Community Infrastructure / Water Resources

NWCCOG CEDS - Page III D25 D5. Water Resources The Colorado River, known as “America’s Nile”, springs from its headwaters high in the NWCCOG region and flows through seven states, supporting millions of acres of irrigated agriculture and otherwise -arid communities from Colorado to northern Mexico, finally flowing into the Gulf of California. All the rivers on Colorado’s West Slope, including the Blue, Eagle, Fraser and Roaring Fork Rivers tie into this system, making it th e greatest source of water available to the entire state, and most tapped by the more populous East Slope. The longest major water delivery tunnel in the world – Roberts Tunnel at 23.3 miles - originates in the NWCCOG region and is owned by the Denver Wate r Board, which diverts approximately 63,000 acre/feet (the equivalent of 20,528,613,000 gallons) of water per year. ALL of Colorado’s major Transmountain Diversion Projects originate in this Colorado River basin area, and support downstream recipients’ i rrigation, power, recreational and municipal uses, while the headwater areas suffer environmental and economic impacts associated with these diversions. Environmental impacts in the headwater area include, but are not limited to, loss of assimilative capa city due to wastewater treatment plants and acid mine drainage, water quality degradation, loss of wetlands values and functions. Impacts to the receiving basin include channel issues of scouring, flooding and loss of habitat. Economic impacts throughout the basin are increases in treatment costs, carriage and other costs to agricultural system users, losses of return flows and losses in recreational income, particularly to the West Slope’s recreation -based economy and, lastly, the deterioration of crucial water delivery infrastructure. Water infrastructure improvement needs in Summit County, alone, total $91 million, plus. (From the 208 Regional Water Quality Management Plan) This NWCCOG 208 Plan is adopted pursuant to Section 208 of the Federal Clean Water Act as implemented through Colorado Water Quality Control Act. The Colorado General Assembly adopted the Colorado Water Quality Control Act "[t]o protect, maintain, and improve where necessary and reasonable, water quality for public water supp lies, for protection and propagation of wildlife and aquatic life, for domestic, agricultural, industrial, and recreational uses" (CRS 25 -8-102). The purpose of Section 208 of the Federal Clean Water Act is to require plans for coordinated regional approac hes to water quality management. This Regional Water Quality Management Plan, or 208 Plan, is a comprehensive revision of the NWCCOG 208 Plan that was last approved in 1998 by Governor Romer. In Colorado, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission (WQC C) is responsible for regulating water quality through the establishment of water quality classifications, designations, standards, and control regulations to protect the beneficial uses of the streams and lakes in the state. To maximize efficient use of resources, Section 208 of the Act established an area -wide approach to planning for the abatement of pollution. Section 208 provided criteria to design local plans, based on an integrated and comprehensive planning process. The state of Colorado has continu ed to use regional planning agencies as defined in the Act. The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) was designated the area- wide waste treatment management planning authority, under Section 208, in February 1976 by the governor of Colorado. NWCCOG develops and maintains the Area -wide Water Quality Management Plan (208 Plan) NWCCOG CEDS - Page III D26 as a means of preserving and enhancing state water quality standards and classifications for both surface and groundwater. The Northwest Colorado Council of Gov ernments' planning region includes Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin and Summit Counties. These counties include portions of two river basins: the Colorado River Basin and the North Platte River Basin. The state is divided into seven geographic divisions for t he administration and distribution of water in Colorado, under the Office of the State Engineer and the Division of Water Resources. These divisions do not neatly correspond to the planning regions with respect to the Water Quality Management Plans. The Colorado River Basin - The Colorado River basin extends from Loveland and Berthod Passes on the east to the state line on the west, an east- west length of approximately 200 miles. The north -south boundaries are generally between 50 to 100 miles wide. The m ajor tributaries include the Fraser, the Williams Fork, the Blue, the Eagle, and the Roaring Fork rivers. The basin, including the Gunnison basin, which is not part of this plan, encompasses 13,132 square miles (8,404,480 acres). Agriculture is still the dominant water user, with diversions of 2,415,950 acre -feet per year for the irrigation of 359,800 acres. Industrial diversions total approximately 2,392,400 acre -feet. The greatest expansion in industrial use during recent years has been for snow making at ski areas and there has been increasing pressure for instream flows for other recreational uses such as fishing and rafting. The 2000 ten -year average of trans -basin water diversions total 479,194 acre -feet per year from the Colorado River basin to Front Range cities and agriculture [Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 5 2000 Annual Report]. Currently the Colorado - Big Thompson and the Windy Gap projects supply approximately 200,000 to 250,000 acre -feet of water (Denver Water Department records show these projects supply 218,632 acre -feet) for agriculture and municipalities on the Front Range. The Roberts and Moffat tunnels supply approximately 110,000 to 150,000 acre -feet of water per year to the Denver metropolitan area (the 2001 ten -year average is 109,774, according to Denver Water records). The Boustead, Twin Lakes, Busk -Ivanhoe and Homestake tunnels and diversions supply approximately 75,000 to 122,000 acre -feet of western slope water to Colorado Springs, Aurora, and agriculture in the Arkansas River basin. Other Continental Divide diversion such as the Columbine, Ewing and Wurtz ditches increase the diversion of water to the Arkansas River to a ten -year average of 139,472 acre -feet. Most of the annual stream flow in the perennial str eams results from snowmelt during the months of May, June and July, when the high elevation deep snow pack melts. Stream flow characteristics have changed significantly from natural conditions due to reservoir storage. Stream flow is highly variable, both within any given year and between individual years. Low flows on perennial streams are sustained by flows from groundwater, gradual melting of perpetual snow fields and reservoir releases. Surface water storage (including the Gunnison basin) exceeds 2.3 m illion acre -feet, with most of this storage in a few large reservoirs. This storage capacity is approximately 60 percent of the average annual stream flow in the basin. The storage capacity in Colorado basin portion of NWCCOG's region is 1,208,080 acre -fee t. The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments is responsible for producing the Water Quality Management Plan for the upper portion of the Colorado River basin. Essentially, the planning area includes all the major tributaries previously mentioned, but excludes the area downstream of Eagle NWCCOG CEDS - Page III D27 County (this includes the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado River at Glenwood Springs). The drainage area for this basin, the Upper Colorado River basin, is approximately 6,010 square miles (3,846,400 acres). The North Platte River Basin - The headwaters of the North Platte River basin are located in Jackson County . Ranching, mining, and logging are the predominant economic activities in the County. The population of Jackson County in 1990 was 1,597 persons and 1,577 in 2000. A significant aspect of the North Platte River in Colorado is the Nebraska versus Wyoming Decrees (325 US 589 (1945), and 345 US 981 (1953)) which limits the State of Colorado from diverting more water than that needed to irrigate 145,000 acres of land in Jackson County, prohibits storing more than 17,000 acre feet of water in any year for irrigation purposes, and prohibits the export of more than 60,000 acre feet of water out of basin in any ten year period. Regional Water Quality Assessment Summary - Most of the streams in Region XII are very high quality, supporting all desired uses (although not in every stream reach). This general assessment is supported by the “Reconnaissan ce Evaluation of Surface Water Quality in Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin, Routt and Summit Counties” prepared in 1979 by the USGS for NWCCOG and by the assessment of water quality of each watershed in Chapter 8 of this Volume. Additional water quality data and analyses over the past twenty years continues to show that, in general, waters of the region are of better quality than required by State standards. The emphasis of water quality planning in Region XII is largely directed toward preserving this existing high quality. There are some areas, however, where improvement of water quality is necessary and reasonable to restore beneficial uses, particularly with regard to acid rock drainage fr
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