Our June 21st Riparian Restoration workshop with Cross Watershed Network has popped up in the news from a few of our attendees recently. Learn and live vicariously through these two articles:
Check out this article from The Grand Junction Sentinel on our economic impact report for recreation in the watershed, and take a moment to look into the full report yourself to fully understand the complex modeling and admitted shortfalls of conducting such a report. Earth Economics has a large number of published reports on their website that are worth perusing to understand the interest and diversity in attempting to put a dollar sign on our natural resources.
The weekend of May 12 brought a flurry of articles claiming the Colorado River would be reaching its peak stream flow that weekend, nearly a month sooner than normal. With the abundance of early fire restrictions, voluntary water restrictions, and drought in the news, it should come as no surprise that this year is ranking as the fourth driest of over eighty years on record.
The world of water is complex and multi-faceted. There are a lot of different types of measurements within water and snow. Translating statistics into tangible effects can be difficult. So, let's take a look at the holistic process of stream flow and see what we come up with.
The accumulation of our snowpack serves as a reservoir, and once snowmelt begins that reservoir melts into creeks and rivers providing water to the agricultural industry, riverine environments, and white water runs. Hot temperatures drive the thaw of snow that fills our streams and ditches, and the temperatures we've been having in late May have been hot. Snowpack this year was lackluster at best, and at a certain point of the summer there won't be anymore snow to melt away.
The average date for peak stream flow on the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs is June 7. Runoff really ramps up when temperatures remain above-freezing overnight at higher elevations, resulting in around-the-clock melting of the thick snowpack. Peak flows are reached when low elevation melting is joined by high elevation melting. Afterwards, high elevation melting continues to contribute to flows as long as the snowpack persists.
This year, the Colorado River at the Glenwood gauge did have a small bump on May 12, and then hit its highest peak on May 26 at 6,640 cubic feet per second (cfs). "And you have to look at the numbers too," said Wendy Ryan of Colorado River Engineering. "We are in a period where river flows are hanging around the 5,000 cfs mark, but that flow is drastically lower than our average for this timeframe." That average would be a little over 8,000 cfs on May 26, and topping 10,000 cfs for the average peak flow that typically hits on June 7.
So, we're starting to get to the point of how dry this year really is. But how does this affect our local economies? "The Shoshone Power Plant really saves the Glenwood rafting scene and the environment," said Ryan. When the plant is operating, it commands a certain flow down the river through Glenwood Canyon, even in the driest of times. It's enough for boat-able flows, but it's not enough for the great white water that draws tourists to the region. In the world of agriculture, the Cameo Diversion Dam by Palisade has a similar ability to the Shoshone: to force junior water users in our region to curtail their diversions and send water downstream for its use.
That's as complex as we'll get for now, but we didn't even get into reservoir levels, water rights, augmentation flows, trans-mountain diversions, or the 1922 Colorado River Compact. How might a citizen not tied into the water world feel impacted by all of this? "I think people have their pulse on the river," said Ryan. But if you happen to feel a little disconnected, check out the fire restrictions implemented for Garfield County. Read the voluntary water restrictions of Aspen that could easily occur in the down valley communities, or read the eight provisions installed in Telluride's May 4th mandatory water restrictions to get a sampling of what municipal conservation looks like, and go a step further by voluntarily taking one provision up yourself to begin conserving now.
Check our our May opinion piece in the Post Independent!
"An onsite wastewater treatment system, more commonly known as a septic system, consists of an intentionally designed chamber with inlets and outlets, utilizing settling and anaerobic bacteria to decompose solid and organic waste. Septic systems are common in rural and even some suburban areas where it isn't realistic or affordable to connect to the nearest municipality's sewage system. All water and other material that goes down the sink or shower drain, through the laundry outlet, or down the toilet goes into the septic system."
It's difficult to quantify the worth of our natural resources, but its the business of Earth Economics to do so. Learn more about how much money the outdoor recreation industry brings to the Middle Colorado watershed in this month's opinion article in the Post-Independent. The final report is available here.
Among with a number of other regional organizations, MCWC was granted over $100k through the state to develop the Integrated Water Management Plan, which is part of a larger state-wide initiative to develop stream management plans. This state grant money represents about a quarter of MCWC's budget for the plan. Learn more about the awarded $337,000 state grant money to projects supporting the Colorado, Crystal, and Roaring Fork Rivers in this Post-Independent article.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center released a snowpack report on February 26th. How are we fairing, and what could it mean for the Colorado River and the various industries it supports? Read more about it in the Middle Colorado Watershed Council's monthly op-ed piece and delve right to the source on the CAIC website. For an abundant of additional information regarding the snowpack and data in this region, check out the Roaring Fork Conservancy's page for background details and data for the Roaring Fork Valley and visit here for maps and SWE median percentages of each Colorado Basin.
Following another year of amazing films through the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, we raised over $3,000 in ticket sales alone with a showing at the Vaudeville Theatre in Glenwood Springs and another at the Ute Theatre in Rifle. Thank you for attending and showing your support of the Middle Colorado Watershed Council! Once again, we sold out our evening at the Vaudeville, with a strong first showing at our new location in Rifle. And of course, we couldn't have done it without our sponsors! We can't wait for next year and another array of incredible films.
Liza Mitchell, the Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Roaring Fork Conservancy presented with Jeff Derry, Director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, in Silverton, CO, at the Sustaining Watershed Conference. She spoke with us about some take-home messages and what we need to know about snow science.