U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Congresswoman Betsy Markey are seeking funding for local efforts to turn “produced water” into a resource that could benefit drought-stricken communities and help ease the demand for water in Colorado and the West. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Bennet and Markey urged the Secretary to allocate funding from the Interior Department’s FY 2009 discretionary budget towards produced water demonstration grant projects. The lawmakers also stated a commitment to work with Congress over the coming year to acquire additional funding in FY 2010 for a grant program created under the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008.
Produced water is by far the largest volume byproduct or waste stream associated with oil and gas exploration and production. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, approximately 15-20 billion barrels of produced water are generated each year in the United States from nearly a million wells.
A retired Pueblo stormwater quality inspector has tossed his name into the hat to fill a vacancy on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. John Mihelich, who retired last year from the city’s public works department, said he is qualified because of his technical knowledge of drainage project planning and construction. “My work experience and availability to learn could be very useful to the district and would give a reason to my keeping of a Golden Future Frying Pan hanging on the wall for many years,” Mihelich wrote. The frying pan is a souvenir of the fundraising effort that led to the formation of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.
Here’s a recap of Monday’s workshop seeking solutions to Colorado’s supply gap, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The state water board is looking at a few big water projects, new ways to share water and conservation as ways to address the impending gap between future municipal water supplies and identified projects to meet the gap. But there are no good numbers on how much water could be conserved, whether lease-fallowing programs will work the way they’re intended or which project to bring Western Slope water to the Front Range could be pursued.
The board has been looking at the gap in the state’s water supply since 2002, and its latest estimates show that water demand will begin to outpace known projects to meet that demand as soon as next year. By 2030, there could be an 18 percent shortfall in water supplies and the number will only get bigger as the state’s population doubles by 2050. The search for an answer brought out a variety of viewpoints from board members, who reflected some of the attitudes about water and growth that were shared at a meeting of Front Range roundtables last week…
The big elephant in the room, however, was the limited reach of the water board. Urban conservation measures saving up to 40 percent of water could be easily obtained without drastically altering how Coloradans take showers, wash clothes and water their lawns, said CWCB drought planning chief Veva Deheza. But she was unable to estimate exactly how much water that would save without full reports from state water users. “We need 100 conservation plans, but we only have a quarter of them,” Deheza said. “Without those plans we can’t run the numbers.”
The board would have little authority for cities to set conservation goals, added Dan McAuliffe, deputy director of the CWCB. “We can’t say you need a conservation plan, much less set a goal,” he said.
The board also is limited in which major project could be used to help fill the gap. Front Range roundtables last week identified three projects last week that would provide 50,000 to 250,000 acre-feet of water each from the Colorado River basin: Green Mountain, Yampa pumpback and Flaming Gorge pipelines. While all would apparently fall within Colorado’s entitlement from the Colorado River Compact, it’s not clear who would provide the impetus to actually build projects. Roundtable members last week accepted those concepts, while rejecting the Big Straw plan to pump back water from Grand Junction. A Blue Mesa pumpback also was discussed by the roundtables, but did not appear to have much traction…
The board also looked at ways to minimize the pain to rural economies if agricultural water sales continue, the default option for Colorado. While CWCB Director Jennifer Gimbel told the roundtables last week there is no silver bullet to avoid the dry-up of ag land, the board and its staff will continue the hunt for proper ammunition. “No strategies rose to the top last week,” said Eric Hecox, who directs in-state water concerns for the CWCB. “A couple fell to the bottom.
Here’s the link to the USGS Water Watch website for your surfing pleasure. They’ve added Google Maps to their arsenal this season.
From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
After a conference call this morning, it was decided that Green Mountain Reservoir would bump up its releases another 150 cfs as part of its participation in the Coordinated Reservoirs Operations program. That change was made this morning at 11 a.m. As a result, the Lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam is now running at 750 cfs and will stay at that level until further notice.
From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
Also, today, releases from Ruedi Reservoir hit 650 cfs. We will start bumping up releases again tomorrow morning. We will bump up in 50 cfs increments. Tomorrow morning will see 700 cfs. Tomorrow afternoon will hit 750 cfs. Wednesday morning, we will bump up one more time to 800 cfs and hold there. We anticipate the 800 cfs will last through Memorial Day weekend. Apparently, the peak in snowmelt run off for the Colorado River is earlier this year than the last couple of years.
The annual Ruedi Reservoir operations meeting is Thursday (May 21):
The May 21 meeting will be held at the Basalt Town Hall, 101 Midland Avenue, Basalt,
from 7:00—9:00 p.m.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):
[Andy Barrett, a hydrologist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder] said computer models of conditions similar to this year indicate peak runoff in Colorado’s rivers and streams will come 20 to 30 days earlier than average. Peak runoff in the Roaring Fork Valley is typically in the third week of June, but the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers were flowing much higher than usual Monday for May 18. The Crystal River near Redstone was flowing at 1,580 cubic feet per second, according to a gauging station maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. The median flow for that date is 809 cfs, and the previous peak for that date in the past 53 years was 1,450 cfs in 1966. The National Weather Service on Monday issued a flood advisory for low-lying areas of the Crystal River upstream from Redstone. The advisory will continue until Thursday afternoon. No problems from flooding were reported to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The Roaring Fork River also is flowing well above average. The river near Emma was at 2,400 cfs Monday afternoon. It’s median for May 18 is 842 cfs. Its prior high flow was 1,320 cfs in 2007….
River conditions usually experienced in July might appear in June, [Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service] said. That could mean less water will be available for irrigation systems tied to rivers and streams. Landry said water for crops will be plentiful before farmers need it in large amounts. Less water might be available in July when farmers depend on it. The result is a mixed bag for managers of reservoirs. “We’re not looking at the quantity decreasing that much from this dust scenario,” Gillespie said. The same amount of water will flow into the reservoirs; it will just come sooner. Landry said that could produce challenges for water managers. They will have a shorter time to prepare reservoirs for inflow. Warm temperatures and the dust have combined to consume the Roaring Fork River basin’s snowpack. It was at just 43 percent of average Monday afternoon.
“Some (snow measurement) sites in the San Juans have already melted out as high as 11,600 feet,” Gillespie said. “It’s not unprecedented, but it’s extremely rare to have an above-average snowpack that melts out that quickly.” A brief glance at almost any hydrograph in the state bears out the acceleration observation. Flows on many of the state’s wild rivers are currently as much as twice as high as long-term historical averages for this date. SNOTEL Snowpack Summary graphs produced by the Natural Resources Conservation Service offer further corroboration, with statistics that rivaled 2008’s record snowpack as recently as the last week in April now plummeting to the below-average levels of 2007. Snow remaining in the Upper Colorado River Basin, for example, is currently capable of producing only 61 percent of the water the river typically sees and only 38 percent of the 2008 flow. The upshot is that much of that water has been or may still be stored in reservoirs for release later in the season.
From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Andy Hamilton):
Runoff and snow melt is causing increasing water flows, which were recorded Monday afternoon at 16,600 cubic feet per second on the Colorado River near Cameo and 24,000 cfs on the Colorado River at the Utah state line. The area is downstream of the confluence of the Colorado River and the Gunnison River.
On Monday the National Weather Service issued flood advisories for Mesa, Pitkin, Eagle, Routt and Moffat counties — that’s where all the snow is coming down the mountains. The Eagle River in Gypsum looked swollen on Monday. The river has been rising very slowly every day. It peaked just below 3,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). No rivers in Colorado have yet to hit the flood stage. The Colorado Division of Emergency Management says the Crystal River near Redstone is the closest to tipping its banks into the flood stage.
The peak for the Elk River, as measured at a site near Milner, is expected to rise to 7.2 feet Wednesday morning, just above the flood stage of 7 feet. The Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs also is expected to peak Wednesday morning at 6.2 feet. Flood stage for the Yampa is 7 feet. “This is going to be the week,” hydrologist Bryon Lawrence said. “We’re expecting the peak in Steamboat Springs to be Wednesday around 7 or 8 a.m.”[…]
Forecaster Jim Daniels, with the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said a weather system expected to move in later this week could bring rain, which would push the rivers even higher.
A flood advisory is in effect for the Crystal River above Redstone, according to the National Weather Service…Flood advisories are also in effect for the Colorado River near Cameo in Mesa County, in far western Colorado; the Eagle River below Gypsum in Eagle County; the Yampa River at Steamboat Springs; the Elk River in Routt County and the Yampa River below Craig.