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For Immediate Release
June 17, 2019
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310
Climate Change “Compact Call” on the Colorado River Targets Front Range Colorado Cities
Front Range, Colorado: On Thursday June 20th, water managers on the West Slope of Colorado will hear the results of the comprehensive study about the impacts of drought/climate change and the risk of a “Compact Call” in Colorado. Called the “Colorado River Risk Study”, the analysis predicts what would happen if the same drought occurred again as occurred between 1988 and 2015 in the Colorado River basin (see the full presentation here). Such a climate-change induced drought could trigger a “Compact Call” where the lower basin states could force the upper basin states to send water down the Colorado River. The analysis indicates that water rights belonging to Front Range cities — from Colorado Springs to Denver to Fort Collins — would bear the brunt of the shortage and “curtailment” of use.
Water rights that were created after the 1922 Colorado River Compact are subject to a Compact Call and include 931,969 acre feet of water/year, of that 531,816 are “TMD” (trans-mountain diversions, see page 5) that are diverted from the Colorado River over to Front Range cities and farms. The biggest single diversion is the “Colorado-Big Thompson Project” (“C-BT“: ~220,000 acre feet/year) which is a major source of water for northern Colorado cities including Boulder, Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins, Greeley, and the entire surrounding fast-growing area.
In fact, just last week, the City Council in Fort Collins was told by its staff: “Long-term reductions in C-BT Project water supplies due to shortages in the Colorado River system is a top vulnerability to the Water Utility and its ability to provide a reliable water supply” (see page 3). At the very same time last week, the price of C-BT water hit an all time high selling for $53,147 per acre foot (see Boulder Daily Camera story here) although the risk of the water being called downstream to California is significant and increasing.
Further, the “Colorado River Risk Study” indicates that if the same drought were to occur: “The likelihood of Lake Powell dropping below 3525 feet in elevation at some point in the next 25 years is about 39%” (page 4). Even further yet, if the upper basin states ‘develop/divert’ all the new proposed dams and diversions they are planning and considering, that likelihood doubles to ~78% (see page 4, # 3 where it says, “An increase in annual Upper Basin Consumptive Use averaging 11.5% roughly doubles the risk of #1”).
Finally and importantly, the same Colorado River Risk Study indicates that the much-ballyhooed so-called “Drought Contingency Plan” would only make a negligible (2%) difference in the outcome of the water level in Lake Powell if the drought happens again (see graph here).
At the very same time, Front Range cities are planning even more “trans-mountain diversions” on the Colorado River — two projects have been permitted and are currently challenged in court by co-plaintiffs led by Save The Colorado, and other projects are pending (see Grist story here).
“You couldn’t do something more insane than to try to divert more water out of the Colorado River,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado. “Our organization is the ‘Science Flank’ of the Colorado River environmental movement, and we will fight to stop every proposed new dam and diversion.”