The fight for water named the top story of the decade by The Pueblo Chieftain

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From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Thus began a decade of legal wrangling over water in ditches and canals known by the names of High Line, Fort Lyon, Amity, Catlin as well as Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. Southern Delivery System and the Arkansas Valley Conduit became synonymous with Lake Pueblo, land-use permits, Colorado Springs, congressional hearings, legal lawsuits and intergovernmental agreements. Pueblo found itself in the battle over water being transported out of the Lower Arkansas Valley and later Lake Pueblo in 2001 and has continued the good fight ever since. The players have evolved through the years, but the focus is primarily the same – take water from Southeastern Colorado for use elsewhere.

Aurora continued to want more water storage in Lake Pueblo for its shares of water in the Lower Arkansas Valley. And in 2004, Colorado Springs announced its plan to build a…pipeline from Lake Pueblo to Colorado Springs to quench the thirst for its growing city. Following a five-year battle, Pueblo officials signed a permit that allows the Southern Delivery System project to pass through Pueblo County, benefitting Pueblo West and Fountain and Security along the way.

Here’s a look at the top 11 stories of the last decade, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

2. 2002 drought worst on record: In 2002, Pueblo was severely dry, recording fewer than 4 inches of precipitation for the year – less than any other year on record. The Pueblo Board of Water Works restricted outdoor water use and after the drought, doubled its storage level against future events. If you were a farmer, water provider or a tourist looking out the car window at dry river beds and smoking skies, 2002 looked a lot like the drought to end all droughts. To a climatologist, it looked more like one year of drought in an otherwise fairly average period of rainfall history. But the effects of the drought were magnified by an increased thirst for water. “Certainly, the 2001-02 period had the driest conditions during a 13-month period since records began in 1892,” said state Climatologist Roger Pielke Sr. The cost of the 2002 drought was amplified because greater numbers of people are depending upon the same water source, Pielke said. Its effects continue as water providers replenish storage and Colorado residents rethink how they use water…

6. Salmonella sickens Alamosa: Alamosa was swept by a health emergency when a salmonella outbreak in March 2008 contaminated the city’s water supply, most likely through an underground reservoir on the north side of town. The outbreak led to 424 cases of illness, 24 hospitalizations and the April 15 death of Larry Velasquez Sr. of Romeo. For 24 days, 8,500 residents went without drinking water from their taps, leaning instead on the distribution of water by emergency crews or the generosity of rural friends and family who weren’t on the city system for water for drinking and bathing purposes. Alamosa now offers chlorinated water thanks to a new $10.4 million water treatment plant designed to remove arsenic from the water supply…

8. Arkansas Valley Conduit closer to reality: On the books since 1962, when President John F. Kennedy authorized it as part of the original Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, the Arkansas Valley Conduit got a major boost in 2009 when project funding began to line up. The $300 million project got a jump-start with a $5 million appropriation from Congress and a dedication ceremony for the conduit was held in late 2009. The conduit will benefit 42 communities serving 50,000 people from east of Pueblo to Lamar. The water will be taken directly out of Lake Pueblo, guaranteeing better quality than now used by many towns. Federal water quality rules are being tightened and most small communities lack funds for water treatment plants.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

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