@COWaterTrust, @CWCB_DNR, @Nature_Colorado enable Stagecoach releases to bolster Yampa River (again!)

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Once again this year, the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are collaborating to arrange a release of water from Stagecoach Reservoir to boost lagging flows in the Yampa River under an agreement with dam owner, the Upper Yampa Conservancy District. New this year is the support of The Nature Conservancy.

Last year, conservation releases did not begin until mid-September, but in 2017, with the river already flowing well below normal, water releases from the dam were set at 10 cubic feet per second beginning July 11. But it can’t go on forever this way.

With this year’s release, the role of the Conservation Board, a division of the State Department of Natural Resources, has expanded to include committing to contributing up to $46,692 for water releases. At the same time, the CWCB will undertake the third, and final, approved year to release water into the Yampa. The opportunity cannot be renewed under current law, Water Trust staff attorney Zach Smith said…

This year’s program will forge a new relationship with the Nature Conservancy to carry on the effort when conditions warrant. The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch just east of Hayden straddles the Yampa, and for 2017, the global conservation organization has agreed to bring $50,000 to the effort to purchase water releases out of Stagecoach. It will also explore sustainable funding for future years.

Smith said new efforts to bolster the flows in the river during dry seasons could range from seeking ways for the Nature Conservancy and the Water Trust to collaborate on locating new funding sources to perhaps seeking a water source with long-term legal protection.

Upper Yampa Manager Kevin McBride pointed out it’s only because there is a moderate amount of water storage in the upper reaches of the Yampa that mid-summer conservation releases are possible…

Flows in the Yampa have been supplemented with the participation of the Water Trust in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016. The Yampa was flowing at 128 cubic feet per second Monday afternoon, 67 cfs below the median for the date…

Water Trust water resources engineer and former Steamboat resident Mickey O’Hara said the return to healthier natural flows in the Yampa this summer “depends on if, and when the monsoons happen.”

Interview: The Search for Sustainability in the #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

Graphic via Holly McClelland/High Country News.

Here’s an interview with Doug Kenney from PPIC. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado River is a crucial water source for seven states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and Mexico, and like many shared rivers has its share of challenges. We talked to Doug Kenney—director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network―about balancing priorities in managing the river.

PPIC: What’s the basin’s biggest challenge currently?

DOUG KENNEY: That depends on what part of the basin you’re in and what sector you work in. There’s no shortage of things to worry about. Right now, most would probably say it’s the effort to maintain the levels of water stored in the big reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Those reservoirs provide a lot of benefits—drought protection, recreation, and hydropower—but only if they have enough water in them. They’re about half full right now, which is about as low as they can go before mandatory cuts in water deliveries—or curtailments—kick in. It’s a math problem, essentially—managing water coming in versus what’s going out. So far in this century, people have pulled more water out than consistently flows in. Obviously, that has to change.

The more chronic issue is that the Colorado has been treated more like a plumbing system than a river, so there’s been a lot of environmental damage to the river. The big environmental concerns in the basin are a result of reduced flows and some water quality issues, such as high salinity, loss of valuable sediments, and increased water temperatures. The real challenge is to remind people we’re talking about a river—the most important ecological resource of the southwest United States.

@OWOW_MSUDenver and @botanic partner to meet #Colorado’s supply challenges

Here’s the release from Metropolitan State University at Denver (Dan Vaccaro):

Denver’s urban university and botanic garden team up to make an even bigger impact on water issues in Colorado.

The next time you’re sitting in traffic on Interstate 25 (this afternoon, probably), consider this: Colorado’s population is expected to grow by 1.5 million by 2030. And that doesn’t just mean more traffic. It means more pressure on the state’s scarcest natural resource – water.

Between the population boom and rising global temperatures, the imagination doesn’t need to wander far to see what the future of Colorado might look like. Hint: If you thought lawn-watering restrictions were bad, how about living in a world like the one imagined in the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road”?

Thankfully, there are people and organizations teaming up to tackle water issues in the state. This past spring, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver signed a partnership that will have long-term implications for the future of water education and stewardship in the Centennial State.

“Both organizations were already pursuing similar objectives,” says Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd, director of marketing and social responsibility for the Denver Botanic Gardens. “By joining forces, we can do so much more and have a bigger reach for our work.”

The plan includes stronger collaboration between MSU Denver professors and Botanic Gardens scientists, shared research projects and the pursuit of joint funding. Wherever possible, the aim is to involve students. The end goal, Riley-Chetwynd says, is to make an even bigger impact on watershed restoration and health.

As part of the agreement, Riley-Chetwynd also becomes co-director of the OWOW Center in addition to her work at the Botanic Gardens, helping to further unite the organizations. She already serves as an affiliate faculty member in the Journalism and Technical Communication Department at MSU Denver.

For Tom Cech, co-director of the OWOW Center, the partnership will help better educate future water leaders and stewards. “Our goal has always been to raise awareness of current water challenges and opportunities both in the Colorado community and among our students,” he says. “This partnership amplifies those efforts.”

While MSU Denver students have interned at the Botanic Gardens, Cech sees increased opportunities in light of the new agreement. He also imagines more events like the recent Shed ’17 water summit, co-hosted by the organizations June 29 at the Gardens.

The event brought together nearly 200 leaders from across the state and country to discuss water challenges and co-create solutions. Topics at the conference included the importance of watershed health and outdoor recreation, agriculture’s role in Colorado’s water future, and the evolution of conservation. The keynote speaker for the event was Mike Nelson, chief meteorologist at Denver7, who spoke about climate change.

Another distinctive feature of the agreement is the development of a co-branded logo, which will appear at water-related events, an aspect that Deputy Provost Sandra Haynes describes as “unique.”

“It is a testament to the breadth and depth of this collaboration between two of Denver’s most recognized institutions,” she says.

Haynes hopes the partnership will also provide more exposure for innovative university programs such as the water studies and urban agriculture minors.

This partnership comes at an important time in state history, Riley-Chetwynd says. A statewide water plan released in 2015 creates a roadmap for the future of water in Colorado. One of the main principles is removing silos to ensure that diverse groups are working efficiently and effectively.

“We need to work together to answer questions about how to deal with our population growth, where our water will come from and how we will keep urban communities viable without endangering our environment,” she says. “No one group can do all of that alone. It’s the only way forward if we’re going to make Colorado’s future sustainable.”

If all goes according to plan, the only “Fury Road” in Colorado will be I-25, particularly during rush hour.

Herman Gulch gets population of greenbacks

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

Milton-Seaman Reservoir expansion update

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

Expanding the 5,000-acre-foot capacity reservoir has been on Greeley officials’ to-do list for more than a decade. But the type of work the city is planning takes a lot of time, mainly because it involves the federal government.

If everything goes without a hitch, Greeley officials have circled 2030 as the year they’ll increase Seaman to 10 times its current capacity…

Here’s why:

» Greeley has never expanded any of its six reservoirs, and most have been around for nearly a century.

» Increasing Seaman to 53,000 acre-feet of water from 5,000 acre-feet will put Greeley in position to satisfy the city’s water needs for decades. (An acre foot of water is enough water for two families to use for a year). The city uses between 25,000-30,000 acre-feet of water per year: That’s expected to reach 40,000 acre-feet by 2030.

Harold Evans, chairman of the water and sewer board in Greeley, likens the Seaman’s expansion to the kind of planning that has kept water flowing from the city’s Bellvue Treatment Plant area since 1907…

Right now, Greeley is working with a consultant and in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop an environmental impact statement.

Greeley is still about two years away from having a draft of that statement.

In the meantime, Greeley officials are working to secure more water rights. The city doesn’t have enough rights to fill the expanded Seaman Reservoir. They’re 40 percent there, and as Reckentine said, it’s an everyday process. Every year, in fact, Greeley commits millions toward purchasing water rights.

Expanding the reservoir could cost $95 million more just in construction costs, according to an estimate provided in a Colorado Water Conservation Board document.

Water rights come from a variety of places, including retiring farms.

Today, Greeley typically uses its reservoirs as drought protection.

Basically, Greeley has water rights from the Colorado, Poudre, Laramie and Big Thompson rivers. But whether Greeley is able to get all of the water it’s owed depends on the rivers’ flow levels.

In drier years, Greeley would have to do without some of that water. That’s where reservoirs come in. Evans said the first reservoirs were used to finish Greeley area crops when river flows weren’t strong enough to do so in late fall.

Snowmelt and water diverted into reservoirs could be tapped for that purpose. Evans said it’s like putting money in the bank. Pound-for-pound, water’s worth more than money, though.

If and when the Seaman Reservoir expansion is complete, Greeley will likely use some of the water from that reservoir every year.

For Evans, that’s a perfect example, among many, of an investment in the future.

Evans mentions the new pipeline from the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant being installed now, with a lifespan of 75-100 years. The Seaman Reservoir has been around since the 1940s.

ABOUT MILTON SEAMAN RESERVOIR

» Built 1941

» Storage: 5,008 acre-feet

» Elevation: 5,478 feet

» Dam height: 115 feet

» Proposed enlargement date: 2029

» Proposed storage: 53,000 acre-feet

SET FOR LIFE?

The Seaman Reservoir expansion will put Greeley in a good position, but Deputy Director of Greeley Water Eric Reckentine hesitates to call it the final answer.

Greeley has a four-point plan when it comes to water:

» Maintain what you have — Greeley has reinforced water lines with concrete and fiberglass to reduce leaks.

» Secure supply to stay ahead of demand — The Windy Gap Project, which ensured water during lean times, is an example of this.

» Build storage for the lean times — The Milton Seaman Reservoir expansion project is the best example of this.

» Conserve the water you have — Greeley has a state-approved water conservation plan, and the new water budgets are another example of conservation.

THE OTHER RESERVOIRS

Here’s a quick look at Greeley’s other five reservoirs:

» Barnes Meadow Reservoir — Built in 1922 and located across Colo. 14 from Chambers Lake in the Roosevelt National Park, Barnes Meadow Reservoir holds 2,349 acre-feet of water.

» Peterson Lake Reservoir — Built in 1922, and located southwest of Chambers Lake and adjacent to Colo. 156, Peterson Lake Reservoir holds 1,183 acre-feet of water.

» Comanche Reservoir — Built in 1924, and located along Beaver Creek and west of the Colorado State University Mountain campus, the Comanche Reservoir holds 2,628 acre-feet of water.

» Hourglass Reservoir — Built in 1898, and also located along Beaver Creek and west of the Colorado State University Mountain campus, the Hourglass Reservoir holds 1,693 acre-feet of water.

» Twin Lakes Reservoir — Built in 1924, and located southwest of Pingree Park off Colo. 14, Twin Lakes Reservoir holds 278 acre-feet of water.

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

Doug Billingsley doesn’t know what he’s going to do to replicate the peace and quiet of his work when he retires and re-enters the hubbub of normal life. Greeley pays Billingsley to live at Milton Seaman Reservoir, about 15-20 minutes from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. Billingsley lives in a city-provided house, and has lived there for the past eight years with his wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and her caretaker.

Billingsley monitors the Seaman Reservoir. The reservoir is Greeley’s largest, and its water levels can rise and fall quickly. He must ensure the banks and dams are sound and functioning properly, and he’s charged with releasing water down the Poudre Canyon when necessary. Call him the water shepherd.

He’s used to the solitude, if not the quiet.

“I drove over the road truck for 18 years, and was by myself for up to 30 days at a time — I lived in a truck,” Billingsley said. “This is no biggie; this is heaven.”

The city pays him a salary as well as his living expenses. But there’s a catch: He’s on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The floods of 2013 are a prime example. And Billingsley spent the better part of a week stuck at home after a bridge went out, trapping folks up the canyon. Of course, he had to monitor Seaman’s water levels during the flood, as well.

Billingsley’s wife loves having him at home every night, and he loves being there.

Apart from animals there’s nothing to bother a Seaman Reservoir caretaker. They’ve seen elk, mountain lions, bears, but none of them hurt anybody, he says.

Castle Rock #conservation goals a high priority with low Plum Creek streamflow

From The Castle Rock News-Press (Jessica Gibbs):

…Castle Rock recently implemented new water restrictions on homeowners associations and urged residents to amp up their conservation efforts. Prolonged dry, hot weather has left one of the town’s renewable sources, the East Plum Creek, at record lows.

The town has gathered data on the creek for 18 years, Marlowe said. The gauge on East Plum Creek nearest Castle Rock shows the area at its lowest level in that time frame.

The town also recorded water use at peak levels — although that is not uncommon during hot spells, Marlowe said.

Over the summer, Castle Rock typically sees an average use of 12.4 million gallons a day. This year, officials have seen that average reach 16.5 million gallons. Peak demand is usually related to outdoor irrigation, Marlowe said, such as the watering of lawns and landscaping.

In response, the town is now requiring homeowners associations to follow a similar watering schedule that has been required of single-family homes since the 1980s. Public spaces like parks, common areas and medians can only be watered between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Homeowners associations were also asked to cut back on issuing violations for distressed lawns and to encourage residents to reduce outdoor watering.

Marlowe said the efforts should save millions of gallons of water.

Additionally, residents and businesses can do their part by researching proper irrigation techniques, for which the town has a number of resources and classes…

Residential water restrictions in place through August only allow watering between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m…

Kaoch explained residents needn’t worry if grass doesn’t stay perfectly green in dry times, as going temporarily dormant can actually help strengthen new root systems. Conservation is most important, Kaoch said, expressing the district’s willingness to work with town staff under the new water restrictions.

For residents who want to learn more about proper irrigation and water conservation, the town offers numerous resources through the website crconserve.com. The town also runs classes for people to learn efficient watering and conservation techniques.