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Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper seeks statewide water plan

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Water pours down the Blue River in the high runoff of July 2011. Bob Berwyn photo.

Governor says state must figure out a way to address impending shortages

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado water experts will try to figure out how to manage the state’s most precious resource in an era when all signs points to increasing shortages and the potential for growing conflicts within the state and the region over its allocation.

Under an executive order issued this week by Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will lead the effort to address the growing gap between supply and demand. Especially worrisome is the gap in the South Platte Basin, the state’s most populous and at the same time, the most productive agricultural basin.

Hickenlooper acknowledged that the recurring drought could hasten the impacts of the gap between supply and demand, noting that the past two decades have been Colorado’s warmest on record, dating back to the 1890s. Read the order here. Continue reading

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Colorado: No more money to study Flaming Gorge pipeline

green river

The Green River in Wyoming. Photo courtesy USGS.

Colorado Water Conservation Board ends funding for task force studying proposal to divert water from Wyoming to Front Range

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — An oft-discussed proposal to build a 500-mile pipeline from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Colorado Front Range may have taken a body blow this week, as the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted to cut off funding for a task force studying the plan.

Front Range developer Aaron Million has been touting the giant project as a way to alleviate pressure on the mainstem of the Colorado River and deliver water where it’s needed most.

In several applications to federal regulators, Million also suggested the pipeline could generate power while shunting water to Colorado. There hasn’t been a huge amount of public support for the project, but Colorado water officials, anxious to consider all options, decided to at least take a preliminary look at the idea. Continue reading

Colorado: Groundbreaking water deal to boost Yampa flows

The Yampa River. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Short-term leasing program program authorized under 2003 law

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The dim outlook for the Yampa River in this summer of drought just got a little brighter, thanks to a water deal announced this week by the Colorado Water Trust, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Under a law passed back in 2003 in response to the last serious statewide drought, the water trust will lease 4,000 acre feet of water stored in Stagecoach Reservoir to try and sustain some flows in the Yampa, in the worst-case scenario potentially preventing the river from going dry.

The water will be released strategically to meet hydropower demands and for streamflow benefits below the reservoir. The water trust has been working on the short-term water leasing pilot program, Request for Water 2012, for about three months. Continue reading

Colorado: Drought relief for streams and fish?

Colorado Water Trust to fund short-term water leases to protect stream reaches that could take a hit from low flows, warm temperatures this summer

Colorado nonprofit looks to facilitate water leasing program. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A record-low spring snowpack and continued dry and warm weather doesn’t bode well for Colorado’s rivers and streams this summer, but a few critical reaches could get a boost thanks to the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust.

After the 2002 drought, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Division of Wildlife created a list of critical stream segments where low flows and warm temperatures posed a potential threat to aquatic ecosystems.

Based in part on that list, the water trust proposes to facilitate short-term leases of water from agricultural users to keep flows at levels deemed adequate to ensure stream health.

“We are testing totally new waters here,” said Colorado Water Trust director Amy Beatie. “We have our own cash we’re willing to put into the program and our goal is to raise $500,000,” she said, explaining that funding comes exclusively from private sources, with no state money going toward the program. Continue reading

Colorado: Gotta a good water project? Get a grant!

A state grant program has up to $2 million in grant funds available for projects that benefit recreational and environmental uses of Colorado River water.

Info meeting set for March 15 in Silverthorne

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Communities and nonprofit groups looking at water projects that benefit environmental and recreational water needs involving the Colorado River and its tributaries could get a little help from the Colorado Basin Roundtable.

The Roundtable has up to $2 million earmarked in its water supply reserve fund (administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board) that will be awarded through a statewide competitive grant program.

Although there is no limitation to grant requests, typical grants are about $200,000.  CBRT hopes to identify up to five projects for near-term funding and implementation, other projects may be considered for long-term prioritization.

The Roundtable is sponsoring an informal workshop on March 15 to help potential project applicants with the funding process. The workshop is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  in the Blue River Room of the North Branch Library in Silverthorne.

Interested parties should prepare a short project summary based on criteria that can be found on the Colorado River District website at www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org or by calling Jacob Bornstein, CWCB (303-866-3441) or Lane Wyatt, CBRT (970-468-0295 ext 116).

Snow: Colorado cloud-seeding program grows

A map from an annual cloud-seeding report filed with the CWCB shows estimated increases in precipitation in the target areas around Summit County resorts.

Report says last winter’s efforts added more than 8,000 acre-feet of water, recommends routine seeding

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Cloud-seeding experts say their efforts boosted snow totals at Summit County ski areas by 12 to 22 inches last winter, producing an additional 8,850 acre-feet of water in the Blue River Basin.

“We … believe that this valuable service of providing additional snow was achieved in a cost effective manner,” says a report filed with the state by Western Weather Consultants, recommending that cloud-seeding weather modifications proceed on a routine basis each year to help bolster the state’s water supplies and to enhance early season skiing at the targeted resorts.

This year, the $274,000 central Colorado mountains program includes seven Front Range water providers and four ski areas: Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Winter Park and Breckenridge, all contributing to the cost of the cloud-seeding program, according Joe Busto, head of the state’s weather modification program. The CWCB supports the program with grant funding.

Cloud seeding started this week, and Larry Hjermstad, of Durango-based Western Weather Consultants, said he’s keeping an eye on the wave of incoming storms to determine if it’s time to fire up the silver-iodide generators. Low-level wind fields, cloud characteristics, atmospheric temperatures and terrain features all figure into the equation of determining which network of generators will best seed the cloud system during each seeding opportunity. Continue reading

Water: Colorado West Slope basin roundtables to meet

Water discussions continue in Colorado

Big picture water questions are on the table at some roundtable meetings in Grand Junction.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Big picture water issues, including the  Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, water banking and the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal, will be on the table May 26 at the Colorado Basin roundtable meeting in Grand Junction. Click here for more information on the basin roundtables.

One big concern for the regional stakeholder groups is a potentially rapid and severe erosion of agriculture on both sides of the Continental Divide as irrigation rights are converted to meet the demand for new municipal water supplies spurred by continued population growth on the Front Range.

A Colorado Interbasin Compact Committee report suggests that a mix of solutions will be needed to meet the demand, including new water supply development for West Slope and East Slope uses, conservation and agricultural transfers. The idea is to share the burdens and benefits across all water sources and demands, according to a memo prepared in advance of the roundtable session. Continue reading

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