used to be a clear stream, but is now is laden with sediment and suspended solids due to ash and soil erosion. That’s a serious problem for the water treatment operators in Las Vegas, according to the town utility director, Maria Gilvarry. The fire did not destroy the treatment system, but the effects of the fire have overwhelmed it. It’s not uncommon for the river water it’s processing to measure a hundred times murkier than before the fire. The current treatment system struggles under those conditions. Until a new treatment system is in place, the utility department is making do with temporary equipment to remove sediment. It is also re-calibrating the chemicals to purify drinking water so that the treatment process is more effective. Gilvarry said federal aid is an undeniable blessing for a predominantly Latino city where median household income is just over $34,000 — about half the national figure. The poverty rate in Las Vegas, New Mexico is above 30 percent. Gilvarry said that Federal aid is the only way the town’s water treatment project could advance so swiftly. As she put it: “Not on our own dime. This is a low-income community.”

As the #ColoradoRiver Shrinks, Washington Prepares to Spread the Pain — The New York Times #COriver #aridification

Water users are urgently trying to keep Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border from dropping to a point where Glen Canyon Dam can no longer generate electricity. (Source: Bureau of Reclamation)

Click the link to read the article on The New York Times website (Christopher Flavelle). Here’s an excerpt:

“Think of the Colorado River Basin as a slow-motion disaster,” said Kevin Moran, who directs state and federal water policy advocacy at the Environmental Defense Fund. “We’re really at a moment of reckoning.”

Negotiators say the odds of a voluntary agreement appear slim. It would be the second time in six months that the Colorado River states, which also include Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, have missed a deadline for consensus on cuts sought by the Biden administration to avoid a catastrophic failure of the river system. Without a deal, the Interior Department, which manages flows on the river, must impose the cuts. That would break from the century-long tradition of states determining how to share the river’s water. And it would all but ensure that the administration’s increasingly urgent efforts to save the Colorado get caught up in lengthy legal challenges. The crisis over the Colorado River is the latest example of how climate change is overwhelming the foundations of American life — not only physical infrastructure, like dams and reservoirs, but also the legal underpinnings that have made those systems work.

A century’s worth of laws, which assign different priorities to Colorado River users based on how long they’ve used the water, is facing off against a competing philosophy that says, as the climate changes, water cuts should be apportioned based on what’s practical. The outcome of that dispute will shape the future of the southwestern United States.

“We’re using more water than nature is going to provide,” said Eric Kuhn, who worked on previous water agreements as general manager for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “Someone is going to have to cut back very significantly.”

The rules that determine who gets water from the Colorado River, and how much, were always based, to a degree, on magical thinking…But the premise that the river’s flow would average 17.5 million acre-feet each year turned out to be faulty. Over the past century, the river’s actual flow has averaged less than 15 million acre-feet each year. For decades, that gap was obscured by the fact that some of the river’s users, including Arizona and some Native American tribes, lacked the canals and other infrastructure to employ their full allotment. But as that infrastructure increased, so did the demand on the river. Then, the drought hit. From 2000 through 2022, the river’s annual flow averaged just over 12 million acre-feet; in each of the past three years, the total flow was less than 10 million.

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradudall/status/1593316262041436160

Completion of High Line Canal Trail Colfax to I-70 to turn dirt starting January 30, 2023 — The City of #Aurora

High Line Canal Trail Project Overview Map. Credit: City of Aurora

Click the read about the projection on the City of Aurora website:

Construction Project Overview

The city of Aurora, in collaboration with American Civil Constructors, will start work Jan. 30 on a multi-use trail to close the gap along the High Line Canal between Colfax Avenue and recent improvements constructed north of I-70. 

The High Line Canal Trail construction project, which spans nearly two miles, will include:

  • A continuous 8-foot-wide concrete trail
  • Two pedestrian bridges (one to cross over the canal just south of Smith Road and one over I-70 just east of the Tower Road interchange)
  • An upgraded railroad crossing to promote pedestrian and cyclist safety
  • Access to the 71-mile High Line Canal Regional Trail within the metro area

Designed with community input, the new trail will provide close-to-home, accessible recreation opportunities within the community and serve a diverse population that may otherwise have limited opportunities to access natural areas. View additional details regarding the community input process, project files and more at EngageAurora.org/HLCT.

The city has been granted federal funds through the Denver Regional Council of Governments to help pay for the trail construction with city capital improvement funding used as a match amount. Additional funding partners consist of the Conservation Trust Fund, Adams County Open Space Grant, and the Adams County Open Space Tax Shareback.

Construction Updates

American Civil Constructors will begin work on the project’s south end and between East Colfax and East 19th avenues on the east side of Tower Road and along the canal.

Vehicular and pedestrian travelers can expect intermittent delays in these areas for the first two months. Alternate routes are recommended when possible.

The contractor also plans to start working on the bridge abutment just south of I-70 when the project kicks off.

Traffic impacts will be posted on this page as the project progresses.

Project Contact Information

Harlie Zehnder, JH Resources
720.460.0947 or highlinecanaltrail@gmail.com

Old cottonwoods line the banks and trails of the historic Highline Canal, which is being converted into an ultra modern stormwater system even as its trail systems continue to serve metro area residents. July 21, 2020 Credit: Jerd Smith via Water Education Colorado

Federal Government Advances Big #Water Projects: Congress focuses on flood protection and disaster recovery — Circle of Blue

Marsh Wren. Photo: Ramkumar Subramanian/Audubon Photography Awards

Click the link to read the article on the Circle of Blue website (Brett Walton):

While much of the country was relaxing over the winter holidays, federal lawmakers remained busy.

Before ending its session and swearing in new members, Congress passed a fiscal year 2023 budget with key provisions for water infrastructure and disaster recovery. That’s in addition to approving legislation that authorizes Army Corps of Engineers projects for flood protection, navigation, and environmental restoration.

Combined, the two bills run to more than 8,000 pages. Water sector advocates, though confounded by how some infrastructure funds are being allocated, were generally pleased with what the bills contain.

“Anybody who cares about water should be excited about what we accomplished at the end of last year,” Mae Stevens told Circle of Blue. Stevens, who works with environmental groups and utilities, is chair of the water practice at Banner Public Affairs, a lobby group.

The Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, is the legislation that authorizes Army Corps of Engineers projects. The bill focuses on flood protection, commercial waterways, and improving community engagement, particularly with Native American tribes and communities historically burdened by pollution.

Major projects authorized or modified in WRDA include:

  • $1.8 billion Upper Barataria Basin project, a 30-mile levee to protect seven southeastern Louisiana parishes from storm surges.
  • $34.4 billion Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration project, a massive system of levees, flood gates, dunes, and marsh restoration to safeguard the Texas Gulf Coast from hurricane storm surges.
  • $3.2 billion for a larger lock at Soo Locks, a pivotal transit point for Great Lakes commercial shipping.

WRDA also made it easier for the Army Corps to deploy natural features such as marshes and dunes to guard against floods. And it authorized the Army Corps to study a second drinking water source or additional water storage for Washington, D.C.

The capital’s water supply is vulnerable, said Stevens, who worked on two previous WRDA bills as part of Sen. Ben Cardin’s staff. The Potomac River — the city’s sole drinking water source — could be compromised by industrial accidents, oil spills, or other incidents. Shutting down the Potomac water intake would put the city in a serious bind.

In an action separate from WRDA, the Army Corps issued final permits for a $2.3 billion environmental restoration project to rebuild eroding land along the Louisiana coast.

The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, a state project, will provide an off-ramp for sediment-laden water from the Mississippi River. Those land-building particles will be diverted during periods of high flow. Exiting the river at a point south of New Orleans, the sediment will be funneled to the Barataria Basin, where it is intended to reestablish coastal wetlands and protect inland areas from storm surges.

WRDA authorizes projects but does not fund them. Allocating money is the purpose of the appropriations bill.

That bill identified water infrastructure priorities. It allocated $140 million to rebuild water treatment facilities in New Mexico that were affected by last year’s Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire, the largest in state history.

The bill maintained the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds at 2022 spending levels. These low-interest loan funds are two primary sources of federal funding for water infrastructure.

Funding this year for the Clean Water SRF is $1.6 billion, while the Drinking Water SRF is $1.1 billion. Both will get several billion dollars annually over the next four years in supplemental funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Water groups, however, are upset with operational changes to the funds. Earmarks, which returned to the budget process last year, are being subtracted from the SRF totals. For water infrastructure, earmarks amounted to roughly half of the total funding for the SRFs in this budget.

The remaining SRF dollars will be distributed to the states according to a standard formula. This creates winners and losers. If your senator was especially good at lobbying for dollars, your state gets more than its usual SRF share.

For utilities in losing states, the result is a scramble for the leftovers, Stevens said. There might not be enough money in the SRFs for projects that would have been funded in the past.

“It means that every utility now really, really, really needs to go and get earmarks because they can’t count on the SRF funding in the state to be high enough,” she said.

The San Juan Water Conservancy District and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District target 11,000 acre-foot size for the #SanJuanRiver Headwaters Project — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Derek Kutzer). Here’s an excerpt:

The reservoir would be a joint project between SJWCD and the PAWSD called the San Juan River Headwaters Project. In 2008, SJWCD and PAWSD collaborated on the purchase of the property, also known as Running Iron Ranch, with the goal to even- tually build a water storage facility on the parcel of land, which is more than 600 acres. The proposed reservoir would be an “off-channel” water storage facility being fed by a pre-existing agricultural ditch, Park Ditch…

According to the district’s strategic plan, “In 2004, the District and PAWSD applied for a junior water right for a larger reservoir in Dry Gulch, a refill right, and specific filling sources and rates for it. Trout Unlimited opposed those claims, leading to protracted litigation and new standards from the Colorado Supreme Court for evaluating conditional water rights owned by municipal providers. The District, PAWSD, and Trout Unlimited eventually stipulated to a decree providing for a maximum storage capacity of 11,000 acre-feet for Dry Gulch Reservoir and other limitations on its use.”

More recently, SJWCD sought more accurate information on projections for future water needs, hiring the Lakewood-based water consultant company Wilson Water Group to conduct the analysis. The resulting study was a 24- page “analysis of current and future water supply and demand through 2050 in the Upper San Juan River basin.”

#Carbondale Report: Water rules and bag ban revisited — The Sopris Sun #RoaringForkRiver #conservation #aridification

The Roaring Fork River just above Carbondale, and Mt. Sopris, on May 3, 2020. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on The Sopris Sun website (Raleigh Burleigh). Here’s an excerpt:

The first novel item on the [Carbondale Board of Trustees] agenda was a proposal from the Ruedi Water and Power Authority (RWAPA) for regional baseline watering standards. The proposition was developed through a grant from the WaterNow Alliance and stakeholder meetings with water suppliers in the Valley. RWAPA Executive Director April Long joined via Zoom to explain that the desire for comprehensive and regional education is complicated by disparate restrictions between jurisdictions in the watershed. “The entire point of baseline watering standards is just to give us initial footing … for an education and outreach campaign,” she stated.

An extensive memo provided by Public Works Director Kevin Schorzman explained that the town code currently recognizes few scenarios for restrictions: a water shortage or a water crisis. Conservation restrictions may be enacted during periods of peak demand, from May 15 to Oct. 15.

The proposed Valley-wide standards would make permanent no watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. year-round, with odd addresses and even addresses alternating days and no watering on Mondays — with some exceptions.

Crystal River rancher Bill Fales stands at the headgate for the Helms Ditch, with Mount Sopris in the background. As part of an agreement with the Colorado Water Trust, Fales could be paid to reduce his diversions from the ditch when the river is low. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Schorzman’s memo also explained that Carbondale’s system is unique, with treated water as well as an extensive ditch system supplying raw water for irrigation. The memo noted that Carbondale’s indoor water use per capita has trended downward in recent years and approximately 58% of “consumed” domestic water returns to the river as wastewater return flows. Long stated that ditch water should follow the same standards as treated water.

Deadline on new #ColoradoRiver #water cuts looms — @WaterEdCO #COriver #aridification

Water users are urgently trying to keep Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border from dropping to a point where Glen Canyon Dam can no longer generate electricity. (Source: Bureau of Reclamation)

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education website (Jerd Smith):

Another deadline to establish new cutbacks in water use in the seven-state Colorado River Basin is quickly approaching on January 31, 2023, as states continue their talks, as ordered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

In addition to the cutbacks, several other key decisions also lie ahead in the coming weeks, including how a $125 million, broad-based water conservation pilot program would operate, whether a permanent water conservation program known as demand management could work among the Upper Basin states, and how the third-year of an emergency drought plan, known as the Drought Response Operations Agreement, will function this spring and summer.

All are tied to reducing short-term and long-term demands on the drought-strapped river as part of a five-point plan put forward by the Upper Basin states last summer. In releasing that plan, the Upper Basin recognized its effectiveness would hinge on additional actions to reduce use in the Lower Basin.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation late last year had given the seven basin states until Jan. 31 to come up with a new agreement on water reductions, after an August deadline had passed.

Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board who also represents Colorado on the Upper Colorado River Commission, said talks were continuing but that more work and specific plans from California, Arizona and Nevada would be necessary to reach an agreement and take action.

“The basin states, the federal government, and the tribes have been working collaboratively and tirelessly to find potential points of consensus on short-term actions to protect lakes Powell and Mead,” Mitchell said Monday at a meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board in Aurora.

“I continue to believe strongly that the Lower Basin states must take action to reduce their demands out of Lake Mead.

“We are moving forward on our commitments, but it is important to recognize that those commitments and that work alone mean nothing if the Lower Basin use continues as it has been,” she said. She also stressed the importance of considering what must occur in the Lower Basin before Colorado moves forward with widespread participation in the System Conservation Pilot Program.

Map credit: AGU

The basin is divided into two regions. The Upper Basin includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, while the Lower Basin covers Arizona, California and Nevada.

Last summer U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton ordered the states to figure out how to reduce water use by 2 million to 4 million acre-feet by August, but no agreements have been reached. Now the states, along with tribal leaders and the feds are aiming to agree to cuts by Jan. 31. If no consensus is reached next week, it leaves the possibility that the federal government will decide how to make the cuts in the coming weeks.

As lakes Powell and Mead have dwindled, all seven states have had to get by with less water and federal forecasts indicate that is likely to be the case for several more years.

West snowpack basin-filled map January 27, 2023 via the NRCS.

Since December, the water forecast has improved slightly thanks to heavy mountain snows in Utah and Colorado, according to Michelle Garrison, a water resources specialist at the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“Snowpack and runoff in all of western Colorado and Utah is quite a bit above average … but from here on, it could get really dry just like it did last year. So folks need to be prepared to plan for a continued wet or a sudden drop to really dry or anything in between as they’re looking forward,” Garrison told the board.

Now 23 years into a megadrought widely believed to be the worst in 1,800 years, the highly developed river system is on the brink of collapse, with lakes Powell and Mead falling dangerously close to dead pool, a water level so low that, if it is reached, Powell won’t be able to produce hydropower and Mead won’t be able to serve the millions of people in the Lower Basin who rely on the river.

Colorado River headwaters tributary in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.

The river begins in Colorado’s Never Summer Mountains, high in Rocky Mountain National Park. It gathers water from major tributaries in Colorado, such as the Yampa and Gunnison rivers, and throughout the Upper Basin, accumulating some 90% of the streamflow that it will provide throughout the seven-state river system thanks to the runoff from the Upper Basin’s deep mountain snows.

But since 2002, those mountain snowpacks have been shrinking, crushed by warming temperatures and fewer snow days.

Beginning in July of 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior ordered, for the first time, emergency releases from Utah’s Flaming Gorge, Colorado’s Blue Mesa and New Mexico’s Navajo reservoirs. But that has done little to restore levels, although the releases are credited with providing some protection to the power supply.

While Lower Basin states have been forced to begin cutting back water use under a special set of operating guidelines and drought plans approved respectively in 2007 and 2019, negotiations in recent months have failed to achieve the federally ordered cutbacks. Upper Basin states are considering new programs and actions to further cut Upper Basin water use, but are hoping for additional Lower Basin commitments before taking additional water use reductions of their own.

West Drought Monitor map January 24, 2023.

At the same time, the drought has continued, and this winter could be dry once again, particularly in the Lower Basin. In response, last week, the federal government announced it would expedite negotiations on a new set of operating guidelines designed to protect lakes Powell and Mead to help restore the river.

Under the terms of the Colorado River Compact of 1922, the river’s supplies are divided equally between the Upper and Lower basins. But because the Upper Basin states have smaller and fewer reservoirs than the Lower Basin, users here have had to cut back their water use as the drought has continued. At the same time, Lower Basin users have been able to rely on stored supplies in Powell and Mead, at least until now.

Looking ahead, Jessica Brody, who represents the Metro Basin on the CWCB Board of Directors, said she would like to see more time taken before critical Upper Basin decisions are made, including participation in the $125 million System Conservation Pilot Program, which is accepting applications through Feb. 1.

“I’m a little bit concerned about the Feb. 1 deadline when we don’t yet know whether the Lower Basin will be able to come to the table in terms of reducing the demands in the Lower Basin,” Brody 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.

Importing water to #NewMexico? Challenges are stunning — The Albuquerque Journal #MissouriRiver #RioGrande

Lake Sakakawea location map. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77572471

Click the link to read the guest column on The Albuquerque Journal website (Bruce Thomson). Here’s an excerpt:

Probably the most feasible option for bringing water from the Mississippi River basin would be to transfer water from Lake Sakakawea, a huge lake on the Missouri River in North Dakota, to the middle Rio Grande. The distance from Lake Sakakawea to the middle Rio Grande is approximately 1,000 miles. More importantly, it’s located at an elevation of 1,800 feet above sea level which greatly reduces pumping requirements.

A recent study done by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources suggests that water supply in the middle Rio Grande will decrease by about 30% over the next 50 years. That deficiency is approximately 300,000 acre-feet per year…Transferring 300,000 acre-feet of water from the Missouri River during six months of high flow each year, requires a flow of 830 cubic feet per second, similar to today’s flow in the Rio Grande at Albuquerque. This is far too much water for a pipe – it requires a canal 25 feet wide and eight feet deep. To pump this water, 650,000 horsepower or 500 megawatts of power will be needed. This is roughly half the power generated by a single unit at a nuclear power plant…

Transporting water from North Dakota to New Mexico would involve a canal that passes through or near seven states; North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Bringing water from Louisiana to the Colorado River will require passing through or near Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. Each of these states face serious water shortages. It is inconceivable to imagine that each of them won’t demand a proportionate share of water passing over or near their lands.

We must recognize that multistate interbasin transfers quickly become impractical when factoring in the water demands for all participants. The volumes of water in the Missouri River, Atchafalaya River and other North American rivers are large, but they are nowhere near sufficient to meet the demands of the arid West. We simply need to learn to live with what we’ve got, accept the fact that future shortages are inevitable, and then manage this most precious resource wisely and equitably.

Bruce Thomson, Ph.D., P.E., is a research professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and in the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico.

Map of the Mississippi River Basin. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47308146

New Model Could Help Break Through Inefficiencies of Common #WaterTreatment Systems (Reverse Osmosis) — NREL

Click the link to read the article on the NREL website (Caitlin McDermott-Murphy):

In April 2022, a team of engineers hiked into California’s Sierra Nevada mountains to hunt for snow. Instead, they found mostly bare, dry dirt and only a few of the snow patches that provide one-third of California’s water supply.

In the coming decades, water scarcity and insecurity are likely to intensify across much of the United States. In California, the Sierra Nevadas are expected to lose a staggering 65% of their snowpack over the next century, said Hariswaran (Hari) Sitaraman, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. That loss, plus political, economic, and other challenges, is making it essential for drought-prone states, like California, to tap alternative water sources such as brackish (or salty) waters and agricultural runoff.

And yet, the most common way to treat and reuse nontraditional water supplies is through a process called reverse osmosis, which can be both expensive and energy intensive.

As a water crisis looms, drought-prone states like California must adopt technologies that can treat and recycle alternative sources, like agricultural runoff or seawater. Now, two researchers have used supercomputers to study a common (but expensive and energy-intensive) water treatment method and discovered a way to significantly improve these valuable systems. Photo from Ross Stone, Unsplash

Now, Sitaraman and Ilenia Battiato, two members of the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) research consortium, have used supercomputers to study reverse osmosis systems as a whole—a first for both the type and scale of reverse osmosis research. With their new technique, the duo also discovered a new system design that could make these technologies about 40% more energy efficient—and therefore more cost-effective—while producing the same amount and quality of clean drinking water.

“Until now, people have been looking at a tiny piece of the entire reverse osmosis module and drawing conclusions from that,” Sitaraman said. “But we looked at the entire thing.” 

The results are published in a new paper in Separation and Purification Technology.

Along with Battiato, an assistant professor of energy science and engineering at Stanford University, Sitaraman created a fluid dynamics solver—a numerical tool that can analyze how fluids, like salty water, flow into a reverse osmosis system, pass through several membrane filters, and come out clean on the other side.

With their solver, Sitaraman and Battiato studied reverse osmosis systems with high precision, enabling them to uncover any snags or inefficiencies. For example, to filter brackish waters, reverse osmosis systems use high pressure to push the water through several membranes, which, like sophisticated coffee filters, block salts and other minerals from passing through. That process cleans the water, but it also creates thin layers of salty buildup on the membranes. And that buildup can affect how well the water flows, potentially reducing the system’s efficiency.

“That thin layer needs to be measured correctly to understand how much pure water you get out of salt water,” Sitaraman said. “If you don’t capture that right, you cannot understand how much it costs to run a reverse osmosis plant.”

A more efficient reverse osmosis system is more cost-effective, too.

Yet, most reverse osmosis plant owners do not have a high-performance computer to replicate Sitaraman and Battiato’s high-fidelity simulations—which so accurately mimic real-life reverse osmosis technologies—to uncover snags in their own systems. So, Sitaraman performed the complex work of creating a simpler model equation that can predict a system’s mass transfer, estimating how much pure water can be filtered out of brackish water. With his model, engineers can now discover how to improve the efficiency (and cost) of their own systems.

“If the economics improve,” Sitaraman said, “then of course reverse osmosis systems will be more widely used. And if they’re more energy efficient, they will contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”

Hari Sitaraman and Ilenia Battiato have, for the first time, analyzed an entire reverse osmosis system, like the one seen here, with the greatest precision yet. With their simulations, the duo identified a new structural design that could improve the energy efficiency of these systems by a whopping 40%. Photo from Hari Sitaraman, NREL

That is a huge win, but Sitaraman and Battiato’s tools can benefit far more than reverse osmosis plant owners. Other researchers can build on their work to study the efficiency and cost of all kinds of reverse osmosis filtration technologies beyond those used to treat unconventional water sources. The food industry uses these filters to create highly concentrated fruit juices, more flavorful cheeses, and much more. Aquariums need them to remove harmful chemicals from their waters. And reverse osmosis systems can even extract valuable minerals and other substances that could be used to make cheap fertilizer or fuel.

One huge advantage of high-fidelity simulations, Battiato said, is the ability to study a vast range of reverse osmosis system configurations without investing the time and money required to build and experiment with real-life systems.

“We want the system to correctly capture the physics,” Battiato said, “but we are theoretically not constrained by manufacturing.”

With simulations, the team can quickly explore far more potential designs and home in on the best. That is how Battiato and Sitaraman identified their potentially more effective arrangement of spacers (which are bits within the reverse osmosis system that create turbulence and keep channels open to help water flow through). Their new spacer arrangement not only improves the system’s energy efficiency by 40%, but it also produces the same amount of equally pure water.

Although the duo’s simulations accurately replicate real-life systems, they are still theoretical. Sitaraman hopes another research team will build their design and evaluate how closely the real system matches their models. In the meantime, their higher-resolution (or more precise and comprehensive) simulations could help researchers avoid making inaccurate assumptions about how reverse osmosis systems work and, in so doing, learn how to improve the technologies.

Today, most engineers use trial and error to discover how to improve their reverse osmosis systems. But that process is slow, and water shortages are coming fast. With Battiato and Sitaraman’s simulations, engineers could speed up the development of more efficient and cost-effective technologies, so the country can access unconventional water sources when communities—like drought-stricken western towns—desperately need them.

“Water is a scarce resource,” Battiato said. “I don’t think we can afford to do coarse optimization anymore. We need to save every drop of water that we can.”

Learn more about the National Alliance of Water Innovation and their efforts to secure an affordable, energy-efficient, and resilient water supply for the United States.

The National Alliance of Water Innovation is a public–private partnership that brings together a world-class team of industry and academic partners to examine the critical technical barriers and research needed to radically lower the cost and energy of desalination. The alliance is led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office.

District 5 water court case could affect thousands of Western Slope #water users — #Aspen Daily News #SnakeRiver #BlueRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Snake River. Photo credit: Bob Berwyn

Click the link to read the article on the Aspen Daily News website (Austin Corona). Here’s an excerpt:

An ongoing water case in Colorado’s Division Five water court in Glenwood Springs could impact a vital source of water for users across the Western Slope.  The case developed from a dispute between the Snake River Water District in Summit County and the state’s Division 5 Engineers regarding administration of Green Mountain Reservoir’s Historic User Pool.  The case could affect thousands of water users in Colorado’s portion of the Colorado River Basin, including many in the Roaring Fork Valley, who rely on releases from Green Mountain Reservoir.  Snake River and the Division 5 Engineers of the Colorado Division of Water Resources disagree on whether Snake River can benefit from water in Green Mountain’s Historic User Pool. Snake River relies on water from the HUP to replace the water it removes from the Snake River system with several wells…

The HUP was created to compensate Western Slope users for water transferred out of the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range. While the HUP itself was only created in 1983, Western Slope water users have been relying on water from Green Mountain since the 1950s. The HUP, along with other allotments of water in the reservoir, were legally designated in order to ensure that Green Mountain would continue as a critical resource for the Western Slope. Snake River is one of thousands of Western Slope water users who rely on the HUP to replace water diverted from the Colorado River and its tributaries. 

The Division 5 Engineers challenge Snake River’s ability to benefit from the HUP because Snake River also receives replacement water through an augmentation plan. Augmentation plans are court-approved plans that also replace water diverted by users, but they are not necessarily linked to Green Mountain, and using them is not free. Because Snake River can already replace its diversions during a call with augmentation water, the engineers say it cannot benefit from HUP coverage…Snake River sued the engineers in Colorado’s Division 5 water court in hopes of retaining its HUP benefits. If it loses its HUP coverage, Snake River claims it could cost $800,000 to rely exclusively on its augmentation plan. Snake River argues that coverage from an augmentation plan does not legally disqualify a water user from also being covered by the HUP.  

NRCS eyes $20M for embattled dam as public demands answers — @WyoFile #LittleSnakeRiver #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

A member of the public poses a question during a public meeting in Saratoga Jan. 12, 2023 regarding the proposed West Fork Dam and reservoir. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Angus M. Thuermer Jr. and  Dustin Bleizeffer):

The U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service will likely request some $20 million for the West Fork Dam on the Colorado border, a potential new funding source for the contested project

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service will likely request funding “in the over-$20-million range” to help finance a controversial dam proposed for the Little Snake River drainage, a federal official said last week.

The revelation emerged from a long-awaited series of public meetings in Craig, Colorado, Baggs and Saratoga during which project critics and proponents interrogated state and federal agency representatives and argued the merits of the West Fork Dam initiative. 

Estimated in 2017 to cost $80 million, the 260-foot-high concrete structure and accompanying 130-acre reservoir in Carbon County near the confluence of Battle and Haggarty Creeks has become the latest skirmish line in the West’s interminable water wars.

Water developers and many in the local agricultural community hail the public work as a critical tool for mitigating the effects of deepening drought and a boon for wildlife, recreation and the local economy. Opponents describe it as an expensive boondoggle poised to benefit a small number of irrigators — many of whom aren’t even in Wyoming — while shifting negative environmental impacts downstream.  

Following years of quiet agency maneuvering, legislative negotiating and campaigning from both sides, a framework for the potential deal has taken shape. It involves a state-federal land swap, complex “public benefit” calculations, a streamlined environmental review, majority funding from the state of Wyoming, minority contributions from water-users and now, apparently, a potentially skid-greasing influx of federal dollars. 

The NRCS’s funding interest was “some new info,” according to a participant at one of last week’s public meetings.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service will request funding if it and other agencies approve construction, said Shawn Follum, state conservation engineer with the NRCS in Casper. 

Funds aren’t guaranteed, he said; “We can’t commit Congress’ dollars in the future.” But the money could qualify as the required contribution from the Pothook Water Conservancy District of about two dozen irrigators in Colorado, according to discussions at the public meetings.

Wyoming may still face challenges funding the dam if federal officials approve it. In an unprecedented move in 2018, state legislators cut some $35 million from a water-construction bill and required lawmaker approval for any new funds for the West Fork Dam.

In an era of infrastructure and stimulus funding, however, more federal money might be available. “The reality is there are a variety of places where to find this … funding,” rancher Pat O’Toole, a project proponent and former state lawmaker, said.

Funding, however, is only one of many variables that need to be solved for if the complex public works proposal is to come to fruition. The terms of a land swap and parallel environmental review are also top of mind for stakeholders, as is an evaluation of who actually stands to benefit from the undertaking.  

‘Somewhat befuddled’

Held over three evenings, the meetings drew about 150 people to hear how the NRCS and Medicine Bow National Forest might authorize the proposed dam on the West Fork of Battle Creek.

In what’s being called a “parallel process” The Medicine-Bow will decide whether to exchange land to enable the 130-acre reservoir that would hold 10,000 acre-feet, mostly for late-season irrigation. About 44 irrigators have expressed interest in buying the water, according to discussion at the meetings.

Pat O’Toole, who ranches in the Baggs area, was among participants at the Saratoga public meeting on the West Fork Dam on Jan. 12, 2023. Approximately 150 persons attended three sessions — also held in Baggs and Craig, Colorado — explaining how the Medicine Bow National Forest and U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service will decide whether to authorize a 264-foot concrete structure. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Participants called the bifurcated approvals confusing and criticized the process that, according to Wyoming officials, is designed to skirt more lengthy federal environmental reviews.

“A lot of questions are coming from people who deal with this [National Environmental Policy Act] process a lot and they’re somewhat befuddled,” said Jeb Steward an Encampment resident, former state representative and a former member of the Wyoming Water Development Commission who has worked as a water rights consultant in the area.

Meeting participant Soren Jespersen said officials had created a “very confusing process, and it’s difficult … for the public to know when and how to weigh in.”

Cindy McKee, a rancher who irrigates from a stream above the proposed dam, and grazes cattle on state land that’s offered in the swap, echoed those concerns. “We’ve been very disappointed in the lack of communication from the state, as singularly affected as we are both by the land trade and by the proposed water project,” she said. “We were never notified that our [grazing] lease was up for consideration for the land trade. Fourteen years ago when the dam was conceived, we didn’t know about it for two years.

“It’s been difficult, quite honestly, to find information,” McKee said. “Documents are usually released very shortly before an opportunity to public comment. It’s been frustrating and discouraging.”

Comments and public interest

Federal and state officials stressed that comments about the review’s scopeshould be made in writing to the NRCS by Feb. 13. Only persons and organizations that comment can later object to any decision.

An NRCS draft environmental impact statement is expected in September with a final version released in April 2024 and adoption scheduled for that May.

Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.

U.S. Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper Urge Reclamation to Allocate Additional Funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit #ArkansasRiver

Arkansas Valley Conduit map via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka) June 2021.

Click the link to read the article on Senator Bennet’s website:

Today [January 23, 2023], Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper urged the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to consider allocating additional funding from the recent omnibus funding bill for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) or the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) for the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC).

The AVC is a planned 130-mile water-delivery system from the Pueblo Reservoir to communities in Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, Prowers, and Pueblo counties. The Conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962.

“[T]he Conduit has been one of Colorado’s top priorities for nearly six decades,” wrote the senators. “Continuing to invest in this project will allow the project’s stakeholders to plan for more effective construction and delivery of clean drinking water throughout Southeast Colorado.”

In the letter, the senators highlight the $60 million allocated for the construction of the AVC from the BIL last fall, and ask BOR to allocate additional funds, which could be immediately applied to help advance different components of the AVC.

“For years, this project languished due to insufficient funding and a prohibitive cost-share agreement,” continued the senators. “Congressional appropriations over the past decade coupled with BOR’s recent $60 million award will finally enable the construction of this long-promised project. More investment, from the FY23 omnibus or future BIL awards, would accelerate the construction timeline and improve planning efficiency.”

Bennet and Hickenlooper have consistently advocated for increased funding for the AVC. The FY23 omnibus spending bill, which was signed into law in December, included $10.1 million for the Conduit after Bennet and Hickenlooper urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to continue to fund the project last May. In October, the senators visited Pueblo to celebrate the announcement of $60 million in BIL funds for the Conduit. The senators and U.S. Representative Ken Buck (R-Colo.) urged the OMB and BOR in July to allocate these funds. In March, Bennet and Hickenlooper secured $12 million for the Conduit from the FY22 omnibus bill. Prior to FY22, Bennet helped secure more than $70 million for the AVC. Bennet and Hickenlooper will continue working in Washington to ensure Colorado has the resources needed to complete this vital project for the region.

In 2009, Congress passed legislation Bennet worked on with former U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to authorize a federal cost share for the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. In 2013, Bennet and his colleagues sent a letter to the BOR to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) in order to expedite the project’s pre-construction process. In 2014, following Bennet and Udall’s efforts to urge the BOR to quickly approve the Conduit’s EIS, the Record of Decision was signed in February. Bennet joined the groundbreaking for the project in October 2020.

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Stacy Standley: 15 steps #Aspen needs to take to preserve the #ColoradoRiver Basin — Aspen Times #COriver #aridification

Waterfalls along Yule Creek. CREDIT: COURTESY PHOTO BY JOHN ARMSTRONG

Click the link to read the guest column on the Aspen Times website (Stacy Standley). Here’s an excerpt:

Now is the time to take a giant step into the future with revolutionary ideas that transcend the parochial local interests of the Roaring Fork River Valley by recognizing that climate/weather change, along with population growth, has erased the boundaries of the Colorado River Basin…Aspen is now the pivotal headwaters of the Colorado River Basin, which has become a small, compacted irrigation canal instead of a great river system and has shrunk many hundreds of miles into but a few feet…

1. There should be 100% metering and billing of every drop of water: 7% of the Aspen distribution is unmetered and/or unbilled and unmetered, and this should be eliminated. 

2. You can not distribute or control what you do not measure: Metering and billing should be by constant recorded, instantaneous, wifi-linked electronic services on all distribution points and reported to every customer and the Water Department on a instantaneous daily basis, with auto shutoffs for an aberration of usage by 1% or more. 

3. All wastewater and storm water must be a fully-integrated part of the treated water-supply system by municipal recycling and/or irrigation and municipal water usage.

4. Downstream water flows that exceed minimum stream flow must be acquired and piped back into the upstream Aspen intake.

5. Aspen and Pitkin County must negotiate with Twin Lakes Canal and Reservoir Co. and the Fry-Ark project to create water savings for their service area and water that can be allowed to stay in the Roaring Fork River Valley.

6. Salvation Ditch, Red Mountain Ditch, and all other local irrigation systems should become a part of the Aspen water conservation and re-use ethic.

 7. 100% of all leaks and water waste must be ended immediately.

8. Every tree, plant, and natural out-of-house improvement must be identified and the water usage calculated by Lysimeter and/or other instantaneous soil moisture storage measurement system and then a local research and development lab created to test, grow, and install water conserving plants and systems for out-of-house water management and control.

9. All local streets should be coated with bright reflective surfaces to maintain a cooler urban-heat island and, thus, improve out-of-house water usage.

10. Aspen should create its own bottled (no plastic) water supply for individual use from a high-quality spring and distribute at least 2 gallons per person per day inside of the city service area for drinking water usage at cost to increase the Aspen water supply.

11. Aspen should divert into vertically oriented pipeline coils (24 to 48 inch) in all area streams to capture water runoff that exceeds minimum stream flows and keep the vertical-coiled pipelines at or above the city base elevation for instantaneous “pipeline coil reservoir storage.”

12. Every new or remodeled home and business must have installed an on-site water-storage tank for at least three months of driest in-house water usage.

13. Aspen should participate individually and/or with other Colorado River Basin water users in regional ocean, salt flats, and poor quality oil field wastewater/produced water (i.e., Rangely Field and Utah Basin) purification desalination and urban wastewater recycling for earning water-use credits.

14. Aspen should negotiate with Colorado River Basin Native American tribes to create constructive water savings and water-credit system for the benefit of reservation and also Aspen water usage.

15. Aspen should negotiate to replace Colorado River Basin hydroelectric-power generation with renewable energy to earn water storage credits for regional reservoir.

Authorities scramble to entice paid, volunteer #water savings: Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin officials will accept ‘incomplete’ applications to jump-start participation in water #conservation program this spring — @WyoFile #COriver #aridification

he Green River meanders past irrigated ag land north of the town of Green River Sept. 27, 2022. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Dustin Bleizeffer):

Upper Colorado River Basin states, including Wyoming, are looking for agricultural irrigators, municipalities and other water users interested in a volunteer program that pays them to leave water in streams flowing to the troubled Colorado River.

But with just two weeks left to enroll in the System Conservation Pilot Program, water users still have myriad questions regarding eligibility, how water savings are measured and what participation in the program might mean to their operations. 

Given the short timeframe, the Upper Colorado River Commission, and the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, which oversees the program in Wyoming, are urging interested water users to submit project proposals by the Feb. 1 deadline, even if they’re unsure whether their water savings plans qualify.

“We can still take incomplete applications by Feb. 1, and we’ll work with you to complete those, finalize them and get you into the system,” UCRC Deputy Director Sara Larsen said during a public question-and-answer webinar Wednesday.

The UCRC staff, along with state-level water officials, will verify qualifications and otherwise help applicants complete their proposals — post-submission, if necessary — in order to enroll as many participants as possible, according to the commission.

Successful applicants for the 2023 program will be notified by the end of February.

Water conservation rush

The SCPP is one of five short-term strategies that Upper Colorado River Basin states — Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico — have offered to help meet a challenge by federal officials to conserve 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water in the over-taxed system this year.

The UCRC announced a call for SCPP proposals Dec. 14 with a filing deadline of Feb. 1.

Lake Powell, just upstream from Glen Canyon Dam. At the time of this photo, in May 2021, Lake Powell was 34% full. (Ted Wood/The Water Desk)

The quick turn-around stems from intensifying drought conditions that helped drain Lake Powell and Lake Mead — the two largest reservoirs on the Colorado River — to historic lows this past summer, threatening water availability for some 40 million people who depend on the river. Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo announced drought response actions in May intended to maintain hydropower generation at Powell and Mead, which included taking extra releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Wyoming-Utah border.

“More needs to be done as the system reaches critically low water levels,” Trujillo testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in June. “The system is at a tipping point.”

Though Wyoming and its upper basin partners didn’t commit specific water-saving volumes in response to the Interior Department’s call for conserving 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water this year, the UCRC put forth a 5-point plan. The SCPP is the first to be implemented.

This diagram shows water levels among major reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin as of Jan. 17, 2023. (Bureau of Reclamation)

“Upper [Colorado River Basin] states have made no commitment with regard to the number of [SCPP] projects or target volumes or anything other than adapting to the interest from willing partners among water users and tribes in the upper basin,” UCRC Executive Director Chuck Collum said during the Wednesday webinar.

Addressing the short turn-around for SCPP proposals, applications don’t “have to be perfect,” Collum said. “But it needs to be in the hopper [by Feb. 1] so we can work with you to refine it.”

The UCRC and Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, however, are not beginning from square one. Wyoming enrolled a couple dozen water users in the program’s initial iteration from 2015 through 2018, and found exponential interest among irrigators — particularly in the upper reaches of the Green River and its tributaries, according to state officials.

Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.

How it works

To qualify for the SPCC in Wyoming, a water user must have a valid water right within the Little Snake or Green River basins and demonstrate that that right has been exercised in recent years, according to state officials. Participants are credited only for voluntary reductions of “consumptive use,” which is described as Colorado River-bound water “that can be estimated or measured,” according to the UCRC.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which receives water draining off 15,000 square miles of western Wyoming, was more than 30 feet below its maximum height in this December 2022 image. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

In the case of industrial and municipal water users, consumptive use is generally measured by determining how much water is diverted and not returned to the river system. Water reuse and recycling may qualify, however, according to the UCRC. For agricultural irrigation operations, consumptive use, generally, is measured by determining how much diverted water is consumed by crops. 

For example, an irrigator might divert 10 acre-feet of water but 2 acre-feet returns to the system. Water officials would credit the irrigator for volumes of water allowed to flow downstream that would otherwise normally have been consumed.

For now, the UCRC envisions a “fixed term” compensation of $150 per acre-foot of water under the SCPP in 2023, although it may consider higher rates based on circumstances, according to the agency’s request for proposals. The UCRC secured $125 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to support the program — an amount that water officials say is more than enough to cover payments and expenses in 2023.

In the first iteration of the SCPP — from 2015 through 2018 — a total 23,886 acre-feet of water was conserved among 26 projects in Wyoming, according to a report by the upper basin commission. It paid water users a total $4,079,233 — about $171 per-acre foot.

Priority for SCPP proposals in 2023 will be given to “projects that are likely to mitigate impacts of the ongoing drought,” larger volumes of water to be conserved and the ability to verify water savings, according to the request for proposals.

Further details about how the program works in Wyoming and what qualifies can be found on the Colorado River Working Group’s website.

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service. (79-AAG-1). By Ansel Adams – This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=118192

#ColoradoRiver Storage Project — Reclamation #COriver

Colorado River Storage Project map. Credit: Reclmation

Click the link to read the article on the Reclamation website:

The 1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act has had a significant impact on the development and management of water in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The 1956 act authorized construction of the Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP) which allowed for comprehensive development of the water resources of the Upper Basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) by providing for long-term regulatory storage of water for purposes including, regulating the Colorado River, storing water for beneficial use, allowing Upper Basin States to utilize their Colorado River Compact apportionments, providing for the reclamation of arid lands, control of floods and generation of hydroelectric power. The Colorado River Storage Project is one of the most complex and extensive river resource developments in the world.

There are four initial storage units built as part of the CRSP:

and a number participating projects (16 of which have been completed or are in process of completion). The purposes of the CRSP identified in the 1956 act include regulating the flow of the Colorado River, storing water for beneficial consumptive use, providing for reclamation of arid and semi-arid lands, providing flood control, and generating hydropower. The CRSP also provides for recreation and improves conditions for fish and wildlife.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, public concern over the environment resulted in new federal environmental laws. The enactment of the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act, the 1973 Endangered Species Act, and the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act outlined new requirements for the protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife, and the environment. Administration of these laws has modified the operation of CRSP facilities. 

The dams of the CRSP main storage units have a combined live storage capacity of 30.6 million acre-feet and power generation capabilities to provide over five billion kilowatt-hours of energy annually. Glen Canyon Dam is the largest of the CRSP facilities and is the key unit for controlling water releases to the Lower Basin. In 1970, the Criteria for Coordinated Long-Range Operation of Colorado River Reservoirs (Operating Criteria) was established to provide for the coordinated operation of reservoirs in the Upper and Lower basins and set conditions for water releases from Lake Powell and Lake Mead. In accordance with the Operating Criteria, an objective release of 8.23 million acre-feet per year is targeted for downstream delivery.

The multipurpose CRSP has not only been integral to the development of the arid West, it has also played a vital sustaining role through extended periods of drought. The many benefits provided by the CRSP are essential to life in the West today.

Interior Assistant Secretary Trujillo Highlights Bipartisan Infrastructure Law #Drought Resilience Investments in #Colorado: $5 million investment in Prairie Waters Projects to expand water supplies in #Aurora #SouthPlatteRiver

Click the link to read the article on the Department of Interior website:

Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo wrapped up a multi-day visit to Colorado today, where she highlighted investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act in drought resilience.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $8.3 billion for Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure projects over the next five years to advance drought resilience and expand access to clean water for families, farmers, and wildlife. The investment will repair aging water delivery systems, secure dams, complete rural water projects, protect aquatic ecosystems and fulfill Indian Water Rights Settlements. The Inflation Reduction Act is investing another $4 billion to address the worsening crisis. Combined these two initiatives represent the largest investments in climate resilience in the nation’s history and provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the work of the Interior Department.

UV pretreatment Peter D. Binney Purification Facility.

Today [January 13, 2023] , she joined Congressman Jason Crow, Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg, and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman to tour the Binney Water Treatment facility in Aurora to celebrate a recent $5 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will allow the city to expand the Prairie Waters Project (PWP), securing more clean, reliable water. The funding is part of $84 million announced last month from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to advance innovative drought resilience efforts.

The City of Aurora constructed the PWP after the severe drought in 2002 to improve drought resiliency. The project is an innovative potable reuse system, which captures and treats river water to provide up to 10 million gallons of clean water to Aurora residents per day. With Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, the City will expand the PWP by constructing a second radial well and pump station and increasing the overall water recovery capacity by 4,500 acre-feet annually.

On Thursday, Assistant Secretary Trujillo spoke at the Four States Irrigation Council Annual Meeting to highlight how investments from both laws will support western communities. While in Colorado, Assistant Secretary Trujillo also visited with staff at the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Fort Collins Science Center and at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $510.7 million over the next five year to advance scientific innovation through integrated mapping of critical minerals that power many household appliances and clean energy technologies and through a $167 million investment for the USGS Energy and Minerals Research Facility in Golden, Colorado.

#Arizona city cuts off a neighborhood’s #water supply amid #drought — The Washington Post #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Rio Verde Foothills. Photo credit: VRBO

Click the link to read the article on The Washington Post website (Joshua Partlow). Here’s an excerpt:

Some living here amid the cactus and creosote bushes see themselves as the first domino to fall as the Colorado River tips further into crisis. On Jan. 1, the city of Scottsdale, which gets the majority of its water from the Colorado River, cut off Rio Verde Foothills from the municipal water supply that it has relied on for decades. The result is a disorienting and frightening lack of certainty about how residents will find enough water as their tanks run down in coming weeks, with a bitter political feud impacting possible solutions.

The city’s decision — and the failure to find a dependable alternative — has forced water haulers like [John] Hornewer to scour distant towns for any available gallons. About a quarter of the homes in Rio Verde Foothills, a checkerboard of one-acre lots linked by dirt roads in an unincorporated part of Maricopa County, rely on water from a municipal pipe hauled by trucks. Since the cutoff, their water prices have nearly tripled. The others have wells, though many of these have gone dry as the water table has fallen by hundreds of feet in some places after years of drought [ed. and over pumping]…

This grim [Colorado River] forecast prompted Scottsdale to warn Rio Verde Foothills more than a year ago that their water supply would be cut off. City officials stressed their priority was to their own residents and cast Rio Verde Foothills as a boomtown of irresponsible development, fed by noisy water trucks rumbling over city streets. “The city cannot be responsible for the water needs of a separate community especially given its unlimited and unregulated growth,” the city manager’s office wrote in December…Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega was unmoved when his Rio Verde Foothills neighbors cried foul.

“There is no Santa Claus,” he said in a statement last month. “The megadrought tells us all — water is not a compassion game.”

For the past several years, some residents have sought to form their own water district that would allow the community to buy water from elsewhere in the state and import what they need, more than 100 acre-feet of water per year. Another group prefers enlisting a Canadian private utility company, Epcor, to supply the community, as it does with neighboring areas. But political disputes have so far foiled both approaches. The water district plan — which supporters say would give them long-term access to a reliable source of water — was rejected in August by the Maricopa County supervisors. The supervisor for the area, Thomas Galvin, said he opposed adding a new layer of government to a community that prizes its freedom, particularly one run by neighbors with the authority to condemn property to build infrastructure. [Thomas] Galvin preferred Epcor, a utility that, if approved, would be regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Being in the know about the mountain snow: Tracking the snowflakes critical to the spring runoff and water supply for 1.5 million people — @DenverWater #FraserRiver #BlueRiver #SouthPlatteRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Jay Adams):

When it comes to supplying water to 1.5 million people, the spring runoff is the most important time of the year for Denver Water. 

That’s why having good information about the snowpack is critical. Mountain snow is Denver Water’s primary source of water for its customers.

When the snow that piles up in the mountains over the winter starts to melt, the water flows into rivers and streams that fill storage reservoirs. The spring runoff typically starts at the end of April and wraps up in late June or early July.

But the work to count the snowflakes starts long before that. 

“We keep track of the snowpack through measurements on the ground, from the sky and from automated sensors,” said Nathan Elder, water supply manager at Denver Water. “We monitor the snow all winter because it constitutes the majority of our water supply and has major impacts on how we operate.”

In 2022, the snowpack peaked below average in the areas where Denver Water catches the snowmelt. A below-average snowpack affects the amount of water available to capture and store in the spring.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

“We would like to completely fill our reservoir system every runoff season,” said Elder. “In the years when we don’t hit that mark, it makes following the utility’s annual summer watering rules even more critical for the Denver metro area.”  

Watering two days a week should be enough for most landscapes for most of the summer. (Only water a third day, if needed, during periods of extreme heat or dryness.)

Following the summer watering rules will help keep reservoir levels higher, in case next winter’s snowpack is below average. 

The Fraser River south of Winter Park on April 29, 2022. The snowpack in the areas where Denver Water captures snowmelt peaked below average for the 2021-2022 winter season. Photo credit: Denver Water.

The snowpack data, reservoir forecasts and customer water use are some of the key factors used to determine if Denver Water might need to impose additional watering restrictions beyond the regular summer watering rules, which run from May 1 through Oct. 1.

Here’s a closer look at the primary ways Denver Water’s planning team keeps track of Colorado’s snowpack. 


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On the ground

Four times a year from January through April, Denver Water crews strap on boots and snowshoes and sometimes ride snowcats to trek into the forest to measure the snow in Grand, Park and Summit counties, the primary areas where the utility collects its water supply for customers in metro Denver.

Each journey follows a specific, predetermined route called a snow course.

Each snow course has 10 designated stops where workers jab a hollow tube into the snow to capture and weigh a sample of the snowpack. 

At each stop, the crew conducts a four-step process:

  • Collect a sample by dropping the pole into the snow until it hits the ground.
  • Measure the depth of snow in the tube.
  • Get the weight of the snow by weighing the snow-filled tube and subtracting the weight of the empty tube.
  • Calculate the density of the snow using the depth and weight measurements. 

Using these measurements, crews calculate the snow water equivalent, or SWE, to determine the water content. 

For example, if 10 inches of snow has a density of 10%, the snow water equivalent — the amount of water left behind if those 10 inches of snow melted — is 1 inch of water. 

Rob Krueger, facility supervisor for Denver Water, uses a specially designed hollow tube to collect a snow sample near Berthoud Pass. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Denver Water shares the data collected on each snow course with the National Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS. Denver Water is one of 15 agencies that sends people out to collect snow data at 95 locations across Colorado in partnership with the NRCS.

The information helps the agency develop water supply forecasts and monitor snowpack trends over time. 

The NRCS’s forecasts are used by water provides, dam operators, farmers, ranchers, recreationists and communities to make important decisions about their water supply.

Denver Water’s Rob Krueger (left) and Adam Clark work out of the utility’s Moffat Collection System office in Winter Park. Here they are weighing a snow sample to calculate how much water it contains. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Silent sentries

Along with data collected by hand, Denver Water uses information from snow telemetry sites, or SNOTEL, sites during the winter. 

SNOTELs, basically automated backcountry weather stations, were first installed in the 1970s and are operated by the NRCS. The federal agency currently has more than 900 SNOTEL sites collecting data in remote, high-elevation mountain watersheds across the western U.S.

At each site, a bladder about the size of a queen-sized waterbed and filled with antifreeze monitors and reports the weight of the snow falling on it, providing information about the water content frozen in the snow. SNOTEL sites send data multiple times per day, although some sensors report hourly.

Denver Water uses information from 13 SNOTELs located in its 4,000 square miles of watershed. 

A SNOTEL site on Berthoud Pass in Grand County captures snow measurements throughout the winter. The National Resources Conservation Service manages the SNOTEL sites, which transmit information daily. There are over 900 automated SNOTEL sites across the western U.S. Photo credit: Denver Water.

From the air

Starting in 2019, Denver Water began getting data about the snowpack from the air, using Airborne Snow Observatory planes stuffed with high-tech equipment flying over the snow-covered mountains. 

The plane uses beams of light to measure the depth of the snow fields below and capture reflections from the frozen surface. The equipment pings the snow’s surface at up to 10 locations every square meter, and powerful computers crunch reams of data.

The flights provide an assessment of the amount of water frozen in place in the snow across hundreds of square miles that is more accurate than anything Denver Water has ever had before. 

“The data we get from the Airborne Snow Observatory flights quantifies all of the snowpack in river basin below, rather than trying to build a picture of the snowpack in basin using just a few selected point measurements we get from the SNOTELs and the snow courses,” said Nathan Elder, Denver Water’s manager of water supply. “Imagine trying to watch a high-definition TV that only has 10 of its thousands of pixels working; you just don’t get the whole picture.”

And in the face of increasingly variable weather patterns related to climate change, having better information and more accurate forecasts of the seasonal runoff will be more important in the future, he said.

The view from an Airborne Snow Observatory plane as it flies over a mountainous region to capture data on the snowpack. Photo credit: Airborne Snow Observatories Inc.

Putting it all together 

Elder’s planning team uses data from the snow-measuring methods and combines it with other data such as soil conditions and weather forecasts to determine how much water the winter snowpack will send into Denver Water’s reservoirs. 

“Having people hike into the forests to measure the snow by hand is very important for water planners because they give us the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ information we use to verify the data we get from the machines in the SNOTELs and the Airborne Snow Observatory flights,” Elder said. 

The forecasts — in turn — help determine how Denver Water will manage the water stored in its reservoirs to meet customer demands in the city and determine if additional water restrictions are needed. 

The water supply forecasts are also used to provide information to communities, businesses and other water managers about flooding concerns, water levels for boating on reservoirs, maximizing water rights and how to manage water supplies to benefit the environment.

“Managing water is a very complex business,” Elder said. “The more information and data we can get, the better decisions we can make.”

Aspinall Unit Operations Meeting January 19, 2023 #GunnisonRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest storage facility in Colorado in the Upper Colorado River system. Prolonged drought and downriver demand is shrinking the reservoir. Credit: Tom Wood, Water Desk

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The next Aspinall Operations meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, January 19th, start time 1:00pm

The meeting will be open to in-person attendance at the Western Colorado Area Office in Grand Junction.

445 West Gunnison Ave

Grand Junction, CO

The meeting will also be available to attend virtually via Microsoft Teams.  Please click on this link to attend the meeting virtually.

This link should open in any smartphone, tablet, or computer browser, and does not require a Microsoft account.

The meeting agenda with handouts will be emailed out prior to the meeting.

For any questions please email or call at the number below.

Erik Knight

970-248-0629

WCAO-GJ

One change could save Oak Creek ‘millions’ at Sheriff Reservoir; Earthquake potential reveals new risk — Steamboat Pilot & Today

Photo credit: Medicine Bow National Forest

Click the link to read the article on the Steamboat Pilot & Today website (Dylan Anderson):

Oak Creek could save “millions” off the projected $14 million price tag for fixes at Sheriff Reservoir after updated engineering on the project showed the town’s water source needs a much smaller spillway than originally thought. While the town previously believed the new spillway needed to be 300 feet wide, the updated work shows it only needs to be about 60 feet wide, according Steve Jamieson, an engineer with W. W. Wheeler that has been consulting for the town on the project. That is still twice the size of the existing spillway…

The recent work resulted from a Comprehensive Dam Safety Evaluation, which looked at ways the dam could fail during normal loading, flood loading and earthquake loading. The highest risk found was due to a gate failure, something that Jamieson said isn’t surprising as the town works to replace the original head gate on the nearly 70-year-old dam. Oak Creek has gone through a bid process for this work twice, but each effort failed to find a contractor the town could afford. A gate failure wouldn’t lead to loss of life, the analysis showed, but it would compromise the town’s water source, making the impact significant. The new risk identified is called a “liquefaction failure,” and it is related of the area’s seismic activity. While noticeable earthquakes are not common in Routt County, they are not unheard of. Since 2000, Routt County has seen approximately two-dozen earthquakes, with the largest being a 3.5 magnitude event about 10 miles northwest of Oak Creek in 2011, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

#RioGrande compact case: #Texas vs. #NewMexico — @AlamosaCitizen

Map showing new point to deliver Rio Grande water between Texas and New Mexico, at an existing stream gage in East El Paso. (Courtesy of Margaret “Peggy” Barroll in the joint motion)

From the Alamosa Citizen “Monday Briefing” newsletter:

Speaking of the Rio Grande, Texas and New Mexico, and to a degree Colorado, have been arguing since 2013 about water from the Rio Grande that Texas says New Mexico shorts it. Now the case has a proposed settlement. The biggest change the two sides have agreed on is that the gage station in El Paso, not Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico, would be where Texas’ share of the Rio Grande would be measured. The agreement still needs a sign off from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bureau of Reclamation completes project at #GlenCanyonDam to protect local #water supply during extremely low lake levels #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Mechanic apprentice Joseph Sams grinds a coupling that is part of the new lower water intake for the city of Page. Reclamation crews at Glen Canyon Dam constructed the new intake as a precaution as Lake Powell’s elevation is at historically low levels.

Click the link to read the article on the Bureau of Reclamation website:

Reclamation crews at Glen Canyon Dam recently completed a new water intake connection to accommodate the low water levels at Lake Powell. These efforts ensure water will be delivered to the city of Page, Arizona, and the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation even if Lake Powell drops to 3,370 feet. Elevation 3,370 feet is known as “dead pool” and is the point at which no “excess” water can be passed through the dam, only the volume of water that enters the reservoir will be able to be delivered downstream.

Lake Powell’s elevation is expected to drop to a post-filled, all-time low (below 3,522.24) before the end of the month and projections show that this year it is at risk of dropping below minimum power pool (elevation 3,490 feet), which is the lowest point the dam can currently generate hydropower. The increased risk to Lake Powell’s water level also raised concern about the stability of the local water supply.

A valve for the new lower intake hangs above the work area below Glen Canyon Dam Bridge as crews prepare to put the valve into place.

The city of Page was first established in 1957 for workers who were constructing Glen Canyon Dam.& In 1975, Page became a municipality, which prompted an agreement with Reclamation to deliver raw water from Lake Powell to their municipal water system, which now delivers treated water to the area’s 7,500 residents, the Navajo Nation community of LeChee, and the local businesses that serve an estimated 3 million tourists each year.

Reclamation personnel Damion Thomas (left) and Randolph Sloan (right) prepare to lower a valve down into what is referred to as a vault, where the valve will tap into two bypass tubes to construct a lower water supply for the nearby communities.

With the completion of this project, the water delivery system can now draw water from Lake Powell at three different elevations: (1) the main intake at a reservoir elevation of 3,480 feet, (2) the backup which taps into two penstocks and can access water at elevation 3,462 feet, and (3) the latest and lowest intake which taps into two bypass tubes (also referred to as river outlet works) and can access water as low as elevation 3,362 feet.

The new intake taps into two bypass tubes and then connects to the waterline leading to the municipal water treatment system.

“Working with personnel from the city of Page and the LeChee Chapter, we started looking for solutions,” said Reclamation Upper Colorado Basin Region Deputy Power Manager Bob Martin. “Our engineers and mechanical crews explored a number of possible options, and we came up with a relatively easy solution to a potentially large problem for the people who rely on this water source.”

This latest intake was made possible through an extension of the original water agreement with the city of Page. Crews at Glen Canyon Dam started construction in October and completed the project in December of 2022. The city provided the supplies and paid for the labor.

Glen Canyon Dam has four bypass tubes, also referred to as river outlet works (ROWs) that can draw water from Lake Powell around elevation 3,370 feet, bypassing the powerplant and sending the water downstream. To send water from the new intake to the city of Page, the bypass tube’s valve is closed, allowing the pipe to fill with water, creating enough head pressure to send the water through the connected piping leading to Page’s water treatment facility.

“The design and construction of this project is proof of Reclamation’s commitment to addressing prolonged drought and critically low reservoir levels,” said UCB Regional Director Wayne Pullan. “We face the impacts of aridification together. The lower water intake at Glen Canyon Dam provides additional water security—the promise of a continued dependable and reliable water supply.”

Ribbon-cutting, blessings, #water bubbles open new Hydro building:  New home for water quality lab opens new horizons for innovation, research and teaching — @DenverWater 

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Hydro building on Jan. 6, 2023, marked the completion of the CSU Spur campus, a center for innovation and learning focused on water, land and life. Photo credit: CSU Spur.

Click the link to read the post on the Denver Water website (Cathy Proctor):

Colorado State University’s marching band, university mascot CAM the Ram and the enthusiastic clamor of cowbells joined with dignitaries from the city, state and nation on Friday to celebrate the opening of the new Hydro building at the CSU Spur campus in north Denver. 

The Hydro building will be the home of Denver Water’s new, state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, replacing a small and outdated facility in southwest Denver that Denver Water had outgrown. 

It’s the third of a three-building research innovation and education complex called CSU Spur built at the heart of the National Western Center, the historic site of the old stock show complex now undergoing a massive redevelopment effort

See inside the Hydro building, which opened on Friday, Jan. 6:

Denver Water is partnering with Colorado State University to be part of the new CSU Spur campus on the National Western Center campus. Learn about Denver Water’s role at the new building.

Prior to cutting the ribbon to open the new building, Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead noted that the building offers far more than laboratory space, which is expected to be fully operational later this spring. 

“Here at CSU’s Spur campus, Denver Water will be the heart of a new research environment where we can work closely with academics and scientists in planning for water demands and challenges of tomorrow,” Lochhead said. 

“Climate change and emerging water quality issues require innovation. Spur provides a collaborative opportunity with all water interests to help Denver Water provide leading solutions to water challenges for our customers, the state and the West in a public and engaging way,” he said. 

One of the exhibits in the Hydro building provides a hands-on demonstration of how moving water, such as a river, shapes the land around it over time. Photo credit: CSU Spur

The utility’s water quality team conducts nearly 200,000 tests every year to ensure the water delivered to 1.5 million people every day is clean, safe and meets all state and federal water quality standards. The new facility provides room for Denver Water scientists to test three times that amount in the future. 

Denver Water’s Youth Education team also will use the site to teach students about their water — where it comes from, how it’s cleaned and how its delivered to their homes. 

“This space also provides us with new ways to connect with the next generation of water leaders and highlight career paths that many students may not have been aware of before. It’s a win for all of us,” Lochhead said. 

The connections created by the people working at the CSU Spur campus will be “a win for all of us,” said Jim Lochhead, the CEO/Manager of Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Hydro, which is Greek for water, joins two completed buildings at the CSU Spur campus. 

The first building, Vida, which means “life” in Spanish, opened in January 2022. It’s home to a community veterinary hospital for the Dumb Friends League; Temple Grandin Equine Center, which offers equine assisted services; and a 9-foot model of a kitten named Esperanza, quite possibly the largest cat in the West. 

The second building, Terra, which means “earth” or “land” in Latin, opened in the summer of 2022. It features rooftop greenhouses and a teaching kitchen, along with food innovation labs for new product creation, agricultural diagnostic labs and exhibits focused on food and agricultural systems.

The intersection of those three areas — water, land and life — represent the global challenges facing our world. 

“I don’t think we can imagine what will be accomplished in the next 20, 40, 50 years at this campus. But I believe when we think about the human potential that will be unlocked here, the creativity that will be unleashed to make progress around these great global challenges, CSU Spur is something we’ll be incredibly proud to be a part of,” said Tony Frank, the chancellor of the Colorado State University System, at the opening ceremony. 

Terra, one of the three buildings at the CSU Spur campus, focuses on agriculture and has a teaching kitchen. Photo credit: CSU Spur.

The connections the three buildings will foster — between people dedicated to public health and animal care, the land and the food it provides, and the life-giving water that circulates throughout — was noted by several speakers during the ceremony. 

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Denver Water’s presence at the building, with its water quality experts, will feature the mission of Hydro — to bring research and innovation to the questions of water resilience and sustainability. 

Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, has been involved in the planning for the CSU Spur campus for years. The end of construction means the start of opportunity and change on a local and international level, he told the crowd. 

“These buildings are not just buildings. They’re not just incredible educational opportunities. They’re not just a place to celebrate the science and arts. They’re not just a place to connect rural and urban,” Vilsack said. 

“This is the center of transformation. This is a center for a brighter and better future, not just for Colorado agriculture, not just for United States agriculture, but for global agriculture. It’s that important what you all are doing here. 

“I hope as you go through here, you understand and appreciate how proud you should be to be connected to a university, to a city, and to a state that is so committed to this endeavor,” he said. 

The Vida building at the CSU Spur campus has a veterinary clinic for professionals, and a learning space for students exploring future opportunities. Photo credit: CSU Spur.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he viewed the campus and the connections it will foster as a place that will drive the state’s economy and sustainability efforts. 

“Water is life in our state, and the challenges that Colorado and the West face around water are really reaching a critical point in less water, more demand, our straining of our streams and our waterways, making the work here, inventing innovative, a future that works for the West, that works for Colorado is more important than ever before,” Polis said. 

“This is a place where we can continue our leadership on water, fostering conversations that lead to local, regional, statewide solutions.”

After the ribbon was cut, all three buildings were open to the public. 

Children, parents and adults walked through Hydro, learning about the importance of water from Denver Water employees who staffed the “Water and Land” hands-on exhibit demonstrating how moving water, such as a river, shapes the land around it. 

On the third floor of the building, they peered through the glass at the new laboratory space that will be set up and operational in coming months. And they gathered around a column of water, watching bubbles rise through the water and using an information table to explore different indicators that scientists look for to determine water quality. 

Interactive exhibits explore the world of water at the Hydro building. Photo credit: Denver Water.

At the Terra building, students explored food options, while at Vida they learned about veterinary care – even trying on lab coats while bandaging a stuffed dog. 

Before the celebration, John Gritts, a member of the Cherokee Nation, blessed the building:

“Creator, as we gather here today to open and celebrate Hydro, the last building in this educational complex, we ask for your blessings upon this sacred ground,” Gritts said. 

“We ask for your blessings for this place where people can learn the importance of the relationship between animals, plants — and how sacred water is to us as human beings. May we recognize and honor those relationships. 

“Thank you for this day that we can celebrate.”

John Gritts, a member of the Cherokee Nation, sought a blessing for the Hydro building prior to its opening on Jan. 6, 2023. Photo credit: CSU Spur.

Key Milestones Hit at Chimney Hollow Reservoir in 2022 — @Northern_Water #ColoradoRiver #COriver #SouthPlatteRiver

Inlet/Outlet Tunnel (left), Bald Mountain Interconnect (center) and Main Dam (right). Credit: Northern Water

From the Chimney Hollow “E-Newsletter” from Northern Water:

Chimney Hollow Reservoir construction crews made significant progress in 2022. Work started in August 2021 and is scheduled to continue until August 2025. Here are some highlights from this year’s work. 

Main Dam Foundation Prep: In November 2022, crews completed the main dam rock excavation, which marked a huge milestone in reservoir construction after 15 months of work on this component. 

Hydraulic Asphalt Core: Chimney Hollow construction crews began the asphalt placement in October 2022. For the next two years, the asphalt will be placed in 9-inch increments per lift until the dam reaches a height of about 350 feet. Rockfill and filter/drain construction occur concurrently to complete the embankment construction at any given elevation. 

Bald Mountain Interconnect: One of the most time-sensitive aspects of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir Project was the Bald Mountain Interconnect. A shutdown of the Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) Project occurred from mid-September through mid-December as crews cut into existing infrastructure to tie in a 126-inch diameter section of steel pipe with a 72-inch diameter steel offtake (known as a wye) to add the ability to deliver water into Chimney Hollow Reservoir from the C-BT Project.  

Larimer County and Saddle Dam Access Roads: On Nov. 15, the Larimer County and saddle dam access roads were completed. When the reservoir opens to the public, the Larimer County access road will be the entry road to Chimney Hollow’s future public recreation and open space facilities. The saddle dam road is not a public road and extends to the saddle dam for Northern Water maintenance access.  

Downstream Tunnel and Valve Chamber: The downstream tunnel portal and excavation of the 26-foot diameter downstream portion of the tunnel, which runs 667 feet to the center of the main dam was completed in October 2022. A 30-foot diameter valve chamber was also excavated to provide room for mechanical equipment installation and maintenance. A 72-inch diameter steel conduit will be placed inside the tunnel to bring water in and out of Chimney Hollow Reservoir. 

Northern Water’s Joe Donnelly and Jeff Drager explain in this video how the new 90,000 acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir, located southwest of Loveland, will be filled with water once construction is completed in 2025.

Plans for 264-foot dam above #LittleSnakeRiver spur conflict — WyoFile #YampaRiver #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The upper reaches of Haggarty Creek on the Medicine Bow National Forest. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Angus M. Thuermer):

Above the Colorado-Wyoming border, the Sierra Madre Mountain snowpack holds water that ranchers say flows downstream too fast. Some question whether a proposed 10,000-acre-foot reservoir is pork or progress.

As officials this week outline plans for a 264-foot-high concrete dam proposed for a wooded canyon in the Medicine Bow National Forest, irrigators and critics remain divided over the project’s benefits and impacts. The two sides disagree whether the estimated $80-million structure and accompanying 130-acre reservoir are pork or progress, boon or bane.

Federal officials begin receiving public comments on the proposed dam on the West Fork of Battle Creek in Carbon County as ranchers and environmentalists disagree over whether 450,000 cubic yards of concrete should plug a forested gorge and whether federal and state agencies are conducting environmental examinations appropriately. In what one official admitted is a complex process with parallel reviews, two federal agencies will make key findings to resolve the project’s fate.

The federal Natural Resource Conservation Service will examine dam construction and alternatives in an environmental impact statement. Meantime, the U.S. Forest Service will launch a separate “feasibility study” to decide whether it should take part in an estimated 6,282-acre land exchange facilitating construction of the dam. The study will determine whether trading the federal dam site to Wyomining “is in the best interest of the American public,” Medicine Bow spokesman Aaron Voos said.

Proponents want the dam and reservoir to yield 6,500 acre-feet of late-season irrigation for between 67-100 irrigators in Wyoming and Colorado. The 10,000 acre-foot impoundment would hold 1,500 acre-feet as a minimum bypass flow for fish and wildlife. The state would pay for most of the estimated $80 million cost, a figure calculated in 2017.

“We would like to have a project here because it’s good for our valley,” said Pat O’Toole, a former state representative who ranches along the Little Snake River. “The public interest is clearly that the storage project [aids] biodiversity” and boosts food production while creating “a really healthy landscape.”

[…]

The land exchange is an end-run around environmental reviews, he said, an assertion dam supporters and review agencies reject. [Gary] Wockner is worried that Medicine Bow officials won’t apply the same scrutiny to the land exchange that they would to the construction of a dam on National Forest property, he said. Building on federal land would require a more extensive review, he said, echoing dam backers’ own public statements.

Medicine Bow spokesman Voos rejected the assertion his agency is shirking its responsibilities. It is speculation to assert what level of review a proposal to build the dam on federal property would require, he said.

Wyoming agrees the process is sound. “It wouldn’t limit the environmental review at all,” Jason Crowder, deputy director of the Office of State Lands and Investments, told WyoFile.

In addition to its public-interest swap determination, the Medicine Bow is participating in a separate environmental impact review and statement — conducted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service — that will consider environmental and social impacts of dam and reservoir construction and operation. All that “satisfies the environmental review requirements for the land exchange,” Voos said.

Dwindling basin flows

At the upper reaches of the Colorado River Basin, where dwindling flows put seven Western states and Mexico at odds over historic and future use, the project comes at an uneasy time. It will test Wyoming’s willingness to impound and use what it believes river laws allow, despite an arid landscape of dwindling Colorado River flows, oversubscribed demands, climate change and growth.

Federal regulations state that a land exchange can take place only if the public interest “will be well served.”

One benefit to the Medicine Bow could be acquiring 640 acres of state-owned school-trust sections inside the national forest. “Quite a few of them are either in or adjacent to [a] wilderness area or roadless areas,” said Jonathan Bowler, watermaster for the Savery-Little Snake River Water Conservancy District.

Little Snake River agricultural lands along the Colorado-Wyoming border. Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

“The public could potentially see an expansion of roadless and wilderness in those areas,” he said.

The reservoir itself would flood land within about a half mile of the boundary of the Medicine Bow’s 31,057-acre Huston Park Wilderness Area, according to maps.

Bowler outlined other ways existing irrigation aids the environment; the dam would expand those benefits.

“You’ve got hundreds of ranchers pretty much doing the work of beavers to build riparian areas and habitat,” he said. Such irrigation-induced wetlands today cover more than 7,000 acres in the area, he said.

Birds and water at Bosque de Apache New Mexico November 9, 2022. Photo credit: Abby Burk

Irrigation aids amphibians and species like sandhill cranes that migrate to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, he said. “Our irrigation actually directly benefits that mating grounds down there that’s quite a tourist attraction.” Elk and other wildlife benefit from the open private land, he said.

Irrigation “basically fills up the soil … the largest reservoir that we have,” he said. When that moisture starts coming back out to the river, “that means that our rivers are higher [in] flow [in] late summer, early fall than historically they were.”

Wyoming calculates those returning flows — about 45% of what’s diverted onto fields — as water that can be used for irrigation again and counted as a benefit, according to a Water Development Office study.

“That late-season irrigation especially can help cool down river temperatures, which helps to provide for those big game populations as well as fish and other wildlife,” Bowler said.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

The dam also could benefit Colorado River cutthroat trout because it would be an upstream barrier to competitors, helping fisheries managers enlarge a sanctuary for the species in and above the reservoir.

Said O’Toole, “this is may be as conservation-minded a place I know of in the western United States.”

Environmental review

…Wyoming wants 1,700 acres of Forest Service land for the dam and would analyze the value of between 2,024 and 4,400 acres of Wyoming school-trust land inside the Medicine Bow for the trade. Public announcements differ over the state acreage to be considered for trade.

The valley in which the West Fork dam and reservoir would be constructed. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

State and federal officials agree a land swap would make approval of the 130-acre reservoir easier. Wyoming’s exchange request states that a land swap “would eliminate the need for a USFS special use permit.”

Federal land ownership of the dam site “adds millions of dollars to that [permitting] process,” Harry LaBonde, former director of the WWDO told lawmakers in 2018. “Dealing with the Forest Service … very much complicates the NEPA process,” he said, and an exchange “very much streamlines” potential development.

Dam proponents “were running into a bit of a roadblock with Forest Service on Forest-Service-managed land,” OSLI Deputy Director Crowder told the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners in 2021.

The Medicine Bow told Wyoming officials that building on federal, not state, land “would not be the best approach just due to all the regulations that would come along with a [required] special use permit,” Voos said in an interview. “And so I think that [land swap] has been our suggestion.”

The value of exchanged parcels can be balanced by adjusting the acreage or paying for a difference, according to Wyoming’s proposal.

Any increase in federal acreage — the state offered 4,400 acres for analysis and potential trade for 1,700 acres of Medicine Bow land — could run afoul of Carbon County’s Natural Resource Management Plan. That plan supports valuable exchanges but also calls for “no net loss of private or state lands in exchange for federal lands.”

Gov. Mark Gordon, too, “is not supportive of the federal government expanding their [sic] estate in Wyoming,” Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman told WyoFile when the governor protested the 35,670-acre conservation purchase of the private Marton Ranch along the North Platte River last year.

Of the 1,700 acres of Medicine Bow property Wyoming would acquire, the state wants 1,336 acres for the dam and reservoir itself and another 426 acres covering parts of Haggarty Creek and the Belvidere Ditch, site of a water spatamong area irrigators.

Owning all the property would “provide for the efficient operation of the reservoir and surrounding lands,” the state said in its land-swap proposal.

The state would lease the newly acquired land to the Water Development Commission, which would eventually transfer ownership to Carbon County or some other entity, according to plans. That final owner would be responsible for compensating the school trust — whose land the state would trade away.

A mining company that owns land at the reservoir site also would be involved with the project. American Milling LP of Cahokia, Illinois owns about 124 acres inside the national forest at the proposed site of the reservoir. The Carbon County assessor lists the market value of the property, site of mineral claims, at $40,675. Wyoming would presumably have to acquire that property too, or somehow arrange for it to be flooded.

WyoFile did not receive a response to a certified letter sent to the company seeking comment on Wyoming’s plans to inundate the private land.

Equal values

The Forest Service must show that values and public objectives of the state parcels “equal or exceed” those that would be swapped, regulations state. Medicine Bow land that would become the dam site must “not substantially conflict with established management objectives on adjacent Federal lands,” the Forest Service said.

Medicine Bow officials last week couldn’t immediately outline those objectives.

A WWDO study, however, listed the benefits of a new dam, saying it would generate $73.7 million in public benefits. Reservoir releases would be coordinated with those from the High Savery Dam.

A fish barrier on Haggarty Creek provides an upstream sanctuary for Colorado River cutthroat trout. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Critics have questioned the accounting of benefits, including rosy projections for recreational revenue and the acreage that would benefit from irrigation.

The cost/benefit ratio allows the state to reduce the required contributions from irrigation districts from the typical 33% to 8% of construction costs.

Wyoming, however, has seen costs for dam construction increase dramatically in recent years, potentially upsetting the cost/benefit ratio. The environmental review will update those figures, Jason Mead, interim director of the WWDO, wrote in an email.

Construction would require an estimated 450,000 cubic yards of concrete, according to an application to appropriate water filed with the state engineer in 2014. The Forest Service public-interest determination and separate NRCS environmental impact statement seek to examine the construction plan through two separate reviews.

A 70-step process 

The parallel review process is complex, Voos said. The Medicine Bow is engaged with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a larger analysis of the dam’s environmental and social impact. Other state and federal agencies also are involved.

The separate Forest Service public-interest decision is entwined in that process, both to be explained at public meetings in the region on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The public-interest determination, “that’s kind of a parallel process to the land exchange,” Voos said. “We are piggybacking in essence, on those public meetings,” to get comments on the swap.

“We have a full, almost … 70-step process that we have to go through for the land exchange,” Voos said. Reservoir construction on National Forest System lands “is not commonplace,” the Medicine Bow said in a statement.

After determining the public-interest benefit, “we proceed or don’t proceed with the rest of the land exchange process,” Voos said. The Forest Service is “not for or against the project.”

[…]

Interested parties can read a legal notice published by the NRCS or weigh in online, by post or hand-delivery. The comments go to the NRCS, which will forward relevant land-swap ones to the Forest Service, Voos said. Meetingsoutlining the scope of the analysis and potential alternatives will be held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Craig, Colorado, and Baggs and Saratoga respectively.

Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.

Mountain West states getting millions in federal funds for #drought resilience — KUNR #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #RioGrande #SouthPlatteRiver

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradudall/status/1593316262041436160

Click the link to read the article on the KUNR website (Kaleb Roedel). Here’s an excerpt:

In Nevada, more than $1.7 million will pay for Las Vegas Valley homeowners using septic tanks to convert to the municipal sewer system. This recycles water back into Lake Mead, which is fed by the drought-stricken Colorado River, said Doa Ross, deputy general manager of engineering for the Southern Nevada Water Authority…

In Colorado, $5 million will be used to build a collector well in Aurora. On the state’s Western Slope, Deutsch Domestic Water Company is getting $585,000 for storage and efficiency improvements…

In New Mexico, $5 million will go toward a groundwater well in Gallup. Another $1.5 million will help pay for new tools and strategies in regions with acequia water distribution systems, which are gravity-fed earthen canals that divert stream flow for distribution to fields…

Utah is getting the largest chunk of funds among states in the Mountain West. The state has seven different projects receiving a total of about $22.5 million

Living With Less: Farmers in #Arizona are no longer in a “what if” scenario. A shrinking #ColoradoRiver is transforming life in the West. The solutions will take all of us — @AmericanRivers #COriver #aridification

BKW Farms is a model for what sustainable water consumption and conservation can look like in the heart of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert | Photo: Sinjin Eberle

Click the link to read the post on the American Rivers blog (Katy Neusteter):

Brian Wong has a lot on his shoulders. A third-generation farmer, Wong grows crops — including nearly extinct heritage grains like white Sonora wheat — on 4,500 acres in the heart of the parched Sonoran Desert, about 25 minutes northwest of Tucson, Arizona. Bakeries, restaurants, breweries, and flour mills as far away as Minnesota and Florida rely on his grain to sustain their own businesses. 

Wong’s BKW Farms is among the 80 percent of the state’s agricultural producers that rely on the Colorado River to irrigate their crops. And with the Colorado at precariously low levels, his family business faces its largest challenge in nearly 85 years. “We have a great understanding of and place great importance on water,” Wong says. “Water is something you need in almost every aspect of agriculture. Everything we grow is irrigated. We need to have a water source to put on the crops so we can continue growing food.” 

The Central Arizona Aqueduct delivers water from the Colorado River. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

All of the water irrigating Wong’s farm arrives via the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a 336-mile canal system that shuttles Colorado River water to customers throughout the state. Altogether, the Colorado irrigates 5 million acres of farm and ranch land across seven Southwestern states and Mexico. It supplies 40 million people with drinking water and supports a $1.4 trillion economy. 

But climate change, extreme drought, and explosive population growth are taking an enormous toll on the river. The Colorado and its two largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, dwindled to calamitously low levels in 2022, forcing the U.S. Department of the Interior to declare, for the first time in history, a Tier 1 Water Shortage. The declaration triggered deep cuts in the volume of Colorado River water delivered to Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico. Arizona agriculture took the biggest hit because CAP is on par to get 30 percent less water from the shrinking river. Even deeper restrictions will go into effect in 2023, with cities and Tribes shouldering more of the brunt.  

Alongside farmers like Wong, American Rivers is urgently working together with partners at utilities, municipalities, and conservation groups to fix the massive imbalance between demand and a shrinking Colorado River. 

Colorado River, AZ | Photo by Fred Phillips

From working with ranchers to restore habitat in the river’s headwaters, to encouraging municipalities to use less and eliminate unnecessary uses of valuable Colorado River water, to working on new guidelines for long-term management of the river, American Rivers is involved in decisions that span 1,700 miles of the Colorado River, from its headwaters in Colorado to its delta in Mexico.  

“The hard truth is, there just isn’t enough water to go around for everyone,” Wong says. 

We have to learn to live with a smaller Colorado River. Wong says the way forward is by partnering with advocates like American Rivers, who work with policymakers and stakeholders to elevate stories and shape water-management strategies into the future.  

The bottom line is that “I” doesn’t work. We all rely on rivers, and water, and their continued existence. Our future demands that we invest boldly and immediately in strategies that will work — and that will build for all of us the kind of future we want for our children.

 Aspinall Unit operations update: Coordination meeting January 19, 2023

Part of the memorial to Wayne Aspinall in Palisade. Aspinall, a Democrat, is a legend in the water sector, and is the namesake of the annual award given by the Colorado Water Congress. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Aspinall Unit is scheduled for Thursday, January 19th, 2023 at 1:00 pm

As of now, the meeting is planned to be held in person as well as virtually. 

The meeting is planned to be held at the Western Colorado Area Office in Grand Junction, CO. Even if the in-person meeting needs to be cancelled, the meeting will still be held via webinar.

Information for connecting to the meeting virtually will be emailed out prior to the meeting, along with the agenda and handouts.

How can cities across the American West reuse and recycle #water to combat drought? — The #Denver Post

The Las Vegas Wash is the primary channel through which the Las Vegas Valley’s excess water returns to Lake Mead. Contributing approximately 2 percent of the water in Lake Mead, the water flowing through the Wash consists of urban runoff, shallow groundwater, storm water and releases from the valley’s four water reclamation facilities. Photo credit: Southern Nevada Water Authority

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

Even when water is scarce, “people still flush their toilets,” former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Dan Beard said.

This story is one part of a broader series about ways to save water from the drying Colorado River. See the full project here.

We all use the bathroom, clean our clothes, wash our dishes, take showers or baths, why not collect that water and reuse it? It’s already happening around the world and it’s a technology that’s proven to work.

Graywater system schematic.

Water providers can collect what’s called grey water from sinks, bathtubs, showers and laundry machines or even sewage, called blackwater, and treat it for reuse. Fort Collins began allowing grey water systems to be installed in the new buildings this summer and that water can be used to flush toilets or for below-ground irrigation. Mayor Jeni Arndt said using that water twice, whenever possible, is the responsible thing to do. She acknowledged that the approach might only save a few gallons per home each day but everything counts, plus the approach is a good way to encourage residents to think more sustainably about their water use…In some cases, the water can be treated and transformed back into drinking water. But it’s even easier to use the water again for non-potable purposes like irrigating crops, watering lawns, recharging groundwater sources and industrial uses, depending on how thoroughly it’s treated. Unlike desalination plants, Beard said water treatment plants could be built for much less money and within the span of a year or two. So they’re relatively quick and effective and a wise way to care for the water that’s already in use…

Plus, Jay Famiglietti, director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, said there’s only ever going to be so much water available for reuse.

“It’s driven by your supply of human waste,” he said. “That’s as much as you’re going to get.”

Poudre School District investigating high copper levels found in new #Wellington school’s #water — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

Looking west on Cleveland Avenue in Wellington. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47841975

Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan website (Erin Odell). Here’s an excerpt:

Editor’s note: Rice Elementary School became the second Wellington school to find elevated copper levels in some of its drinking water sources over PSD’s winter break, according to a district email sent to the school’s staff and families Wednesday. The Coloradoan will continue its reporting on this development.

Poudre School District is investigating the cause of issues with Wellington Middle-High School’s drinking water after two science classes at the school found high levels of copper in it late last year. Following the class tests — which showed levels more than double the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for copper in drinking water at two water bottle filling stations — PSD took its own water samples from around the school Dec. 22, later confirming through a third-party lab that copper levels in several fixtures and bottle filling stations exceeded the EPA’s threshold, according to a district email to the school’s staff and parents Tuesday [January 3, 2023]…

The Town of Wellington also took samples of its own around the same time, ultimately ruling out the town’s water distribution lines as the cause for the elevated copper levels, the town and PSD both said. While PSD hasn’t yet confirmed what’s causing the elevated copper levels, the general contractor who built Wellington Middle-High School believes the issue could be tied to the newly constructed building’s water softener equipment, according to the district.

15 Northern Colorado communities win key federal #water project OK as legal battle looms — @WaterEdCO #PoudreRiver #SouthPlatteRiver

Erie is among 15 Northern Colorado entities participating in the Northern Integrated Supply Project. Water to supply new growth is a key driver of the project. Construction underway in Erie. Dec. 4, 2022. Credit: Jerd Smith, Fresh Water News

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Allen Best):

Fifteen towns, cities and water districts in northern Colorado hope to begin building two dams and other infrastructure in 2025 to deliver enough water to meet needs for a quarter-million people, many of them along the fast-growing Interstate 25 corridor.

Northern Water, the agency overseeing what’s known as the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), hailed federal approval of a critical permit last month as a milestone. “This action is the culmination of nearly 20 years of study, project design and refinement to develop water resources well into the 21st century,” said Brad Wind, general manager of Northern Water. Wind said that NISP will enable the 15 project members, including Windsor, Erie and Fort Morgan, to grow without buying farmland, then drying it up and using its water for growth.

The environmental group, Save the Poudre, hopes to dash those plans. The nonprofit says it will file a lawsuit in an attempt to block the $2 billion NISP. To succeed, the group will have to overcome precedent. It failed to block Chimney Hollow, the dam that Northern Water is constructing as part of a separate project, in the foothills west of Berthoud whose construction began in 2022 after a three-year court case.

“We have a much stronger case against NISP because the project would drain a dramatic amount of water out of the Poudre River, which would negatively impact the river’s ecology, its habitat, and its jurisdictional wetlands — protected by the Clean Water Act — all the way through Fort Collins and downstream,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre.

This new court challenge was set up by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announcement Dec. 9 that it was issuing a crucial permit under the Clean Water Act. Directors of Northern Water, the overarching agency for the participating jurisdictions, are scheduled on Thursday, Jan. 5, to take up whether to accept the terms of the permit. Staff members have advised them to do so.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

The impetus for NISP can be traced to the early 1980s when Northern Water began drawing up plans to dam the Poudre River in the foothills near Fort Collins. Federal agencies balked at Denver’s plans for a similar project on the South Platte River at Two Forks, in the foothills southwest of Denver. Northern shelved its initial plan. But after the scorching drought that began in 2002, Northern developed plans for NISP, which it submitted to federal agencies in 2004.

Two reservoirs are central to NISP. Glade Park, an off-channel reservoir, would be built north of La Porte, bounded by the Dakota hogbacks and a dam that would cross today’s Highway 287. It would have a capacity of 170,000 acre-feet, slightly larger than the 157,000 acre-feet of Horsetooth Reservoir. Northern’s water rights are relatively junior, dating from the 1980s and would only generate water in spring months during high runoff years.

The project promises delivery via pipeline of 40,000 acre-feet of high-quality water annually to the 11 mostly smaller towns and cities and the 4 water districts. Erie is buying the largest amount of water from the new project, claiming 6,500 acre-feet. An acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons.

The second storage pool, Galeton Reservoir, at 45,000 acre-feet, would impound water northeast of Greeley. Unlike the water from Glade, which is to be strictly dedicated to domestic use, Galeton would hold water that will be delivered to farms in Weld County that otherwise would have received water from the Poudre River. This will be done via a water-rights swap with two ditches north of Greeley. Those agreements have not been finalized.

Preservation of agricultural land, costs of water, and water quality figure prominently in the talking points both for — and, in some cases, against — the project.

Northern and its project participants argue that NISP will allow them to grow without drying up farms. It can do so, they say, by delivering the water at a lower cost.

The federal environmental impact statement’s no-action alternative found that population growth would occur regardless of whether a federal permit was issued, said Jeff Stahla, the public information officer for Northern Water. That analysis found that in the absence of NISP, the 15 cities and water districts would look to buy water rights currently devoted to agriculture, ultimately taking 64,000 acres — or 100 square miles — out of production.

The 15 utilities will be able to get NISP’s new water at $40,000 per acre-foot, substantially below current market rates for other regional water sources such as the Colorado-Big Thompson Project shares. Those shares, which constitute seven-tenths of an acre-foot, have been selling for about $75,000.

In some cases, expanding cities will take farmland out of production — and presumably gain access to the water, but not always.

“We do not want to dry up northern Colorado,” says John Thornhill, Windsor’s director of community development.

Thornhill said that Windsor, a town of 42,000 with its 20th Century sugar beet factory still standing, is participating in NISP to improve the resiliency of its water portfolio as it prepares for another 10,000 to 15,000 residents in the next 10 to 15 years.

“The town of Windsor has just as much interest in having a clean, healthy river as anybody else does,” he says. “[The Poudre River] goes right through our town.”

Fort Collins is not participating in the project. In a 2020 resolution, it said it would oppose the proposal or any variant that failed to “address the City’s fundamental concerns about the quality of its water supply and the effects on the Cache la Poudre River through the city.”

Water quality will be at the heart of Save the Poudre’s lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers’ 404 permit. The group’s Wockner says the diversion to Glade Reservoir will reduce peak flows in the Poudre, a river already suffering from E. coli and other pollutants, by up to 40%. “The water quality in the river will worsen because as you take out the peak flows what is left is dirty water,” he says.

Also at issue, says Wockner, will be the impacts to Fort Collins’ wastewater treatment. With reduced flows downstream from its two treatment plants, those plants would have to be upgraded.

On the flip side, Fort Morgan got involved partly because of Glade Reservoir’s higher water quality, according to City Manager Brent Nation.

The city of 12,000 historically relied upon aquifer water heavily laden with minerals for its domestic supply. As the aquifer became increasingly tainted by chemicals used in agricultural production, the city, in the late 1990s, began importing water through an 80-mile pipeline from Carter Lake, a reservoir that stores imported Colorado River water southwest of Loveland.

To use aquifer water for its new population growth Fort Morgan would need to upgrade its water treatment system to use reverse osmosis. That’s a more expensive treatment that also produces a problem of brine disposal.

Both Fort Morgan and Windsor have started working on land-use regulations that will restrict high-quality water for domestic use, at least in some subdivisions, leaving lower-quality water for landscaping.

If NISP as proposed survives Save the Poudre’s legal challenge, it may still need a 1041 permit from Fort Collins. Those regulations have not yet been adopted, however.

Allen Best grew up in eastern Colorado, where both sets of grandparents were farmers. Best writes about the energy transition in Colorado and beyond at BigPivots.com.

Can the West save the #ColoradoRiver before it’s too late? Here are 8 possible solutions — The #Denver Post #COriver #aridification

A coiled distillation membrane system for desalinating hypersaline brine. Rolling the system into a coil demonstrated the possibility of adopting a common space-saving, water-filtration format. (Photo by Kuichang Zuo/Rice University)

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

Desalination

The gist: The Pacific Ocean has more than enough water to supplement whatever the Colorado River has lost. But, as it is, ocean water is not safe to drink, nor can it be used on crops. Running ocean water through a desalination plant can filter out its dangerously high salt content, bacteria and other impurities to make it safe for use…

The recently opened PUR Water facility in Oceanside turns blackwater into potable water, or toilet to tap as it was once called, by pumping it into the ground then filtering it through a warehouse full of white filtration tubes. The colored pipes represent the different types of water at different stages. his facility in Oceanside, California turns recycled water into potable water by running it through filtration tubes. TED WOOD

Reuse and recycling

The gist: Collect water that’s already been used and use it again

This proposed pipeline divert water from the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana through Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and up to the Glen Canyon Dam. Credit: Don Siefkes

Importing water

The gist: If the Colorado River is losing water so fast, why not take water from the places that have it and transport it into the basin that needs it, likely with a system of pipes?

[…]

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

Cloud seeding

The gist: By spraying a chemical compound — typically silver iodide — into certain types of clouds, seeders can agitate super-chilled water particles inside, causing them to freeze and fall to the ground as snow…

The downtown Denver skyline from Arvada. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Managing growth

The gist: The more people, industries and businesses that call the American West their home, the more water those communities will need. Cities and states can encourage current residents to use less water, especially with aspects like water-dependent lawns. And they can require new homes and businesses to ensure they have a water supply before building…

Photo of Crowley County by Jennifer Goodland

Agriculture

The gist: State and federal officials could use huge chunks of now-available money to “buy and dry” farmland, farmers could periodically let their fields lay fallow or they can switch to less water-consumptive crops. Likely, the basin needs a combination of all of these combined with efficiency improvements throughout the industry to save water from the irrigating process…

Wildlife biologist Bill Vetter and Western Rivers Regional Program Manager with Audubon Rockies Abby Burk walk along an irrigation ditch in Grand County. An avian monitoring program aims to learn more about how birds use irrigated agriculture. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Demand management

The gist: Pay people not to use water or to use less. Or hike the price of water to encourage less use…

From the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

Native American tribes

The gist: By legally cementing the water rights for the tribes depending on the Colorado River, state and federal governments could begin to lease, buy or otherwise compensate the tribes for their water. In addition, this would give the tribes better access to their own water, which they need to drink, farm and develop their communities.

Feds set deadline (February 13, 2023) for West Fork Dam comments — @WyoFile #LitteSnakeRiver #YampaRiver #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Water developers want to construct a 264-foot high dam on the West Fork of Battle Creek south of Rawlins. This artist’s conception shows in a Google Earth rendition what the reservoir would look like. (Wyoming Water Development Office)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

Federal authorities have set a Feb. 13 deadline for comments on a proposal to build a 264-foot-high concrete dam in the Medicine Bow National Forest in Carbon County.

The proposed West Fork Dam and reservoir would impound 6,500 acre-feet of irrigation storage in the Little Snake River Valley and parts of Colorado. Another 1,500 acre-feet would maintain a “minimum bypass flow” into Battle Creek and the Little Snake, Yampa, Green and Colorado Rivers downstream.

Officials announced the deadline in the Federal Register on Dec. 28 where they said they would accept written comments for 45 days. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has scheduled three public meetings Jan. 10-12 in communities in the impacted region.

The meetings are not designed as forums at which officials will accept public comment, Aaron Voos, a spokesman for the Medicine Bow said. Officials will use them to explain plans for construction of the proposed West Fork Dam and reservoir and the parallel Forest Service examination of a land exchange that would enable the project. 

Why it matters

The dam would cost some $80 million, according to a 2017 estimate, and the state would pay $73.6 million of that, original plans state. The dam and reservoir would generate an estimated $73.3 million in public benefits such as recreation and fishing, according to developers. Those benefits allow the state to reduce the amount irrigators would have to contribute, according to documents outlining the plan.

The proposal to impound more water in the Colorado River Basin and extract it from waterways for “increased pasture and hay production” comes at a time when seven Western states and Mexico are at odds over who can use what water in the overtaxed system. Even though officials are struggling to maintain water levels in Lake Powell, Wyoming believes it has the right to construct the reservoir and use flows from the basin’s network of waterways.

 Who said what:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will prepare an environmental impact statement analyzing six alternatives, including no-action and an option that would use “alternate means such as … water conservation projects and habitat improvement projects” to achieve watershed-plan goals.

Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.

‘The brink of disaster’: 2023 is a critical year for the #ColoradoRiver as reservoirs sink toward ‘dead pool’ — CNN #COriver #aridification

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradudall/status/1593316262041436160

Click the link to read the article on the CNN website (Ella Nilsen and Rachel Ramirez). Here’s an excerpt:

The cuts that are needed are on an unprecedented scale, and officials will be fighting an uphill battle against a deep, multi-year drought to get them done. State officials tried drastic measures to cut their usage this year, but the river’s continued decline was an alarming reality check…Experts told CNN that even with a good winter and spring runoff season, water managers still need to plan for the worst-case scenario.

“You can’t live with no water in the reservoirs hoping for good years; you need to refill the system,” Eric Kuhn, former manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, told CNN. “People realize that you can’t live on the brink of disaster.”

[…]

Anxiety is growing in the West as reservoir levels plummet. Negotiations between the states on voluntary water cuts have been tense and closely watched, particularly between the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada. Those talks have stalled amid disagreement on how much water each state should sacrifice and how much money farmers, tribal nations and cities should be paid to reduce their water consumption. State negotiators are themselves waiting for the feds to decide how it will dole out $4 billion in drought relief money, which the Biden administration fronted from the Inflation Reduction Act to essentially pay people to not use water.

“I would not say it has put anything on hold,” Buschatzke told CNN.

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Navajo Dam operations update January 3, 2023: Bumping down to 300 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The outflow at the bottom of Navajo Dam in New Mexico. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation Susan Novak Behery:

In response to sufficient flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 300 cfs for Tuesday, January 3rd, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Clean drinking #water is a human right because humans with human rights can’t live without drinking water. That this even needs to be explained in a public policy sense is a measure of nothing good — @CharlesPPierce #ColoradoRiver #COriver

LadyDragonflyCC — Creative Commons, Flickr

Click the link to read the article on the Esquire website (Charles P. Pierce). Here’s an excerpt:

Meanwhile, in arctic Canada, the First Nations people who live around North Spirit Lake have been boiling their water for 20 years, and they’re still doing so despite having won a notable court case on the subject a year ago.

“For years, and in some cases decades, Canada has failed to provide safe drinking water to many of its Indigenous communities, including North Spirit Lake, a remote reserve in northwestern Ontario that has been under a boil water advisory nearly continuously since 2001. Decaying infrastructure at water plants and a lack of trained operators has, on many reserves, rendered the treated water undrinkable. Since 1995, more than 250 First Nations have been affected, according to court records. As a result, Indigenous people have fallen ill from gastrointestinal infections, respiratory illnesses and severe rashes, with some ending up hospitalized. Boiling water has become a daily inconvenience, and entire communities, already struggling with chronic financial hardship, must rely on shipments of expensive bottled water.”

So the Native people went to court, and won, and nothing much has changed.

“Last year, Canada’s federal court approved a settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by three Indigenous communities accusing the government of breaching its legal obligations to First Nations by failing to guarantee access to sanitary drinking water…In the year since the settlement, Canada has spent more than the agreement requires and several First Nations have received new infrastructure, which “represents important progress,” Michael Rosenberg, a lawyer for the First Nations, said in an email. But the government is still a long way from solving the problem. “We’re at a point where the lack of drinkable water on First Nations stands as a really sharp symbol of the failures of the Canadian state,” said Adele Perry, a history professor and director of the Centre for Human Rights Research at the University of Manitoba.”

Just as was the case with the horrors of the residential schools, Canada’s crisis supplying water to its Native peoples presages a similar one in this country, something that the administration is trying to mitigate in advance. But there are complications here that don’t exist around North Spirit Lake. For example, 29 federally recognized tribes depend on the beleaguered Colorado River for their water. Those tribes own the rights to around 20 percent of the water in the Colorado River basin. And this complication has complications.

From the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

Pagosa Area #Water & Sanitation District approves budget and $38 million in loans, discusses rate increases — The #PagosaSprings Sun

The water treatment process

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors approved its 2023 budget and a loan agreement for $38,444,000 for the expansion of the Snowball water treatment plant. The board also discussed rate increases and potential additional fees to fund the plant’s construction…

The group then circled back to discuss the rate increases further, with [Justin] Ramsey indicating that the staff recommendation is to implement the 6 percent water rate increase in 2023, as recommended by the 2018 study, move up the 2.5 percent wastewater rate increase in the 2018 study up a year to 2023 and hold off on any other rate increases for the Snowball plant until the new rate study is finalized.

San Juan Water Conservancy District discusses budget and public access along the #SanJuanRiver — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Derek Kutzer). Here’s an excerpt:

On Thursday, Dec. 14, the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) held a meeting where it conducted a public hearing and discussed its 2023 budget and discussed the possibility of a public take-out point along the San Juan River, among other items.

Engineering/Studies/Surveys appeared as the largest line-item expenditure in the proposed 2023 budget, amounting to $45,000. And since the board did not entertain reducing this item, it will “pull $20,000 out of sasvings” to pay for it and also maintain a zero deficit, explained Tedder.

Public access to the San Juan River

At the same meeting, the board heard about efforts to have public access to the river on land owned by the SJWCD and Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD). [Al] Pfister, and possibly a representative from PAWSD, will be sitting down with representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW ), mainly to discuss fishery issues and potential funding, according to Pfister.

“This is basically being done under the watershed enhancement project,” Pfister said.

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

Bring new water to the #ColoradoRiver, and a national infrastructure bank to finance it — Don Siefkes and Alphecca Muttardy #COriver #aridification

Two egrets on the limbs of a cypress in the Atchafalaya flood basin. By Team New Orleans, US Army Corps of Engineers – Flickr: Atch Egrets-2-LL, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12729536

“One of the big problems with bringing water from somewhere else is a false sense of security. When we live long distances from our water, we may not understand the limits of that supply or ecosystem- so conservation is less likely” — Abby Burk

Reprinted with permisssion from Don Siefkes:

Mike Wade, “Imperial Valley can’t sustain another water cut,” Dec. 14, is absolutely right. However, if we can’t get new water to the Colorado River, and even though conservation is important, no amount of conservation is going to fix this problem.

Here’s one solution to avoid the looming disaster. The National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) set out in House Resolution 3339 would provide $5 trillion in low-cost loans for a broad range of public infrastructure projects – including massive water systems – without the need for increasing taxes or any deficit budget spending. This bill is modeled on the successful Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) started by President Herbert Hoover and used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to build Hoover Dam and bring water and electricity to the Southwest.

Credit: Dan Swenson

The NIB is prepared to invest up to $400 billion to bring new water to the Colorado River and the Southwest. One possibility would be to divert water from the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana through Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and up to the Glen Canyon Dam.

In this proposal, no water would be taken from the main channel of the Mississippi. As of Dec. 19, 1.43 million gals/sec of Atchafalaya River water was simply going into the Gulf of Mexico without producing electricity or supporting commercial shipping. Taking just 100,000 gals/sec (7%) of this water would fill Lakes Powell and Mead to 50% capacity in one year and 9 months. The project would save on construction costs by using an existing facility – the Old River Control Complex just south of Vidalia, Louisiana, where the Army Corps of Engineers diverts 30% of the downflow of the Mississippi to prevent flooding in New Orleans.

This undertaking would build a 1,400 mile series of pipelines, open channels, tunnels and pumping stations (similar to the California, Los Angeles, Colorado River Aqueducts and the Central Arizona Project). It could be built in a year, along interstate highway rights-of-way, using huge earth-moving machines like those employed in Holland for their canal systems.

There is historical precedent for building systems like this project with deliberate, urgent, speed. In less than a year between 1942 and 1943, the RFC financed and built two pipelines of similar length, 1,200 and 1,400 miles, to carry crude oil from Texas oil fields to the East Coast. These pipelines rescued the entire East Coast industrial oil refining system and won World War II for the Allies.

This proposed pipeline divert water from the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana through Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and up to the Glen Canyon Dam. Credit: Don Siefkes

Such a water aqueduct system might cost on the order of $14 billion-23 billion, a small amount for a $5 trillion bank and also small compared to cutting off water supplies to farmers in the Southwest who produce $39 billion worth of our annual food supply. Without new water in the Colorado, food prices will skyrocket more than they already have, and we will all needlessly suffer. It is also unthinkable to allow water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell to fall to the point where the dams can no longer generate electricity or provide drinking water.

We don’t think anything about pumping crude oil and gasoline through 190,000 miles of U.S. pipelines from areas that have oil and gasoline to areas that don’t. We certainly can do the same with water.

All U.S. senators and representatives, regardless of party, should get behind HR 3339 and vote for the National Infrastructure Bank.

Alphecca Muttardy is a Macroeconomist with the Coalition for a National Infrastructure Bank (NIBCoalition.com), and 25 year veteran of the International Monetary Fund. Don Siefkes is an MIT-trained chemical engineer who represents the Coalition for the NIB in the San Francisco Bay AreaTheir emails are, respectively, amuttardy@gmail.com and donsiefkes@aol.com.

Map of the Mississippi River Basin. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47308146

#Wyoming seeks 6,282-acre land swap for new #ColoradoRiver Basin dam — WyoFile #LittleSnakeRiver #YampaRiver #GreenRiver #COriver #aridification

This map depicts the properties to be exchanged. (Office of State Lands and Investments)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

Wyoming moved to expedite the construction of a 280-foot-high concrete dam in the Medicine Bow National Forest last month by proposing a 6,282-acre land exchange.

The state wants 1,762 acres of federal property for a dam and reservoir on the West Fork of Battle Creek in the Sierra Madre Mountains, according to a Nov. 30 letter and map from Jenifer Scoggin, the director of Wyoming’s Office of State Lands and Investments. In exchange, Wyoming would transfer ownership of up to 4,520 acres of state school trust lands to the federal government. That school trust land lies inside the boundaries of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.

The Medicine-Bow announced the application in a press release setting three public meetings that will be held on the evenings of Jan. 10, 11 and 12 in Craig, Colorado, Baggs and Saratoga respectively. The dam would be built on a tributary of the Little Snake River that flows into the Yampa, Green and Colorado Rivers.

“Conveying this parcel out of Federal ownership would eliminate the need for a USFS special use permit for the reservoir as well as provide for efficient management of the reservoir and surrounding lands,” states the 19-page notice of intent and proposal, which Scoggin sent to Brush Creek/Hayden District Ranger Jason Armbruster in Saratoga. Wyoming needs the federal property to construct the reservoir and meet “fiduciary obligations to produce income to support public schools and other state institutions,” the letter reads.

WyoFile obtained a copy of Scoggin’s letter, the proposal and map Tuesday from deputy director Jason Crowder.

The state Board of Land Commissioners last summer conceptually approved investigating a land exchange that would have covered some 24,000 acres. That approval allowed state officials to offer a smaller exchange in an effort to accelerate the West Fork Dam and reservoir project, Crowder said.

Smaller would be faster

“[T]he reality of getting something like that [larger exchange] done isn’t all that hot,” Crowder said. The Forest Service would have to examine a larger exchange through the National Environmental Policy Act process, which would take considerably longer than what’s being proposed, he said.

“Something that large isn’t anything that could get done in a timely fashion,” Crowder said. “It’s probable that a larger exchange … wouldn’t be feasible or successful in the near term.”

Instead, an exchange “that was more narrowly focused [on the land] needed for the reservoir construction and implementation would be OK,” he said.

Instead of writing an environmental impact statement that’s common for major proposals under NEPA, the Forest Service will instead conduct a “feasibility analysis/study,” Medicine Bow officials said in a statement. “The resulting product is referred to as a Public Interest Determination,” that would approve or reject the exchange, the Forest Service news release states.

The Forest Service study will focus on the future use and management of the lands and the effect of the exchange on the lands that adjoin them, the Medicine Bow release said.

Estimated in 2017 to cost $80 million, the proposed West Fork Reservoir would serve 67 to 100 irrigators. A 130-acre reservoir would hold 10,000 acre feet of water primarily for irrigation. The project is sponsored by: Savery-Little Snake Conservancy District and Pothook Conservancy in Colorado, the Forest Service said.

The proposed reservoir would impound and divert water from the troubled Colorado River Basin where residents in seven states and Mexico are at odds over how to use dwindling flows.

“It is important to note that the Forest Service has not yet determined if this is a feasible exchange, nor has the agency agreed to initiate it,” the Medicine Bow statement reads.

The Jan. 10 meeting in Craig will be from 5-7 p.m. at Colorado Northwest Community College. A virtual option will be available through the Forest Service website.

The meeting Jan. 11 in Baggs will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Valley Community Center. The Saratoga meeting the following day will be from 5:30-7:30 at the Platte Valley Community Center.Land exchange proposal details will be available the week of the public meetings on the Forest’s project website, the Medicine Bow announcement stated.

Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.