Water & Weather

Recently I attended the Conservation Excellence Conference hosted by the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts at the University of Denver. There I participated on a panel discussing a suite of innovative water management solutions to secure water for people and nature.

 

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“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

One could aptly quote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge when observing the snow­capped mountains and rushing rivers of Colorado.

 

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In my previous article, “Water Smart Growth – the Key to Colorado’s Future”, I discussed methods for supporting Colorado’s water conservation efforts, including the collection and use of rainwater.

 

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As a youngster who spent his childhood summers playing in the irrigation ditches at my grandparent’s Southern Colorado cattle ranch, I realized at an early age the importance of water to the health and livelihood of rural Colorado. This has been drawn into even tighter focus during my time working for San Isabel Land Protection Trust. Productive agriculture and ranching is impossible without good water rights.

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If 2 million Colorado newcomers wind up in suburban developments, water resources in rural Colorado could be in serious trouble. In a typical Front Range suburb, most residents live on large lots with beautiful Kentucky Blue Grass lawns. Kentucky Blue Grass grows great — in Kentucky, where annual precipitation averages 40 inches a year. Here in Colorado, where precipitation is only 14 inches annually, this type of grass requires a lot of supplemental watering. Non-native lawns and trees often require a tremendous amount of water to survive – water that can only arrive by way of water transfers away from productive agriculture.

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Last week we posted an update on the SNOTEL reports for snowpack in the San Isabel region. Since then portions of the mountains have received 3.9 inches of precipitation, which is probably well over 3 feet of snow.

 

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Posted in Water & Weather

Last weekend’s storm brought welcome relief to the scant snowpack in the San Isabel region. The NRCS SNOTEL at the South Colony site in the Sangre de Cristo Range shows 1.9 inches of snow water equivalent, and about 2 feet of snow. Snow water equivalent measures the water content in the snow to give a more accurate assessment of snowpack. As most Coloradans know, the snow in April is much wetter and heavier than the snow in January. As such, the snow water equivalent in a foot of snow in April would probably be higher than a foot of snow in January.

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Posted in Water & Weather

In December 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court announced its opinion on the change of water use case involving the H20 Ranch.[ii]  The H2O Ranch was historically one of the most productive hay ranches in the Wet Mountain Valley with excellent water rights. In 2007, the city of Fountain and Widefield Water and Sanitation District (“Widefield”) purchased the H20 Ranch with the intent to dry-up the H2O Ranch and change the water rights to municipal use (“buy and dry”). A change of use case was filed in Water Court Division 2, and has been in litigation ever since.

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Posted in Water & Weather

“We’re all connected together. If one sells their water, it affects us all.”

--Frank Mc Murray, Chaffee County Rancher

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Agriculture, water, and wide open spaces define Colorado. They are the reasons I moved here from Northern California nearly 8 years ago. Where I live in Western Fremont County as well as where I work in Custer County, active ranching and large, undeveloped landscapes still exist. Water still runs with the land and multi-generational families continue to steward the ranches and farms that provide us food, habitat for wildlife, clean water and air and scenic beauty that we all enjoy.

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