Newsletter Article

BOR Flow Recommendation Changes Proposed, by Steve Harris, Harris Water Engineering

An important component of the recovery of the endangered Colorado Pikeminnow and Razorback Sucker in the San Juan River is the magnitude and pattern of flows in the critical habitat downstream of Farmington. The first development of the flows was in 1999 that  primarily focused on the quantity of water and timing of releases from Navajo Reservoir. Also in 1999, a range of equally important flow ranges were estimated to be beneficial to recovery of the fish: base flows of 500 to 1000 cfs; peak intermediate flows of 2500/5000/8000 cfs; and peak flow of 10,000 cfs or more. The outlet works at Navajo Dam cannot release more than 5,000 cfs so in order to obtain flows downstream of Farmington approaching 10,000 cfs, Navajo releases need to be matched with high Animas River flows (i.e. spring runoff). 


Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

In early January the Durango City Council signed a resolution supporting the delivery of water from Lake Nighthorse to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. “This water would really help our future,” Chairman Manuel Heart said. The resolution stemmed from a series of recent meetings between city officials and the tribe about the potential recreational use of Lake Nighthorse. The city will likely send the resolution to Colorado’s US senators and House members to help support the tribe as it seeks funding for infrastructure to deliver the water. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has water rights to about 31 percent of the water stored in the lake. The additional water would allow for greater economic development on the reservation.


No Water, No Growth by Mary Ann Dickinson, Alliance for Water Efficiency

The following is a condensed version of an article that was published in the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Water Currents newsletter and is reprinted with permission:

We’re accustomed to waiting in lines for a football game, to buy movie tickets or perhaps to get a seat in the most coveted professor’s class. But what if we had to wait in line to move? What if we had to be granted access to a city where we found a great new job or the family dream home we always wanted? This idea isn’t so far-fetched; in some places, it’s already an unfortunate reality. In the seaside village of Cambria, California, 666 families and individuals are currently waiting for permission to move into their single family homes. Many have been on the wait list for upwards of 20 years. Why have communities resorted to such extreme measures? The answer: insufficient water supplies to hook up to new homes and facilities. Planners and decision-makers are increasingly challenged with the task of accommodating new water customers which in turn places limits on overall economic growth and deters businesses from investing or expanding operations that can create jobs and bring opportunity to cities.


Expert: Overpopulation and City Expansion Result in Colorado River Water Shortages

According to a mid-February Grand Canyon News story, experts say conservation efforts like not watering lawns, taking shorter showers, turning off faucets, and not washing your vehicle are not going to help in a long-term solution for water shortages along the Colorado River Basin. According to John Weisheit, Conservation Director for Living Rivers, the only thing that will stop water from disappearing is to put the brakes on population growth and city expansion. Living Rivers, located in Moab, Utah, is an educational organization dedicated to conservation, preservation and restoration of the Colorado Plateau and is considered by many to be the voice of most non-governmental organizations located in the Colorado Basin areas. For the last 15 years Living Rivers has said the Colorado River Basin area is going to run out of water. According to Weisheit the only solution is to inform the public that the Colorado River water supply is gone in the West and there is no room for further business or residential opportunities. While population control may seem like a drastic measure, even if a solution to slow down the shortages were presented right now, it would take years to get underway and even then may not make a difference. "It's not something that can be fixed in one year--it'll take 30 years," Weisheit said.


Study: Warming Pushes Western US Toward Driest Period in 1,000 Years

During the second half of the 21st century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face unprecedented, persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions driven primarily by human-induced global warming. The finding were part of a new study, "Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains," featured in the inaugural edition of the new online journal Science Advances, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which also publishes the leading journal Science. The research indicated that the drying would surpass in severity any of the decades-long mega-droughts that occurred much earlier during the past 1,000 years--one of which has been tied by some researchers to the decline of the Anasazi or Ancient Pueblo Peoples in the Colorado Plateau in the late 13th century. Many studies have already predicted that the Southwest could dry due to global warming, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. "The 21st century projections make the mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden," said Jason Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


Report: Colorado River Water Evaporation Increases Due to Climate Change

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicted an 8 percent increase in irrigation demand on the lower half of the Colorado River Basin and a 10 percent increase in evaporation from Lake Mead by 2080. The upper half of the Basin, above Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, is expected to see demand for agricultural water jump by almost 23 percent, while Lake Powell loses 7 percent more water to evaporation than it did during the last half of the 20th century. The estimates are based on a projected temperature increase of about 5 degrees across the region.


Study: Economics of the Colorado River

A new Arizona State University study commissioned by Protect the Flows and released in January 2015 revealed that hanging in the balance of the health of the Colorado River system are more than $1.4 trillion in economic activity, $871 billion in wages, and 16 million jobs. Put into perspective, an estimated 64.4 percent of the combined value of each Basin state’s output of goods and services could be lost if Colorado River water is no longer available to agriculture, businesses, industry, and  residences. The results breakdown by state as follows:


Federal 2015 Water-Related Issues and Legislation

The Congressional Research Service issued a new report in January highlighting what the 2015 114th Congress faces related to water resource development, management, and protection issues. Ongoing issues include competition over water, drought and flood responses and policies, competitiveness and efficiency of US harbors and waterways, and innovative and alternative financing approaches. To view the full report go to http://aquadoc.typepad.com/files/crs_report_wr_issues_114congress.pdf.


Water and Land-Use Planning Legislation

Sponsored by State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) and State Representative Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland), SB15-008 entitled Promote Water Conservation in Land Use Planning, is an attempt to tie water conservation with land-use planning through state water funding programs. The bill came out of the interim water resources committee with provisions and a proposed amendment by Roberts that would make conservation training mandatory for water officials and land use planners. It would apply to water providers that supply more than 2,000 acre-feet of water annually. The bill is getting pushback from municipal water providers, who are offering alternative language that allows for more time to develop conservation plans and gives them credit for quantifiable conservation programs in the past. The bill has passed and moved onto the Governor for signature.


Water Reports and Studies

There was a plethora of huge and pressing global water reports and studies in the news over the last quarter of 2014.

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