Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

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The Southwestern Water Conservancy District is going ahead with their application for additional water rights on the Animas River, according to the Durango Herald. From the article, "The Southwestern Water Conservation District, apparently unable to persuade the city of Durango to reduce the amount of water it wants for a kayak course on the Animas River, moved Thursday to acquire water rights itself. By a 5-1 vote, district board members authorized its attorney and engineer to ask for 30,000 acre-feet of water annually to satisfy the needs of users upstream who don't have court-decreed water rights, as well as to meet future demands. About 20,000 acre-feet presently are used annually by those upstream who already have court-ordered water rights. Water rights in Southwest Colorado are a contentious issue. A number of entities, including public and private groups, filed statements of opposition after Durango filed its application in February. It was hoped that negotiations between the district and the city would make a scheduled court trial in May unnecessary. The water district's action Thursday apparently is self-defense. The raw potential flow in the Animas River - without diversions for any purpose - is about 600,000 acre-feet...

"The city applied in February for what is called a recreational in-stream diversion, targeted for the kayak park at Smelter Rapid. That would use 159,000 acre-feet - 27 percent of the river's natural flow...

"While the water district is hustling to apply before year's end, it's the appropriation date that counts, Harris said. The district's appropriation date - the date it first demonstrated that it was working on water rights - is 1995. It was then that the district participated in a Colorado Water Conservation Board study aimed at 'understanding future area water development potential.' The city of Durango made known its interest in a recreational water right only a couple of years ago. All applications for water rights filed in the same year - no matter the exact date of application - are lumped together, Harris said. A water court then gives priority to allocations based on the appropriation date, he said. If Southwestern Water acquires a right, the water will be held in its name for upstream users who don't have a decreed right or to meet future needs. Water could be used for irrigation, mining, manufacturing or development. San Juan County and the town of Silverton have filed for nonrecreational water rights as protection against downstream demands. La Plata County also is considering water rights on the Animas and two tributaries, Junction Creek and Lightner Creek."

Category: Colorado Water

7:43:29 AM    

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Cautious optimism surrounds the early snowpack this year, according to the Rocky Mountain News. From the article, "As of Friday morning, before the snow had even stopped falling in the foothills, snowpack in the South Platte and Colorado river basins - the two most crucial to the metro area - were at 134 percent and 108 percent of average, respectively. While this pleased the folks at Denver Water, they've been burned before by a cracker-dry springtime that steals away the snow crucial for summer water."

More snowpack coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. They write, "Precipitation totals for the Upper Colorado River Basin were well above normal on Friday, with total precipitation sitting at 115 percent of average and snow-water equivalent 108 percent of average. Snow-water equivalent is the amount of water contained in snow, while precipitation is measured as the total amount of rainfall received plus snow-water equivalent. Some particularly wet spots on the Western Slope include Mesa Lakes on Grand Mesa, where precipitation totals are 135 percent of normal, and McClure Pass, which has received precipitation 138 percent of normal. The Front Range basins are also doing well with snow-water equivalent. The South Platte River Basin is at 134 percent of normal and the Arkansas River Basin is 120 percent of normal. But there are serious moisture deficits in some Western Slope basins. The Yampa-White River Basin is at 85 percent of normal for snow-water equivalent and the San Juan-Dolores-Animas-San Miguel River Basin sits at 81 percent of normal. That could mean the drought isn't such a distant memory, said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs...

The Sentinel is pointing to the Snotel website from the Natural Resources Conservation Center and the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center from the National Weather Service."

Here's the link to the U.S. Drought Monitor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Drought Mitigation Center. They're showing that our drought in Colorado is easing significantly with most areas of the state normal but with abnormally dry conditions along the border with New Mexico and along most of the Front Range. For a comparison here's the chart from May 11, 2004 and May 23, 2006.

Here's another story about the early snowfall from From the article, "It's been a while since the plains east of Denver have received much early-winter moisture. They're among the hardest hit areas in the state's ongoing drought. 'We like the moisture,' Rundell said. She and her family raise cattle and wheat south of Lamar in southeastern Colorado. If they don't blow away, the layers of snow dropped by the storms will provide moisture and protection for the wheat growing underground. 'It pretty much makes the wheat crop, if we don't have a dry spring,' [Cindy] Rundell said."

Category: Colorado Water

7:04:43 AM    

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