Pueblo: Stormwater seminar January 27

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From KKTV.com (Jason Aubry):

The seminar will be held at the Pueblo Convention Center’s Fortino Grand Hall A. It starts at 8:00 a.m. and run until 11:00 a.m. with the intent of answering question from the business sector, contractors and developers regarding storm water discharges that end up draining downstream.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

CWCB: Next Water Availability Task Force meeting January 18

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

The next Water Availability Task Force (WATF) is scheduled for Tuesday, January 18, 2011 from 9:30-11:00am at the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO, in the Bighorn Room.

More CWCB coverage here.

Telluride: City council gives a thumbs up to the proposed instream flow right for the San Miguel River

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From The Telluride Watch (Karen James):

As the Colorado Water Conservation Board prepares to decide whether or not to file for an instream water right on the lower San Miguel River at a meeting in Denver later this month, the Town of Telluride has added its voice to that of San Miguel County’s and others in support of the filing.

“The health of the San Miguel River is important to the Telluride community in terms of economic and environmental factors. The outdoor recreation industry in this area is quite dependent upon flows within the river system necessary to sustain fishing, whitewater and related activities. The health of the river ecosystem is intrinsically tied to wildlife habitat, wetland and riparian values that truly define this beautiful part of Colorado,” states a letter to the CWCB and approved by the council when it met on Tuesday.

If approved, the instream flow would establish minimum flows in a 16.5-mile stretch of the river located in Montrose County reaching from Calamity Draw west of Naturita to the Dolores River confluence, primarily to prevent three dwindling species of native fish there from being listed for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The CWCB considered filing for the appropriation this time last year, but delayed its decision at the request of the San Miguel County BOCC and other entities in order to allow downstream water users time to figure out off-stem water storage to meet their future needs and to file for any additional water rights they might require.

“We wanted to try and guarantee that the instream flow is what it should be,” said Fraser of the town government’s support. “Some people may not agree, but we are doing what we think is right for the community and the region.”[…]

And speaking of the San Miguel River, council would also like to see sections of the waterway that have been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System actually protected as such.

In a letter to the US Bureau of Land Management Uncompahgre Field Office, which is currently seeking public comment concerning 11 segments of the San Miguel that were determined to be eligible for the designation following an exhaustive inventory process throughout the 675,000-acre Uncompahgre Planning Area, the town underscored its support for “prompt, extensive and reliable protection,” for every eligible segment in the river, and those segments and tributaries within proximity to the Telluride community, in particular.

“The San Miguel River system as a whole, and certainly those segments and tributaries identified, are inclusive of outstandingly remarkable values in terms of natural flows, river health, riparian habitat, recreational opportunities and scenery,” reads a letter to the agency approved by council on Tuesday.

Accordingly, the town believes that the majority of those stream segments found eligible for protection would be best preserved with designations as suitable for protection.

More San Miguel watershed coverage here and here.

The University of Wyoming’s ‘King Air’ research aircraft is being used for the Colorado Airborne Multiphase Cloud Study

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Here’s the release from the University of Wyoming:

King Air, the University of Wyoming’s uniquely-instrumented research aircraft, is working on a first-of-its-kind experiment over the skies of Colorado that could help scientists to better understand the changing climate of the Intermountain West.

The Colorado Airborne Multiphase Cloud Study (CAMPS), led by University of Colorado professor Linnea Avallone, is working in partnership with a five-month, multiple-elevation study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility. Researchers will work to capture a vertical profile of the clouds that are common across mountain slopes.

King Air will fly up to 100 hours through February, collecting data from inside mixed-phase clouds (containing both liquid and ice particles) with its numerous specialized meteorological sensors and data recording equipment.

“The overriding idea is to find out if the models that people use to understand climate really represent what happens in clouds and in these types of winter storms,” says Gannet Hallar, director of Storm Peak Laboratory, a permanent atmospheric research facility atop Mount Werner in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Adds Avallone, “Our climate is changing and people want to know, ‘What’s it going to look like in the winter here 15 years from now? Are these types of clouds going to become more common? Are they going to precipitate more or less?'”

Data from King Air will be combined with results from STORMVEX (Storm Peak Laboratory Cloud Property Validation Experiment) to allow scientists to study how clouds, especially those that produce rain and snow, evolve in mountainous terrain. The data will also be used to verify the accuracy of measurements used in computer models of the Earth’s climate system.

The ground-based STORMVEX campaign, which began in November, will obtain data about liquid and mixed-phase clouds from remote-sensing instruments at four sites at the Steamboat Ski Resort. All instrumentation on the ground will be replicated on King Air, providing what Avallone calls an “amazing opportunity to measure the properties of the clouds.”

The instrumentation aboard King Air will, among other things, measure air temperature, count and measure the size of cloud particles and measure the amount of water contained in the particles.

“Some of the largest uncertainties in climate change models have to do with clouds, and, in particular, these mixed-phase clouds that are part ice and part water. Those clouds are the most difficult to model,” Hallar says. “This is the first time we’ll see (these clouds), from the top to the bottom. We have the entire mountain covered with remote-sensing instruments and we also have above the mountain covered with the aircraft. This is a very unique opportunity.”

The CAMPS project, funded through the National Science Foundation, also represents a unique opportunity for three students.

Undergraduate students Aaron Piña, from Texas A&M University, and Erica Strom, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, are actively involved with data collection and flight forecasting for the project. Both students will spend time aboard King Air during flight.

Piña is being funded through the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s SOARS (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science) program; Strom is being funded through Storm Peak Laboratory’s GRASP (Geoscience Research at Storm Peak) program.

“This is such a rare opportunity, especially for an undergraduate,” Strom says. “I just don’t think many undergraduates get to do something like this.”

Another student, Dimauro Edwards, a mechanical engineering graduate student from Stony Brook University in New York, is also working on the project. He is studying instrumentation aboard King Air.

Additionally, Avallone says some UW students will assist with forecasting throughout the project.

CAMPS is the second major research mission for King Air in the past six months. Last fall, King Air returned to international skies for the first time in more than a decade, logging 52 flight hours over Finland for five weeks on a NASA-funded experiment.

2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: Governor Hickenlooper’s State of the State address

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Colorado’s future depends upon how we cultivate our intellectual treasures and our natural resources. Much attention has been devoted to a debate about energy, the right balance between developing natural gas, coal and renewable energies.

But the natural resource that may, in the end, have the greatest impact on Colorado’s economic growth, is water.

A recent report by the Inter-Basin Compact Committee makes clear that a “status quo” approach to water will inevitably lead to pressures that harm our environment and dry up precious agricultural land. We cannot let that happen.

The IBCC and other water leaders and stakeholders across Colorado are ready to work in a comprehensive way to develop strategies, especially conservation, to ensure that our cities and rural communities are both protected.

We want this effort close to the Governor’s Office but to send a clear and unambiguous message that water is a top priority in this administration.

We’ll take this ethic of collaboration and the search for common-ground to other issues besides water. Protecting our environment, keeping our air clean, conserving the natural beauty that defines Colorado – these are values we cherish and we won’t sacrifice them.

In this regard, we are surely on the right path as we implement legislation that was signed into law last year, the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act. This law places Colorado at the forefront in reducing pollutants, creating jobs and while it hasn’t been without controversy, we shouldn’t move backwards.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Rifle: Middle Colorado River Partnership seminar ‘The Colorado River: People, Policies, and Plumbing’ tomorrow

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership (MCRWP) will host a seminar on the Colorado River titled “The Colorado River: People, Policies, and Plumbing” on Friday, Jan. 14, at 8:30 a.m., at the Garfield County School District Re-2 administration building, 839 Whiteriver Ave. in Rifle…

Eric Kuhn, general manger of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, will discuss how the Colorado River is managed, what water goes where (and why), and the major issues facing the long-term viability of the river and its resources…

Friday’s seminar is the most recent in a series that the watershed partnership is hosting. Upcoming seminars will cover trends in regional water management, municipal water systems, agricultural water issues, and connections between water, growth and development. Local educator Mike Wilde, who also sits on the MCRWP steering committee, said education is a “top priority” for the Middle Colorado River Partnership. “Understanding our local rivers and watersheds, as well as the larger Colorado River system, is critical to a collaborative approach to watershed management and stewardship,” added Wilde.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

The World’s Best Photos of acequia

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We’re going to thaw out today in Denver according to the NOAA but if you still find yourself longing for summer when the water starts running in the ditches you can click here for a Flickr Hive Mind display of acequia photos and imagine yourself sitting under the cottonwoods with a cool drink watching the water move to the fields. Thanks to TaosAcequias.org for the link

The public vs. private water systems debate

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From the Summit Daily News (Elanor Starmer):

…a threat different from diversion has come to town. As communities struggle to balance their ever-shrinking budgets, investment firms and large, predominantly foreign companies are seizing the moment. Across the country, communities are being aggressively courted to sell or lease their drinking water and wastewater utilities to private companies. Since 1991, water utilities interested in profit have seduced at least 144 cities and towns into privatizing their domestic water systems. Most were in the nation’s Rust Belt. But this year, a record number of communities are considering it, including some in the West: Tulsa, Okla., Fresno County and Rialto, Calif., and Comal County, Texas, are all considering privatization.

But before they answer the siren call of private water companies, Western cities should heed the experiences of other communities. Because after the jolt of cash that comes when a city leases or sells its water utility, benefits drop off — sometimes precipitously. In the 10 largest cities around the country that have sold or leased their water systems, companies have raised consumers’ water rates by an average of 15 percent a year. Residents of Fairbanks, Alaska, saw their water and sewer bills jump from $543 a year before the utilities were sold in 1997, to $1,197 today, an increase of 9 percent annually. Residents of East Palo Alto, Calif., have seen their bills rise by 10 percent a year since their water system was leased to the for-profit company, American Water.

Luckily, as in all good Westerns, rebels abound. In the last two years alone, at least 18 cities across the country have terminated contracts with private water companies, usually because of poor service or increasingly high rates. The cities have learned that private companies often cut costs by eliminating jobs and delaying maintenance. Inevitably, this leads to service problems, while pressure to boost shareholder returns often leads to an increase in water rates for residents.

In every one of these 18 cities, bringing the utilities back under public control saved big money — an average of 21 percent of operating costs. After Petaluma, Calif., terminated its water contract with the Veolia company in 2008, the estimated savings amounted to nearly $1.6 million during the first three years of public operation.

Some Western cities have refused to be roped in by the new water cowboys. Last November, the city of San Jose, Calif., ruled out privatizing its water system after determining that it would be 30 percent more expensive to do so than to keep the system public. In 2008, Reno, Nev., rejected a bid from Goldman Sachs to lease its water system, which serves over 300,000 people. Yes, that Goldman Sachs: The company whose executives welcomed the subprime mortgage crisis with the line, “Sounds like we will make some serious money,” is also getting into the water business, as are other investment firms.

For further reading try Maude Barlow’s Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water which chronicles the often negative results of privatization around the world. I have not read her later book Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water but I have it in the queue.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Arkansas Basin roundtable meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Super Ditch request [to fund a study that would help define how irrigation water is used and stored as part of the effort to launch the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] for $225,000 came from the CWCB itself, because it originated through another process that is examining alternatives to selling agricultural water rights to cities. Super Ditch would sell water to cities through lease agreements by pooling the ag rights and fallowing the appropriate amount of farm ground. Roundtable members questioned whether the engineering data could be used in court cases that eventually will be needed to change the use of the water. A case is in Division 2 Water Court for an exchange plan to move water into Lake Pueblo. “The study is good, but we need to be cognizant of the decrees,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District…

The study has six objectives:

– Modeling reservoirs in the Lower Arkansas Valley that would be used in the exchange plan.
– Modeling Lake Pueblo operations.
– Looking at whether the winter water program could be integrated into Super Ditch operations.
– Recovering supplies that aren’t available for direct exchange.
– Calibrating and optimizing flow data from the Arkansas River
-Finalizing engineering data on each of the ditches to determine yield under different scenarios….

More on project funding from the article:

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, $350,000 to rebuild a dangerous diversion structure on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista. The project will improve water delivery on the Helena Ditch, which includes the Buena Vista Correctional Facility; provide safer passage for commercial and private rafters (one fatality and numerous injuries have been reported at the site); and allow trout to move upstream with the construction of a fish ladder, said Rob White, AHRA manager.

Blue Mesa study, $245,000 in a joint project with the Gunnison Basin Roundtable to study whether releases from Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River can be used to avoid or reduce the impact of curtailment under the Colorado River Compact. Otherwise, supplying additional water to downstream states during drought years could mean reducing transmountain diversions.

Statewide celebration of water, $86,000 for an effort by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and major water interests in Colorado to improve public understanding of water issues in 2012.

Colorado State University Extension, $47,000 for a program that would improve distribution of data from the Colorado Agricultural Meteorological network through traditional media like newspapers and radio, as well as in emerging media through text services. The network includes weather stations up and down the Arkansas River.

State Engineer. The roundtable also agreed to write a letter of support for a grant request from the account by the Colorado Division of Water Resources to improve its database used to tabulate water rights. The grant will look at how to calculate changes in the alluvial aquifer into water analyses.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.