#Snowpack news: @NorthernWater to set C-BT quota on April 12th

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 17, 2018 via the NRCS.

From The Fence Post (Nikki Work):

As of March 14, the state sits at about 67 percent of the average snowpack, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Things are looking slightly better in northern Colorado, with the two basins that impact Weld County — the Upper Colorado and the South Platte — at 77 percent and 81 percent of the average year, respectively…

Eric Brown, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the dry weather is on Northern Water’s radar, just like it’s on farmers’, but there may be one saving grace — a healthy amount of water in reservoir storage.

Northern Water’s reservoirs are at one of their highest ever levels, with storage at 121 percent of average. Across Colorado, reservoir storage is at about 117 percent of the historic average. While Brown said the water district is optimistic that, in true Colorado fashion, there’s a big spring storm a’comin’, its prepared to use some of its reserves to combat an abnormally dry year.

“In general, farmers who have access to some sort of water in storage should be okay for 2018, as Northern Water’s C-BT Project and reservoirs across the South Platte Basin are sitting at solid levels for the most part,” Brown said. “But for the farmers who don’t have access to water that’s in storage, they really need snow and/or spring rains in the near future.”

But for everyone, use of the water in storage this year creates uncertainties down the road, as some of the current surplus will be used up. Plus, a good, wet snow would bring some much-needed moisture to the plains and help with soil quality, which plays an important role in crop health.

The Northern Water Board will set its quota for C-BT deliveries for the remainder of the 2018 water delivery season at its April 12 board meeting. Both snowpack and C-BT and local non-C-BT reservoir levels will factor into this decision. The board sets a quota each year to balance how much water can be used and how much water needs to stay in storage, and the historic average for the quota is 70 percent.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Thornton Water Project update

Map via ThorntonWaterProject.com.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Water quality is a sticking point for Thornton, which faces challenges getting all its water to drinking quality standards. Much of the city’s water comes from the South Platte River and requires extensive treatment because it’s diverted downstream of many areas of runoff and pollution, [Emily] Hunt said.

If Thornton drew the water from the Poudre near Windsor as suggested, the city would end up with water run downstream of three wastewater treatment plants and numerous runoff areas, [Mark] Koleber said.

“Urban runoff, agricultural runoff, wastewater plants, industrial discharge — it’s just not what you do for a municipal drinking water supply,” he said.

Especially considering Thornton bought the [rights to divert] because of its high quality, Hunt added.

@ColoradoStateU: Research team monitors snow melt that feeds Colorado streams and rivers

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

When it snows in Fort Collins, Alyssa Anenberg heads west to Lory State Park, but not to snowshoe or ski. Instead, the Colorado State University graduate student gathers information about how nutrients move through the soil after snow falls and eventually melts.

Anenberg, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Watershed Science, is part of a team monitoring snowpack, soil moisture and streamflow at different elevations across the state. Their goal is to determine how melting snow affects the flow of rivers and streams, which has an impact on agriculture, recreation and Coloradans’ everyday lives.

John Hammond, who is working on a doctorate in Earth Sciences through the Warner College of Natural Resources, said the team is monitoring conditions at 11 watersheds across the state. In addition to on-the-ground tracking, researchers use satellite information from NASA and snow monitoring information from the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s SNOTEL network.

“It’s surprising how few people realize so much of their water supply depends on mountain snowpack,” said Hammond. “Snow isn’t just about recreation. It’s about everybody’s livelihood and it’s a very important resource for water used at home and in agriculture.”

Over the long haul, states like Colorado have measured high-elevation snowpack and used the measurements to forecast water supply. The CSU team is studying snowpack at middle and low elevations, where the snow does not last as long.

“These areas sometimes contribute large amounts of water to streamflow, but they aren’t measured by SNOTEL or other organizations,” said Stephanie Kampf, associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, who oversees this research in the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at CSU. “Predicting water supply is not just about high-elevation snow. Low elevations with mixtures of snow and rain also matter, and we need a better understanding of how much water they produce.”

To date, researchers have identified a few trends, including one that may not sound too surprising.

“Overall, we see that low snow years give us less streamflow,” said Hammond. “In Colorado, it’s typically drier. If you have a small input from a small snow event or rainfall, it might only partially wet the soils.”

What’s the solution? Hammond said one option is to change the way reservoirs, dams and ditches are managed. At the same time, reservoir management is complex.

“Reservoirs are only so large, and they’re managed for multiple objectives, including municipal water supply, recreation, irrigation and flood control,” he said. “If snow melt occurs earlier, by a few weeks or months, you’d have to store that water for a longer period. Management objectives can be in competition with each other.”

Poudre River Forum recap

Cache la Poudre River watershed via the NRCS

From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid);

One way water experts make progress is through collaboration, a key theme in Friday’s presentations and discussions at the fifth annual Poudre River Forum at the Island Grove Events Center, 501 N. 14th Ave. But working together isn’t always easy…

Even in the world of water experts, facts and evidence will often grab the attention of only the people whose biases are confirmed by the evidence. We learn in ways that don’t simply confirm our biases, Carcasson said, when we have genuine conversations with people we respect.

Ruth Quade, coordinator for Greeley’s Water Conservation program, said she’s worked with others her entire career in water conservation. Yet Carcasson’s presentation still rang true to Quade…

A panel of speakers highlighted some collaborations in the world of Colorado water: how state officials work with local water authorities to plan for water needs on a statewide scale, how the Fort Collins Water Utility worked with nearby water districts and more.

Kerri Rollins, manager of the Larimer County Open Space program, garnered the most questions after her presentation on a deal between the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources and the city and county of Broomfield. Larimer officials purchased a farm and its water rights southwest of Berthoud in 2016. They hoped to keep the farm in production, while offsetting costs through a water-sharing agreement. In August 2017, the alternative transfer method was finalized.

The agreement helps provide drought water to cities without the dichotomy that comes with “buy and dry” operations, where farms are permanently dried up. Rollins said the agreement was the first of its kind to share water from agricultural use to municipal use.

Click here to view the Twitter hashtag #poudreriverforum from last Friday.

Poudre River Forum recap

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

One way water experts make progress is through collaboration, a key theme in Friday’s presentations and discussions at the fifth annual Poudre River Forum at the Island Grove Events Center, 501 N. 14th Ave. But working together isn’t always easy…

A panel of speakers highlighted some collaborations in the world of Colorado water: how state officials work with local water authorities to plan for water needs on a statewide scale, how the Fort Collins Water Utility worked with nearby water districts and more.

5th Annual Poudre River Forum, February 2, 2018

Click here for the inside skinny and to register:


“Listening to Understand” is the theme of our fifth annual Poudre River Forum.

Register now to join us! Registration includes the full day’s program, as well as breakfast, lunch, and a closing beer/soft drinks celebration with opportunities to win Poudre prizes. Topics include:

  • Provocative, dialogue-stimulating “lightening talks” from a range of speakers with contrasting views about what can damage and what can improve Poudre flows
  • Can We Grow Water Smart?
  • Poudre Farmers Improving Poudre Water Quality through Air Quality Monitoring
  • Keynote Speaker: Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs (retired) will give a glimpse from his co-authored upcoming book—little known facts about Greeley’s water history


    Back from last year:

  • Poudre Splashes—snapshots of the past year’s Poudre activities—check our website for how to submit your entry
  • New this year:

  • Awarding of our first annual Poudre Pioneer Award. Check our website to find out how to nominate someone.
  • Breakfast! Enjoy a breakfast sandwich as you take in 20+ Poudre educational displays
  • .

    $60k grant from NFWF means more greenback cutthroats in Colorado waters — #Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    Greenback cutthroat trout photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    More greenback cutthroats are headed to a creek near you, thanks to a $60k grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s “Bring Back the Natives” (BBN) program.

    This project to restore native greenback cutthroat trout to 14 miles of stream in George and Cornelius Creeks in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Poudre River, reached a major funding milestone with the award of the $60k grant. The BBN grant will go toward the design and construction of a temporary barrier to upstream fish migration in Cornelius Creek, enabling systematic eradication of non-native brook trout, brown trout, and whirling disease from the watershed.

    “George Creek holds great promise for recovering Greenback cutthroat trout, but our conservation success depends on broad support from many partners,” said Canyon Lakes District Ranger Katie Donahue. “Receiving a national funding award from NFWF is a great step along our path.”

    The grant is the direct result of continued support for the project from Colorado Trout Unlimited. In addition to this grant “The Greenbacks,” a chapter of CTU, previously leveraged funds from a crowd sourced fundraising effort to secure a grant from Patagonia’s World Trout Initiative, resulting in the contribution of $17k toward a permanent barrier at the downstream end of the project. This barrier will exclude non-native trout from the watershed in perpetuity.

    “We’re proud of how our volunteers have risen to meet the call,” said David Nickum, Executive Director for Colorado Trout Unlimited. “From backpacking fish into high-mountain restoration sites and releasing them back into their native range, to helping install fish barriers to protect native recovery areas, TU members have been hardworking, enthusiastic partners in recovery.”

    This recent BBN grant brings the total amount of funding raised from grant sources and other public fundraising activities to $162k for the project.

    About the George Creek Multi-phase greenback recovery project

    The George Creek greenback restoration project has been in the works for three years and consists of three phases: (1) eradicate nonnative trout from upper George Creek [Summer 2018], (2) eradicate trout from upper Cornelius Creek, (3) eradicate non-native trout in lower reaches of George Creek down to a permanent barrier near the confluence with Sheep Creek. The BBN grant will help fund phase 2.

    Native greenback cutthroat trout will be re-stocked into the streams when it has been confirmed that all non-native trout and whirling disease have been completely eradicated, in the year 2025 at the earliest.

    The George Creek restoration project will ultimately restore native greenbacks to 14 miles of quality trout stream habitat, more than tripling the number of stream miles currently occupied by greenbacks in their native range, the South Platte Basin.

    “Our work has been benefitted greatly from our strong partnerships with Colorado Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service,” said Boyd Wright, Native Aquatic Species Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “It is gratifying to work together to ensure that future generations will enjoy Colorado’s greenback cutthroat trout for years to come.”

    For more information on the native greenback cutthroat story, visit: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchGreenbackCutthroatTrout.aspx

    Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout