Spring 2011

People & Organizations

Winton New PAWSD Manager

Edwin (Ed) Winton was recently hired as the new Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Manager. Mr. Winton was selected from a group of four well qualified finalists. His career history includes extensive experience not only in the water/wastewater utility field, but also in management. He relocated from Topeka, Kansas. The PAWSD Board believes Mr. Winton will be a positive addition to the District and community. Welcome to southwest Colorado Ed!

Montoya Passes

Long-time friend and Animas-La Plata (ALP) Projectsupporter, Stella Montoya, passed away in January in Farmington, New Mexico. She was 82. Stella was active in various agricultural organizations and spent much time traveling throughout the country representing important agricultural issues. In 1994, Stella and her husband received the New Mexico State Cattleman of the Year award.

Israel Passes

Daniel Israel passed peacefully on February 6, 2011 in Boulder, Colorado where he and his wife lived. Dan was born in 1941 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to Dr. Harold and Dorothy Israel. He graduated from Amherst College in 1963 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1967.

Current Events

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Lake Nighthorse

A recreation plan for Lake Nighthorse continues to advance. Boat launching, angling, and swimming, however, are still about a year away. A draft recreation master plan is heading toward the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency which owns the Animas-La Plata Project (A-LP) of which Lake Nighthorse is a component. The Bureau must assure that the plan meets National Environmental Protection Act guidelines. A noise study that was conducted indicates that the decibel level of motorized boats on the lake will be less than the limit under state and city of Durango standards. In addition, a financial assessment of capital costs and user fees to build and maintain facilities and services is included.

Fed-State Geothermal Agreement

Federal and Colorado agencies have reached an agreement to streamline geothermal development. The deal is designed to improve cooperation and communication between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Department of Natural Resources when the BLM and Colorado State Land Board receive geothermal lease nominations, and when any other DNR divisions seek to convey geothermal rights. It also ensures that those obtaining leases will be notified of any state and federal rules regarding considerations such as water rights and protection of existing geothermal features.

Carbon Dioxide Increases Causing Fewer Pores in Plants, Less Water to Atmosphere

According to scientists from Indiana University Bloomington and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, as carbon dioxide levels have dropped over the past 150 years, the density of pores that allow plants to breathe has dwindled by 34 percent. This in turn restricts the amount of water vapor the plants release to the atmosphere. These findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists gathered their data from a diversity of plant species, including living individuals as well as samples extracted from herbarium collections and peat formations 100 to 150 years old. "The increase in carbon dioxide by about 100 parts per million has had a profound effect on the number of stomata and, to a lesser extent, the size of the stomata," said Research Scientist in Biology and Professor Emeritus in Geology David Dilcher, the two papers' sole American coauthor. "Our analysis of that structural change shows there's been a huge reduction in the release of water to the atmosphere."

Dust to Get Worse

Desert dust blowing from the Southwest into the Rockies has been implicated in everything from earlier snowmelt and air quality violations to causing avalanches. A new study indicates these storms will become more frequent and intense as increased temperature kill desert vegetation. A research team from the U.S. Geological Survey and UCLA looked at climate, vegetation, and soil measurements collected over a 20-year period in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in southeastern Utah. Long-term data indicated that perennial vegetation in grasslands and some shrublands declined with temperature increases. The study then used these soil and vegetation measurements in a model to project future wind erosion.

Water Quality / Conservation

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Irrigation System Created Saving 20 percent of Water per Harvest

Neiker-Tecnalia (the Basque Institute of Agricultural Research and Development) has been working with Arson engineering company in the creation of an irrigation telecontrol system which will enable saving up to 20 % of water for each harvest, compared to traditional irrigation methods. With this technology, known as Aquarson, the programming of the irrigation shifts and the consumption of water are controlled in a centralized way, enabling a management based on hydraulic and energy criteria which increase the efficiency of use of the irrigation system.

Water Report: Conservation and Reuse Needed

Environmental groups have presented an alternative solution to meeting Colorado’s urban water supply gap. Conservation, reuse, sharing water resources and finding acceptable ‘smart’ projects can fill the urban supply gap identified by state studies, a report released by Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, and the Colorado Environmental Coalition claims.  The report, Filling the Gap: Common Sense Solutions to Meeting Front Range Water Needs, omits using new supplies of water and reduces the number of acceptable projects in favor of adding heavier emphasis on urban conservation and reuse. It also stresses cooperative ventures between agricultural water rights holders and cities, and using energy-efficient, environmentally responsible projects.

PAWSD--A Water Conservation Trend Setter in Southwest Colorado (by Mat deGraaf)

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD or the District) is proud of its water conservation program. As a headwaters locale, the Town of Pagosa Springs and surrounding areas are blessed with pristine and pure water resources that originate in the 2nd largest wilderness area in the lower 48.

Water Law

Court Sides with Pine River Ranchers

As recently reported by the Durango Herald, a divided state Supreme Court has ruled for several Bayfield-area ditch companies in a water-rights dispute with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. The 4-3 ruling solidified water rights for the King Consolidated Ditch Company and seven others. The companies wanted to make sure their 1930s-era rights are protected against a plan to fill Vallecito Reservoir twice a year in order to maintain winter flows in the river. “This ruling gives certainty and security to farmers and ranchers out there that they can continue diverting,” said Geoff Craig, a lawyer for the ditch companies.

Hydropower Bill Signed

In March, Governor Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that opens the door to more hydroelectric power generation operations in the state. Under HB1083, the Public Utilities Commission can authorize hydro projects and allow rates to be adjusted to recover the costs of the projects, similar to other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Concessions to environmental groups worried about the impact on aquatic life and others who were concerned about its impact on downstream water users paved the way for the bill’s popularity.

Legislative Update (by Bruce Whitehead)

Bruce Whitehead, Executive Director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, as well as the District’s representative to the Colorado Water Congress State Affairs Committee, provides weekly legislative updates to interested parties in Southwest Colorado. The following provides the most recent State Affairs Committee meeting from April 11th:

Roundtable Update

Statewide Roundtable Summit

The governor’s point man for water issues sees the tempo picking up in the next few months. “For the last five years, we’ve been doing a slow dance, but I think the governor’s message is that time is of the essence, and we need to push forward,” said John Stulp, water adviser to Governor Hickenlooper.

WIP News

WIP News

The Annual Children’s Water Festival will be conducted at Fort Lewis College in Durango on May 4th. Most often we seek volunteers right up to the last minute. If this is something you think you could help with, please contact the WIP at (970) 247-1302. On a separate note, initial planning for the Annual Water 101 seminar has begun.

Miscellaneous Facts


The Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) projects that Colorado’s population will nearly double by 2050, reaching between 8.6 million and 10.5 million people.