Newsletter Article

WIP’s Participating Entity, SWCD, Update

At their June 9th Board meeting the following 9 grants were funded by the SWCD:

USGS Study Points to Fracking’s Thirst

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in partnership with the American Geophysical Union, indicates that hydraulic fracking operations in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last 15 years, consuming more than 28 times the water they did a mere decade and a half  ago.

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs Steps Down

After almost two decades on the bench, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs officially retired on August 31st. When Governor Romer appointed Hobbs to the state’s highest court in 1996, it was the realization of a career-long goal for the attorney. But Greg jokes a little about the day he learned he would be Romer’s pick. When asked why he should appoint Hobbs to the Court, Greg replied that he holds the institutional knowledge of the various panels that work on natural resources issues, he’s drafted bills for the Legislature, and he has worked collaboratively with citizens’ boards and commissions. That’s what Romer wanted—someone who knew how to get along with what was then a fractious group. Upon appointing him, however, Romer said “Get a tie—a real tie.” Twenty years later Greg is still known for wearing his characteristic bolo ties. “Like Sam did!” says Greg. While counsel for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 17 years, Greg worked closely with Frank “Sam” Maynes on many pieces of state and federal water legislation affecting the state.

U.S. Forest Service & Wildfires

According to a recently released report, costs to battle ever-increasing and massive wildfires have “decimated” the budget of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) charged with fighting the blazes. For the first time in its 110-year history, the USFS reports it spends more than 50% of its annual budget on firefighting at the expense of other programs to prevent the infernos.

CWCB Finalizes Dry Gulch Loan

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) officially approved an agreement with the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) to restructure the financing of the Dry Gulch water storage project. In 2002, after a severe drought and massive wildfires, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) began working with the SJWCD to develop a water storage facility at Dry Gulch.

Mancos Water Conservancy District

At a September public meeting, the Mancos Water Conservancy District (MWCD) board continued discussion about obtaining title transfer of irrigation facilities from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). At the meeting they heard from two out-of-state irrigation managers who benefited from title transfer. Invited guests were Gary Esslinger, Manager for the Elephant Butte Irrigation District in New Mexico, and Tom Knutson, retired General Manager of the Farwell Irrigation District in Nebraska. Both reported that the title process was time consuming and not easy but that it was worth it in the end for their districts.

Telluride’s San Miguel River Restoration Project

In July, the Town of Telluride Open Space Commission approved nearly $1 million in funding for a project to reroute the San Miguel River back to its original course on the Valley Floor. Approximately 125 years ago, the river was channelized, or straightened, to hug the southern edge of the valley and make transportation of goods down the waterway easier. In 2008, the town purchased the Valley Floor, and one of the main goals of that purchase was to restore the river to its original, meandering course across the conservation easement west of town.

Prior Appropriation System Test Projects

Colorado water rights owners are testing the state's prior appropriation or "use it or lose it" rule that penalizes those who divert less than their full allotment from rivers, thereby opening a potential path to cut water use as shortages continue throughout the American West. For 139 years, state enforcers have said farmers, cities and ranchers who don't use all the water they are entitled to could have their rights curtailed. Critics have said that discourages conservation. A first deal in the works, made possible by a 2013 law, lets a ranch owner near Granby leave water in Willow Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, without facing penalties. A second deal would leave more water in the Roaring Fork River, another Colorado River tributary, in Aspen. Colorado Farm Bureau (CFB) leaders said they're watching to make sure water left in rivers by those who don't exercise their senior rights stays available to next-in-priority irrigators. "We're definitely taking a wait-and-see approach," CFB president Don Shawcroft said.

Robbins Urges Proactive Water Protection Legislation on the Dolores

According to a recent Cortez Journal article, David Robbins, a prominent Colorado water attorney, concluded that a proposed national conservation area on the Lower Dolores River is a good way to protect local water rights against perceived federal threats. Robbins analyzed and provided in a 14-page legal review, of the various federal risks to local water rights on the Lower Dolores River including a National Conservation Area (NCA), national monument, wilderness area, wild and scenic river, and the Endangered Species Act, plus others. “The challenge for (local counties) is not if additional federal land management actions will be proposed and occur, but when and in what form,” Robbins wrote.

Millennials: Target of Water Conservationists

Research indicates that many millennials, those born in the early 1980s to 2000s, in Colorado don’t understand the value of water or how it gets to their tap. That is why water conservation advocates in the state are targeting this group with a campaign that aims to educate them about the value of water. In June was launched by Colorado WaterWise, a statewide group that advocates for water conservation. The website is part of the “Live Like You Love It” campaign, which aims at delivering a consistent message about the value of Colorado water and the need to conserve. will serve as a hub for information on how to conserve and care for water. The website includes facts about how Coloradans receive their water, tips on conserving indoor and outdoor water, and pointers to protect water quality.

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