Second annual White River Water Expo draws 100+

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Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District Manager and YWG Basin Roundtable chair Alden Vanden Brink was one of several presenters at the second annual Water Expo and annual meeting. Vanden Brink encouraged attendees to get involved and look for grant opportunities with the YWG Basin Roundtable.
Caitlin Walker Photo

RBC | Approximately 115 people attended the White River Water Expo and White River Conservation District’s second annual meeting on Jan. 17 in Meeker. White River Conservation District President Marc Etchart said, “We appreciate everyone that took time to attend the second annual Water Expo to learn more about the water issues facing the White River Basin.”  

Andy Mueller, Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District) general manager spoke regarding ongoing drought contingency planning efforts. The purpose of drought contingency planning is to avoid water levels in Lake Powell from falling below the minimum level so that it will still produce power. The Lower Basin states have agreed to implement their Drought Contingency Plan which includes reduced overuse of water according to the Colorado River Compact. While this is a good start, it isn’t sufficient to keep the Colorado River out of crisis.   

Upper basin states are working on their own drought contingency plans which includes three primary segments: 1) cloud seeding and phreatophyte removal, 2) CRSP reservoir re-operations, and 3) demand management. Demand management is a concept that is being considered by the states. It is not a current program and it is the last line of defense to protect against Lake Powell dropping below minimum power pool. The River District is in Phase III of the Colorado River Risk Study.  They are trying to determine how a call could impact each basin. Mueller provided specific information on the White River and it can be reviewed on the White River Conservation District’s website (www.WhiteRiverCD.com) under the “2020 Water Expo Presentations” tab.

Tom Gray, Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable (YWG Basin Roundtable) representative to the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), explained the purpose and representation of the basin roundtables and IBCC and how they provide opportunity for local input and discussion.  YWG Basin Roundtable Chair Alden Vanden Brink provided an update on their activities including Integrated Water Management Planning, education and grants supporting the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP)

Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWork Coordinator Phil Brink presented on water planning efforts across the state. Rancher Thad Porter discussed the ditch inventory being done through the Bookcliff, Southside and Mt. Sopris Conservation districts’ integrated water management planning effort. White River and Douglas Creek Conservation districts’ Executive Director Callie Hendrickson explained the information gathering efforts currently taking place in Rio Blanco County to determine if the community is interested in pursuing a water planning effort. She noted the four public input meetings here in Rio Blanco County on Jan. 22 and 29.

A panel including the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Colorado River District discussed the instream flow water rights program. Instream flow water rights have a priority date of when they are appropriated as does any other water right in Colorado.

The final water presentation of the day was the USGS update on the White River Algae Study. 2019 wrapped up the second year of the three-year study. A brief overview of the data collection and analysis for 2018 and 2019 was provided noting there is another year of study to be conducted before USGS does a statistical analysis and report in 2021.

Summarizing the meeting, Marc Etchart said, “Andy Mueller was spot on. Great to know the River District has our best interest at heart and is protecting the Western Slope’s interest in water matters. The Conservation District appreciates all the speakers and attendees who helped make this second annual Water Expo such a success. A big thank you to the meeting sponsors; Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable, Colorado River Water Conservation District, and Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District.”

All PowerPoint presentations are available on the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts’ website at www.whiterivercd.com.

Submitted by White River Conservation District