Fall 2014

Top Stories


The embankment of Long Hollow dam is complete, construction of the project is finished, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was conducted for the Bobby K. Taylor Reservoir (Long Hollow Reservoir) in Red Mesa on October 2nd. The ceremony was hosted by the La Plata Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA).

People & Organizations

Shuffield New PRID Manager

Brian Shuffield is the new Superintendent of the Pine River Irrigation District (PRID) at Vallecito Reservoir north of Bayfield. He began his work there earlier this year. Prior to working with PRID, Brian was employed with Western Energy Services of Durango.

PRID Installs New Bubbler System

The Pine River Irrigation District (PRID) recently installed a bubbler system at Lake Vallecito. The system prevents freezing around the rubber seals of the flood gates and the gates themselves.

Colorado River and Southwestern Water Conservation Districts

The two water conservation districts that comprise the entire Colorado River basin in Colorado adopted implementation principles concerning how the current, extended drought conditions are addressed on the Colorado River’s storage system.
The Colorado River and Southwestern Water Conservation Districts met in a special joint meeting on September 18th in Montrose, CO to address the ongoing drought conditions in the Colorado River basin and its effects on storage and operations of Lakes Powell and Mead. The two boards unanimously adopted a recommended priority for a contingency plan in response to extraordinarily low reservoir levels. The boards resolved that changes in federal reservoir operations and additional investment in river augmentation programs must be the first priority.

Dolores River Restoration Partnership

The Dolores River Restoration Partnership (DRRP) has been awarded $50,000 to continue its work eradicating tamarisk along the river. The group's Tamarisk Coalition, along with The Nature Conservancy, and BLM, have worked with the Southwest Conservation Corps, and Canyon Country Youth Corps to hire and train more than 200 youth to implement and monitor much of the restoration work. As a result of their efforts, the DRRP has been selected as the winner of the 2014 Colorado Collaboration Award. The $50,000 prize recognizes excellence and innovation in nonprofit partnerships.

La Plata Archuleta Water District

The La Plata Archuleta Water District (LPAWD) recently signed a contract with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to purchase 2,500 acre-feet (AF) of water from the Animas-La Plata Project over a 40 year period.

Lake Nighthorse Organizations Encounter Numerous Recreation Discussion Delays

Recreation discussions between the: Animas-La Plata Operation, Maintenance, and Replacement (ALPOM&R) Association; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR); and City of Durango have encountered numerous delays. Lake Nighthorse will not be opened to the public in 2014 and may not be open next year either.

Trout Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy

Trout Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy are working to improve fish habitat and riparian health on the upper and lower Dolores River. Matt Clark, director for the Dolores River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, is organizing a project to install a fish passage and improved diversion dam at the Redburn Ranch north of Dolores. Currently, landowners have to build a cobble push-up dam across a wide section of river every year to get enough draw into a nearby diversion that irrigates the pastures. The make-shift dam blocks fish from moving up and down the river and washes out every year at high flows.

Current Events

U.S. and Canada Water Wars?

According to a recent Water Online article, the U.S. and Canada could soon be at odds over water. Post Media's Canada.com recently reported: "Canada must prepare for diplomatic water wars with the U.S., as demand on both sides of the border grows for this vital but ultimately limited resource, says Gary Doer, Canadian ambassador to the United States." He said the problem is so pressing that in five years it will make other public debates look "silly." “I think five years from now we will be spending diplomatically a lot of our time and a lot of our work dealing with water,” he said in the report. “There will be pressure on water quality and water quantity.” Canada is rich in water resources--the country controls over 21 percent of the world's supply of fresh water.


The 15-year drought across most of the Western U.S. is what bioclimatologist Park Williams indicated is notable because "more area in the West has persistently been in drought during the past 15 years than in any other 15-year period since the 1150s and 1160s" — that's more than 850 years ago. 

“Shocking” Groundwater Losses and Drought Causing Land to Rise and Rumble

According to satellite data and a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in July, in the last nine years, as a powerful drought held fast and river flows plummeted, the majority of the freshwater losses—nearly 80 percent--in the Colorado River Basin came from water pumped out of aquifers.

Natural Disasters on the Rise

According to a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the world is nearly five times as disaster-prone as it was in the 1970s. The WMO researchers attributed this to increasing risks brought by climate change. The first decade of the 21st century saw 3,496 natural disasters from floods, storms, droughts, and heat waves.

Water Quality / Conservation

‘Big Boys’ Reach Landmark Water Conservation Agreement

In August, the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and Southern Nevada Water Authority all signed on to what is being called a landmark water conservation agreement aimed at demonstrating “the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures,” according to a press release from Denver Water. With Colorado River water supplies dwindling, these organizations--the biggest water users at the table--said they’ll invest $11 million to try and conserve significant amounts of water across all sectors, including agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses.

Lawn Bill Designed to Conserve Water

Senate Bill 17 proposed to limit the size of new lawns for entities using water from permanent agricultural dry-up. Ag dry-up occurs when someone purchases land and moves the water into the municipal system. The concept was developed by Steve Harris of Harris Water Engineering in Durango and sponsored by Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango). In early August water resource leaders from Durango and Southwest Colorado briefed lawmakers in Denver on the legislation.

Water Quality Impacts on Human Health

A new analysis of 56 studies shows that increasingly, global temperatures and severe weather events will continue to have a major impact on global health.

Water Quality to Improve on the Animas River

According to a Durango Herald article, in 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to plug the abandoned Red Bonita mine near Silverton in an effort to help reduce the flow of heavy metals draining into Cement Creek, which ultimately flows into the Animas River.

Water Law

Federal Law: Water Resources Reform and Development Act

President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) into federal law on June 10th. The WRRDA aims to alleviate investment gridlock, which has plagued national water infrastructure over the past 25 years.

Federal Law: Public Comment Period Open Until October 20th for Navigable Waters Rule

As part of the Clean Water Act definition of “Waters of the U.S” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have created a proposal that could change the definition of navigable waters. In the current language, navigable waters (e.g., rivers, territorial seas, interstate waters, reservoirs, interstate waters that affect commerce, tributaries, wetlands adjacent to waters, etc.) of the U.S. are protected under the Clean Water Act. More than 100 organizations and the Supreme Court have asked the EPA and Army Corp to revise the definition because it is confusing.

Federal, State, and Local Legal Issues: Joint Land Management Plan

In response to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (USBLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Joint Land Management Plan, the Southwestern Water Conservation District has filed a protest to the USBLMportion of the joint plan and an appeal to the USFSportion of the plan which has already gone to a Record of Decision. The primary concerns are the by-pass standards or guidelines and the addition of two new fish species as outstanding remarkable values on the Dolores River. At issue are the flow criteria to be used in the evaluation of special use permits, which are the most restrictive in Colorado and possibly in the nation. These standards or guidelines would be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve below reservoirs since most of the natural hydrograph is stored under the water rights.

State Legislation: Public Trust Doctrine

In an ongoing effort to inform the public and water community alike, this is the third in a four- part 2014 series related to the Colorado Public Trust Doctrine issue. For reference, a four-part series ran in 2013 as well.

Energy and Water

Global: New Water and Energy Nexus Report

Two new reports that focus on the global water and energy nexus were published in July. According to the reports, three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today. It is a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand.

Colorado River Basin: Energy Production in Times of Drought and Effects on Prices

The Colorado River Basin has been experiencing below average river flows for 11 of the last 14 years. In response, water officials are planning for the potential that continued drought conditions could leave too little water to generate electricity.

West Slope: Water and Energy Collision Course?

According to a July High Country News article, if you thought fracking was a water-guzzling method to get the oil and gas flowing from shale, then you should check out oil shale retorting.

Roundtable Update

Southwest Basin Roundtable BIP Available for Review

The Southwest Basin Roundtable submitted their Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to incorporate into the Statewide Colorado Water Plan (CWP). The Southwest BIP can be found on the CWCB website, under the "community" tab/page.

Water Resources Review Committee Meeting

More than 100 people attended an August 27th meeting in Durango to share their thoughts and concerns with the Colorado General Assembly’s Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC). The WRRC is conducting meetings around the state to collect comments about the Colorado Water Plan.

WIP News

Another Successful Water 101 Seminar!

The 8th Annual Water 101 Seminar was conducted in beautiful Telluride this year and was another success. Including presenters there were nearly 70 in attendance. In addition to the Water Information Program, the seminar was cosponsored with EcoAction Partners, San Miguel Watershed Coalition, and the Town of Telluride. It qualified for six (6) continuing education credits (CECs) for lawyers, seven (7) CECs for realtors, and new this year—teacher education credits and contact hours, as well as training units for Colorado water utility personnel.

WIP’s Participating Entity, SWCD, Update

At their October 8th Board meeting the following grants were funded by the SWCD: 

Water History

Long Hallow Reservoir History

Long Hallow Reservoir has a long, rich history. In 1915 Elmer Taylor conceived an idea to build a water powered flour mill near the outlet of Long Hollow Creek south of Red Mesa Reservoir.  At the time he determined there was adequate water from irrigation return flows and enough drop to power a mill. In 1922 he filed for the rights to use 17 cubic feet per second of water from Long Hollow and Government draws to a point directly above the mill site.  From there it would drop into a large pipe and turbine to power the mill. By 1924 the project was finished and the Long Hollow Milling Company (commonly referred to as the grist mill) was in business.

Miscellaneous Facts

A Tree's Biography is Written in its Rings and Music

According to a July news article, it turns out tree rings can be played on a turntable. For background, not only can growth rings reveal its age, but they also offer glimpses into how trees grow based on different environmental conditions such as droughts, floods, fires, and even solar flares. In 2011 artist Bartholomäus Traubeck devised a way to play tree rings as if they were vinyl records.