Energy policy — coal: Electrical generation water consumption

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Here’s a report from last Wednesday’s meeting of the Arkansas Basin roundtable, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“One of the trends we’re starting to see in the West and Colorado is a lot of ag-to-industry transfers,” Stacy Tellinghuisen of Western Resource Advocates told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday. Tellinghuisen led a team that studied Arkansas Basin water needs for future power supplies in a project funded by the National Renewable Energy Lab. Western Resource Advocates is a 20-year-old group dedicated to preserving the environment in the West.

The group makes recommendations that it claims could reduce consumptive use for municipal water systems by up to 44,000 acre-feet per year and power generation up to 20,000 acre-feet per year by 2030. It specifically mentions the acquisition of one-half of the Amity Canal in Prowers County by the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the power needs of the Southern Delivery System in the report. Western Resource Advocates represented Environment Colorado, which settled its lawsuit on Tri-State’s Water Court case involving the Amity shares in March, with Tri-State agreeing to a $1 million study of energy efficiency among its 44 cooperatives in four states…

[The Southern Delivery System], a $1 billion project by Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West designed to provide water to meet future population growth, would require large amounts of power to move water uphill. “If these new energy demands are met with water-intensive forms of energy generation, like coal power, they will further increase water use in the basin,” Tellinghuisen said.

More coal coverage here.

Boulder Creek fish kill

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Aguilar):

The portion of the creek — between the Millennium Harvest House hotel and 28th Street — where 263 fish died on Aug. 20 was very shallow that day, the city said in a press release. It said the low stream flow was likely due to depleting snowmelt at high elevations and to upstream water rights owners pulling water from the creek. Flows on that portion of Boulder Creek were estimated to be around 1 cubic feet per second or less and stream temperatures topped out at 66 degrees Fahrenheit, the city said.

More Boulder Creek coverage here and here.

Dolores River: Tamarisk grants available

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From the Targeted News Service:

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has modified its announcement of a cooperative agreement opportunity to conduct habitat restoration by removing invasive weeds in Colorado’s Dolores River Watershed. The funding announcement was modified Sept. 14 to reflect a change in the category of funding activity, expected number of awards and the contact details. This funding is available under the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009…

The funding opportunity number is RECOVERY-ACT-BLM-CO-RFA09-1471. It was posted Sept. 14 with an application closing date of Sept. 15.

More Dolores River coverage here and here.

New method for measuring evapotranspiration

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Bump and update Here’s the release from the USGS (Ron Beck):

Data from earth-observing Landsat satellites plays a central role in a new, award-winning type of mapping that tracks water use.

Water-use maps help save taxpayer money by increasing the accuracy and effectiveness of public decisions involving water – for instance, in monitoring compliance with legal water rights. The maps are especially important in dry western states where irrigated agriculture accounts for about 85 percent of all water consumption.

Using Landsat imagery supplied by the U.S. Geological Survey in combination with ground-based water data, the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the University of Idaho developed a novel method to create water-use maps that are accurate to the scale of individual fields. The Ash Institute at Harvard University recently cited Idaho’s original design for these maps as an outstanding innovation in American government.

“The USGS Landsat archive, dating back to1972, has proven to be a versatile source of consistent data about land surface conditions,” said Bryant Cramer, USGS Associate Director for Geography. “This advance by the Idaho water monitoring team is both brilliant and practical. Looking forward, it’s indicative of what researchers in many countries can accomplish with the data.”

The value of the USGS Landsat archive was endorsed by Richard Allen of the University of Idaho, one of the honored team members. “Archival support from USGS gave Idaho researchers the means to determine changes in water consumption over time by agricultural, residential and wildland systems,” he said. “These historical records were indispensable in calibrating many aspects of current data.”

As agricultural irrigation needs and swelling city populations amplify demand for scarce water supplies, water management strategy has been forced to shift from increasing water supply to more effectively managing water use at sustainable levels. Thus, accurate water-use mapping is critical. The Landsat-based method can be as much as 80 percent more accurate than traditional measurement methods.

With initial assistance from NASA, the Idaho Department of Water Resources began cooperating with the University of Idaho in 2000 to develop a computer model, METRIC (Mapping EvapoTranspiration at high Resolution with Internalized Calibration), to estimate and map water use in vegetated areas. The mapping method has since been adopted in other states including Montana, California, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon.

The objective nature of the technique assists these states in negotiating Native American water rights, assessing urban water transfers, managing aquifer depletion, monitoring water right compliance, and protecting endangered species. Internationally, Spain, South Africa and Morocco have already begun to employ Landsat-based water-use maps.

“I congratulate Richard Allen, Anthony Morse, William Kramber and their Idaho colleagues on their inventive work. The recognition of this prestigious award is well deserved,” Cramer said.

“I believe this success is a marker for more to come,” he continued. “The USGS policy of releasing the full Landsat archive over the Internet at no cost opens the door to a much larger pool of researchers worldwide. More researchers will lead to even more data applications that tackle major environmental issues.”

From The Washington Post (Kari Lydersen):

Using surface temperature readings from government satellites, air temperature and a system of algorithms, the new method lets officials measure how much water is “consumed” on a certain piece of land through evapotranspiration.

Evapotranspiration is a combination of the evaporation of water into the atmosphere and the water vapor released by plants through respiration — basically, a measurement of the water that leaves the land for the atmosphere, not water that is diverted or pumped onto land but then returned quickly to the water table or river for other users.

Water resource management agencies in Idaho and other states see this as the best way to measure water consumption, since it is a more exact definition of how much water is being removed from the system by a given individual or entity. The program, called METRIC for Mapping EvapoTranspiration with High Resolution and Internalized Calibration, was launched in 2000 with a NASA/Raytheon Synergy Project grant and is used by 11 states. (Though researchers do measure the evapotranspiration rates of residential developments, the method is mainly relevant to the management of agriculture, fish farms and forest or wetland conservation.)

“There’s not enough water for all uses, so you use METRIC to see exactly where water is being consumed,” said Tony Morse, manager of geospatial technology at the Idaho Department of Water Resources. “How much for agriculture, how much on the Indian reservation, how much by native cottonwoods, how much by saltcedars.”

METRIC uses images from the two Landsat satellites, which orbit Earth every 16 days, meaning an image of a given field is available every eight days unless cloud cover interferes. Until this year users had to pay the U.S. Geological Survey $600 for each 185-by-180-kilometer “scene.” Starting in 2009 the government satellite images, which are also used for Google Earth, are free to the public. METRIC developers have published their algorithms for anyone to use, though agencies must write their own computer codes.

The data have already been used to help settle a century-long fight between Colorado and Kansas over water in the Arkansas River and a dispute between Idaho irrigation districts. Previously, officials had to look at well-pumping records and electricity use to estimate each irrigation district’s usage. Water managers say the data help to settle and avoid litigation.

Gunnison Tunnel 100th year celebration

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Here’s a look at the Gunnison Tunnel and the water it provides for the Uncompahgre Valley, from Peter Shelton writing for The Telluride Watch. From the article:

We live on Gunnison River water from out of the Black Canyon by way of the Gunnison Tunnel, which celebrates its 100th anniversary September 26. Turns out just about everyone in the Uncompahgre Valley, from Colona to Pea Green, shares the same fortune. Without the pioneering engineering feat of the tunnel and the concurrent development of canals and laterals by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, we wouldn’t be here. Or, at the very least, this part of the Western Slope would look different. It wouldn’t be nearly as green, or as prosperous, as it is today…

The tunnel presented myriad practical and engineering challenges. Digging from both ends simultaneously, shifts of 30 men each working 24/7 took four years to dig the six-mile long hole. And when they finally met in the middle, [Water Users’ Manager Marc Catlin] told us, “They were 18 inches off! Dug by hand! A hundred years ago! You go to Denver, you go in the Eisenhower Tunnel, which was built in the 1970s, you make that turn in the middle? … They were off by 40 feet!”

While the tunnel was being dug, other crews were gouging canals into the west-side landscape, including the main artery, the 11-mile long South Canal. “Go out and look at the canals in winter,” Catlin said. “Imagine mules and Fresno scrapers – no bulldozers! They fed sheep in the canals in winter – all those little tiny feet packing that ‘dobe clay so that the canals wouldn’t leak!” Today the Water Users take care of 575 miles of canals and lateral ditches supplying three communities, two counties, and irrigating 80,000 acres of cropland. Not to mention municipal water (by Tri County and other water districts in Project 7) delivered as far as the outskirts of Ouray.

More Uncompahre Valley coverage here and here.

Intelligent use of water film competition

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From the dscriber:

We tip our hat to Mark E. Petersen of Boulder who was this afternoon awarded a place in the finals of the Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition for 2009. The film, “More or Less,” outlines the hapless plight of a water waster who’s transported to a strange land where environmental transgressions are dealt with harshly, as his film (here) highlights.

To see Mark’s and the others’ films, go to

Grand Junction: Two water meetings this week

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Mesa County Water Association will host a public seminar and discussion Thursday about “How Did our Desert Bloom? And What Happens Next?” in the Grand Junction City Council Auditorium. Friday, the Colorado River District’s annual water seminar will take up “Dust in the Wind and Other Winds of Change” at Two Rivers Convention Center. U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle is to discuss how the Obama administration will address water issues in the Colorado River Basin and Mexico. State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, will discuss the relationship between the state’s budget woes and its funding of water projects. Curry chairs the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee…

Registration for the Thursday seminar is $5 in advance and $7 at the door. Light refreshments will be served before and after the program. Call 683-1133 for more information.

Registration for the River District’s seminar on Friday is $25 and includes lunch. A registration form is available at and more information is available at 970-945-8522.

Interbasin Compact Committee meeting recap

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Here’s a recap of Monday’s meeting of the IBCC, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Interbasin Compact Committee, working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, has begun crunching numbers in looking at how the quest to satisfy future water demands will affect current uses.

The group also vented on issues of growth and water at its meeting Monday. “Rather than plan for one future, we are trying to look at multiple futures,” said IBCC staffer Eric Hecox, as he explained a computer tool that anticipates a mix of existing projects, new supplies, conservation and agricultural transfers…

The IBCC looked at several alternative portfolios – the mix of strategies needed to meet a variety of growth scenarios – in an attempt to hit a moving target. Most of the alternatives include new water from the Western Slope, dry-up of farmland in all parts of the state and conservation or reuse of urban water supplies. The model itself can change over time as basin roundtables sharpen their estimates of consumptive and nonconsumptive needs…

At its last meeting, the Arkansas basin group put the final brush strokes on a plan it will submit to the state to look at strategies to meet future water needs. The IBCC will collect similar information from the state’s other eight basin roundtables to fill in the blanks for a statewide picture…

Melinda Kassen of Trout Unlimited said the overall goal of meeting water needs is not as important to the environment as when and where the water is used. “It’s about ecosystems,” she said. “What do we have to do to protect the important ecosystems of the state?”

Mike Gibson, of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, said the potential dry-up of 10 percent or more of the state’s agricultural land foreseen in almost every scenario of the model is not uniform. Most of the land to be dried up is in either the Arkansas or South Platte river basins, and some communities could see complete dry-up, having a much more devastating impact on the local economy, he said. “Ag producers want to be able to sell their water, but they’re not always real happy when their neighbor sells his,” Gibson said.

Even conservation and reuse strategies have to be applied carefully, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. If cities conserve water, as Aurora has with outside water restrictions in place long after the drought, they cannot depend on it to increase future supplies, Pifher said. And reusing water, as Aurora is doing in the Prairie Waters Project, is at cross-purposes with conservation. “The more water we conserve every day, the less I have to recapture,” he said. Eventually, cities will have to raise rates or take other unpopular measures if they continue to grow, he said. “The point will be reached where you have to remove lawns and where you have to use less water on public landscapes,” Pifher said. “Who makes the call?”[…]

[Jeris] Danielson said if cities cannot bring growth under control themselves, the state at least should look at implementing zoning density requirements, to ensure more efficient use of water. [Harris] Sherman said that question would be addressed later this month at a three-day seminar in Denver hosted by the CWCB.

More IBCC coverage here.

Showers can spray harmful bacteria

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From RedOrbit:

A disturbing new study has found that the showers people enjoy everyday are actually spraying them with bacteria. This news should not necessarily strike fear in those with normal immune systems, but such microbes could be a problem for those suffering from cystic fibrosis or AIDS, people who are undergoing cancer treatment or those who have had a recent organ transplant. Researchers at the University of Colorado tested 45 showers in five different states as part of a larger study of the microbiology of air and water in homes, schools and public facilities. They found that about 30 percent of the devices harbored significant levels of the dangerous bacteria. The team reported that some of the bacteria and related pathogens were grouping together in slimy “biofilms” that stuck to the inside of showerheads at more than 100 times the “background” levels of municipal water…

For those who are still not comforted, the researchers suggest getting all-metal showerheads, which make it more difficult for microbes to cling to it. Even so, showerheads are full of hiding places for the bacteria and are difficult to clean. The researchers say that the microbes return even after being cleaned with bleach. Those with filtered showerheads could replace the filter weekly, added co-author Laura K. Baumgartner. She added that baths do not splash microbes into the air like showers, which spray them into breathable aerosol form.

The bacteria that the researchers were finding are Mycobacterium avium, which have been linked to lung disease in some people. Studies by the National Jewish Hospital in Denver indicate increases in pulmonary infections in the United States within recent decades resulting from species like M. avium might have something to do with people taking more showers and fewer baths, according to Pace.

He said that symptoms of infection can include tiredness, a persistent, dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness and “generally feeling bad.” The researchers took samples from showerheads in houses, apartment buildings and public places in New York, Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee and North Dakota. They sampled water flowing from the showerheads, then removed them and swabbed the inside of the devices and even separately sampled the water flowing from the pipes without the showerheads. They were then able to determine which bacteria were living there by examining the DNA of the individual samples. They discovered that the bacteria had built up in the showerhead, where they were much more common than in the incoming feed water. The majority of the samples were taken from municipal water systems in cities such as New York and Denver, but the team also looked at showerheads in four rural homes supplied by private wells. Though they found other kinds of bacteria in those showerheads, there were no M. avium present. The same research team has found M. avium in soap scum on vinyl shower curtains and above the water surface of warm therapy pools in previous studies.

Here’s the release from the University of Colorado.