Spring 2015

Top Stories

Statewide Roundtable Summit

The fourth Statewide Roundtable Summit was held in Westminster, Colorado on March 12, 2015. It was attended by members of the nine basin roundtables and interested members of the public. Roughly 300 individuals participated in total, 46% were basin roundtable members. Complete with red boxing gloves and warm-up jabs, the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) executive director, James Eklund, began the Summit after opening remarks from John Stulp. Stulp is Governor Hickenlooper’s special policy advisor for water and chairman of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC). As Eklund stated, “we have pivoted from whether or not we should have a plan, to what that plan should be. As we focus on the first final water plan, our emphasis must be on actionable steps.”

SWCD’s Annual Seminar

The Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) 33rd Annual Seminar was conducted in Durango on April 3rd. There were more than 175 in attendance. After opening remarks and introductions, a preview of the new documentary, the Great Divide, was provided by Harvey Productions.

People & Organizations

Rhees Named BOR’s Upper Colorado Regional Director

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) recently announced the selection of Brent Rhees, P.E., as Upper Colorado Regional Director. Rhees has served as the Salt Lake City-based region's deputy regional director since October 2007. "Brent Rhees has extensive knowledge and more than three decades of experience with the complex challenges in this important region," BOR Commissioner López stated. "Through his strong leadership and his ability to build solid partnerships, Brent is more than prepared to lead the Upper Colorado Region into the future." In his new role, Rhees will oversee BOR operations in most of Utah, New Mexico and western Colorado, as well as northern Arizona, a portion of west Texas, the southeast corner of Idaho and southwestern Wyoming. The responsibility includes oversight of BOR programs, projects, and facilities and encompasses 62 dams with a reservoir capacity of more than 32 million acre feet, 28 hydroelectric powerplants that meet electricity needs of more than 1.3 million people, and multiple recreation opportunities for about 12 million annual visitors.

Evans Selected USDA’s Colorado NRCS State Conservationist

Clint Evans, Assistant State Conservationist for Operations in Idaho, was recently selected as the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) State Conservationist in Colorado. “It’s an exciting time,” shares Evans.  “I’m looking forward to this opportunity to work with the NRCS employees, conservation partners, landowners and land managers across the state.” Evans started his career with NRCS in 2000, but his first experience with the Agency was in the late 1990s while working on the ranch where his then employer enrolled in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).  As a result, Evans gained experience in conservation planning and practice implementation thru financial assistance programs from the customer’s perspective.  He enjoyed working with the NRCS field staff so much that he decided to pursue a career with the Agency. After his tenure as a technician, Evans served in two Kansas field offices, was promoted to District Conservationist in Kingman, Kansas, moved to the Kansas State Office where he served as a Resource Conservationist on the programs staff, and then was selected as Idaho’s Assistant State Conservationist for Programs in 2009. He transferred to serve as Idaho’s Assistant State Conservationist for Operations in 2013. Additionally and in cooperation with his permanent assignments, Evans served on numerous details in other states and Washington, DC. Evans attended Kansas State University where he studied animal science, agri-business, and agronomy earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. 

Brown Named Colorado Agriculture Commissioner

In late January Governor Hickenlooper announced Don Brown will be the new Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture. He replaces John Salazar who retired in December, having served since 2011. “We are fortunate to welcome Don Brown to the team and thrilled to add his experience and leadership to Colorado’s thriving agriculture industry,” said Hickenlooper. “Agriculture is a critical sector for our economy, contributing $40 billion and providing nearly 173,000 jobs annually. Having Don at the helm, we know agriculture across Colorado will continue to grow.” As commissioner, Brown will lead the department’s daily operations, direct its 300 employees, and oversee the agency’s seven divisions. Brown, a third-generation farmer in Yuma County, has run several successful businesses while spending most of his career managing and growing his family’s extensive farm operations. He has also been active in water conservation, energy development, and technology innovation issues within the industry. Brown is a recipient of the Bill Seward Memorial Award--Lifetime Achievement for Outstanding Cattle Producer. He is active in the National Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, National Corn Growers, and the Colorado Corn Growers Association. He also served as president of the Yuma County Cattlemen’s Association and state president of the Future Farmers of America. Brown graduated with a degree in agriculture from Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, and received a vocational agriculture education degree with honors from Colorado State University.

Reece Appointed New Club 20 Executive Director

Club 20 was founded in 1953 to enable Western Slope cities, counties and businesses to speak with one voice to the state legislature. Today, the 62-year-old lobbying organization is being led by one of its youngest executive directors, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CD 3), Christian Reece. Reece grew up in an Air Force family, traveling and relocating frequently, until her father retired and moved his family to Rifle, where she went to high school. She attended Colorado Mesa University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry, planning to enter medical school. When she chose not to go to medical school, she worked for a year for a security agency, followed by four years in fundraising with Habitat for Humanity, then a couple of years assisting Congressman Tipton.  “I worked with Club 20 a lot in Tipton’s office,” she said, making her very familiar with issues of importance to the Western Slope. Club 20 has 10 policy committees concerned with Western Slope issues such as public lands management, oil and gas development, coal mining, forestry, water availability, severance taxes, agricultural tourism, and high-speed broadband service. Her duties as executive director are varied and somewhat intangible. “It’s public relations, lobbying, bill monitoring,” Reece stated. “It’s making sure our membership is being heard.”

Trampe Receives Prestigious 2015 Aspinall Award

In January 2015 the Colorado Water Congress (CWC) awarded Bill Trampe, a life-long Gunnison Rancher and Colorado water advocate, the 2015 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award. The Aspinall Award is given annually in recognition of a career of service and contribution to Colorado’s water community. It is awarded to a person who has dedicated a significant part of his or her career to the advancement of the state and its programs to protect, develop, and preserve the state’s water resources. Trampe was selected for the award by the previous Aspinall Award winners and CWC officers. CWC Board President, John McClow, said: “Bill Trampe’s leadership and original thinking in water and agriculture have had a tremendous positive impact in our community and the entire state. His modesty, wisdom and tireless commitment to achieving the best result, even when there is strong resistance, inspires everyone who has the opportunity to work with him.”

Huntington Passes

Long-time A-LP Project advocate Lawrence R. Huntington of Hesperus, CO passed on March 7, 2015, he was 96. Lawrence was born in Durango, raised in Hesperus, and graduated from Durango High School. After graduation he drove a propane delivery truck from Cortez to the San Luis Valley. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II where he served in the 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels) and five major campaigns including the Battle of the Bulge. Lawrence returned home to the family ranch and diligently worked the land for his entire life. He was married to Leola Bacus in Gallup, NM in 1946. She preceded him in death in 1965. Together they raised their four children and he served his community on various boards to include: Basin Coop, Durango 9-R Schools, Farm Credit System, La Plata County Cattlemen’s Association, La Plata County Fair, La Plata Electric Association, and the La Plata Water Conservancy District. He married a high school classmate, Margaret O’Brien McDonald, in 1966 and she, too, preceded his passing in 1997. He is survived by his four children, two siblings, three stepchildren, numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, as well as extended family and friends. Memorial contributions may be made to the La Plata County Cattlemen’s Scholarship Fund.

Harris Receives Club 20 Award

Steve Harris, with Durango-based Harris Water Engineering recently received the prestigious Club 20 Preston Walker award named for a former publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The annual award is presented for service and dedication to the organization.

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.

Current Events

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:

Water Quality / Conservation

Conservation: Projects Aim to Remove Salt Cedars Along the Colorado and Verde Rivers

The growth of invasive salt cedars within the flood plains of the Verde River in Arizona has become a serious impediment to the flow of water into the Colorado. Extracting salt cedar from riverbeds and replacing it with native grasses is an enormous undertaking, but one that could have a dramatic impact on Colorado River water flows. At least that is part of the thinking behind conservation projects proposed to repair habitats along both of the rivers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced three such conservation projects as part of a $1.2 billion, five-year enterprise included in the massive 2014 farm bill. About 35 percent of the overall funding will be dedicated to projects such as this along the Colorado River.

Quality: Study Finds Human Waste in Rivers

As part of a two-year study of the Animas and San Juan Rivers, the San Juan Watershed Group recently reported findings of elevated levels of bacteria from human waste in the waters. Researchers focused on water quality in New Mexico, except for one point at the Colorado and New Mexico border. The point on the border was studied for only one year, making the sample size smaller. But it is a red flag, especially because the levels of human bacteria dropped at sites tested downstream. “The public should have some concern about the recreational use of these rivers,” said Geoffrey Smith, biologist at New Mexico State University, who worked on the study. However, the bacteria is not found in treated drinking water. The study found bacteria from animals such as cattle and elk in 90 percent of the samples and bacteria from humans in 80 percent of the samples across both rivers. Bacteria from human waste could be coming from leaking septic tanks, people who illegally dump waste, going to the bathroom outside or from wastewater treatment plants. These finds are concerning because bacteria from human waste is more likely to make people sick with viral and bacterial infections than animal bacteria, Smith said. Finding where the bacteria is coming from is the next step in eliminating the pollution.

Water Law

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.

Energy and Water

PV Across Canals

Two major advantages to building photovoltaic (PV) plants atop irrigation canals are: efficient and cheap land use and reduced water evaporation from the channels underneath. Leading the way in these type of projects is India. According to the Indian government agency that administers PV irrigation projects, a 10 megawatt plant saves 40 acres of land and will potentially prevent 24 million gallons of water from evaporating each year. In addition, lower temperatures due to the water body below the canal-top plants boosts PV panel efficiency by approximately 7 percent. Disadvantages include higher construction costs, long-term exposure to environmental stresses, ingress of water into the panels which could reduce their performance, and questions about keeping long stretches of PV panels secure. Another problem is that PV panels are usually mounted facing southwards for optimal performance, but canals generally curve and change directions. Additional research into overcoming some of these disadvantages could help to address multiple water and energy challenges. 

Colorado Agricultural Hydropower Projects

In January the Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA), based in Telluride, announced a $1.8 million grant awarded to the Colorado Department of Agriculture by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support the development of agricultural hydropower projects in the state. The COSHA indicated that the grant will be important in stemming energy costs for area farmers. A COSHA report indicated that Colorado farmers spend an average of $33,000 each year on electricity, mostly to power irrigation pumps. A 2013 analysis by the Colorado Energy Office found that farmers in Colorado report energy expenses around 7 percent of total operating costs. Through the newly established Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the USDA is investing $370 million in the implementation of conservation projects in all 50 states. According to COSHA, the new hydro projects won’t result in any new dams or water diversions, but will instead rely on existing untapped water pressure. COSHA estimates 500 new jobs could be created by the new hydro development in Colorado. The new agricultural hydropower program will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower.

Roundtable Update

Southwest Basin Roundtable Meeting

At their January 14th Southwest Basin Roundtable (SBR) meeting, chair Mike Preston reported the fund balance is approximately $606,000. In addition to administrative items, there was discussion of the seven points of: the “draft conceptual agreement” regarding transmountain diversions; alternative water sources to meet future east slope urban water demands that should be included in the SBR Basin Implementation Plan (BIP), as well as a recommendation that the CWCB also consider alternatives language; lawn conservation policies; and municipal conservation versus agricultural efficiency. The SBR also heard a conceptual proposal from Trout Unlimited for $15,000 in support of the development of a cold-water-fisheries adaptive management plan on the Upper Dolores River. The management plan would identify the appropriate places to invest limited conservation dollars and time and facilitate coordination between stakeholders. Project partners include the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Roundtable members made recommendations and asked questions. In the end there was consensus to recommend that a full application be submitted for consideration.

WIP News

20th Annual Children’s Water Festival: Community Volunteers Needed--May 6th!

The 20th Annual Children’s Water Festival is being held Wednesday May 6, 2015 at Fort Lewis College. To help make this event the success that it is, guides—about 30, are needed to lead more than 700 regional fifth-grade students and their classes to various water-related stations on campus. In exchange for this valuable and FUN service a continental breakfast will be provided, a Water Festival t-shirt, gourmet lunch, as well as a keepsake water bottle and tote. In addition, if you are a student, the festival qualifies for seven (7) hours of community service. Guides will need to meet at 7:30 am sharp at the FLC Student Union Ballroom and will likely be finished sometime between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. If you or your organization can help, please contact Denise Rue-Pastin with the Water Information Program at (970) 247-1302, (970) 946-9024, or [email protected] by April 21st. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration of this important community service need and opportunity.

Book Review: Blue Mind

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

WIP’s Participating Entity, SWCD, Update

At their January Board meeting the following grants were funded by the SWCD:

Water History

History of Water Conflicts

The Pacific Institute has created a 5,000-year timeline (http://www2.worldwater.org/conflict/index.html) of water conflicts that shows that water politics have been messy since the beginning. The timeline goes as far back as 3,000 BC and includes such examples as poisoning enemy wells, targeting and destroying hydroelectric dams, bombing of irrigation canals, and riots sparked by insufficient water supplies. The Pacific Institute indicated that “the problems are expected to continue.” By 2025, scientists predict that one in five humans will live in regions suffering from water scarcity and many analysts have predicted that pressure on water resources could spark wars in the coming years. Moreover, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world has not woken up to the water crisis caused by climate change. The latest report from the United Nations IPCC predicted a rise in global temperature of between .5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit by the late 21st century. More extreme weather such as droughts will lead to serious water shortages and affect agricultural output and food security. Development experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about water security in recent years. More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanization, over-extraction of ground water, and expanding populations mean that many nations will face serious water shortages.

Miscellaneous Facts

What Creek Connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?

The Panama Canal is not the only water line connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There's a place in Wyoming—deep in the Teton Wilderness Area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest—in which a creek splits in two. Like the canal, this creek connects the two oceans dividing North America in two parts. Yes. You read that right: North America is divided in two parts by a single water line that—no matter how hard you try not to—you will have to cross to go from North to South and vice versa. The creek divides into two similar flows at a place called the Parting of the Waters. To the East, the creek flows 3,488 miles to the Atlantic Ocean via Atlantic Creek and the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers. To the West, it flows 1,353 miles to the Pacific Ocean via Pacific Creek and the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Of course, unlike the Panama Channel, you can't navigate these waters—unless you are a fish. At Parting of the Waters, water actually covers the Continental Divide such that a fish could safely swim from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean drainages. In fact, it is thought that this was the pass that provided the immigration route for Cutthroat Trout to migrate from the Snake River (Pacific) to Yellowstone River (Atlantic) drainages.