Spring 2013

People & Organizations

Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District

La Plata County has a very active youth baseball program, but was woefully lacking fields to play on. In 2010 the nonprofit, volunteer organization Youth Baseball of Southwestern Colorado (YBSWC) approached the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (ALPWCD) about property the district owns near the Durango Pumping Plant that supplies the water for Lake Nighthorse. After the ALPWCD posted announcements in the local paper to solicit further interests in use of the property, the YBSWC was the only entity to respond. In 2011 they signed a 20 year lease for $100 per year with the ALPWCD for youth sporting events. Since that time, community funds and time have been donated to build two professional, regulation youth baseball fields, and plans are on track to begin playing ball this spring. Thank you ALPWCD for going to bat for youth baseball in La Plata County and southwest Colorado!

Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance

The Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance (DARCA) conducted their 11th Annual Convention, “Water of Food; Food for Life,” March 6-8 at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, CO. The event allows ditch company personnel, farmers, ranchers, and other water professionals from around the state to network and exchange and obtain valuable information.

The DARCA is a non-profit organization formed in 2001 to support the state’s ditch and reservoir companies. DARCA’s mission is to help these businesses and their shareholders find cost effective solutions to issues such as growing urbanization, increased regulations, as well as many other problems that are now facing these historic businesses.

Town of Silverton

The Town of Silverton recently completed reconstruction of the Molas Lake Dam, as well as rehabilitation to the Molas Lake Ditch. These upgrades were needed to support a 2004 municipal water right filing on the Molas Ditch. The dam improvements were a requirement imposed by the State Engineer, Division of Water Resources, to improve the small earthn

Bette Blinde

The Colorado Foundation for Agriculture Executive Director Bette Blinde was inducted into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame on February 14th. Ms. Blinde joins Dr. Darrell Anderson, Dick Tanaka and Robbie Baird LeValley to have their portraits join more than 20 years' of honorees in the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame is coordinated by the Colorado Future Farmers of America Foundation. Blinde is credited for her work in educating Colorado’s youth by publishing the Colorado Reader series, a student activity newspaper available to educators statewide. Congratulations Bette!

Chester Crabb

Division 7 of the Colorado Division of Water Resources is pleased to announce that Chester Crabb was recently selected to fill the Lead Water Commissioner position in Pagosa Springs. Chester is a native of Colorado, graduated from Western State with a BA in Communications, and went on for a BS in Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. While at Mines he worked for the USGS in their Alpine Hydrology group. Since graduating from Mines he has been working in environmental permitting and regulatory compliance for private industry. Welcome to the basin, Chester, and best wishes in your new position!

Rita Crumpton

Rita Crumpton, founding member and Board President of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (CFWE) for the past four years, stepped down in December, though remains on the Board as Past President for the next two years. Gregg Ten Eyck, with Leonard Rice Engineers out of Denver is the new CFWE leader at the helm. Raised in Denver, Rita graduated from South High School, then lived in southern California and attended Santa Ana Junior College there. She moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa and attended Iowa Western Community College. Her career began with the Iowa Power & Light Company, working for 14 years as Customer Service Supervisor before moving back home to Colorado in 1985. Arriving in Grand Junction, she immediately went to work for the Ute Water Conservancy District where she stayed for 18 years, leaving her position as Public Information Officer in 2003 to take the position of Manager of the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District. Rita retired from Orchard Mesa Irrigation District in Palisade in 2009 after six years of service. Professional activities included membership and chair of the Public Information Committee of the Rocky Mountain Section of American Water Works Association, as well as membership on the Section’s Education Committee. In addition, she Founded of the Mesa County Children's Water Festival in 1995 and is currently a Governor's Appointee to the Interbasin Compact Committee. Thank you for all of your great years of service to the water community, Rita!

Larry Dermo

After 23 years on the Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD) Board of Directors Larry Dermo has stepped down. Dolores County Commissioner, Doug Stowe, will be taking his place. In addition to the SWCD board, Larry also served for 26 years on the Dolores Water Conservancy District (DWCD) Board of Directors. Dermo started farming with his dad and brother when he was 12 years old. He did this until 1960, when they formed Delmac Farms, Inc. Larry was president of this operation until his oldest son, Lyle, took over the position about five years ago. He and his family, wife Joanne and sons Lyle and Rick, have a 900 acre ranch in Dove Creek were they raise alfalfa, irrigate with center pivots, and selling their product to dairy farms in Texas. Thank you Larry for all of your years of service to the water community on the SWCD and DWCD Boards of Directors! We wish you and your family, including wife of 60 years (in August—congratulations on that milestone, too), best wishes!!

Steve Salka

The City of Durango is fortunate to have Steve Salka as their new Water Utilities Director. After retiring from a 25 year career in the Navy where he was responsible for aircraft carrier electronics and missile systems, Steve could have settled anywhere in the world (he certainly traveled enough of it), but chose beautiful and unique Durango to hang his hat. With degrees in electronics business management and electronics engineering, and with his own surge protection company, his hat didn’t stay hung for long. Not ready for full time retirement, he took the Durango position in 2012. His “Biggest excitement is working with young people to teach them something new,” says Steve. With a quarter century of advanced teaching techniques from the Navy, Salka is happy to give back and share some of this knowledge with his new community. Thank you and welcome Steve!  

Current Events

Silverton Avalanche(s) Block Water Supply

An avalanche or two above the headgate at Bear Creek blocked two creeks and nearly choked off Silverton’s water supply, which in turn froze their water line in February. The town’s public works crew struggled for 12 days to keep water flowing to businesses and residences. At one point, the crew had to use the fire department’s water truck to transfer water to the plant to keep the town supplied. Kuddos and congratulation to the Silverton’s public works crew for putting in long hours under miserable conditions to keep the town’s water system flowing.

New Colorado Oil and Gas Regulations

Oil and gas companies will be required to test the groundwater around new drilling operations in Colorado beginning May 1, 2013. In January, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) approved new rules requiring energy companies to test up to four domestic water wells within a half-mile radius of all new oil and gas wells both before and after drilling begins. The rule aims to ensure that drilling and fracking are not contaminating groundwater. In addition, in February the COGCC voted to raise the minimum distance between wells and homes as well as other buildings to at least 500 feet statewide. The reason for the increased setback, among other issues (e.g., increases in dust, noise, etc.), were water contamination and quality issues. Previously, the state’s minimum distance was 150 feet in rural areas and 350 feet in urban settings. But starting August 1st, new wells drilled in Colorado must be at least 500 feet from buildings.

Arizona Water Dispute

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, along with landowners and environmental groups, have appealed an Arizona Department of Water Resources decision to approve a Los Angeles real estate company’s request to pump roughly 3,000 acre feet of water a year from state land near the San Pedro River--the last big, free flowing river in the southwest. The real estate company plans to use the water for development, but opponents argue the company would be intercepting water that would have otherwise flowed to replenish the river and the surrounding San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which contains nearly 57,000 acres of federal land.

Agricultural Crime

According to a January New York Times article county sheriffs, farmers, and ranchers across the West are grappling with a new scourge: hay rustling. Months of drought and grass fires have pushed the price of grain, hay, and other animal feed to near records, making the hay bales an increasingly irresistible target for thieves. Some steal them for profit, while others are fellow farmers acting out of desperation. Sheriffs in rural counties in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and  Oklahoma say the spike in hay thefts is part of a broader rise in agricultural crime. California’s farmers have grappled recently with growing thefts of grapes, beehives and avocados, and sheriffs say high prices of scrap metal have made agricultural machinery--whether it works or not--an appealing target. On the range, wire fences are being clipped to allow interloping herds to poach grazing land. In addition, dubious online merchants are selling feed to farmers but never delivering.

Area Water Managers Scrambling

Water managers across the region are scrambling to meet demands as much needed precipitation is lacking, while groundwater, reservoir, and river levels continue to decline. As an example, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recently had to stock rainbow trout from their hatchery in Durango to area reservoirs earlier than usual. This was necessary because of very low water conditions at the hatchery. According to Jim White, aquatic biologist with the CPW, the Durango hatchery requires about 1000-1200 gallons of water per minute from groundwater sources to supply their operations. "The groundwater table was so low this winter that flows dropped to less than 800 gallons per minute" said White, and therefore we had to release some of the fish planned for summer stocking early.

Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study

Planners and engineers in the seven-state Colorado River Basin have spent three years and $4 million to forecast water supply and demand scenarios from now through 2060. As part of this, a recently completed (December 2012) 1,500 page was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the seven Colorado River Basin states: the upper basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, and the lower basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada.

Water Quality / Conservation


Colorado is one of the only states in the West that doesn’t allow the domestic use of graywater, but that may soon change. Rep. Randy Fischer (D-Fort Collins) has reintroduced a graywater bill allowing homeowners and businesses to reuse dish-washing, shower, and other graywater. Current Colorado water law allows just one use of water before it goes down the drain, through a wastewater treatment plant, and back into the river for others to use. Lawmakers defeated a similar bill in a 5-4 vote last year, but Fischer thinks it stands a better chance of drawing bipartisan support this year. It is estimated that Colorado could save enough water for 170,000 new suburban families if all new construction included systems to recycle bath and laundry water. Colorado State University Prof. Larry Roesner has been pushing Colorado to expand its graywater use for 10 years. He said graywater makes up 30 percent of household water use. If new homes and businesses all used graywater systems, the state could save 85,000 acre-feet a year, he said.

Expanding Spruce Beetle Outbreak

According to a recent Denver Post article, an annual aerial survey of forest health in Colorado shows the mountain pine beetle epidemic is slowing dramatically, but the spruce beetle outbreak is expanding. The mountain pine beetle epidemic has spread by 31,000 acres, down from an increase of 140,000 acres reported last year, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service said. Since the first signs of the outbreak in 1996, the infestation has grown to nearly 3.4 million acres, or roughly 5,300 square miles. The infestation remains active from Estes Park to Leadville. Meanwhile, the spruce beetle outbreak spread to 183,000 new acres in 2012, bringing the total infestation since 1996 to about 924,000 acres. The most significant spruce beetle activity has been in southern Colorado in the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests, forest officials said. Spruce beetles typically attack spruce trees downed by high winds, then move into the surrounding trees as the insects' numbers grow. Beetle activity has increased as trees have been stressed by factors including dense stands of trees, ongoing drought, and warmer winters that haven't been killing off as many insects. 

Water Law

Public Trust Doctrine: Part 1

In an ongoing effort to inform the public and water community alike, the following is the first in a four part 2013 series related to a potentially emerging Colorado Public Trust Doctrine issue.

The Public Trust Doctrine is the principle that certain resources are preserved for public use, and that the government is required to maintain them for the public's reasonable use. The doctrine stems from ancient Roman laws that held that seashores not appropriated for private use was open to all. These rights became part of the common law of the United States as established in Illinois Central Railroad vs. Illinois.

Reversing a Supreme Court Decision on Reservoir Water Storage

According to a recent Durango Herald article, Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) recently won unanimous support for Senate Bill 41 in the agriculture committee. Her bill counteracts a 2011 Supreme Court ruling on the Yampa River that said reservoir owners cannot get an absolute right to water in their reservoirs unless it is all put to beneficial use. Colorado law has a use it or lose it approach to water in order to prevent hoarding or speculation. But legislators and their allies in the water business think the court took that doctrine to an extreme. “The Supreme Court basically issued us an invitation to do something different than what their case came up with,” Roberts said. Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said that unless the bill passes and reverses the Supreme Court ruling, utilities would have to suck their reservoirs dry before they could get new water rights. “It’s hopefully stepping back to a time where it’s a much more practical reading of the law,” Lochhead said. The bill says storing water for firefighting and drought mitigation is a beneficial use, and that water rights can’t be considered to be abandoned when the water is in long-term storage.

Texas Lawsuit

The state of Texas recently filed suit against New Mexico over Rio Grande Compact disputes, with Colorado brought into the fray as a result. The suit, filed in U.S. Supreme Court in January, alleges New Mexico is not delivering to Texas the water owed that state under a multi-state 1938 Rio Grande Compact, which also includes Colorado. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein said, “It is unfortunate that we have had to resort to legal action, but negotiations with New Mexico have been unsuccessful, and Texas is not getting the water that it is allocated and legally entitled to.” Rubinstein alleged New Mexico was trying to circumvent and ignore the compact, and by filing suit against New Mexico, Texas was attempting to rectify alleged harm New Mexico had caused Texas water users.

Roundtable Update

Draft Nonconsumptive Toolbox Request for Public Comment

The Interbasin Compact Commission (IBCC) requested that the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) develop a toolbox to help roundtables incorporate nonconsumptive needs into their Basin Implementation Plans. This is a resource document for the roundtables and other stakeholders and brings many documents and technical work together in one place. The draft report is available online at:


WIP News

18th Annual Children’s Water Festival

The 18th Annual Children’s Water Festival will be conducted May 1, 2013 at Fort Lewis College. We are anticipating more than 700 fifth grade kids will participate this year. If you would like to volunteer for this fun and worthwhile event, please contact the Water Information Program at (970) 247-1302.

June 26-27th Forests-to-Faucets Teacher Training Workshop

Last year the Water Information Program (WIP) cosponsored with the Mountain Studies Institute and the San Juan Mountains Association a pilot Forests-to-Faucets Teacher Training Workshop in the Durango/Silverton area. It was very successful and well received. Therefore, with funding from the Southwestern Water Conservation District, we will be conducting another training session, this year in the Pagosa Springs Area. The workshop will be June 26-27th and qualifies for one continuing education credit for educators from Adams State University. Space is limited. To register visit the WIP website at www.waterinfo.org or call (970) 247-1302.

Water History

Colorado River Compact: 1922 and 2010 Population

In 1922, the Colorado River Compact was signed to allocate the river’s water between the seven states and Mexico that rely on and share this water. At the time the Compact was signed, the Colorado River delivered an average of 16.5 million AF of water annually to 20 million people. As discussed in the previous article, that average is now down to 13 million AF for a population of approximately 170 million (2010). The following provides the Lower and Upper Basin states 1922 versus 2010 populations:

Miscellaneous Facts

U.S. Dams

Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees (also known as dikes) are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. The average age of the 84,000 dams in the U.S. is 52 years old. The nation’s dams are aging and the number of high-hazard dams is on the rise. Many of these dams were built as low-hazard dams protecting undeveloped agricultural land. Both are in sad shape and rated a D for dams and a D- for levees by the American Society of Civil Engineers who are the engineers who build them. If they go, homes and vast stretches of land will be flooded and the environment literally drenched.