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Save the Poudre
Save the Poudre

The Endangered Cache la Poudre River


For nearly a century and half, the Cache la Poudre River has been dammed and diverted, often drained dry. Nearly 60% of its water is diverted out of the river for agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses. Near its junction with the South Platte River, the river has become a depleted, algal-filled, stinking ditch for much of the year.

A small amount of the river’s water remains undiverted. The river runs freely and manages to peak every three or four years, and the periodic, minor peaking flows that remain are essential to maintain ecosystem health and improve water quality – to rejuvenate the river.

Three large new dams have been proposed to impound the last remaining unallocated water in our river. The most potentially damaging of these by far is the proposed Glade Reservoir, part of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP.

The irony is that Northern Colorado communities, industry, and agriculture can meet their needs for water for drought protection and growth by conserving and improving the efficiency of existing water resources, using water from lands consumed by managed growth, forming win-win partnerships with agriculture, and developing small-scale gravel pit and aquifer storage.

Some Facts about the Proposed NISP
and its Glade Reservoir

• The project is predicted to cost at least $500 million up front, approximately $1 billion if you include interest on bonds and loans. Some subscribing communities like the town of Erie expect to take on debt approaching $20,000 per family to finance the project.
• During peak June Rise flows, the huge pumps would suck over 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the river. This would be up to 71% of the river’s flow through Fort Collins depending on the year and timing of the flow, directly harming water quality, river-related recreation, and regional economic vitality.
• At 177,000 acre-feet, the proposed Glade Reservoir would be about 20% larger than Horsetooth Reservoir when full. Yet, the reservoir could only deliver up to 40,000 acre-feet per year on average, about 10% of which will be wastefully evaporated every year. The reservoir water level would rise and fall dozens of feet in any given year and rarely be full.
• It would be built between the ridges of the hogback directly north of Ted’s Place, on Highway 287. About six miles of new highway would have to be punched through valuable agricultural land east of the hogback, to reroute the section of Highway 287 that would be flooded by the dam.
• Glade reservoir would usually receive water only during the wettest years, maybe one year out of three. Peak flows (the “June Rise”) would be taken from the river via massive energy-consuming pumps at a reworked diversion dam across the main stem of the Poudre near the mouth of the Poudre Canyon.

There are better ways to meet our water needs.

NISP and its Glade Reservoir would be enormously expensive, it isn’t needed, and it would cause great harm. We can provide all of the water proposed to be delivered by Glade, and more, at a lower financial and environmental cost, through straightforward and proven conservation techniques, improved water use efficiency by municipal and industrial users, and with very modest changes in agricultural water use efficiency and partnerships. These include:

• Comprehensive public education and awareness programs about water conservation.
• Rebate/retrofit programs for low-water use landscaping, low-water-use toilets, shower heads, and water-wasting appliances.
• Water fallowing contracts between municipal, industrial, and agricultural users, with investments in agricultural water conservation and water use efficiency in return for a portion of agricultural water.
• Landscape irrigation monitoring and improvement programs to reduce water wasted in excessive irrigation.
• Repairing leaks in ditches and pipelines, lining ditches along all reaches, and using closed pipelines wherever possible.
• Tiered water rates that reward conservation with lower costs to customers who conserve.
• Use of gray-water systems and interfacing gray-water systems with water recycling systems wherever possible.

Save The Poudre, in conjunction with our coalition partners, has created an alternative, The Healthy Rivers Alternative, laying out just how to supply water for Northern Colorado. Please find it here.

NISP/Glade Reservoir Project Participants

NISP is expected to cost at least $500 million. Fifteen communities and water districts have subscribed to shares in NISP. Many are outside the Cache la Poudre watershed. Most intend to finance their involvement with debt loads of $2,000 to $5,000 per current resident. Repaying these costs requires higher water rates for existing residents and extraordinary population growth to pay tap fees.

In addition to the direct impacts of Glade Reservoir on the Poudre, it would:

• likely increase water and sewer utility costs to residents of Fort Collins, Greeley and Windsor,
• fuel rapid regional population growth,
• ultimately lead to the depletion of our working farms and ranches, and economy,
• greatly harm our local river-dependent economy, and
• fuel rapid, unsustainable regional population growth.

Though the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has consistently maintained that the effects of the NISP project are benign and that they can mitigate any minor impacts, the weight of informed opinion is sharply opposite. The Cities of Greeley and Fort Collins, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Water Quality Control Division, many distinguished scientists from Colorado State University, and of course, the SaveThePoudre Coalition, have all pointed to severe impacts that would occur if NISP/Glade Reservoir were to be built. Please see SaveThePoudre's DEIS comments for more information on impacts.

You can download a flyer with this information and more from the Sierra Club, or a copy of the handouts for our PowerPoint presentation, The Dam Truth (1.4 MB). Also see our list of the top reasons to oppose NISP.

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