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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

Firm Yield on the Drawing Board

The Statewide Water Supply Initiative helped inventory dozens of proposed water supply projects all over the state. The following is meant to provide a sample of the some of the projects on the drawing board and is not meant to be a comprehensive list.

Arkansas River Basin


Enlargement of Pueblo Reservoir and Turquoise Lake
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the transbasin Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, has proposed enlarging Pueblo and Turquoise reservoirs to add an additional 69,625 acre-feet of storage. The district provides water to farmers, cities and industry in nine Arkansas basin counties.

Enlarging Turquoise Lake, which lies five miles west of Leadville and east of the Continental Divide, could cost $14.5 million, including permitting costs. Expanding Pueblo Reservoir, which sits west of Pueblo and currently has an active capacity of about 330,000 acre-feet, could cost $75.5 million. Cities and industry would benefit most from these enlargements.

Arkansas Valley Conduit
The proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, which would run from near Pueblo to La Junta and Lamar, could yield about 18,200 acre-feet of water annually—primarily for municipalities and agriculture—in Pueblo, Otero, Bent and Prowers counties. About one-third of the water could come from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, with the rest coming from exchanges with cities and agriculture. An updated feasibility study in October 2004 suggested construction of the pipeline and other facilities could cost $252 million. Federal legislation to fund the project has been proposed but not passed. The pipeline was authorized with the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in 1962, but a proposal to build it was derailed in 1972 for lack of funding.

South Platte River Basin

Enlargement of Halligan and Seaman Reservoirs
After pulling out of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley have plans to enlarge Halligan and Milton Seaman reservoirs on the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River.

Expanding Halligan Reservoir would give Fort Collins nearly 40,000 acre-feet of storage in the reservoir and about 34,000 acre-feet more than it currently has and provide an additional 12,000 acre-feet of reliable water supply annually to the city. Halligan enlargement could cost up to $35 million, with a completion goal of 2010.

Enlarging Seaman Reservoir would net Greeley about 38,000 acre-feet more storage and provide the city 10,000 acre-feet of reliable water supply annually. The Seaman expansion could cost as much as $50 million. Current estimates suggest the expansion would be done by 2020. North Poudre Irrigation Company, North Weld County Water District, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, East Larimer County Water District and the City of Evans could join Greeley and Fort Collins in the project.

Enlargement of Standley Lake
Enlargement of Standley Lake in the South Platte basin would solidify municipal and industrial water supplies for the growing north Denver suburb of Northglenn. Expanding this reservoir in Adams County by as much as 18,000 acre-feet would provide about 6,000 acre-feet of water to the city. Under previous agreements, the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company would get 20 percent of the extra storage. Initial estimates said the enlargement could cost up to $50 million.

Gunnison River Basin

A/B Lateral
In the Gunninson basin, the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association has been working for years on the A/B Lateral, a hydropower project. The project would pipe the existing A/B Lateral, an open canal which currently helps provide irrigation water to the Uncompahgre Valley. Without compromising existing irrigation uses, the pipeline would funnel water through a new hydroelectric station to supply additional power for Delta and Montrose counties. The project could cost an estimated $65 million. Project sponsors are waiting for the final environmental impact statement from federal agencies.

Rehabilitation of Dams and Reservoirs
Rehabilitating dams and small reservoirs on the Grand Mesa in Delta County could create additional water storage for agricultural users in the area. The Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District, Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are partners in the plan, which would restore existing dams, rehabilitate old reservoirs, and potentially build new dams on the mesa.

Yampa/White/Green Basins

Enlargement of Elkhead Reservoir
Enlargement of Elkhead Reservoir near the town of Hayden could begin early this year and would add 11,750 acre-feet of storage to support cities and the environment in Moffat and Routt counties. About 5,000 acre-feet of storage would go to help endangered fish and environment, while the other 4,750 acre-feet could go to municipal, industrial and agricultural use, including the town of Craig. The remaining 2,000 acre-feet could go for either aquatic or human use.

Colorado River Basin

Wolcott Reservoir
The proposed Wolcott Reservoir, which could be as small as 50,000 acre-feet or as big as 150,000 acre-feet, would provide water for cities on both sides of the mountains and could also dedicate water for the environment and endangered species. A feasibility study released last summer by the project’s sponsors indicated that the project could be economically feasible.

As proposed, the reservoir would supply water for Denver Water, Eagle County water users and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Northern and Denver Water could use Wolcott water to help meet their obligations to aid endangered fish in the Colorado River Basin. The reservoir would deliver between 13,000 acre-feet and 34,000 acre-feet of water annually to its operators on the west and east slopes, according to the feasibility study, which pegged the construction cost at between $120 million and $197 million.

Colorado River Return Project

The Colorado River Return Project, also called the Big Straw Project, would take water from near the Colorado-Utah state line and pump it back to serve users on the Eastern Slope. The Colorado Water Conservation Board sponsored a study in 2003 which found that 250,000-750,000 acre-feet of water could be developed by the project. That water would also help meet water supply needs on the Western Slope. The study also raised significant concerns about high water costs per acre-foot, environmental impacts, and technical feasibility.

Rio Grande River Basin

Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project
The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project, a plan to repair river systems in the San Luis Valley, would help support the river’s historic functions, sponsors say. Among those functions are flood protection, irrigation diversion, riparian habitat and downstream water deliveries required under the Rio Grande Compact. Restoration efforts would include stabilizing the river bank, redirecting flows, planting willows and potentially relocating existing ditch and canal diversion structures. The plan could cost $20-$30 million.

Groundwater Recharge
With depleting groundwater supplies threatening irrigated agriculture in the Rio Grande basin, a handful of water providers are proposing the construction of groundwater recharge facilities. The recharge pits could store water that would seep back into the groundwater table.

Dolores/San Juan/San Miguel River Basins

Irrigation of New Acreage
The Dolores Water Conservancy District’s Water for Everyone Tomorrow Package (WETPACK) includes plans to provide irrigation water for about 2,500 acres of currently unirrigated land.

Structures to irrigate the first 440 acres should be completed in June 2005 and will cost about $497,000. Infrastructure to irrigate the remaining 2,100 acres could be done by June 2008 and could cost about $3.7 million. A $5.46 million Colorado Water Conservation Board loan helped fund the project.

Plateau Creek Reservoir
A new reservoir upstream of McPhee Reservoir called Plateau Creek could add 20,000 acre-feet of storage for southwestern Colorado. Some of this water would be dedicated to late-season releases to augment extremely low flows in the Dolores River, and to improve habitat for aquatic life. Plateau Creek Reservoir, a component of the Dolores Water Conservancy District’s Water for Everyone Tomorrow Package (WETPACK), would fill with flows that would otherwise cause the downstream McPhee Reservoir to spill. Sponsors already have a court decree for the needed water but are working out issues of funding and reservoir use.

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