H.B. 09-1129, Precipitation Harvesting Pilot Projects

Governor Ritter signed H.B. 09-1129 today. The bill sets up pilot projects for rainwater catchments. Here’s a report from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

If you live in the city, don’t install a barrel under your gutter spout just yet. The legislation lets residents on wells collect rain and establishes 10 pilot projects for new developments. Residents on municipal water still can’t legally collect rain, and water suppliers are leery of legislation that would let them…

The bill that Ritter signed Tuesday, HB1129, directs the state to approve 10 pilot projects, new housing or mixed-use developments designed to include rainwater collection. Officials will study the projects through 2020 to see how viable it is to use rain for household irrigation and what impact it has on stream flows. Water suppliers agreed to support the bill because developers and residents in the projects must pay for replacement water for every drop collected in the first two years of study. Residents can then ask a water court to lower the augmentation requirement. Said [State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan], “I was a little frustrated that we had to augment 100 percent of every drop that comes out of the sky, but at the end of the day, to ensure that senior (water-rights owners) were not going to be negatively affected, the sponsors I worked with on the bill were happy with the 100 percent augmentation requirement.”

Update: From 9News.com (Heidi McGuire):

[State Senator Chris] Romer worked for two years to introduce legislation to change the current law. On Tuesday, Ritter (D-Colorado) signed House Bill 1129 which directs the Colorado water conservation board to select sponsors of up to 10 new residential or mix-use developments that will conduct individual pilot projects. The board will start taking applications from developers the first of next year, which will result in some homeowners having the ability to collect precipitation from rooftops and impermeable surfaces. “The water development community needs to see the pilot programs and needs to see it work well and then we’ll go to the next phase,” Romer said.

The senator eventually hopes he and other people in the state will be able to put moisture that falls in their yard to good use, but he knows changing water laws can be a sensitive subject. “You have to be careful in the west, whether it’s guns, whiskey, and water those are fighting words in Colorado so even I can’t take this molecule off this rainy day into my bucket because somebody else owns that water,” Romer said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Runoff news: Kicking up releases at Blue Mesa

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Reclamation has received the most recent April through July runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. It has increased from 690,000 ac-ft on May 1st to a preliminary June 1st forecast of 765,000 ac-ft. This could increase with the final June forecast. In addition, the May runoff into Blue Mesa was 158% of average. Unfortunately, this combination of events is requiring us to significantly increase releases in order to attempt to avoid spilling Blue Mesa Reservoir.

There could be several reasons for the increase in the forecast: perhaps some of the snowpack was unaccounted for, or the snowmelt runoff has been extremely efficient due to its accelerated nature, combined with a cool moist second half of May. These factors are still being analyzed.

Based on this new data, releases from Crystal Reservoir will increase to full power plant and by-pass capacity over the next few days. Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon flows will gradually increase by 200 to 300 cfs per day until reaching a flow of about 3,300 cfs on Saturday, June 6th. Flows could stay at this level through the end of June depending on hydrology.

The South Platte mainstem is a “free river” right now, according to the DNR and CWCB.

Colorado Water Trust RiverBank

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Don’t forget to register for the Colorado Water Trust’s RiverBank shindig next week. Here’s the lowdown from their website:

We’ve been told that water-minded people in Colorado don’t have enough—if any—opportunities to see each other socially. Of course there are conferences, but they are combinations of education, conducting business, and networking; they don’t allow for just plain socializing. And back in the day, there were collegial water bar events, like the event at the Broadmoor, but those events are no longer happening. We want RiverBank to fill the void. RiverBank is an opportunity for you to visit with some of Colorado’s premier, dedicated water practitioners, advocates, technicians, and organizers, while at the same time investing in Colorado’s water future.

Greeley: New pipeline from LaPorte to Bellvue

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Here’s a report about Greeley’s efforts to build a new supply pipeline near LaPorte, from Jakob Rodgers writing for the Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The city department may ask for a court order to gain access to three properties whose owners have long contested the 30-mile pipeline, which would run from a water filtration plant in Bellvue to the Gold Hill Reservoir. The court order would not be used to build the pipeline, but rather to survey the land to determine the pipeline’s seismic and environmental impact. Jon Monson, director of the water department, said the department could seek the order sometime this summer. The 60-inch pipeline could bring an additional 50 million gallons of water a day to Greeley, whose residents consume roughly 54 million gallons of water a day during peak use in the summer. Evans and parts of Milliken and Windsor also would use water from the pipeline. About 15 miles of the $80 million pipeline already has been built and is in use, Monson said. As it stands, the water department is nearly at its 58 million-gallon-a-day capacity to transport water when also taking into account the 38 million gallons it transports from Boyd Lake. The current pipeline from Bellvue can transport roughly 20 million gallons of water a day.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Cataract canyon

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From PR.com:

The Colorado River reached its peak flow for 2009 in Utah’s Cataract Canyon on May 26. The river was flowing at a raging 52,000 cfs(ft^3/s). Cataract Canyon is known for it’s exciting rapids and “when the river reaches flows over 50,000 cfs the rapids are awe inspiring” says veteran rafting guide Walker Mackay. The Rapids known as the “Big Drops” are so large that the National Park Service sets up a river rescue camp below the rapids when the river reaches the 50,000 cfs mark.

San Luis Valley: Well owner education forums start tonight

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

A series of educational forums for domestic well owners and users in the San Luis Valley will kick off tonight at the Sangre de Cristo Parish Hall. The forums will provide information on how to collect water for testing, how to shock chlorinate a well to kill bacteria and how to interpret well-testing results…

The meetings are sponsored by the SLV Leap High project, a collaborative group of local nonprofits, businesses, government and educational entities. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council at 1-719-589-1518. The schedule for the forums is: today, Sangre de Cristo Parish Hall, San Luis; Thursday, Blanca/Fort Garland Community Center; June 9, Moffat School Round Room; June 11, Kiwanis Building, Center; June 16, Hospice del Valle, Alamosa; and June 18, Mosca Community Building.

Southern Delivery System: Corps of Engineers adds two weeks to comment period

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have extended the public comment period for Colorado Springs Utilities’ proposed Southern Delivery System. Conservation groups asked for the extension and the Corps has added two weeks. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The request to extend the deadline came from the Rocky Mountain Environ- mental Labor Coalition, which argued that the original June 4 deadline, announced just three weeks earlier, did not allow enough time to prepare comments. The coalition is the only group to submit comments to date, and the official deadline remains June 4, said Van Truan of the Pueblo office of the Corps. “It was kind of shocking, but we haven’t received any other comments,” Truan said Tuesday. “I don’t know if people aren’t concerned or if the Pueblo County conditions have satisfied most people.” Truan said other comments will be accepted through June 19. “We will accept any late comments through that date,” Truan said.

The Corps is evaluating a request by Colorado Springs Utilities for a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: A plan to keep cities from picking off farms one by one

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The two congressional town halls in the Arkansas Valley held last week were called to talk about legislation that would allow Aurora to use Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities to move water out of basin. However the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company was discussed at length. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Super Ditch is needed as a way to keep cities from picking off farms one-by-one to harvest their water, supporters said. Some argued water should be tied to the land and no dry-ups, even temporary, should occur. Farmers countered that without programs like the Super Ditch, there will be more buy-and-dry transfers like the valley has seen in the past. Farmers believe that including Aurora increases the value of water that is marketed, while others contend that the water can be just as successfully marketed within the valley.

The main issue discussed last week centered on whether Super Ditch should be used to move water out of the valley to Aurora – mirroring the purpose of the visits from Reps. Betsy Markey, John Salazar and Ed Perlmutter, all Colorado Democrats…

Gary Barber of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, while arguing for cooperation, said that group signed a memorandum of understanding three years ago to buy water from the Super Ditch. Economic studies for the Super Ditch by the Lower Ark showed El Paso County water users were willing to pay 67 percent more than Aurora for annual purchases of water.

During the town hall meetings, it was also pointed out that Aurora has an existing arrangement with the High Line Canal in Rocky Ford to buy – under a lease agreement that temporarily dries up farm ground – the water it needs. Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water, said Aurora is constrained by weather conditions and the limits of previous agreements on the amount of water it can take from the valley outside the water rights it owns…

Those who wish to market water through the Super Ditch, however, say they ought to be able to deal with whomever they wish, and the valley market alone isn’t big enough…

Heckman was one of many farmers speaking for the Super Ditch. Their stories, shared in the hallways outside the town hall meeting as well as those formally presented, had the same plot: Farmers are an aging group of businessmen who have worked hard to develop the value of their land without realizing the full monetary reward. For irrigated farms, the value of the water is far greater than the land itself. The water is tied to a property right. If their children don’t wish to continue farming, they face a decision on whether to cash out and sell the farm Ñ cities pay top dollar. Marketing strategies like Super Ditch provide a profitable option…

“The Super Ditch gives us a choice,” [Dale] Mauch said. “You wouldn’t have seen so many sales if we’d had something like that in place … Leasing is the only way we can survive.”

There were frequent testimonials from farmers who either sold water rights or temporarily sold their water to Aurora. The High Line Canal lease agreement in 2004-05 saved farms and Aurora made improvements on the canal. Aurora helped Rocky Ford farmers who sold their water rights install drip irrigation systems and let them continue using some of their water for 10 years in order to give the farmers time to find replacement sources. “I can give you the names of 13 shareholders (on the High Line) who the bankers were lining up to sell,” Dan Henrichs, High Line Canal superintendent, said. “Because of the lease, they are still here.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.