Spring 2016

Top Stories

Recreation at Lake Nighthorse: BOR Releases Draft EA

At the end of March the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR or Bureau) released a much anticipated and awaited draft environmental assessment (EA) for a recreation plan at Lake Nighthorse, also known as the Animas-La Plata (ALP) Project. This is a very big deal for southwest Colorado, whose residents have been waiting for the facility to open for recreation since the reservoir filled in 2011!

People & Organizations

Jim Isgar

While most in Southwest Colorado and the state are aware, many newsletter subscribers from outside the area may not have heard that former State Senator Jim Isgar passed away on March 6th, he was 64. Jim served in the Senate from 2001 to 2009, where he was chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. In addition, he was the primary sponsor of the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act (HB 1177), which created and funded the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and the Basin Roundtable Process.

Diane Hoppe

Former state legislator Diane Hoppe passed away on February 27th. She was a third generation Sterling woman, and spent nearly three decades helping to protect state agricultural and water resource interests. From 1999 to 2006 Diane served in the Colorado House of Representatives where she chaired the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, the Water Interim Committee, and the Water Resources Review Committee.

Hawkins: New Nature Conservancy Western Colorado Water Project Manager

Celene Hawkins is the new Western Colorado Water Project Manager for the Colorado Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. In this capacity she coordinates and implements projects with agricultural partners, federal, state, and local governments, and local conservation organizations to help optimize the use of water in western and southwestern Colorado. In addition, she fosters project work that supports water transactions that benefit environmental values while also supporting agriculture and other traditional water uses.

Southwestern Water Conservation District 75th Anniversary, by John Porter SWCD Board President

The Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD or District) was created by the Colorado General Assembly in 1941, thereby marking the District’s 75th anniversary this year! The SWCD encompasses Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, San Juan, San Miguel and parts of Hinsdale, Mineral, and Montrose counties. In a press release issued by SWCD board president John Porter, and recently printed in the Durango Herald, Porter shares some lessons learned in the past 75 years, ones that will be carried through the next 75:

Mancos Water Conservancy District 75th Anniversary

Similar to the SWCD, the Mancos Water Conservancy District (MWCD) also formed in 1941 and they are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year too! The mission of the MWCD is to provide irrigation water for over 13,000 acres of agriculture, municipal water for Mesa Verde National park, the Mancos Rural Water Company, and the Town of Mancos.

Dolores Water Conservancy District

In January, Mike Preston, General Manager of the DWCD, announced a new wildfire risk reduction group has formed to minimize impacts on the upper Dolores River watershed and McPhee Reservoir--the Dolores Watershed and Resilient Forest (DWARF) Collaborative. The specific target area extends from the Dove Creek pumps up to Lizard Head Pass--a mix of federal, private, and state lands.

High Desert Conservation District

The San Juan Basin Watershed recently launched a new website to strengthen the partnerships among the six conservation districts that define the Watershed: Dove Creek, High Desert, La Plata, Mancos, Pine River, and San Juan. It is a step to promote more collaboration among the individual districts and to maximize resources.

Current Events

World Economic Forum Ranks Climate Change as Top Environmental Risk

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) recently released Global Risks Report has for the first time ranked climate change “as the most severe economic risk facing the world.” The WEF’s report indicated that climate change is compounding and intensifying other economic, humanitarian, and social stresses such as mass migration.

CRRG Reports: Lake Mead Structural Deficit and a Call for Unified Management of Colorado River

A December 2015 report by the Colorado River Research Group (CRRG) calls for enacting strategies to deal with the structural deficit in Lake Mead. The lower basin reservoir of Lake Mead receives about 9 million acre-feet (AF) of water annually primarily the upper basin state’s Lake Powell. However, when evaporative losses are factored in, Lake Mead loses 10.2 million AF each year. This annual shortfall of 1.2 million AF of water has come to be known as the structural deficit. According to one of the report authors, Doug Kenney, while this is primarily a lower basin issue, the faster the structural deficit pulls down Lake Mead, more legal and political pressure will be on the upper basin states.

Colorado Water Plan and Growth

In an effort to better prepare for an estimated doubling of its population by the year 2050, from approximately 5 million people to an estimated 10.5 million, Colorado released their first Statewide Water Plan last November.

Water Quality / Conservation

EPA Releases Monitoring Plan for Animas and San Juan Rivers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) released its final monitoring plan for the Animas and San Juan rivers following the August 5, 2015 Gold King Mine incident. They also posted on their Gold King Mine website the results of surface water and sediment sampling collected as part of their yearlong effort to gather scientific data to evaluate ongoing river conditions, as well as impacts to public health and the environment.

Animas River Water Quality

The Animas River Community Forum (ARCF) is a community group that formed in response to the Gold King Mine blow out in August 2015 to address concerns regarding response, recovery, and cohesive solutions for water quality in the Animas River. State Senator Ellen Roberts convened the group as she saw a need for the community(ies), including nonprofits, governments, citizens and business groups, to get involved in the issue working together; to learn from the experience; and to play a role in defining future actions including educating stakeholders from across Colorado and other audiences about the lessons learned.

Water Law

Dolores River

In December, and in an effort to become a party to the case, the Colorado River and Southwestern Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) filed a statement of opposition against the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) recently established (last fall) minimum in-stream flow requirements on the lower Dolores River. In should be noted that there are several in-stream flows that already exist on the Dolores River that the SWCD does not oppose. They do, however, have specific concerns about one recent in-stream flow filing on the river.

Energy and Water

Water-Energy Nexus

The interdependencies between water and energy, the water-energy nexus, is becoming more prominent. Water is used in all phases of energy production and energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water. Yet, several trends are adding stress to the water-energy nexus, namely climate change and population growth. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities report, power generation and agriculture-related are the largest users of water in the U.S. However, water withdrawals have been steadily decreasing due to a number of factors, predominantly reduced supplies, while growth in the two fore-mentioned sectors have been steadily increasing.

Roundtable Update

Southwest Basin Roundtable Update

At the January Southwest Basin Roundtable (SBR) meeting in Cortez, Eric Kuhn, Colorado River Water Conservation District (CRWCD), summarized the need for technical data expressed by the Four West Slope Basin Roundtables to better discuss issues surrounding future Colorado River development and the risk to current water users. This need also came up for each Basin Implementation Plan, and as part of the IBCC conceptual agreement for trans-mountain diversions. The Colorado River Development and Curtailment Risk Study will address the need for technical data so that the Roundtables—and all of Colorado—can better discuss issues surrounding future Colorado River development, potential curtailment, and the risk to current water users.

WIP News

21st Annual Children’s Water Festival May 4th!

The Annual Children’s Water Festival is sponsored by the Southwestern Water Conservation District and coordinated by the Water Information Program. The festival event began more than 20 years ago and is conducted the first Wednesday in May at Fort Lewis College (FLC). The 2016 festival date is May 4th. The goal of the water festival is to educate fifth grade students about local and regional water issues and the environment in an effort to help them understand the importance of this natural resource and how they can help to protect water supplies.

F2F Story Maps Available and Registration is Now Open for the 2016 Workshop!

Beginning in 2012, the Water Information Program (WIP), in conjunction with Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) and the San Jan Mountains Association (SJMA), plus financial support from the Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD), University of Colorado, and Trout Unlimited, conducted Forests-to-Faucets (F2F) teacher training workshops in the Dolores/San Juan River Basin of southwest Colorado. The goal of the workshops was to train teachers in the basin about the importance and interconnection of healthy watersheds to area water supplies.

WIP Lending Library

The Water Information Program lending library now has more than 200 water-related books and movies available for checkout. Stop by the office at 841 East 2nd Avenue in Durango to find a book or DVD of interest to you. In addition, we welcome reviews at any time. If you are interested in providing a book or movie review for our quarterly newsletters, please email 1-2 paragraphs to [email protected]. The spring 2016 newsletter movie review is provided by Laura Spann, with the SWCD:

WIP’s Participating Entity, SWCD, Update

At their February 9th Board meeting the following grants were funded by the Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD):

Water History

Colorado Water Conservation Districts

In 1934, Governor Edwin Johnson proposed a state planning commission to identify statewide needs for natural resources, as well as public works projects—including water development. In 1935, he convened an advisory group known as the Committee of 17 to direct the planning commission. This provided the foundation for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and conservation districts. Prior to this, all matters in Colorado pertaining to water resources were under the jurisdiction of the State Engineer. Over the years, however, a feeling developed that these duties were too all-inclusive to permit proper oversight of state water resources. It was due to developing intricacies of water issues in the state that the CWCB was created in 1937. In addition, four conservation districts made up of designated geographical counties were established:

Miscellaneous Facts

Water Conservancy Districts

Water conservancy districts were authorized by the Water Conservancy Act of 1937. Prior to 1937, various agencies dealing with water distribution and ownership usually operated on a single use basis (e.g., irrigation only, municipal only, etc.). The advent of large multiple use developments, however, prompted the need to create a central local authority that could acquire and distribute water for any beneficial purpose. There are currently over 45 conservancy districts in the state of Colorado, covering nearly every major drainage area and numerous minor basins.