Southern Delivery System: Pueblo West’s share of the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program 20 to 30 acre feet annually, at first

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Here’s a look at what Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner has to say about Pueblo West’s participation in the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program as a condition attached to the 1041 permit for Colorado Springs Utilities’ proposed Southern Delivery System, from James Amos writing for The Pueblo West View. From the article:

Pueblo West didn’t complain until March, Chostner said, which was years into the negotiations and debate about the pipeline. Saying that Colorado Springs had originally wanted to reroute almost all the water in the river through the pipeline, Chostner said Colorado Springs agreed to the flow program to preserve some of the river as it flows through Pueblo. Pueblo West can’t think that a dry riverbed between Lake Pueblo and the confluence with Fountain Creek can be acceptable to anyone, he said. Even Pueblo West residents use the river and trail beside it for recreation. Pueblo built a kayak park in the river near Downtown, but Chostner said the recreation flows are about more than just kayaking.

The commissioner, one of three who represent Pueblo County, said Pueblo West wouldn’t have to give up much water, about 20 to 30 acre feet annually. The district has about 8,500 shares of water that translates into 8,500 acre feet of water in good years. In dry years, the yield could be about 4,500 acre feet of water – about what Pueblo West citizens use now on a yearly basis.

Chostner wasn’t speaking to any representatives from Pueblo West however, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain.

Other SDS partners, Fountain and Security, voiced support at the meeting [for the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program], but no one from Pueblo West showed up.

The Colorado Springs City Council drove a stake through the hear of the Fremont County route for SDS earlier this week when they approved the Pueblo County route. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The route decision takes a Fremont County option out of the picture, at least for now, and the cost reflects updated engineering cost estimates. The timing of the project was delayed because Colorado Springs now thinks it won’t need the project until 2017. It also allows water rates to increase more gradually. Most council members spoke of the decision in historic terms, comparing it to the Homestake Project of the 1950s and ’60s, agreeing with staff that it would be difficult if not impossible to gain the approval of state, federal and local agencies again if it’s not built now. Councilman Jerry Heimlicher called it a “tombstone vote,” meaning he would want it recorded on his tombstone when he dies. He vigorously defended the increase in water rates, saying they would go up even more without SDS.

Vice Mayor Larry Small touted the benefits to Fountain Creek Colorado Springs will pay for as mitigation to Pueblo County.

The council also heard about adding potential partners in El Paso County to the list of partners in SDS, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Vice Mayor Larry Small and Councilman Darryl Glenn also suggested the pipeline could be built sooner and paid for more easily by letting others into the project.

Councilman Tom Gallagher, the lone vote against SDS, spoke against the idea of enlarging the pool of users on the pipeline, saying council’s first obligation is to supply water to its own service area.

“They’re asking us to support their growth,” Gallagher said. “Do we have the supply to support their growth? If we’re not using the proper supply to make our decisions, we are risking our ability to serve our ratepayers.”

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Great Sand Dunes National Park: Public input sought for installation of groundwater monitoring wells

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The installation of the wells was a condition for the non-consumptive water right approved by state water court in August 2008. The monitoring wells would be installed along the south, north and west park boundaries to collect baseline water data and monitor any potential change in water levels. The monitoring wells would extend to the bottom of the unconfined aquifer – the shallower of the two groundwater formations that sit beneath much of the San Luis Valley. No water would be pumped from the wells, which will consist of a 2.5-inch pipe, protective housing built from a metal culvert and a metal pole with a solar panel and transmission antennae. Internal study by the National Park Service on the wells’ impacts on geology, soils, vegetation, wildlife and other resources found them to be minor.

Comments are due by Tuesday and can be mailed to Superintendent, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, 11500 Highway 150, Mosca, CO 81146. Comments can also be sent by e-mail to Fred_Bunch@nps.gov or telephone at 719-378-6361.

More Coyote Gulch groundwater coverage here and here.

San Luis Valley: Groundwater sub-districts sprouting across the valley

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Here’s an update for the formation of groundwater sub-districts in the San Luis Valley, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

About six sub-districts of the sponsoring Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) are in various stages of formation at this time. The primary goal of these water management sub-districts is to reduce groundwater use in order to sustain the Valley’s aquifers, protect senior surface water rights and maintain delivery obligations to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact.

The first sub-district, located in the closed basin area north of the Rio Grande, has been approved, but its management plan is currently being litigated in water court. A late September trial is scheduled before Water Judge O. John Kuenhold.

Other sub-districts include: alluvial sub-district south of the Rio Grande, working on list of landowners within its boundaries; Conejos, collecting petitions again; Alamosa/La Jara, working on landowner information but comfortable with sub-district boundaries; Saguache Creek, trying to work out kinks in groundwater model; and San Luis Creek, progressing and has set boundaries…

RGWCD Attorney David Robbins added, “The more we know, the better the modeling will work and the more fairly we can make decisions what should be done to keep the system in balance and protect the senior water rights.” Robbins added he is willing to provide as much information as possible to objectors of the sub-districts in attempts to resolve contested issues short of trial. “I have to do everything I can to try to find areas where we don’t have to spend our time in court and we can reach some agreement,” he said.

However, he said he was certain the September 28 trial would still go forward and could last several weeks. Robbins said attorneys for Sub-District 1 on Monday filed a response brief to one filed by the senior water rights group that had challenged the way recharge decrees in Sub-District 1 were used in the model. “They were arguing the recharge decrees could not be taken into account when looking at impacts of well pumping. The recharge decrees are set up in part to replace the impacts of well pumping.”

In addition, Robbins said the senior water rights group last week filed a motion challenging any reliance on the Closed Basin Project production for replacement water alleging the project is an injurious activity that has to be augmented. He said organizers of the sub-districts in the San Luis and Saguache Creeks have also expressed concerns about the Closed Basin Project…

Robbins said in theory the Closed Basin Project is diverting salvage water. “If the terms and conditions of the decree are correct, that’s what it is doing.” Robbins added that the courts in the past have upheld the Closed Basin Project decree and associated agreements when they have been challenged but he would not presume to guess what the judge would decide in this present legal challenge. “Judge Kuenhold will decide based on what’s before him,” he said.

More Coyote Gulch San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Denver, South Metro and Aurora to coordinate and share supply facilities?

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Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority are exploring ways that facilities could be shared to optimize supply distribution, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Denver Water, Aurora Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority are preparing a report that would identify how water supply systems could be shared, Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher said. “We’re underutilizing our resources,” Pifher told a joint meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee and the interim legislative water resources committee. “We’re looking at ways to share our infrastructure, but it may require relief in water law to give us the additional flexibility to make that kind of project work.” By capturing flows that are not used, there would be less pressure in the short term on agricultural water rights. In the long run, there would be reduced costs for storage and pipelines if the water providers are working together, Pifher said…

A study of how the three entities could work together is being prepared and will be released later this year, Pifher added. Together, the water providers supply almost 500,000 acre-feet of water to a population of about 1.7 million. South Metro includes 13 separate water providers that have been looking at their own study of how to jointly use resources better…

Denver Water is in the midst of a 10-year plan aimed at reducing per-capita water consumption by at least 20 percent. It is also looking at possible projects to physically reuse water. Aurora’s $750 million Prairie Waters Project, now under construction, will recapture its return flows from the regional wastewater treatment plant and pump them 34 miles upstream. Return flows from water imported from the Western Slope, from Denver Basin aquifers or taken as consumptive use from ag dry-ups, in some cases, can be reused to extinction under state water law. Most of the water is not physically reused now, but exchanged against native flows. A 1999 study indicated there are about 200,000 acre-feet of reusable water in the Denver Metro area, with about 133,000 acre-feet coming through wastewater plants.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.