Water Trust leasing put water into dry streams
During a summer of record-low streamflows, Colorado Water Trust successfully tapped a never-before-used law to add water to more than 190 stream and river miles in western Colorado.The water trust’s pilot program, Request for Water 2012, was a voluntary, market-based approach to rewatering streams in this past summer of severe drought conditions.”Coloradoans care about our state’s aquatic resources. When water availability was low and drought conditions persisted, water users, water practitioners, and communities pulled together to provide some relief to Colorado’s rivers and streams,” said Amy Beatie, executive director for the Colorado Water Trust. “Many dedicated people – including the staff at the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Division of Water Resources – made this possible by devoting their time, energy and expertise to implementing this pilot program.”The water trust worked closely with the Colorado Water Conservation Board to negotiate three formal water leases though the state government’s administrative approval process. Two additional leases were put in place but were not exercised this season. Leased water benefitted seven stream reaches, bolstered six instream flow water rights, and brought relief to aquatic habitat and riparian ecosystems when drought conditions limited flows and drove up water temperatures. The pilot program demonstrated that leasing water for instream flows can benefit the environment, communities and water users, Beatie said.• In May, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District offered to lease 4,000 acre-feet of stored water in Stagecoach Reservoir to increase flows in the Yampa River. The three parties – the Yampa District, the water trust and the state water board – signed a one-year lease for the release of 26.7 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water for 75 days. The lease allowed for flexible management of the releases if conditions on the Yampa improved or deteriorated. • In early May, Aspen Shorefox offered three water rights totaling 40 cfs from the Bunte Highline Ditch in Grand County for lease – the water trust’s largest direct-flow lease. The water, typically diverted from Willow Creek, was leased to benefit four instream flow water rights downstream on the Colorado River in Grand County that were short of water during the summer months. • Coyote River Ranch offered to lease 2 cfs of water that would otherwise have been diverted from Deep Creek, north of Dotsero and a tributary to the Colorado River. By reducing the acreage it irrigated this summer, Coyote River Ranch entered into a 10-year lease with the water trust and the state water board to benefit a half-mile stretch of instream flows on lower Deep Creek.• The Bureau of Land Management acquired the Thompson Pump No. 2 water right on the Colorado River just upstream of Kremmling from a private party and took over management of the water right in 1999. Preparing for low-flow conditions in 2012, the BLM offered the 13.8 cfs water right for lease in three out of 10 years. The water would otherwise have been used to irrigate hay meadows.• The water trust’s program mobilized a water lease between Colorado Parks & Wildlife and the state water board, resulting in a lease of 3,000 acre-feet of water out of Big Beaver Reservoir on the White River east of Meeker, near Buford. Colorado Parks & Wildlife released 20 cfs of water from the reservoir from Aug. 30 to Oct. 3 to keep some water flowing in the White River and to lower the temperature of what little flow was there. Without the 20 cfs release, the White River would have been dry in some reaches.
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The Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit brought together water policy experts, decision makers and more than 100 students from Roaring Fork Valley middle and high schools to learn about and discuss water issues.