The 20th South Platte Forum will be Oct. 21-22 at the Radisson Conference Center in Longmont. Registration by Oct. 1 is $100; after that date it is $115. Registrations should be sent to the South Platte Water Forum, c/o Northern Colorado Water, 220 Water Ave., Berthoud, CO 80513.
This year’s Friend of the South Platte Award will go to Nolan Doesken, Colorado State Climatologist. Keynote presentations will be given by Chips Berry, manager of Denver Water, and Don Marositica, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
For more information, contact Jennifer Brown at (402) 960-3670.
The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users will be making a 100 cfs cut in their tunnel diversions today which will effectively increase the flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge to just over 800 cfs. The Colorado Division of Wildlife will be on the river next week for their annual fish sampling/inventory so we’ll try to maintain stable flows during that time period. Following next week’s inventory, Crystal releases will be reduced as tunnel demands gradually subside.
From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
…the U.S. Department of the Interior is conducting a water-supply and demand study of the basin from Wyoming and Colorado to California, an Interior Department official said Friday at the Colorado River District’s water seminar. The exact form of the study will be shaped by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and a variety of stakeholders from around the basin, said Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science. “We all know that every drop of the Colorado River is allocated,” Castle said. That makes it all the more important to put the water in the river to the best use as the population of people dependent on it grows and the amount of water it carries shrinks as a result of drought and climate change…
Castle, who lived for a time in the 1970s on Orchard Mesa, most recently was a partner in the Denver law firm of Holland & Hart. In her new position, she oversees Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Morph your Aspen viewing this weekend into a trip over to Montrose for the shindig. Here’s a report from Nancy Lofholm writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
The 6-mile-long Gunnison Tunnel — invisible and sometimes forgotten by today’s residents — was built to bring water from the Gunnison River to the fertile but mostly arid Uncompahgre Valley. It turned farmland that had inadequate water into one of the state’s prime agriculture areas…
The tunnel will get its due during a monumental birthday bash. Saturday, bells will clang from Montrose to Delta in an echo of the bells that pealed across the valley when the first water came rushing through the tunnel and filling a canal system on Sep. 23, 1909. There will be a parade, fireworks, games, picnics and a re-enactment of President William Howard Taft “speechifying” and pressing the golden button that opened the tunnel. “It’s a tremendously impressive project,” said Western State College history professor Duane Vandenbusche, who has included two chapters about the tunnel in a newly published book about the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Revenues for 2009 are projected to be down 15 percent to $190 million, according to Denver Water finance director David LaFrance. But the weak economy has also led to lower costs to borrow money and a drop in construction costs as building-material costs sag and contractors cut their bids by as much as 75 percent just to get work…It is difficult to tell how much of the revenue drop is the result of the recession and how much is from the wet summer that cut the need to water lawns, LaFrance said.
Meanwhile revenues are way down for Aurora as well. Here’s a report from Adam Goldstein writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:
But even with a resulting loss of revenues estimated between $8 million and $12 million, Aurora Water representatives say that the department has been able to absorb the losses, partly through savings in funds set aside for short-term water leases. “We had one advantage in our budget this year. Right after the drought in 2003, we put money in our budget for short-term water leases. If we had dry weather, we could simply lease water from farmers,” said Greg Baker, Aurora Water spokesman. “This year, we still had that money in our budget.”[…]
The city manager’s proposed budget for 2010, which he will present to the Aurora City Council later this week, proposes a budget of about $140,474,300 for the city’s water and wastewater/stormwater enterprise funds. This represents a slight increase over the budget for 2009, which was about $140,457,639. Baker added that proposed budget for 2010 will include two specific impacts on Aurora Water’s fees. In addition to a 6-percent increase in the city’s sewer rates, the department will also implement the second part of a two-tiered water rate increase originally approved in 2008. In 2010, Aurorans will see an increase of 7.5 percent in their water bills, a spike that follows the 8-percent increase implemented at the beginning of 2009. Both of these rate increases will help fund the Prairie Waters Project, the city’s new, $700-million water system set to come online in 2010.
More Denver Water coverage here. More Prairie Waters coverage here.
The two resolutions clear up the relationship of the new debt to past and future obligations and give the board’s representatives flexibility in issuing the bonds next month. The board will issue up to $27 million in bonds for up to 5.5 percent interest, depending on several factors still undecided. The actual amount of the bonds is expected to be closer to $23 million at 4 percent interest when the bonds are issued on Oct. 22…
The board also is waiting to learn what portion of the bonds will be issued as Build America Bonds, part of the federal stimulus package, which could also reduce the financial impact and what level of bond insurance is needed. Market conditions also have to be taken into account.
The agreement will use $100,000 each from Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to provide staff and administrative support to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, formed in July by the state Legislature. The district has authority over land-use issues in the Fountain Creek flood plain between Fountain and Pueblo, and its board membership is evenly split between El Paso County and downstream interests. The agreement also provides $200,000 each from Colorado Springs and the Lower Ark to continue the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan, started under a similar IGA in 2007. Colorado Springs Council unanimously approved the agreement as a consent item after hearing a presentation last week while sitting as the Utility Board. The Lower Ark and Fountain Creek boards have already approved the agreement.
Pueblo County commissioners are expected to make a decision next week on whether the $300,000 contribution by Colorado Springs can be applied to the $50 million Colorado Springs has pledged to the district as a condition of a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs also will pay $300,000 toward the study of a dam or dams to provide flood control on Fountain Creek in the next three years. The first payment has been made.
[Winter Park] and Denver Water are sharing the $110,000 cost of the project, which will take place in locations within 35 miles of the ski area. Denver Water last partook in cloud seeding over Winter Park in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. The project is slated to take place during the months of November, December and January, according to Steve Schmitzer, manager of water resource analysis for Denver Water.
Meanwhile, a supporting $60,000 cloud-seeding project will take place from November through March in the same area coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and water users from the lower Colorado River basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada…
About 10 Winter Park-Denver Water financed generators will be located on mostly private properties, and will be turned on and off depending on weather conditions and the presence of moisture-producing clouds. The two other generators will be located in higher areas and managed remotely by computer. The project involves a meteorologist who will determine appropriate times for cloud seeding. The quantities of iodide present in runoff due to cloud seeding equates to less iodine that what is found in salt on food, according to report on cloud seeding during the 2008 Arizona Weather Modification Conference. There is also more silver exposure found in tooth fillings, and there have been no human effects from cloud seeding found in 40 years of research, the report reads.
FromThe Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):
The developers who subdivided the ranch were required to replace every drop that would be taken out of the Oil Creek watershed by the homes in the subdivision, since downstream ranchers, farmers and others have senior water rights. The plan the developers submitted to water court in the mid-1970s said they would build a pipeline from two wells they owned to bring water into Oil Creek below the subdivision, which flows into Four Mile Creek and the Arkansas River. “The pipeline apparently never was built, but the development did proceed. So there have been wells constructed that are withdrawing water contrary to the court-approved plan, or at least not in accordance with the court-approved plan,” said Steve Witte, division engineer in Pueblo for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. When lot buyers filed for well applications with the division, its staff checked to make sure there was a water augmentation plan, but nobody confirmed the plan was being followed, which was common practice, Witte said. Said Witte, “I think the folks that reviewed the well permit applications in our Denver office accepted on faith that the court-approved plan was being adhered to. They didn’t follow up to verify.”
“The region looks a lot better in 30 years with this project than without it,” said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of Northern. If NISP is not built, another 60,000 acres of agricultural land would be “dried up,” Wilkinson said. “It would accelerate ‘buy and dry,’” he said, referring to the practice of large cities buying ag land and shutting down wells. “Buy and dry would continue in some cases, but not as much as with NISP.”[…]
Area farmer Gene Kammerzell noted the estimated total cost of about $426 million and the target date of 2025 for completion of NISP, and wondered why Northern was not pursuing ways to reopen wells in the South Platte basin. Alan Berryman, assistant general manage for NCWCD’s engineering division, said many legal constraints exist on the use of wells, and well users would also have to augment what they pump. To match the yield of NISP with ground water, Wilkinson noted, a “firm” supply of 40,000 acre-feet of augmentation water would be needed. And while NISP would use existing canals for much of the moving of water, most alternatives would require an extensive — and expensive — system of pipelines, pumps and other equipment. The quality of groundwater compared to river water is also an issue, Wilkinson said. Well water would need a lot of treatment, he noted, and a percentage of water is lost during the treatment process. “That means you would have to overbuild your project in that regard,” Wilkinson said. Berryman also noted that the cost of NISP is “in line with the cost people are paying for water today.” Werner added that being a participant in NISP “would be an asset — a very valuable asset — that Fort Morgan and Quality Water would own.” As for other alternatives, one audience member noted that a long-ago plan for the Harden Dam could be resurrected, but Wilkinson said on-stream dams are not going to be approved for the foreseeable future. Wilkinson noted that drying up agricultural land for domestic water is being pursued by some Front Range cities because doing so avoids the need for a federal permit, which is what has delayed the NISP project for so long.
More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.
The area has been the subject of exploration dating back to the 1970s, and recent research by the Colorado School of Mines summer field camp indicated vast potential in the area. Mt. Princeton Geothermal, LLC, conducted thermal gradient testing this summer in conjunction with the CSM field camp and discovered what is to date the hottest known water source in the state.
The area’s proximity to available power lines increases the practicality of tapping the resource, using a binary method of generating electricity. The hot water is pumped to the surface and cycled through a heat exchanger to heat a special fluid with a boiling point lower than that of water. The resulting steam is used to drive turbines that generate electricity…
Jay Hake of Hake, Heart and Lintzenich, who advises the organization, said there are four options. One is do nothing, second is a recall, third is a process review and fourth is going to water court. Hake said the first option would accept the project as proposed after changes and conditions were met. All those changes and conditions came from community input, he noted. A recall doesn’t provide much satisfaction, Hake said, because it wouldn’t change anything or stop Nestlé from pumping water. The last two options could become long, expensive legal battles, Hake said – requesting review of the commissioners’ approval of the 1041 permit or going to water court with Nestlé…
A review request must be filed within 30 days of the resolution signing date. Hake said commissioners will host a special meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 23 in the courthouse to review the staff-written resolution and may approve it then. Review would raise questions about the process. He said the 1041 has been in effect since 1973. The question to ask, is if officials correctly followed the process, he said.
More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.
The agenda included a tour of the reservoir and upstream lands as well as a facilitated work session. The goal of the meeting was to raise awareness of the issues surrounding Bonny Reservoir including the potential impact it can have on the Republican River Basin Community. The Republican River Restoration Partnership began as a project of Southwest Nebraska RC&D. The RRRP works to positively effect management of the riparian area of the Republican River and its tributaries in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Their goals are to foster cooperation between three states to develop a regional plan for the watershed, to increase economic development throughout the area, increase the quantity and quality of water within the watershed and increase educational opportunities in regard to water quantity and quality.
More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.
The biggest problem with water development appears to be staying out of each other’s way. In the past, the state’s system of water rights – a carefully ordered and enforced hierarchy based on historical priority of use – has done little to encourage sharing water rights.
For farmers, the system has planted a “use it or lose it” attitude that works on an emotional level. Irrigators jealously guard their share of the river and have always made it their business to know what the neighbors are up to.
For cities, the system has created a type of hoarding – checked by concepts like “reasonable” or “foreseeable” – in anticipation of the day when existing water resources reach their limit. For some cities, like Pueblo, this has rarely happened. Others, like Colorado Springs, have faced and overcome water shortage crises many times.
Whether it’s buying shares in the Bessemer Ditch (Pueblo) or building the Southern Delivery System (Colorado Springs), cities are always looking for a way to reach the next increment of growth.
“Advanced water strategies are not always 100-percent successful,” said Eric Wilkinson, a Colorado Water Conservation Board member who also heads the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Oftentimes, to implement a water project, it is difficult to get through the gauntlet of regulatory agencies.”
Federal, state and even county requirements can reduce the yield of a project, or even kill it.
Additionally, some projects – Denver Water’s undeveloped West Slope rights or oil shale development – have water rights that have not been fully used and which could curtail the plans of others, Wilkinson said…
And speaking of the environment, a statewide plan is only effective when each piece of river it touches can be accounted for, said Melinda Kassen of Trout Unlimited. Kassen said the nine basin roundtables that feed into the IBCC have yet to complete the analysis of nonconsumptive water needs throughout the state. Even then, each project will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, since recreation interests – rafting vs. fishing, for example – are often at cross-purposes. Some reaches are fine, some need protection and some need restoration, Kassen said. “We need to make sure we use the money available for environmental protection to protect those areas we know will have problems,” Kassen said…
It has become increasingly difficult to build new storage in the state, as witnessed by the the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a controversial plan to build two new reservoirs. While the Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins would provide up to 170,000 acre-feet of storage, some have questioned its projected impact on stream flows. Municipal conservation is an unreliable building block for future growth, and it’s difficult to measure. The state alternately has looked at using 2000 and 2008 as base years – bracketing a drought that changed how communities approach restrictions. The differences in communities make it hard to account for statewide conservation goals, since one community could be largely residential and another could have an industry that requires large amounts of water. Agricultural conservation could be a false savings, if increased consumptive use reduces return flows to other users.
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.”
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.
Bump and update:From the Aurora Sentinel (Adam Goldstein):
The fancy bottled brands may have a new challenger, as the water coming from taps in Aurora has a new mark of recognition. Aurora Water beat competitors from other metro water utilities from three states in a recent taste test competition held by the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association…
Aurora Water will move on to the next level of the competition, representing the Rocky Mountain Section of the AWWA during the “Best of the Best” taste test, to be held at the AWWA Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago in June 2010.
The city was crowned the winner at the recent Rocky Mountain selection of the American Water Works Association Taste Test. A five-member panel decided that Aurora water had the best appearance, smell, taste and overall impression. Denver Water and the Centennial Water and Sanitation District were among other local utilities entered.
Here’s an update about the monitoring of fish moving through the new fish passage at the Price-Stubbs dam near Palisade, from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:
Monitoring the fish that way gives more information about the movements and is preferable to electro-shocking or other methods of counting the fish, [Tom Chart, the new head of the Upper Colorado Basin Endangered Species Recovery Program] said. The Fish and Wildlife Service has stocked endangered razorback suckers in the river, and Chart said he is planning to do more. “We’re still in full force with the stocking program” and will build more ponds in Horsethief Canyon to grow additional razorbacks, Chart said.
Here’s an article about Mr. Chart, from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:
The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, which this summer was extended through 2023, now is headed by Tom Chart, who has worked for and with the program during a 26-year career dealing with endangered fish. Chart worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ecological Services Field Office in Salt Lake City on projects to recover endangered fish in the Colorado and Virgin river systems. Before that, he was a biologist for the Bureau of Reclamation in Salt Lake City. He also worked for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in Moab.
Colorado River District general manager, Eric Kuhn, spoke yesterday evening up at the the Aspen Global Change Institute, “…which is hosting a workshop this week to explore how climate scientists and water managers can provide better information to government decision makers,” according to report from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:
Kuhn cited a survey done six months ago by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization of people in the seven states that have a stake in Colorado River water, including Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, California and Nevada. The survey asked residents of those states, “Is climate change an established reality or an unproven myth?” People in Colorado are split 47 percent to 47 percent on the question. In Wyoming, only 35 percent of people think climate change is “an established reality,” while 62 percent of Californians think it is. Seventy-four percent of Democrats in those seven states think climate change is a reality, but only 25 percent of Republicans do, the survey found.
Kuhn said another survey found that in the 15 Western Slope counties that make up the Colorado River District, 83 percent of Democrats feel climate change should be given a high priority, while only 40 percent of Republicans felt the same way.
Yet Kuhn said evidence continues to point to a future with hotter temperatures and less water in the Colorado River.
The plan is expected to be released in late 2010 and will be the guide and focus for groups within the watershed to apply for grants to address the problems documented. After a time of sharing information about the planning process and the Lower South Platte, the meeting was opened for ideas from those attending. “We want to hear from you, your concerns, the things you think need to be addressed for the future of the watershed,” Cronquist said.
Among concerns listed by the group include:
• New water storage
• Upgrade old storage
• Baseline studies of aquatic life
• Water for livestock
• More collective/data sharing
• Site specific Best Management Practices (BMP)
• Increases in salinity, increase in salt cedar, zebra mussels, Sago pondweed
• Land use changes
Groups and organizations that have supported the plan through their involvement on the Core (advisory) Committee include: Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Corn, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Livestock Association, Colorado State University Extension, Colorado State University, Ducks Unlimited, Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, Lower South Platte Watershed Association, Natural Resources Conservation Service, North Front Range Water Quality Planning Association, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy, Northeast Colorado Health Department, Sedgwick County Conservation District, and West Greeley Conservation District.
By 2030, it’s projected an additional 2 million residents will live in Colorado’s portion of the South Platte River Basin, and these additional people will need about 400,000 acre feet of water to meet their demand.