CWCB: Next Water Availability Task Force meeting September 27

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

The next Water Availability Task Force (WATF) is scheduled for Monday, September 27, 2010 from 10:00-11:30am at the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO, in the Bighorn Room.

More CWCB coverage here.

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

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Click here for a copy of Wendy Ryan’s notes from yesterday’s webinar.

Colorado Trout Unlimited releases their 2009 Annual Report

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Click here to download a copy. Here’s an excerpt:

The proposed expansion of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap water diversion projects threatens to leave the Upper Colorado River and Fraser River with only 25% of their native flows. Through grassroots advocacy and organizing during the projects’ permitting processes, CTU and its local chapters successfully mobilized over 3,000 citizens who voiced their concerns over the potential impacts of these projects on fish, wildlife, and local recreation-based economies. The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter has generated widespread community involvement in protecting their “home waters” — from educational public meetings to inform residents about the projects and their impacts, to a “RiverStock” music festival in Fraser to raise community awareness and engagement. With support and expertise from TU’s Western Water Project, CTU and the chapter will continue to play a part in negotiating and advocating protections for these rivers as the Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal agencies evaluate the proposed projects throughout 2010.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we near the middle of September, the Fish and Wildlife Service has requested that we scale back releases for the Endangered Fish Recovery Program. This way, the remainder of water for the endangered fish will last through the month. As a result, we dropped releases from Ruedi this morning by 50 cfs. By noon, the gage at Ruedi Dam on the Fryingpan should read 270 cfs.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Demonstration project in north Pueblo to be part of the Front Range Trail

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There already is a trail along Fountain Creek through Pueblo, but that would be improved and added to the Front Range Regional Trail system, ultimately connecting with trails in the Colorado Springs area. The trails are part of the “Crown Jewel” proposal by then-U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar in 2007. The construction of trails would coincide with flood control and wetlands projects as they are completed along Fountain Creek, and eventually that would be the way most people relate to the creek. “Trail planning is included in all the design planning,” said Gary Barber, director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Rio Grande Roundtable recap

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division III Division Engineer Craig Cotten told attendees at Tuesday’s Rio Grande Roundtable meeting that the dry appearance of the river, particularly in Alamosa, is a sign the state is current on its debt to downstream states so more water can be diverted to area irrigators without having to send it all down the river. “We are looking really good on the Rio Grande,” Cotten said. “We are meeting all of our obligation right now with return flows. That’s why the river is fairly dry through Alamosa, because we have got a little bit of water going to the West Side and Chicago Ditches and not a lot of water going through Alamosa.”

Cotten said 2010 turned out to be a less-than-average year with water flows on the Rio Grande. The annual forecast for the river is currently 540,000 acre feet. An average year would run 650,000 acre feet, “so we are a fair amount below average at this point in time,” Cotten said. The current forecast is even lower than the June 1 prediction of 575,000 acre feet on the Rio Grande, Cotten pointed out. Of the 540,000 acre feet flow on the Rio Grande for the year, 140,000 acre feet are obligated to New Mexico and Texas to meet Rio Grande Compact requirements. “We do have a fairly good obligation to downstream states, but we have already been able to deliver quite a bit of that water to the downstream states,” Cotten said. He said currently only about 5 percent of the state’s obligation on the Rio Grande is still owed, and that obligation is being met through return flows.

The Conejos River system is also meeting its obligation to downstream states, Cotten explained. That river system is also below average in total forecast flow, Cotten added. An average annual flow on the Conejos River system is 325,000 acre feet. This year’s adjusted forecast is 285,000 acre feet, which is down from the June 1 prediction of 315,000 acre feet. Of the total flow, the Conejos River system is obligated to send 99,000 acre feet downstream, “and currently we have delivered all the water we need to during the irrigation season,” Cotten said. During November and December the Conejos system will deliver more water downstream, and that will be sufficient to meet the Rio Grande Compact obligation, according to Cotten…

In addition to reporting on the status of the Rio Grande Compact and the Valley’s major rivers, Cotten reported to the Rio Grande Roundtable that groundwater rules are still under construction and the state engineer is hopeful they will be promulgated by the end of the year. Modeling work is currently being conducted for different areas of the San Luis Valley to determine how much impact wells have on rivers so adequate replacements for injurious depletions can be made. Cotten said that modeling work is nearly completed and he hoped it would be finished in the next month. With that completed, the advisory group that is working with the state engineer to develop groundwater regulations can finish up the sustainability portion of the regulations, Cotten explained…

Cotten also updated the group on the status of the first water management sub-district case. The sub-district of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District is designed to reduce irrigation in the closed basin area of the Valley to protect senior water rights, help meet Rio Grande Compact obligations and replenish Valley aquifers. The sub-district’s plan of management proceeded through the court, objections, trials and judicial ruling and is now pending a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court, which Cotten said might not occur until next spring.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

RMSAWWA/RMEA 2010 Joint Annual Conference recap

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From (Christina Dickinson/Matt Renoux):

Thirteen cities in all put their water to the test, with first place winning the chance to move to the 2011 national round. Organizer Paul Fanning with the Pueblo Board of Water Works says for those trying to pick the best tasting water, the job can be hard in a place known to have some of the best water around…

Each glass of H2O is judged on taste and given a score from one being the worst, to 10 being the best. Aurora took third place, Silverthorne came in second and Denver water got the best scores of the day, winning first place and heading on to the national round.

More coverage from Alex Miller writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

This wasn’t a competition between high-end bottled waters or exotic H20 from faraway lands but, rather, an evaluation of tap water from Colorado and Wyoming municipalities. The occasion was a gathering at Keystone of water professionals as part of the joint conference of the American Water Works Association — Rocky Mountain Section and the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association. That works out to a lot of acronyms, but the bottom line was water and how to treat it for human consumption. As one of the judges in the “Best of the Rocky Mountains” water taste test Tuesday morning, I was charged with evaluating 13 water samples from different municipalities in a blind taste test with three other judges.

When I came across sample “C,” however, I figured I was close to a winner. The water was clean, crisp and devoid of any kind of unidentifiable smell or taste — yet it had a pleasant flavor and “finish” that ultimately yielded it a “10” on my scorecard. That it turned out to be from Silverthorne didn’t surprise me, since I lived in that town for many years and always loved the tap water. “We spend a lot of time on it,” said Town of Silverthorne water supervisor Chris Shelden of the water’s taste. “It’s all about keeping a minimal amount of treatment while still staying within the state and EPA guidelines for water quality.”

In first place was Denver Water, which one can justifiably point to as our water in the first place as a headwater county. The same goes for Aurora, the third-place finisher. If any other Summit County water providers competed, I wasn’t aware of it since none of them placed in the top six (rounded out by Broomfield, Centennial and Fort Morgan).

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Lori Peck):

Denver Water placed first in a taste test among water utilities in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico at the American Water Works Association Rocky Mountain Section’s (RMSAWWA) annual conference at Keystone Resort in Colorado. Today’s event was the Rocky Mountain Section’s third annual taste test and Denver Water’s second first-place ranking in the event.

A panel of four judges that included news media and AWWA President-Elect Jerry Stevens tasted 13 samples submitted by AWWA member utilities. Denver Water’s sample received the highest scores based on appearance, smell, taste and overall impression. The Town of Silverthorne and Aurora Water placed second and third, respectively.

“Denver Water’s mission is to provide our customers with high-quality water and excellent service,” said Ken Pollock, superintendent of water treatment for Denver Water. “The water utility members of the Rocky Mountain section of the AWWA bring strong competition each year. Our win reflects the dedication and commitment that Denver Water employees have to high-quality water”

Denver Water will represent the Rocky Mountain Section in the 2011 AWWA “Best of the Best” national taste test at the association’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

More water treatment coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Fremont County request for a report from an independent water expert delays exploration permit

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The commission heard more than three hours of testimony during a public hearing Tuesday which focused on Australia-based Black Range Minerals’ request to expand exploration on an additional 2,220 acres of property known as the Hansen Deposit, which is believed to be the largest uranium deposit in the district, said Michael Haynes, Black Range managing director. The commission voted to table the issue until its 10 a.m. Sept. 28 meeting to allow the county’s independent hydrologist a chance to comment on the expansion…

Of the 19 speakers who voiced opinions during the hearing, only two were in favor of the expansion. Of those who opposed it, concerns were voiced about high levels of uranium in domestic water wells to threats to wildlife and plummeting property values. Virgil Burke said his well has, “Gone up to three times the allowable limit (for uranium) since they started drilling the first holes. It has cost me $5,000 to get the radiation down to where it is safe.”[…]

“There are elevated uranium contents in that area — some have gone down, some have gone up, but it could be normal sample variability,” [Black Range hydrologist Susan Wyman] said. “We have not seen a statistical increase in water (uranium) concentrations.”

Opponents also said new monitoring wells were not drilled to get background data before exploration drilling resumed. “Those wells were to be drilled to monitor for the health and safety of the residents and they were not drilled. Who was watching them instead of rubber stamping compliance forms,” Nancy Seger, who opposed the proposal, asked. Wyman said the monitoring wells were put on hold because Black Range was looking at an additional exploration area and it would be appropriate to locate some of those monitoring wells in the new exploration area, if approved.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: The BLM is seeking public comment on possible development

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The agency will use the comments to help identify issues and develop alternative proposals that will be analyzed in an environmental assessment. The environmental assessment would lay out which lands would be eligible for leasing and under what conditions. The agency has already identified 10 preliminary issues for analysis, including impacts to water resources, existing geothermal developments and big game and other threatened or sensitive species, according to the agency’s notice in the Federal Register.

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Land Management (Michael Blakeman):

The San Luis Valley Public Lands Center (SLV-PLC) is seeking public comment to guide a geothermal land use analysis. Ultimately, the environmental assessment will form the basis to amend the Bureau of Land Management’s 1991 San Luis Resource Area Resource Management Plan.

The analysis will identify which public lands and subsurface mineral estates to make available for geothermal leasing. The analysis will also determine under what conditions these lands will be made available for geothermal leasing. Comments will help identify issues and be used to develop alternatives to be analyzed.

Written comments may be submitted by mail to SLV-PLC Attn: BLM Geothermal, 1803 W. Hwy 160, Monte Vista, CO, 81144 or via email to Comments are requested by the end of the formal public scoping period Oct 13, 2010. All public comments received to date will be considered in the analysis.

Information regarding the project is posted on the BLM website at, or contact Joseph Vieira at 719-852-6213 for more information.

More geothermal coverage here and here.