Frequently Asked Questions

UCRWG

Why establish an Upper Colorado River Watershed Group?

While several smaller nonprofits in Grand County conduct restoration efforts on limited stretches throughout the Upper Colorado River basin, UCRWG is the first collaborative, local effort to organize the diversity of stakeholder groups in one of the most critical headwaters in North America. Our goal is to provide the information, education, logistics, and financial and technical support that stakeholders need to manage local water resources in an environmentally sustainable way.

UCRWG seeks to fill a critical gap by unifying local initiatives that have thus far only focused on smaller geographic segments within the watershed. 

While organizations such as Save the Fraser, Three Lakes Watershed Association, and the Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group do much-needed work in limited geographic areas, UCRWG focuses on the watershed as a whole. UCRWG seeks to provide a foundation network to serve as a common forum for the smaller organizations and private individuals working to conserve and protect the Upper Colorado River.

UCRWG is also fighting hard to keep the water flowing through our watershed on THIS side of the Continental Divide. With 60% of local flows already being diverted east to the Front Range area before that water even hits the watershed, the controversial expansion of Gross Reservoir would increase the amount of water leaving the Upper Colorado River watershed to 75% of total flows.

THIS IS UNSUSTAINABLE.

 

With over 300 miles of impaired waters already in the Upper Colorado River watershed, diverting even more of this vital resource will do irreversible damage to the lands, streams and rivers that we all love. Summer water temperatures already reach critical levels through most of the watershed, making fly fishing in our world renowned streams and rivers lethal to aquatic life in the hottest parts of the day. EVERY DROP COUNTS if we are to conserve the long-term health and sustainability of the watershed we all love. That’s why here at UCRWG we’re saying NOT ONE MORE DROP. 

What is WaterSMART?

Seed funding for UCRWG came from a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART grant. WaterSMART grants are awarded to grassroots nonprofit organizations seeking to protect and restore the health of their local streams and rivers. UCRWG was founded by a group of concerned citizens seeking to give voice to the needs of the Upper Colorado River watershed itself. Funding from the WaterSMART grant was used to:

How can I get involved?

UCRWG is using the established model of a watershed group to effectively organize community interests while giving the citizens of Grand County something they historically have not had in the management of local water resources: a collective, nonpolitical voice in management decisions. Add your voice to ours!

We are currently looking for Board Members and volunteers. Please contact us if you are interested. 

Be sure to sign up on our email list and follow us on Facebook for updates!

WATERSHEDS

What is a watershed? What is a watershed group?

A watershed is an area of land that drains into a given body of water – from a river or a lake to the ocean. Every rain drop that falls runs downhill until it reaches a larger body of water. Creeks turn into streams that combine to form rivers, which in turn meet up and eventually flow into an ocean. At each stage, the body of water grows larger.

The Colorado River watershed is the geographic area surrounding the river itself and encompassing all of the streams, creeks, and ditches that feed into the waters of the Colorado, with UCRWG’s target area covering approximately 1,868 square miles. While that drainage behind your house may seem small and insignificant, those waters are bound for greater things – every drop of water that falls in Grand County that is not diverted east across the Continental Divide eventually makes its way into the Colorado River, adding to its flow at the start of the river’s 1,450 mile journey to the sea.

A watershed group is a locally-organized, volunteer-based nonprofit organization that seeks to educate, support, and connect the various stakeholder groups within a watershed with the scientific data and resources needed for effective watershed management. Watershed groups are nonpolitical and nonregulatory, with a focus on uniting local stakeholder groups in creating an effective and sustainable watershed management plan that reflects the values and interests of those who depend on the watershed – including the surrounding ecosystem.

We all benefit from a healthy watershed – a robust watershed helps to filter sediments and pollutants from runoff while supporting the diversity of life that call the High Rockies home.

Established watershed groups are proven to improve water quality, with huge benefits for our local recreation-based economy and the surrounding ecosystem.

What are transbasin diversions?

Colorado is a semi-arid state, averaging only about 17 inches of rainfall annually. It is also one of the fastest-growing states in the US when it comes to population, with over a million people moving to the land of bluebird skies and outdoor adventures since 2010.

Meeting the daily water needs of its citizens has always been a challenge for the towns and cities east of the Rockies, in what is known as the Colorado Front Range. While most of the population in Colorado lives east of the Continental Divide, in the metro areas of Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, most of the water that falls in the state is found to the west in the form of snowpack from the long, cold mountain winters. Moving this water with transbasin diversions and storing it in reservoirs has been critical to the economic success of the Front Range metro areas. Transbasin diversions harness the water that falls high in the Rockies and moves it in the opposite direction – up and over the mountains, east to where the bulk of Colorado’s population is found, drastically altering ecosystems and economies both where it is taken from and where it is taken to. Transbasin diversions mean that water that would have eventually made its way to the Pacific Ocean now flows into the Atlantic, as massive infrastructure projects move that water east.

There are TWO transbasin diversions in Grand County – the pipeline that runs through the Moffat Tunnel in the south end of the county, near Winter Park Resort, and the Adams Tunnel in the north, near Grand Lake, the lynch-pin of the Colorado Big-Thompson Project. While the system that feeds into these diversions is complex, most of the water is diverted at around 9,000 feet – well before the water reaches the watershed. Currently, approximately 60% of local flows are diverted out of the watershed through these transbasin diversions. The proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir outside of Boulder would increase the amount of water leaving the watershed to 75%.

What is a watershed plan?

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From the EPA (with our grant, we will be accomplishing Steps 1-4) :