River district gets water grant
The Colorado River Water Conservation District this week took a two-pronged approach to responding to the West’s ongoing drought.The Glenwood Springs-based district’s board voted to create a new fund of $150,000 that will be awarded in the form of challenge grants for developers of one or more large-scale water projects.The board also unanimously passed a resolution urging Colorado and other states in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin to “take whatever actions are necessary” to conserve storage in reservoirs on the upper half of the Colorado River and to release only the minimum amount of water needed from Lake Powell to meet obligations to downstream states.The actions come in response to a continuing multiyear drought that has left Lake Powell at 38 percent of its usable capacity, the river district said in a news release.The board held its quarterly meeting this week in Glenwood Springs. A state-chartered agency, it consists of 15 Western Slope counties, including Garfield County, and works to protect the water resources of the Colorado River Basin.The new water project fund represents an expansion in the scope of the district’s existing grant program, which was started in 1998 to help small water projects get off the ground. The program has helped develop new water supplies, improve existing supplies, boost instream water quality, promote water use efficiency, reduce sedimentation problems and control water-robbing tamarisk plants.The program awards an annual total of up to $150,000 in grants that are capped at $15,000 apiece. More than $1 million has been awarded to 107 projects, assisting recipients such as agricultural producers and small municipalities.Prompted by the drought, the board decided to expand the program to help promote large water supply projects, including new storage, reservoir enlargement and dam rehabilitation, within the river district’s member counties.The large project grant fund will operate concurrently with the small project program for the next three years, and then the two will alternate years.The river district this week also addressed concerns about record-low water levels in reservoirs such as Lake Powell, Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Navajo Reservoir and Colorado’s Aspinall Unit. The low water also poses a significant threat of loss of hydroelectric power generation . Lake Powell is instrumental in meeting the deliveries of water that the Colorado River Compact of 1922 requires be made by the four Upper Basin states Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. As Lake Powell levels drop, its capacity to make the necessary deliveries to the downstream states of California, Nevada and Arizona diminishes, increasing the possibility of water use being restricted in Colorado and other Upper Basin states to meet future water deliveries if drought conditions persist. The river district continues to take issue with the U.S. Department of Interior’s requirement that Upper Basin states deliver half of the water to meet the United States’ treaty obligation to provide Mexico with 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water each year. It says the the requirement, which the Interior Department expects to be met with water from Lake Powell, is inequitable to the Upper Basin states. The river district continues to take issue with the U.S. Department of Interior’s requirement that Upper Basin states deliver half of the water to meet the United States’ treaty obligation to provide Mexico with 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water each year. It says the the requirement, which the Interior Department expects to be met with water from Lake Powell, is inequitable to the Upper Basin states.
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