Parker Water and Sanitation and Colorado State University pilot project is testing water saving cropping practices

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

In 2007, Parker Water and Sanitation District, a Front Range water supplier, and Colorado State University joined forces to develop a new approach to meeting Colorado’s water challenges.

Growing municipal and industrial water demand has led to the “drying-up” of irrigated farms in Colorado. Farms – and their water rights – are being purchased by municipalities and water rights are transferred from agricultural to municipal purposes. More “buy-and-dry” of irrigated agricultural land is projected in the future as the demand for municipal water resources increases across Colorado’s Front Range.

Parker Water Sanitation District, or PWSD, is exploring ways of meeting its water needs while benefiting irrigators and rural communities, thereby preserving both rural and urban economies. PWSD and Colorado State researchers initially embarked on a one million dollar study of water saving cropping practices with reduced irrigation based on a farm near Iliff. Subsequently, PWSD has secured two grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for $627,500 to supplement the research project.

“Parker Water was very forward thinking in establishing this project,” said Tom Holtzer, head of the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management and team coordinator of the study. “It has led others in the state to see alternatives to drying up irrigated farmland.”

Now three years into the study, important results are being found. “A simple but important result from the research is that there are better ways to save water than fallowing irrigated land,” said Neil Hansen, associate professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and one of the CSU scientists leading the project.

Hansen said that water lost to evaporation from bare farmland was almost as high as water usage from a non-irrigated winter wheat crop. “As a minimum, when irrigation is terminated, the land should be used to produce a crop without irrigation,” Hansen said.

The study evaluated a variety of crop rotations that alternate irrigated and non-irrigated crops as a means of saving water. This “rotational cropping” approach is efficient because the non-irrigated crop scavenges water and nutrients left by the previous irrigated crop. The approach reduces water use by as much as 40 percent.
Limited irrigation cropping is another water savings approach being evaluated in the PWSD study. For limited irrigation, all crops in a rotation are irrigated with reduced amounts of water.

The project has shown how to monitor soil moisture and crop growth stage to get the most return out of the limited amounts of applied irrigation. Crops under limited irrigation yield less than fully irrigated crops, but the yields are much better than for non-irrigated crops.

So far the study has shown limited irrigation as a successful approach for traditional crops like corn and sugar beets as well as for potential alternative crops, like soybeans and canola.

Part of the study is to project how saving water and moving it to cities will affect regional economies in rural areas of the state. The approach used to save the water at the farm scale can have a large influence on the economic impacts.

The PWSD-CSU study will conclude later this year. With the additional support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the project is addressing means to put the new ideas into practice. Researchers are evaluating methods the state can use to verify water savings at the farm level, and how water savings from individual farms can be aggregated at larger scales.

“We are heading toward a train wreck and we need to look at the tough question and find some answers,” said Frank Jaeger, district manager of PWSD. “This project addresses one important part of answers we are looking for. Providing urban water supplies, while also preserving agriculture instead of ‘buying and drying’ agricultural lands, will help avoid that train wreck.”

More conservation coverage here.

Albedo effect

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From Red Orbit (Cheryl Dybas):

“More than 80 percent of sunlight falling on fresh snow is reflected back to space,” says Tom Painter, Director of the University of Utah’s Snow Optics Laboratory. “But sprinkle some dark particles on the snow and that number drops dramatically.”

That’s exactly what’s happening in Colorado’s high peaks. When the winds are right and the desert is dry, dust blows eastward from the semi-arid regions of the U.S. Southwest. In a dust-up, Western style, small dark particles of the dust fall on Colorado’s pristine white snowfields. “The darker dust absorbs sunlight, reducing the amount of reflected light and in turn warming the now ‘dirty’ snow surface,” says scientist Chris Landry, Director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies (CSAS) in Silverton, Colo.

Painter’s and Landry’s research on dust-on-snow events, as they’re called, is supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which is part of the directorate for geosciences.

Interview with Anders Halverson author of ‘An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World’

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Here’s the interview from Ed Stoddard writing for Thomson Reuters Foundation. Here’s the Tattered Cover link for the book An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World.

More restoration coverage here.

Creede: Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project fundraiser April 18

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From The Monte Vista Journal:

The Dow Live Earth Run for Water is a series of 6 km run/walks —the average distance women and children walk every day to secure drinking water — taking place over the course of 24 hours in 150 countries across the world, featuring activities to ignite a massive global movement to raise awareness of the water crisis. Local organizers are proud to host the High Country Hustle near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. There is a $20 pre-registry event fee, which will include an event t-shirt and post-run/walk refreshments. All monies raised will be donated to the RGHRP.

The worldwide water movement will begin at 10 a.m. near the Creede Ball Park and travel along the running trail south of town, down the Airport Road to the Deep Creek Bridge on the Rio Grande, and back to town…

For more information, please see the website at, or contact Forrest at, or Heather at

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado elections: Rafting rift makes the national news

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From The Wall Street Journal (Stephanie Simon):

That blissful setting is fairly well destroyed, [Steve Roberts] contends, when dozens of rubber rafts come bumping past, crammed with tourists of a less contemplative sort. “They come bebopping right on through…going over the dam I built for the fish, yelling ‘Whee!’ ” Mr. Roberts says. “I’ve got 60 boats a day doing that. My guests are unhappy.”

Too bad, the rafting community responds. The state constitution declares Colorado’s river water a public resource. Private landowners can reasonably lay claim to the structural frame of a river—the bottom, the banks, perhaps even the boulders. “But that doesn’t mean they own the water,” says Duke Bradford, who owns two commercial rafting companies. “You can’t privatize a river.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here. More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

HB 10-1204 (Plumbing Code Water Conservation Standards)

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From Governor Ritter’s Office:

“House Bill 1204 is an important step in conserving Colorado’s water and ensuring that we are moving forward with sustainable water standards for the future,” said Gov. Ritter. “Conservation is a critical component in managing one of our state’s most precious resources – water. Our state’s livelihood depends upon a reliable water source, from recreation to agriculture to business to our families, and we must be prudent with our use of it.” Conservation standards under [HB 10-1204], sponsored by Rep. John Soper and Sen. Lois Tochrop, include water efficiency fixtures and installation guidelines that meet or exceed national standards. The bill also encourages the use of locally produced materials.

More conservation coverage here.

Conservation groups seeking an emergency endangered species listing for Arapahoe Snowfly

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The high volume of dogs, hikers and cyclists who trample and defecate in the snowfly’s habitat in Young Gulch and grazing and resort effluent in Elkhorn Creek have driven the snowfly nearly to extinction, claim the petitioners, who include CSU professor entomology Boris C. Kondratieff. Elkhorn Creek is the snowfly’s only known habitat, but early last decade, scientists spotted the snowfly in Young Gulch, too, where it still might exist. In the petition, the conservationists worry that a planned trail system for the Elkhorn Creek drainage will help pollute the creek and kill the last remaining snowflies.

Nicole Rosmarino of the WildEarth Guardians said Tuesday that it normally takes about two years for the government to include a threatened species on the endangered species list, but the snowfly is so close to extinction that it doesn’t have that long to wait. An emergency listing, she said, could force the U.S. Forest Service, which manages Young Gulch and Elkhorn Creek, to crack down on sources of water pollution, including dogs defecating in the stream in Young Gulch…

Through time, listing the snowfly as endangered would force the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to take a hard look at what kind of recreation they permit in the two canyons while keeping the survival of the snowfly in mind, Rosmarino said…

The plight of the snowfly, she said, is really the plight of the Poudre River. Scientists consider the snowfly an “indicator” species, which is a harbinger of the overall health of the Poudre River watershed ecosystem. As goes the snowfly, so goes the Poudre River and the region’s water quality, they say. “The snowfly is a small insect that needs fast, cold, clear, clean streams to survive, and unfortunately, the two streams it’s known from are being impacted by everything from cattle grazing to too much recreation to septic tank pollution,” said Scott Black, a former Colorado State University student who is now the director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Ore.

More coverage from The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley Water and Sewer Department, said he had not heard of the filing. “We try to support the environment, because we live in it. But I have not heard of this and don’t know at this time if it will have any effect on the expansion of the Milton Seaman Reservoir,” Monson said. The city-owned reservoir is north of the Poudre River in the canyon northwest of Fort Collins and the city has long-range plans to enlarge that facility, which provides drinking water for Greeley.

Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is administering the building of the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project that includes reservoirs off the Poudre River and northeast of Greeley, said the survey would have no effect on those projects because the insects are upstream from the Glade Reservoir site.

The Xerces Society claimed the species — sometimes called winter stoneflies — is threatened by habitat damage from intensive recreation, livestock grazing, timbering projects, stream de-watering, insecticide application close to water bodies connected to Elkhorn Creek, sedimentation and runoff from roads and trails, and effluent from residential and destination resort septic systems.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Republican River Basin: New arbitration timeline announced for Republican River Compact compliance pipeline

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

A new arbitration timeline finally has been set in regards to Colorado’s proposed compact compliance pipeline. A crediting dispute raised by Nebraska also is included in the arbitration process. Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska issued a joint notice of arbitration two weeks ago, and held an initial meeting with arbitrator Martha Pagel on Monday, March 29. Motions and briefs, and responses to them, will take place through May, culminating with Pagel issuing a decision on legal motions by May 17. The trial is to be held July 12-14 (the location has not been announced), and Pagel is supposed to issue a decision by September 30. The states have until November 1 to give notice on whether they accept the decision.

Click through for the schedule details.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Colorado seeking public nominations for Resource Advisory Councils

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Here’s the release from the BLM (Jim Sample):

The Bureau of Land Management in Colorado announced today that it is seeking public nominations for 15 open positions on its three Resource Advisory Councils, which advise the BLM on public land issues. The BLM will consider the nominations for 45 days after today, when the agency is publishing its formal call for nominations in the Federal Register.

The BLM’s Resource Advisory Councils (RACs), composed of citizens chosen for their expertise in natural resource issues, help the Bureau carry out its stewardship of 253 million acres of public lands. The Bureau, which manages more land than any other Federal agency, has 24 RACs across the West, where most BLM-managed land is located. Each RAC consists of 12 to 15 members with an interest in public land management, including such individuals as conservationists, ranchers, outdoor recreationists, state and local government officials, Tribal officials, and academics. The diverse membership of each RAC is aimed at achieving a balanced outlook that the BLM needs for its mission, which is to manage the public lands for multiple uses.

“I value the advice given to the BLM by these citizen-based Resource Advisory Committees, and I know that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar shares my view of their importance,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “The people who live, work, and recreate near or on BLM-managed lands deserve a formal voice on public land issues, and their input will enhance our agency’s ability to manage the public lands for multiple uses while conserving resources for future generations.”
Individuals may nominate themselves or others to serve on an advisory council. Nominees, who must be residents of the state or states where the RAC has jurisdiction, will be judged on the basis of their training, education, and knowledge of the council’s geographical area. Nominees should also demonstrate a commitment to consensus building and collaborative decisionmaking. All nominations must be accompanied by letters of reference from any represented interests or organizations; a completed background information nomination form; and any other information that speaks to the nominee’s qualifications.

The 15 RAC positions open in Colorado are in the following categories:

Category One – Public land ranchers and representatives of organizations associated with energy and mineral development, the timber industry, transportation or rights-of-way, off-highway vehicle use, and commercial recreation.

Category Two – Representatives of nationally or regionally recognized environmental organizations, archaeological and historical organizations, dispersed recreation activities, and wild horse and burro organizations.

Category Three – Representatives of state, county, or local elected office; representatives and employees of a state agency responsible for the management of natural resources; representatives of Indian Tribes within or adjacent to the area for which the RAC is organized; representatives and employees of academic institutions who are involved in natural sciences; and the public-at-large. The nomination form is available here.

Nominations should be sent by May 10, 2010 to:

Front Range RAC
BLM Front Range District Office
Cass Cairns, RAC Coordinator
3028 East Main Street
Cañon City, Colorado 81212
FAX 719-269-8599

Northwest RAC
David Boyd, RAC Coordinator
BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office
2300 River Frontage Road
Silt, CO 81652
FAX 970-876-9090

Southwest RAC
Erin Curtis, RAC Coordinator
BLM Grand Junction Office
2815 H Road
Grand Junction, Colorado 81506
FAX 970-244-3083

Snowpack news

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From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

This year’s water content is 8 percent below the same time a year ago. In a typical year, mountain snowpack totals reach their seasonal maximum totals during the month of April, which leaves only a few weeks remaining for improvements. But given the current deficit across northern Colorado, the odds of reaching a near-average snowpack are less than 10 percent at this time, [Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS] said…

Given the marginal snowpack conditions across much of the state, the outlook for spring and summer water supplies remains below average for most of Colorado. Near-average runoff is only expected in portions of the southern basins; elsewhere across the state, runoff volumes remain below average to well below average…

Reservoir storage continues to track at near-average volumes across most of the state, and that water should help alleviate late-summer shortages in those basins producing below-average runoff this year, state conservationist Allen Green said. Statewide, storage is 6 percent above the long-term average and 3 percent above last year.

From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen):

The local and statewide snowpack continues to measure below average, with the Blue River Basin at 74 percent of average, as 2010 levels near their seasonal maximum…

But reservoir storage levels continue to measure near average across the state, with the Dillon Reservoir at 112 percent of average and Upper Colorado River Basin reservoirs overall at 111 percent of average…

The Blue River Basin snowpack by the end of March had fallen 3 percent from February’s level of 77 percent. The measurement at the Snake River fell 9 percent last month to 24 percent of average — or only 10 inches of snow depth and 1.9 inch of water content.

From the Pikes Peak Courier View:

The April 1 snowpack reports shows that local snowpack is well above normal, according to measurements collected by the Woodland Park Natural Resource Conservation Service office…

On the Pikes Peak watershed area, snowpack is 143 percent of the long term average on the North Slope and 140 percent on the South Slope…

Snowpack totals reflect these dry conditions and remain well below average. Snowpack percentages in these basins range from only 73 percent of average in the combined Yampa and White river basins to 81 percent of average in the South Platte basin. The highest snowpack percentages in the state remain in the Arkansas and Rio Grande basins, at 109 and 115 percent of average, respectively.

From The Aspen Times:

Thick dust, whipped up by high winds and probably blown in from Utah, gave parts of the Roaring Fork Valley a red, muddy rain late Monday, and left Aspen-area ski slopes sporting an off-color layer beneath Tuesday’s powder…

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass both picked up 7 inches of new snow overnight, but Beaver Creek and Vail were the big winners as the latest spring storm swept into the mountains of Colorado. Beaver Creek reported 14 inches of new snow Tuesday morning, while Vail had 13 inches.

From Real (Reid Griebling):

Vail reported 11 inches this morning and the Beav’ has reported a whopping 13 inches as of 5 a.m…

Storm totals will range between 16 and 24 inches by Wednesday morning, with the highest elevations seeing well over 2 feet. Great news for snow riders and summer water enthusiasts as the Colorado River Basin has been thirsty for months.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 gets state house approval moves on to the state senate

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Bump and update: From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

“Today’s vote is absolutely amazing,” said Matt Garrington, of Environment Colorado, which helped develop the bill. “Never before have we seen such strong bipartisan support on uranium legislation.”[…]

“Uranium processing has left behind a dirty, dangerous legacy in Colorado,” Garrington said. “Today, the Colorado House told the uranium industry that business as usual is not acceptable. This legislation is an important step to help protect Colorado’s air and water from toxic, radioactive uranium pollution.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

By a vote of 62-2, HB1348 sponsored by state Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, advanced. Its next stop will be a Senate committee…

Cotter officials testified before a House committee that the bill would be “a poison pill” for the plant, while Canon City residents testified that the poison from the uranium processing plant has been tainting groundwater there for decades. “I vehemently disagree that this would close the Cotter mill,” McFadyen said. “It doesn’t affect their current operation, and only requires them to clean up the mess they’ve made before accepting new waste they aren’t already permitted to process.”[…]

Under the bill, uranium processors would be required to clean up existing contamination before they are permitted to accept new materials, as Cotter has proposed to do beginning later this year. Company officials have said the expansion would create up to 100 jobs at the uranium processing site that now has 31 employees.

The bill also would require annual reports from processors to residents of areas near groundwater plumes of uranium contamination. They would include updated reports on the status of the contamination and the steps taken to address them. Another portion of the bill requires uranium processors to carry bonds sufficient to pay for cleanup of contamination, rather than saddling taxpayers with the cost.

From State Bill Colorado (Debi Brazzale):

House lawmakers agreed Monday that increased oversight to ensure groundwater is not contaminated from uranium processing is a good thing for Colorado’s water supply, and gave their final approval to House Bill 1348 before it moves to the Senate for consideration. The measure requires that prior to obtaining a license to begin or expand uranium processing operations, the applicant has to show that the existing site is not in violation of existing environmental or public health laws…

Republican Marsha Looper of Calhan told the committee that most of her district derives its water from groundwater, and said the measure is crucial to the state’s agriculture industry. “Water is a precious resource for our state. We need to do our utmost to protect this important resource,” said Looper. Looper went on to say that the processing of uranium ore has a terrible track record when it comes to groundwater contamination. According to Looper, Durango and Grand Junction are seeing increased levels of contamination decades after the uranium operations have ceased. Looper said she welcomes the additional accountability the measure would provide.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.

2010 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

[Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District] defended the [Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] concept as the best way to keep water rights in the hands of farmers while allowing cities to meet future needs. Aurora is the only community outside the Arkansas River basin that has discussed lease possibilities with Super Ditch, he said. “It’s important to retain water rights in the Arkansas basin. The lease-fallowing program (Super Ditch) is only stop-gap, but it keeps water rights from being sold,” Winner said. “In 20 years, we don’t know what the world is going to look like. We’re trying to keep water in the valley. That goal has not changed.”

Winner also said moving the water to El Paso County water districts outside Colorado Springs could be accomplished in the short term by using the [Southern Delivery System] pipeline. Colorado Springs Utilities is wrapping up studies started last year to look at that possibility, said John Fredell, SDS project director.

In fact, a committee looking at changing Colorado Springs’ policy of not providing water outside city limits is finalizing its work today for possible action later this month by City Council, sitting as the utilities board. SDS also would serve Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Colorado Springs already has carriage contracts with other communities, but opening SDS to more water providers could be a way for the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to accept deliveries from Super Ditch after SDS is completed in 2016. “They would have to go through their own NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process,” Fredell said…

Meanwhile, the High Line Canal is looking at the possibility of another pipeline heading north from Boone, said Dan Henrichs, High Line superintendent…A preliminary study of a pipeline in that general area last year by the Pikes Peak water group showed it too would cost more than $1 billion.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.