Will Denver and the Front Range Drain the Colorado River and the West Slope?

For Immediate Release
April 16, 2014
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado River Campaign

Will Denver and Front Range Water Providers Drain the Colorado River and the West Slope?
Denver Water CEO Lochhead says large new Colorado River project must be “fundamental part” of State Water Plan

Denver, CO:  An April 3rd, 2014 letter written by Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water, and representing the “Front Range Water Council,” has sent shockwaves through the Colorado Water Plan process (the letter is posted here).  After a year of discussion, meetings, state legislation, and negotiations to try and find common ground for how the entire state of Colorado should move forward with water planning, the Lochhead letter states:

“…the planning process should begin with the assurance, and not simply a hope, that a new supply project [from the Colorado River] will, in fact, be a fundamental part of the ‘filling the gap’ package.” (page 2)

The letter comes on the heels of two efforts to derail this exact kind of massive water-diversion project and controversy in the Colorado Water Plan process.  First, on March 28th two Western Colorado State Senators, Gail Schwartz and Ellen Roberts, pushed through Senate Bill 115 to get more public participation in the Colorado Water Plan process so that all Coloradans could have a bigger voice in the decision-making to protect the economy and the state’s rivers.  Second on April 10th, due to the threat of this type of massive project, the national river conservation organization, American Rivers, identified the Upper Colorado River as one of its “Most Endangered Rivers in America” and asked Governor Hickenlooper to intervene and make sure this kind of project is not included in the Colorado Water Plan.

The April 3rd letter from Lochhead, which was written on stationary of the “Front Range Water Council” – thus representing the majority of water agencies from Pueblo to Denver to Fort Collins – brings out the worst fears of the Colorado Water Plan process, that it will devolve into a massive water fight attempting to drain and destroy the Colorado River to slake the never-ending growth of cities along Colorado’s Front Range.

“This proposal for a large new Colorado River ‘Trans-Mountain Diversion’ would further drain the river and the West Slope economy,” said Gary Wockner, coordinator of the Save The Colorado River Campaign.  “The future of water development along the Front Range should be in smart 21st Century solutions like conservation, recycling, and water-sharing with farmers, not in multi-billion-dollar river-draining boondoggles.”

Lochhead’s letter also flies in the face of recent climate change science and ongoing negotiations throughout the Southwest U.S. on how to address dwindling water supplies and growing populations.  The levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead – downstream along the Colorado River – are at their lowest point in history as federal water managers scramble to create a “contingency plan” for diminishing river flows.  In fact and ironically, at the very same time that Lochhead wrote the letter, the State of Colorado government has started discussions about a contingency plan to divert even less – not more – water out of the Colorado River so that water can run downstream to Lakes Powell and Mead to protect Colorado’s future allotment (that “contingency plan” memo is here and has generated significant concern in news stories here and here in Colorado).

“This letter flies in the face of science and economics,” said Wockner.  “At the exact moment in history when we need to focus on cost-effective and sustainable water supply solutions, this attempt to derail the Colorado Water Plan with a last-ditch and exorbitantly expensive water grab further threatens the Colorado River’s health and ratepayers’ trust.”

One of the massive proposed projects that has been considered is the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, which could cost up to $9 billion, pipe water 500 miles across Wyoming and Colorado, and remove up to 240,000 acre feet of water out of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Signaling that this type of project should be discussed in the Colorado Water Plan, Lochhead’s letter states, “We also agree that some of the concepts discussed during the Flaming Gorge Task Force effort may be valuable in fashioning a workable solution.” (page 1)

The negotiations for the Colorado Water Plan are ongoing.  Each basin is supposed to have a draft available in July, with a first draft of the statewide plan expected in November of 2014.


Feinstein’s California Drought Bill Eyes Colorado River and Lake Mead

For Immediate Release
April 14, 2014
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado River Campaign

Feinstein “California Emergency Drought Relief Act” Eyes Colorado River
Bill proposes to increase storage in Lake Mead

Denver, CO:  With the drought intensifying in California, and with a prolonged 15-year drought in the Colorado River basin, a new version of a U.S. Senate bill proposes to rearrange water storage in the Colorado River.  The bill, titled the “California Emergency Drought Relief Act,” originally was solely focused on drought problems in California, but at the beginning of April, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) reintroduced the bill with a new “Section 111: Colorado River Basin System Water” that would “…increase Colorado River system water in Lake Mead and the initial units of the Colorado River Storage Project reservoirs…”. (See news story here.)

The new version of the bill aims to get the support of Senate President Harry Reid (D-NV) and a few Senate Republicans to ensure a filibuster-proof passage.  In an April 10th news story Feinstein is quoted as saying, “We are very close to 60 [votes], but we’re not there yet.”  Las Vegas is almost solely reliant on the Colorado River for water.  Over the past decade the level of Lake Mead has continued to drop and has threatened Las Vegas’ water supplies as well as those in other parts of the Lower Colorado River Basin.

“As this bill moves forward, it is extremely important to consider the impacts on the health of the rivers in California and the Colorado River basin,” said Gary Wockner who coordinates the Save The Colorado River Campaign.  “Moving water downstream along the Colorado River and storing it in Lake Mead could have environmental and economic benefits for all the people of the Southwest U.S. while helping to ensure water supplies for Las Vegas, Arizona, and drought-stricken Southern California.”

Wockner continued, “We will continue to monitor the progress of this bill and we encourage other stakeholders to engage in a robust public debate about how to protect our economy and environment from drought.  As the effects of climate change continue to be felt across California and the Southwest U.S., all users of Colorado River water will need to adapt to what Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell as called a ‘new normal’ of water management in the basin.”

The bill proposes to increase storage in Lake Mead and other CRSP reservoirs through “pilot projects” funded by grants from the Secretary of Interior to “public entities….for municipal purposes,” and for “renewing and implementing water conservation agreements.”  The exact details how these grants would help deliver and store water in Lake Mead and other reservoirs are not specified in the bill.

The initial version of the bill received lukewarm support from California environmental groups, 11 of which signed a letter saying they supported the bill but proposed amendments.  The new version of the bill has not yet been similarly vetted and will likely intensify the discussion about how to manage less water and more demand in the Colorado River basin.  The Save The Colorado River Campaign and other environmental groups have consistently argued that water conservation is the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to get more water to cities while protecting rivers.


Water for the Delta, Water for Beer!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Water is flowing in the Colorado River Delta!  It’s good and real and alive!  Last week, I had the great pleasure of witnessing the return of the Colorado River to its Delta in Mexico.  I greatly appreciated the work of all of the groups who provided support, ducky-smallincluding Lighthawk and the Sonoran Institute.  My visit included an afternoon “Chasing Water” — following the pulse flow through the sand in the ancient riverbed — as well as a flight over the Delta, and a tour of the Laguna Grande restoration site.

It was almost a surreal experience walking along beside the river as it inched its way downstream in the sand.  What struck me most was how cool the water was — although it was 90 degrees outside and the sand was baked by the sun to well over 100 degrees, the water was cool as it surrounded my toes, ankles, and knees as it rose higher and higher.  I had left Denver International Airport the day before and saw the huge frozen snowpack along the Continental Divide — the river retained some of that cool temperature down through its 1,400-mile journey. Lots and lots of photos and news stories are posted on Save The Colorado’s facebook page here. mcbride-delta One of my favorite photos was shot by Pete McBride who, along with friends, was the first in history to Stand Up Paddleboard the pulse flow as it moved downstream.

As of this writing today, the river is still slowly moving downstream toward the sea.  Scientists in the Delta are now very busy analyzing the impact of the flow on the Delta ecosystem.  This initial flow of water, called the “pulse,” is meant to stimulate the ecosystem and begin the long process of restoring health to the dried-up river and surrounding habitat.  After the pulse ends in late May, which was an effort funded by the bi-national agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, a new effort to fund and create a “base flow” will move forward.  This effort needs to raise money to buy the water and “Raise The River” and is being led by Robert Redford and his Redford Center in collaboration with several environmental groups.  You can learn more about Raise The River by visiting its website here.

What else is new?  We offer a huge THANK YOU to Kim Jordan and her team at New Belgium Brewing (makers of Fat Tire Beer) for taking a stand in support of the Clean Water Act.  The Obama Administration is working to update the rules for how water is protected in the U.S., and the Environmental Protection Agency has created draft rules that are now out for public review.  New Belgium Brewing and the American Sustainable Business Council (representing 200,000 businesses in the U.S.) created the print advertisement below in support of Obama’s strong stance to protect clean water in the U.S.  Clean water is good for business, good for the environment, and good for beer!jordan-cleanwater-small

Finally, we offer a big THANK YOU to our new friends and fans in Los Angeles!  Our petition to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is almost at 5,000 signatures.  The extreme drought in California continues as snowpack is at a mere

brown-la30% of average in California’s mountains.  We continue to fight for smarter policies to protect rivers and meet water supply needs, including a much stronger focus on water conservation throughout the Colorado River basin.  The City of Los Angeles has a big opportunity to change their policies to focus more on conservation and water recycling.  This drought is a big wake-up call as well as an opportunity to chart a more resilient path forward.  If you haven’t yet signed the petition, please click through here to sign up.

Thank you for your support and stay tuned for more updates!

Gary Wockner, Coordinator, Save The Colorado River Campaign

Colorado River Restoration Begins!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River,

Last Sunday, history was made in the Colorado River Delta as the gates of Morelos Dam were opened to allow a “pulse flow” to once again run down the river.  It had been more morelos-dam1than ten years since water was released from the dam just south of the border in Mexico.  Due to an unprecedented international agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, this water will flow for another 8 weeks with high flows this upcoming weekend.  Media from around the U.S. have written stories about the historic agreement and water release. Here’s a nice article from National Geographic describing the agreement between the U.S. and Mexico and the goals of the release.  After the pulse flow runs its course, another effort to create a “base flow” of ongoing water is being moved forward by a coalition of groups called “Raise The River.”  The effort is led by Robert Redford and the Redford Center who highlighted the issue in their 2012 film, Watershed.  You can learn more about Raise The River here.

Over the next few weeks, scientists will be studying the release of water, watching where it goes, and seeing if it reaches all the way to the Gulf of California.  Whether it reaches polis-thank-youthe sea or not, the historic release of water will provide extraordinary benefits to the parched ecosystem in the Colorado River Delta by rejuvenating wetlands, bird habitat, and breathing life into the plants and trees along its route.  Stay tuned for more information about the pulse flow in the Delta.  If you keep an eye on our facebook page (click here), we post stories and photos several times a day.  Or you can follow us on twitter to see the updates.

Unrelated to the Colorado River Delta agreement, on Sunday Save The Colorado was also proud to sponsor this full-page ad in the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, Colorado.  The ad “thanks” U.S. Congressman Jared Polis for his efforts to derail the “Water Rights Protection Act” that is moving through the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Polis stood up strong against this bill that could be used to gut the federal government’s ability to protect and restore rivers on behalf of the American people.  We discussed this bill in a previous press release here and it has gotten a lot of media coverage (see Denver Post story here).  While the bill passed the U.S. House, we are hoping that it is completely derailed in the U.S. Senate where, in our opinion, stronger river protectors hold office.

Our petition to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is motoring along, now with over 3,500 signatures!  Click here to sign if you haven’t already!  We believe Los palm-springs-symposiumAngeles can and should do a lot more to conserve water in this drought.  The intense drought in California and the Southwest U.S. is still moving forward.  On this issue, Save The Colorado’s Gary Wockner spoke on a panel in Palm Springs last weekend along with several California water specialists, including a keynote address from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.  The Colorado River is the main source of water for Palm Springs and the surrounding valley, as well as much of Southern California.  While the area has weathered this drought by using Colorado River water, the ongoing drought along the entire Colorado River ecosystem will likely affect Southern California in the future.  Here’s a good TV news story about the Palm Springs event featuring Wockner and the Colorado River’s role in the Palm Springs area.

Thank you for your support!  Stay tuned for more updates!

Robert Redford -vs- Will Farrell: Raise The River? Or Move The Ocean?

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

There’s a lot going on — hang on!  First, our friends at Raise The River released this really cool video ad featuring Robert Redford and Will Farrell.  In the ad, the two stars farrellbattle it out in ludicrous comedy video exchanges about whether it makes more sense to Raise the River (i.e., add water to the Colorado River Delta) or Move The Ocean.  Take a look here, and you decide who wins!  This is all in the context of the super news coming out on March 22nd — which is World Water Day, too! — that the gates of Morelos Dam are opening to let a “pulse flow” of water return to the Colorado River Delta.  Numerous news reports have already covered this upcoming event including this one in the Las Vegas Review Journal.   It’s going to be an exciting few weeks and there will be numerous reports — news, blog, and social media — so stay tuned for all of the action.  In the meantime, enjoy this short video from Redford and Farrell!

Help us give a big “Thank You!” to Congressman Jared Polis.  Last week Colorado Congressman Jared Polis removed his support for a very controversial bill, the “Water polis123Rights Protection Act.”  This bill would take away the federal government’s ability to better protect rivers across America — including the Colorado River — on behalf of the people of the United States.  Although the bill initially proposed to make a small change in federal law, the bill got taken over by strident anti-environmental forces who turned it into an anti-government diatribe session when it was discussed on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last week.  Congressman Polis stood strong in support of America’s rivers!  He tried to amend the bill, but when his amendment failed, he pulled his support.  Unfortunately the bill passed the House, but we are hoping it dies in the U.S. Senate.  Click here and “like” this facebook post to “Thank” Congressman Polis for speaking out to protect OUR rivers!

Last weekend, Save The Colorado was delighted to attend the “Rocky Mountain River Celebration” in Boulder, Colorado commemorating the “International Day of Action for gross-damRivers.”  Over a hundred river-loving friends jammed into Upslope Brewery to watch videos, listen to speakers, and raise money for river conservation efforts.  The event was sponsored by “The Environmental Group” in Boulder county which is working to address the threat of the “Moffat Project,” a proposal to massively enlarge Gross Dam in Southwest Boulder county and divert even more water out of the Colorado River.  Take a look at this huge dam already — and Denver Water wants to make it 125 feet higher, all the while further draining and destroying the Colorado River.  Below is a photo of all of the attendees:  ”Rivers Unite Us!”

Here’s a few more issues to a look at:

  1. Our petition to the Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power is still going strong!  Please click through and sign to encourage L.A. to conserve water in this drought.
  2. Here’s a great short video about a dam removal project on the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, Colorado.  A huge thanks to the City of Fort Collins and the Colorado Water Trust for this river-restoring project.
  3. DamNation is alive!  The world premier of this film was at SXSW last week in Austin.  More showings are coming to a city near you — check out the trailer!

Thank You For Your Support!  Stay Tuned For More Updates!

Press Release: Congressman Polis Acts to Save Rivers!

March 12, 2014

Contact: Matt Rice, American Rivers
Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado

Washington – Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) took a bold step today to protect rivers in Colorado and across the nation by removing his support for H.R. 3189, the so-called “Water Rights Protection Act.” The House of Representatives will vote on the bill on Thursday.

Jared_Polis_Official_2012The bill, which is being pushed by the National Ski Areas Association, Aspen’s SkiCo, as well as the Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, would have sweeping impacts on rivers in the West and nationwide — preventing federal agencies from doing their job to safeguard rivers, fish and wildlife.

“We applaud Congressman Polis for having the courage to stand up and do what is right,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. “Jared Polis is a true champion for healthy rivers, and for everybody who fishes, boats, and enjoys the outdoors. His leadership sets a great example and we hope his colleagues in the House follow him in opposing this harmful bill.”

“Rep. Polis’ district is in the headwaters of the Colorado River, and his action today removing his support from this bill will help protect this great river,” said Gary Wockner of the Save The Colorado River Campaign.  “The rivers of Colorado and the Southwest U.S. are already under extreme threat and stress.  Rep. Polis is taking the right position in opposing this bill that would further imperil our rivers.”

H.R. 3189 essentially allows private water users dry up rivers with impunity and would impact a wide variety of river restoration efforts nationwide. The bill could stop the Fish and Wildlife Service from requiring flows that help salmon find fish ladders so that they can safely pass over dams. It could prohibit the Forest Service from requiring water diverters to leave some water in streams on National Forests to keep native cutthroat trout alive. It would potentially destroy broadly supported multi-year and multi-million dollar settlement agreements — such as the ones on the Klamath and San Joaquin rivers — to restore salmon and steelhead fisheries at hydropower facilities, and would even set back efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

More than 80 local, state and national environmental, recreation, and sportsmen’s groups have written letters in opposition to H.R. 3189 and tens of thousands of individual Americans have taken action, urging their Members of Congress to oppose the bill.

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.

Great News! Water Returns To The Colorado River Delta!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Great News!  On March 23rd, the gates of the Morelos Dam will open as the U.S. and Mexico restore a small streamflow to the Colorado River Delta.  Jennifer Pitt, representing the Environmental Defense Fund, has been a key stakeholder in this historic agreement.  We turn our weekly blog over to Jennifer for her editorial.  Enjoy!


Since 1960, the Colorado river has not flowed regularly to the sea. While pockets of green remain, the Colorado delta is a parched and begging for relief. The dry, sandy channel j-pittglares in the bright sun, abandoned by the river that has been overtapped and overworked for too long.

It’s hard not to think of the lost potential of an ecosystem that once thrived. After an adventure there in 1922, American author, scientist and environmentalist Aldo Leopold wrote:

“On the map, the delta was bisected by the river, but in fact the river was nowhere and everywhere, for he could not decide which of a hundred green lagoons offered the most pleasant and least speedy path to the Gulf [of California].”

The Colorado’s delta was once a landscape of plenty, the basis of rural economic activity and local employment. Tourism, recreational hunting, sport and commercial fishing — all have been lost to overuse and over-exhaustion of a limited resource.  For decades, it seemed nothing could be done. I spent much of the past 15 years shining a spotlight on the sorry state of the Colorado River delta for audiences across the country. And while it’s true that those conversations would quickly turn to the byzantine complexities of water law and the difficulties of caring for shared cross-border resources, it is also true that most people are truly unsettled by the reality that the Colorado stops short of its natural destination.

Today, U.S. and Mexican policymakers, water agencies and conservation organizations are taking a major step to right the wrong that has been done to the Colorado river delta. For the first time in history, the United States and Mexico will send a modest volume of water into the Colorado River delta in the form of a temporary “pulse flow,” which will morelosmimic the natural spring floods that once nourished the delta. Never before have we deliberately sent water below Morelos Dam — the last dam on the river just south of the U.S.-Mexico border — to benefit the environment.

Beginning this month, water from the Colorado river will literally pulse through the border as a sign to the rest of the world of what people can accomplish through cooperation between nations. It feels like a triumph of human optimism over acquiescence.

Some may grumble that this is not the time to send water to the environment, but that objection ignores the broader context of the recent binational agreement and the many benefits it brings to both countries. In addition to breathing life back into the delta, this new framework more broadly allows the United States and Mexico to share surpluses in times of plenty and reductions in times of drought, provides incentives for leaving water in storage, and conserves water through joint investments in projects from water users in both countries. These benefits extend to water users throughout the Colorado river basin — in all seven U.S. states feeding into the basin, and the two in Mexico.

By abandoning the old framework of “who gets what” and establishing cooperative management of our shared resource, the United States and Mexico are achieving benefits for communities and nature alike. With this kind of cooperation, I have renewed hope that in the not-so-distant future we will see delta ecosystems and economies thrive once again.

Take Action: Tell Los Angeles to Conserve Water!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Click Here To Help Us Take Action in California!  Did you know that the City of Los Angeles gets about half of its water from the Colorado River?  During this extreme drought in California, we have teamed up with a local conservation group in LA, the Los Angeles Waterkeeper, to waterkeeper-stc-petition-400promote water conservation.  The government agency that controls the City’s water is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) which has an unprecedented opportunity to increase its water conservation efforts, focus on alternative water supply projects, and educate the public about its impacts on the river systems of the West.  We need your help to do that!

We have launched a petition on Change.org to tell the LADWP to increase its focus on water conservation.  Please click here to sign and share the petition.  Not only is California in an extreme drought, but all of the Colorado River basin is in a drought and all of us — from Denver to LA — need to do everything we can to conserve water and protect the Colorado River ecosystem.  Help us out by clicking here.  Thank you!!

Colorado needs to conserve water too!  Not only are we working at the bottom of the Colorado River basin in Los Angeles, we are also working hard to protect the river at the top of the basin in Denver.  Last week, Save john-hickenlooperThe Colorado led a group of 18 Colorado conservation groups to give input to Colorado’s Governor, John Hickenlooper, asking him to focus on river conservation in the “Colorado Water Plan.”  This “Plan” is being formulated over the next year and will guide the State of Colorado’s efforts for the next few decades.  The 18 groups believe Colorado should stop supporting new dam/reservoir/diversion projects and instead focus on alternatives including conservation, recycling, and sharing water with farmers.  We put out this press release here, and turned our letter to the Governor into a video presentation here.  Take a look!  We are working hard all over the Southwest U.S., pressuring Governors and policymakers, and helping to educate the public about protecting and restoring the Colorado River.

Can you say “DAMNATION?”  It’s here!  After a couple years of filmmaking and editing, we are super excited to see this new film being released next month.  Damnation damnationchronicles America’s history of dam building, and then also our more recent history of dam removal.  The film is powerful, hopeful, and timely.  The world premier will be at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX on March 10th.  Our most excellent friends at Patagonia are main sponsors of the film and will be helping to promote it at the festival.

After March 10th, Damnation will be screening throughout the U.S. and Save The Colorado will be assisting that promotion in some locations.  Take a look at the trailer, here!  Stay tuned for more information about screenings in your local area.  Let’s all get behind this film and its message of letting the rivers of America run free!  The Colorado River is one of the most dammed and plumbed rivers on the planet — but there’s hope!  This film helps keep that hope alive!

Thank you for your support!


Tell the LA Dept of Water and Power: Conserve Water during the Drought!

For Immediate Release
February 25, 2014
Contact: Liz Crosson, Los Angeles Waterkeeper
Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado River Campaign

Water Conservation Groups Launch Petition Targeting Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Los Angeles – As the drought intensifies in California and the Southwest U.S., a new era begins for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) with its new General Manager, Marcie Edwards.  To help push forward an increased focus on water conservation in Los Angeles, Western American water conservation groups – Los Angeles Waterkeeper and the Save The Colorado River Campaign – joined forces today with Change.org to launch a petition targeting LADWP.

The Change.org petition is posted here.

“This historical drought brings an opportunity for Los Angeles to increase our focus on water conservation, new water supply programs, and river protection,” said Liz Crosson, Executive Director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper which advocates for water conservation and protection throughout LA County.  “We look forward to working with Manager Edwards to help lead Angelinos forward in this critical time.”

The petition calls on the LADWP to:

  • Increase its focus on water conservation.
  • Launch new programs around wastewater and stormwater recycling, including collaborating with Public Works, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the Planning Department to integrate water management in LA.
  • Better educate the community about negative impacts on river systems, including the San Joaquin River of northern California and the Colorado River, both sources of LA’s water.

The petition comes forward as community and environmental leaders in Los Angeles are encouraging LADWP to expedite its Stormwater Capture Master Plan, and work with water quality and water supply agencies to incentivize capturing stormwater to augment local groundwater supply.

“Los Angeles has a huge opportunity to become a national leader in the efficient use of water by recycling wastewater and stormwater, most of which right now just washes out
to the ocean polluting our beaches and coasts,” continued Crosson. “This drought further affirms that it is Southern California’s responsibility to make a good faith effort to address the long term climate change impacts now and join the rest of the state in taking immediate and impactful action.”

California’s drought has hit water supplies in the northern part of the state the hardest, while Southern California appears to have enough water to stave off this drought, at least for one year.  Southern California’s ample water supplies are in part due to its reliance on the Colorado River whose water is served to Los Angeles by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD).  Although MWD has stated that Southern California will get its full allotment of Colorado River water this year, the Colorado River ecosystem is also suffering through a 1 in 1000-year drought, which has lowered the levels in Lakes Mead and Powell to their lowest point in history.  In 2013, the Colorado River was named the “Most Endangered River in America” and the U.S. Department of Interior has launched a major study to find ways to address the increasing threats to the river from climate change and future population growth.

“Drought and climate change have brought a ‘new normal’ to the Southwestern U.S. and the Colorado River,” said Gary Wockner, Coordinator for the Save The Colorado River Campaign, which is based in Denver and works throughout the Southwest U.S. to protect the river.  “We encourage LADWP to also create a ‘new normal’ in educational programs about all of our combined impact on the increasingly endangered Colorado River ecosystem.”

# # #

Founded in 1993, Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay, and adjacent waters through enforcement, fieldwork, and community action. It works to achieve this goal through litigation and regulatory programs that ensure water quality protections in waterways throughout L.A. County. Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s Litigation & Advocacy, Marine, and Water Quality teams conduct interconnected projects that serve this mission.

The Save The Colorado River Campaign works to protect and restore the Colorado River from its headwaters in Colorado and Wyoming to the Gulf of California.  Save The Colorado donates funds to non-profit environmental groups across the Colorado River basin that are working to protect the river.  Save The Colorado also runs campaigns focusing on water conservation, stopping bad water projects, and river restoration throughout the Southwest U.S. including areas that receive Colorado River water in Southern California.

Press Release: Eighteen Groups Give Hickenlooper Input on State Water Plan

For Immediate Release
February 11, 2014
Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado River Campaign
McCrystie Adams, Earthjustice
Chris Garre, The Environmental Group of Colorado

Eighteen Conservation Groups Give Gov. Hickenlooper Input on State Water Plan

1. Focus on Healthy Alternatives, 2. No New Diversions from Colorado’s Rivers, 3. Prioritize River Restoration

Denver, CO — Today, eighteen Colorado conservation and citizen groups sent a letter to Governor John Hickenlooper with recommendations for the Colorado Water Plan.  The local, regional, and statewide groups pointed out that the Governor’s Executive Order creating the Water Plan called for “Healthy Watersheds, Rivers and Streams, and Wildlife,” and asked the Governor to prioritize these values in the Plan.

“Most of Colorado’s rivers are extremely imperiled, diverted, and diminished — some are at times drained completely dry,” said Gary Wockner of the Save The Colorado River Campaign.  “As the Governor’s Executive Order stated, the Plan needs to focus on ‘a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife.’”

The letter is posted here; a video version of the letter is posted here.

The groups’ recommendations includes three “actions” for the Plan to implement:

  1. Focus on “Healthy Alternative Water Supplies” including conservation and other measures that are cheaper, faster, and easier to implement.
  2. Do not support any new diversions from Colorado’s rivers.
  3. Prioritize river restoration.

“This is the time to act,” said McCrystie Adams, staff attorney at Earthjustice.  “River flows are expected to plunge in the coming years as our climate grows warmer and the mountain snowpack is disrupted.  What will happen to our rivers and the life they support if we are already diverting all of the flows that we physically can?”

The groups’ letter highlights that seven extremely controversial projects are going through state and federal permitting processes — including the Halligan Project, Seaman Project, Bellvue Pipeline, Northern Integrated Supply Project, Windy Gap Firming Project, Moffat Project, and Chatfield Project.  The groups recommend that these projects be put “on hold” and that “Healthy Alternatives” be prepared that don’t divert more water out of Colorado’s rivers.  The groups also point out that some of the participants in these projects are selling increasing amounts of water for fracking which is further degrading Colorado’s rivers.

One of the projects, Denver Water’s “Moffat Collection System Project,” is scheduled to have its “Final Environmental Impact Statement” released in April.  The groups are especially concerned about the Moffat Project.

“Too much of our drinking-quality water is being wasted growing non-native lawns in our semi-arid climate,” said Chris Garre of The Environmental Group which is addressing the threat of the Moffat Project. “Seizing the opportunity presented by the Colorado Water Plan to meet future supply needs by prioritizing simple conservation is a no-brainer. Nevertheless, Denver Water is instead proposing to divert still more water off the Fraser River – 85% of its natural flows – effectively killing the river.”

The groups are responding to a call for input by the Governor, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Interbasin Compact Committee.  The Water Plan is supposed to be “grassroots” and “bottom up.”  By focusing on these citizen groups’ recommendations — which represent tens-of-thousands of Coloradans — the State Water Plan can protect and restore Colorado’s rivers and meet the needs of local communities.

Groups signing the letter include Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, Clean Energy Action, Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Earth Works Action, Environment Colorado, Frack Free Colorado, Fractivist.com, Plains Alliance for Clean Air and Water, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Save Chatfield, Save The Colorado River Campaign, Save The Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, Sheep Mountain Alliance, Sierra Club – Poudre Canyon Group, The Environmental Group of Colorado, and WildEarth Guardians.