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Public Lands

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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

connectingdropslogo4.1Bringing you the reporting you crave over the radio airways with extras and archives on our website. Visit the audio archives or listen to the latest story on the connection between Colorado's forests, watersheds, and forest fires:

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Water Education Colorado

Colorado River Basin HeadwatersAs the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agriculture and desert communities. In Colorado we depend on this lifeline to the West and take pride in our namesake river.

In this issue of Headwaters, Water Education Colorado focuses on the Colorado River's mainstem and the river's many uses. Communities as distinct as Colorado's peach capital of Palisade, its high mountain ski country and its population center along the northern Front Range all share Colorado River flows.

Read featured articles below or view the online version here.

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Phoning for Flows

In a system where timing is everything, reservoir operators and water managers work behind the scenes to tweak flows for fish

By Allen Best

Those who manage the Colorado River sometimes refer to it simply as the Phone Call. Weekly from late June through October, it lasts an hour, maybe two during perplexing weeks. Fifteen to 20 people, sometimes even 30, participate, reporting plans and voicing needs in an effort to create semi-natural flows in a river system that is anything but natural. Their most basic aim is to recover four species of endangered fish native to the Colorado River Basin that, according to the accounts of early settlers, were nobody’s first choice for a meal. Too many bones!

Meeting target habitat flows set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a critical river segment called the 15-Mile Reach, which is directly upstream of Grand Junction, is the essential purpose of the Phone Call, although, since its inception in 1995, the agenda has broadened to other matters.

Today, the Phone Call illustrates the pervasiveness of management in river flows. Here and there, creeks look much as they might have 150 years ago. But in the larger aggregation, little is left to chance. Big dams provide the means to regulate flows, and Colorado’s first-in-time, first-in-right doctrine of prior appropriation furnishes the legal structure for water’s administration.

Read more: Phoning for Flows

Keeping It Clean

Protecting and enhancing water quality on the Colorado

By Jerd Smith

Mesa County and its Grand Valley are the agricultural mecca of the Colorado River Basin in Colorado. Fruit dominates the economy here—and it shows. Endless rows of peach trees, apple trees and grapevines line the highways and back roads. Packing sheds with rusted metal roofs dot the fields, and tall steel towers topped with giant fans stand sentry over the orchards and vineyards, prepared to pull warm air down from the sky to the ground to battle late spring freezes and early fall snow.

In the midst of all this sweet growth, Mel Rettig’s road-side vegetable farm stands out, plain and sturdy, offering corn, tomatoes, green peppers and pinto beans. A faded red and white wooden sign on Highway 141 directs customers back to the vegetable stands behind his home, which sits in the middle of a flat 60-acre spread his father began acquiring in the 1930s. Rettig is at home today, a rarity in the winter. Typically, he and some of his neighbors are on the road, travelling to water meetings in Denver, Glenwood Springs and other points in between—or beyond. He is one of a small posse of de facto, volunteer and self-taught water experts who have worked for decades to understand and master the chemistry of the Colorado River. If you’re a fruit or vegetable grower in the Grand Valley, you’re a water expert or you’re out of business. It’s that simple.

Read more: Keeping It Clean

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