It hasn’t been established how much this solution will cost the community, varying from very little to as much as $250,000. Manassa has lost a waiver from a legal requirement for a sanitation method for water drawn from two deep wells supplying the town. Test samples drawn in the past three years had revealed bacteria in four instances, and e-coli, or fecal matter in two samples taken in 2008. Summarizing the Department of Public Health position, Safe Drinking Water Program Unit Manager Rick Koplitz declared, “We feel the present situation of no disinfectant system is too risky.”
Chaffee County commissioners learned during their meeting Tuesday that Buena Vista wants to share the Nestlé water line easement across the Arkansas River near Johnson Village. Sue Boyd, representing the town, attended the meeting to answer questions regarding the official letter sent to Nestlé Waters Jan. 11 by mayor Cara Russell. The letter states in part, “the Town of Buena Vista operates a municipal water system that would be able to utilize the easement at some time in the future to provide water to and/or receive water from the east side of the Arkansas River.” Before Nestlé begins construction, Buena Vista trustees requested one or two conduit lines be laid in and under the river to accommodate a water line enabling the town to supply water, depending upon future needs.
More coverage from Kathy Davis writing for The Chaffee County Times. From the article:
The sharing of the Nestlé water-line easement is a pro-active measure in case the town would someday need to have a water line on the Arkansas River. The river would not have to be disturbed two times, once for Nestlé and then another time for the town, she said.
Buena Vista trustee Brett Mitchell said the town wanted to share the easement and to share the conduit at no cost to the town. “The letter to Nestlé says we have this interest and asks if the town could piggyback with Nestlé on the easement,” he said. According to the agenda for the executive session, the special meeting followed a request from Paul Moltz. Mitchell said Moltz, who owns ACA Products, is working on a bid to build the water line for Nestlé.
A study by Paul Flack, former water resources manager for Colorado State Parks, will look at how water used in flow management programs from Lake County to John Martin Reservoir could be more effectively managed. A second study by anthropologist Ken Weber will look at the “tipping point” of regional economies from dry-ups associated with water transfers…
Under the proposal, Flack would look at how the Upper Ark flow management program, started in 1990 to provide year-round flows for fish and seasonal flows for rafters, has worked. He would study how releases and exchanges for consumptive purposes – municipal or agricultural – fit in with nonconsumptive needs – environment and recreation. Representatives from Colorado Springs and Aurora, which move much of the water along the river, pledged cooperation with the study at Wednesday’s roundtable meeting. Flack’s study would also look at flow management on the river below Pueblo Dam and the reach from Pueblo to John Martin Reservoir under the study’s concept, according to Tom Simpson, Aurora’s water resource manager.
Weber’s study will build on work he has already done in Crowley County to look at the historic impacts of water transfers between Boone and La Junta. Colorado Springs, Aurora, Pueblo and Pueblo West now control water rights that once benefitted farmers on the Colorado Canal, including Twin Lakes purchases in the 1970s. Aurora owns the vast majority of shares in the Rocky Ford Ditch.
The site of the proposed Red Creek Reservoir is a mile from the Arkansas River near the borderline of Pueblo and Fremont counties. District Manager Larry Howe-Kerr said this part of the reservoir study will include drilling to study the rock under the reservoir site. That and other studies will determine if the reservoir could hold water and if it would be strong enough. The drilling could begin as soon as next week.
From the state’s point of view, if wells are out of compliance, they are subject to being shut down. It’s a serious matter determined after 24 years of litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court against Kansas over the issue of violation of the Arkansas River Compact. The Supreme Court found a proliferation of well-pumping in Colorado had diminished the supply to Kansas under terms of the compact negotiated in 1948. Colorado did not begin to connect groundwater and surface water until 1969. That led to Arkansas River well rules in 1996 that required replacement of well water to the river and measurement of depletions.
“The existence of wells in these subdivisions depend on augmentation plans,” Witte said. “If those plans are not complied with, we have no recourse but to order the wells shut down.” The problem is not isolated, nor ignored by the state, Witte said.
There are 445 augmentation plans covering 9,195 small wells – typically 15 gallons per minute or so – in the Arkansas River Basin. Most of those are in areas where mountain lots have been carved out in subdivisions. “Everyone thinks they’re the first and are being picked on,” Witte said. “A lot of folks are completely unaware of the legal foundation that justifies the existence of the subdivision.” In fact, the state began looking at compliance with the court decrees that created the augmentation plans about five years ago, dedicating a full-time staffer to the task in the Arkansas Valley. Witte said at least five more years of work lie ahead…
So what should anyone buying mountain property do? “They should ask for the basis of the water right, and then check with the Division of Water Resources to see if the plan is in compliance,” Witte said.
A complex web of treaties, compacts, laws and court decisions govern who can use the once-mighty river’s water and when. But over the last several decades, those rules have not kept the yearly demand for water from exceeding the average flow. “People have known since the 1940s, if not earlier, that this river was over-allocated and that, at some point, it’s going to be a major problem,” said Douglas Kenney, senior research associate at the University of Colorado’s Natural Resources Law Center…
Kenney and two of his colleagues have now begun an ambitious, yearlong project called the Colorado River Governance Initiative to evaluate options for reforming the laws of the river. “The initiative is designed to develop a blueprint for future management that will allow for managing the river basin’s resources more holistically and in a manner that preserves wildlife resources and habitats while ensuring the availability of water supplies for humans,” said Mark Squillace, director of the Natural Resources Law Center…
So part of the project’s goal is to do the background policy work, and ask the questions, that public officials are often afraid to, eventually creating a ready-made list of possible changes that may be easier for government leaders to handle. “If you’re an elected official and you talk about changing the management of the Colorado River, you have to tread very carefully,” Kenney said. “We’re going to study the options that they cannot safely talk about publicly. If we come up with some really good solutions, then they can think about supporting them.”
The Front Range Water Providers group – which includes the state’s major importers of water – suggested that urban water conservation is not a practical way to deal with water shortages. The Front Range letter says, in part: “20 to 40 percent demand reductions may necessitate major changes in land use, or significant alteration of most of the urban landscape.”
“We submit that it may be time for Colorado to balance the search for new urban water supply with serious research on such ‘major changes,’” [Roundtable Chairwoman Michelle Pierce] argued. “We recognize that such strategies are complicated, may be intrusive upon property rights and will involve the effective collaboration among many governments and water providers throughout the state. “The significance of such changes, however, may be no less than that of continued dry-up of our agricultural lands or additional transmountain diversions.”
The Gunnison roundtable also took umbrage with the idea that its agricultural lands are not threatened, as the Arkansas roundtable’s resolution implied. “Many agricultural landowners within basins on both sides of the (Continental) Divide have opted to engage in profitable transactions that are not tied to water supply strategies. The loss of agricultural land is not unique to the Arkansas Basin,” Pierce wrote…
According to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, 2,500-10,000 acres of farmland in the Gunnison River Basin could be dried up to meet future needs by 2030. In the Arkansas River Basin, 23,000-72,000 acres could be dried up.
Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded a planning grant [for turning Fountain Creek into a community asset that could help revitalize the East Side] to a partnership between Pueblo city government, Colorado Springs Utilities, Fountain Creek Foundation and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District. The resulting design – called the Fountain Greenway Master Plan – will focus on Fountain Creek between Eighth Street and the confluence with the Arkansas River, but it can include parks, recreation programs, trails or whatever residents envision for Fountain Creek and the adjoining neighborhoods. “This meeting will be about what the community wants,” said Kevin Shanks, the project manager for THK and Associates, the planning firm that will develop the master plan. “The whole idea behind this partnership is to look at what can be done to make Fountain Creek into a true amenity.” The plan, of course, is the just beginning. Shanks said the partnership is also committed to making sure there is a strategy for getting the pieces of the plan built in the future. For example, the steering committee for the master plan includes city planners, officials from the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo and others.
Greg Shoupe, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Front Range district manager, opened the meeting by explaining the meeting was to provide information, not accept public comment. He said this is the first time the process has occurred in Colorado because of changes initiated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act. He said, “We want you to understand what it’s all about. We’re here as long as you guys want us to be here.” Shoupe encouraged anyone with comments, especially negative comments, to include specific facts or data the bureau can consider because new information from public comments can give the bureau reasons to change leasing decisions. “This process is a long way from over,” Shoupe said.
[Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer with Colorado Division of Water Resources] said Colorado water law recognizes geothermal resources and drilling a geothermal well requires a permit from the state engineer, who is also director of the Division of Water Resources. When considering a permit application, the state engineer must consider potential for “material injury” to other water rights or geothermal rights, Rein said. A separate permit to “appropriate” the “geothermal fluid” is required for geothermal wells, but it can be waived if no hot water is consumed by the proposed use.
Regarding geothermal rights, Rein stressed owning land above a geothermal resource does not include rights to the resource. “A geothermal right is not established through use from an unregistered well or an exempt well. A well must be specifically permitted for geothermal use, or it must have a court decree for it to have a geothermal right.” Rein said a geothermal right is not needed to make use of heat as a by-product of the permitted well use if that use is incidental and doesn’t increase diversion or consumption of geothermal water. Rein said the state engineer must consider how a proposed well might affect surface water. Any impact in the Arkansas River basin requires a plan to replace surface water depletions and the plan must be approved by the water court.
Rein said geothermal developers will favor non-consumptive uses for two main reasons: to avoid water court issues and to preserve the geothermal resource.
From the Associated Press (Brian Skoloff) via The Denver Post:
Friday’s proposed rules mark the first time the EPA plans to force numeric limits of so-called nutrient runoff on any state. A handful of other states, at the urging of the agency, have already acted to set their own standards. The remainder have vague limits on waste and fertilizer pollution, while some are in the process of developing their own numeric limits. “It’s actually pretty good,” said David Guest, an attorney for Earthjustice, which represented environmental groups in the lawsuit, including the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and others. While noting the standards “aren’t as stringent as we’d like,” Guest called it “a huge leap forward in getting effective controls on sewage, fertilizer and animal manure.” “This is the beginning of a very serious effort nationwide, and Florida is going to be a model,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Energy Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project last week shipped 136 containers of mill tailings, the maximum number that can be transported in a single train. The load was sent from Moab to a disposal cell 30 miles north near Crescent Junction. The shipment held about 4,700 tons of tailings, bringing the total quantity shipped to more than 680,000 tons. More than 40 percent, or 278,000 tons using federal stimulus funding.
Thanks to the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams) for the link.
Wiggins must run a pipeline from a well near Empire Reservoir to the west side of town to start using a new water source. So far, the town has bought about half of the water it needs, and there is a prospect for buying more. The water project is needed because the water levels and water quality in existing wells have fallen steadily over the past few years, as have other wells in the same basin.