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Protecting Western Colorado Water

Mission Statement: To lead in the protection, conservation, use, and development of the water resources of the Colorado River basin for the welfare of the District, and to safeguard for Colorado all waters of the Colorado River to which the state is entitled
Colorado River District to receive
$8 million federal grant for Lower Gunnison Basin

The Lower Gunnison River Basin, including the North Fork River Valley, is the target for $8 million in new grant funding that was announced on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, by Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to improve irrigation practices, water quality, agricultural productivity and environmental conditions.

The Colorado River District is the lead partner in the grant-funded project that includes a total of 31 partnering entities. Dave Kanzer, Senior Water Resources Engineer for the Colorado River District, said the grant stems from the 2015 Farm Bill initiative called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that identified the Colorado River system as a "Critical Conservation Area," one of eight in the country. The $8 million grant will be combined with other local, state and federal funding, which all together should approach a total of $50 million worth of improvements in the Lower Gunnison Basin.

"Agricultural water use efficiency and associated water quality improvements; those are the bottom lines of this project," Kanzer said. "In general, these dollars will be invested to line and pipe open canal systems and to convert flood irrigation practices to high efficiency pressurized systems such as sprinklers, micro spray and drip systems, as appropriate."

This newly approved project is officially titled "Modernizing Agricultural Water Management in the Lower Gunnison River Basin: A Cooperative Approach to Increased Water Use Efficiency and Water Quality Improvements." It will be accomplished in four specific irrigation service areas: the Bostwick Park Water Conservancy District, southeast of Montrose; the Crawford Water Conservancy District near Crawford, the North Fork Water Conservancy District near Paonia and Hotchkiss; and in the Uncompaghre Valley Water Users Association area, located primarily between Montrose and Delta.

"This grant is a big 'win-win-win' for agricultural, economic and environmental sustainability," Kanzer said. "It will really help our agricultural producers implement new conservation practices that not only produce more 'crop per drop' of water but significantly reduces their environmental footprint."

"This project harnesses local innovation occurring within the agricultural and water communities and integrates activities to accelerate a common mission of utilizing water resources wisely while ensuring agricultural and endangered species sustainability," Kanzer continued.

Although similar activities, such as canal piping and sprinkler installments, have been occurring in the Lower Gunnison River sub-basin, they have been primarily limited, disparate efforts without a unifying "grand design" and without leadership from local producers.

In recent years, a new ad-hoc group of agricultural producers, self-titled "No Chico Brush," came together to advocate for this "grand design" approach that integrates previously unrelated water use improvement activities.

"No Chico Brush brought together a diversity of partners under a coordinated leadership team to try to achieve greater water efficiency results and to provide multiple environmental benefits," Kanzer explained.

For example, the project will help reduce high levels of salt and selenium in the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers. Selenium is a naturally occurring chemical thought to adversely impact sensitive fish. Both salt and selenium can result as an unintended consequences of inefficient agricultural water use practices in Lower Gunnison Basin. The grant funded project will also benefit the river system in places by reducing water loss and increased flows.

For more information: call Dave Kanzer of the Colorado River District at 970-945-8522 or by email:

Water Resources Grant Program Now Accepting Requests for Funding

The Colorado River District is accepting applications for grant funding to assist projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region until January 30, 2015.
Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:
  • develop a new water supply
  • improve an existing system
  • improve instream water quality
  • increase water use efficiency
  • reduce sediment loading
  • implement a watershed management action
  • control invasive riparian vegetation
  • protect pre-Colorado River Compact water rights (those in use before 1929)

Previous successful grant-funded projects include the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements, water quality projects and watershed enhancements.

Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. Qualifying projects must have either been completed within the last 12 months or are on track to be constructed within the next 18 months. The total amount available for the 2015 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 30, 2015.

Application, instructions, guidelines, ranking criteria and policies.

Additional information can be obtained by contacting Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522970-945-8522 or by e-mail to .

Water official: Address Western Slope Concerns
A Western Slope water official wants to make sure that even if a draft state water plan doesn't solve conflicts over Colorado River basin issues, it at least fully acknowledges their existence.

Dan Birch, deputy general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, made the request in an Oct. 10 letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. He contended in the letter that in large part the draft plan language "is either silent or pays short shrift to the issues of paramount importance to the West Slope" as articulated in plans prepared by groups representing each river basin. The two largest of these are the related issues of a potential new transmountain diversion of Colorado River water to the Front Range, and the possible implications of such a diversion for complying with the Colorado River Compact, Birch wrote.
-Grand Junction Sentinel/Dennis Webb-

Colorado River and Southwestern Water Conservation Districts Discuss Drought
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 18 in Montrose, CO to address the on-going drought conditions in the Colorado River basin and its effects on storage and operations of Lakes Powell and Mead.
-Full Press Release-
New storage project aims to ease demand for West Slope water
The state of Colorado has signed an agreement to boost Front Range water storage, one of the things a growing chorus of Western Slope voices has been calling for to ease the demand for more transmountain diversions.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday announced the agreement between the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide for greater water storage at Chatfield Reservoir in Chatfield State Park. The action will result in an increase of up to 75 percent in storage for uses other than flood control.
-Full article from the Grand Junction Sentinel-

2014 Annual Water Seminar, Sept. 19, 2014, Grand Junction, CO
"Growing the River: Is It All About Ag?"
As long-term drought, future population growth and greater demands on the river dominate the news, all eyes are turned to agriculture as a way to find so called new water for municipal uses. Ag is also a target for solving operation issues at the two big reservoirs, Powell and Mead. These issues and more were discussed at our recent seminar.

Introductions: John Justman, Colorado River District Board Director, Mesa County

and The River: Findings, insights and uncertainties from the Updated Climate Change in Colorado Report - Jeff Lukas, Senior Research Associate at the Western Water Assessment and co-author of a Colorado Water Conservation Board climate change report to assist water managers, reports on additional nuances of the projected future climate and hydrology. Those projections indicate that critical aspects of water supply and water use in Western Colorado are likely to change by mid-century.  Video coverage for Mr. Lukas

Over-Allocation of the River: Now It Means Something - Brad Udall, Senior Water and Climate Research Scientist and Scholar at the Colorado Water Institute, Colorado State University, will turn back the clock to illustrate how the Colorado River got to its over-allocation diet and will relate that history to current events concerning the low reservoir levels at Powell and Mead. Video coverage for Mr. Udall

Can Ag Be Efficient, Can Ag Be Sustained? - Dr. Perry Cabot, Research Scientist and Extension Specialist, Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, digs into the topics that have everyone hoping that ag efficiency and conservation can save the day without losing ag in the process. He will also explain the nuances between conservation and efficiency.
Video coverage for Dr. Cabot

The Colorado Basin Can't Afford to Lose Ag - Aaron Citron, Project Manager and Attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund's Colorado River Project, based in Boulder, Colorado, addresses the view from the environmental community that the buying and drying of agriculture is a sure way to wither more than the land. Video coverage for Mr. Citron

Noon Guest Speaker Kevin Fedarko - the author will speak on his book, The Emerald Mile, The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon, and his current concerns for survival of the Grand Canyon as we know it. Video coverage for Mr. Fedarko

The Colorado River System Conservation Program: What Is It? - Marc Waage, Manager of Resource Planning for Denver Water, will report on how the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority are partnering with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to contribute $11 million to fund pilot Colorado River water conservation projects. Video coverage for Mr. Waage

Harvesting the Water: A Western Colorado Perspective - Mark Harris, Manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association in Mesa County, surveys the landscape of water banking, ag conservation and what the future portends for agriculture in Western Colorado.
Video coverage for Mr. Harris

Panel Discussion: Interpreting What We've Heard - Chris Treese, External Affairs Manager of the Colorado
River District, will moderate a panel that includes speakers Brad Udall, Perry Cabot, Aaron Citron, Marc Waage and Mark Harris. They will be joined by two agriculture producers, Dixie Luke of the North Fork and John Harold of the Uncompahgre.  Video coverage for the panel

Don't forget agriculture in water talks, speakers say

Western Slope agriculture should have the same heft in water discussions as diverters to the east and populous states to the south, the head of a Grand Valley water agency said Friday.

"Western Slope agriculture and Western Slope water cannot be considered as a simple, easy-to-go-to solution to the water-supply concerns of others," Mark Harris, general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users' Association, told about 300 people at the Colorado River District's annual water seminar at Two Rivers Convention Center.
-Full article in the Grand Junction Sentinel-

In Colorado, conversation about lawn water use begins

As Colorado plans for a future with more people and less water, some in the world of water are turning to the problem of lawns. In the 2014 legislative session, state senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) introduced a bill that would limit lawns in new developments if they took water from farms.  Although the bill was changed dramatically before it passed, that proposal opened up a statewide conversation about how water from agriculture and the Western Slope is used -- particularly when it is growing Front Range grass.
-Full report from KUNC Public Radio-

Water managers discuss drought and the Colorado River

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced this month water releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead will increase next year, after historically low releases in 2014. Lake Mead has reached record low levels this summer. The Colorado River supplies these large reservoirs. At a water conference in Snowmass Village last week, drought and the Colorado River were discussed. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports. The Colorado River starts in Rocky Mountain National Park and runs through our backyard, flowing through Glenwood Canyon and west along Interstate 70. The River supplies water to 40 million people, irrigates crucial farmland, feeds the recreation economy and aids endangered fish. To say it's an important resource is an understatement.
-Full report from Aspen Public Radio-

by Allen BestHaving a conversation about conservation may be clever word play. Having that conservation is rather more difficult than saying it, as became evident in legislative committee hearing last week in Denver.Nobody testifying before the committee opposed the idea of saving water as Colorado seeks to accommodate 10 million people at mid-century, up from today’s 5.3 million. In fact, it became clear that much is already being done.But neither was there clear agreement about what the next steps should be and what role state government might have. State Sen. Ellen Roberts, whose bill last winter spurred the legislative hearing, summarized the testimony as recommending “local control, state conversation.” - See more at:
Making Colorado's Water Plan....
It's been over a year since Governor Hickenlooper issued an executive order calling for the creation of a state water plan.  It won't be a legal document, but the plan is expected to make recommendations that will guide future water planning and funding decisions.  The process is well underway, with a deadline to deliver a draft plan by this December. Mike Preston, manager of the Delores Water Conservancy District, which stores and delivers water from the Delores River, stands next to an irrigation outlet on McPhee Reservoir, near Cortez. "Civilization in this part of the world," Preston says, "is really based on capturing the runoff that comes out of the snowpack, storing it, and being able to deliver it when it's needed.  Without that, this reverts to desert."
-Listen and read the full report from KRCC Pubic Radio-

Carrots vs. sticks, and how can Colorado push deeper water conservation?

Having a conversation about conservation may be clever word play. Having that conservation is rather more difficult than saying it, as became evident in a legislative committee hearing last week in Denver. Nobody testifying before the committee opposed the idea of saving water as Colorado seeks to accommodate 10 million people at mid-century, up from today's 5.3 million. In fact, it became clear that much is already being done. But neither was there clear agreement about what the next steps should be and what role state government might have. State Sen. Ellen Roberts, whose bill last winter spurred the legislative hearing, summarized the testimony as recommending "local control, state conversation."
-Read the full Mountain Town News story-

Colorado River Concerns Mount as Lake Mead's Surface Continues to Fall
Lake Mead, the vast reservoir behind iconic Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas, is plummeting past levels not seen since it first filled in the 1930s. That is not good news for any of the seven states or Mexico that share Colorado River water. All of this is governed by "90 years of agreements," including the Colorado River Compact of 1922. To bring the so-called "Law of the River" into 21st century realities of population growth and climate warming, many observers say the rules are going to have to change.
If Mead's level falls a little less than six more feet, to 1,075 feet, a declared shortage on the river would be triggered. It has dropped an average of a little more than nine feet per year over the last 14 years.
-Full article Rocky Mountain PBS News-

Colorado needs a better water plan
Jim Pokrandt, Chairman of the Colorado Basin Roundtable
It's almost time for football training camps, so here's a gridiron analogy for Colorado River water policy watchers: Western Colorado is defending two end zones. One is the Colorado River. The other is agriculture. The West Slope team has to make a big defensive play. If water planning errs on the side of overdeveloping the Colorado River, the river loses, the West Slope economy loses and West Slope agriculture could be on the way out.
-Full article in the Summit Daily-

Colorado Basin Implementation Plan (CBIP) 2nd Draft
What will our water future look like?
The state of Colorado is facing the prospect of significant water supply challenges in the future, and 'basin roundtables' of stakeholders in each of the state's major river basins are developing "basin implementation plans' for how to meet these challenges within their basins. These individual basin plans will serve as input for Colorado's Water Plan, which Governor Hickenlooper has ordered to be completed by December 2015.
To comment please contact Angie Fowler at 
-Full Coverage and Report on website-

Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Fully Ratified
Ruedi Reservoir's Debt Repaid, Securing Water for Western CO
Key Points of CO River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study
Low Powell & Mead Reservoir Levels Spur Contingency Planning
Board Awards $250K to Water Use Improvement Projects
Public Education & H2O Outdoors
State & Federal Affairs-Previous Annual Reports-

Mapping the River Ahead (click to download report)
Priorities for Action Beyond the Colorado River Basin Study
The Colorado River has always been known for its superlatives - the most volatile supplies, the most iconic landscapes, the most dammed, the most litigated, and recently, the most threatened. The challenges of the past have been overcome with achievements that matched the scope of the difficulties - significant and much-emulated breakthroughs in engineering and deal-making. The challenges of the present and future will require an even greater degree of creativity and ability to see through immediate gains and losses to the greater and longer term benefits to river interests and communities. The leaders in Colorado River water issues have historically risen to the challenges, tackling tough issues as they arise, and the leadership engaged today is in the complicated and painful throes of doing so again.
-A Carpe Diem West Report- (click to download report)

Water Wranglers
The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District: A Story about the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West             by George Sibley
Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District's first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river's water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule - and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.
-More Information-

Photo Gallery

Check Structure on Canal



Camp Hale - Eagle River Headwaters Restoration Project: Collaborative Recommendations for Restoration and Management
Camp Hale - Eagle River Headwaters

Roundtables Website Link

Use this link for the latest information about the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act that created Basin Roundtables to discuss water supply issues and solutions.

Basin Roundtables

Risk Management for the Upper Colorado River Basin

General Manger Eric Kuhn has authored a paper that outlines risk-management issues associated with the growing use of water in the Colorado River Basin. It is called "Risk Management Strategies for the Upper Colorado River Basin." Kuhn lays out the risks lurking in the shadows as demands on the river exceed supply. He explores strategies to minimize the risk of a Colorado River Compact curtailment of the states of the Upper Basin, which are Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.
Risk Management for the Upper Colorado River Basin

10,825 Study

Joint Water Supply Study by East and West Slope entities to provide summer flows to support the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program.  
click here

The Colorado River

Eric Kuhn, General Manager
The Story of a Quest for Certainty on a Diminishing River

Colorado River Management

A West Slope Perspective
Existing and Proposed Transmountain Diversion Projects
Colorado River Management

Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) amount the River District, 41 other West Slope entities and Denver Water. The historic Agreement offers water supply, environmental benefits and financial benefits to the West Slope.
Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

Colorado River's Uncertain Future

Global Warming and the Colorado River
P.O. Box 1120 - Glenwood Springs, CO 81602 - 201 Centennial, Suite 200 - Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-8522 FAX (970) 945-8799
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