Delta Conservation District held its annual meeting and dinner on June 8 and the main program topic was water.
District landowners and guests heard presentations on local and regional water issues from knowledgeable water managers.
Dave Kanzer, senior engineer for the Colorado River District based in Glenwood Springs and a noted regional water authority, explained challenges of the emerging "water gap" that is developing in Colorado and throughout the Colorado River Basin. Presentations on water issues in every venue are focusing more on the water gap issue and its potential impacts to communities and individuals on the Western Slope.
Basically, the water gap is about increasing demands for water and the static or declining supplies available to meet that demand. Population growth in Colorado and in the seven Colorado River Basin states is reliably projected to increase dramatically in coming decades. But the weather models used to project future water yield from Colorado River to meet those population demands are casting ever more doubt on the river's ability to supply additional water.
In Colorado, water managers say, 80 percent of the water is on the Western Slope and over 80 percent of the population is on the Eastern Slope.
Throughout the seven-state Colorado River Basin, from Grand Lake to Los Angeles, the story is the same – 90 percent of the Colorado River's water originates in the three upper basin states (Colorado Wyoming and Utah); but 90 percent of the population lives in four Lower Basin states.
This geographic imbalance between source and place of use, taken with the imbalance of future demand versus available supply projected by climate models, presents a daunting picture of mounting political pressure on key water resource areas like the Western Slope and the Gunnison River Basin.
Statewide, over 86 percent of the available water is used in agriculture. Agricultural water supply and use are being targeted by municipal users on the Front Range and the Lower Basin. This makes it critical that every technology possible be used to increase irrigation efficiency and to improve water quality as it leaves the Gunnison Basin.
The Delta Conservation District is a lead agency finding grants for on-farm irrigation improvements and for improvements on ditch company systems. The District also manages and supports programs in weed control and education on water issues.
Kanzer noted the "Basin Study," a publication of the Bureau of Reclamation that looks ahead 50 years at water gap issues on the Colorado River system. In addition, Colorado's nine regional Water Basin Roundtables have been tasked by Governor Hickenlooper with writing a "Colorado State Water Plan" focusing on the state's own water gap issues. The report is due in December.
Local water reports were presented by Division 4 Water Engineer Bob Hurford of Montrose. He noted that the cool April has improved the water runoff picture this year. The North Fork Gunnison is predicted to produce 57 percent of its average yield this year, he said.
In the Surface Creek drainage, snowpack levels reached about 75 percent of average.
"The Delta Conservation district was established in 1951," explained a presentation made by District Manager Dev Carey. The mission of the DCD "is to provide for the conservation and preservation of our natural resources and agricultural heritage in order to ensure the health, prosperity and welfare of the citizens of the District and the State of Colorado."
The DCD presented its annual awards to conservationists of the year ranchers Steve and Rachel Allen, and to conservationists of the year farmers Mark Waltermire and Katie Dean of Thistle Whistle Farms.blog comments powered by Disqus