Aurora: Summer watering restrictions update

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

The Aurora City Council voted unanimously to keep this year’s watering restriction the same as last year, with residents being able to pick which days they can water their lawns as long as they don’t water more than three days per week. Greg Baker, Aurora Water Department spokesman, said the vote means that water conservation techniques have been embraced by residents and have been effective in the past. “For the second year, council has expressed that the conservation ethic has been woven into the social fabric of the community,” Baker said in a statement. “Residents know that watering your lawn more than three days-a-week is not only unnecessary, but wasteful. We have the latitude to provide a little more flexibility to everyone’s busy day by letting them choose the days they want.”

More conservation coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Metro and Arkansas Basin roundtables are funding study of the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

the project has faced contention from major water users in the state. At one point, the state’s largest water users sought to block a Bureau of Reclamation contract proposal, and an alternative group led by Parker Water and Sanitation is trying to form its own coalition to develop the project. One of the reservoir sites, on the Norris Ranch in El Paso County, also lies on the same spot in Upper Williams Creek where Colorado Springs Utilities wants to build a reservoir that is part of the Southern Delivery System.

To wade through all of the potential issues the project could face, the El Paso County Water Authority has suggested a task force, similar to the one that broke political logjams on Fountain Creek and led to the formation of a special district, said Gary Barber, agent for the El Paso County group. “This grant is for an assessment only, not to form the task force,” Barber explained to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week. Barber also chairs the roundtable and was instrumental in forming the Fountain Creek district. He is now the interim director of the Fountain Creek district as well. The roundtable agreed to apply for a $40,000 state appropriation through the Water Supply Reserve Account. The Metro Basin Roundtable approved the grant request last month. The El Paso County group would kick in another $5,000. The Keystone Center would be hired to bring together those who would be affected by the pipeline to determine if a task force should be convened. If the decision to move ahead is made, a task force would be formed to study the project and alternatives…

Million’s plan, now under environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, includes conservation measures that would directly benefit the environment and agriculture. It also brings the pipeline into the Arkansas River basin. The Parker-led coalition is still in its nascent stages and has not looked at the Arkansas River basin one way or the other.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Blanket of snow over the southern mountains

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Snowfall of up to a foot in the state’s southern mountains overnight Wednesday kept snowfall totals above average. Farther north, however, the state remains dry…

“Water users should be prepared for significantly less water than in the previous two years,” said Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS. Northern Colorado snowpack totals are at about 80 percent of average, while Southern Colorado is close to 100 percent of average in most places. The picture shifts a little when looking at the areas where most Arkansas River basin users — Colorado Springs, Pueblo and cities along the river and Fountain Creek — get their water. The Roaring Fork basin on the western side of the Continental Divide was at 90 percent of average Thursday, slightly better than the rest of the Colorado River basin. The Upper Arkansas River basin was at 93 percent, slightly lower than the overall average for the entire basin. At the highest elevations, there is about 5 feet of snow on the ground, with moisture content of about a foot of water.

Alexandra Davis appointed director of the Colorado Interbasin Compact Committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

She will head a group that was formed in 2005 to sort out state water issues by encouraging dialogue on water issues at the grass-roots level and broadening the scope of participants in the discussion. In January, Ritter put renewed importance on the IBCC during a speech to the Colorado Water Congress, saying the board needs to meet more often to help shape state water policy. “Alex’s long experience as a water litigator and her dedication to resolving difficult water policy challenges make her an invaluable asset for all who are concerned about Colorado’s future,” said James B. Martin, executive director of DNR, in a press release. “I look forward to Alex’s leadership in this most critical natural resource arena.” Davis interacts with other agencies within DNR, such as State Parks, the Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“The IBCC has gained real momentum in tackling statewide water supply issues,” Davis said. “I am honored to be able to continue working with the IBCC members to create a positive vision for Colorado water supply solutions.”

More IBCC — Basin roundtables coverage here.

CWCB is coordinating work on water project decision support system for the Arkansas Valley

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Brown and Caldwell engineers, consultants for the project, are conducting interviews and using surveys to determine the feasibility of developing a support system for the Arkansas River Basin. The project is coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The Rio Grande and Colorado River basins already have these models in place, and they have been used to help shape state and federal water policy. A decision support system is being completed for the South Platte River Basin as well. Although the process of developing the models began more than 20 years ago, the Arkansas River project was delayed because of the ongoing Kansas v. Colorado case in the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was settled last year. The model would provide a common baseline for historic water use that could be applied to future proposals, explained Lindsay Griffith, project manager for Brown and Caldwell.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

State Engineer approves Rueter-Hess fill

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From the Parker Chronicle:

On Feb. 24, the State Engineers Office of Dam Safety approved a request by Parker Water and Sanitation District to allow the first water to be stored in Rueter-Hess. Before the approval, water within Newlin Gulch was pumped around the construction site. With the approval, the water will be stored behind the dam. The approval allows for water to be stored to a depth of 43 feet, which will allow up to 5,000 acre-feet of water. While construction of the dam is not slated to be complete until February 2012, storing water now will save the district money and allow for future use of that water to district customers. Over the next two years while construction is completed, an additional $34 million will be spent by PWSD on the project employing about 100 workers. Jim Nikkel, assistant district manager for Parker Water and project manager for the Rueter-Hess project, said the approval will allow the district to save about $10,000 a month in pumping costs.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Climate Change and the ski industry

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From The Durango Telegraph:

The ski industry is getting more sobering news from the science community. A new report from the National Wildlife Federation says global warming is part of the reason for the unusual winter weather in the West. Climate scientist and report author Amanda Staudt says powder enthusiasts should be especially concerned. “Aspen Mountain could see a 2,400-foot rise in the snow line, which is as far as the snowpack extends down the mountain,” she said. “And if that happens, many of the base areas at that mountain won’t even have any snow.” A recent report in the journal Science explained that water vapor in the atmosphere plays a role in global warming. It may intensify, or sometimes moderate, the heating effects of carbon pollution. Staudt concluded that the analysis of weather trends underscores the importance of cutting carbon pollution that has been connected to warmer global temperatures. She added that despite the severe winter, 2009 was the second warmest year on record for the world, according to NASA.

More climate change coverage here and here.

Archuleta County: Board of Commissioners ask the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District to produce and annual report complete with the details about the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir

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Here’s Part I of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet running in (Pagosa Daily Post) report from last week’s meeting. From the article:

As a few of us discovered for the first time yesterday — sitting in the audience in the Commissioners meeting room at 10am — the County Commissioners have the power to request an “annual report” from any special district located all or partly within their county.

And that is what the Board of County Commissioners want from PAWSD, according to the letter (pdf) approved yesterday. Give us an annual report, the BoCC asked, that will clarify your financial condition and your long range plans. Especially, give us some justification for the planned 35,000 acre-foot Dry Gulch Reservoir, and the related impact fees.

Here’s Part II of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District has found itself in the position of such a forward-thinking parent in the past few years — assuring us, the residents of Archuleta County, that if we would just pony up and swallow their $360 million, 35,000 acre-foot reservoir and water treatment project at Dry Gulch, our great grandchildren will someday have plenty of water.

At Tuesday’s PAWSD board meeting, board member Bob Huff referred to Dry Gulch critics as folks who “want to kick the can down the road” — meaning, they want to put off the hard decisions, and the immediate costs of a well-considered plan for the future. “We, as a board, have decided, we’re not kicking the can down the road. We’re going to start planning; we’re going to start moving on that plan. And that’s what the Dry Gulch [property purchase] is all about. We’re moving forward in a step-by-step way…

The most vocal of PAWSD’s critics include, of course, the Pagosa Area Association of Realtors and many of our local developers and builders who see the water district’s Water Resource Fee impact fees and Capital Investment Fees and Inclusion Fees — running $30,000 or more for a large, new home in Pagosa Springs — as part of the reason behind the slow demise of the Archuleta County construction industry, beginning in about 2006 when those new fees were established by PAWSD.

Here’s Part III where Hudson steps through the commissioner’s letter.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.