Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2009

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall Wednesday took his boldest step yet on the road to a national nuclear renaissance as part of a program designed to combat global warming. He introduced the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2009 in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor in which he acknowledged he was likely stepping on an environmental landmine. “For some, news that a Udall is speaking favorably about nuclear power will come as a stark – and perhaps unpleasant – surprise. But I also believe public and expert opinion on the risks and benefits of nuclear power has changed,” Udall said…

The Senate bill, co-sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would clear the way for the U.S. Department of Energy to engage in research into modular and small-scale nuclear reactors, cost-efficient manufacturing for nuclear power facilities and enhanced proliferation controls…

Keith Hay, energy advocate for Denver-based Environment Colorado, said Udall’s own state would bear the environmental brunt of a revival of the nation’s nuclear power industry, which currently accounts for a about 20 percent of the nation’s electrical power, although no new nuclear plants have come online since the Three Mile Island disaster. “We don’t think that renewable energy is a silver bullet; we just think that there are some things that shouldn’t be part of the buckshot going forward, and nuclear [power] certainly shouldn’t be part of that buck shot,” Hay said. “We certainly agree with Sen. Udall that climate change is important and a pressing need, but we clearly disagree with Sen. Udall on the path forward.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Save the Poudre’s Gary Wockner pitches Fort Morgan City Council

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From the Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

Gary Wockner of the Save the Poudre Coalition said it is the goal of his group to stop the project. Wockner said Save the Poudre comprises 16 environmental groups and represents 3 million U.S. citizens. He thanked the council for inviting him to speak at Tuesday’s meeting. “We’ve been doing this for several years, and Fort Morgan is the first NISP participant to ask us to do this,” he said. The anti-NISP group also hopes to offer better alternatives for the cities and towns that need water and to propose a river restoration plan for the future, Wockner said…

Gary Dreessen, the city’s water resources director and a strong proponent of NISP, asked some pointed questions of Wockner after his presentation. “All this water that you want to go down the Poudre — where do you want it to go?” Dreessen asked. Wockner said Save the Poudre believes there aren’t any high flows in the river…

Wockner said Save the Poudre will do anything it can to stop NISP, including legal action, but that a long process lies ahead before the project could become a reality. He said the Corps of Engineers permitting process could drag on for another two years, and then the EPA will have to sign off on the project and participants will have to figure out how to pay for it. “Anyone can object at any stage,” he said. “It could go five to 20 years.”

Northern Water officials have said they expect a permit to be issued for NISP sometime in 2010, with construction expected to begin the following year.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here.

Colorado State University scores $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund water resources research

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Here’s the release from CSU. Here’s an excerpt:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Colorado State University two grants totaling $1.2 million to aid in research addressing critical water resource issues – the only university in Colorado to receive part of the $11 million distributed by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grants are distributed through the National Integrated Water Quality Program, which aims to address issues such as water quality protection and water conservation. “Cities, communities and rural areas across the nation depend on a safe and abundant supply of water for drinking and cooking,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA news release. “This research will play a vital role in our understanding of the part water plays in the ecosystem and developing tools and strategies to effectively manage our water resources.” The National Integrated Water Quality Program addresses critical water resource issues in agricultural, rural and urban watersheds through research, education and extension projects and programs.

Aspinall Unit: Invasive mussels inspections regime changed for winter operations

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

Stevens Creek boat ramp will remain closed to vessel launching and retrieval. Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramp hours are 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. Inspections continue at the Elk Creek Marina, rather than at the campground entrance. Vessels that have been slipped or on the water for more than 24 hours must go through a high-risk inspection and possible decontamination, which will take longer than a standard inspection. No motorized or trailered vessel launching or retrieval is allowed outside of the Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramps. Only hand-launched water craft may launch outside of these locations and their trailers may not enter the water. Boat decontamination is no longer available at Lake Fork, due to nighttime temperatures that are below freezing, and the potential for water lines and portable decontamination units to freeze. Boats needing decontamination will be sent to Elk Creek. Boaters can prevent the need for decontamination by keeping craft clean, drained and dried of any standing water upon arrival at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Cooler temperatures and reduced staff means decontamination might not be immediately available to vessels with attached adult mussels. Such vessels may be denied access to the lake until they are decontaminated elsewhere. The reservoir and inspection stations remain open until the water at Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramps freezes. Hours will again be reduced in late November or early December.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Antero Reservoir boating closure

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Beginning Sunday, Nov. 1, Antero Reservoir will be closed to trailered and motorized boating. Hand-launched craft, such as canoes, kayaks and bellyboats will be allowed until the reservoir is iced over. The anticipated reopening of trailered and/or motorized boating is May 1, 2010.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Denver Water raises rates for 2010

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners approved an adjustment in water rates for 2010 to help fund the utility’s 10-year capital plan. The new rates will take effect Feb. 3, 2010.

Denver Water’s 10-year plan includes 300 projects, including upgrades to aging infrastructure to prevent putting reliable water service at risk. The plan also calls for expansion of the utility’s system capacity to meet the future needs of its customers. Over the next 10 years, the utility plans to expand its recycled water system, enlarge Gross Reservoir by 18,000 acre-feet, finish developing gravel pits that store reusable water, and explore ways to work with other water providers to bring more supplies to its system.

Denver Water has determined the cost of making repairs and replacements to its aging infrastructure and building new supply within its system will total $1.3 billion over the next 10 years. “We need to be more proactive in our work to repair, maintain and upgrade our aging water system. Some of our facilities are more than 100 years old,” said Brian Good, director of operations and maintenance. “Next year, you will see us doing more water main replacements, more cement mortar lining of pipes to extend their useful life and upgrading underground vaults. We also will be doing major upgrades at the Marston Treatment Plant, replacing gates at Cheesman Dam that date back to the early 1900s, and installing a new hydropower turbine at Williams Fork Reservoir.” In 2010 the water department will need an additional $13.3 million in revenue to cover rising costs associated with maintaining and improving the city’s water system. Denver Water owns and maintains 2,800 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 12 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. Rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure is needed throughout the water distribution system, much of which dates back to the World War II era or earlier.

Typical Denver residential customers will see their bills increase by about $40 a year — an average of $3.30 per month, or about $12 on a summer bill. Typical suburban residential customers served by Denver Water will see an increase of $51 per year — an average of $4.30 per month, or about $16 on a summer bill. The effects of the proposed changes on customer bills will vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water; the more customers use, the more they will pay. Commercial, industrial and government customers will see adjustments in rates, as well. Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

Denver Water is funded through rates, new tap fees and the sale of hydropower, not taxes. Its rates are designed to recover the costs of providing reliable, high-quality water service and to encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. Most of Denver Water’s costs are fixed and include maintenance of the system’s distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants. Denver Water also examines and adjusts its capital plan as necessary each year.

Details of the 2010 rates will be posted on Denver Water’s Web site within the next few days. Members of the public who have questions about the proposed rate adjustment may call 303-893-2444.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Colleen O’Connor). From the article:

Residential bills vary according to how much water is used per household, but the increase for typical Denver residents will amount to about $40 annually, or $3.30 a month; during the summer irrigation season, bills probably will increase about $12 a month. In the past decade, the amount Denver Water charges its residential customers per 1,000 gallons of water will have doubled to $3.50 in 2010 from $1.75 in 2000. Rates for suburban customers will increase about $51 a year, or about $4.30 a month and about $16 a month in summer. In 10 years, the rate per 1,000 gallons for suburban customers will have increased 81 percent, to $4.80 in 2010 from $2.65 in 2000. Commercial, government and industrial users also will see rate increases of about 4.1 percent, Denver Water rate manager John Wright said. The monthly service charge Denver Water adds to each customer’s bill will increase to $5.58 from $4.41, or about 26.5 percent.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Durango: Study of sediment sources in Lightner Creek underway

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

A coalition of public agencies has acquired funding for a three-phase hydrological study to answer questions that have stumped observers for years: Where does the sediment that Lightner Creek periodically dumps into the Animas River come from, and why? Field work on the study, begun this week, could be done by the end of the year and lead to answers to an environmental problem seen as a potential source of harm to renowned fishing waters. “Sediment comes and goes, but no one knows whether it’s natural or human-induced,” Meghan Maloney, river campaign director at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said recently. “The reason for concern is that Lightner Creek runs into the Animas at the head of a trout fishery that the Colorado Division of Wildlife gives its highest rating – gold medal.”[…]

Three organizations put up funding for a study – Trout Unlimited $1,000, the Colorado Water Conservation Board $5,000 and the Southwestern Water Conservation District $2,600 – to hire Mark Oliver of Basin Hydrology. Oliver started his field work this week. “I started at the mouth where Lightner Creek runs into the Animas and I’m working my way upstream,” Oliver said. “I’m looking at the channel and flood plain for sediment sources that could come from bank erosion or land-use modification. “The Tech Center watershed and Perins Canyon seem likely sources of silt,” Oliver said. “But my study will confirm whether the deposition is coming from there.” At certain points, Oliver will do sieve analysis – measuring the size of sediment particles. Along with a cross-section analysis of the channel – width, depth and slope – he can determine the movement of sediment. “I’ll focus on sediment sources and the mechanics of how sediment gets to the mouth,” Oliver said. “Then I’ll try to determine if the sediment is natural or caused by people – for example, the landfill above the Tech Center.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Cutthroat Chapter of Trout Unlimited Annual Conservation Auction November 17

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From Colorado Trout Unlimited:

The Cutthroat Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold its Annual Conservation Auction on Tuesday, November 17. The doors will open at 6:30 pm. Admission is free. The event will help raise funds for the chapter’s conservation activities such as Cheeseman Canyon trail maintenance, help fund a graduate fellowship at Colorado State University Department of Fish Biology and Wildlife, and the chapter’s stream improvement activities. More than 150 items will be available for bid through a silent auction and a traditional verbal auction. Items to auctioned include fishing trips, fishing equipment, professionally tied flies, art items, and much more. The event will be held at Terrace Gardens, 13065 East Briarwood Avenue in Englewood (just south of Arapahoe Road, 2 miles east of I-25). Please contact Bill Richards at 303-909-1375 or go to http://www.cutthroatctu.org for more information or directions.

More conservation coverage here.

San Luis Valley: Final arguments heard in trial over first groundwater sub-district

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Attorneys argued for four hours in a packed courtroom over which sources of water the subdistrict could use to replace injuries to senior surface users, how proposed computer modeling could accurately monitor them and to what extent past injury to seniors should be compensated. Attorney William Paddock, who represents the Rio Grande Water Users Association, argued that compensating for past depletions from the Rio Grande that project to cause injury into the future would be unfair to well users who were operating legally in the past. Judge O. John Kuenhold, who questioned each of the six attorneys who presented arguments, asked if not doing so would be fair to the senior surface water users, who’ve born the demands of delivering water downstream under the Rio Grande Compact since the 1960s while wells went unregulated. “Is it fair to wait 40 years for something?” he asked, while clarifying later in the proceedings that attorneys should not take his questioning as an indication of how he would rule.

The plan, which would take in roughly 174,000 acres of irrigated land and 3,000 irrigation wells, are an alternative to the rules and regulations currently being formulated by the Office of the State Engineer. Either of those two plans, should they go in effect, would represent the first regulation of the valley’s wells.

Tim Buchanan, an attorney representing 11 objectors, criticized the computer model that would be used to project depletions, noting that there were more than 200,000 acre-feet in groundwater depletions that resulted in only a 3-percent depletion to the Rio Grande. “Is it math or is it voodoo,” he asked. Buchanan and Erich Schwiesow, an attorney for one other objector, also questioned the subdistrict’s plans to attribute the recharge decrees of ditch companies in the subdistrict toward replacement water. Buchanan argued that the subdistrict didn’t have the authority to utilize the property rights of ditch shareholders in that manner. Paddock countered, noting that the decrees for two of the larger ditches in question, allowed water to be reallocated should they come under new regulation from the state.

Meanwhile, not content to wait for Judge Kuenhold’s ruling, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board voted this week to move ahead with implementing assessments for the management of the groundwater sub-district. Here’s a report from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

Well owners within the geographic area of the sub-district will pay fees to operate and manage the sub-district. The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) has been footing the bills for developing its sub-district to this point. The water management sub-district is designed to reduce well pumping in order to alleviate injuries to senior surface water rights, replenish the underground aquifer and ensure the basin complies with the Rio Grande Compact. The water court approved the sub-district, but the sub-district’s management plan is currently under dispute and judicial review…

RGWCD District Engineer Allen Davey asked the board on Tuesday if Sub-district #1 should prepare to submit the administrative fee documentation to the Rio Grande County treasurer. He said the process of preparing the documentation will cost some money, and the district would be risking the loss of those funds if the sub-district plan is denied by the courts. RGWCD Board President Ray Wright said the illness at the conclusion of the trial delayed closing arguments to the end of October, and the judge would undoubtedly take time to render a thorough decision after that time. He said it is a judgment call at this point whether the judge’s ruling will be made in time to begin assessments in 2010. Davey added that even if the judge makes a favorable ruling, an appeal could be filed that could last another year or more.

RGWCD Attorney Ingrid Barrier said, “I am fairly confident if we get such a ruling, we will have an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.” She said Kuenhold is well aware of the district’s time constraints regarding the fee collections, but there is also no question the judge will be determined to fashion a comprehensive decision taking into account the proposals of all the parties involved. “I think it is wise for us to move forward as if we are able to collect this fee … because if we do not do that, that’s another year off.” She said the administrative fees could be placed in an escrow account so in the event the Supreme Court denied the sub-district plan, the fees could be given back. Barrier said that completing the process to begin collecting fees would make it easier in the future to repeat the process. Several other sub-districts are in the works throughout the San Luis Valley…

Barrier also reviewed the major arguments from the principal attorney for the opponents, Tim Buchanan who represents a group of senior surface water owners. Barrier said the opposing arguments include: sub-district not entitled to use any water from the Closed Basin Project to replenish depletions; likewise with recharge water; the plan is not specific enough in how it will protect senior water rights; the plan is invalid because no rules/regulations are in place regarding contracts with well users outside the sub-district area; and the time period to begin replacing injurious depletions is in dispute. The sub-district board proposes to replace depletions in January of the year following the plan’s approval, while opponents believe the depletions should be retroactive.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Reclamation Hosting Public Open Houses on Water Users’ Commitment to Provide Water for Endangered Fish

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Reclamation Hosting Public Open Houses on Water Users’ Commitment to Provide Water for Endangered Fish

The Bureau of Reclamation is hosting two public open houses as part of the public scoping process for its Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the effects of entering into three potential long-term water contracts. Reclamation will be accepting public comments until November 18, 2009.

The first open house will be November 4 in Basalt, Colo. at the Basalt Middle School. The second open house will be November 5 in Granby, Colo. at the Inn at Silver Creek. Both open houses will run from 6-8 p.m.

At the request of east and west slope water users of the Colorado River, Reclamation is considering entering into three proposed long-term water contracts that would provide 10,825 acre-feet of water from Ruedi, Granby, and to a lesser extent, Green Mountain reservoirs to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River – critical habitat already identified for the endangered fish.

In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Reclamation is preparing the EA to determine what effects might result from the three proposed contracts. Comments received from the public will help Reclamation identify the scope of the EA.

Comments must be submitted in writing via e-mail to 10825EA@mwhglobal.com, or by hard copy. Hard copy letters or comment cards will be accepted at the public open houses, but may also be mailed to: Attn: 10825 EA, MWH, 1110 Elkton Drive, Suite B, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80907. Comments must be received by November 18, 2009.</p

For additional questions about the public open houses and scoping process, please contact Kara Lamb at (970) 962-4326 or klamb@usbr.gov.

More endangered species coverage here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works closes most of the deals for Bessemer Ditch shares

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The water board has purchased more than a quarter of the Bessemer Ditch, although some contracts have been extended beyond today’s deadline. The board has spent more than $53 million so far, including $30.45 million from the sale of the Columbine Ditch to Aurora and Climax Mines and $23.37 million in revenue bonds. The board expects to spend $60 million on the ditch shares, using money from its water development fund – from outside water sales, also called leases – to make up the difference. Pueblo water rates are expected to be hiked 5 percent, with 3.5 percent going to refinance the bonds. The final rate will be set at a Nov. 17 budget hearing. As of Thursday, the board had wrapped up 62 purchases totaling more than 5,220 Bessemer Ditch shares, said Executive Director Alan Hamel. The board paid $10,150 per share. Four contracts for about 100 shares were extended to give the board and sellers time to work out details, Hamel said…

Every contract came with an option to lease the shares back from the water board for the cost of ditch assessments for up to 20 years. Hamel told shareholders in May that the water board probably won’t need the water for another 20-30 years, barring a severe drought. Water from 84 acres of the total will not be leased back, giving the board an opportunity to test conditions in Pueblo County for revegetation – something that will have to be done on all the farms in the purchase eventually. “In 2010, we will begin to put together a revegetation plan,” Hamel said. “Aurora has done a lot of work on its farms down in Rocky Ford, but conditions here aren’t necessarily the same.” At any time during the 20 years, irrigators can choose not to lease the water. In that case, the shares could still be used within the lateral or the ditch as a whole…

The water board still must take the shares to court to change them to municipal and other uses before it can directly use the water. The change case should be filed within 18 months to two years, Hamel said. “We still have engineering work to do, and we’re looking at a Pueblo County 1041 application,” Hamel explained. It won’t be the first time a change case has been filed on Bessemer shares. The St. Charles Mesa Water District has purchased about 2,000 shares, 10 percent of the ditch, and is converting them at this time. Its service area lies mostly within the Bessemer Ditch boundaries…

The board expects to net about 1.5 acre-feet per share – about 8,000 acre-feet total – based on the average annual historic use for crops. That number will be refined by engineering reports on each property…

The Bessemer Ditch was started in 1873 as a town ditch for South Pueblo. It was owned for a time by Colorado Coal & Iron, but incorporated as a shareholder-owned mutual ditch company in 1894. About 43 miles long, it irrigates nearly 20,000 acres, mostly east of Pueblo, although there are couple laterals west of the city. All of the water board’s purchases are east of Pueblo, Hamel said. The Bessemer Ditch has water rights dating back to 1861, and diverts its water directly from Pueblo Dam. It also has some storage rights in Lake Pueblo through the winter water program.

More Bessemer Ditch coverage here and here.

Governor Ritter names Jim Martin to lead the Colorado Department of Natural Resources

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Members of Colorado’s environmental community liked the selection Monday by Gov. Bill Ritter of Jim Martin, head of the Department of Public Health and Environment, to take over for Harris Sherman as executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Martin’s leadership on the state air commission was essential to cutting mercury pollution 90 percent from coal-fired power plants in 2007,” Environment Colorado advocate Matt Garrington said in a statement. “As head of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, Martin was key to protecting our drinking water and making sure oil and gas development is done right.”

More Colorado water coverage here.

CWCB: Montrose County instream flow water rights public meeting

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

The Stream and Lake Protection Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board is holding a public meeting to discuss the potential appropriation by the Board of new instream flow water rights in 2010 in Montrose County, and the current status of the Board’s acquisition of the UMETCO water rights.

The following stream segments in Montrose County are being considered for instream flow protection at this time: North Fork Tabeguache Creek, Red Canyon Creek, San Miguel River, and Tabeguache Creek.

Additional streams that are being considered for appropriation in 2010 in Water Division 4 include: Alpine Gulch, Big Dominguez Creek, Blue Creek (Increase), Cebolla Creek, Cochetopa Creek, East Beaver Creek, Little Dominguez Creek, Spring Creek, and Willow Creek.

Detailed information concerning these proposed instream flow water rights can be found at: http://cwcb.state.co.us/StreamAndLake/NewAppropriations/ISFAppropriationNotices/2010ProposedAppropriations/

The meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. on November 5, 2009, and will be held in the Norwood Town Hall/Community Room, 1670 Naturita Street, Norwood, Colorado. Questions may be directed to Jeff Baessler at 303-866-3441.

More San Miguel watershed coverage here and here.

USGS: Groundwater withdrawals decline from 2000 to 2005

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Here’s the release from the USGS:

Estimates of water use in the United States indicate that about 410 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn in 2005 for all categories summarized in this report. This total is slightly less than the estimate for 2000, and about 5 percent less than total withdrawals in the peak year of 1980. Freshwater withdrawals in 2005 were 349 Bgal/d, or 85 percent of the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals. Fresh groundwater withdrawals of 79.6 Bgal/day in 2005 were about 5 percent less than in 2000, and fresh surface-water withdrawals of 270 Bgal/day were about the same as in 2000. Withdrawals for thermoelectric-power generation and irrigation, the two largest uses of water, have stabilized or decreased since 1980. Withdrawals for public-supply and domestic uses have increased steadily since estimates began.

Thermoelectric-power generation water withdrawals were an estimated 201 Bgal/d in 2005, about 3 percent more than in 2000. In 2005, thermoelectric freshwater withdrawals accounted for 41 percent of all freshwater withdrawals. Nearly all of the water withdrawn for thermoelectric power was surface water used for once-through cooling at power plants. Twenty-nine percent of thermoelectric-power withdrawals were saline water from oceans and brackish coastal water bodies.

Withdrawals for irrigation in 2005 were 128 Bgal/d, about 8 percent less than in 2000 and approximately equal to estimates of irrigation water use in 1970. In 2005, irrigation withdrawals accounted for 37 percent of all freshwater withdrawals and 62 percent of all freshwater withdrawals excluding thermoelectric withdrawals. Irrigated acreage increased from 25 million acres in 1950 to 58 million acres in 1980, then remained fairly constant before increasing in 2000 and 2005 to more than 60 million acres. The number of acres irrigated using sprinkler and microirrigation systems has continued to increase and in 2005 accounted for 56 percent of the total irrigated acreage.

Water withdrawals for public supply were 44.2 Bgal/d in 2005, which is 2 percent more than in 2000, although the population increased by more than 5 percent during that time. Public supply accounted for 13 percent of all freshwater withdrawals in 2005 and 21 percent of all freshwater withdrawals excluding thermoelectric withdrawals. The percentage of the U.S. population obtaining drinking water from public suppliers has increased steadily from 62 percent in 1950 to 86 percent in 2005. Most of the population providing their own household water obtained their supplies from groundwater sources.

Self-supplied industrial water withdrawals continued to decline in 2005, as they have since their peak in 1970. Self-supplied industrial withdrawals were an estimated 18.2 Bgal/d in 2005, a 30-percent decrease from 1985. An estimated 4.02 Bgal/d were withdrawn for mining in 2005, which is 11 percent less than in 2000, and 18 percent less than in 1990. Withdrawals for mining were only 58 percent freshwater.

Livestock water use was estimated to be 2.14 Bgal/d in 2005, which is the smallest estimate since 1975, possibly due to the use of standardized coefficients for estimation of animal water needs. Water use for aquaculture was an estimated 8.78 Bgal/d in 2005, nearly four times the amount estimated in 1985. Part of this increase is due to the inclusion of more facilities in the estimates in 2005, and the use of standardized coefficients for estimating aquaculture use from other data.

Fresh surface water was the source for a majority of the public-supply, irrigation, aquaculture, thermoelectric, and industrial withdrawals. Nearly 30 percent of all fresh surface-water withdrawals in 2005 occurred in five States. In California, Idaho, and Colorado, most of the fresh surface-water withdrawals were for irrigation. In Texas and Illinois, most of the fresh surface-water withdrawals were for thermoelectric power generation.

About 67 percent of fresh groundwater withdrawals in 2005 were for irrigation, and 18 percent were for public supply. More than half of fresh groundwater withdrawals in the United States in 2005 occurred in six States. In California, Texas, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Idaho, most of the fresh groundwater withdrawals were for irrigation. In Florida, 52 percent of all fresh groundwater withdrawals were for public supply, and 34 percent were for irrigation.

More groundwater coverage here and here.

New energy efficient desalination technology drives costs down

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From the Economist:

Ben Sparrow and Joshua Zoshi met at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, while completing their MBAs. Their company, Saltworks Technologies, has set up a test plant beside the sea in Vancouver and will open for business in November.

Existing desalination plants work in one of two ways. Some distil seawater by heating it up to evaporate part of it. They then condense the vapour—a process that requires electricity. The other plants use reverse osmosis. This employs high-pressure pumps to force the water from brine through a membrane that is impermeable to salt. That, too, needs electricity. Even the best reverse-osmosis plants require 3.7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy to produce 1,000 litres of drinking water.

Mr Sparrow and Mr Zoshi, by contrast, reckon they can produce that much fresh water with less than 1 kWh of electricity, and no other paid-for source of power is needed. Their process is fuelled by concentration gradients of salinity between different vessels of brine. These different salinities are brought about by evaporation.

The process begins by spraying seawater into a shallow, black-bottomed pond, where it absorbs heat from the atmosphere. The resulting evaporation increases the concentration of salt in the water from its natural level of 3.5% to as much as 20%. Low-pressure pumps are then used to pipe this concentrated seawater, along with three other streams of untreated seawater, into the desalting unit. As the diagram explains, what Mr Sparrow and Mr Zoshi create by doing this is a type of electrical circuit. Instead of electrons carrying the current, though, it is carried by electrically charged atoms called ions.

Salt is made of two ions: positively charged sodium and negatively charged chloride. These flow in opposite directions around the circuit. Each of the four streams of water is connected to two neighbours by what are known as ion bridges. These are pathways made of polystyrene that has been treated so it will allow the passage of only one sort of ion—either sodium or chloride. Sodium and chloride ions pass out of the concentrated solution to the neighbouring weak ones by diffusion though these bridges (any chemical will diffuse from a high to a low concentration in this way). The trick is that as they do so, they make the low-concentration streams of water electrically charged. The one that is positive, because it has too much sodium, thus draws chloride ions from the stream that is to be purified. Meanwhile, the negative, chloride-rich stream draws in sodium ions. The result is that the fourth stream is stripped of its ions and emerges pure and fresh.

Here’s the release from Saltworks Technologies.

More water treatment coverage here.

Groups hope to get U.S. Representative Markey to introduce companion to U.S. Senate Clean Water Restoration Act in the U.S. House of Representatives

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Colorado Trout Unlimited and Clean Water Action say they fear pollution could threaten trout habitat and drinking water for cities along the Front Range because some of the region’s water supply originates in streams that may be unregulated because the streams can’t be navigated by boat and are dry some of the year. Some of those streams may be in the Poudre River watershed, the National Wildlife Federation and the Izaak Walton League said in early October. The concern stems from a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the kinds of streams that can be protected under the Clean Water Act. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only those rivers and streams that affect interstate commerce – streams navigable by boat or are connected to such streams – are protected under the act. Some of those streams that might have lost protection could be polluted by mining and other development. In response to the 2006 decision and another ruling earlier in the decade also limiting the Clean Water Act, a bill was introduced in the Senate in April to restore some of the lost protections. The Clean Water Restoration Act is now in committee in the Senate.

But local groups are hoping Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., will support a House version of the bill. “We’re trying to get back to where we were before the two Supreme Court decisions,” said Melinda Kassen of Trout Unlimited. “It is going to take the word ‘navigable’ from the act. Technically, the only navigable river is (the Colorado River) from Grand Junction to the state line.” Trout Unlimited wants to ensure that wetlands and high mountain streams that are trout spawning grounds but are dry some of the year are protected from pollution under the Clean Water Act, she said, adding that she hopes a bill can be introduced next month.

More Clean Water Restoration Act coverage here and here.

Pueblo West: Looking at options to enable reuse of effluent

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West indicated it would still submit a site application to the state for a $6.5 million project to discharge sewer flows into a wash two miles above Lake Pueblo near the golf course, even after the Pueblo Area Council of Governments rejected the proposal on an 11-1 vote earlier this month. “We don’t know what’s going to transpire with the lawsuit against the county,” said Steve Harrison, Pueblo West utilities director. “In case we can’t come to some sort of agreement, we are applying for the site application.”

PACOG rejected the proposal because it goes against county regulations on Section 208 of the federal Clean Water Act, adopted in 1993. Pueblo West would pursue the plan because it offers the best solution for future water needs. The 208 regulations are being applied to the metro district selectively and are out of date, Harrison said.

Most of Pueblo West water comes from the Colorado River Basin, which means the community can reuse the non-native flows to extinction. Currently, Pueblo West reuses the water by exchange, sending its treated sewer flows down Wild Horse Dry Creek, and recapturing about 30 percent of them after transit losses. Pueblo West estimates it could recapture 98 percent of flows with a direct exchange into Lake Pueblo.

But other water users like the Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Fountain Valley Authority are concerned that nutrient loading from the proposed pumpback could upset the biological balance of the reservoir and create new water quality issues. There is also growing pressure to regulate traces of compounds from pharmaceuticals, detergents and fertilizers that would be more likely to make their way into the water supply. “We have serious concerns for the health of the reservoir, not only in terms of water quality, but taste and odor issues as well,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. “Pueblo Reservoir is also the most-used recreational facility in the state.”[…]

Wild Horse Dry Creek discharges into the Arkansas River about six miles downstream of a river gauge critical to the flow program, and about one mile above the river intake for the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo and Black Hills Energy. It is a significant source of selenium loading, probably because of the geology of the area – water running over shale formations.

Among the alternatives that have surfaced are:

-Building a discharge pipeline to discharge just below Pueblo Dam above the river gauge.

-Building a discharge pipeline to carry effluent to the Wild Horse confluence at the Arkansas River.

-Creating a trade with the Pueblo water board to use Pueblo West effluent to supply the Comanche Power Plant, with the water board providing water to Pueblo West. The water would still get payments from outside water sales.

-Possibly developing a cooperative arrangement among Pueblo West, Colorado Springs and the Pueblo water board to recapture flows downstream.

-Maintaining the status quo, which could leave Pueblo West in the position of having to buy new water rights if its other plans fail or with a pumpback plan in place despite the local objections…

The State Department of Public Health and Environment would have to buck the PACOG recommendation if it approves the site application…

Pueblo County also has notified Pueblo West that it would require a 1041 permit for the pumpback plan, since Pueblo West identified it as a water supply issue, Headley said.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Avon: Town Council approves water rate hike

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From the Vail Daily (Sarah Mausolf):

The Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority had asked for permission for a $3.91 increase to the monthly water bill for homes 3,000 square feet or smaller, and more for larger homes…

The water bill increase applies to the base fee for water use, and would equate to $3.91 per month per single family equivalent. The proposal also includes the Arrowhead, Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Berry Creek and Beaver Creek metropolitan districts.

More infrastructure here.

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The recreation area stretches 148 miles along the Arkansas River from Lake County to Lake Pueblo and now includes a couple of dozen launch sites along the way. There are restrooms, improved access from U.S. 50 and a lot less hurt feelings. Rafters, kayakers, fishermen, rock climbers, photographers and wildlife watchers have learned to share the canyon. “The most important thing we’ve done is the partnerships we’ve formed,” said Rose Bayless, who has worked for the recreation area since it was created in 1989 in an agreement that allowed the BLM to maintain ownership, but put management in the hands of Colorado State Parks. “In this way, we can preserve the natural resources and invite people to use the river.”

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program: New Clifton wastewater plant should meet water quality effluent standards

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

The three huge lagoons used by the former wastewater treatment plant serving Clifton no longer exist. Instead the Clifton Sanitation District, 3217 D Road, has a new system which treats wastewater in a more controlled environment, using less space, less energy, and with fewer odors. Clifton Sanitation Districts I and II consolidated to create a new wastewater treatment plant that complies with water quality standards mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Colorado. A federal mandate to protect four endangered fish species is what drove the project, said manager Brain Woods.

More endangered species coverage here.

Nevada: Judge blocks the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s groundwater pipeline project project

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From the Las Vegas Review Journal (Henry Brean):

For the moment at least, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has lost the water it hoped to pump to Las Vegas in the first phase of its proposed pipeline across eastern Nevada.

In a strongly worded order issued last week, a district judge overturned a 2008 state ruling that granted the authority permission to tap groundwater from three valleys in central Lincoln County. Judge Norman Robison ruled that State Engineer Tracy Taylor “abused his discretion” and “acted arbitrarily, capriciously and oppressively” when he cleared the authority to pump more than 6 billion gallons of groundwater a year from Cave, Delamar and Dry Lake valleys.

The senior judge from Gardnerville wrote that the state’s chief water regulator traditionally requires “specific empirical data” before allowing groundwater to be transferred out of a basin. This time, though, the state engineer is “simply hoping for the best while committing to undo his decision if the worst occurs,” Robison wrote.

Elkhead Valley: 617 acres put into conservation easement

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Brandon Gee):

The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved spending $250,000 to help conserve more than 600 acres in West Routt County’s Elkhead Valley. The money comes from the county’s Purchase of Develop ment Rights program. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricul tural Land Trust will hold the conservation easement on 617 acres of the Howe Ranch on Routt County Road 56 north of Hayden…

The Howe Ranch includes irrigated hay meadows, riparian areas along Calf Creek and sage-dominated rangelands, according to a news release, which states that the ranch also provides important habitat for species including elk, deer, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, fox, sandhill cranes, greater sage grouse and Columbian sharp-tail grouse…

The PDR program is funded by a 1.5-mill property tax approved in 2006, nine years after the program first was approved for a 10-year period. The 2006 renewal is good for 20 years…

To date, the PDR program has completed 24 projects protecting 14,670 acres at a cost of more than $6 million. Six more projects totaling 3,219 acres are under negotiation.

More conservation easement coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Piñon Ridge mill clears county permit hurdle

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The proposed Piñon Ridge mill awaits approval by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Montrose County commissioners, after 25 hours of hearings, last month issued a local permit. Federal environmental regulators will leave the decision to the state. Energy Fuels executives are preparing to submit a 12-volume application to state health regulators, triggering a technical review.

Here’s the post from October 4 announcing the county’s approval.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The town of Rifle is keeping a close watch on oil and gas exploration in the Beaver Creek Watershed

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From the Grand Junction Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The Rifle City Council on Wednesday agreed to let Laramie Energy II build two additional drilling pads in the Beaver Creek drainage, where the council last year issued a watershed permit for five Laramie pads, pipelines and associated facilities.

Beaver Creek, south of Rifle, is the city’s best and oldest water supply, said council member Alan Lambert. He said protecting it from Laramie’s operations has been a concern for council members, but Laramie has gone far to address those concerns.

Key steps have included putting in the monitoring system and relocating Beaver Creek Road away from the creek to provide a buffer from possible spills.

More Rifle coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley: It was a good year for moisture overall

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There has been more precipitation this year, so far, than any year since 1990, as measured at the official National Weather Service station at the Pueblo Memorial Airport. In fact, 2009 is on pace to be at least the seventh wettest year on record with more than 15 inches of precipitation so far. The rain has come in bands of storms sweeping across the Rockies onto the Plains since late spring after an abnormally dry April…

This year the runoff peaked three times, creating steady high flows rather than sudden high rushes. The dry years earlier this decade – only 3.94 inches fell in 2002 – left a water deficit that is still be being refilled. Statistically, the average precipitation for this time of year is 11.28 inches. The 15.5 inches Pueblo has received so far this year is almost 6 inches greater than last year’s total at this time. Pueblo averages 12.39 inches per year, with about an inch coming in the final two months.

Vail Valley: Waterwise Wednesday

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From the Vail Daily:

David Dittloff, regional outreach coordinator from the National Wildlife Federation, will speak about climate change and water resources in Colorado from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday in the Vail Town Council Chambers.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

Governor Ritter names Jim Martin to lead DNR

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From the Associated Press via the The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Martin currently heads the state Department of Public Health and Environment. He starts his new job Nov. 16…

Before heading the health department, Martin was executive director of Colorado-based Western Resource Advocates, an environmental law and policy organization. He also has headed the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado School of Law and worked for former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth of Colorado.

“Jim has proven himself time and time again as a strong leader and innovative policy maker,” Ritter said. “His leadership style is one of consensus-building and problem-solving, and he has broad respect among stakeholders and a great record of public service.”

More coverage from The Denver Post (Bruce Finley). From the article:

Starting Nov. 16, Martin will lead state government efforts to address looming challenges such as ensuring enough water to sustain fast-growing mountain communities and balancing natural ecosystems with the expansion of oil and gas drilling. He will replace departing Natural Resources director Harris Sherman, who has been confirmed by the Senate to serve as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment, overseeing the Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service…

“Colorado will be well-served by the depth and breadth of his subject-matter expertise on the issues critical to the mission of the Department of Natural Resources, including public lands, water and energy,” Ritter said in a statement. “His leadership style is one of consensus-building and problem-solving, and he has broad respect among stakeholders and a great record of public service.”[…]

“I am humbled by the governor’s confidence in me, and I look forward to working with all of the interested stakeholders in building a lasting legacy for Colorado,” Martin said in a statement…

Environment advocates said Martin can help Colorado make good choices. “Martin’s leadership on the state air commission was essential to cutting mercury pollution 90% from coal-fired power plants in 2007,” said Matt Garrington, a spokesman for Environment Colorado. “Martin was key to protecting our drinking water and making sure oil and gas development is done right.”

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel). From the article:

[Former DNR director Harris] Sherman and Martin worked in tandem to lobby for new environmental rules for the gas and oil industry. After the Legislature passed bills that led to the new rules, Martin and Sherman both took seats on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that approves drilling permits…

The Department of Natural Resources includes the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, state parks, the Division of Wildlife, the Water Conservation Board, mining regulators and the state water engineer.

More coverage from the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

Martin was executive director of Western Resource Advocates from 2004 to 2006, and previously was director of the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado Law School. He was senior attorney and director of the energy program for Environmental Defense, and from 1986 to 1992 worked for former U.S. Rep. and Sen. Tim Wirth, including four years as state director and counsel. Martin holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Knox College in Illinois and a law degree from Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Ed Quillen on the politics of storage

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From The Denver Post (Ed Quillen):

By the fall of 2002, after some dry years, many Colorado reservoirs set record lows. You could drive for miles along Blue Mesa Reservoir, west of Gunnison, and instead of seeing static stored water, you’d see the river flowing toward a greatly shrunken pool. Some towns banned all outdoor water use. Ancient cottonwoods died along dry ditches. Faced with such dismal scenes, Gov. Bill Owens promoted Referendum A, which would have authorized $2 billion in bonds for new water storage. Although most prominent Republicans supported it (Scott McInnis was the rare exception), Referendum A failed in every one of our 64 counties. Coloradans could see the obvious six years ago. We didn’t have a shortage of storage, given all those shriveled reservoirs that had ample room for more water; we had a shortage of water…

So like it or not, we’ll likely need some more storage. Where to get it? We could start by maintaining what we’ve already built. According to the state engineer’s office, which inspects dams, Colorado has lost 117,650 acre-feet of storage because of decrepit dams; they lose reservoir capacity because it’s unsafe to put in as much water as the dams were designed to hold.

More Colorado water coverage here. More Referendum A coverage here.

Rio Grande Basin: Water year recap

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

[Chris Landry executive director of the Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies] and his team compared snow core samples to determine the number of dust events during a winter season. He reported an increase in dust events from 2008 to 2009 from 7 to 12 at the site studied in the Rio Grande Basin. The concentration of dust was heavier as well. In 2008 the concentration was 12 grams per meter while in 2009 it was 55 grams per meter. He said that is an enormous amount of material. “The San Juans in particular experienced the most dramatic advance in the state in snowmelt timing,” Landry said.

He said the reason for more dust might have simply been because this past winter was windier. He said not much data is available about the source of the dirt, presumably blowing in from the western desert. Landry said the dust layers on snow were fairly consistent statewide from Rabbit Ears Pass in the north to Wolf Creek Pass in the San Luis Valley.

The report from Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division III Craig Cotten bore out the fact that the snow melted off early this year. He told the water board the reasons for the early run off were probably dust on the snow and warmer temperatures in May. He showed graphs illustrating a dramatic decline in river flows in May. However, Cotten said irrigators were curtailed less than usual this year because of winter recharge and deliveries to downstream states. “We only had a month of curtailment on the Rio Grande this year,” he said.

On the Conejos system, curtailments were also zero during most of the run off period, from April 15 to July 9, Cotten said. The Conejos system went back to zero curtailment the end of August. He added, “We also had the entire suite of ditches in priority and diverting. The most junior priority on the Conejos system diverted for almost three months this year.”

Both river systems will likely over deliver the amount of water required by the Rio Grande Compact interstate agreement with downstream states. At this point Cotten is estimating an over delivery of 9,700 acre feet on the Rio Grande, about the same amount of water carried over in credit last year. He told the water board the ditches would be turned off October 31 under standard operating procedure but if the weather is warm the first part of November, water may run longer in order to recharge the Valley and reduce the amount of over delivered water downstream.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

Bonny Reservoir update

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From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The Colorado Agriculture Preservation Association (CAPA), Colorado Association of Conservation Districts (CACD) and Republican River Riparian Restoration Partnership recently hosted a meeting at Bonny Reservoir for legislators and agency personnel, with more than 50 attending. The focus of the meeting was to identify issues that are negatively impacting stream flow and ways that key partners would be able to assist with restoring a healthy riparian habitat leading to an increase in stream flow…

One of the major issues affecting the maintenance and upkeep of Bonny is the confusion about boundaries and responsibilities of all involved agencies, including Bureau of Reclamation, State of Colorado, Division of Wildlife, Parks and Recreation, and Army Corps of Engineers…

At the end of the meeting several things were agreed upon. Most importantly that a land management conservation plan should be developed for the riparian area so that agencies and organizations know how the land should be managed and can work together to create a healthier river system. Over the next few months individual meetings with involved agencies and legislators will be held and the groups that hosted the meeting will develop the land management plan no later than January 1, 2010. After the plan is fully developed the agencies and organizations will be able to begin developing grant applications for funding to restore the river and wetlands.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities may buy Summit County parcels to keep development from encroaching on Blue River System

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

The city-owned utility will ask City Council on Tuesday for approval to buy three parcels, 1.6 acres in a growing area near Hoosier Pass, for $240,000, to keep residential development from encroaching on its oldest trans-mountain water line, the Blue River System. About 10 percent of Colorado Springs’ water is diverted from the Blue River watershed and under the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass. The system began delivering water in 1953. Utilities doesn’t own the land, but easements along the pipeline’s path. In recent years, Utilities officials have grown concerned about development near the water system. The area is 10 miles south of Breckenridge, a booming ski-resort town, and houses and mountain subdivisions now abound in this once-rural area…

Utilities wants to buy the land and leave it undeveloped, and has a willing seller. The three parcels were appraised at $270,000, Utilities wrote in a memo to the council. A search of real estate Web sites shows that, while homes in Quandary Village are selling in the $700,000 to $900,000 range, while half-acre vacant lots are going for up to $240,000. Berry acknowledged that buying expensive mountain real estate is not ideal for a utility struggling with rising costs and about to embark on a major expansion of its water network, the $1.4 billion Southern Delivery System. “The alternative would be twice as costly,” Berry said. “In the grand scheme of things, yeah, you’d like to avoid that situation but if you have to do it, there’s nothing more important than preserving the integrity of those pipes and that water.”

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District budget hearing November 12

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District will have a hearing next month on its proposed 2010 budget, which totals $14.5 million. The hearing will be at 1 p.m. Nov. 12 at the district’s offices, 31717 United Ave., Pueblo, in the Airport Industrial Park…

About $5.3 million would repay the Fountain Valley Pipeline and is assessed only in El Paso County. The pipeline, built in the 1980s, serves Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, Stratmoor Hills and Widefield. About $6.5 million would repay the costs of building the Fry-Ark Project itself. Personnel costs are about $1 million, while legal fees are a little more than $500,000. The overall amounts would not change significantly from the 2009 budget.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District budget meeting December 14

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District will have a public hearing on a $2.76 million budget for 2010 at 10 a.m. Dec. 14 at its office, 801 Swink Ave., Rocky Ford. The district collects a 1.5-mill tax on property…

The Lower Ark’s draft budget includes $1.18 million for water rights acquisition, $529,000 for administrative expenses, $400,000 for assistance to other entities, $180,000 for legal services and $150,000 for the Fountain Creek study. Legal fees are projected to be about $40,000 less in 2010, while most of the other large expenses are close to this year’s projections.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Donala Water District considering bond issue to connect to renewable water supply

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From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

Donala Water and Sanitation District is contemplating asking its voting public in May to allow it to buy bonds to help it pay for a means of piping a renewable water supply to its system, according to a statement from the district. While the district recently purchased water rights belonging to the Mount Massive Ranch near Leadville, it has to tap into the water through an entity with access to Arkansas River water, since water from the ranch flows into one of the river’s tributaries, according to information from Donala’s general manager Dana Duthie. Donala is trying to connect to the river through Colorado Springs Utilities, which owns several points of diversion along the Arkansas that could be tapped into, according to the information. The district will be evaluating whether it needs to increase its debt to pipe the water to patrons, and if it decides to ask the taxpayers to issue more debt, whether the issuance will require a tax increase, Duthie said.

More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.

World Water Monitoring Day events in Littleton and Ouray County

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From the Littleton Independent (Holly Cook):

“If there’s a lot of oxygen in the water it’s like, yeah, fish can breathe,” said Denver Academy sophomore Phil Matthews. “If there’s not a lot, it’s bad for the fish.” The dissolved oxygen test was only one of many basic indicator tests Denver Academy students completed at the Littleton Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant as part of the fifth annual World Water Monitoring Day, Oct. 20.

World Water Monitoring Day is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. The Water Environment Federation encourages communities to raise water quality awareness from March 22 to Dec. 31 each year…

“We want to expose kids to their impact on overall water quality so that they might take the easy steps to protect it,” said Littleton Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant chemist Steve Mustain. He continued by explaining how water treated in the plant eventually moves to places like Thornton, where it becomes residents’ drinking water. “Yes, the South Platte is a river running through town but it’s also used for drinking water and supports aquatic life.”[…]

Nearly 1.1 billion people (roughly 20 percent of the world’s population) lack access to safe drinking water. The lack of clean, safe drinking water is estimated to kill almost 4,500 children per day. “It would be important to know about your water quality if you lived in Mexico or Costa Rica,” said sophomore Nick Evans, while testing the PH balance of the river water. “Especially if you’re drinking from a tap.”[…]

According to the World Water Day organization, the problem isn’t confined to a particular region of the world. A third of the Earth’s population lives in “water stressed” areas and that number is expected to rise dramatically over the next two decades…

Started in 2002 in the United States, World Water Monitoring Day is celebrated in 50 countries by more than 75,000 participants per year. It’s the goal of the Water Environment Federation to involve 1 million people in 100 countries by 2012. It was inspired by the belief that everyone — not just professionals with specialized degrees — can study the natural world and collect meaningful data, trained volunteer monitors spend countless hours in the field making careful observations and measurements. Results are shared with participating communities around the globe to track emerging trends, through the World Water Monitoring Day Web site.

Meanwhile, here’s a report from the Uncompahgre River watershed, from The Telluride Watch. From the article:

Seven volunteers from the Friends of the River Uncompahgre (FORU) and the Ridgway-Ouray Community Council (ROCC) gathered this week to participate in a World Water Monitoring Day sampling event. Hosted by the Uncompahgre Watershed Planning Partnership (UWPP) in cooperation with the US Forest Service, the group took samples from the Uncompahgre River in Delta, Olathe, Montrose and Ridgway. Samples were also taken from Canyon Creek in Ouray, as well as Full Moon Gulch and Red Mountain Creek in Ironton. The samples taken were field tested for turbidity, temperature, pH (acidity), and dissolved oxygen levels and the results were entered into an online database where results from around the world could be seen. Coordinating the effort was Andrew Madison, an Americorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) with the UWPP; the testing kits were provided by the US Forest Service office in Delta…

The purpose of having participants perform basic tests is to help them better understand the health of their respective watersheds as well as to have an active role in protecting their water resources. This program fits in well with the UWPP’s mission of protecting and restoring water quality in the Uncompahgre River through coordinated community and agency efforts. Public outreach and education is an important part of this and the UWPP was happy to participate and increase awareness regarding the health of the Uncompahgre River. The US Forest Service was also happy to participate, showing its concern regarding the protection and stewardship of this important resource.

More water pollution coverage here.

$1.75 million for Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Project funding passes U.S. Senate

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

Jackson Gulch Reservoir supplies water to the town of Mancos, the Mancos Water Conservancy District, and the Mancos Rural Water Company. The reservoir is also the sole source of municipal water for Mesa Verde National Park. Jackson Gulch has been in the middle of rehabilitation for approximately six years, and the project is not cheap, according to Gary Kennedy, superintendent of the Mancos Water District. “We started this process about six years ago,” Kennedy said. “We came up with a price tag of a little over $6 million at the time, we ended up with a total price of $8.2 million and today it is even higher.” The primary goal of the project is infrastructure repair. Construction began on Jackson Gulch in 1941, and time has left the project in desperate need of additional work. “We have earthen sections that need to be rebuilt or realigned,” Kennedy said. “They need to be lined with some kind of sealing material so they won’t leak. We have approximately 30 per cent loss in the canals. Flow capacity is 2/3 of what it should be. If we can get that back up where it is designed to be, basically we can have a brand new canal system put back in.”[…]

While this year’s appropriation, which Jackson Gulch should receive next May, makes it easier for the project to continue to obtain federal funds, each year is a new process. “With this first appropriations, it makes it an ongoing funded project,” Kennedy said. “That makes it easier to get funded in the future.”

The Jackson Gulch Project is one of the first Bureau of Reclamation projects in the West to find funding through appropriations, according to Kennedy, but the appropriation sets the stage for more federal money to flow into other water projects.

More Jackson Gulch Reservoir coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: New gravel pit reservoirs planned for eastern Pueblo County

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Blue Grass Reservoir plan seeks to build two reservoirs with at least 11,000 acre-feet of storage in eastern Pueblo County on the south side of U.S. 50 near the Pueblo Chemical Depot, about 6 miles downstream from the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. The reservoirs would be gravity fed from the Excelsior Ditch, said John Sliman, owner of Southwest Sod Farms. “It is our hope that if the Lower Arkansas (district) has a need for water storage, you would consider our project,” Sliman said. “It is my feeling these types of water storage projects will help accomplish both the goals of growth and continued farming in the Arkansas Valley.” Sliman said the reservoirs would help cities maximize their use of current water rights and prevent the need to dry up more farms in the valley.

The reservoirs could be constructed according to specifications by those who store water in it, and built in such a way as to store up to 18,000 acre-feet, said Robert Huzjak, Sliman’s engineering consultant. Materials could be mined on site and the work would be done by Bob Beltramo, who currently operates a gravel operation in the area. The reservoirs would be lined with a slurry wall during construction and dug out to bedrock, 34-42 feet deep. An earthen berm would add another 20 feet of height atop the slurry wall. Projected cost of construction of the storage would be $3,400 to $4,000 per acre-foot. If there is a need for it, storage could be developed by 2011, Huzjak said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

State Representative Sal Pace plans to introduce legislation to reduce impacts of out of basin water transfers

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

State Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, on Friday pitched a concept for a bill that would encourage voluntary agreements for mitigation in water transfer projects from one basin to another, rather than court-ordered conditions. “With this bill, it is my hope that generations from today our grandchildren can still enjoy a vibrant rural Colorado,” Pace told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. Pace is trying to contact as many water groups as possible before developing a final draft, which he wants to have in hand by the end of November.

Earlier this week, the Pueblo Board of Water Works indicated it would like to see some version of the bill before supporting it. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District voted unanimously to support the concept of the bill. The Fountain Creek board reserved its comments until a more complete proposal is developed, although Pace said he would not change the basics of the bill he provided in an outline…

The bill would encourage mitigation between conservancy districts and those making water transfers between state water divisions. If agreements could not be reached, water judges could choose to apply the same sorts of conditions now available only to the Western Slope in transfers by conservancy districts under 1937 legislation…

“The traditional battle lines are municipalities vs. rural conservancy districts,” Pace said. “The bill would (provide incentives for) cooperation much like this board came together in a cooperative fashion.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board voted unanimously to back Pace’s concept for a bill that would encourage those who take water from rural areas to work with conservancy districts to develop mitigation plans. “Our mission is to protect the water in the Arkansas Valley,” said Reeves Brown, Pueblo County director. “This does that.”[…]

The idea is to provide an incentive for urban areas that purchase water rights in other basins to voluntary agree to mitigation, rather than “rolling the die” in water court, Pace said. “I want to insure that when water is moved in the future, it is done in a responsible manner, so we don’t look like Arizona, with pockets of communities and a lot of dry land in between,” Pace told the board. The bill would provide incentives, using existing provisions of law, rather than attempting to penalize violations after the fact. It would not interfere with the ability to sell water rights or how water rights are used, Pace said. “There’s no language to limit a person’s ability to buy or sell water,” Pace said…

Executive Director Jay Winner said Pace’s legislation is timely, given the potential pressure the Arkansas Valley faces. Winner, as a member of the Interbasin Compact Committee, sees no breakdown in the West Slope’s resistance to another transmountain water project. “There is nothing in place for slowing down or stopping more buy-and-dry. We need to put a fence around the Arkansas Valley,” Winner said.

A study of available water in the Colorado River basin will find there are at least 440,000 acre-feet of water to develop, but the West Slope will claim it needs it for future development, Winner said. Meanwhile, Denver-area communities become ever more thirsty, he said. Parker has built a 75,000 acre-foot reservoir and plans by the South Metro Water Supply Authority include pipelines into the Arkansas Valley. “When 2050 hits and the state’s population doubles, we need to think how we’re going to feed all those people. We need to keep agriculture in place,” Winner said. “Sal is moving in the right direction.”

More transmountain/transbasin diversion coverage here.

Fountain Creek: 25 apply for director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board took its first look at 25 applications for the position Friday, and assurances that $100,000 is now in place to fund administrative expenses of the district next year. The board could decide on an interim director at its Dec. 4 meeting, if the executive committee – made up of the board’s officers – is able to pare the list to a handful of finalists in early November. In any event, finalists will be interviewed. The district also will set its budget at the meeting…

Those who have applied for the interim director’s job are, in alphabetical order:

Steve Anselmo, president of a Pueblo engineering company.
Gary Barber, manager of El Paso County Regional Water Authority and a water rights broker. Barber is chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and played a key role in drafting legislation that set up the district as a member of the Vision Task Force.
Janna Blanter, a Colorado Springs financial consultant.
Mark Carmel, former Pueblo County administrator.
Heather Gunn, a Fountain media consultant.
Scott Hahn, of Salida, who most recently served as city manager of Cordova, Alaska.
Thomas Karwaki, director of economic development for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe near Seattle, Wash.
Ricky Kidd, engineer-administrator of the Pueblo Conservancy District and a private engineer.
Andy Long, owner Roberts Mortgage, Colorado Springs.
Kevin McCarthy, a Pueblo businessman and member of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.
James McGrady, general manager of the Castle Pines North Metro District
Dennis Maroney, Pueblo stormwater director and a key player on the Vision Task Force. Maroney serves on the district’s technical advisory committee.
Jim Munch, former Pueblo city planning director and most recently director of development for Pueblo Springs Ranch, a position he left in April. He now is a private consultant.
Randy Newman, a government contractor at Guantanamo Bay, moving back to Colorado Springs.
Allen Nichols, most recently marketing director for Cleveland Vocational Industries, Shelby, N.C.
John Plutt, a Colorado Springs businessman.
Ingrid Richter, director of development for InCompass Development, Colorado Springs.
Roberta Ringstrom, environmental scientist, Colorado Springs.
Alaina Ruscovick, a file clerk for a Colorado Springs law firm.
Rodney Scott, an Air Force supply specialist and administrative assistant in Colorado Springs.
Steven Shane, most recently a technology director for an electronic manufacturing firm, now living in Colorado Springs.
Bob Simmons, most recently, a lieutenant in the Aurora Fire Department.
Richard Stettler, Colorado Springs, University of the Rockies vice president and chief of staff.
Donald TeStrake, of Centennial, most recently site manager for an electronics consultant.
Eve Triffo, a lawyer and experienced grant writer living in Canon City.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

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The Southern Delivery System pipeline will cross Fountain Creek and discharge into the creek from a new reservoir on Williams Creek, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District learned Friday. Those two actions are in the direct jurisdiction of the district. The district also will have an advisory role to the El Paso County commissioners in the permit process.

“We would like to make a presentation with a summary of the project, saying ‘here are the impacts, and here are the recommendations for mitigation,’ ” Colorado Springs Utilities Fountain Creek specialist Carol Baker told the district’s board Friday. The board agreed to hear the presentation in January, after its technical advisory committee and citizens advisory group have had a chance to review the project and make recommendations. The district, by state law, has primary land-use authority in the floodplain of Fountain Creek, so will be able to tie its own conditions to the project…

The board also agreed Friday to adopt the March 2009 strategic plan of the Vision Task Force, the January 2009 Army Corps of Engineers management plan and appropriate local zoning and land use regulations in reviewing technical merits of projects.

Meanwhile, Teller County hopes to weigh in on Fountain Creek issues through the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftian. From the article:

The Teller-Park Conservation District has asked the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District to include projects for flood impacts, erosion and water quality on Upper Fountain Creek, which extends about 12 miles into Teller County. “Property owners have incurred property damage and livestock (loss) due to flooding in this area, and several horse properties are located right within the floodplain of (Teller and El Paso) counties,” Vern Vinson, conservation district president, wrote in a letter to the Fountain Creek board. Woodland Park is trying to obtain a floodplain easement through the Natural Resources Conservation Service as well, and Vinson indicated there would be a better chance if the conservation district had a cooperative agreement with the Fountain Creek district…

When it came time to form the district, only Pueblo and El Paso counties were included in the legislation, because they were the primary areas causing an impact or affected by changes on Fountain Creek. The district board indicated it would be able to make a place for Teller County on its technical advisory committee and citizens advisory group, but that the membership of the Fountain Creek board was determined by statute. “We’re pleased to see you folks here,” Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, a member of the Fountain Creek board, told representatives of the conservation district. “We do not want to leave the impression that Teller County was left out.”

Finally, the new district is using a $25,000 CWCB loan to evaluate how stormwater relates to land-use policies in the Fountain Creek watershed. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board voted unanimously to oversee the grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The grant aims at a process that has been envisioned for several years to develop uniform stormwater policies throughout the region…

“This project will implement many of the recommendations contained in the Fountain Creek Watershed Strategic Plan,” [Rich Muzzy, of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments] said. The strategic plan, along with the Corps study, will be used as policy guidelines until the district can develop its own. The district also will use local land-use recommendations as a guide…

The CWCB-funded project would synthesize existing information and develop a policy evaluation regarding how “non-point sources” – basically any discharge that is not covered by a state permit – are treated. The results would be reviewed by the district’s technical advisory committee and citizens advisory group. Then, workshops would held to determine how to implement strategies, and finally regional groups would be formed to put the information to practical use.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Trail across Twin Lakes Dam re-opens after seven year hiatus

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After almost seven years the Bureau of Reclamation announced today the trail across Twin Lakes Dam is re-opening.
“Hikers and cyclists will no longer have to walk around the dam, but are now able to cross it directly, staying on the trail,” said Mike Collins, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado office which oversees Twin Lakes. “Re-opening would not happen without the support and continued participation of the public.” In order for the trail to remain open, the public needs to be vigilant about activity at the dam. “We ask that the public use the trail only to cross the dam,” said Howard Bailey, safety and security manager for Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office. “We need your help keeping this facility safe.” Loitering and fishing are not allowed from the dam or within a 100-foot perimeter. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the dam. “Safety and security remain our top priorities,” said Collins. “It takes all of us working together, protecting our public facilities, to make something like this possible.”

For questions about the trail re-opening, Twin Lakes Dam, and the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, please contact Kara Lamb, public information, at (970) 962-4326.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A trail over Twin Lakes Dam that was closed for security reasons following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks has been reopened.

More Twin Lakes coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We are still releasing about 700 cfs from the dam to the river. We are anticipating this will continue through next week. If there is a change, I will let you know.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

First and foremost, the water year on the C-BT is about to wrap up. Halloween is the last day of the 2009 water year for C-BT. That means that some water users are taking the last of their water from the project. Last week, when releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River increased and when Horsetooth releases out of Horsetooth Dam suddenly increased, it was because water users were taking their last shares of water. Those draws dropped the elevations at Horsetooth and Pinewood. Today, Pinewood is on its way back up and will continue rising through the weekend. Also, we are currently pumping water to Carter Lake, which is also slowly rising–water users are still taking water from Carter. Releases to the Big Thompson have dropped off and will drop again tonight to about 50 cfs in the canyon. That is an average flow for this time of year. Horsetooth is currently at an elevation of 5379. About 50 cfs is flowing to Horestooth. However, demands out of the Big Thompson River have dropped off, at least for the weekend, which means beginning tomorrow morning, we can increase flows to Horsetooth by another 50 cfs. This will level out the current draw of water from Horsetooth, holding the elevation close to 5379, at least for the weekend.

There remains the possibility that water users will call for the very last of their water the last week of the water year. So, it is possible that delivery via the Big Thompson River, or via Horsetooth Reservoir, will be required one more time before the water year closes. If that is the case, late next week we could see flows in the Big T increase, or see an increase in water going out of Horsetooth. Either way, I will keep you posted.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Rico: Some town residents lament the prospect of renewed mining, some do not

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

By far, the most pressing concern among the citizens of the town is that of water. At the hearing, part-time resident Steve Williams expressed a fear felt by all who live in Rico. “My big concern is the protection of the watershed,” he said. Rico currently procures its drinking water from Silver Creek, which runs through the proposed mine site. The Rico Municipal Water Supply Diversion Gallery is located approximately 1,000 feet upstream from the site. In 2008 the town created a watershed protection area to ease fears about contamination of the water supply. The mine site, however, is just beyond the reach of the protection area.

Mark Levin, president of Outlook Resources, the company interested in exploring the molybdenum deposit, understands the concerns of those who live in Rico but maintains they are unwarranted. “I’m an environmentalist,” said Levin, who holds a degree in ecological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. “There would be no new environmental disturbance. All you would have is environmental betterment.” The idea of environmental betterment has been a theme in Rico over the past decade, but the execution has not always been as flawless as the concept…

Silver Creek is currently listed on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division’s 303(D) List as an “impaired water.” An impaired water listing signifies a body of water does not attain water quality standards due to the presence of one or more pollutants, according to WQCD’s listing methodology for the 2010 listing cycle. Silver Creek’s listing is a result of zinc and cadmium levels in the water. However, that contamination is due to past mining activity, using practices that have changed drastically.

“The perception of it being just like it was 50 years ago, I think, is false,” said Mark Walker, project director with the Colorado Brownfields Foundation. “Regulations have become a lot more stringent” Walker worked for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and was involved in the ARCO VCUP project.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

The county currently is experiencing an unemployment rate of 13.2 percent, the highest in the state, and the economic promise of an undeveloped resource is enticing. Mark Levin, of Outlook Resources, firmly believes that molybdenum could be the answer to the economic woes of the area. “Three generations could make a living off of this project,” Levin said. “There is the possibility of the creation of 200-300 new jobs and a $15 to $20 million annual payroll.” Those are large numbers for a community whose economy is tied to historically shifting markets such as agriculture, construction and tourism.

The possibilities offered by molybdenum mining are immense. A closer examination of the economy surrounding the Henderson molybdenum mine in Clear Creek County, Colo., offers a look at the influx of capital a mine could provide. According to Diane Settle, Clear Creek county assessor, the net property tax revenue in 2009 was $16,565,902 – of which Henderson contributed $9,783,975. In other words, the Henderson molybdenum mining operations alone accounts for 59 per cent of the tax base in Clear Creek County. Assuming a molybdenum operation based in Dolores County would be similar in scope and size, the project could quadruple the county’s revenue, which stood at $3,337,575 for the 2008 tax year. “The impact (of a mine) would be immense,” said Mike Thompson, an economic geologist and co-owner of Grayling Environmental, based in Cortez. “It would by far be the largest contributor to Dolores County.”

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank). From the article:

In the end, the weight of that monumental decision [to permit the new molybdenum mine] will ultimately rest with the county government, for which decisions are made by three commissioners who live near Dove Creek, the county seat. “This molybdenum deposit lies within Dolores County, so any legal issues would be with Dolores County,” said Mike England, town manager in Rico. “Our jurisdiction is at the town limits.”[…]

because Dolores County has a very lenient land use code – and absolutely no zoning – projects in the county are decided one at a time. “On some of the projects, it makes it a little harder, but it depends on the project,” Dolores County Commissioner Ernie Williams said about the county’s lack of zoning. Because of the situation, Outlook chose to submit an application to secure a “land development agreement.” Outlook’s owner, Mark Levin, hopes to be granted a “use by right” for the underground molybdenum. Though the first application was denied by commissioners because too much of it was left open-ended, Levin plans to reapply. In the meantime, Rico is working on designating a three-mile planning area to minimize impacts to the town, said town planner Jennifer Stark.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here.

Aspen: Proposed stormwater regulations public meeting October 27

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From the Aspen Times:

The city of Aspen will hold a public meeting regarding proposed stormwater regulations contained in the newly published, draft city stormwater manual. The meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 27, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room, 455 Rio Grande Place. Following a brief presentation on the proposed regulations, public comment will be accepted. City staff will present the stormwater manual, with public input, to the City Council at a meeting in December. The council is slated to make a final decision on the regulations at that time.

For a copy of the manual, visit http://www.aspenpitkin.com and click on the “Engineering Department” page.

More stormwater coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: Tamarisk control update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Valley has taken aim at the invasive trees and gotten rid of 9,000 acres of the pests in the last four years. It’s estimated that 67,000 acres along the Arkansas River and its tributaries are infested with tamarisk. “Since 2006, we’ve spent more than $1 million in controlling invasive species,” said Mary Miller, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the federal agency that has coordinated programs. “The majority of the money has been spent on the ground for the treatment of tamarisk.” Last year, the NRCS, more than two dozen government agencies and 40 landowners spent a combined $248,000 to treat 2,400 acres in Fremont, Pueblo, El Paso, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, Bent and Prowers counties.

The programs mostly involved destroying tamarisk, with some areas being restored as well. Mechanical, chemical and biological methods were used, Miller said. The largest areas were controlled with aerial spraying. Mechanical means, either by hand or with machines, are more time-consuming and costly, but more effective in some areas. Biological control usually means releasing beetles that eat tamarisk, and only tamarisk.

More tamarisk coverage here and here.

Bottled water under fire

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Bottled water and newfound caution approaching all things water is the subject of this article from Moises Velasquez-Manoff writing for the Christian Science Monitor. He ties his story to Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project. From the article:

Citing myriad concerns, a group of [Chaffee County] residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor. Nestlé counters that these concerns are overblown. The company says: The amount of water it plans to withdraw is negligible; the project will bring many benefits – economic and otherwise – to the community; and the company, the largest water bottler in North America, is an upstanding corporate citizen…

But many say the greater story – about a growing world population of more than 6.5 billion faced with a limited supply of fresh water – is, in fact, just beginning. Experts not directly involved in the Chaffee County situation point to it as evidence of rising sensitivity to water issues everywhere. They cite a growing number of disagreements between communities and bottled-water firms around the US – in Maine, California, Florida, and Michigan, among other places – as evidence. “There is a growing interest in water as a whole [and] growing scarcity in the Western United States,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif., a nonprofit that does research and policy analysis in the areas of environment and sustainable development. “And when people pay more attention, it sort of makes it harder to do the things [bottled water companies] used to do without any opposition.”

These companies have now become the focus of campaigns against bottled water in general. Organizations like Corporate Accountability International and the Environmental Working Group rail against bottled water for a number of reasons, the environmental impact of plastics among them. (Lauerman points to Nestlé’s new ecoshape bottles, which, he says, use 30 percent less plastic than most.) The groups also argue that consumption of bottled water – paying for something that’s already cheaply available – leads to neglect of municipal water infrastructure, to everyone’s detriment. The US Conference of Mayors has urged cities to stop buying water and has called for an investigation into how much the industry costs taxpayers. (By one estimate, 40 percent of bottled water comes from municipal sources, not springs.)…

But the assumption underlying these laws – that water is in limited supply – is the correct one, says Robert Glennon, author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It.” Other states often allow “a limitless number of straws in the glass,” he says. But in Colorado, if you can’t replace it, you can’t take it. “That’s exactly what I think we should do,” he says.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to test conservation easement valuation

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The value of the water used on farms can increase exponentially if its use is changed to municipal or industrial, creating a dilemma for assessors, headaches for property owners and trouble for conservation easement sponsors in the past. So the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District will present a test case to the state Division of Real Estate by claiming conservation easements on properties it owns on four ditch systems – the Bessemer Ditch, High Line Canal, Rocky Ford Ditch and Holbrook Canal. The easements are among nine the Lower Ark board voted to complete on Wednesday, bringing the total held by the district to about 60 easements. The district will present the ditch properties with easements that tie the water rights to the land, yet allow part of the water from those rights to be sold on an annual basis – or leased. The concept is central to the Super Ditch, a water leasing program supported by the district. It will also get two appraisals on each property in an attempt to determine the value of the water, and then ask the Division of Real Estate to verify the value of water, said Executive Director Jay Winner.

Because the district owns the properties, there won’t be the same liability a private landowner would face with any tax credits claimed in the transaction. The State Department of Revenue and Internal Revenue Service have raised questions about easements in Colorado in recent years, after many property owners took advantage of state tax laws meant to encourage easements. A state commission was set up and is working to certify trusts and governments that hold easements.

More conservation easement coverage here.

20th Annual South Platte Forum

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The first session of day one of the 20th Annual South Platte Forum featured water law.

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs took the opportunity to look back in time at the history of water legislation and court decisions in the state. “Colorado from the outset has understood that it takes all three branches of government to administer water,” he said.

University of Colorado law professor, David Getches, attempted a look forward in time. Climate change is the great unknown, he said. There is a 6 – 20% chance that the two large Colorado River reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Meade — could go dry if drought settles in permanently in the southwest U.S.

He also thinks that there is a chance that a Front Range water authority will form to coordinate water issues and supplies. He posits a goal of 150 gallons per capita per day for the metro area. He also envisions an agreement for the management of the Colorado River based on the 2007 agreement for managing Lake Mead and Lake Powell during serious drought events.

Colorado Water Quality Control Commission administrator, Paul Frohardt’s subject was “Twenty years of water quality policy.” He told the conference water quality law is a relatively recent phenomena. It came into existence in the 1970s with landmark environmental legislation such as the Clean Water Act.

He listed a few challenges that may be ahead for Coloradans. Population growth is foremost. “More people means more waste,” he said. He is an advocate for good samaritan legislation that would exempt certain third parties from liability under the Clean Water Act for efforts to clean up mines.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Clear Creek restoration

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From The Denver Post (Charlie Meyers):

This quasi-urban creek, where many tens of thousands of vehicles speed past daily on an interstate highway, is returning to nature through a restoration project on its upper reaches…

As for Clear Creek, Caraghar’s mission becomes even more personal. “My family drifted here as miners way back when. Now we’ve come to realize what we did. Now we know it was ignorance. If you drew a circle around the four forks of Clear Creek, you’d describe a Superfund site. I feel a lot of responsibility.” He gets release in part from the talks, which some believe call too much attention to the watershed. “I get grief from talking about Clear Creek, but there’s 28 miles to fish. If you’re willing to do some bushwhacking, that distance grows. Most people aren’t willing to walk very far from where they park. I call it the 200-yard margin, and it’s why I spend so much time fishing the upper creek.”

More coverage from The Denver Post (Charlie Meyers):

A Denver resident, [Miles Williams] is a retired Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University who, as subcontractor to Frontier Environmental Services, has taken the lead in what has become a love-in for Clear Creek, one of the most abused, neglected and intriguing streams in the state. First, as a board member of West Denver Trout Unlimited, he served as director of the heralded Golden Mile project that breathed a $250,000 revival into the creek just upstream from the town of Golden. Work was completed last year. Now he has taken the lead in a similar surge of fundraising for what will be the Courtney Riley Cooper Park in Idaho Springs. “I spent nearly 2,000 hours on the Golden Mile project,” he said. “I was so naive and inexperienced. This second time around it took about one-eighth the time. I learned what was important and what was not and where to go for help.”

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

CWQCC: ‘Considerations for Advancing External Proposals for Revised Water Quality Classifications and Standards’

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From email from the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

The Water Quality Control Commission is circulating the draft document, “Considerations for Advancing External Proposals for Revised Water Quality Classifications and Standards,” for public comment. Please read ExternalProposalsMemo.pdf for more information. To read the draft document visit DraftExternal Proposals.doc.

More water pollution coverage here.