Newsletter Article

Water Emergency Staved at Lake Mead

With unusually high rainfall in May and June, the second-highest level of precipitation during that period in the past 108 years, trailing only 1983, Lake Mead water levels were boosted thereby averting a possible water emergency that would have triggered cuts in water allocations next year. Officials had warned as recently as June that there was a 33 percent chance of a “Tier 1” water shortage in 2016, which occurs when the water level in Lake Mead drops below an elevation of 1,075 feet. A Tier 1 declaration would result in a cut of 320,000 acre-feet to Arizona’s share of Colorado River water, about an 11 percent reduction. In August the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) reported that there would not be an emergency declaration. Lake Mead’s elevation was at 1,078.24 feet at the end of August. In addition to dropping the chances of a Tier 1 declaration to zero for 2016, the BOR lowered predictions for 2017 from the 75 percent chance it was looking at this summer to just 18 percent in the latest report. While the findings are good news for all seven states in the Colorado River basin, the drought is definitely not over but this will buy time to find more collaborative solutions.


Colorado Water and Growth Dialogue

Whose job is it to worry if a city, town, or rural area's water supply is sustainable? Some believe it’s a planner’s obligation to consider the long-term security of water supply, while others contend that securing a sustainable water supply too overarching for a single planner and department. Complicating the issue is the fact that not everyone who deals in water supply and land use is on the same page. Land use planning is typically a local governmental concern, while water planning and allocation occur on multiple local, state, and federal levels. The traditional disconnect between planning and land use decisions and current and future water supply realities can preclude a sustainable balance between water supply and growth. To-these-ends, the Colorado Water Institute and the Keystone Policy Center have joined forces for a two-year project to tackle what they call the “dilemma” of water use in Colorado. The project, referred to as the Colorado Water and Growth Dialogue, is an attempt to explore and demonstrate how the integration of water and land use planning should be utilized to reduce water demand from the development and re-development associated with the projected population increases. This approach to planning aims to direct and incentivize smart, water-wise growth in lieu of allowing pure market conditions to guide how Colorado grows. 


Recreation Work at Lake Nighthorse

According to Ed Warner, Area Manager of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) Western Colorado Area Office, the BOR is working with all the Animas-La Plata Project partners and stakeholders to reach consensus regarding development and management of recreation at Lake Nighthorse. Current recreation work includes: working on a recreation lease and annexation agreement with the City of Durango, developing a cultural resource management plan for the reservoir area in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, preparing National Environmental Policy Act documents, and finalizing construction plans and contracts for the Lake Nighthorse entrance area and aquatic invasive species inspection station to be constructed this fall and winter. The proposed recreation concept plan prepared by the City of Durango, is available on the City’s website at http://co-durango.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/4358.  


Gold King Mine ‘Incident’

By now, most everyone has heard of the August 5, 2015 accidental release of more than 3 million gallons of acidic mine waste into the Animas River and Cement Creek above Silverton, CO. The mishap occurred at the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, approximately one hour north of the City of Durango, when a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety crew investigating possible alternatives for remediation at the mine triggered a large release of wastewater, which resulted in acidic mine water containing metals and sediment flowing as an orange-colored discharge downstream. The risk was inherent in the remediation process. According to Steve Fearn, a respected Silverton engineer familiar with the Gold King Mine, “the problem was that neither EPA nor their contractor took adequate precautions in removing the blockage at the portal and they did not have facilities prepared to minimize the impact in case they lost control of the discharge. They also did not have a plan for notification of downstream parties in a timely basis nor had they analyzed what the potential toxicity might be.” Much to their credit, the EPA has admitted all of this.


Imagining Mountains All Wrong

It turns out mountain ranges don’t just come in the familiar pyramid form—in fact, most of them have a different shape entirely. New research published in a May edition of Nature Climate Change reveals a surprising discovery that not only changes the way we think about mountains but could also have big implications for how we understand, monitor, and protect the organisms that call them home.


Wettest Month in Recorded History

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records go back to 1895 and last month was the wettest on record for the contiguous United States. On average 4.36 inches of rain and snow, mostly rain, fell over the Lower 48 in May. NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch calculated that comes to more than 200 trillion gallons of water in May. Crouch said the record was triggered by a stalled pattern of storms that dumped massive amounts of precipitation.


Water Camp

After many years of thinking about it, the WIP is proud to announce the participation in and co-sponsorship of a children’s water camp. This is being done in conjunction with the Durango Nature Studies (DNS) and will be held the last week of July. Topics include, but are not limited to: aquatic species, conservation, river restorations, the importance of healthy watersheds, and water quality. For more information and/or to register contact DNS at (970) 382-9244 or visit their website at www.durangonaturestudies.org.


SAVE THE DATES: September 9, 10, 11 & 12 Great Divide Film Showings in Southwest CO

Tens of millions of people, billions of dollars of agricultural production, and an enormous amount of economic activity across a vast swath of America from California to the Mississippi River are all dependent on rivers born in the mountains of Colorado.  In a time of mounting demand and limited supply, the need for all citizens to better understand and participate in decisions affecting this critical resource is paramount.

The Great Divide, a feature length documentary film from the Emmy award winning team of Havey Productions, in association with Colorado Humanities, will illustrate the timeless influence of water in both connecting and dividing an arid state and region.


SAVE THE DATE: September 25th--9th Annual Water 101 Seminar (Bayfield, CO)

Save-the-date for the 9th Annual Water 101 Seminar to be conducted September 25, 2015 in Bayfield. We are again fortunate to have Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs as the keynote speaker. The Seminar qualifies for six continuing education credits for Realtors and seven for lawyers, as well as contact hours for teachers, and .7 training units for water utility personnel. For more information and/or to register contact the WIP at (970) 247-1302.


Book Review: The Ordinary Truth, Jana Richman, 2012

The following book review is appreciatively provided by Laura Spann, with the SWCD:

The Ordinary Truth tells a fictional tale of Nevada’s very real water crisis through the eyes of a multi-generational Nevada ranching family in their come-to-Jesus moment. Urban and rural clash within the family, as daughter Katie is the public face of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, pitching the construction of a pipeline to pull water from her hometown of Omer Springs to serve thirsty Las Vegas. Her estranged mother Nell still ranches in Omer Springs.


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