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Understanding the Rio Grande Basin Water Plan

This is the first of monthly articles from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.

Since the 2002-2003 drought, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has undertaken a comprehensive study of Colorado’s water. The study known as the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) 2010 recognized that water supply is limited and as Colorado continues to grow the need is out pacing the supply. The study identified Colorado’s current and future water need through the year 2030 and further examined approaches that could be taken to meet those needs. That was 2004, with the support of the General Assembly in 2006, SWSI 2 supplemented the original findings by adding technical work on water conservation, alternatives to agricultural water transfers and meeting the environmental needs of the state. SWSI brought together a collaborative approach to the resolution of these issues by establishing the basin roundtables. The roundtables were to bring together a diverse group of partners whose role was to educate and collaborate on water planning issues.

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The Rio Grande Basin Water Plan Works to Address Future Ag Water Needs

This is the second of a monthly articles from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.

For decades Agriculture has been associated with the production of food crops. Accordingly, agriculture and farming were both one and the same, as long as farming was not commercialized. But as time has progressed and economic development has accelerated, there have been many more occupations related to farming and so they are recognized as a part of agriculture.

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The Rio Grande Basin Water Plan Addresses Water Needs

This is the third article from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.

Colorado’s population surpassed 5 million people in the summer of 2008, and it is expected to double to 10 million people by 2050. The majority of the growth will be on Colorado’s Front Range, but the fastest growth rates will occur on the Western Slope. The populations of the Colorado, Gunnison, Southwest and Yampa/White Basins are expected to more than double between 2005 and 2050. This makes Water Plan Development a necessity. The state water plan is meant to compile a set of workable solutions to the water crisis in Colorado. The draft plan that is due by end of the year will focus on all dimensions of water use.

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The Rio Grande Basin Water Plan Addresses Water Administration

This is the fourth article in the series from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.

The last decade has brought many changes to Colorado’s water supply outlook. Even with the recent economic recession, the state will continue to experience significant population growth. Other pressures on Colorado’s water supply include: severe drought, meeting multiple needs (e.g., municipal, agricultural, environmental, and recreational) with existing resources, and agricultural impacts due to water shortages, urbanization and transfers to new uses.

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Environmental and Recreational Water Use - Working together to plan our water future

This is the fifth article in the series from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.

For our water resources to meet a variety of needs—from agriculture and municipal uses to wildlife habitat and recreation—collaboration is essential.. That’s what the Basin Implementation Plan is all about. Here’s how to get involved.

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Public Lands, Public Water

This is the sixth article in the series from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, regarding the implementation of the Basin Water Plan.

When thinking of the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, what comes to mind? Is it livestock ranching? Oil and gas development? Maybe its rock climbing at Penitente Canyon, or watching wildlife and birds at Blanca Wetlands. Perhaps it’s a trip to BLM lands every fall to sight in your rifle in the hopes of dropping a trophy bull on the opening morning of the first elk season.

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Municipal and Industrial Water Use

In 2004, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) completed the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) Phase 1 Study. One of the key findings of the study was that while SWSI evaluated water needs and solutions through 2030, very few municipal and industrial (M&I) water providers have identified supplies beyond 2030.

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Value of Water

"Value of Water in the Rio Grande Basin” will showcase the collaborative work of water users of all types across the Rio Grande Basin. The Statewide “Value of Water” initiative is set to recognize the value of Colorado’s water and communicate this value by making it readily identifiable to all community members. The Rio Grande Basin is a critical piece in this information web. Because the stakeholders in the Rio Grande live in a rural, headwaters community that is facing several critical water issues they, like other rural basins, play an integral role in getting the water message out. The purpose is to further the involvement and learning for all Colorado’s citizen as we move towards 2050.

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Challenges facing the Rio Grande Basin

Water users in the Rio Grande Basin in Colorado are facing many challenges, both natural and man-made. The basin is also facing challenges not only in our area, but from farther away as well. The Rio Grande is in the fourth year of below average streamflows. Other parts of Colorado are also in a severe drought this year, with some areas having a more severe single year drought than the San Luis Valley. However, much of Colorado had very good precipitation and streamflow last year which filled their reservoirs and aquifers.

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The Southwest Basin

Southwestern Colorado’s rivers are unique in that many of the rivers and tributaries flow from north to south and are administered as independent river systems. This is due to the fact that many, such as the Navajo, Blanco, Piedra, Pine, Florida, Animas, La Plata, and Mancos Rivers, are tributary to the San Juan River in New Mexico or just upstream of the state line. The Dolores River flows from north to south, but makes a “U-turn” near Cortez and heads back to the northwest and joins the Colorado River in Utah. The San Miguel River originates just above Telluride, and flows to the west where it joins the Dolores River just above the Colorado-Utah state line. 

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Valley Ag. chemicals and Water quality

It’s hard to imagine with the dry year the San Luis Valley has had, but the combination of shallow groundwater and sandy soils in the San Luis Valley have led to a known issue of nitrates in the unconfined aquifer in areas north of the Rio Grande River.

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Kerber Creek Project makes a difference

When stream banks are cut, and the stream is running a few feet below the rest of the land, problems occur. The stream is not able to connect to its floodplain, and the land around the stream starts to dry out. For those who graze cattle on the land, their livelihoods are also at stake because of this.

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The Colorado River Basin

The Colorado Basin Roundtable represents the interests of the mainstem of the Colorado River System. The mainstem and its tributaries already support eight major transmountain diversions. Two of them are undergoing permitting that would result in additional diversions – and are likely to go through if two paradigm-shifting negotiations prove successful.

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Anti-discrimination Policy: The Rio Grande Watershed Conservation Education Program prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program.

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