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with the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. New Mexico consumes about 400,000 acre-feet of the 642,000 acre- feet of Colorado River system water to which it’s annually entitled. By 2060, “we do anticipate that demand will take all of our allocation,” Flanigan said. Te state expects to complete an update of its water plan by the end of 2018.


Colorado’s Resiliency Colorado’s forecasted gap between demand and water supply is 560,000 acre- feet by 2050, a “big nut to crack,” Eklund said. Te shortfall is expected to be covered by 400,000 acre-feet of additional water conservation and 400,000 acre-feet of new storage by 2030. “We think we can do it,” Eklund


said. Colorado’s problems are “aggravated”


by the structural deficit of 1.2 million acre-feet in the Lower Basin but that does not tell the entire story, Kuhn said. “Even when they have implemented


a Drought Contingency Plan in the Lower Basin we have problems in the Upper Bain because we are above the reservoirs,” he said. “Te Upper Ba- sin has an independent problem that is made better by conservation in the Lower Basin. Te Lower Basin has a structural deficit that’s made better through operations in the Upper Basin. Neither side can blame the other for the problem they’re in.” Getting there means overcoming obstacles, such as finding a way to get improvement projects off the ground in a timely manner. “It doesn’t matter if you are an envi-


ronmentalist, a municipal water provider or an agricultural user, you all agree the permitting system is broken and we need to fix that,” Eklund said, adding that it takes about 20 years and $20 million to complete a typical storage project. Colorado’s Water Plan contemplates the possibility of a new transmountain diversion from west to east to the extent that “a proponent of a new [diversion]


would not seek a firm yield from the Colorado River System, but instead would develop a project that could provide firm yield if operated in con- junction with eastern slope sources of supply.” Furthermore, “it is important for eastern slope parties to demonstrate to the western slope that structures, agreements and frameworks are or will be in place for eastern slope backup water supplies during times when a new transmountain diversion would not be able to divert Colorado River System water.” Derwingson with Te Nature Con-


servancy said “the key takeaway is that any discussion of a new transmountain diversion needs to fully consider envi- ronmental impacts, community impacts, and the overall risk and resiliency of the larger Colorado River system.” “From my perspective I would say


there is not water to develop,” he said. “If there is, it’s not going to be available often enough to justify the investment required to develop it. We are better off figuring out how we live within our existing means.”


Te state wants to stem the tide of “buy and dry,” the process in which agricultural water rights are permanently ceded to urban use. Eklund said the objective is to find 500,000 acre-feet of alternatives to buy and dry by 2030. Efforts to create new reservoir stor- age in the Green River Basin, a chief tributary to the Colorado River Basin, stretch back the past century when ad- vocates pushed for projects in the upper part of the basin. Wyoming is seeking congressional authorization to effectively increase water users’ abilities to draw down the 345,000 acre-feet Fontenelle Reservoir on the Green River by placing riprap on the upstream face of the dam down to the minimum power pool level. Tere has been no active construction on the project but legislation has been proposed and there have been some investigation of the proposal. Even as water users push for more


conservation and more traditional water


storage projects, scientific research is leading the way toward increased knowl- edge of water supply availability through methods such as remote sensing. More is being learned about groundwater as well. A 2016 study by the U.S. Geologi- cal Survey (USGS) revealed that more than half of the streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater.


“Tese findings could help decision makers effectively manage current and future water resources in the Colorado River Basin,” Matthew Miller, a USGS scientist and lead author of the study, said in a written statement. “In light of recent droughts, predicted climate changes and human consumption, there is an urgent need for us all to continue to think of groundwater and surface water as a single resource.” In a follow-up, USGS and the Bureau


of Reclamation (Reclamation) reported that the advent of climate change means groundwater recharge “is generally ex- pected to be somewhat greater than the historical average in most decades due to an anticipated wetter future climate in the Basin under the most advanced climate modeling projections.” Te news comes on the heels of a 2015 study by the National Aeronau- tics and Space Administration and University of California, Irvine, that ground water “may comprise a far greater fraction of Basin water use than previ- ously recognized, in particular during drought, and that its disappearance may threaten the long-term ability to meet future allocations to the seven Basin states.” Water banking could be done in


available aquifers or through instream management. “It’s one tool but not the only tool for demand management,” Derwingson said. “I think if you want it to work you will have to account for it somewhere and eventually you will have to account for it in Lake Powell.” Steve Wolff, Colorado River coordi- nator with the Wyoming State Engi- neer’s Office, said the state “looks fairly


Winter 2016-2017 • River Report • Colorado River Project • 7


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