Vibhu Nayar: ‘Water is the climate challenge’

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From The Hindu (Vibhu Nayar):

Only 0.5 per cent of the water on the planet is available for human use. This is now under pressure. Globally, per capita availability decreased from 16,900 cubic metres in 1950 to 6,800 cubic metres in 2000, and is expected to fall to 5,400 cubic metres by 2025. Water is also unevenly distributed, with the developed world being better endowed. Scarcity is both physical and economic and affects Africa and Asia the most. India is spatially and temporally challenged as 50 per cent of rainfall is received in 15 days and 90 per cent of flows occur in just four months.

More climate change coverage here.

Moffat Collection System Project: Can the west and east slope find common ground?

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Drew Peternell, Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project has penned a call to negotiation and common sense in today’s Denver Post. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Trout Unlimited, a sportsmen’s group committed to preserving Colorado’s rivers and fisheries, can accept a Moffat project if Denver agrees to responsible measures to protect western Colorado. That means, at a minimum, guaranteeing healthy year-round stream flows in the Fraser, Williams Fork and upper Colorado Rivers. That also means improving Denver’s track record on water conservation. Denver has implemented some meaningful conservation measures, but there is much more it can do — such as offering incentives for households to replace water-thirsty turf with drought-tolerant landscaping…

What’s at issue in the Moffat plan is our willingness on the Front Range to accept a modest tradeoff to preserve Colorado’s magnificent outdoor resources. With smart resource management, we have enough water to sustain both our home places and our wild places — we don’t need to choose between the two. If it respects diverse needs, Denver Water can find pragmatic water supply solutions that work for everyone, on both sides of the Divide.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

Meanwhile here’s a look at transmountain diversions from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The diversions vary in size from the very small, like the Larkspur Ditch that brings Upper Gunnison River water to the Arkansas River basin, to the very large – the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Many were developed as primarily agricultural diversions that are turning into municipal projects. The C-BT Project, fed by the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, was four-fifths agricultural when it started more than 70 years ago. Today, about two-thirds of the project’s yield provides water for northern Colorado’s growing cities.

Here’s a look at the current state of planning for growth and consumption, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The ditches and tunnels that already cross the mountains have a long history of dispute. Water planners are starting to worry about what could happen if those systems fail. Those who live in the areas where the water is taken from on the West Slope want to make sure the water is used wisely on the Front Range. And the Front Range is looking to slake its thirst with even more pipelines from the West.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

Drought readiness is one of the reasons that Denver Water wants to move more water to their northern system, hence the enlargement of Gross Reservoir by raising the dam 125 feet or so. Colorado River Basin firm yield is expected to keep dropping as it has in recents years as a result of climate change. Here’s a look at statewide planning for climate change from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

You may not think climate change is real. As for water planners, they believe.

Climate change already had become a staple of water discussions by October 2008, when Gov. Bill Ritter convened a special meeting on the topic. “At no time has our water been threatened so much by drought, climate change and population growth,” Ritter said at the time. “As we assess the impact of climate change, water absolutely has to be a part of the discussion.”

More climate change coverage here.

Greeley: New pipeline through LaPorte may utilize tunneling rather than trenching

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Boring a route for the pipeline would cost “millions” more than digging a trench, but it would still be less expensive than trying to run the pipeline along other routes, said Jon Monson, director of water and sewer for Greeley. Tunneling also poses less of a threat to bridges that carry a historic railroad near the south bank of the Poudre River as well as irrigation ditches on the properties, he said. “Either way we go would be expensive,” Monson said. “We thought tunneling would give us the best shot at avoiding the bridges and minimizing the environmental impacts through this area.”

But some affected property owners said they are not impressed with Greeley’s tunneling proposal and plan to continue fighting the pipeline. “I’m not a bit interested in their plan,” said Rose Brinks. “It would still be extremely disruptive to our farm.” Brinks said running the pipeline across her land would cause irreparable harm to historic and natural resources on the property. The pipeline’s presence would impede her family’s ability to develop the property if they chose to do so, she said. The Colorado Historical Society has indicated the property would be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, Brinks said. The designation could affect Greeley’s ability to get a permit for the project from the Army Corps of Engineers, she said…

Tunnels would be bored along an area about a quarter of a mile long, said Dan Moore, project manager for the pipeline. Surface disruption over tunneled area would look like a “Jeep road” rather than a 30-foot wide swath that would come with an open trench. “The whole idea is that we will try to use the bores where practical to reduce impact and make the restoration efforts a lot successful,” Moore said…

Digging the tunnel would cost about $3 million. But the route is still preferable to alternatives, such as running the pipeline down County Road 54G and disrupting many businesses and homes, Monson said.

More coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

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From the Loveland Reporter Herald (Pamela Dickman):

“We got off to a bang-bang fast start with a lot of early season snow,” said State Climatologist Nolan Doesken. Only one storm brought snow with a lot of water, yet the area is at 3.67 inches of precipitation since Oct. 1, Doesken said. “That’s above-average precipitation for the beginning of the winter season,” he said.

Higher up in the mountains, the water level in the snow that has fallen is at or near average in the two basins that feed into the Colorado Big-Thompson Project, the diversion project that brings water from the other side of the Continental Divide and fills Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir. The amount of water in the snow sat at 85 percent of average in the Upper Colorado Basin and 101 percent in the South Platte Basin on Friday, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

Carter Lake, Horsetooth and other reservoirs that hold Colorado Big-Thompson water are 15 percent above average, while other water storage facilities in the region are sitting at 35 percent over average. “There’s more water in the river than there has been in a decade,” Werner said.

Martha Rudolph named by Governor Ritter to run CDPHE

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From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels):

Gov. Bill Ritter has promoted the state’s environmental programs director to run the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Martha Rudolph has worked for the department since June 2007. Previously, she handled environmental issues for the Colorado attorney general and served as assistant counsel to a natural gas and energy transportation company.

Fifth Annual Colorado Ag Classic recap

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From the Ag Journal (Candace Krebs):

Reagan Waskom is director of the Colorado Water Institute, an affiliate of Colorado State University, which was created for “the express purpose of focusing the water expertise of higher education on the evolving water concerns and problems being faced by Colorado citizens.” He spoke on water in the West and the future of irrigated agriculture recently during the fifth annual Colorado Ag Classic, the joint convention of the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, the Colorado Corn Growers Association, Colorado Sunflower Administrative Committee, Colorado Sorghum Producers, Colorado Seed Growers Association and the Colorado Seed Industry Association.

Irrigated agriculture accounts for only 15 percent of total crop acres but 40-50 percent of all crop receipts, according to USDA. Since 2003, irrigated cropping has increased primarily in the Eastern U.S. and in Nebraska. (The average cost of irrigating from wells in Nebraska in 2008 was $42.89 an acre. In Texas, at the shallow end of the vast Ogallala Aquifer, the comparable figure was $105.10. In California, battling drought and increasing competition for water from urban residents, it was $114.27.) Meanwhile, states like California, Texas and Colorado are losing irrigated acreage. As of 2007, Nebraska had the highest number of irrigated acres at 8.5 million. Colorado has 2.9 million irrigated acres, and Kansas 2.8 million. The Ogallala Aquifer accounts for 25 percent of irrigated cropland. As of 2007, 8 percent of the aquifer was depleted. Texas and Kansas are seeing the biggest declines.

Use of water for irrigation peaked in 1980. The per-acre application rate has gradually declined since then, a story that has not always been successfully conveyed to the public, Waskom says. In addition, the value irrigated agriculture contributes to Colorado’s economy is a hefty $16 billion annually. Livestock production accounts for less than 1 percent of direct water use, but indirectly relies on the water-intensive production of feed. “A question that needs to be analyzed is what happens to livestock feeding in this state,” Waskom says. “I think we are working ourselves into a situation of off-shoring our livestock production just like our fruits and vegetables.”

In the South Platte basin, an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 acres have been lost as direct result of curtailment of water use, but that figure could be as high as 70,000, Waskom says. The Arkansas River basin is also experiencing significant declines. Waskom says the Arkansas Valley has already lost 20-25 percent of irrigated acreage. The population there is expected to increase 500,000 by 2030. There’s also pressure on the San Luis Valley to dry up about 65,000 acres over the long term. In sum, Colorado will likely lose 400,000-600,000 irrigated acres in the next 20 years, Waskom estimates.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: BLM to offer 799 acre site near Mt. Princeton Hot Springs for lease February 11

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A 799-acre parcel with subsurface federal mineral rights will be offered for geothermal development in Chaffee County, near the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort west of Buena Vista…

According to a Web site, chaffeecountygeothermal.com, a group of Nathrop residents oppose the geothermal lease, citing concerns about possible impacts on the scenery in the Mt. Princeton area…

Leases contain language that would require buyers to take measures to protect riparian areas, antelope breeding and peregrine falcon nesting sites, among other considerations for the environment. Protests of parcels being offered for lease can be submitted in writing by 4 p.m. Jan. 27 via fax at 303-239-3799 or via mail to BLM Colorado State Office, 2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood, CO 80215. Lease sale information can be obtained online at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/oilandgas/leasing.html or at any of the BLM field offices.

More geothermal coverage here and here.