WATER LINES: Nonprofit Colorado Water Trust leases water to benefit streams
ABOUT COLORADO WATER TRUST
Colorado Water Trust was formed to restore and protect streamflows through water acquisitions, physical solutions and other creative approaches. CWT is the only nonprofit organization working statewide to transact water deals for conservation benefits. CWT works closely with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the only entity in Colorado that can hold water rights for instream flow purposes.
Summer is flying by, and the Colorado Water Trust’s “Request for Water” projects are sailing ahead along with it.
After CWT made our Request for Water this spring, asking water rights owners to offer their water for lease to benefit streams, our projects team went to work screening the 19 official offers we received. Below you can see details of three projects that are in place, adding water to their local stream systems.
CITY OF ASPEN/ROARING FORK RIVER
For decades, large water diversions have reduced the amount of water flowing in the upper Roaring Fork River; only a fraction of the native flow reaches the City of Aspen.
To begin exploring long-term streamflow solutions for the Roaring Fork, the City of Aspen is leading local efforts this year by using one of its senior water rights to benefit flows through a critical reach of the Roaring Fork River. On June 10, the Aspen City Council authorized a nondiversion agreement with the Colorado Water Trust to bypass some water that Aspen would otherwise divert from this reach of the Roaring Fork.
STAGECOACH RESERVOIR/YAMPA RIVER
On July 16, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District signed a contract to lease 4,000 acre feet of water in Stagecoach Reservoir to CWT for the second year in a row. CWT is working with Upper Yampa; Colorado Parks and Wildlife; Catamount Development, Inc.; and the Colorado Water Conservation Board on planning releases to provide environmental benefits to the Yampa River. In coordination with CWT, Upper Yampa began releasing water from Stagecoach Reservoir at a rate of 30 cfs on Tuesday, July 23, to bolster streamflows in the Yampa.
WINTER PARK RANCH W&S/FRASER RIVER
The amount of water flowing in the heavily negotiated Fraser River has long been a topic of statewide concern. The instream flow water rights on the Fraser River are often water-short because they are junior to other rights on the stream.
After hearing about CWT’s pilot Request for Water program in 2012, the board of directors for Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation District saw an opportunity to lease some of the District’s water rights to supplement streamflows in St. Louis Creek and the Fraser River and pursued a local project to benefit their home river. This short-term lease was approved by the State Engineer’s Office on June 6, 2013, accepted by CWCB Assistant Director Tom Browning on June 11, and ratified by the CWCB Board of Directors on July 16 at their meeting in Alamosa.
To learn more about the Colorado Water Trust’s work to use market approaches to benefit streams, visit http://www.coloradowatertrust.org.
This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. Christine Hartman is communications and development director for the Colorado Water Trust.
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