home 2017, Water Points of No Return #CRDseminar (2017)

Points of No Return #CRDseminar (2017)

The Colorado River District’s popular one-day Annual Water Seminar in Grand Junction, Colorado took place Friday, September 15, 9am-330pm at the Two Rivers Convention Center. The theme is “Points of No Return.” Cost of the seminar, which includes lunch, is $30 if pre-registered, $40 at the door. Hashtag: #CRDseminar

Keynoting the lunchtime program will be Professor Jack Schmidt of Utah State University who has authored a critical analysis of a controversial proposal to drain Lake Powell and fill Lake Mead first. The concept touts the proposal as a way to open up submerged canyons, reduce evaporation and increase water supply.

In the main program, two ranchers in western Colorado, Don Schwindt of Cortez and Bill Trampe of Gunnison will discuss how the move to irrigation efficiency equipment has unintended consequences to late season streamflows, other water users, recreation and the environment. The factor is return flows that had been bolstered by flood irrigation are now reduced with modernization.

This will also be Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn’s last seminar presentation in office. He announced his retirement and a new general manager will take his place later this year. Kuhn will relate his views of the Colorado River’s history and its future through the lens of his 36 years of working on the river.

Key Links


9:00 Salton Sea and California’s Bay-Delta: the Lower Basin’s Drought Planning Is Caught in Not-SoQuick Sands Bill Hasencamp, Manager, Colorado River Resources, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California The seven states in the Colorado River Basin, partners in the Colorado River Compact of 1922, are grappling with details of Drought Contingency Plans to address low water levels in the big reservoirs of Powell and Mead. In the Lower Basin, ever-lowering levels of the Salton Sea and developing a long-term fix to the fragile Bay-Delta, are proving to be obstacles. Return flows from the Imperial Irrigation District supply the Salton with salty water. The Imperial Irrigation District has made a deal to send water to San Diego, which means less flow to the Salton, declining levels, blowing toxic sands, ever saltier water and wildlife issues. Metropolitan Water District, the largest urban water supplier in the nation, relies on Northern California’s Bay-Delta for half of its supplies, but faces increased cutbacks due to growing environmental restrictions. California needs a path forward on both issues before it can focus on addressing the challenges of the Colorado River. And those are just some of the complexities for the Lower Basin plan.

9:50 The Upper Basin is Watching Eric Kuhn, General Manager, Colorado River District The Upper Basin states are working on their own Drought Contingency Plan, and its success depends on the Lower Basin being successful. In his last presentation as General Manager before retirement, Eric Kuhn will assess the current planning on the Colorado River and where he thinks success and sustainability lie amidst the legal framework of the Colorado River Compact as warming temperatures and growing population affect water use in the Southwest.

10:30 Return Flows: Irrigation Efficiency Goes Up, They Go Down Bill Trampe, Rancher, Colorado River District Board Don Schwindt, Rancher, Southwestern Water Conservation District Board Dave Kanzer, Deputy Chief Engineer, Colorado River District Efficiency and technology continue to change the face of agricultural irrigation as producers line and pipe ditches, and switch from flood irrigation to “big guns,” center pivots and side rolls. Less water is required to irrigate lands, but more of the delivered is consumed by improved plant growth. The net of this math in water use is a reduction of return flows to ditches, streams and rivers over time, affecting the water supply of others, the environment and recreation. Streams that benefited from late irrigation season return flows will run less water. The law of unintended consequences is in play and efficiency may not be the right answer in all locales.

11:15 Fixing the Upper Colorado River Paul Bruchez, Rancher, Reeder Creek Ranch Mely Whiting, Colorado Counsel, Trout Unlimited Lurline Curran, County Manger (retired), Grand County The Upper Colorado River segment in Grand County, Colorado, has long been degraded by transmountain diversions taking water to the Front Range of Colorado. This has impacted irrigated agriculture, river morphology, wildlife and recreation. In the last five years, a collaboration of water providers, ranchers, county government and environmental interests have started work to address river health while improving irrigation and recreational values the river can provide. The speakers will explain what’s happened and the exciting work ahead to reconnect the river at Windy Gap Reservoir.

Noon Lunch Program: “Fill Mead First?” Professor Jack Schmidt, Director, Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University The Glen Canyon Institute is pitching the controversial and alleged benefits of draining Lake Powell and increasing water storage in Lake Mead. The speaker has conducted scientific analysis of the concept and points out that the benefits may not be all they are said to be in terms of increased water supply from reduced evaporation and water loss to Powell’s sandstone. Environmental impacts from the changed water regime must be considered. In any event, more research is required. Of course, there are the impacts to recreation and the legal reliance of the Upper Basin states’ use of water storage in Powell to meet their Colorado River Compact obligations.

1:45 A River of Words: Why is So Much Being Written About the Colorado River System? Heather Hansman, magazine writer and author of an upcoming book about the Green River Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District GM and author of a pending book about Colorado River hydrology In the last decade, books, news stories and long magazine pieces have been cascading out of the romance, legal conflict and allure of the Colorado River. Why? What’s the market for this work and is it having a public impact?

2:30 A New Director, the Same Challenges at the Colorado Water Conservation Board Becky Mitchell, Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board John McClow, Board Member Heather Dutton, Board Member The Colorado Water Conservation Board oversees water policy issues for Colorado while also operating many programs ranging from financing, instream flows, watershed health, project development assistance, and most of all, implementation of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan. Newly named Director Becky Mitchell and Board members John McClow and Heather Dutton will discuss the current picture and how to move ahead on solving Colorado’s water challenges.

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