Rio Grande Basin: New groundwater pumping rules update

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Here’s an update on the proposed new rules for pumping in the San Luis Valley, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

The stated purpose of the rules is to optimize the use of water in the Rio Grande Basin (the San Luis Valley) while preserving the priority water rights system and protecting Colorado’s ability to meet its obligations to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact.

The rules are also designed to regulate the confined and unconfined aquifers to maintain a sustainable water supply.

The proposed rules state that they do not relieve wells from their obligation to replace injurious stream depletions and do not allow illegal water uses or expansions.

The proposed rules are specific to the Rio Grande Basin in recognition that this basin is unique. For example, the Rio Grande Basin has an aquifer system that includes a shallow or unconfined aquifer above a deeper confined aquifer that consists of multiple layers and formations.

The rules will utilize a groundwater model to help evaluate how withdrawals from the underground aquifers are affecting stream systems and other aquifers.

The rules recognize, as the water court has also recognized in the Valley, that the basin is over appropriated and groundwater withdrawals that are injuring the streams must be remedied. These rules allow the state engineer to administer and regulate groundwater and to curtail injurious groundwater diversions that are not replaced through an augmentation plan, sub-district management plan or substitute water supply plan.

Once finalized, the rules will head to water court for ratification. Wolfe said he brought in as many people as he could, from as many sectors as he could, to help draft the rules so there would be less contention over them later on.

The committee has drafted rules that are becoming more refined with each monthly meeting. The committee met again this week to review the 19-page document. Sub-committees of the larger advisory group are also meeting to discuss vital portions of the draft rules, such as the irrigation season that will be defined in the rules.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Parker: Recall of Parker Water and Sanitation board fails

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A proposed water-rate hike last year prompted the campaign to oust four members as irresponsible. Board members backtracked, but campaigners pushed on. The results — board president Mary Spencer survived by 30 votes, Root by 7, Mike Casey by 58 — won’t be final until Dec. 30, Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith said. At least one race requires a recount.

Parker’s 12-month tussle reflects rising tension over water in Front Range suburbs, where water managers are struggling to obtain and divert renewable water from mountain rivers as local groundwater supplies dwindle. “This is the kind of battle we’ll see played out with greater frequency as the demands on these finite water resources intensify,” said water expert David Getches, dean of the University of Colorado law school and former state director of natural resources. “We’ve allowed, in Colorado, whole subdivisions and whole communities to be built on nonrenewable water supplies.” Parker’s five-member board oversees the water supply for more than 22,000 people southeast of Denver who rely on 30 wells, from 51 to 2,745 feet deep, that draw fewer and fewer gallons per minute. State data show water tables falling 30 feet a year…

Frank Jaeger, the water-district manager, is leading a drive to divert upper Colorado River Basin water to Denver suburbs from western Wyoming. The $230 million Rueter-Hess reservoir under construction near Parker — one of Colorado’s biggest water- storage projects in decades — would hold that water, along with creek runoff and reused water treated at a new high-tech chemical plant. Jaeger’s district, established in 1962, is one of dozens created after developers built subdivisions across semi- arid terrain and left decisionmaking to the residents. Now, boards face difficult decisions as economic doldrums limit residents’ abilities to pay higher water rates…

“What we learned is, we weren’t doing a very good job of educating the public,” [accountant Darcy Beard] said. “The cost of water in Colorado is never going to go down. We live in a high-desert environment.”

More Parker coverage here.

Fruita: City Council approves $57.9 million budget including dough for new wastewater treatment plant

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

…the council adopted a $57.9 million budget for 2010. The vast majority of that money — roughly $44 million — is dedicated to the construction of a new wastewater treatment plan and a community center.

More from the article:

Council members unanimously agreed to enact the city’s parks, open space and trails master plan, which calls for developers of subdivisions adjacent to primary trails identified in the plan to donate a portion of their project for a trail. For properties that abut canals and drainage ditches, trails would be built next to those waterways, assuming the land is developable. Under the plan, developers would have to dedicate 20 feet of right of way for the trail next to the canal easement. The trail requirement only applies to land as it’s annexed into and developed in the city. City officials emphasized they will not force landowners to sell or acquire land for trails through eminent domain. The plan to create trails next to canals has generated concerns from the agencies that own and operate irrigation canals. Even though the city said it will develop trails next to, rather than on top of, canal easements, some worry about the proximity of recreation to waterways. “We’re still concerned with any recreational use of the canal,” Robert Raymond, president of the board of directors of the Grand Valley Irrigation Co., told council members. The irrigation company maintains nearly 100 miles of canals in the valley.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.