Cash for grass: Drew Beckwith — ‘The utility pays money for a customer to rip out their turf’

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From (Paul Day):

Jim Creek is one of many tributaries to the Fraser River. In this valley, Denver Water operates dozens of diversion structures that siphon water from what would naturally flow in the Fraser. The big utility now wants approval to take even more water and pipe it to Denver as part of its Moffat Firming Project. Recreation and tourism would suffer if the stream is further imperiled, says [Kirk Klancke, a fly fisherman and Grand County resident] who’s president of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. “This river is struggling for survival,” Klancke said. “An additional withdrawal could put it over a tipping point where it may not survive.”[…]

Is there a way to keep the Fraser from becoming a liquid graveyard? Yes, say environmental groups. But their solution requires Denver Water customers to make changes in their yards. “The utility pays money for a customer to rip out their turf,” explains Drew Beckwith, a water policy analyst with an environmental group called Western Resource Advocates. The program he’s talking about is called Cash for Grass and it’s already ongoing in Aurora…

Beckwith claims that if just 20 percent of Denver Water customers replanted only half their yards, the amount of water saved would equal the new diversion on the Fraser River requested for Denver’s Moffat Firming project.

The new boss at Denver Water says its not that simple. “Removing turf from resident lawns does not in itself solve the problem,” says Jim Lochhead. Lochhead says a program like Aurora’s would take years to get rolling and Denver needs water in a relatively short time frame. He says the added volume provided by an approved Moffat Firming Project will help handle additional growth and improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

USGS: Occurrence and Distribution of Dissolved Solids, Selenium, and Uranium in Groundwater and Surface Water in the Arkansas River Basin from the Headwaters to Coolidge, Kansas, 1970–2009

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From the abstract:

In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with City of Aurora, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Southeastern Colorado Water Activity Enterprise, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District began a retrospective evaluation to characterize the occurrence and distribution of dissolved-solids (DS), selenium, and uranium concentrations in groundwater and surface water in the Arkansas River Basin based on available water-quality data collected by several agencies. This report summarizes and characterizes available DS, dissolved-selenium, and dissolved-uranium concentrations in groundwater and surface water for 1970–2009 and describes DS, dissolved-selenium, and dissolved-uranium loads in surface water along the main-stem Arkansas River and selected tributary and diversion sites from the headwaters near Leadville, Colorado, to the USGS 07137500 Arkansas River near Coolidge, Kansas (Ark Coolidge), streamgage, a drainage area of 25,410 square miles.

Dissolved-solids concentrations varied spatially in groundwater and surface water in the Arkansas River Basin. Dissolved-solids concentrations in groundwater from Quaternary alluvial, glacial drift, and wind-laid deposits (HSU 1) increased downgradient with median values of about 220 mg/L in the Upper Arkansas subbasin (Arkansas River Basin from the headwaters to Pueblo Reservoir) to about 3,400 mg/L in the Lower Arkansas subbasin (Arkansas River Basin from John Martin Reservoir to Ark Coolidge). Dissolved-solids concentrations in the Arkansas River also increased substantially in the downstream direction between the USGS 07086000 Arkansas River at Granite, Colorado (Ark Granite), and Ark Coolidge streamgages. Based on periodic data collected from 1976–2007, median DS concentrations in the Arkansas River ranged from about 64 mg/L at Ark Granite to about 4,060 mg/L at Ark Coolidge representing over a 6,000 percent increase in median DS concentrations.

Temporal variations in specific conductance values (which are directly related to DS concentrations) and seasonal variations in DS concentrations and loads were investigated at selected sites in the Arkansas River from Ark Granite to Ark Coolidge. Analyses indicated that, for the most part, specific conductance values (surrogate for DS concentrations) have remained relatively constant or have decreased in the Arkansas River since about 1970. Dissolved-solids concentrations in the Arkansas River were higher during the nonirrigation season (November–February) than during the irrigation season (March–October). Average annual DS loads, however, were higher during the irrigation season than during the nonirrigation season. Average annual DS loads during the irrigation season were at least two times and as much as 23 times higher than average annual DS loads during the nonirrigation season with the largest differences occurring at sites located downstream from the two main-stem reservoirs at USGS 07099400 Arkansas River above Pueblo, Colorado (Ark Pueblo), (which is below Pueblo Reservoir) and USGS 07130500 Arkansas River below John Martin Reservoir, Colorado (Ark below JMR).

Click here to download the report. More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

CWCB study: ‘Cost Savings Associated with the Upper Colorado River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Program, Instream Flows, and Prospects for the Future’

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

A draft report by Professor John Loomis and Jeff Ballweber of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University entitled “Cost Savings Associated with the Upper Colorado River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Program, Instream Flows, and Prospects for the Future” is now available on the CWCB website for public comment. The report investigates the role of instream flows as part of a program to protect and recover certain water-dependent endangered species. The authors looked at two sub-projects of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program (“Recovery Program”) – the Upper Colorado’s 15-Mile Reach and the Elkhead Reservoir enlargement in the Yampa River Basin – as useful examples of the CWCB’s role in the Recovery Program and of the Recovery Program’s ability to recover species in a cooperative manner that also allows for water development. In addition to identifying the potential economic benefits of ISF water rights in the context of threatened and endangered species protection, the report also provides valuable information on cost savings, saved work hours and reduced project delays resulting from the Recovery Program itself. The report also evaluates scenarios involving increased instream flows to estimate what the cost savings might be to water developers from additional instream flow appropriations and acquisitions by the CWCB.

Please direct all comments and questions to Linda Bassi, Section Chief, Stream and Lake Protection, CWCB at by close of business on August 25th, 2010.

Click here to download the report. More endangered species coverage here.

Aspen Institute’s Environment Forum: Water panel recap

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Janet Urquhart):

“It isn’t always available when we need it, where we need it,” said Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project based in New Mexico and one of three water experts tapped for a panel discussion, “Hot and Dry: Water in the West and the World,” Monday at the Aspen Institute’s Environment Forum. While the Earth has an estimated five to 10 times more fresh water than the planet’s population currently uses, conservation is key to sustaining a resource for which there is no substitute, stressed Postel and her panel colleagues, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and Pat Mulroy, director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority…

Globally, only about 3 percent of agricultural producers use a drip irrigation system, which is vastly more efficient than more typical means of irrigation. “That’s the silver lining — there’s so much more that can be done with existing water,” Postel said.

In Aspen, poised at the headwaters of the Colorado River basin, an audience member questioned the incentive to conserve locally when the Front Range siphons off the unused water. “Are you being hurt by that?” Mulroy asked pointedly.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Montezuma County: Verde Fest August 20

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Betty Janes writes in the comments:

It’s a FREE family event and everyone’s welcome. This year Verde Fest is on Saturday, August 21 in Cortez City Park. We also have a free talk on Permaculture on Thursday, Aug. 19 in the Mancos Public Library and a workshop on water harvesting on Friday, Aug. 20. More details can be found on [Montezuma Climate Action Network].

More San Juan River Basin coverage here. More Dolores River watershed coverage here.