Summer 2011

Top Stories


After decades of planning and years of construction, Lake Nighthorse filled in June 2011! The reservoir reached the top elevation of 6,882 feet on June 29th, storing a total of 123,541 acre-feet.

People & Organizations

Lake Nighthorse Test Releases

In May the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) conducted three weeks of test releases at Lake Nighthorse. Test releases accomplish two objectives, first-fill engineer Tyler Artichoker said.

Durango Considering Lake Nighthorse Recreation Management

The City of Durango is currently considering whether they will take on the management of recreation at Lake Nighthorse. According to Cathy Metz, Director of the City Parks and Recreation Department, the most critical issue is whether the proposed phased development is financially feasible. “We have to make sure that use fees cover the costs,” she said.

Durango Looks to Finance Lake Nighthorse Water

The City of Durango has only a week’s reserve of water. Therefore, in 2005, they requested that the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA) reserve a portion of Animas-La Plata Project water in its name.

Durango Whitewater Park Upgrades

In the late 1980s the City of Durango became the first community in the nation to construct a whitewater park. The park was state-of-the-art at the time, but has since lost some of its prestige to newer parks.

Lake Durango and La Plata West Water Authorities

In May the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) approved a grant-loan package for the Lake Durango Water Authority.

Christianson New Reclamation Group Chief

Ryan Christianson has been selected as the new Bureau of Reclamation Group Chief of the Southern Water Management Group in the Western Colorado Area Office. He takes the place of Pat Page who took a position as Deputy Construction Engineer at Reclamation’s Four Corners Construction Office in Farmington, New Mexico. Ryan has been with Reclamation for 13 years—fi

Maloney Moves On

Meghan Maloney, River Program Director for the San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA), left her position in late May 2011.

Current Events

Permanent Hot Summers Predicted According to Stanford Study

According to a new study by scientists at Stanford University, the tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase.

Colorado River Shortages Deferred to at Least 2015

While above average snowpack in parts of the West has given states in the Colorado River basin some relief from drought, water officials caution there's still work to do to keep water running in the future.

Drought and Tourism

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will begin a pilot research project in Southwest Colorado this summer to further investigate droughts’ impacts on the recreational tourism industry and possible solutions to the problems caused by dry years.

Water Quality / Conservation

Navajo’s Go To Human Rights Commission

In a final attempt to stop a controversial project to mine uranium near two Navajo communities in northwestern New Mexico, a Navajo environmental group is taking its fight to the global community.

Animas River Quality

When Sunnyside Mining Company ended operations in Silverton in 1991, it negotiated a court decree to plug mine outlet tunnels, including the main access, the American Tunnel, with bulkheads. But the bulkheads raised the subterranean water level tremendously, increasing pressure that created drainage in nearby mines that had been mostly dry.

Good Samaritan’s Still Gridlocked

As mountain snow melts, toxic acid laced with dissolved metals such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, and zinc are fouling Colorado watersheds. Among the casualties: state environmental officials also have listed 32 sites along the Animas River in critical condition. The source of the contamination is abandoned mines—about 500,000 across the West, at least 7,300 in Colorado.

Didymo Mystery Solved

According to research results published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the pristine state of unpolluted waterways may be their downfall.

Water Law

Colorado River Guidelines for Shortage Management and Coordinated Reservoir Operation

The Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC) was created in 1948 as part of the passage of the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact.

Bennett to Carry Hermosa Creek Bill

The Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup’s discussions about how best to manage the 100,000-acre Hermosa Creek watershed north of Durango began in 2008 and wrapped up in early 2010.

Judge Rules in Favor of Landowners

According to a recent Durango Herald article, Judge Gregory Lyman tossed out several gas companies’ applications for water rights in a ruling that could strengthen the hands of landowners in negotiations with drillers. Judge Lyman’s ruling is the latest development in a long struggle concerning water rights and gas drilling that began in 2007.

Idarado Recalls Water Rights

In May, the Idarado Mining Company announced it was recalling water rights it had conditionally deeded to the Town of Telluride in 1992.

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 C

Roundtable Update

Four West Slope Roundtables Meeting

There was a meeting of the four west slope roundtables on May 26th in Grand Junction with nearly 100 in attendance. Agenda topics and topics of conversation centered around:

Colorado Water for the 21st Century Roadmap

The following provides a summary of a May 26th memo issued by Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) Director John Stulp to roundtable members, the IBCC, and CWCB:
Over the last

WIP News

Thank You 16th Annual Children’s Water Festival Volunteers

The Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Water Information Program would once again like to thank the many individuals, agencies, and service groups for their contribution to the success of the 16th Annual Children's Water Festival which was held May 4th at Fort Lewis College. 


The Annual Water 101 Seminar will be held October 7th in Pagosa Springs! Keynote speaker will once again be Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. The course qualifies for continuing education credits for realtors and lawyers.

Water History

Uravan Mining

The Town of Uravan, located along the lower San Miguel River in Montrose County, was the site of active radium mining in the 1910s and 1920s. From 1936 to 1984 uranium and vanadium mining occurred.

Miscellaneous Facts

Water Center Opens at Mesa State College

The Water Center at Mesa State College was inaugurated in May.