About these ads

Water: June Lake Powell inflow just 13 percent of average

Lake Powell from a NASA satellite in 2000.

2012 on track to be third-driest year in Colorado River Basin

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Showing just how little snowpack there was, and how early it melted, June inflows into Lake Powell totaled just 13 percent of average, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s latest update. Continue reading

About these ads

Colorado: Green Mountain Reservoir not likely to fill this year

Bureau of Reclamation starts filling the reservoir April 1, the earliest date possible

Recreation could be affected by low water levels at Green Mountain Reservoir this summer.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Green Mountain Reservoir is unlikely to fill this year, even though the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is already staking its claim to Blue River water with the earliest “start of fill” on record.

The reservoir at the north end of Summit County is a key piece of the regional water supply puzzle, helping buffer the Upper Blue when senior water rights holders downstream on the Colorado call for water, at Xcel’s Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon and irrigation in the Grand Valley, for example.

Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about 43 feet below its maximum level and BuRec has shut the valve on outflows below Green Mountain Dam. Currently, only about 75 cubic feet per second are flowing past the dam and into the Blue River. Those low flows will likely persist until senior water rights holders down stream call for water from the reservoir. Continue reading

Travel: Exploring western water development

Hoover Dam. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION.

National Park Service creates online itinerary for historic water projects

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Water has been a defining force in the American West for eons, first shaping landscapes like the Grand Canyon, then shaping the lives of residents, from the Anasazi to modern-day settlers and developers who live and play in region.

The biggest transformation came in the early 20th century, with industrious and ambitious development schemes that resulted in a network of dams  reservoirs, and canals built that provide water for irrigation and hydropower generation.

This wholesale manipulation of water in the arid landscape spurred settlement, farming, and economic stability — though it’s still not clear whether this water-dependent culture is sustainable for the long-term. Continue reading

Colorado River: Windy Gap firming plan released

Conservation groups not satisfied with proposed mitigation; say bypass is needed to protect water quality

The fate of the Colorado River is at stake in plans to divert more water to the Front Range.

The Windy Gap firming project will further reduce flows in depleted Upper Colorado River.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The average annual flow in the Colorado River below Granby Reservoir would decrease by about 15 percent under a proposed plan to increase diversions from the West Slope to the Front Range, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation acknowledged last week, releasing a final environmental impact statement for the Windy Gap firming project.

Even more worrisome to conservation advocates are the projected declines in summer flows. Below Windy Gap Reservoir, July flows could drip by as much as 20 percent, according to the Bureau’s study, which also acknowledged that extensive mitigation measures will be needed to protect West Slope aquatic ecoystems. Click here to read the EIS executive summary.

But the proposed mitigation falls short of what’s needed to protect the Upper Colorado, according to Trout Unlimited, a cold-water fisheries conservation group.

“This new document is an improvement over the previous version in that it acknowledges the Windy Gap project will worsen conditions in the Upper Colorado River and Grand Lake unless measures are taken,” said Drew Peternell, executive director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. All the Final EIS documents are online at this BuRec website. Continue reading

The waterblog: Haikus, Lake Powell and the right to float

All eyes are on Lake Powell in the spring, since the giant bucket serves as the equalizer between the Upper and Lower Colorado basins. Click on the satellite image to link to an interactive NASA page, where you can watch the water level in Lake Powell rise and fall.

Old pond
frogs jumped in
sound of water
~by Matsuo Bashô

SUMMIT COUNTY — Water is rippling up as an early issue on the Colorado gubernatorial campaign trail, as Republican candidate Scott McInnis is being watchdogged by the Bigmedia.org blog regarding some water articles he may wrote on behalf of the Hasan Family Foundation, apparently for a fee of $150,000.

We’re also covering Lake Powell water levels and the right-to-float battle in Colorado Rivers in this water blog. Continue reading

Waterblog: An age of limits on the Colorado River?

Supply and demand meet on the Colorado River.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the Colorado River District’s annual State of the River meeting coming up in less than a month, I’ve been looking for information related to the Colorado River that might help provide some context for the presentations.

I didn’t have to go far to find this graph that appears to tell the story of the river better than thousands of words ever could. It’s a basic supply and demand graph, apparently produced by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and it should be familiar to anyone who has ever taken economics 101. The top pink line shows how much water is in the river, the blue line starting on the lower left shows the demand and usage of Colorado River Water. Simple enough, it would seem, until you notice that the two lines have crossed each other.

What that means is there is more demand than there is water in the river, at least based on a 10-year running average. I happened upon the graph at John Fleck’s environmental blog under the Riverbeat section. The New Mexico-based journalist wrote that the graph has turned up at several recent high-profile water shindigs, as resource managers and residents of the greater Colorado River Basin grapple with the fundamental question: How do we reconcile that increased demand with what appears to be a shrinking supply?

It’ll be worth attending the May 12 river meeting in Frisco, just to see if the graph shows up at there, too.

An age of limits?
Sticking with the same theme, Writers on the Range columnist Dan McCool points out that climate scientists are predicting a 10 to 30 percent reduction in Colorado River flows in the coming decades, and that some researchers say there’s a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead and Lake Powell have a 50 percent chance of going dry by 2021. Both reservoirs are about half full these days. Despite all that, several large-scale water development projects keep rearing up, including Aaron Million’s plan to pipe Green River water from Wyoming to the Front Range.

McCool characterizes the “grandiose schemes” as the last gasp of a dying ethos, and warns that Western water policy is “hopelessly, irrevocably unsustainable” in an age of limits.

Dam-builder Dominy dies
In a different era, when engineers turned those grandiose schemes into reality, the biggest figure on the scene was Floyd Dominy, who died last week at the age of 100.

Dominy called Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell the crowning achievement of his career with the Bureau of Reclamation. Writers on the Range columnist Julianne Couch writes about Dominy here, and the Bureau of Reclamation noted his passing here. More information is also available at Waterhistory.org.

Read the rest of the Waterblog here …

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,633 other followers