Peak Oil conference recap

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The Potential Gas Committee at the Colorado School of Mines made national news this summer when it announced that, largely because of shale gas, the United States has a 100-year supply of domestic natural gas. Shale gas deposits lie under parts of Southwest Colorado that have never been drilled, including Montezuma, Dolores and Western La Plata counties.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities to hike water rates

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

for the first time Utilities officials are aware of, the utility will ask for approval of a multi-year schedule of water rate hikes, 12 percent a year from 2011 through 2017, to pay for the $1.4 billion Southern Delivery System water pipeline, which would double water rates in Colorado Springs. Construction is expected to begin in 2010. Officials said the future water rate hikes would kick in automatically unless city council takes action to stop them.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

South Platte River cleanup recap

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From CBS4Denver.com (Ericka Lewis):

“Is there trash that continues to happen in the river? Yes, there is just like there is everywhere and anywhere but that amount has reduced to where we can bring in more volunteers and do more things than just pick up trash,” said Jeff Shoemaker, Greenway Foundation. Volunteers also painted the barrier walls of the Platte River and fences along the bike path and over bridges. The River Sweep is held the last Saturday in September every year.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Good Samaritan legislation talk fuels Clean Water Act compromise fears

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Cleaning up old mines is causing a split amongst conservationists. Some want to do the cleanup without assuming the risk of owning the pollution. Others are wary of granting exemptions to the Clean Water Act. Here’s a report from Katie Redding writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

“The environmental groups in Washington, D.C, surprisingly enough, are the biggest impediment to passing this legislation,” explained Jeff Crane, executive director of the Colorado Watershed Assembly. “It completely baffles my mind. I just don’t get it.”

For their part, environmental groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Water Network and Oakland, Calif.-based Earthjustice, argue that waiving compliance with the Clean Water Act, for any reason, is a dangerous precedent. “Waiving environmental laws that are meant to protect people’s health defeats the purpose of having environmental laws to begin with,” said Jessica Ennis, spokeswoman for Earthjustice, a prior opponent.

More water pollution coverage here.

Aurora: Sewer rate hike in offing?

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Adam Goldstein):

Residents may face a 6-percent increase in the city’s sewer and storm drainage rates in 2010, a spike that would result in an increase of about $1 a month for the average residential water customer. The Aurora City Council is set to vote on the proposed increase, as well as suggested changes to the city’s water service connection fees, during its meeting on Oct. 12. According to staff from Aurora Water, the suggested changes to the sewer and storm drainage rates stem from rate increases from the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, which conveys the city’s wastewater to treatment plants outside Aurora. “If we elect not to choose the 6-percent (increase) in 2010, we’ll erode our financial strength,” said Greg Baird, deputy director of business services for Aurora Water, during a council meeting in September. “Whatever we don’t do in 2010, we’ll have to make up for in ’11, ’12, ’13 and ’14. We could eat into our reserves and whatever financial strength we have, but that potentially increases our revenue requirement in future years.” If approved by the council, the recommended water-rate increases would go into effect at the beginning of 2010.

More infrastructure coverage here.

NOAA: Warming west could deplete Colorado River reservoirs by mid-century

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Here’s a release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via EnvironmentalExpert.com:

As the West warms, a drier Colorado River system could see as much as a 1-in-2 chance of fully depleting all of its reservoir storage by mid-century, assuming current management practices continue. That’s grim news for the roughly 30 million people who depend on the Colorado for drinking and irrigation water.

A research team—including PSD’s Marty Hoerling, Andrea Ray, Joseph Barsugli (CIRES), and Bradley Udall (CIRES), and led by CIRES’ Balaji Rajagopalan— examined how vulnerable the Colorado River system is to water supply variability and to projected changes in water demand. The scientists found that through 2026, the risk of fully depleting reservoir storage in any given year remains less than 10 percent under any scenario of climate fluctuation or management alternative. During this period, reservoir storage could even recover from its current low level (about 65 percent of capacity.)
But if climate change results in a 10-percent reduction in the Colorado River’s average streamflow, the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage will exceed 25 percent by 2057. If climate change results in a 20-percent reduction, the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage will exceed 50 percent by 2057, Rajagopalan said.

“On average, drying caused by climate change would increase the risk of fully depleting reservoir storage nearly ten times more than the risk we expect from population pressures alone,” said Rajagopalan. “A 50-percent chance in any given year is an enormous risk and huge water management challenge,” he said.

The results were published in the American Geophysical Union journal Water Resources Research.

Even under the most extensive drying scenario, threats to water supplies won’t be felt immediately, the researchers found. Total storage capacity of reservoirs on the Colorado (including lakes Mead and Powell) exceeds 60 million acre feet, almost four times the longterm average annual flow of about 16 million acre feet. As a result, the risk of reservoir depletion will remain low through 2026, even if climate change induces a 20-percent reduction in streamflow. However, after 2026, the risk of drying increases to 26-51 percent, depending on the effects of climate change and management, with lower risk associated with aggressive management to reduce demand.

The Colorado’s flow has been very low in the last 10 years, Hoerling said, averaging only about 10 million acre feet. Reservoirs have dropped to a little more than half capacity, but managers still delivered water where it needed to go. “So the system is working, from a gross point of view,” Hoerling said. But climate models and modelers are still struggling to understand the future of the system in a warmer world; some models don’t include the high-elevation snowpack critical to the Colorado River System, for example.

“Our models are not yet good enough to inform, with the accuracy desired by most decision makers,” Hoerling said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Snowpack

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Tom Ross):

Remote snow-sensing devices show that the depth at the Zirkel Snotel site on the east side of the Continental Divide increased from 1 inch on Oct. 8 to 20 inches as of mid-morning Monday. Closer to Steamboat, at the Tower Snotel site on Buffalo Pass, snow depth increased from 7 inches on Oct. 8 to 16 inches early Monday…Snow accumulation on Rabbit Ears Pass is less dramatic, with 3 inches at the West Summit and 1 inch at the Columbine site on the east side of the pass.