Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District hosts informational meeting on proposed irrigation rules

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There is no question the rules are needed to keep Kansas at bay after 24 years of litigation over the Arkansas River Compact, State Engineer Dick Wolfe told about 75 irrigators gathered at the offices of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We’re acutely aware of our requirements under the compact,” Wolfe said. “It is the tail that wags the dog.”[…]

Wolfe convened a committee to reshape the rules after initial objections, including a meeting of the Lower Ark packed by more than 100 people objecting the early version. “It’s been a very effective process for us and useful to us in developing the rules,” Wolfe said. “The state is not against irrigation improvements . . . The rules allow systems to operate, but also preserve the priority system (of water rights).” During the committee process, changes favorable to irrigators were made, added Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Ark District. Many on-farm improvements were taken off the table, leaving sprinklers and drip irrigation. The rules now also accommodate seepage from ponds. “The rules are an attempt to avoid a train wreck like we had on the South Platte in 2002-03,” Nichols said. “They’ve changed a lot, for the better.”[…]

One of those changes involves a compliance plan by the Lower Ark district, which would allow farmers to fill out a form once, make a payment and, barring major changes in irrigation, leave the engineering and water augmentation headaches to the district, said Gregg Ten Eyck, an engineer with Leonard Rice consultants. The Lower Ark has spent about $325,000 so far developing the compliance plan, which it plans to operate at cost. The fees for the plan have not been set. The plan would average out wet and dry years, transferring risks from irrigators to the district. It would draw water from numerous sources to be used at the right time and place to augment flows on the Arkansas River.

The state still would have to verify the plans were accurate, using water commissioners and satellite images to check on the written reports. “The enforcement action would be targeted at the individual farmer,” said Steve Witte, Division 2 engineer.

More Arkansas Valley consumptive use rules coverage here.

EPA releases first-ever baseline study of U.S. lakes

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Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Ernesta Jones):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released its most comprehensive study of the nation’s lakes to date. The draft study, which rated the condition of 56 percent of the lakes in the United States as good and the remainder as fair or poor, marked the first time EPA and its partners used a nationally consistent approach to survey the ecological and water quality of lakes. A total of 1,028 lakes were randomly sampled during 2007 by states, tribes and EPA.

“This survey serves as a first step in evaluating the success of efforts to protect, preserve, and restore the quality of our nation’s lakes,” said Peter Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “Future surveys will be able to track changes in lake water quality over time and advance our understanding of important regional and national patterns in lake water quality.”

The National Lakes Assessment reveals that the remaining lakes are in fair or poor condition. Degraded lakeshore habitat, rated “poor” in 36 percent of lakes, was the most significant of the problems assessed. Removal of trees and shrubs and construction of docks, marinas, homes and other structures along shorelines all contribute to degraded lakeshore habitat.

Nitrogen and phosphorous are found at high levels in 20 percent of lakes. Excess levels of these nutrients contribute to algae blooms, weed growth, reduced water clarity, and other lake problems. EPA is very concerned about the adverse impacts of nutrients on aquatic life, drinking water and recreation. The agency will continue to work with states to address water quality issues through effective nutrient management.

The survey included a comparison to a subset of lakes with wastewater impacts that were sampled in the 1970s. It finds that 75 percent show either improvements or no change in phosphorus levels. This suggests that the nation’s investments in wastewater treatment and other pollution control activities are working despite population increases across the country.

The results of this study describe the target population of the nation’s lakes as a whole and are not applicable to a particular lake.

Sampling for the National Rivers and Streams Assessment is underway, and results from this two-year study are expected to be available in 2011.

The draft study: http://www.epa.gov/lakessurvey

South Platte Roundtable: Ag transfers not enough to meet future demand

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Folks on the South Platte Roundtable are trying to get the word out that Colorado needs a major water project to meet the needs of projected growth. They’re also hoping to convince the rest of the state that it is a statewide problem and that Colorado’s economic engine is primarily in the South Platte Basin and the area needs water to continue to generate that prosperity. Here’s a report from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

That was the consensus [ag transfers falling short] Thursday when the South Platte Roundtable of the Colorado Water Conservation Board unveiled the findings of its study, Water for the 21st Century. The group is one of eight in the state developed by the Colorado Legislature following the drought years of the early part of the century.

The South Platte group, which has 50 members from Park County north to Larimer County and east to the Nebraska and Kansas borders, has met monthly for more than four years. The group believes that by 2050, the medium demand for Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties alone will require an additional 200,000 acre-feet of water just to meet municipal and industrial needs. An acre-foot of water is enough to supply two families with a year’s supply of water. “We will need another Colorado-Big Thompson Project or most of another Poudre River to meet those needs,” Harold Evans told a group of about 150 people at the meeting at The Ranch in Loveland. Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water and Sewer Board, is vice chairman of the South Platte Roundtable…

Gary Wockner of Fort Collins, with the Save The Poudre Coalition, said the study has serious, “and perhaps fatal, flaws and appears to be rooted in the river-destruction policies of the 19th century rather than the diverse Colorado interests of the 21st century.”

Evans said the roundtables have been asked to develop needs assessments for the future, not control growth. He said that Colorado water law will prevail to the use of groundwater. It looked at demands as of 2030 and on out to 2050.

More IBCC — Basin roundtable coverage here and here.

Carter Lake: Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Carter Lake hydroelectric retrofit update

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From the Loveland Reporter Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The water district is on track to begin building a hydroelectric plant late next year that would provide power to the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association by spring 2012. “We’re taking advantage of the elevation difference between the water level at Carter Lake and the canal downstream,” said Carl Brouwer, project manager with Northern Water. “Right now all that energy is just dissipated. We want to turn that into hydroelectric energy.” Northern Water received preliminary approval in November from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. And Wednesday, the Larimer County Planning Commission gave its nod to the project.

The small facility would be built at the south dam next to a new water outlet in an area that already has been disturbed by construction. And it would use water that already is being transferred, so it wouldn’t affect levels in Carter Lake, Brouwer said…

The plant would produce about 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. “It’s roughly enough to supply a couple thousand homes,” Brouwer said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.