Energy policy coalbed methane: Aguilar town council hears presentation about coalbed methane well produced water

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From The Trinidad Times (Randy Woock):

A presentation at the town council meeting on the water monitoring had been arranged, Pioneer’s Senior Public Relations Advisor, Karen Brown, told the meeting’s attendees, “So you all could hear more about what it is we do to protect the water that is coming off of the discharges CBM production…the intent (of the presentation) is to open the discussion, provide some information about how Pioneer is approaching this, that we want to approach it from a scientific perspective and have documentation to prove that, in fact, water is, in fact, within its permit limits.”

Pioneer has been discharging around the Apishapa River since 2005, though none of its four outfalls are on the Apishapa River’s mainstem. Pioneer is currently discharging at a rate of 1.8 acre-feet of water, or 600,000 gallons, per day. Pioneer has about 2,450 wells in the basin. The National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit it has applied for, according to Pioneer’s senior energy environmental advisor, Gerald Jacob, would allow for a maximum surface discharge amount of 999,999 gallons per day.

The discharge permitting process begins with the preparation of a draft permit, of which are considered possible impacts of the proposed discharge levels, measured against the water quality standards as adopted by the Water Quality Control Commission. The standards consider variables like effluent limits based on in-stream water quality, the quality and types of expected effluents coming from the discharge facility and as well as impacts on the stream at extreme low-flow periods…

The three monitoring stations deployed on the Apishapa River — at Lisonbee, Eichler and Nations — were placed and are monitored by the Norwest Corporation, a environmental consulting firm specializing in hydrology. Norwest’s stations monitor in 15-minute intervals water levels and salinity at their deployment points, as well as conducting flow measurements and water quality sampling every two weeks. Processed data and the resultant charts are uploaded to the website,, after several weeks, though each station also contains a direct display that updates every minute. “I really encourage you to use the website, and if you’re concerned and you want to keep track of stuff…we post all the lab data results, we’re comparing it to what we’re finding in the stream…it’s a really useful tool,” Hyrdrologist Angela Welch of Norwest said. “We really are trying to help you guys out by protecting your assets, which is your stream.”

More coalbed methane here and here.

Wiggins: The town has received approval from the USDA for $5.5 million loan and grant package

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

…[The approval is] good news, and the even better news is that the $5.5 million package comes as 60 percent loan and 40 percent grant, said Mayor Mike Bates. That means rather than an estimated $90 or so cost for household water bills, the average water bill will go up to closer to $60, he said. The current charge is $35.

Wiggins has seen its current well levels dropping for years now, and the water quality has deteriorated to the point that infants are not supposed to consume the water. The plan is to pipe water from a well northwest of the town, where the water table is still clear and plentiful…

The next step is to build ponds to hold augmentation water from the shares of the Weldon Valley Ditch Co. the town owns, and other construction will begin in the spring, he said. He said he hopes to have the new water running in Wiggins next fall, Bates said. The money for the loan and grant come from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding, he said.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Aspen city council plans 60 days of mediation efforts to allow more time for input on proposed hydroelectric plant

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

At the Sept. 13 City Council meeting on the hydro plant, council members held off on making a decision to advance the project, which would tap the waters of Castle and Maroon creeks to generate electricity. Instead, council followed a suggestion made by Tim McFlynn, a local professional mediator, and Ruthie Brown, chair of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams board, to spend at least 30 days working with people on both sides of the hydropower issue in a mediation context.

“Because new voices seem to be emerging every day sounding an alarm that there may be potential unintended consequences or collateral damage to these two creeks or other interests of citizens here.” McFlynn told council on Sept. 13 that up to 60 days is needed so environmentalists and residents, as well as experts in relevant disciplines and a neutral facilitator with a lot of experience in water and energy matters can address the issues surrounding the project…

It’s unclear just how public the process will be, however, as McFlynn and Brown, who have volunteered to plan and convene the mediation and meeting, are working with outside experts and private citizens. The idea is to get everybody in the same room, including people with concerns about the project’s economics, noise and environmental effects, together with an experienced mediator. Experts also will be brought in to analyze data available in the public realm about the project.

“Pre-meetings” with some concerned people already are underway. Much of the proceedings are not expected to take place in public. Some private citizens are considering legal action against the city if the hydro plant is approved.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado elections: Do voters remember Referendum A?

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Covering Colorado’s proposed Referendum A in 2003 was the real starting point for Coyote Gulch. I had been blogging since 2002, mostly about state and local politics, but the water issue focus was due to the referendum.

At the same time I was buying a second home down in Montezuma County. When I talked to locals in Mesa Verde country about the referendum the quick answer was, “Water Grab.” There wasn’t much discussion but there was a lot of mistrust expressed about the politicians up in Denver and their plans. Many thought the referendum was a cover up for funding for the “Big Straw” that would move water from the Colorado River on the Utah border and dump it in the headwaters above the Front Range to feed more unbridled growth.

In his column in today’s Denver Post Ed Quillen looks back at some of the politicians that supported the referendum and what happened to them in their electoral careers. He writes:

Jane Norton, then the lieutenant governor, was a Referendum A supporter. And she lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. However, also on the supporter list was the fellow she lost to: “Ken Buck, Hensel Phelps Construction Company, Weld County.” I look forward to hearing him explain why he deserves to represent Colorado after he supported a big-spending big-government boondoggle that two-thirds of us opposed.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here. More Referendum A coverage here.

Telluride Institute’s Watershed Education Program overview

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The program offers classes throughout the San Miguel’s watershed, from Telluride’s landmarks (Bridal Veil, etc.) to an ecosystem camping trip on the San Miguel. “That is totally the mission of the watershed program: to being our communities together. We like to call it our ribbon of green. We all share that,” said Laura Kudo, the WEP’s director. “We really try and have it be as local and as central to our watershed as we can. I think that’s the biggest thing that sets us apart.”

The WEP is a non-profit, place-based program that utilizes local resources, experts, talents and surroundings to enable teachers throughout the San Miguel River Watershed (Telluride, Norwood, Nucla/Naturita and Paradox) to get students outside on full-day or overnight field trips. The program provides a very real environmental science curriculum supplement that’s based on Colorado education standards and offers the chance for students to move from desk to a classroom of the living watershed.

The watershed makes up about a 1 million acre basin in which the water starts at more than 14,000 feet and cascades all the way to Dolores’ red rock canyons at 5,000 feet in elevation. Of that 1 million acres, more than 60 percent is public land. The watershed isn’t without its perils, however: The dry, lofty, fragile ecosystem is home to one of the fastest growing areas on the Colorado Plateau…

One trip this fall toured nearly the entire river’s strech of the watershed and included a history and water usage talk by Bridal Veil Plant operator Eric Jacobson, a Nature Conservancy talk by Peter Mueller at Keystone Gorge, a Keystone Gorge hike with San Miguel Parks Director Rich Hamilton, a Deep Creek history talk with Dan Collins, a Down Valley Park ecological talk with Hamilton and a program put on by the Rimrock Historical Mining Museum in Naturita. It ended with a splash at the confluence of the Dolores and San Miguel rivers. Other trips on the agenda include a field trip with the Paradox Valley Charter School 5th and 6th grades supplementing a Patterns in Nature unit, another watershed tour with the Telluride Mountain School’s 3rd and 4th grades and a full watershed tour with the Norwood 6th grade.

More education coverage here.

Raw water operations: Remote supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)

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Here’s a look at a SCADA installation down in Texas from Peter Polson writing for Water World. From the article:

To eliminate the site visits, LCRA leveraged a cellular data solution with broad coverage that can reach across its water distribution network. At critical junctions in the water network, LCRA has installed automated data loggers that dynamically track water flow. LCRA uses a cellular gateway, connected to each data logger via a serial connection, to access meter data. The data is sent to a central office to be analyzed for water flow tracking and predictive analysis to identify potential issues.

With no wireline power to most of the remote locations, LCRA relies on a small solar panel to run each site. The cellular gateway requires approximately 50mA while idle and no more than 200mA for transmissions. The data logger has similar power requirements. A power budget spreadsheet has helped LCRA calculate that a typical deployment can run reliably with a 20-watt solar panel. To ensure 24 hour monitoring, the authority uses a 20-amp battery for nighttime power.

Most water network deployments covering large geographic areas include a mix of multiple cellular carriers, enabling IT managers to ensure sufficient network coverage at every remote location. LCRA, however, was able to select one national carrier with a network large enough to provide adequate coverage. Knowing that each data logger generated logs every 15 minutes, totaling 10KB each day, they purchased a cost-effective metered data plan that met their monthly needs.

“The intelligent cellular gateways that we have deployed are incredibly reliable,” said Andy Verrett, senior systems technician at LCRA. “We have had no connectivity problems to speak of. Although we experience occasional outages due to the data logger, the cellular equipment is rock solid.”

Each cellular gateway is equipped with a static IP address from the cellular carrier, allowing managers and engineers in the central office to query the data logger or cellular gateway at any time for status reports or to change configuration parameters.

LCRA has not needed special cellular antennas or amplifiers to ensure reliability connectivity. However, remote locations with a weak signal that is unreliable for cell phone calls can often still provide cellular data dependably by using a higher-gain antenna or, in some cases, an inexpensive cellular amplifier. Experienced systems integrators can help customers identify the proper accessories for a particular deployment scenario.

Overall, LCRA has found the solution to be effective and dependable, with no connectivity problems to date.

The data logger, intelligent cellular gateway, battery, and solar panel are mounted on a pole with an unobstructed view of the sun in the southern sky. The logger and gateway are then secured inside a plastic enclosure built to NEMA 4 standards for protection from moisture and dust. Mounted out of reach on the pole, the enclosure is protected from vandalism. Because all of the equipment is designed to withstand broad temperature ranges, no heating or cooling systems are needed. Even on a hot Texas day, the equipment performs consistently.

More infrastructure coverage here.

State to provide $900,000 for mitigation of damage to public water system infrastructure from Fourmile Canyon fire

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From the Boulder Daily Camera:

The money comes from the Water Quality Improvement Fund, which is supported by the collection of civil penalties for violations of the Water Quality Control Act. The grant funds are available for repairing public water system infrastructure damaged or destroyed by wildfire, assisting public water systems experiencing operational difficulties due to runoff from storms in burned watersheds, and for watershed restoration and protection projects in burned areas. Any government agency or non-profit group working on behalf of a government agency can apply for a share of the money through Oct. 15.

The city of Boulder, however, issued a statement Sept. 17 saying Boulder’s water reservoirs and pipeline intakes in the Boulder Creek Basin are located west of the Fourmile Fire burn area are at a higher elevation. Any ash and sediment washing into Boulder Creek from the wildfire area would be below the major water sources that run into Barker Reservoir and the Silver Lake Watershed reservoirs. The drainage basins affected by the Fourmile Fire do not drain into Boulder Reservoir.

More Boulder Creek coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Proposition 101, Amendment 60 and Amendment 61

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

Combined, the effects of Amendments 60 and 61, along with Proposition 101, could mean the need for between $26 million and $54 million in cuts to Boulder’s budget within the next four years. Brautigam is working on creating a detailed plan for exactly where those cuts would come from, but in general, they would likely mean reduced hours of city services and more layoffs.

Amendment 60 would amend the state constitution to impose restrictions on the collection of property taxes, require government entities to pay property taxes and make other tax-related changes. Boulder’s finance office believes that, if the measure is approved, the city budget could be hit with an additional $7.6 million to $32.2 million deficit. To make up the difference, the city could be forced to increase water rates by up to 104 percent, according to city estimates.

Amendment 61 would change the way that Colorado governments are allowed to take on debt. State borrowing would be prohibited, and local governments would require voter approval to borrow any money. Boulder’s finance officials estimate that measure could have the biggest impact on the city’s open-space fund. Based on current projections, the fund would face a reduction of about $2.5 million in 2012 when several large leases pay off. Open space would probably have to take on additional cuts over six years, ranging from $1 million to $1.7 million a year. Because Amendment 61 would limit debt repayment to 10 years, the city would need to pay about $445,000 more per year, per $10 million worth of debt, officials estimate.

Proposition 101 is a statutory change that would reduce vehicle taxes and fees, telecommunication service taxes and the state income tax. Boulder officials estimate that measure would reduce the city’s annual budget by $6.2 million in 2011 and $7.9 million by 2014.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Brush: City council approves wastewater fee hike

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From the Brush News-Tribune (Jesse Chaney):

Approved during a regular council meeting Monday evening, the resolution amending the fees will raise the city’s base wastewater rate from $4.20 to $5 and the price per ET unit from $27 to $37. An ET unit is equal to 20,000 gallons of water used per quarter. Brush Finance Officer Joanne Gosselink said any customers that use a significant amount of water will see an increase of more than $10.80 per month. She can be reached at 970-842-5001 to calculate the impact of the increase on individual customers, she said. The new rates will take effect Nov. 1. “I sure wish there was a way to avoid this, but I don’t see any other solutions,” said Councilman Chuck Schonberger.

Brush Administrator Monty Torres said the council had raised wastewater fees in the past, and the new fee hike was anticipated. With the funds collected from the past fee increase, he said, the city was able to make a down payment of $1.6 million on the new wastewater plant.

More wastewater coverage here.

Fountain Creek: The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board hears flood study pitch from the USGS

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A proposal for the $570,000 study was presented to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board last week, and will build on previous studies to develop strategies for managing flows on Fountain Creek. “These models would evaluate the volume of water and the timing,” [David Mau, of the Pueblo U.S. Geological Survey office] said. “We’ll look at what’s needed to avoid overtopping the levees through Pueblo…It’s not the type of consulting engineering report that’s going to tell you how to design and build structures. It doesn’t deal with water rights. It just tells you what the hydrologic model looks like.” That most likely would mean studying diversions into side detention ponds and projects on tributaries, Mau said.

But the model would be capable of looking at a dam on the mainstem of Fountain Creek, part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ original recommendation to protect Pueblo after the 1965 flood. It also could look at alternatives such as diversion structures that could move part of the peak flow into Chico basin to the east. “Once we get it calibrated, the model is capable of doing that,” Mau said.

The Fountain Creek board is deliberating whether to partner with USGS in the study, using money from Colorado Springs Utilities under the 1041 agreement with Pueblo County.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities plans a trip to the bond market this week to the tune of $180 million

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Colorado Springs Utilities plans to market $180 million in bonds this week to help fund the Southern Delivery System pipeline, the New York Times reported. That’s part of the roughly $800 million project cost, which, when financing costs are added over the project’s 40-year life, will cost ratepayers $2.3 billion.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Boulder: Benzene and naphthalene found in groundwater under city

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

Officials say they don’t think the benzene and naphthalene — common industrial agents — are threatening the city’s drinking water, but they are investigating how and when the chemicals seeped into the groundwater at 1717 15th St. They are looking into whether the site’s history as a coal gasification plant in the early 1900s, or its more recent use as a dry cleaner business, are possible causes of the contamination. Most experts are already pointing to the old gas plant as the likely culprit, which could mean the chemicals have existed underground for decades. Regardless of the source of the potentially dangerous compounds, Xcel Energy and the city of Boulder have agreed to share the cost of a $30,000 study into the surrounding groundwater as well as the costs of a possible cleanup effort.

More water pollution coverage here.

Oak Creek: Boil order

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From Steamboat today (Zach Fridell):

The leak that cut off water service for town residents for about four hours late Saturday and early Sunday, and that has residents boiling water before consumption through this af ternoon, was yet another manifestation of aging water infrastructure in a town that is in the process of getting a new water tank to avoid problems like that encountered this weekend…

The town is using Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant money to start building a new water storage tank on the hillside above town, next to the old tank. The new storage tank will hold 240,000 gallons. After it’s complete, Oak Creek will renovate the existing concrete tank to ultimately double the town’s current storage capacity. With the new tank in place, the town will have about 24 hours of water available for emergencies, even on high-usage days.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin: Pueblo Board of Water Works opposes Woodmoor’s change of use application

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Bill Paddock, water attorney for the Pueblo board, said the case needed to proceed to Division 2 Water Court Judge Dennis Maes immediately, rather than settling through stipulations before a referee. “This is the kind of case we need to move forward to the judge,” Paddock said during the [attornery’s conference Monday]…

The Pueblo water board said the supply for Woodmoor’s exchange plan is too uncertain to settle through typical stipulation agreements, and the case is speculative since Woodmoor does not yet control the supply of water it intends to move, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board.
“We have to protect our Pueblo flow program,” Hamel said…

Woodmoor proposes to move water rights from the Holbrook, High Line and Excelsior ditches in Pueblo and Otero counties to homes in northern El Paso County. While it has contracts to purchase agricultural water rights, they have not been decreed as a source for a municipal substitute supply and there is no evidence that the change will occur.

The Colorado Supreme Court also has a pending case, City of Boulder et al. v. City and County of Broomfield, that could put new limits on municipal exchange applications, Paddock said.

Woodmoor submitted an engineering report last week, but Paddock and Steve Leonhardt, attorney for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said it was not sufficient to determine if Woodmoor’s exchange plan would work or is legal. “I’m concerned that virtually everything in this case is framed in the hypothetical,” Leonhardt said. “It’s very difficult to respond to the engineering in these circumstances.”[…]

Division I Water Court Judge Roger Klein sided last year with Broomfield in awarding an exchange decree even though the city did not own the water supply it proposed to use. Broomfield argued it had more flexibility as a government entity in complying with the anti-speculation doctrine. Boulder and Centennial opposed the case saying Broomfield had not proved it either owned the water supply or provided evidence that it “can and will” acquire the supply. Several Arkansas River basin groups, including the Pueblo water board, Southeastern district, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Pueblo West and Colorado Springs, entered that case on Broomfield’s side. All have exchange decrees pending that could be affected by the Broomfield decision. Oral arguments in the case begin today.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

CWCB: Water Availability Task Force

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Below are my notes from today’s meeting:

Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi announced that the state drought plan is finished and was approved 2 weeks ago by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (along with the flood mitigation plan). The documents have been forwarded to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management for approval then on to Governor Ritter.

Ms. Hutchins-Cabibi reported also that the task force is looking for a mechanism to bring long-term forecasts back into the agenda.

State Climatologist’s Report

Nolan Doesken reported that the temperature for the last couple of months has been, “cheating more and more on the warm side,” and that, “for most of the state the summer has been warm.”

In September Colorado saw a, “drying out to the point of no precipitation in some areas,” he said.

The Southwestern Monsoon, “Doesn’t always cover the whole state, Doesken added, but, “Overall for the water year we’re seeing a near average water year through August.”

Grand Lake, “will not have its driest year on record,” after all, according to Doesken, but it is close. He added that he wonders how the location of the weather station is affecting readings and are they still representative of the area at that site.

Karen Rademacher from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District echoed the concern saying that, “We’re not seeing the same situation,” in Grand County. In fact, she said, if, “we have anywhere near a normal snowpack Lake Granby will spill next year.”

Montrose has had near average precipitation for the water year. Mesa Verde has seen average precipitation as well thanks to a good monsoon season. The Rio Grande Basin will end the year below average.

Burlington however has experienced the second “extraordinarily wet year,” in a row, he said. They’ve received 25 inches this water year and 20 inches last water year. This dovetails with a short report from the Colorado Department of Agriculture representative (I didn’t catch his name) saying that it has been a fantastic year for agriculture on the eastern plains.

Fort Collins should end up right at the long-term average for precipitation, according to Doesken. Boulder will have an above average water year with a, “very dry ending,” he said. He showed last week’s U.S. Drought Monitor which is showing an, “expansion of dry areas,” in northern Colorado.

Natural Resources Conservation Service report

I thought we were going to get a very short report when Mike Gillespie started his presentation by saying that there is, “still no snow to report.” He did however have a report on precipitation totals, trends and reservoir storage from around the state.

The Yampa-White precipitation is sitting at 92% of average. The Upper Colorado River Basin reservoir storage is at 92% of the long term average, he said, adding that they are, “going into the new water year in good shape.”

In the South Platte Basin precipitation is at 92% of average and reservoir storage is 112% of average which is 98% of the total in water year 2009. The basin is, “going into the new water year in good shape as well,” he said.

Down in southwestern Colorado they have a long way to go to get back to average after a, “couple of below average water years back to back,” but reservoir storage is, “slightly above average,” according to Gillespie.

The Rio Grande basin needed a good monsoon to get to precipitation up to 93% of average while reservoir storage is 84% of average. The Arkansas Basin precipitation stands at 90% of average and reservoir storage is 94% of average, he said.

Statewide water year precipitation is 92% and will not improve since, “September has definitely been a dry month,” said Gillespie. Statewide reservoir storage is 103% of average.

Lake Powell and Lake Mead

Just for grins the task force likes to keep an eye on the two big reservoirs on the Colorado River downstream from the “Rooftop of America”. Ms. Hutchins-Cabibi reported that Lake Powell is sitting at 65% of capacity while Lake Mead is at 39% of capacity and dropping. The system is at 56% of capacity which is, “slightly lower that last year at this time.”

More CWCB coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Later this afternoon, Monday September 27, we will drop the release from Ruedi Reservoir to the Fryingpan River by 50 cfs. That will put flows in the ‘Pan by the Ruedi Dam gage at about 165 cfs.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Trout Unlimited volunteer awards

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Congratulations to Sharon Lance of Centennial, the winner of Trout Unlimited’s top volunteer honor recently. Here’s the post from their weblog. They write:

During her 20-year involvement in TU, Lance has held numerous volunteer leadership positions, including president of the Cutthroat Chapter, located in suburban Denver. She has served as Colorado Trout Unlimited’s treasurer, vice president and president. She has, for the last five years, served as a trustee on TU’s board of trustees…

… [Lance] was a driving force in creating Colorado Trout Unlimited’s River Conservation and Fly Fishing Youth Camp, a camp that teaches conservation and fly fishing to children ages 14 to 18. She was instrumental in bringing the Trout in the Classroom program to Colorado, an educational curriculum that teaches children about trout and conservation by having students raise trout in their classrooms.

Here’s the full list of volunteer awards.

CWCB: Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Grant Program

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is pleased to announce an additional round of grant funding under the Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Grant Program. The purpose of this grant program is to advance various agricultural transfer methods as alternatives to permanent agricultural dry-up, including but not limited to: interruptible water supply agreements, long-term agricultural land fallowing, and water banks.

At its meeting on September 15th, the CWCB approved the program’s criteria and guidelines intended to provide guidance to those interested in applying for grant funds. Approved projects should provide usable and transferable information that will increase our understanding of how to successfully design transfer programs that provide a long-term, reliable water supply while sustaining meaningful agricultural production. The grant program was initiated in 2007 and to-date, the CWCB has awarded $1.5 million in grants to further alternative methods to the permanent dry up of irrigated lands. While these projects are still underway, valuable findings have been made. The project sponsors have identified areas where more work may be necessary before alternative transfer methods are more fully accepted by irrigators and cities. It is expected that these monies should fund projects that build upon work performed in the initial funding round. It should be emphasized that projects throughout the State of Colorado are eligible for funding whereas the first round of grant funding was limited to projects located within the Arkansas and South Plate river basins. An overview of the program, the criteria and guidelines and the grant application can be found on the CWCB website at:

The Board has $1.5 million available for grants and will consider applications at its January 25-26, 2011 meeting. Applications must be delivered to the CWCB offices no later than November 26, 2010.

For more information about this program, please contact Todd Doherty at 303-866-3441 x 3210.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Bette McFarren):

[Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Manager Jim Broderick] and his staff have figured out a financial model which will be affordable for the “Big Eight” participants: La Junta, Lamar, Las Animas, Rocky Ford, May Valley, Fowler, St. Charles Mesa, and Crowley County Water Association and also all other conduit participants. “It’s better than I thought it would be,” said Joe Kelley, director of [La Junta] water and waste water…

This year the master contract participants and the conduit project agreed to share expenses for the Environmental Impact Study, saving money for both entities. The study is in progress and will be completed by December 2012. The expected date for the conduit project to be online is 2021, said Broderick. This is very close to the payoff date for La Junta’s reverse osmosis plant, 2023, which will free up money for operation and maintenance. Water from the conduit will be much freer from contaminants than the water presently processed, saving on the plant operation and maintenance costs, plus providing better water to the city.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Elevated Nitrogen and Phosphorus Still Widespread in Much of the Nation’s Streams and Groundwater

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Here’s the release from the United States Geological Survey.

Elevated concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients that can negatively impact aquatic ecosystems and human health, have remained the same or increased in many streams and aquifers across the Nation since the early 1990’s, according to a new national study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“This USGS report provides the most comprehensive national-scale assessment to date of nitrogen and phosphorus in our streams and groundwater,” said Marcia McNutt, USGS Director. “For years we have known that these same nutrients in high concentrations have resulted in ‘dead zones’ when they reach our estuaries, such as during the spring at the mouth of the Mississippi, and now we have improved science-based explanations of when, where, and how elevated concentrations reach our streams and aquifers and affect aquatic life and the quality of our drinking water.”

“Despite major Federal, State and local efforts and expenditures to control sources and movement of nutrients within our Nation’s watersheds, national-scale progress was not evident in this assessment, which is based on thousands of measurements and hundreds of studies across the country from the 1990’s and early 2000’s,” said Matthew C. Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Water.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nutrient pollution has consistently ranked as one of the top three causes of degradation in U.S. streams and rivers for decades.

USGS findings show that widespread concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus remain two to ten times greater than levels recommended by the EPA to protect aquatic life. Most often, these elevated levels were found in agricultural and urban streams. These findings show that continued reductions in nutrient sources and implementation of land-management strategies for reducing nutrient delivery to streams are needed to meet EPA recommended levels in most regions.

Nutrients occur naturally in water and are needed for plant growth and productive aquatic ecosystems; however, in high concentrations nutrients often result in the growth of large amounts of algae and other nuisance plants in streams, lakes and estuaries. The decay of these plants and algae can cause areas of low dissolved oxygen, known as hypoxic, or “dead,” zones that stress or kill aquatic life. Some forms of algae release toxins that can result in health concerns.

The study also found that nitrate is a continuing human-health concern in many shallow aquifers across the Nation that are sources of drinking water. In agricultural areas, more than one in five shallow, private wells contained nitrate at levels above the EPA drinking water standard. The quality and safety of water from private wells—which are a source of drinking water for about 40 million people—are not regulated by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act and are the responsibility of the homeowner.

Because nitrate can persist in groundwater for years and even decades, nitrate concentrations are likely to increase in aquifers used for public drinking-water supplies during at least the next decade, as shallow groundwater with high nutrient concentrations moves downward into deeper aquifers.

“Strategies designed to reduce nutrient inputs on the land will improve the quality of water in near-surface parts of aquifers; however, decades may pass before quality improves in deeper parts of the aquifer, which serve as major sources for public-supply wells,” said Neil Dubrovsky, USGS hydrologist and lead scientist on this study. “Unfortunately, similar time delays for improvements are expected for streams that receive substantial inputs of groundwater”

A variety of sources can contribute nutrients to surface and groundwater, such as wastewater and industrial discharges, fertilizer and manure applications to agricultural land, runoff from urban areas, and atmospheric sources. USGS findings show that nutrient sources and resulting concentrations vary across the Nation. For example, concentrations of nitrogen generally are highest in agricultural streams in the Northeast, Midwest, and the Northwest, which have some of the most intense applications of fertilizer and manure in the Nation.

Differences in concentrations across the Nation also are due to natural features and human activities. For example, concentrations of nitrogen in streams draining parts of the agricultural Midwest are increased by contributions from artificial subsurface tile drains that are used to promote rapid dewatering of poorly drained soils. Conversely, concentrations of nitrate in streams draining parts of the Southeast appear to dissipate faster as a result of enhanced natural removal processes in soils and streams.

“This nationwide assessment of sources and natural and human factors that control how nutrients enter our streams and groundwater helps decision-makers anticipate where watersheds are most vulnerable to contamination and set priorities and management actions in different geographic regions of the country,” said Dubrovsky.

More water pollution coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Health effects of the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site public meeting recap

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Representatives from ATSDR’s Atlanta and Denver offices were in Cañon City to meet with members of the public about the assessment. Teresa Fowler, environmental health scientist and one of the authors of the document said the agency used data gathered during the last 30 years by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency, Cotter and Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste.

Fowler and her co-author, Michael Brooks, senior health physicist, looked at various pathways of contamination, including groundwater, local produce, sediment, soil, surface water and air. The officials explained their findings and answered citizens’ questions about the document and the process. “The main point is, if they have a private well in the contamination area, the water should not be used domestically,” Fowler said. She said as a precaution, the water should not be used to water vegetables either.

The agency made four main conclusions in the document:

— Drinking water for many years from contaminated private wells could have harmed people’s health. ATSDR recommends people do not use contaminated well water for household use.

— Accidentally eating or touching soil and sediment near the Cotter Mill property or in Lincoln Park will not harm people’s health. However, ATSDR cannot make conclusions about soils near Cotter Mill if the properties closest to the facility are developed for residential or other non-industrial uses in the future.

— Residents should limit their use of contaminated well water to irrigate their vegetables. Exposure to molybdenum through locally-grown vegetables irrigated with private well water is not thought to be at levels that would harm people’s health; however as a precaution the vegetables should be thoroughly cleaned prior to eating them. Residents who eat many locally-grown fruits and vegetables could be at higher risk for arsenic exposure. This exposure is thought to be a regional concern.

— Air emissions of particle-bound radionuclides have not resulted in exposures to the public at levels that could cause health effects.

More coverage from Rachel Alexander writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste has filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over the amount of the surety of Cotter Uranium Mill. The suit charges that the radiation control regulators within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ignored state law, including requirements of the Uranium Processing Accountability Act, which Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law in June.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

A strong La Niña is expected influence the weather over the next 3 months

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From the Summit County Citizen’s Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The temperature outlook for October is for increased chances of below-normal temperatures for parts of the northwest and for the entire West Coast in general. Chances are increasing for above-average temperatures in parts of the Southwest and the southern Rockies across the Great Plains to the Great Lakes region and New England. An increased chance of above-average October precipitation is forecast for the northwest, Montana, parts of Wyoming, the Dakotas and western Minnesota, as well as for the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast states. Below-average precipitation is favored from California across the Southwest to the Southern Rockies to the Great Lakes, the middle Mississippi Valley and sections of the Ohio Valley and Tennessee.

In the 90-day outlook, the National Weather Service said La Niña increases the chances for above average temperatures from the Southwest into west Texas and much of the eastern U.S. except in the Southeast. Lower than average temperatures can be expected along the West Coast because of the persistence of below-average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific. Below average temperatures can also be expected in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the northern Rockies and extending eastward into the northern Plains and the western Great Lakes. Those same areas will generally see increased chances for above-normal precipitation.

Energy policy — oil shale: Western Resource Advocates release report on Utah’s oil shale and tar sands efforts

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Peter Roessmann from Western Resource Advocates sent this link to their report on Utah’s moves into tar sands and oil shale development in email. From the summary:

At first blush, it is easy to fall for the seductive picture painted by tar sands and oil shale supporters. As some describe it, the United States possesses an untapped and unimaginably large reservoir of oil, laced in bitumen deposits or encased in rock and buried on federal lands around the vast Green River formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

The numbers seem staggering: It is estimated that Utah tar sands may contain 11 billion bar- rels of oil.2 Estimates of U.S. oil shale reserves range from a half a trillion barrels to more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil. These resourc- es, the argument goes, would be sufficient to power our country for centuries, and, if developed, would allow us to thumb our nose at Venezuelan dictators and Middle Eastern oil cartels. Right under our feet, these “unconventional fuel” boosters tell us, the United States government controls the means to lower the price of oil on world markets, eliminate our dependency on foreign oil, and send the “peak oil” prophets packing.

It is a seductive thought, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, as the cautionary adage goes, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” The more we research tar sands and oil shale, the more apparent it is that due to the relatively small amount of fuel that could be developed, these energy sources would not decrease in any measurable way our dependence on foreign fuel. Utahns, however, would pay an unacceptable price to pursue a commercial unconventional fuels industry that is still wildly speculative. Before any piecemeal approaches are considered, the cumulative, life-cycle effects of pursuing this industry should be evaluated — including water use, energy use, land disturbance, and the uncertain prospects of reclaiming the mining and processing sites.

Both tar sands and oil shale development present overwhelming challenges and drawbacks. For starters, there are not eleven billion barrels of oil under Utah’s rocky high desert soil. For tar sands, the raw material is a hard mixture of clay and bitumen that needs significant processing to become liquid fuel. In the case of oil shale, there are quadrillions of tons of rock under the desert that, in theory, could be heated (using lots of energy) and transformed into a murky liq- uid called kerogen, which still is not oil. Kerogen could then be upgraded and refined (using more energy) into something we could put in our cars, trucks, and airplanes. The laws of physics tell us that it will require a substantial amount of energy to transform tar sands or oil shale into a fuel that can be used in a car or truck. Any technology to do this would be unavoidably and unacceptably wasteful.

Another inescapable problem posed by commercial tar sands and oil shale development in Utah is the amount of water required to produce oil from bitumen or rock. In Utah, water is without a doubt the most precious — and limited — natural resource. As Don Christiansen, general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, says on page 20 of this report, “You just can’t get along without water. The human body just will not go on without water. It will go on without oil.”

More coverage from The Salt Lake Tribune (Brandon Loomis). From the article:

The Boulder, Colo.-based legal and policy group commissioned a Boston University geographer to analyze the energy return on investment for oil shale. He determined that most research indicates that, at best, making fuel from the rock would generate twice the energy content of what it takes to produce. That compares to a 20-to-1 ratio or better for petroleum.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

‘Big Thompson River Revival’ recap

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Sarah Bultema):

[Alan] Leger was one of as many as 200 volunteers who got their hands dirty for the waterway Saturday during the annual Big Thompson River Revival. Hosted by the city of Loveland and the Big Thompson Watershed Forum, the event called on community members to spruce up the river from Wilson Avenue to U.S. 287, while also teaching them the importance of keeping it clean. “It’s about cleaning up and revival and having fun,” said Zack Shelley, program director of the Big Thompson Watershed Forum.

As one of two cleanup events held each year, the revival is important in keeping the water safe, as well as the creatures that live in it, Shelley said. Metals and other materials left in the river can leach into the water, making it toxic to fish and other aquatic species…

Pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, oil drippings on driveways and even pets’ poop can wash into storm drains, which often run unfiltered into the Big Thompson River. “Whatever you’re doing in the community can affect our waterways,” said Joe Chaplin, the storm-water quality specialist with the city.

More Big Thompson watershed coverage here.

Dust on snow

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Reducing dust deposition could help boost the Colorado River’s yield, but that would mean changing land-use patterns and human disturbances in the southwestern desert regions, according to Brad Udall, director of the Western Water Assessment. “By cutting down on dust we could restore some of the lost flow, which is critical as the Southwestern climate warms,” Udall said.

Snow dusted with dark particles absorbs a greater fraction of the Sun’s rays and melts faster than white snow, said Jeffrey Deems, who does research for the Western Water Assessment and the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Earlier snowmelt then lets the growing season of snow-covered vegetation start earlier, resulting in more water lost through evaporation and transpiration, Deems said said. That leaves less water for the Colorado River, which supplies water to more than 27 million people in seven states and two countries.

Heavy dust coatings on the snowpack are a relatively recent phenomenon. Since the mid-1800s onwards, human activities, such as livestock grazing and road building, have disturbed the desert soil and broken up the soil crust that curbs wind erosion. Winds then whip up the desert dust — from northwest New Mexico, northeast Arizona, and southern Utah — and drop it on downwind on the mountains that feed the Colorado’s headwaters.

More coverage the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

With climate change factored in, the Colorado River could see a reduction in flow of up to 25 percent by 2050, said study co-author Brad Udall, director of the Western Water Assessment, a joint program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

Each year, dust is carried by strong winds from Southwest deserts and deposited onto the snowy slopes of the Rockies. Much of that dust is seen in the San Juan Mountains, but some makes it as far northeast as the northern Front Range, Udall said Tuesday. Mountain snow can appear red or look like cinnamon toast after a dust storm, and it can easily be seen from an airplane…

The study, he said, does not directly address how the river’s flow will be decreased by climate change, but global warming is expected to dry and warm the region and reduce the Colorado River’s flow by up to 20 percent. That should be a concern to people living along the Front Range, because much of their water supply comes from the Colorado River Basin, he said. The loss of Colorado River flow and future development in the Front Range urban corridor are intrinsically linked, he said.

The study was published in the Sept. 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was paid for by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Western Water Assessment.

Arkansas Valley: Current and potential movement of agricultural water to other uses

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Industrial and municipal water wonks plan far in advance to satisfy projected future water supply needs. In Colorado part of the planning often includes acquiring agricultural rights for a change of use. Regulations designed to protect senior rights holders and satisfy the numerous compacts that Colorado and the downstream states have put in place over the years also put pressure on irrigated land. Here’s an in-depth report from Chris Woodka writing for the The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

New actions in the state threaten to take more acreage. Woodmoor Water and Sanitation has signed contracts that would have the effect of drying up 1,500 acres. A state crackdown on seep-ditch rights could remove water from 6,500 acres, and new agriculture consumption rules could tie up more augmentation water that otherwise would be available for irrigation.

But events already have been set in motion to dry up far more farm ground. Transfers from 1950 to the present could take water off one-third of historically irrigated land in the Arkansas River basin — nearly 150,000 of 450,000 acres, according to information compiled by The Pueblo Chieftain. A recent state report — a draft document projecting potential agricultural demands to 2050 — shows that an additional, as yet unidentified, 63,000 acres could be taken out of production in the next 40 years to meet a municipal “gap” in water supply…

The state report also points to a need for 862,000 acre-feet of consumptive use water annually to fully irrigate land that is expected to remain in production by 2050. However, there would be a shortfall of nearly 400,000 acre-feet, because the full amount of water is not likely to be available in most years. The state estimates that between 350,000 and 400,000 acres of land could be irrigated, but there is rarely enough water available now to satisfy that demand.

In The Chieftain’s study, the 150,000 acres of land potentially removed since 1950 includes land that could be dried up either through direct sales of water rights to cities, towns, speculators or power companies; by loss of storage once used by irrigators; or by decreasing the use of well water either through shutdowns or augmentation.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Fountain Creek: The USGS and the Fountain Creek Watershed and Flood Control District are moving up the schedule for a flooding study in the basin

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The district would use $300,000 from payments by Colorado Springs as part of its obligations under its 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System from Pueblo County. The money would be matched with $100,000 from the USGS. Other partnerships are needed to fill out funding over three years, according to a draft proposal presented Friday to the Fountain Creek board. “The study would answer the questions of where to build and why to slow down the floods in the last five miles of the creek,” said Gary Barber, executive director of the district…

David Mau of the Pueblo USGS office explained that the new study would build on the work of previous research, including a $3 million Army Corps of Engineers report and the $600,000 Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan that will be completed next year.

Barber said there are two reasons for moving ahead before all of the money is collected from Colorado Springs. The first is improvement of the creek. “When Fountain Creek decides to go, it goes,” Barber said, pointing to charts that show an increase of sediment that increases geometrically to the volume of flows. “We need to find out what to do when you go from moving 10,000 tons of sediment to 100,000 tons.”

The second is the district’s funding, which ends about one year from now. The $300,000 from Colorado Springs, along with $200,000 from the corridor plan (a joint venture of Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District), are the district’s primary sources of funding until the balance of Colorado Springs’ $50 million kicks in. That money is due in five annual installments of $10 million, less the money already paid, when SDS is completed — 2016 at the soonest.

In the meantime, the district is working on strategies to ask voters in El Paso and Pueblo counties for a mill levy in 2012. The district is working to complete projects such as the flood control study, a $1 million demonstration project on Fountain Creek in Pueblo County, a confluence park in Pueblo or a highway realignment on U.S. 24. Because it has little money of its own, the district has signed on as partners, managed grants or simply become a “cheerleader” for efforts to improve Fountain Creek, Barber said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Arkansas River Basin: Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy Authority irrigation rules public meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“When you look at the rules as they were written three years ago, it’s amazing how far we’ve come,” State Engineer Dick Wolfe told a group of farmers and other interested parties Wednesday at a meeting organized by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The rules are designed to keep improvements like sprinklers or drip irrigation and canal lining from reducing return flows to the Arkansas River in order to meet compact obligations to Kansas. Wolfe set up a committee of irrigators, water officials and lawyers to make the rules more acceptable…

One of the concerns was the cost of compliance, which led to the possibility of group plans like the one approved last week by the Lower Ark board. It allows farmers to pay a fee — not yet set — in order for Lower Ark engineers to determine water losses and find replacement water. Farmers could also provide their own engineering, or obtain a general permit in parts of the valley which do not have as direct an impact on flows to Kansas.

The rules are in Division 2 Water Court and most objectors are expected to settle before a scheduled trial in November.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Seep ditches intercept return flows and generally have water rights junior to other ditches above and below them. In Southern Colorado, the ditches have not been regulated for more than 100 years, but may be taking water from more senior water rights, Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte explained. Witte’s staff identified and met with 25 parties with 52 structures last year. Most are working the state to measure flows, install lockable headgates and curtail diversions. The state has filed six Water Court complaints, however.

That drew a strongly worded statement from U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., which was delivered at the meeting by his Pueblo staffer Loretta Kennedy. Representatives from other congressional offices also attended the meeting, but made no statements. “Agriculture is at great risk in Southeastern Colorado as well as the nation. The state of Colorado is penalizing farmers for farming and doing what they have done best for the past 100 years,” Salazar said in a statement. “The state of Colorado continues to assault the agricultural producers by implementing the irrigation efficiency rules as well as the seep ditch regulations.”

“It’s been like this for 100 years, and now you’re going to change things? That doesn’t seem fair,” said Bent County Commissioner Lynden Gill, also a member of the Lower Ark board.

More Ark Valley consumptive use rules coverage here.

Pueblo: Water use survey results

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even as more accounts have been added, overall residential per capita water use has fallen by 12.5 percent, according to a new study by the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The study built on a 2008 study that measured changes in water use following the drought of 2002. It found rate increases during recent years were not a significant factor in cutting back water use, said Seth Clayton, finance chief. “Although our rates are not as great as others on the Front Range, we wanted to know if they were a factor. We found there was no major swing in elasticity,” Clayton told the board at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

Water use from 1996 to 2003 was compared with use from 2004 to 2009 in the study. Survey respondents were chosen from residents who have remained at the same address during that time and showed a greater conservation rate than all customers. The number of all customers has increased 5.4 percent, accounting for the difference in conservation rates…

“The initial decline in consumption due to conservation measures stemming from the drought of 2002 has remained, and it is unlikely that consumption levels will ever revert back to those experienced prior to 2002,” the report concluded. The report also suggests heavy precipitation in 2009 could have played a factor in reduced lawn watering. But despite dry weather and high temperatures this summer, water use is 2.16 percent below the five-year average, just slightly greater than last year.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Colorado Springs files motion for final judgement in lawsuit with Sierra Club

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The motion was filed earlier this month, asking U.S. District Court Judge Walker Miller to close the case pursuant to his findings and ruling in the case last year.

The Sierra Club, which filed the suit in 2005, does not plan to oppose final judgment.

The movement in the case will allow Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut to appeal his dismissal from the case in 2007, said Terry Hart, Thiebaut’s chief of staff. Thiebaut also filed a federal lawsuit in 2005, but was dismissed from the case in 2007 because a judge ruled he lacked state authority to file a federal lawsuit. “We’ve been champing at the bit for final judgment so we could file an appeal,” Hart said. “We feel the federal judge made a strained interpretation of state law, so this clears the way to appeal the dismissal of the case.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Pueblo County will not have to pay Colorado Springs for fees it spent to defend the city against District Attorney Bill Thiebaut’s lawsuit over contamination of Fountain Creek. In a decision made public Tuesday, Senior U.S. District Judge Walker Miller denied the city’s request to recover fees paid to its attorneys and its expert witnesses.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Silt: Positive test for elevated trihalomethanes

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From the The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

The compound in question is known as “total trihalomethanes,” Pace said, adding that its formation in the water system is known as a “disinfection byproduct.” It comes about, Pace said, when chlorine comes in contact with organic matter and other sediment within the water system. The longer the chlorine and the sediments sit together, he said, the greater the production of TTHM, as it is known in water treatment circles. He said that is partly why the town, at the end of every summer, flushes its two-mile water line leading to the Coal Ridge High School, in order to bring fresher water to the taps there.

“In large quantities,” Pace said, the chemicals “could be cancer causing,” and the letter from the town advises residents that they might want to switch to bottled water, or some kind of water-hauling service, until the problem is fixed. That is not likely to be until late 2011 or possibly early 2012, because the town first must study the situation to come up with possible solutions, and then get state permission to go ahead with whichever solution is identified.

More water treatment coverage here.

Carbondale: The Colorado Department of Wildlife is ponying up $950,000 to protect access to the Roaring Fork River

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

The DOW is one of several entities that have put up funding for purchase of the $2.5 million Koziel property, located between the Roaring Fork River and Highway 82 just below the Highway 133 bridge leading into Carbondale. The division agreed to spend $950,000 on the purchase in order to preserve the established boat launch, which it has leased for many years from the property owners. Funding for the property purchase also includes $1 million of a larger $5 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Legacy Grant, which was obtained by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails in 2006 for a variety of projects, including the Crystal River Trail. In addition, the town plans to contribute $450,000 and Garfield County agreed to $100,000.

The 7.8 acres of riverfront land includes the boat ramp and a small parking area and turnaround. The upper bench was operated as the Sopris RV Park by the Koziel family. The RV park was vacated after the town put the property under contract earlier this summer.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

River Access Dispute Task Force meeting recap

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

“We are going to try to get neighbors to meet with neighbors without having to have legislation,” said Bob Hamel, a member of the task force. Hamel is Colorado River Outfitters Association president and owner of Arkansas River Tours in Cotopaxi…

The rafting dispute came to a head on the Taylor River last year when a developer told commercial rafters they could no longer float through his property. State Rep. Kathleen Curry, an unaffiliated state representative from Gunnison, proposed a bill in favor of the rafters. But state lawmakers declined to intervene, and instead the 16-member Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force was set up to resolve rafting disputes…

The task force also heard from Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Director Rob White, who said that the Arkansas River draws 42 percent of the state’s rafting business and called rafting a “huge economic machine” for the area. White said his agency hears disputes and issues warnings and tickets to trespassers. Greg Felt, who runs float fishing trips on the Arkansas River, said conflicts are often passive-aggressive. He said some private landowners have built rock diversions that force rafts to trespass because of low water. Others have hung big fish hooks or dead rattle snakes off of foot bridges to signal the rafters aren’t welcome.

More whitewater coverage here.

Grand Lake: Sewer line repairs update

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

From Sept. 20 through the end of October in downtown Grand Lake at 12 to 15 points from Broadway to Hancock Streets and from Lake Avenue to West Portal Road, sewer line repairs will be taking place. The repairs, however, shouldn’t disturb traffic or sewer service, according to Three Lakes.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: Water and wastewater rates to increase

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From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

…Tuesday night, City Council unanimously approved water and wastewater rate increases that, along with increased tap fees for new construction, will extend through 2013 and help fund as much as $70 million of water and wastewater improvement projects facing the city. Red Oak Consulting, a division of the national environmental engineering firm Malcolm Pirnie, recommended the rate increases after its assessment of Steamboat’s infrastructure needs and costs. Red Oak’s report states the typical residential water bill — for a single-family home that uses 7,000 gallons of water per month — would increase 14 percent in 2011, from the current $28.43 to $32.42. Monthly wastewater rates would increase 8.8 percent in 2011, the report states, from the current $26.88 to $29.25. The new rates will take effect Jan. 1. City officials will update rates and infrastructure costs in 2013.

More infrastructure coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: San Juan Citizen’s Alliance forum recap

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From The Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews):

It being a San Juan Citizens Alliance forum, the questions dealt with environmental and social-justice issues. Topics covered climate change, fracing chemicals, gas and oil regulations and air quality…

Billing himself as “hands-down, the water expert in the Colorado General Assembly,” [State Senator Bruce] Whitehead, a water engineer, said he’s worked toward “balance” in the Assembly.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Dust on snow

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From The Durango Telegraph (Will Sands):

Scientists have long known that dust was changing the reflective properties of snowfields and increasing the speed of runoff each year. However, this study is the first to measure the full impact of dust storms on snowmelt rates and basin runoff. The team examined run-off in the Upper Colorado River basin between 1915-2003 and then simulated conditions prior to the settlement of the region in the mid-1800s. Lake sediment cores show that dust deposits in the San Juan Mountains increased by between 500 and 600 percent since the Southwest was settled. Based on these values, the team discovered that the Colorado River basin is experiencing a 35-billion cubic foot reduction in water every year because of dust. That amounts to enough water to supply the City of Los Angeles for 18 months. “Actions to stabilize soils and minimize activities that disturb soils could potentially decrease dust emissions and the loss of runoff,” argued Tom Painter, the team leader and a snow hydrologist with NASA.

Ronni Egan, executive director of the Durango-based Great Old Broads for Wilderness, said residents of the Southwest should be taken aback by the numbers.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter Corp, Inc. is refusing to pay fines levied by Colorado over uranium polluted groundwater at the Schwartzwalder mine

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley) via the Grand Junction Free Press:

State regulators on Monday were moving to increase a $55,000 fine and schedule another enforcement hearing in November. They said unless emergency powers can be invoked, state law leaves few other options. “It’s the drinking water supply. We’re very concerned about it. We’re doing everything we can,” said senior environment protection specialist Tony Waldron of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources.

Since April, Cotter, a subsidiary of San Diego-based General Atomics, has faced repeated state orders to pump and treat toxic water filling the mine, northwest of Golden along Ralston Creek. The creek, which flows into Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir, contains uranium levels as high as 310 parts per billion — more than 10 times the 30 ppb health standard for drinking water. State officials had offered to suspend all but $2,500 of current fines if Cotter would comply by Aug. 31…

A pumping operation begun in July removes contaminants from surface alluvial ponds along Ralston Creek, he said. But water in the 2,000-foot- deep mine shaft is untouched. Cotter contends water in the mine shaft is not connected to groundwater. State mining regulators argue that water in the mine is connected to both groundwater and the creek. The mine water contains uranium at levels more than 1,000 times state and federal standards. A state inspection this month found the water had risen to 14 feet below the rim of the mine, from 29 feet below it in May.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

According to letters (pdf) obtained by the Colorado Independent, Cotter Corp. – which owns the Cotter Mill near Cañon City – has declined to pay a $55,000 fine for uranium pollution 1,200 times state standards contaminating Ralston Creek, a feeder for Ralston Reservoir, which is Denver Water and City of Arvada drinking water supply. “Cotter reserves all of its rights to administrative and judicial review as provided under Colorado law, and Cotter has exercised and will continue to exercise such rights as necessary,” the company wrote in a Sept. 10 letter to the state Mined Land Reclamation Board (MLRB). “Accordingly, Cotter respectfully declines to remit the penalty under the MLRB Order.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

“Cotter is playing political football with our health by refusing to test for the rate of radon pollution entering our community,” said Sharyn Cunningham of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste.

Cotter employees still test for abundant limits or radon concentrations being released from the facility at numerous gauges stationed around the entire mill facility, [John Hamrick, mill manager] said…

Hamrick said the difference of opinion comes from changes to 1989 Environmental Protection Agency regulations governing uranium mill tailing impoundments — both active and those under reclamation. EPA rescinded the under-reclamation standards in early 2000 because they were nearly identical to Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards, Hamrick said. When Cotter declared it would no longer operate using the secondary impoundment, the company felt it no longer needed to test for radon flux because the impoundment is in reclamation. According to an EPA letter dated Aug. 25, Deborah Lebow Aal, chief of the indoor air, toxics and transportation unit, said Cotter needs to submit an application for approval of modification before it can stop radon flux testing. Aal also pointed out, “We also have not yet received an annual report for the 2008 radon flux testing from the secondary impoundment.”[…]

Cotter’s mill is licensed but has been inactive since 2005. The company is in the process of tearing down old mill buildings to make room for new construction, should studies indicate a new mill would be feasible. “We have been doing lots of operational studies to see if we can get back into operation. The old equipment needs to be disposed of so we can build an all-new mill,” Hamrick said.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste filed the lawsuit in Denver District Court against the state health department and others. It says the department has estimated it will cost at least $43 million to decommission and decontaminate Cotter’s mill, which is a Superfund site, but that the state let Cotter set its financial surety at just $20.2 million.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Tom McGhee):

Cañon City-area residents have sued state regulators, accusing them of cutting a deal that slashed the amount Cotter Corp. must set aside for cleanup of a uranium mill. The suit by Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste names Steve Tarlton, manager of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s radiation control program, and the agency…

The 19-page suit claims the health department estimated that the cost of cleaning up and remediating groundwater contamination at the mill outside Cañon City would top $43 million, but it required Cotter to post a bond of about $20.2 million. “The resulting deficiency leaves the state of Colorado, and the local citizens . . . at significant financial and environmental risk, as the funds necessary for decommissioning and decontamination of the facility are insufficient to accomplish these required closure activities,” the suit states.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

The Uranium Processing Accountability Act passed last legislative session calls for public notice and comment periods when state regulators – in this case officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) – negotiate the amount of money companies must post against future cleanup costs or pay for ongoing cleanup efforts. As revealed by the Colorado Independent in June, Cotter Corp. disagreed with state estimates that it would cost $43.7 million to clean up the Cotter Mill near Cañon City. CDPHE officials reportedly agreed to just $20.2 million in cleanup costs at the EPA Superfund Cleanup site. The lawsuit (pdf) claims the deal lacked transparency as required by the new law.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

River Access Dispute Task Force meeting recap

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From The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area was presented as a “success story,” with park manager Rob White highlighting the citizens task force and river management plan as a way of monitoring river use and mitigating disputes among landowners, non-commercial boaters and private boaters. Comprised of anglers, private and commercial boaters, water users, environmental interests, property owners and local government representatives, White said the Arkansas headwaters task force creates a “communication tool” and management of the Arkansas River that’s “all about compromise,” White said…

The long-standing dispute about whether a “right to float” in Colorado exists or ought to exist, however, is not what the task force was charged to decipher. Mike King, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the task force is trying to find adequate processes and tools to mitigate disputes. Arkansas River Canyon landowner Tim Canterbury said he’d “hate” to see any standard go statewide. “We have a unique situation on the Arkansas River. Can you legislate respect?” he said…

Task force members will attempt to find “solutions” in dealing with problems identified during the meeting including criminal trespass, obstructions in the river such as diversions, fences and structures; issues with commercial and non-commercial boaters, volume of boaters and impact to natural resources. The Governor’s group will meet from 1-5 p.m. Oct. 13 in Glenwood Springs followed by a public input meeting from 5-7 p.m. The task force is to submit a final report to the governor no later than Dec. 31, identifying a framework for a “dispute resolution process for conflicts between rafters and landowners.”

More whitewater coverage here.

Three recent studies link chlorination byproducts to cancer

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From Pool & Spa News (Ben Thomas):

Researchers from the Barcelona-based Centre of Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) and Research Institute Hospital del Mar, along with a scientist from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, released three papers that correlate certain byproducts of chlorine sanitizers with bladder cancer. The chemicals are common sanitation byproducts, and the studies have focused on the potential health effects of their presence in the water of indoor pool and spa facilities. One of the papers also finds ties between regular indoor pool use and respiratory problems. The results were headlined in a front-page article on the popular health Website…

The culprit in the cancer issue is the chemical compound class called trihalomethanes, or THMs. Above certain exposure levels, these compounds have been scientifically shown to lead to cancer in people and animals, Lightcap said. “In humans, bladder cancer seems to be the most common manifestation,” [Ed Lightcap, a senior account manager at DuPont Chemical in Wilmington, Deleware] noted. Though water-transmitted THMs have been linked to bladder cancer in previous studies, Lightcap said, “typically [it’s discussed] in relation to shower water. Lately, some research has been focusing on pools, too.”

Several past studies also have correlated asthmatic symptoms and lung damage with inhalation of chloramines in indoor pool environments. Because THMs are byproducts of chlorine sanitization, researchers in one of the studies determined that the presence of THMs in samples of exhaled air indicated the presence of chloramines in those swimmers’ lungs.

The scientists also tracked a certain substance in the body, known as CC16, that can pass from the lungs into the bloodstream at a variable rate. “The more that’s passing through the lung membrane into the blood, the more damage to the liner of the lungs that’s indicating,” Lightcap said.

More water treatment coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Proposition 101, Amendments 60 and 61

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From the Estes Park Trail Gazette (N. Mark Richards):

T he Larimer County Board of Health passed a resolution on Aug. 25 expressing its opposition to Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 that are scheduled to appear on the 2010 general election ballot. The board has determined that, if passed, these amendments will severely damage the ability of state and local governments and special districts to protect the well-being of Larimer County residents. These amendments constitute a clear threat to the health of our community.

Amendments 60 and 61 will weaken or eliminate many public programs that improve the health of individuals and families and prevent illness in county residents.

Amendment 61 will dramatically impair Larimer County`s ability to finance long-term capital improvements such as water and wastewater treatment plants. The safety of drinking water and potential pollution of ground water will become an increasing problem in the future.

Many aspects of Amendment 60 will overturn the election decisions made by voters over the past eighteen years, creating financial chaos for local communities.

[Proposition] 101 will severely restrict the county`s ability to insure public safety and maintain safe roadways and bridges, resulting in an increase in traffic injuries. Traffic injuries are one of the leading causes of death and disability in young persons.

Passage of these three measures will significantly damage the ability of state and local governments and special districts to fund their most basic level of services related to safety, public health, fire protection, education, hospital services, rural health care, and transportation. The cumulative destructive effect of these three measures will ensure that Colorado will surrender its competitive standing to attract large and small businesses, resulting in little to no economic growth for the state, a steady decline in property values, an erosion of the state and local tax base, and an inability to take advantage of federal dollars that require a state or local match.

More from the Wet Mountain Tribune editorial board:

Superficially, each has the mass-appeal of reducing the burden on Colorado’s taxpayers. But the three are wolves in sheep’s clothing which would economically eviscerate local government bodies, create incredible financial woes for a state government already reeling under recessionary pressures, and place unreasonable burdens on small businesses, property owners, the state agriculture industry and the needs of our communities.

Among the cockamamie elements of the proposals: property taxes for school districts would be cut in half with the state required to make up the difference (how that would be accomplished is conveniently not mentioned); taxes and fees on vehicles and tele-communications would be eliminated; local governments and special districts would not be able to take on any kind of debt; any previous approval by local voters to eliminate or reduce TABOR restrictions would be rescinded. Combined, these measures would virtually eliminate a community’s ability to build or expand infrastructure including roads, schools, medical centers, libraries, water and sewer systems and the like.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Streamflow update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

DOW purchased 1,000 acre-feet of water for $25,000 from Colorado Springs Utilities, but won’t begin releasing it until Saturday. In the meantime, State Parks continues to release water to keep flows up. The DOW released about 35,000 9-inch fish to Lake Pueblo and 6,000 to Lake Granby from the fish hatchery [Due to low flows]. Normally, the state waits until the fish are 10 inches or longer to release them, but the decision was made to save all the fish if possible.

Releases from Pueblo Dam into the river Thursday were about 71 cubic feet per second on Wednesday, and only 18 cfs of that was native water. While about 200 cfs are flowing into Lake Pueblo, much of it is diverted into the Bessemer Ditch, the Pueblo water system or the fish hatchery. All exchanges into Pueblo were curtailed Tuesday after river levels fell.

By closing the raceways, the hatchery will be able to divert some of its water through the river outlet in order to help fish in the first three-quarters of a mile from the dam, where water from the hatchery empties into the river. “Without a constant supply of water, tens of thousands of fish could be threatened,” said biologist Doug Krieger, who explained that warm temperatures complicate the problem of low water supply.

No large releases of agricultural water are scheduled until Oct. 4, when the Catlin Canal plans to run water stored in its account at Lake Pueblo. The combined releases from State Parks and DOW will keep river flows up until then. “We’re grateful to Colorado Springs Utilities, State Parks and the Division of Water Resources for helping us get through this,” Prenzlow said. “I guess the larger issue is whose responsibility it should be to prevent situations like this. We had a whole lot of people working fast to deal with this.”

Energy policy — nuclear: Health effects of the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site public meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

“If you drink water from your contaminated well over a long period of time, you could expect harmful health effects,” [Teresa Foster, of the Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry] said. “Because of the molybdenum in the water, you could experience increase in gout-like conditions so if you have a (contaminated) private well, please don’t use it for household purposes.”

Vivi Abrams of the agency said such conditions would go away once the well user stopped drinking the water…

Canon City resident Paul Carestia asked whether the study incorporated data for 1958 to 1980. Agency health physicist Michael Brooks said it did not because there was “virtually none” from that time period…

Lincoln Park residents also should limit their use of contaminated well water to irrigate vegetables. Exposure to molybdenum through locally grown vegetables irrigated with private well water is not thought to be at levels that would harm people’s health, however, as a precaution the vegetables should be thoroughly cleaned prior to eating them…

Air emissions of particle-bound radionuclides have not resulted in exposures to the public at levels that could cause (adverse) health effects, Brooks said. “Even in the worst case scenario we did not find anyone who would be exposed at a level of concern. It would not be enough to make them sick,” Brooks explained…

Public comment on the report will be accepted until Nov. 9. The 212-page public health assessment is available at the Canon City Public Library, 516 Macon Ave., and online. Written comments should be sent via e-mail to or mailed to Rolanda Morrison, Lincoln Park Cotter Uranium Mill site, ATSDR Records Center, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, Atlanta, GA 30341.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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

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Here are Henry Reges’ notes from Tuesday’s webinar. It’s been very dry. Areas of Colorado (Colorado, Yampa and South Platte basins) are slipping into D0 — abnormally dry conditions.

River Access Dispute Task Force meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

“We are going to try to get neighbors to meet with neighbors without having to have legislation,” said Bob Hamel, a member of the task force who also is Colorado River Outfitters Association president and owner of Arkansas River Tours in Cotopaxi. “We (outfitters) are not going to give up floating on any rivers in Colorado and it’s not about signing agreements, because every situation is unique.”[…]

Nathrop rancher Frank McMurry told the task force about his concerns from a private landowner’s perspective. He said he and other landowners feelvulnerable to lawsuits. “I own the last piece of private property before you go into Browns Canyon, and the carrying capacity is 300 rafts. With seven people in a raft, that is 2,100 rafters a day and that is not counting the private boaters,” McMurry said. “My property has become an attractive nuisance and rafters have caused a big part of that,” McMurry said. He described finding private boaters on his property who had set up a volleyball net and were playing volleyball. Another time, a group of private boaters had stopped to chase some of his heifers at a time when two bulls were with the cattle. “What if one of them was hurt by a bull? Who is liable for that? I think the state should afford us liability (insurance) as property owners,” McMurry said.

The public still can weigh in on the issue. Written input or comments may be provided to Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force via e-mail at, via mail at Colorado Department of Natural Resources, attention Kim Burgess, 1313 Sherman St., Room 718, Denver, CO 80203. For information, log onto the website

More whitewater coverage here.

Battlement Mesa: Colorado School of Public Health study lists potential health effects of natural gas drilling in area

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Garfield County on Monday released the draft report of the Health Impact Assessment, conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health in partnership with the county health department…

The study found that drinking water obtained from the Colorado River is not likely to be tainted by any of Antero’s activities, because the intake for the community is upstream from Antero’s expected areas of operation. But the community’s “secondary water source … a series of ground water wells located ‘downhill’ from some off the planned [gas] well sites … could be compromised,” by the drilling and production activities. The study predicts that water quality impacts are not expected to happen “frequently” or that the result would be broad-based contamination of the water supply. But, should contamination occur, the study concluded, “these changes would produce undesirable health impacts,” including cancer, skin and eye irritation, neurological problems” that may or may not require medical care.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Governor Ritter’s River Access Dispute Task Force to meet in Salida tomorrow

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The 17-member Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force will meet from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officers, 339 E. Rainbow Blvd. (U.S. 50). Public input is set from 5 to 7 p.m. The task force was created to help craft a dispute-resolution process to resolve future conflicts between boaters and private landowners on Colorado waterways. It met earlier this month for the first time, and additional meetings are planned in October and November…

Written input or comments may be provided to the Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force. Written comments will be compiled and delivered to Task Force members for their consideration.

By e-mail:

By mail: Colorado Department of Natural Resources, 1313 Sherman Street, Room 718, Denver, CO 80203. Attention: Kim Burgess.

More whitewater coverage here.

Dust Hastens Colorado River Snowmelt, Cuts Flow

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Here’s the release from the United States Geological Survey (Paul Laustsen/Jayne Belnap/Tom Painter):

Dust caused by human activities in the American desert Southwest is a contributing factor in speeding up the melting of snow and reducing runoff in the mountains of the Colorado River basin, according to a new study led by NASA and co-authored by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The findings have major implications for the 27 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico who rely on the Colorado River for drinking, agricultural and industrial water. The research shows that peak spring runoff comes as much as 3 weeks earlier than before the region was settled and soils were disturbed, but also that runoff may be decreased by more than 5 percent a year compared to pre-settlement levels.

“Reducing dust loads in this area and in similar mountainous areas around the world may help lessen regional effects of climate change,” said Jayne Belnap, a USGS desert soil expert and a co-author of the study.

Until now, scientists had a poor understanding of dust-on-snow events, despite frequent, large episodes of dust deposition. While scientists knew from theory and modeling that dust could be changing the albedo — the solar energy reflectance properties — of snowfields, this study is the first to measure its full impact on snowmelt rates and basin runoff.

The team examined hydrologic effects of human-produced dust deposits on mountain snowpacks over the Upper Colorado River basin between 1915 and 2003. By using a sophisticated hydrological model, the researchers simulated the balance of water in the basin under current conditions and as they existed before the desert Southwest was settled in the mid-to-late 1800s, when grazing and agriculture disturbed fragile desert soils and reduced their natural protection from wind erosion. Lake sediment cores show increased dust deposits in the Rockies by between 500 and 600 percent since the region was settled.

More than 80 percent of sunlight falling on fresh snow is typically reflected back to space. When small, dark particles of dust fall on snow, that percentage drops sharply. Winds blow desert dust east from the Southwest, triggering “dust-on-snow” events. When dust falls on mountain snowfields, it absorbs more sunlight and warms the now “dirty” snow surface, leading to much earlier melt and loss of snow cover.

Some of this warmer snow evaporates directly to the atmosphere, but more importantly, an earlier snowmelt exposes plants earlier as well, allowing them to lose water to the atmosphere through transpiration. The amount that is lost may be more than an annual average 5 percent of the runoff that would have otherwise fed the Colorado River. This 35-billion cubic foot a year reduction in annual runoff is enough water to supply Los Angeles for 18 months.

“The compressed mountain runoff period makes water management more difficult than a slower runoff would,” said Tom Painter, the team leader and a snow hydrologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Actions to stabilize soils and minimize activities that disturb soils could potentially decrease dust emissions and the loss of runoff.”

For example, said Painter, peak runoff under “cleaner” conditions (less dust-on-snow) would come later in summer, when agricultural and other water demands are greater.

This study was co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Results of the study, Response of Colorado River runoff to dust radiative forcing in snow, are published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Participating institutions include the National Snow and Ice Center, Boulder, Colo.; U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Biological Center, Moab, Utah; University of Washington, Seattle; Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, Silverton, Colo.; and the University of Colorado-NOAA Western Water Assessment, Boulder.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.