2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: Governor Hickenlooper pow wows with Club 20

A picture named highlinelake.jpg

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Gov. John Hickenlooper, House Speaker Frank McNulty and other high-ranking state officials all told members of Club 20 the same thing: They’re trying to find ways to reduce government spending and help encourage businesses to begin hiring again. “The issues that we’re talking about are those exact same kitchen-table issues,” McNulty said. “How do we make sure that we have a budget that works? How do we make sure that we’re doing what he can to help Coloradans get back to work?”[…]

Hickenlooper said since the 2003 drought, the same year he became Denver’s mayor, the 1.2 million customers of Denver Water reduced their consumption by 35 percent. “The new head of Denver Water and the new Denver mayor are focused to get that down to 50 percent,” he said. “That’s not the whole solution, but I think we can get the other urban areas to use that same sense of frugality, that we don’t need to have bluegrass lawns everywhere and we don’t need to water them three days a week.” Hickenlooper said he won’t sacrifice the state’s agricultural industry or the push for new jobs just so cities can grow larger.

More 2010 Colorado election coverage here.

Energy policy: What is the value of water used in generating electricity?

A picture named nukeplantcattenomfrance.jpg

You can download Western Resource Advocates‘ report here. Here’s an excerpt from the executive summary:

Water has tremendous value — people, crops, industry, and the environment all rely on this limited resource. In the arid and semi-arid West, the value of water is even more pronounced, rising precipitously in times of drought and scarcity. Climate change models project increased rates of evapotranspiration throughout the West, more severe droughts, and reduced runoff in the Colorado River. Accordingly, the value of water in the Southwest will continue to rise.

In 2005, power plants in six states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming — consumed an estimated 395,000 acre-feet (AF) of water. These plants impact our region’s rivers and aquifers, and tie up water that could meet growing urban, agricultural, or environmental needs.

Electric utilities’ choices can have vastly different impacts on water resources. A wet-cooled coal plant, for example, typically uses three times as much water as a combined-cycle gas plant; wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels, and energy efficiency use no water; and employing dry cooling in a thermoelectric power plant can reduce water use by 90%. Yet most electric utilities and regulators do not adequately consider water in their future resource plans. Electric utilities typically appropriate or purchase water rights for new thermoelectric power plants, but the cost of these water rights does not reflect the opportunity cost of water use over the life of the power plant — 40 to 50 years or longer.

While the value of water is highly varied, it is not zero. This report attempts to develop a range of values of water for use in electric resource planning. Western Resource Advocates (WRA) analyzed the prices paid for water by the three different sectors that compete with power plants: municipal, agricultural, and environmental (Figure ES 1). In addition, we assessed the authority of regulators in the six states to consider water in evaluating utilities’ electric resource plans. We found that, across the region, the degree to which water influences regulators’ and utilities’ electric resource planning decisions varies significantly.

More energy policy coverage here.

Pueblo: No hexavalent chromium in water supply

A picture named hexavalentchromiumwikipediacommons.jpg

From NewsFirst5.com (Greg Boyce):

Water samples were sent to MWH Labs, a laboratory that is equipped to test for this specific chemical and all samples showed a result of “Non-Detected” for dissolved hexavalent chromium. The Board of Water Works will continue testing for chromium VI in each quarter of 2011.

More water pollution coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead are underway

A picture named glencanyondam.jpg

From KSL.com (John Hollenhorst):

In recent weeks, the level of Lake Powell has been dropping sharply. The agency that controls the reservoir is releasing 11 billion gallons [33,757 acre-feet] of water each day to help bring up the level of Arizona’s Lake Mead. Lake Powell always comes down this time of year, but the releases now are significantly more than usual. “That level of release hasn’t occurred since the late ’90s,” said Richard Clayton, a hydraulic engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. His job is to oversee releases from the Glen Canyon Dam. The high wintertime releases have triggered controversy. But the bureau has a message for boaters who worry Lake Powell might drop too far: “Don’t worry. Be happy.” The releases are prompted by expectations of the best spring runoff in more than a decade. Bureau experts predict, but can’t guarantee, that Lake Powell will eventually rise higher this summer than it did last year…

The release of water has caused Lake Powell to drop more than 13 feet, while Lake Mead has risen about 10 feet since early November. From a Nevada perspective, that’s good news. For a full decade, the big reservoir behind Hoover Dam has taken a battering from the region’s long-term drought. Lake Mead is currently about 42 percent full, and its surface area has shrunk drastically. Lake Powell currently stands about 57 percent full. This year, a new agreement reached by the seven states on the Colorado River will likely require additional releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. If spring runoff is high enough to trigger the so-called “equalization” agreement, it will require releases from Lake Powell sufficient to bring Lake Mead up to an elevation of 1,105 feet above sea level, according to Clayton. It currently stands at about 1,091 feet. “If we wait until April and don’t make appropriate changes to operations now,” Clayton said, “we won’t have enough time to release the required volume by the end of the water year.”

More coverage from The Arizona Daily Star (Pat Jacobs/Sharon Megdal/Warren Tenney/Carol Zimmerman). From the article:

Each year, the secretary of the interior looks at river flows and the expected water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Using this information, the secretary will declare the river water supplies are normal, in surplus, or in shortage. The key factor in the decision is the amount of storage (as measured by water elevation above sea level) in Lake Mead. Last year, Lake Mead at its lowest was only seven feet above the shortage trigger point of 1075 feet (it’s risen about eight feet since then). If a shortage is declared, Arizona and specifically [the Central Arizona Project] would be the first to lose access to a portion of our Colorado River allotment. As part of the agreements with California, Nevada and the federal government which led to the construction of the CAP system, Arizona consented to junior (lowest) priority to Colorado River water.

It’s important to note that even if levels in Lake Mead were to drop to 1,025 feet (a Level 3 shortage), Tucson and the other cities using CAP water would not lose access to any of their allocations. Municipalities and Native Americans have the highest priority rights to CAP water.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Australia: Cyclone Yasi bears down on Queensland

A picture named cycloneyasi02022011abc.jpg

I’m thinking of my new friends from Australia this morning. Less than a week ago we were talking about the Australian mega-drought. Today Australians are fleeing cyclone Yasi. Good luck y’all. Click here for the time lapse sequence for the storm.

Here’s a report from ABC News. From the article:

North Queensland residents are starting to feel the full force of one of Australia’s worst cyclones, with the category-five storm due to cross the coast near Innisfail about midnight (AEST). Yasi has closed to within 90 kilometres of Innisfail and the weather bureau’s 10pm warning stated it had slowed and was moving west south-west at 25kph. Hundreds of thousands of people are sheltering in evacuation centres and homes across the region as strong winds and heavy rain lash hundreds of kilometres of coastline…

[Queensland Premier Anna Bligh] says the potentially deadly system is the “most catastrophic storm ever seen” in the state and will pack winds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.