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Managing water

  • A group dedicated to protecting water sources in the Black Mesa region of northeast Arizona has filed resolutions from eighteen different Navajo chapter houses to a federal agency in opposition to proposed water storage projects. Tó Nizhóní Ání, or Sacred Water Speaks, is a Navajo nonprofit that works to protect water sources on Black Mesa from misuse and contamination by energy companies. Adrian Herder, a campaign lead for Sacred Water Speaks, says that his organization has submitted resolutions to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opposing the three Black Mesa Pumped Storage projects. And more money than ever before is being spent on lobbying in Colorado. The Colorado Sun reports more than $50M went to lobbyists from July 1, 2022 to the end of June this year.
  • Colorado’s Division of Water Resources held a meeting in Cortez on Wednesday to seek input from irrigators on the division’s proposed water measurement rules. The rules would mean that farmers in the San Juan and Dolores River basins must begin using measurement methods in order to better record the storage and releases of their water. The Division of Water Resources meeting comes after the Yampa and White basins went through a similar rule-making process to crack down on water users diverting from streams without proper measuring devices. And Congress is considering eliminating federal funding for public media. A House subcommittee recently approved legislation that would zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
  • A farmer in southwest Colorado is helping administer a federal water conservation program that pays water users in the Upper Basin to curb their use. Greg Vlaming, who’s working to promote the System Conservation Pilot Program to farmers in the Dolores Water Conservancy District area, says those in his region who opt in won’t necessarily be forced to not farm their land in order to save water, and, therefore, earn money from the program. Instead, farmers in the drought-stricken area have a different option: plant crops that need less water in order to conserve, like “forage crops,” which are plants destined to be used as feed for animals.
  • Last week, the Upper Colorado River Commission held a virtual meeting on developments concerning a controversial government program designed to pay water users to curb their use. The System Conservation Pilot Program, or SCPP, is intended to help boost flagging water levels in Lake Powell. Some farmers and irrigators in southwest Colorado – and in other Upper Basin states like New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – had reservations about applying, concerned about deliberately not farming their land in order to save water. Chuck Cullom, the executive director of the commission, says the process leading up to this iteration of the SCPP was rushed, something he says the commission takes responsibility for. And a set of bills that would expand treatment for people with eating disorders passed the state Senate Tuesday.
  • The beginning of the 2023 water year is off to a good start, reservoirs in the southwest will see some filling but may still be below average this year, calving season has been rough due to cold and wet spring weather, farm bankruptcies are going down, and census data show that the nation’s rural population grew slightly last year.
  • The USDA Economic Research Service reports that one fifth of U.S. agricultural production was exported during the last fiscal year, about one million loans made for the 2020 Paycheck Protection Program appear to be fraudulent, how the Netherlands became the second largest exporter of agricultural products behind the U.S., and low water levels in Colorado reservoirs continue to be a problem.
  • Governor Jared Polis is taking a hard look at why Colorado’s red flag gun law wasn’t used in advance of the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. And in the Four Corners region, Representative Barbara McLachlan said one of her priorities heading into the next legislative session is increased water literacy for kids in school K-12.
  • Low water levels on the Mississippi River continue to be of concern to farmers, water managers in the southwestern U.S. consider the outlook for this winter and next summer, and highly pathogenic avian influenza in turkeys could mean high prices for Thanksgiving dinner.
  • The 2022-2023 water year seems to be off to a good start, Utah is experiencing exceptional drought conditions, the Interior Department plans to write new rules governing dams along the Colorado River, and cover crops are becoming more popular with farmers.
  • September 18th to the 24th is National Farm Safety week, the Colorado Water Plan starts to see investment, and how to conduct fall soil sampling.