Protect and Restore Streams, Rivers, Lakes and Riparian Areas
Biologically healthy rivers form the basis of a thriving Colorado Basin. Whether in support of tourism and recreation, agriculture, safe drinking water or meeting the River’s Compact requirements healthy rivers with adequate flows are critical. This is not only reflected in stream flows but also in how those stream flows are managed. One of the identified projects discussed in more detail below is the development of a Basinwide Stream Management Plan.
“Here is a land where life is written in water…” — Thomas Hornsby Ferril
It might have been more accurate to say, here is a land where life is written by its rivers. They are the source of the water that Ferril so eloquently wrote about. In Ferrils time rivers were valued only as that, a source of water to be diverted and removed for agriculture, industry and cities. Little thought was paid to the rivers themselves.
But times change and knowledge grows. The rivers of Colorado are still the well spring for most of our growing and valuable agricultural and domestic needs here in the Colorado River basin, but we now have a better understanding and appreciation of the intrinsic value and water needs of rivers. The rivers of Colorado really are the life blood of the land.
When Governor Hickenlooper called for the creation of the Colorado Water Plan he stated that the plan must reflect the State’s “water values”. The last, but not least of these is “a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife.” Several of the projects that the Colorado Basin Roundtable has engaged or funded work toward supporting this value.
Recently the Colorado Basin Roundtable has supported projects in the Colorado River headwaters of Grand County that benefit both the river environment and the delivery of water for local ranches near Kremmling. This project addresses erosion issues, low flows and loss of habitat while providing the water surface elevation needed for pumps to work effectively in irrigating adjacent hay fields.
Nonconsumptive Needs Assessment
In 2005, Colorado’s legislature established the Water for the 21st Century Act. This act established an Interbasin Compact Process that provides a permanent forum for broad-based water discussions in the state. It creates two new structures: 1) the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), and 2) the nine Basin Roundtables.
As part of the IBCC, the Basin Roundtables are required to complete basinwide needs assessments. The needs assessments are to include:
The Colorado Basin Roundtable members believe that every stream in the Colorado River Basin provides inherent attributes that we support. We believe these attributes encompass vital socio‐economic and ecosystem services that bolster our economy and provide for the quality of life in the Colorado Basin. The Roundtable suggests “robust stream health” which provides a useful measure for determining the hydrologic and biotic integrity of our streams. Stream reaches with localized non‐consumptive recreational and other economic and social values may have flow needs in addition to stream health.
Ecosystem services are often difficult to quantify and value. They include flood protection, movement and cycling of nutrients, water purification, dilution, detoxification, and decomposition of wastes, riparian and aquatic habitat, maintenance of biodiversity and a diverse array of recreational uses. The Colorado Basin Roundtable members believe these functions should be sustained to the maximum extent possible.
There are questions on some streams regarding whether these ecosystem services are sustained now given other competing uses, or whether they will ever be able to be sustained in the future. This is part of the balancing of nonconsumptive and consumptive needs in Colorado. We value both of these needs and believe that nonconsumptive needs are as important as other traditional uses of the water in our streams such as agriculture and municipal uses. The future of Colorado’s high quality of life and vital economic diversity depends upon finding a sustainable balance of flows for both the consumptive and non‐consumptive needs of our communities and our streams.
Given, these basic assumptions the Roundtable has developed the following components of our approach to a nonconsumptive needs assessment:
Read more about the Roundtable’s nonconsumptive needs assessment including focus mapping.