Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Saturday, February 4, 2006

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U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave has penned this column for the Sterling Journal Advocate. She writes, "As your member of Congress, I have worked to address water issues throughout the district. In the North - The South Platte River has struggled to supply all the water needs of the region during the recent dry years. Lack of water has been devastating to the livelihood of the farmers as well as the surrounding rural communities that rely on agriculture. The Front Range communities are growing at a record pace and, out of necessity, are turning thirsty eyes toward the water flowing through the eastern Plains.

"While Coloradans are suffering because of the lack of water, federal regulations have imposed additional demands on water for conservation habitat for fish and birds. On the Platte River in Nebraska, the whooping crane, piping plover, interior least tern, and the pallid sturgeon, are listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. This federal species recovery program mandates higher flows downstream to comply with Endangered Species Act habitat requirements.

"For years Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming have been working on a basinwide approach to resolving Endangered Species issues. The financial costs to each state will be huge and how it will be paid has not been determined. However, you can be sure that Colorado taxpayers will be paying that bill.

"Instead of using the water for Coloradoans government officials will be confiscating the water for these endangered species and asking our citizens to foot the bill to do it. Rather than relying on the abysmal species recovery record of the 33 year old Endangered Species Act), I am supporting reforms and I have co-sponsored the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005. This bill places a new emphasis on recovery with new recovery teams and recovery tools and it replaces the critical habitat program with a more integrated recovery planning process."

Category: Colorado Water

8:33:34 AM    

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Here's a rundown on the current Colorado snowpack from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article, "The San Juan River Basin's snowpack, which provides the city [Durango] with water in the summer, is currently at just 59 percent of average. Statewide, the snowpack is only 101 percent of the 30-year average because the southern part of the state remains parched. Melting snow contributes about 80 percent of the water in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs, which comprise much of the state's water supply. Eight major Colorado river systems also provide water to 10 western states. While snow keeps bypassing southern Colorado, storms keep rolling in to the headwaters of the Colorado River. There's so much snow in some parts, public officials are mentioning the possibility of flooding."

Category: Colorado Water

8:10:05 AM    

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The Rocky Mountain News editorial staff are tickled pink that the Colorado River Compact states have reached a management agreement for drought years. [February 4, 2006, "Seven-state deal a good first step"]. They write, "If the Department of Interior OKs the pact, it will give the upper tier states (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico) greater leeway to withhold discharges from Lake Powell in dry years. And it should prevent the states from suing one another or the federal government over the next couple of decades; that's usually good news for taxpayers.

"But the agreement failed to move far enough toward the system that would assure uninterrupted access to water throughout the booming Southwest: the free market. Ultimately, as the region continues to grow, the compact will need to become more dynamic and allow states to implement more creative measures to satisfy water demand.

"On balance, the deal boosts incentives for the thirsty, more-populous lower tier (Nevada, Arizona, California) to use water more wisely, which is surely a step forward...

"By law, the river basin states and Mexico are entitled to draw out nearly 17 million acre-feet of water each year. (An acre-foot provides roughly a one-year supply of water for two households.) But annual precipitation and runoff replenish the Colorado by only 14 or 15 million acre-feet. As a result, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the river's primary storage facilities, are steadily drying up. Lake Mead is at 56 percent capacity; Lake Powell at 46 percent.

"Even worse, California has regularly sucked out more than its yearly allotment of 4.4 million acre-feet. (It's also pertinent that 70 percent of California's Colorado River water does not quench city dwellers but instead irrigates desert farmland.)"

Category: Colorado Water

8:03:42 AM    

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Here's a report on the first meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee, set up by last year's HB1177, from the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article, "Explorer John Wesley Powell recognized 150 years ago the need to organize the West along the lines of watersheds, rather than the state and county divisions of the East, [Russ] George said.

"'He knew water would drive politics,' George said. 'Unfortunately, nobody listened...'

"On Friday, the group briefly aired differences, before agreeing to step back and listen to what the grass-roots roundtables want to bring to the table...

"The committee was formed under HB1177 with George, two members from each roundtable in Colorado, six appointments by Owens and Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, and Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison."

Category: Colorado Water

7:46:01 AM    

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