The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District sets the Colorado-Big Thompson quota at 80%

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

At its meeting Friday, the board set the C-BT Project quota at 80 percent, a 30 percent increase from the initial quota set in October, which will make available a total of 248,000 acre feet. A quota of 80 percent means that each unit of C-BT water will yield eight-tenths of an acre foot…

Northern Water boundaries encompass portions of eight counties and a population of approximately 830,000 people. C-BT allottees – those water users within the boundaries who own units of C-BT water – include municipalities, domestic water districts, industries and farmers.

Here’s a report on C-BT happenings from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick note to let you know that this afternoon we will be turning off the pump to Carter Lake and resuming our filling of Horsetooth Reservoir. Carter Lake is basically full. It is only half a foot down from full. Once the pump is off, approximately 490 cfs of water will be flowing into Horsetooth. Horsetooth is currently at an elevation of about 5409. It will begin rising faster over the weekend at a rate around half a foot a day. We anticipate this fill rate to continue through April.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here and here.

Lake Mead storage update

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From Las Vegas Now:

Right now, the lake level is at 1,100 feet and the water [Southern Nevada Water Authority] has managed to store, lease, or buy enough water to keep things running smoothly even if Lake Mead was to drop below 1,025 feet. But if the lake drops below that point, there will be shortages. Right now, forecasts could have the lake below 1,025 feet in less than two years. “There is a 20-percent probability that we would hit an elevation that would take us below 1,025 (feet), which would result in a shortage. There is a 13-percent probability that we would be in surplus and a 67-percent probability that it would be normal,” said Lorri Gray-Lee, Lower Colorado Regional Director with the Bureau of Reclamation.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority drops rates 19%

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From the Vail Daily:

The authority’s board of directors last month approved a 19 percent decrease in the “debt service rate.” The new monthly rate of $3.16 per single-family equivalent is down from $3.91. A single-family equivalent is a generic Residential Unit, the use of which is estimated to have an impact upon the water system equal to that of the average single family, or 2.3 persons. The authority provides water service to the metropolitan districts of Arrowhead, Beaver Creek, Berry Creek, Eagle-Vail and Edwards; the town of Avon; and Cordillera and Bachelor Gulch.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: West Divde Creek resident calls for county action about contamination

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Lisa Bracken has argued since mid-2008 that chemical compounds have seen seeping from natural gas formations, breached by drilling operations that began in 2004, into West Divide Creek and possibly into ground water in the area. In 2004, a seep sent hydrocarbons, such as cancer-causing benzene, into the creek from an improperly completed nearby gas well. EnCana Oil & Gas USA was fined more than $300,000 for the violation of state regulations in the incident…

In a letter to the BOCC dated March 30, Bracken wrote that two gas operators — EnCana Oil and Gas, USA and Bill Barrett Corp. — in February of this year “self reported” the appearance of “hydrocarbons” in two domestic water wells in her neighborhood. Judy Jordan, the county’s oil and gas liaison, said the COGCC has already begun an investigation into the reports from the gas companies…

She asked the board to support her in calling for renewal of a drilling moratorium, which she said is necessary in order to conduct a thorough study of the hydrology and geology of the West Divide Creek area. “For the COGCC to continue to allow drilling under these circumstances is nothing less than egregious negligence which places the health and safety of residents of this area at unnecessary risk,” she declared.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Lake Pueblo dropping some

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The past five years have been close to or even above average in terms of precipitation, causing Lake Pueblo to fill for the first time in a decade last month. In March, Vaughan and other water managers were worried about the possibility of a spill. Since then, Lake Pueblo has stopped filling, as farmers are running out water stored in winter water and project accounts from last year. That water has to be out of the reservoir by May 1. Farmers may actually need the water despite good soil moisture coming into the spring, because high winds raked the plains for more than a week. Those same winds could have diminished the snowpack in the mountains with dust, which causes snow to melt faster, or sublimation, which blows some of the snowpack away, but that was offset with a foot of new snow in the mountains that affect the Arkansas River watershed and imports. Meanwhile, Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora are continuing to store by exchange in Lake Pueblo…

As of Friday, snowpack was 94 percent of average in the Upper Arkansas, although the Arkansas River basin as a whole was 105 percent because of snow in the southern mountains. The Roaring Fork basin was 96 percent of average Friday, slightly more than the 86 percent average of the Colorado River basin as a whole. Fry-Ark and the bulk of other diversions into the Arkansas River rely on Roaring Fork. Vaughan said if current conditions hold up, it should be an average year for Fry-Ark imports, about 50,000-55,000 acre-feet. Reclamation made space for that water in Turquoise Lake over the winter, by running some water into Lake Pueblo. “Right now, it looks like everything is going to work out,” Vaughan said.

From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

2010 precipitation levels through March were at 4.46 inches for the Cortez area, according to Jim Andrus, the National Weather Service’s cooperative weather observer in Cortez. That is 134 percent of the average 3.3 inches for the first three months of the year. Overall, Cortez has seen a winter snowfall total of 69.1 inches – just under six feet…

Lizard Head Pass between Rico and Telluride has received 12.7 inches of precipitation during the season, and Sharkstooth Peak northeast of Mancos sits at 20.4 inches. That puts Lizard Head Pass at only 75 percent of average, according to data collected by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Sharkstooth station is too new to accurately predict an average. Two other sites, El Diente Peak southwest of Telluride and Lone Cone south of Norwood, both rest at 97 percent of average. The Scotch Creek site near Rico is measuring close to 83 percent of normal. “As it’s turned out, what we’ve got as far as snowpack and everything, it is fairly close to equivalent to last year,” said Mike Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. “There was more low snow this year, but less high snow. We are right on the border between filling the reservoir (McPhee Reservoir) and maybe having a small spill.”[…

The final piece of the 2010 water forecast is the unexpected amount of snow at lower elevations. Dolores Water Conservancy District measurement’s placed this winter’s low-elevation snowfall at 152 percent of average, the highest since 2005. No one is quite sure how that will affect reservoir levels.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board sets hearing schedule for proposed uranium mining rules

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From The Greeley Tribune:

The…hearing, April 15, will be in Loveland. Other meetings are scheduled for May 13 in Grand Junction, May 26 in Salida and June 10 in Denver.

The rulemaking is being conducted primarily to implement three bills passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2008, one of which concerns reclamation standards to in-situ uranium mining, which is being proposed for an area in northern Weld County. The rules and amendments have been proposed by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The board may accept, reject or modify any or all of those proposals.

The Loveland meeting will be from 1-9 p.m. May 15 at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 4705 Clydesdale Parkway. A live, listen-only feed will be available at http://mining,state.co.us/Rulemaking.htm. There also is a draft of the proposed rules at that site.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Idaho Springs wins the Colorado Rural Water Association ‘Wastewater System of the Year’ award for 2009

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From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Water/wastewater superintendent Chris Brownell said the award is a big achievement, considering the shape of the facility in past years. “We were the embarrassment of the industry until about four years ago,” Brownell said. “We just turned it around (from the) top down.”[…]

“In this case the reason we were nominated and got (the award) was because of nutrient removal, and so it is just operational changes,” Brownell said. “The plant was not built for or designed to do what we’re doing, so it is just quality people.”

Brownell said downstream users nominated Idaho Springs for the award — users who once were less than pleased with the wastewater leaving the city. “We were actually nominated by down-streamers who used to hate us,” Brownell said…

Water/wastewater employee Mike McElhaney was given the 2009 Rookie Wastewater Operator of the Year.

More wastewater coverage here.

Colorado River Water Availability Study

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Here’s a look at what we think we know about future water supplies in the Colorado River Basin according to the Colorado River Water Availability Study, from Allen Best writing for the Vail Daily. From the article:

A new $1 million study suggests snowier and rainier winters in the northern mountains and drier ones in the south by the mid-21st century. But everywhere across the Western Slope, summers will be hotter, longer and drier, putting more stress on reservoirs. Those tentative conclusions are found in the draft Colorado River Water Availability Study, a $1 million effort described by state water officials, who commissioned it, as cutting edge. “I don’t know of any other state that is putting the time, resources and money into this,” said Jennifer Gimbel, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a state agency charged with overseeing protection and development of Colorado’s waters…

In plotting the possible futures for 2040 to 2070, the climate scientists, hydrologists, and water engineers examined 112 existing computer simulations of climate change. The simulations varied for many reasons, including uncertainty about the volume of greenhouse gases emissions during coming decades. Because of the complexity of atmospheric conditions that create what we call weather — and, over time, climate — these models have been unable to simulate the complex topography of mountainous areas that comprise the Colorado River headwaters. That topography, in turn, greatly influences precipitation. Investigators in this study believe that “downscaling” techniques allowed them to get a better bead on precipitation. While models have been clear about rising temperatures, until recently they swung broadly in precipitation. This study provides more definition, and the news for northern Colorado, where Colorado’s ski areas from Aspen to Steamboat and Winter Park are clustered, is not terrible. Winters will shorten, but plenty of snow will remain — if also drenched more often with rain. “It doesn’t seem to indicate there’s a doomsday scenario for the ski industry or the fisheries of the upper Colorado River,” says Kuhn. “But it also means that while things are good for Summit and Grand counties, plus the upper Roaring Fork and Yampa (rivers), there’s still less water at Lee’s Ferry (Ariz.). And that means less water for Colorado to develop.”[…]

Kuhn describes the study like a casino slot machine. While there is no certainty with any one pull, the odds favor the house. Similarly, the downscaling compilation of the computer simulations shows probability of a distinctly drier Colorado River Basin. The dryness is the result of increased temperatures everywhere, although proportionately greater in lower elevations and in the more southerly areas. Crops such as corn and alfalfa will need more water. Winters will likely become shorter, runoff will occur earlier, and the hot, generally drier months of summer will last longer. Effects suggested by the modeling vary by location. For example, temperatures by 2040 at the farming town of Delta, located in west-central Colorado, may rise 3.3 to 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Growing season will last 15 to 22 days longer. And crops will need 2.6 to 6.7 inches more of water per year. Ridgway Reservoir, which impounds snowmelt from the San Juan Mountains for use by farms, may start showing shorelines in June instead of July or August.

But even reservoirs located on drainages with increased winter precipitation may struggle to meet water demands. In effect, global warming will speed up the calendar by two or three weeks — and perhaps leave too little water for some farmers during late-season irrigation. “When I saw these graphs, there was one word that came to my mind, and that was storage,” said Eric Wilkinson, who directs the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, at a public unveiling of the draft report in January…

The study, still in draft form, is now available for a 90-day public review. It can be found at http://cwcb.state.co.us/.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Paonia: Trustees to raise water rates?

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From the Delta County Independent (Kathy Browning):

The base rate for residential now is $12. The proposed base rate is raised to $14. For commercial users the current base rate is $18, and proposed to be increased to $20. Out of town base rates are proposed to be raised from $15 to $18 for residential and from $28 to $32 for commercial.

Residential usage rates would be raised from $1.10 per 1,000 gallons for less than 5,000 gallons to 25,000 gallons to $1.20 per 1,000 gallons for less than 5,000 gallons to 10,000 gallons. From 10,000 to 20,000 gallons the rate is proposed to be $1.30. Over 20,000 to 30,000 gallons could be raised to $1.60. The proposed usage rate for over 30,000 to 100,000 gallons is $2.40 per 1,000 gallons. Any amount over 100,000 gallons could be charged $3.60.

Commercial usage rates are proposed to be raised from $1.10 to $1.30, from $1.50 to $1.80 and from $2.20 to $2.60.

Proposed out of town usage rates range from $1.30 for under 5,000 gallons, $1.80 between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons, $2.90 for over 10,000 to 20,000 gallons, $3.20 for over 20,000 to 30,000, and $6 for over 30,000 to a 100,000 gallons and more.

Commercial out of town usage rates are proposed to be raised from $2.40 to $2.90, $3.60 to $4.30, $4.80 to $5.80 and $6 to $7.20.

Any water rate increases will have to be approved at a town council meeting — the next one is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13, at 7 p.m.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Orchard City: Colorado Division of Water Resources dam safety seminar April 15

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

Owners and operators of dams will be interested in a dam safety training seminar scheduled to take place at Orchard City Town Hall. The Thursday, April 15, session is being hosted by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The event will run from 9 a.m. to noon and will cover topics relating to laws, rules and fundamental aspects of dams and dam safety in Colorado. The program will be focused on four primary areas: an overview of the Division of Water Resources dam safety program; the fundamentals of dam and dam safety; a review of owners’ responsibilities and general maintenance aspects of dams; and emergency action planning. Anyone who owns or operates a dam will be interested in attending this seminar. There is no cost. The program will also be offered in Montrose at the DMEA facility on Friday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 249-6222.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Rivers are awesome

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to see for yourself that rivers are awesome. The comic is from the Brevity comic strip. Thanks to Loretta Lohman for the link.

Poncha Springs trustees approve takeover of sewer system by Salida

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From The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

Effective today, Poncha Springs Sewer Enterprise fund and system, including customers, will be transferred to Salida. Poncha Springs residents will pay the same as Salida residents, with the first billing cycle at the end of April. City attorney Karl Hanlon wrote in a memorandum to the council, “From Salida’s perspective, these agreements put to bed a longstanding dispute … . More importantly, (they) provide a road map for the regional sewer plan.” Salida has provided sewer service for the town since the 1970s. Failed and flawed agreements between the municipalities have occurred for 30 years, making the two recent agreements “a momentous moment,” Salida resident Jim Elmore said during public comment…

Councilmen said the city is already obligated to provide sewer service – the agreements create a standard of service and make Salida the regional “utility provider.” Because the system is operated through the sewer enterprise fund, infrastructure improvements to the treatment plant are driven by rates and improvement fees, not taxpayer money, Hanlon said…

Salida personnel are responsible for billing and collecting from service customers. Regional designation will initially add about 440 customers to the Salida billing list, Hanlon said. As a regional system, Poncha Springs residents will pay the same as Salida residents. In-town Poncha Springs residents pay $34.54 per single-family dwelling and out-of-town residents pay $48.81 per month. The residential rate for Salida sewer customers is $47.25 per quarter. They also pay $1.05 per 1,000 gallons of water used, which equals about $15.75 per quarter for the average household. City finance director Jan Schmidt said it equals about $21 per month for an average household. Salida sewer customers are charged quarterly; however, city personnel are considering monthly billing.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Painted Sky Resource Conservation and Development Council scores $400,000 to replace the Hartland diversion dam on the Gunnison River

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

The money enables Delta’s Painted Sky Resource Conservation and Development Council to proceed with the dam replacement. “This is incredible,” said Painted Sky Project Director Mike Drake in a news release from the Fish and Wildlife Service. “The level of coordination and the amount of work put in by all parties made this project possible. The entire area will benefit from this project for years to come.” The project is a cooperative effort between Painted Sky, Fish and Wildlife, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, private landowners and recreation organizations, plus other state and federal partners. The 6-foot Hartland dam will be removed and replaced with a new, natural boulder field structure. The service previously committed $600,000 of stimulus funds and $200,000 through the National Fish Passage Program for the project.

More Hartland Dam coverage here.

SB 10-052 (Alter Designated Groundwater Basin Area): Governor Ritter signs the bill

Colorado designated groundwater basins.

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

Under the bill, the Ground Water Commission, which manages the eight designated basins along the Eastern Plains and the Front Range, could revise a basin’s boundaries to remove previously-included areas only if the area does not include wells for which final permits have been issued. The bill includes an exception for current legal cases winding through the courts, a nod to the 2006 Gallegos v. Colorado Ground Water Commission case where the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a surface water rights holder who has senior water rights can challenge the permit of a ground water well in a designated basin if the senior water rights holder can prove their surface water rights are being affected. That case, affecting water rights in the Upper Spring Creek Basin in northern Larimer County near the Colorado-Wyoming border, has not reached final resolution.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.