NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here’s the link to Henry Reges’ notes from yesterday’s webinar.

CWCB: Public comment period for draft technical reports for Colorado’s Water Supply Future

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Eric Hecox):

This email notice begins the public comment period for several technical reports that CWCB has produced in preparation for the 2010 statewide update. Comments are due back September 30th to Eric Hecox at

Please visit (scroll halfway down the page to access the link to the reports) to download these documents.

Available for public comment are the following draft documents:

· Current and 2050 Agricultural Demands Technical Memo
· Alternative Agricultural Transfer Methods Grant Program Summary of Key Issues Technical Memorandum
· Nonconsumptive Needs Phase 2 Update
· Soon to be posted will be the Municipal and Industrial Gap Analysis

In addition, the final versions of several reports are also completed and ready for use. These include:

· 2050 Municipal & Industrial Water Use Projections
· Reconnaissance Level Cost Estimates for Agriculture and New Supply Strategy Concepts
· Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool Pilot Study
· Nonconsumptive Needs Assessment Focus Mapping Report (Phase 1)

These reports will each be compiled into a comprehensive statewide needs assessment to be considered for approval by the Colorado Water Conservation Board at their meeting in January 2011.

CWCB staff will be working with the roundtables between now and September 30th to answer questions and encourage roundtables to provide feedback on the document.

More CWCB coverage here.

CWCB: State of Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan Public Meeting

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will hold a public meeting webinar August 16th at 10am to discuss the findings and solicit feedback on the 2010 revised Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response plan. This will be a web and call-in meeting only.

The Drought Plan was comprehensively revised to comply with the FEMA’s 3-year planning cycle and is a part of the State’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. The revision process has resulted in a State Drought Plan that uses state of the art planning techniques to prepare Colorado for drought. The plan also includes a groundbreaking vulnerability assessment of state assets, as well as various sectors affected by drought.

When: August 16th 10am-12noon
Where: Webinar and call-in ONLY; please RSVP for web access link
Phone Access #: 303.866.3441 ext. 7627

The State of Colorado’s DRAFT Drought Mitigation and Response Plan is now available on the CWCB website for public comment. The public comment period on the mitigation plan, the response plan, as well as all associated appendices and documentation, will officially close on August 20, 2010. The documents can be down loaded at

More CWCB coverage here.

Precipitation news: Above average July for Summit County

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Thanks to intense monsoon thunderstorms, July precipitation edged just above normal in Summit County for the second month in a row, bringing the year-to-date total to about 95 percent of average, according to Breckenridge weather watcher Rick Bly.
In July, 2.57 inches of water accumulated in Bly’s backyard weather gauge, compared to the historic average of 2.32 inches.

Denver Water stops diverting through the Roberts Tunnel so Dillon Reservoir is spilling again

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

Denver Water officials said the cool and rainy weather cut demand for water recently, so Dillon Reservoir is once again full to the brim, with some water spilling through the glory hole. Inflows to the reservoir were at about 350 cubic feet per second as of Tuesday morning, but that volume is expected to drop again rapidly when the rains stop.

Rains only provide a temporary boost to stream flows, and with the early melt-out of the high country snowpack, there’s not much backup moisture to sustain the flows. Blue River Basin water commissioner Scott Hummer said the entire Upper Colorado River Basin remains on the National Drought Monitor under the “abnormally dry” category, and before the monsoon kicked in, Colorado River flows had dropped to near record low levels.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.

Castlewood Dam failure and flood — August 3, 1933

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Here’s a look back at the catastrophic failure of the Castlewood Dam on Cherry Creek, from Jeffrey Wolf writing for From the article:

Heavy rain put too much pressure on the Castlewood Dam, located in what is now the Castlewood Canyon State Park near Franktown. The 300 feet of rock and concrete gave out and a wall of water rushed through Cherry Creek. It flooded farmland, swept away buildings, and tore down bridges 30 miles away in downtown Denver. It was the worst flood ever in Denver and the damage was extensive.

The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District asks U.S. Representative Polis for a delay on the ‘Hidden Gems’ wilderness legislation

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Update: I corrected the headline to read “Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.” Thanks to reader Diane for the information.

From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

The two-year delay, according to a water district letter to Polis, would allow the water district more time to research the potential impacts of a wilderness designation and identify areas where wilderness could hinder the water district’s efforts. “Since wilderness designation creates the highest level of restriction for human activities, including those aimed at protection and restoration of the land and its natural functions, once this designation is created, it is unlikely ever to be undone,” wrote Linn Brooks, assistant general manager of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, to Polis on July 27. “We believe that it is well worth taking this extra time to understand the consequences of such an action.”

Concern with restoration efforts has been heightened in recent years following the Hayman Fire, widespread beetle kill and the emergence of watershed issues related to climate change — all of which have effected peak runoff flows and base flows, presenting a serious threat to the water quality and quantity, according to Brooks.

Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the water district, said wilderness designations have provisions that claim that things such as firefighting and watershed management are still allowed, but she said those provisions look good on paper but rarely get practiced. The water district’s letter says that administrative-process requirements, such as watershed restoration, are “so much greater for activities that take place in wilderness that managers will generally choose to spend their limited funds outside of wilderness where they can accomplish projects with less cost, time and exposure to litigation.”

More Hidden Gems coverage here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Water requirements for production of kerogen less than estimated

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Much of the water savings could stem from using natural gas to heat shale in place instead of using coal-fired electrical plants the size of those near Craig, the study suggests. Much also depends on the quality and quantity of what is known as “produced water,” or water drawn out of the earth as a byproduct of heating oil shale.

The study offers no assurance that an oil shale industry eventually or ever will take shape, said Greg Trainor, of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, one of two that joined forces to commission the study by Boulder-based AMEC, a consulting, engineering and project-management company. It does, however, suggest an oil shale industry could operate with 120,000 acre-feet of water per year, down from previous estimates of 400,000 acre-feet per year.

The assumptions of the report, which forecasts the potential water demand of the industry by 2050, might also turn out to be too rosy, according to Western Resource Advocates, which monitors oil shale developments.

Much of the foundation of the study “represents industry’s hopes,” said David Abelson of Western Resource Advocates, “but with the technologies used in this report being in their infancy, whether these projections come true will not be known for a generation or two.” Previous studies of the potential water demand of oil shale have been based on the need for a dozen coal-fired power plants to generate electricity to heat shale, but it appears natural gas, an abundant energy source in the Piceance Basin, could run gas-turbine generators to produce the needed electricity, but without the water demand of a coal-fired plant. That’s one part of the reduced demand for water.

Much of the demand for water could be met through produced water, which could be used for domestic purposes, revegetation and other purposes, Trainor said.

A third factor that might reduce water consumption in western Colorado would be refining elsewhere the kerogen that results from in-situ heating of shale. Refinery capacity is available in Salt Lake City, meaning refineries wouldn’t have to be built in more remote, arid western Colorado.

Meanwhile, the economics of producing and refining kerogen for fuel still aren’t convincing. Here’s a report from the Summit County Citizen’s Voice. From the article:

A new study commissioned by an environmental group suggests that it takes nearly as much energy to produce fuel from oil shale as the process ultimately yields — and that the emissions of greenhouse gasses associated with oil shale development are disproportionately high compared to other energy sources…

The report was compiled by Dr. Cutler Cleveland, a Professor of geography and environment at Boston University. Cleveland assessed oil shale’s potential for energy return on investment, finding that, with existing technologies, fuel derived from shale has one of the lowest returns of any fuel source, falling between 1:1 and 2:1 when internal energy is counted as a cost. Cleveland said previous studies of oil shale’s energy return have left out the energy used elsewhere in the economy to produce the goods and services needed to extract fuel from oil shale. “Cleveland’s analysis is proof that the impacts to the West would far outweigh any perceived benefits,” said Sheldon. “Westerners must understand the trade-offs they will make if public lands and resources are signed over to private companies in the hopes of making oil shale a transportation fuel source,” she added.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Quality Control Commission: Hearing on proposed tougher drinking water standards Monday, August 9

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The commission is seeking to tighten conditions, which include no new waivers for public drinking water systems and withdrawing waivers for schools and day care centers. A hearing, in part to determine if water rights would be violated by the new rules, will be at 9 a.m. Monday at 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver…

The state withdrew 64 of the waivers because they either had already installed disinfection systems or fell in a different category for hand-pumped wells. There are still 37 waivers that have been retained, including for the towns of La Jara, Romeo, Sanford, Blanca, Fort Garland and the San Luis Water and Sanitation District in the San Luis Valley. Several campgrounds and resorts are also on that list. “Those waivers will depend on their ability to comply with the regulations and the results of routine testing,” [Ron Falco, safe drinking water program manager] said. “We’re planning to conduct outreach and assistance to help them meet the requirements.”

More water treatment coverage here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Club 20 endorsement hinges on diversions of west slope water

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Club 20 executive director Reeves Brown said that at first glance, the $490 million Northern Integrated Supply Project — which calls for the construction of two new reservoirs in northern Colorado — appears reasonable. That’s because the project — also called NISP — is not supposed to divert more water from the Western Slope, Brown said. “We were assured it will better utilize and fully entail an in-basin water supply without additional transfer from the Western Slope,” Brown said. “But if those circumstances change, we would have to revisit our support.” To make sure the reservoir project won’t endanger Western Slope water, Club 20 officials will ask for reassurance from project proponents at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Brown asked for the meeting after hearing from Gary Wockner, director of Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, a group that opposes the reservoirs. Save the Poudre claims the project would destroy the Poudre and is already five years late and $150 million over budget. Wockner said Brown was not aware that as much as 100,000 acre-feet of water can come from the Colorado River for the initial fill of Glade Reservoir, one of the proposed water-storage facilities…

The 100,000 acre-feet from the Colorado would only be drawn under the most extreme circumstances, including if Glade Reservoir is built first and the state has been suffering under several years of drought, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “It’s after a series of dry years would we use that Colorado River water,” Werner said.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.