Winter 2014

Top Stories

Draft Colorado Water Plan Complete!

Rising demand from population growth and industry, if continued through 2050, threatens to leave 2.5 million people in Colorado with a water supply shortfall. Unless solutions are found to meet the gap between water demand and supply, the result could be, among others, agricultural dry-up. Therefore, and in response, in May 2013 Governor Hickenlooper ordered the development of a first-ever Colorado Water Plan. In mid-November the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) sent the Governor a draft of this plan that aims to shape the future of the resource in the state. The plan, which took a year-and-a-half to craft, was a monumental and unprecedented effort that involved the work of hundreds of individuals and organizations throughout Colorado. It is generally agreed that a variety of methods will need to be included in the Plan to meet the water supply needs of the state—conservation, development of already Identified Projects and Processes (IPP’s), agricultural “buy and dry,” and development of “new supply” projects. Taken together, these are referred to as the ‘four legs of the stool.’

People & Organizations

Salazar Retiring

Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar is retiring at the end of the year. The San Luis Valley resident and sixth-generation farmer and rancher pointed to several achievements while serving as the state’s chief of agriculture since 2011, including consolidating the department’s divisions. He also highlighted double-agriculture exports from Colorado producers over 2009 levels.

Harris Steps Down, Wolff Appointed as Next SW Colorado CWRPDA Representative

After 16 years being the appointee from southwest Colorado on the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority Board of Directors (CWRPDA), Steve Harris, with Harris Water Engineering in Durango, is stepping down from this position—his term expired in October. Robert (Bob) Wolff was appointed by the Governor in November to be the next representative from southwest Colorado to serve a 4 year term beginning at the January Board meeting after confirmation by the Senate Ag Committee.

Cortez: McPhee Reservoir

Montezuma County is interested in taking over recreation management of McPhee Reservoir. Frustrated by the lack of services, County Commissioners urged San Juan National Forest supervisor Kara Chadwick to convey land and management of three key facilities (McPhee boat ramp, House Creek, and Sage Hen areas) of the reservoir. “In the last 15 years, services have digressed at the lake to near nothing, so it behooves us to look at taking over management,” said Commissioner Keenan Ertel.

Durango: Wastewater-Plant Upgrade Deadline Extended

The city’s wastewater-treatment plant will not have to make millions of dollars worth of improvements by 2017 to meet new clean water guidelines. This came after negotiations with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. While all the estimated $55 million upgrades will have to be made, the state health department agreed to extend the city’s deadline until 2023.

Pagosa Springs: Drilling and Grant Approved for Geothermal Project

At their December meeting the Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority (PAGWPA) formally accepted a grant for nearly $2 million from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). According to the grant agreement, DOLA will give PAGWPA $1,986,000 from the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund “to confirm the presence of geothermal resources whereby such geothermal resources can be developed as a possible power source for the area.” The purpose of the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program is to help political subdivisions that are socially or economically affected by the oil and gas industry.

Telluride: Pandora Water Treatment Plant Up and Running

Twenty years after the Pandora Water Treatment Plant was proposed by local officials concerned about long-term municipal water supply, the facility is up and running, generating clean water. The Pandora Water Treatment Plant valves were opened on October 24th and everything worked, Telluride Public Works Director Paul Ruud said.

Current Events

Cloud Seeding Study

The results of the most scientific study of cloud seeding done to-date were just released in December. University of Wyoming researchers conducted a $14 million randomized blind statistical experiment that was designed and evaluated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Forest Service Issues Wolf Creek Decision

Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas announced his decision in November to approve a land exchange between the Rio Grande National Forest and Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture (LMJV), the developer for the Village at Wolf Creek, which will provide Highway 160 access to the development. The proposed development dates back nearly 30 years to a 1986 land exchange that provided LMJV with the acreage near the ski area to develop the Village, but unintentionally not the legal access the development would need.

First Kokanee Spawning at Lake Nighthorse

In late October members of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife team spawned kokanee salmon in Lake Nighthorse for the first time. Members of this first graduating class of kokanee were stocked as fingerlings in 2010. Stocking 75,000 kokanee each year since means spawning will occur annually. They are the only fish being taken from the lake, which is off limits to the public until a recreation plan is in place. The lake also has stocked rainbow trout and suckers.

Water Quality / Conservation

Study: US Using Less Water

A study by local, state, and federal officials tracking water use has found that levels have dropped to those of at least 40 years ago. "This is the first time we've seen this large a decline nationally," said Molly Maupin, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and lead author of the study, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2010.

Colorado River Water Conservation Programs

In October the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBOR) began soliciting project proposals in the Lower Basin states for water conservation from Colorado River entitlement holders in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Demand management and conservation measures are also being discussed for water users in the river's Upper Basin as a part of a Contingency Planning process to address future shortages. The Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Southern Nevada Water Authority, and the USBOR are providing up to $11 million to pay for new Colorado River “System Conservation Agreements” as pilot projects.

Coloradans Want Strong Conservation and Efficiency in State Water Plan

More than 18,000 people across Colorado have sent messages supporting smart water policies such as increased conservation and efficiency to be prioritized in the Colorado State Water Plan. This message mirrors a recent poll that confirms voters understand the importance of conserving water and preserving rivers and streams for future generations. “Voters believe that Coloradans can meet their water needs by reducing water use by 10 percent by 2020 through conservation, rather than building new diversion projects,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “A two-thirds majority of Colorado voters say we need to change the way the state manages our water.” Three key findings in the poll show: 
 
  1. 90 percent of voters say a priority for the Water Plan should be to keep Colorado’s rivers healthy and flowing.
  2. 78 percent of voters prefer using water conservation and recycling instead of diverting water from rivers in Western Colorado to the Front Range.
  3. 88 percent of voters support a statewide goal of reducing water use in cities and towns by 10 percent by 2020. 

Water Law

Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act Passed!

On December 12th the U.S. Senate passed the Hermosa Creek Wilderness Protection Act as part of the huge $585 billion military defense spending bill, which had been previously approved by the House. President Obama signed the package into law on the 19th. The Hermosa legislation was the result of work done by the River Protection Workgroup (RPW) which is a collaborative effort to provide alternative protections of values while allowing water development to continue. Members of the RPW Steering Committee include the conservation community, State and Federal government agencies, and representatives of the Southwestern Water Conservation District.

Anticipated Water State Legislation for 2015

The following anticipated water legislation has been approved for introduction by the Interim Water Committee in 2015, and is provided by Bruce Whitehead, Executive Director for the Southwestern Water Conservation District:
 
The First Regular Session of the Seventieth General Assembly of the State Legislature will convene on January 7, 2015. The Interim Water Committee will introduce the following six bills: 

Energy and Water

US-China Pact Includes Water-Energy Research Provisions

In November, President Obama and President Jinping of China announced new targets for reducing the amount of heat-trapping gases that their countries release into the atmosphere. This was a historic move that both sides hope will catalyze a global climate agreement in Paris next year to rein in carbon emissions and avoid harmful ecological changes. The two powers will work together in several areas of shared interests. They will collaborate to develop technology that pulls carbon out of the air, work on urban planning ideas, welcome trade delegations for green technology, and test new solar energy facilities. The agreement also expands the mission of a joint energy research program to include, for the first time, investigations of the connections between water and energy use.

Roundtable Update

West Slope Roundtables Meeting

A West Slope roundtable meeting was conducted in mid-December in Grand Junction. There were about 75 members of the four roundtables, plus another 75 or so members of the public and Colorado’s professional water community, that discussed and heard a number of topics related to the Colorado Water Plan. One of the items on the agenda was the draft seven-point framework developed by the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) that lays out conditions for future discussions on the potential new trans-mountain diversion (TMD) in Colorado. Those seven points include:

Southwest Basin Roundtable Meeting

At their November 12th Southwest Basin Roundtable (SBR) meeting, chair Mike Preston reported the fund balance is $655,916. There was then extensive discussion of the Colorado Water Plan and participants were directed to the draft plan that is now available online on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) website (www.coloradowaterplan.com). In addition, CWCB staff, Craig Godbout directed members to a document entitled Colorado’s Water Plan: Western Slope Implementation and Themes drafted by James Eklund, CWCB director, and Brent Newman. The document outlines 10 areas of concerns expressed by the Western Slope and how those are addressed in the plan. A summary of those areas are provided on the CWCB website.

WIP News

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.

Books

The WIP has once again added a number of new book titles, including books-on-tape, to its lending library this Fall.

Encounters with the Archdruid, book review by Laura Spann, SWCD

Encounters with the Archdruid (1971) takes a different angle at the traditional biography. Rather than simply writing a select memoir or the life story of fervent conservationist David Brower, author John McPhee observes his interactions with three men from disparate walks of life.

Water History

The Mancos Project

Settlement and irrigation of the Mancos Valley began about 1876. The natural flow of the Mancos River during the months of July, August, and September is very low, and the irrigation water supply for those months inadequate. By 1893, when a state adjudication of water was made, late summer demands for irrigation water far exceeded the supply. To alleviate the shortage, three small reservoirs storing approximately 1,500 acre-feet of water were built by local irrigation organizations. In 1937, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation investigations led to the conclusion that the Jackson Gulch Reservoir site, an offstream storage basin, was the only site of sufficient size to furnish an adequate project water supply.

Miscellaneous Facts

The United States of Watersheds, Courtesy of the Washington Post

John Wesley, the 19th century geologist and explorer, who navigated the Colorado River in 1869 and 1872, realized that the limited water in the arid West would eventually lead to conflict between the states. Therefore, he suggested the boundaries of Western states be determined by watersheds—the topographical basins that funnel surface water to a single exit point. John Lavey thought that was a pretty good idea. So Lavey, a land use planner at the Sonoran Institute in Bozeman, Montana, set about to recreate Powell’s vision—but this time, instead of stopping in the West, he crossed the Rocky Mountains. Sticking with a maximum of 50 states, here are the boundaries Lavey drew, dictated by North American watersheds: