Rio Grande Water Conservation District elects George Whitten president

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From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Whitten, a Saguache rancher, has served as vice president of the water board and served as acting president during the Tuesday meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting the board unanimously voted Whitten as president. Greg Higel was voted vice president and Dwight Martin secretary/treasurer. Whitten said he and [Ray Wright, board president who died last month in a snow-slide accident near Creede] had talked about the water district’s role and the importance of educating the public, and he wanted to continue that legacy. “We have been mired down in court cases,” Whitten said. “I think the thing to do is to get back out in the public and air these things out.”

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

HB 10-1051 (Water Efficiency Plans Annual Reports) passes out of state senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee

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From The Durango Herald (State Senator Bruce Whitehead):

Senate Bill 1051 was heard in the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee last week. This is a bill I have mentioned before that requires large water providers to report annually on water use. The data collected from this bill will be used to improve water-conservation efforts. After much work and discussions with the Colorado Water Congress, Colorado Water Conservation Board, conservation groups and municipal water providers, we were able to craft a bill that was acceptable to the various organizations. The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

More HB 10-1051 coverage here.

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District plans to raise Stagecoach Dam four feet this year

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From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District has been permitting and planning to raise the South Routt County reservoir for about five years. The expansion will add about 3,185 acre-feet to the reservoir, which currently holds about 33,275 acre-feet and supplies water to local municipalities, agricultural users and Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s Craig Station power plant. District General Manager Kevin McBride said the expansion now has the go-ahead from numerous federal, state and local entities, with the remaining negotiations — including those with owners of reservoir water — nearing their final stages…

“After the middle of July, we’ll start releasing (water) — I think it’ll be most noticeable in August, when flows are typically down,” McBride said. “We could be up to 7 feet down by Labor Day.” The release of water will send flows of 100 cubic feet per second or greater down the river from mid-July through mid-September, McBride said…

Structural work on the dam and its 60-foot-wide spillway, where water flows out of the reservoir and into the river, will begin after Labor Day, McBride said. That work will require a separate contract with a contractor qualified for the specialized work. Tearing out the spillway’s crest and replacing it with a new crest that is 4 feet higher will result in the reservoir’s expanded capacity. Wind and other factors funnel water to the dam and its spillway on the reservoir’s northeast side. “The (water’s) elevation gets controlled by the lowest point in the bucket,” McBride said.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here.

Durango: High Water 2010 contest

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From The Durango Herald (Jeff Moorehead):

The High Water 2010 contest, presented by the Durango Discovery Museum in association with Animas River Days, is now in full swing. Rules, ticket outlets, prize descriptions and help with statistical hydrology are now featured at To participate, purchase a ticket (it’s only $5), make a guess for the day of spring peak runoff (round 1) and also submit your prediction for peak flow (round 2) to break any ties. The most accurate guess will have top choice among prizes.

The contest closes on May 15.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

IBCC: Looking for the ‘tipping point’ for ag water sales to cities

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The discussion has been, ‘What really happens when you have a dry-up of ag land?’ ’’ said Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Intuitively, we know that you can’t have nine-tenths of a drug store or three-tenths of an auto store. At some point, they’re not able to remain in business.” A draft report by Honey Creek Resources looked at what happened to Crowley County after water transfers in the 1970s and 1980s decreased irrigated crop land to 7,000 acres from 42,000 acres in order to find a “tipping point” that caused local businesses to close. The study uses the same method of analysis to predict the impact of losing 30,000 acres in the Lamar area, a possible scenario if land sold to Pure Cycle on the Fort Lyon Canal is taken out of production. The study area includes ag lands in eastern Bent and western Prowers counties. The study did not consider additional future losses on the Amity Canal if Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association develops power plants that could take half of the ditch out of production over time.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board funded the study as part of ongoing discussions of the Interbasin Compact Committee, but the research was coordinated with the assistance of the Lower Ark district. Nichols also is an IBCC member. “This is groundbreaking work in the United States and could be applied in other areas with a declining water supply,” Nichols said. “It could also be used to study decline in rural areas for reasons other than water transfers.”

The goal is to develop a model that could apply to water transfers from any rural area, particularly in the Arkansas River basin, where taking the water would leave a hole in the local economy.

More IBCC — Basin Roundtables coverage here.

Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More than 20 questions relating to river flows, measurement, consumptive use, exchanges and the scope of the company were relayed to the engineers working on the project at meetings with the Upper Arkansas and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts and the roundtable earlier this year. Some also wanted to know how leases would be structured and if they had any implications for water deliveries to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact. “These questions will be answered in the report,” Greg Ten Eyck, of Leonard Rice Engineers, told the Lower Ark board Wednesday…

Only the consumptive use of the water could be sold, with the acreage it irrigates dried up for the period of the lease. The water would have to be exchanged upstream, and the Super Ditch has filed an application for the exchange in Division 2 Water Court…

Ten Eyck also updated the Lower Ark board on policies that would be used to replace depletions under proposed consumption rules for surface irrigation in the Arkansas Valley. The Colorado Division of Water Resources has filed the rules in Water Court with the intent to implement them by 2011. Using a state grant, the Lower Ark district is developing a plan that would allow a large group of irrigators to enter a plan to account for depletions. The idea is to reduce the engineering and paperwork requirements for irrigators, while preserving flows to the river…

In other business, the board:

– Adopted a ballot resolution opposing Initiatives Nos. 10, 12 and 21. The issues would affect the district’s ability to collect property tax, vehicle fees and accrue debt, attorney Peter Nichols said. He added that the district cannot spend money or actively campaign against the November ballot proposals.

– Agreed to stop leasing Twin Lakes shares at a loss from Ordway, Crowley and Sugar City this year under terms of a contract. The district was losing money on the leases.

More Lower Ark coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

There will be some slight changes across the C-BT this weekend, but most will not notice. We are testing some of our equipment in the power plants and temporarily slowing down the flow through the project.

April 24, we will slow the rate of flow from the Estes Plant into Lake Estes. Lake Estes is currently at an elevation of 7472–only 3 feet below full. It will not be affected and should see its water elevation remain close to 7472 through the weekend.

Our releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River are not changing and will remain about 50 cfs.

Pinewood is currently rising–it is at 6575 today. Tomorrow (Saturday), it will drop again, stabalizing Sunday around a water level elevation of 6572–about 8 feet down from completely full.

Carter Lake is completely full and will remain that way for some time.

Horsetooth will continue to rise, but beginning Saturday, the inflow to Horsetooth will slow down, slightly. It is currently filling at a rate of about half a foot a day. By Monday, it will be rising a quarter of a foot a day. Currently, Horsetooth is at an elevation of 5415.75.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Colorado Springs Utilities shows off new plant

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

The newest mini-plant, the Cascade Hydroelectric Plant, began operating three weeks ago. Thursday, to mark Earth Day, Utilities showed off the facility. South of U.S. Highway 24 near Cascade, it’s no bigger than a two-car garage, and the power is enough for just 450 homes, but officials say this and its three other small hydroelectric plants are a key part of Utilities’ renewable energy portfolio. “It just makes sense. You’ve got this water coming down the hill, you break pressure with it and you generate electricity with it,” said Drew Rankin, general manager of energy supply.

The water comes by pipeline from the North Slope reservoirs on Pikes Peak. Before, there was a pressure release valve at the site, to slow the rushing water as it runs to French Creek, then Fountain Creek, and then by pipeline to the hydroelectric plant in Manitou Springs. The new plant cost $5 million, funded by interest-free renewable energy bonds, and generates 850 kilowatts.

Hydroelectric power is cheap, about $35 per megawatt hour, compared to $140 for wind power, Rankin said. Utilities gets 8 percent of its power from hydroelectric energy, but 80 percent of that is bought from the Western Area Power Administration.

More hydroelectric power here.

Snowpack news

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From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

Up to 30 inches of snow fell near the Continental Divide and most of the Denver metro area got between 2 and 3 inches of moisture, said Kyle Fredin, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder. “Farmers like this kind of stuff,” Fredin said. “It was slow and steady. Once we heat up, it’ll green up real fast.

From The Aspen Times:

The Aspen Skiing Co. reported 7 inches of new snow fell overnight Thursday on Aspen Mountain, which opens for two final days of skiing on Saturday and Sunday. The weather service is calling for 10 to 20 inches in the Elk Mountains surrounding Aspen by noon on Saturday, when a winter storm warning is set to expire…

Although the low-pressure system causing the storms was drifting east toward Kansas, up to a half-foot of snow was forecast overnight for the mountains west of Colorado Springs. Water levels in several creeks and rivers in the Denver area were close to overflowing. A flood warning was issued for the South Platte River north of Denver.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Erica Meltzer):

With 2.6 inches of snow so far this month, Boulder is well behind the April average of a foot of snow, Kelsch said. That puts the total snowfall for the 2009-10 season at 125.5 inches, the seventh snowiest winter on record. The snowiest winter ever was 1908-09, with 142.9 inches. Boulder’s two snowpack locations in the Silver Lake watershed measured at 70 percent and 77 percent of the long-term averages on March 31, said Ned Williams, director of public works for utilities. The snowpack won’t be measured again until the end of the month. While snowfall has been below average this April, this week’s rains already have put the city at 2.86 inches of rain for the month, Kelsch said. The average for the month is 3 inches.

From the Pikes Peak Courier View:

Woodland Park recieved six inches overnight, while Cripple Creek and other parts of the county have been hit by between eight and 12 inches.

High Country Hustle recap

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From The Mineral County Miner (Toni Seffens):

The High Country Hustle began as a school project for 17-year-old Forrest Getz from Creede. When he contacted Heather Messick and told her he wanted to organize the walk, she decided to co-organize the event with him. Getz and Messick both spoke to the participants about the worldwide Live Earth project and the global water crisis…

Former Colorado Senator Lewis Entz and Mike Gibson of the Rio Grande Headwater Restoration project also spoke at the event. Race participants walked from the Creede Ball Park to Airport Road then down to Deep Creek Bridge. The hustle was organized in conjunction with The Live Earth series of 6k run/walks taking place over the course of 24 hours in 150 countries across the world.

The 6k distance is important because it is the average distance many women and children throughout the world walk every day to secure drinking water.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

Pueblo Area Council of Governments denies Pueblo West’s request to discharge effluent into tributary of Lake Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Area Council of Governments voted 8-2 to deny a change in the county’s regulations under Section 208 of the Clean Water Act. Pueblo West and Colorado City representatives voted in the minority. In October, PACOG voted 11-1 against a permit for Pueblo West’s plan for a pumpback project to return flows from the sewer plant to the golf course wash because it did not conform to the county’s 208 water quality management plan. Pueblo West proposed to update the plan to include the wash as an alternate discharge point. Right now, treated effluent is discharged into Pesthouse Gulch, which flows into Wildhorse Creek below Lake Pueblo. “The 208 regulations were last updated in 1993 when Pueblo West had a population of 3,800 and projected that there would be 6,600 people by 2010,” said Larry Howe-Kerr, manager of the Pueblo West Metro District. Pueblo West now has more than 30,000 people. “We’ve grown and our needs have changed.”

Pueblo West looked at four alternatives to golf course wash at the request of Pueblo County in December, and determined that only one — a pipeline down Wild Horse Creek to the Arkansas River — would work. It would actually cost less than the $6.5 million to discharge into Lake Pueblo. Pueblo West wants to use Lake Pueblo to recycle return flows from transmountain water. Most of the community’s water is brought in from the Colorado River basin and can be reused to extinction, stretching its water supply. “The cost would be less if we don’t lose water from the flow management program,” Howe-Kerr said. “The water itself is worth more than the cost of either of the options.”

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Broomfield: Flushing the pipes

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From the Broomfield Enterprise:

Broomfield Public Works Utility Services on Monday began flushing the city`s water system. Flushing operations are expected to take four weeks. The procedure is necessary to help maintain the water quality in the distribution system. It is performed by systematically opening fire hydrants throughout the city, according to the Utilities Web site. “Flushing requires a large amount of water to create a scouring effect on the inside of the pipes to remove the sediment in which bacteria may form. The process improves the taste and odor qualities of the water and helps maintain chlorine residual in the system,” the Web site states.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Wellington Reservoir: Access for 2010 season limited to youth and civic groups

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From The Fairplay Flume (Mike Potter):

John Akolt, attorney for the Wellington Reservoir Co., said groups such as church youth groups and Boy Scouts would be allowed to camp at the area this summer. Next summer, permission could be expanded to allow the general public, but that decision hasn’t been finalized yet. “We’re not set up [now] to reinstate any kind of public, general access,” he said. Akolt said it would be next summer at the earliest before access to the lake is returned to levels it had before it was closed…

In January, the Wellington Reservoir Co. board of directors heard a presentation for one possible use of the property, Akolt said. A private company was proposing to lease the lake and turn it into a private fishing spot. But the access under the proposal was greater than it might sound, because of easy access to membership. “It would be private in that only members would be allowed, but membership would be open to the public,” he said. Akolt said the proposal would be considered by the board, but it hadn’t been accepted.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

The Summit County Citizen’s Voice and the Colorado River District to collaborate on Water Blog

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Water touches everything and in recognition of that fact the Summit County Citizen’s Voice and the Colorado River District plan to collaborate on a new weblog — The Water Blog. I’ve linked to Bob Berwyn’s stories often over the years. He has a good understanding of water issues in the Colorado River Basin. So click through and sign up to receive notice when they post a water story. Here’s an excerpt:

We’re starting with a water blog, which we’ll update two or three times a week with local news about water, and links to state, regional and even global stories about the same topic. We’ll include photos, short reports about important meetings and conferences, including the May 12 State of the River presentation in Frisco. We may even throw in some poetry every now and then just to keep things fresh.

We’re also interested in any interesting stories and photos about water that our readers may want to share. If you have a story about your favorite fishing hole or a scenic snapshot of your favorite lakeside picnic spot or kayaking run, send it to us with a description and we’ll post it right here. Send us links to your favorite water-related websites and blogs, and we’ll post them here. Do have concerns or questions about your backyard brook, or the water you drink? Send them to us, and we’ll try to answer them, or find people who can.

We’ll start our water blog with a link to the Blue River Watershed Group, formed locally to “protect, restore, and promote a healthy watershed through cooperative community education, stewardship, and resource management.” Supporting the watershed group is a great way to act locally on this important issue. Summit County is unique when it comes to water resources because its political boundary coincides with the Blue River watershed boundary nearly along the entire perimeter of the county.

Think about it. From the Continental Divide above the Eisenhower Tunnel, to Loveland Pass, across to Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge and to Vail Pass in the west, all our mountain streams flow down from the county line to a confluence (now submerged by Dillon Reservoir) at the heart of Summit County. The place we live is defined by these vital arterials, filtered by alpine willow wetlands, burbling over mossy rocks and slicing through sage-covered shale bluffs before flowing down and out of our realm in a meeting with the mighty Colorado.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.