Northern Water | KUNC

Northern Water

Nick Cote for KUNC/LightHawk

Water agencies throughout the West are changing their operations during the coronavirus outbreak to make sure cities and farms don't run dry.

Their responses range from extreme measures to modest adjustments to ensure their most critical workers don't succumb to the virus.

Cassandra Turner / Creative Commons

The price of water within northern Colorado’s largest reservoir system is the highest it’s ever been.

Units of water within the Colorado-Big Thompson (CBT) project have sold for $30,000 and higher in 2018, a new benchmark for the water supply project that began operations in 1957.

“We’ve roughly doubled in the last five years in terms of that cost,” says Brian Werner, a spokesman for Northern Water, which oversees the CBT project. “It’s the development going on; it’s the competition for water supply.”

Courtesy Northern Water

In an attempt to halt the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir outside Loveland, and the diversion of Western Slope water to the Front Range, environmental groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against the federal government, saying an environmental analysis on the Windy Gap Firming Project failed to provide enough viable alternatives.

The environmental coalition, led by Fort Collins-based Save The Colorado and aided by the University of Denver College of Law’s Environmental Law Clinic, sued both the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers for what it says were faulty federal permits to build the project. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District proposed the Windy Gap Firming Project.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fort Collins council members voted to oppose a project calling for the creation of two new reservoirs in Northern Colorado, at least for now. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build two reservoirs to supply water to growing towns in Larimer, Weld, and Boulder counties.

The city is not opposed to the idea of the project, but Fort Collins natural areas director John Stokes, in a presentation Tuesday night to council members, said the June supplemental draft environmental impact statement released by the Army Corps of Engineers fails to adequately evaluate and address environmental impacts.

"A key component that is currently missing from the environmental impact statement analysis is a quantitative temperature and water quality model," said Stokes.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Surrounded by “Save The Poudre” stickers, banners, books and swag, more than 100 people filled the community room at Fort Collins' Avogadro’s Number to learn about a proposal to build two new reservoirs in Northern Colorado. Or, more correctly -- to learn how to oppose it.

“I want to be point-blank and loud and clear that you are getting a perfectly biased viewpoint from an organization whose mission is to protect and restore the river and we will do everything we can to fight to stop this project for as long as it takes,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre, the group organizing the event.

He then led the crowd through a 10-point presentation of why the latest analysis released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Northern Integrated Supply Project was flawed.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

A proposal to build new reservoirs that would take water from the Poudre River hit a key deadline June 19. Residents of Northern Colorado can be forgiven, though, if the Northern Integrated Supply Project doesn't ring a bell. It's been seven years since the project's last deadline.

The last time NISP and its two proposed reservoirs was in the news was in 2008 and 2009, when a draft environmental impact statement was released.

Northern Water / Used With Permission

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has signed a record of decision and carriage contract for the Windy Gap Firming Project according to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The project, if constructed, would create the 90,000 acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland.

Nathan Heffel / KUNC

Just west of Carter Lake in the foothills southwest of Loveland sits a rustic abandoned cabin in the middle of a rolling prairie. Soon that cabin, and the entire prairie, could be at the bottom of a lake.

It's the site of the proposed 90,000 acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir. In times of high snow runoff, like right now, it could be part of the answer for water managers looking to store water that is instead just flowing downstream, right out of the state.