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Bringing you the quality water information you crave, over Colorado's radio airwaves and online. Our regular programming will complement what you're reading in Headwaters magazine and in the news.

Climate and Water: The Shifting Hydrograph

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Researchers say climate change is already effecting Colorado farms and ranches-but not necessarily in the way people might expect. Because the state is so dry, farmers here rely on irrigation to raise their crops. But they, and climate researchers, are less concerned about there being enough water than when that water will be available. As Maeve Conran reports for our Connecting the Drops series, climate change means spring runoff is coming earlier, and that creates new challenges for farmers.  

 

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Pair Sound with Sight 

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Mark Guttridge farms organically in Longmont in East Boulder County on Ollin Farms. "In 2012 we were
in a drought year and it got hot really early just like it did this year in June.  By the end of August, by the
very end of August and early September there was hardly any water coming down there so we did lose
crops on that side that year, all our winter squash didn't have time to finish off so we lost a lot of winter
squash and pumpkins that year."
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 Ollin Farms uses drip irrigation on these late summer and fall crops of cucumbers, radishes, beets and
root crops. The farm irrigates with a mixture of municipal water and ditch water. 
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 Jeff Lukas, is the research integration specialist for Colorado and Wyoming with the Western Water
Assessment, an applied research program at CU Boulder, part of CIRES. In 2014, Lukas led the revision of
the WWA’s 2008 
Climate Change in Colorado report with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

"We have the most confidence that the annual cycle of snow melt and run off continue to shift earlier,"
Lukas says. "We’ve seen a trend toward earlier spring snow melt and run off over the past 30 years or so
and the projected warming which we have very high confidence in means that that run off will continue to
shift earlier and then the low stream flows that we naturally get in late summer will also expand their
season and so we’ll see even lower summer stream flows."

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Kim Hutton is a water resources engineer with the City of Boulder. About 70 percent of the water that the
city uses comes from surface waters falling as rain or snow in Middle Boulder Creek or North Boulder
Creek, the remaining water comes from the Colorado River, Western Slope Water, which is also surface
water, so 100 percent of the city's water supply comes from precipitation falling as rain or snow. Hutton
says that due to the city's storage capacity, they might be on the winning end of the equation with earlier
snow melt. 

"It actually may work to our benefit  in that the water supply is available and based on our water rights,
we're able to fill our reservoirs earlier in the season than we would be under today's conditions," Hutton
says.

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Taryn Finnessey, is the Climate Change Risk Management Specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“Colorado has always had a variable climate, and we will continue to always have a variable climate but we feel that the earlier shifts in the run off can be directly attributed to climate change," Finnessey says.

 

Take the Next Step: Read & Get Involved

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education wants to help you speak fluently and get involved with climate and Colorado's Water future. Check out the following: 

 

Water Conservation Statewide Call-In Show

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The 5th Connecting the Drops statewide call-in show focused on water conservation and aired live on Sunday June 5, 2016 with guests and hosts at KGNU and KDNK. Brent Gardner-Smith with Aspen Journalism was the host at KDNK in Carbondale with guest April Long, an engineer and the clean river program manager for the city of Aspen. Maeve Conran was the host at KGNU with guest Peter Mayer, a water conservation engineer who prepared water conservation plans for communities in the Roaring Fork Valley in 2014 including Carbondale, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs. He also co-authored a new study: "Residential End Uses of Water, Version 2." Hear about the connections between stormwater and water conservation, hot topics like rainwater capture, standards in water conservation and much more. 

 

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Read more: Water Conservation Statewide Call-In Show

Deep Cooperation on The People's Ditch

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Water rights can be a touchy topic for Colorado families whose livelihoods are tied to the resource's availability. But in the tight knight community of San Luis in southern Colorado, a group of farmers and ranchers uses old methods of cooperation to help ensure healthy livestock and a good harvest in the arid region.

 

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Read more: Deep Cooperation on The People's Ditch

Marijuana Grow Operations' Water Use Explored

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With the legalization of marijuana in various states and forms, conservation groups and others are asking how much legal grow operations affect water consumption. In Colorado, water managers and researchers are working together to answer that question.

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Read more: Marijuana Grow Operations' Water Use Explored

Endangered Fish Recovery on the Colorado River

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Some native fish in the Colorado River and its tributaries are struggling to stay afloat. Invasive species, dams and water diversions can complicate the recovery of endangered fish in those waterways. One long-standing program ties together federal and state agencies with regional groups to help these cold-blooded creatures make a comeback.

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Read more: Endangered Fish Recovery on the Colorado River

Winter Water for Dabbling Ducks

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Colorado's South Platte River basin is a powerhouse for crops and cattle. Massive reservoirs quench the region's thirst, with farm fields generally first in line. Wildlife? It's often last. But a small win-win is giving waterfowl a little more room at the watering hole. It's a program that creates warm winter ponds for migrating ducks—then gives the water back, in time for summer crops.

 Mallard Mother with Ducklings near  Ducks Unlimited HQ in Fort Collins

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Read more: Winter Water for Dabbling Ducks

From Crops to Houses

 

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An additional 2.5 million people are expected to move to Colorado by 2040, with the vast majority of them headed for the Front Range. As part of Connecting the Drops, Maeve Conran looks at the impact on Colorado, farmers and agricultural lands, as the state's landscape changes from crops to houses. 

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Read more: From Crops to Houses

Water Pricing

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As cities in Colorado are expanding to accomodate a growing population, so are the costs of providing services and utilities. As part of Connecting the Drops, Maeve Conran takes a look at how some communities are reevaluating how they charge for services like water and what that might mean for encouraging smarter growth. 

 Amelia Nuding

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Read more: Water Pricing

DIY Water Conservation Call-In Show

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The 4th statewide call-in show aired live on Sunday June 14, 2015 on KGNU, KRCC and KDNK. This episode focuses on what individuals can do to conserve water. Guests are Tyler Kesler, water programs manager with the Center for ReSource Conservation in Boulder; Jerome Osentowski from the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt; civil engineer Louis Meyer; and Mona Newton, executive director of the Community Office of Resource Efficiency. 

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Connecting the Drops Partners

Connecting the Drops is a radio collaboration between the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and Colorado Community Radio Stations KGNU, KDNK and KRCC.

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 Support for 2016 programming comes from CoBank