Aspen: The city’s Environmental Health Department staff is gearing up to promote tap water as an alternative to bottled water

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From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):

In a recent memorandum to the council, [Ashley Cantrell, a city environmental health specialist] wrote that the complete elimination of bottled water “is neither an achievable nor a manageable goal at this time.” But a campaign to promote and market Aspen tap water is doable, depending on costs, most council members agreed during Tuesday’s meeting. “Rather than target bottled water as a negative thing, we want to promote Aspen tap water as a positive thing,” Cantrell told council members.

More water treatment coverage here.

Lake Mead news: Reclamation projects another 9 foot rise in water levels even with the summer’s projected draw down

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From The Wall Street Journal (Jim Carlton):

The fierce winter did bring some good news. The vast lake [Lake Mead] is rising for only the second time since the Southwest entered a debilitating drought 12 years ago. The water is 14 feet higher so far, and is projected to rise about nine feet more from the spring’s snowmelt by the end of the current water year in September. That takes into account the expected drawdown…

Lake Mead’s water level now stands at 1,096 feet, near its lowest point since the reservoir began filling in the 1930s and 110 feet below when the drought began in 1999, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The lake last rose in 2005. Already, that low level has forced the bureau to cut power from the lake’s Hoover Dam by 20%.

Colorado River basin: Flaming Gorge pipeline update — Million needs billions

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million announced plans to pursue the project five years ago, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is evaluating his proposal in an environmental impact statement. Last year, the Corps said it could take until 2018 to reach a decision, although Million remains confident he can move the timetable up. About one year ago, the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water General Manager Frank Yeager, announced its own study of the feasibility of the project. Communities with a combined population of more than 500,000 are participating in that group.

Shortly after the announcement, Drew Peternell of Colorado Trout Unlimited, published an article claiming the cost of water from Million’s project was too much for anyone but growing urban areas to afford, and suggested sticking in the fork.

Not long after that, Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable floated the idea of a state task force on either Flaming Gorge idea, modeled after the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Within the next few months, the Colorado Water Conservation Board had approved a $40,000 grant to determine whether the task force should be formed. A report is expected in June…

Million was encouraged earlier this month when one of his consultants, former State Engineer Jeris Danielson, asked Gov. John Hickenlooper about the potential for private-public partnerships to develop water projects in the state. Hickenlooper, speaking at the first State Roundtable Summit, said all options need to be considered. “I think Governor Hickenlooper understands the private-public model of cooperation better than many in state government,” Million said. Million’s plan includes setting aside some of the water, whether directly or through return flows, to serve agriculture and fill environmental needs in Colorado. But even if every drop went to cities, he sees the project as beneficial because it relieves the pressure on other water rights in Colorado. “What’s the issue? Do we continue to let water flow down the Colorado River while we dry up farms in Eastern Colorado?” Million said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Project coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1289 (Water Supply Structure Historic Register)

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

A bill moving briskly through the Legislature could make it more difficult for those old water supply structures to be included in either the Colorado Register of Historic Properties or the National Register of Historic Places. House Bill 1289, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Adams County, would require the consent of everyone with a property or water rights interest in a water supply structure for it to be considered for inclusion in the state or national register.

If any one of possibly many property owners objects, the structure would be ineligible for historic recognition by History Colorado, formerly the Colorado Historical Society, the state’s administrator of the National Register of Historic Places. “The fear was if someone needed to upgrade a diversion or a headgate, if it was on the historic list, then you have to go through extra paperwork or time and may not be able to get that done in a timely manner if you need to fix it,” Sonnenberg said.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Are transmountain diversions degrading the Upper Colorado River riparian habitat?

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

“We do a lot of guiding on the Fraser and Colorado rivers, and even before this we’ve lost a lot of insects. The green drakes on the Fraser are completely gone, a whole insect class that’s just disappeared,” said Ehlert, owner of Winter Park Fly Fisher and a 20-year guide with Grand County Fishing Company. “The other one was the salmonfly hatch on the Colorado. We still have them below Kremmling. But we used to get them on the river above Kremmling and now they are completely gone.” Ehlert believes he knows the culprit behind the mystery, and he’s not alone in pointing his finger squarely at trans-mountain water diversions he believes are sucking the life out of the Fraser River and Colorado headwaters. Shallow rivers and rising water temperatures have pushed the ecosystem to the brink, he said. “We’re fighting right now just to keep the water we have in the river, but I personally think we’re not being aggressive enough. We need to get the water back that’s gone,” he said. “If we lose any more, I think the whole system is going to crash. It may be too late now. Once the insects and food are gone, the fish are going to follow.”

Concerns over the health of the entire Upper Colorado River drainage have been magnified in recent months by proposals from Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to annually draw an additional 45,000 acre feet from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers through the Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project. If approved, the water that would otherwise make its way into the Upper Colorado will instead be diverted across the Divide primarily for residential use among multiple municipalities along the Front Range from Greeley to Denver.

As part of the proposal, the water districts are expected to submit both a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plan and an Enhancement Plan to the Colorado Wildlife Commission at the April 7 workshop in Meeker. While the required FWMP addresses expected future impacts from the two projects, the optional enhancement plans are designed to address past and ongoing impacts to the river suffering the combined effects of development, agriculture, sediment loading, whirling disease and diversions, among others. The formal presentation of the plan starts a 60-day clock in which the Wildlife Commission will determine its official recommendation for or against the projects to the state.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB 11-1083 (Hydroelectricity and pumped hydro)

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Under HB1083, the Public Utilities Commission can authorize hydro projects and allow rates to be adjusted to recover the costs of the projects, similar to other renewable energy sources like wind and solar…

Concessions to environmental groups that worried about the impact on aquatic life and others who were concerned about its impact on downstream water users paved the way for the bill’s popularity. “When we started out, I was scratching my head wondering how we were going to get this passed. We were butting our heads against a wall,” said sponsor Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West. “We backed up, just started communicating with the people that had concerns, and then it came on board.”

The bill passed through two committees, the Senate and the House twice without a vote against it. Experts testified that hydro is an economical way — except for the hefty up-front investment — to store and generate energy in order to fill gaps in wind and solar generation, and that up to six sites throughout the state have been identified as suitable sites for hydroelectric plants.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here. More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Pro-renewable energy anti-nuclear rally Friday in Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Opponents of a proposed nuclear power plant in Pueblo County are planning a rally Friday on the steps of the Pueblo County Courthouse, beginning at 4 p.m. A list of speakers has signed up for the event, but organizers describe it more as an “open microphone” rally where the public can voice its opinion on the proposal from local attorney Don Banner to rezone about 24,000 acres in the eastern county for an energy park, including a site for a nuclear power plant. “We’re trying to be positive about alternative energy, not just anti-nuke,” explained Suzanne Morgan, one of the organizers of Pueblo for Safe Energy, the group that has sprung up to oppose any approval of a nuclear power plant here.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — natural gas electrical generation: Black Hills Energy’s new power plant to get water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The company signed a 40-year contract with the Pueblo Board of Water Works last year that would provide enough water for up to seven units at the new plant, located northwest of Pueblo Memorial Airport, said Terry Book, deputy executive director for the water board. The contract is structured so that Black Hills pays for the water it expects to use each year at current rates for treated water. It also pays a fee for readiness to serve on the balance of water up to 2,500 acre-feet…

The new plant is scheduled to come on line by the end of this year, when a lease to purchase electricity from Xcel’s Comanche plant expires. “Black Hills is able to take water now, and will be able to make basic runs by the end of the year,” Book said. Under the contract, Black Hills is expected to pay up to $1 million annually to the Pueblo water board for delivery of water.

More energy policy coverage here.

Sustainable Community’s 29th National Pesticide Forum April 8-9

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Here’s the link to the website with all the inside skinny.

Thanks to Loretta Lohman for the link.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1286 (Clarify State Engineer Nontributary Rule Authority) sails through the state House

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Click here for Joe Hanel’s analysis of the bill from The Durango Herald.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Under HB1286, Water Court would be the last line of appeal for decisions by the state engineer. The bill arose in response to a 2009 Colorado Supreme Court ruling that found oil and gas wells are subject to the tributary water permitting process. Supporters of the bill have said it would streamline the permitting and appeal processes. In a committee hearing, an opponent objected that it represents legislative side-stepping of the high court. Next, the bill will be heard by a Senate committee.

More HB 11-1286 coverage here.

South Platte River basin: Morgan County Economic Development Corp. economic roundtable recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

It was an economic disaster when another part of the state saw its water rights bought up to provide water for big cities, and almost every local ditch company is now partly owned by one municipality or another, said Heath Kuntz of LeonardRice Engineers Inc. Fortunately so far, very little of the water which was once used for agriculture has been used for cities, but it will happen eventually, said Fort Morgan City Councilman Brent Nation, who owns Nation Engineering…

Lack of water in the future would mean little chance for industry to expand, and little chance for economic growth, she said. One of the difficulties is that the large cities can pay big bucks to speculate and hold water rights, and smaller rural areas cannot afford as much, Kuntz said.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Mark Udall, Colorado’s Senior U.S. Senator, ‘I’m a realist, and if you want to substitute electricity for petroleum in transportation, nuclear has to be part of the equation.’

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

In the wake of the Japan’s ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, more than just the so-called “dirty front end” of nuclear power – Colorado’s rich but sometimes toxic uranium mining history – is being called into question. The issues of waste storage at the state’s only nuclear power plant – the now-defunct Fort St. Vrain – and a lack of water to cool future reactors also are being hotly debated.

Still, Udall remains resolute in his support of increased nuclear power as a means of reducing the amount of carbon-spewing fossil fuels being burned to generate electricity and as a way to convert the nation’s transportation system from gas-powered to electric vehicles. In a statement last week to the Colorado Independent, Udall urged caution in moving ahead on nuclear power but reiterated his determination to do so.

“Our need to tackle climate change hasn’t gone away,” Udall said. “I’m a realist, and if you want to substitute electricity for petroleum in transportation, nuclear has to be part of the equation. However, any new nuclear power plants that are built — be they in Colorado or elsewhere in the United States — must involve lots of input from the local community and include robust permitting requirements, safety protocols and oversight.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Coyote Gulch turns 9 years old today

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Wow, 9 years. Here’s the link to the post where I dubbed the weblog Coyote Gulch.

I caught some momentum covering the municipal elections in Denver in 2003 where now Governor Hickenlooper was elected mayor of Denver in a runoff against Don Mares.

Later in the year Governor Owens tried to pass Referendum A and I found my “beat.” Readers kept sending me links and I was off and running on a labor of love.

It’s hard to know how many posts I created on the old software and Coyote Gulch — somewhere around 15,000. I’m up to 4,461 posts here on WordPress since February 12, 2009.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for the links. And thanks for the kind words when I’m lucky enough to meet you in person.

Water and the western U.S.: John Wesley Powell was correct

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From Huffpost Green (Brian Fagan):

In 1893, John Wesley Powell of Grand Canyon fame, Director of the US Geological Survey, addressed an irrigation conference in Los Angeles about water in the American West. He flatly stated that there was insufficient water in the American West to support widespread irrigation agriculture. Powell was shouted down, forced by hostile interests in Congress to resign from the Geological Survey. But history has shown he was right, for our reckless consumption has taken us far beyond the point of sustainability…

No question, our grandchildren and great grandchildren will live in a very different hydrological world. Quite apart from renegotiating the now-obsolete Colorado River Compact, we will have to break the habits of our lifetimes and use water very differently. If, for example, we reduced agricultural allocations and the amount of city water going to landscaping from 50% to 5%, we would save nearly 20% of the annual flow of the Colorado River alone.

Groundwater is also vanishing further to the east, from Colorado and New Mexico to Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, where the vast Ogallala aquifer under the Great Plains supports hundreds of communities, also large cities and major agricultural and mining activities. The Ogallala supplies about a third of the nation’s groundwater used for irrigation. US Geological Survey experts have calculated that irrigation alone sucked about 21 million acre feet (260 cubic kilometers) of water from the Ogallala in 2000, a figure slightly larger than the historic annual discharge rate of the Colorado River. Some hydrologists believe that the aquifer will dry up in about 25 years.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Snowpack/streamflow forecast news

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten informed water users recently that the river forecast for this year is less than last season, and the snowpack in the mountains surrounding the San Luis Valley is less than average. As of last week, when Cotten presented his report at the Rio Grande Water Users Association annual meeting, basinwide the snowpack stood at 80 percent of average, but that averaged 90 percent for the Upper Rio Grande Basin with 56 percent for the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. On Monday, March 28, the Upper Rio Grande Basin was sitting about the same, at 91 percent of average, while the Sangre side of the Valley had dropped to 53 percent. “It is not looking real good,” Cotten told water users. He said a recent storm helped some but not much…

He said the Natural Resources Conservation Service and National Weather Service are forecasting stream flows this irrigation season (April-September) at lower levels than normal, as well. They are forecasting 420,000 acre feet of stream flow through the Del Norte gauge on the Rio Grande for the April-September time frame, or about 83 percent of average. Adding in about 90,000 acre feet that runs through the gauge during the off season, the forecast for the Rio Grande at Del Norte would be about 510,000 acre feet for this calendar year, Cotten explained. He said the current forecast could drop even more if the mountains do not collect some spring moisture. Last April 1, the forecast called for 590,000 acre feet on the Rio Grande at Del Norte, and by May 1 that forecast had dropped to 570,000 acre feet. The river ended the year with substantially less than that, 539,300 acre feet. Of the 510,000 acre feet currently predicted for the Rio Grande this year, about 130,400 acre feet of water will have to be sent downstream to New Mexico and Texas to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations. Considering the state’s credit status, estimated flows from the Closed Basin Project, return flows to the river and other factors, water users are looking at a 7-percent curtailment to meet that compact obligation.

On the Conejos River system, the current annual forecast is for 250,000 acre feet, with 75,000 obligated downstream to meet the compact. That means water users on the Conejos River system are looking at 17 percent curtailments, according to Cotten.

From the Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

A spring storm dumped 12 inches on Vail and 10 inches on Beaver Creek, with more snow expected later this week…Aspen, meanwhile, got 5 inches…

The Natural Resources Conservation Service keeps track of it, and they don’t really look at snow depth when they measure water. They’re looking for moisture content, said Diane Johnson with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. We’re still ahead of snow water equivalent for this winter, running slightly ahead of the historical averages and way ahead of the 2002 drought levels, Johnson said…

The Vail Mountain site is at 108 percent of the historical average, Fremont Pass is 123 percent and Copper Mountain is 130 percent, according to Monday’s report. The Copper Mountain site has already exceeded its average high for the year, Johnson said.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Pueblo chapter of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union says thumbs down to proposed power plant in Pueblo County

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From The Ag Journal (Candi Hill):

Vincent Potestio, president of the Pueblo group, said the group is encouraging people throughout the Lower Arkansas Valley to call their county commissioners to oppose the power plant on this property. “RMFU is not against nuclear energy, we’re against the nuclear energy on the proposed site,” Potestio said. They are supportive of solar or wind power on the 75,000 acres, but not supportive of nuclear. Potestio said RMFU is concerned that if something happened to the plant, it would wipe out this entire area. “If this thing throws a cast iron fit like it did in Japan … everyone in this valley will lose their property, their livestock and maybe even their lives,” he said. “I know this will create a lot of jobs, but is it worth the chance of losing everything we have for the jobs?”

Potestio said if the Pueblo County Commissioners approve of the nuclear plant (they will vote April 25), “I hope, for God’s sake, that they make the company be bonded for whatever this valley is worth.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project update

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jackie Hutchins):

Rena Brand, a regulatory specialist from the Corps of Engineers office in Littleton, updated people attending a regional water meeting (The Poudre Runs Through It) Thursday night about the status of the water project…

Brand told those attending the Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future forum that her agency has taken the unusual step of doing some further study to create a supplemental draft environmental impact statement. When the document is finished, probably in December, it will be released to the public, and another round of public hearings will take place, she said. “So we still have a little ways to go.”[…]

She said besides Army Corps of Engineers approval, the NISP project will need a water quality certificate from the state, Larimer County planning approval, and approvals from the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Historical Society and Colorado Department of Transportation, which is involved because the proponent has proposed moving a highway to make room for Glade Reservoir.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

The Middle Colorado River Partnership scores a $64,400 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for study of the reach from Glenwood Springs to DeBeque

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The funding includes a $64,600 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as $72,200 in matching funds for the 18-month project. It is expected to begin this fall. “The basic idea is to better understand the resource we have and the challenges it faces,” said Chris Treese, with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which helped form the partnership. “We’re working to build greater awareness within our communities about the watershed and what it means in our lives.”[…]

The initial task is to analyze existing information and develop a “State of the Watershed Report” that assesses current conditions. Building on that assessment, the partnership will work with local stakeholders to identify projects or activities to tackle key issues. The final plan could recommend a variety of activities, from on-the-ground restoration projects to public education efforts. “The good news is that we think the watershed is probably in pretty good shape,” said Mike Wilde, a member of the partnership’s steering committee who also sits on the Mount Sopris Soil Conservation District. “But should we take that as a given? Or are there things we should be doing proactively to ensure its long term health?”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

La Niña update

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

In a three-month outlook covering April through June, National Weather Service forecasters say the weakening La Niña (cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific) will continue to influence Colorado’s weather, but to a continually lessening degree. Off the coast of Central America and northern South America, sea surface temperatures have actually climbed above average.

Through the first part of the three-month period, a west-to-east jet stream is expected to dominate the weather, with occasional dips (short-wave troughs) bringing spells of mountain snow on west-facing slopes favored under orographic conditions.

“The Pacific jet stream will likely continue to produce periods of moderate to heavy mountain snowfall on progressively higher west-facing mountain slopes as temperatures rise through at least the end of April,” forecaster Mike Baker said. ” … (A)t the same time, this prevailing zonal flow pattern will also continue to generate periods of abnormally warm and very dry weather, accompanied by potentially damaging downslope (Chinook) wind events in areas east of the Continental Divide.” This wind-flow pattern is also an important part of the Great Sand Dunes ecosystem in the San Luis Valley, helping to replenish the dunes,” he explained.

Later in May and into June, the pattern really starts to change. June is often one of the driest months in the high country, as increasingly warm temperatures in the desert southwest and across the Great Basin build a bubble of high pressure that pushes the jet stream farther north. Troughs in the jet stream will still dive southward across Wyoming and into Utah, but not as frequently. The same pattern can bring strong, gusty northwest winds to the Front Range and nearby plains, leading to a continued high fire hazard in that region. Currently, the eastern half of the state is rated as being in a moderate to severe drought, with little relief in sight in the next three months.

Energy policy — nuclear: What is the future of nuclear power generation in Colorado?

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From the Associated Press (Lori Obert) via

A need for electricity and jobs is driving the proposal [for a nuclear power plant in Pueblo County]. But three days of recent public hearings underscored mixed public opinion after the Japan disaster — sentiments driven by conflicting desires for jobs, tax revenue, energy diversification and safety.

“Nuclear is the safest form of electric generation there is, and it’d be a shot in the arm for the county and city,” 55-year-old Gerald Campbell, who holds a doctorate in molecular biology, said after listening to opponents at one Pueblo County Commission meeting.

“People are afraid of what they don’t know,” said Aaron Ackerman, a Pueblo native and nuclear engineering student at the Colorado School of Mines. He noted that the containment domes around the nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi complex weren’t built to withstand the disasters that struck it.

Rancher Abel Rael, 64, opposed the project. “People aren’t going to want to buy vegetables from this area,” he said.

“There are a lot of competing interests here,” said Commissioner Jeff Chostner. “All of that is background for making a very local decision.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Chris Woodka to speak about his Chieftain series ‘Coming Up Short — Stretching Our Water Supply’ at the 17th Annual Arkansas River Basin Forum

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From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Chris Woodka, a Pueblo Chieftain reporter and editor, will be the luncheon speaker on the second day of the event. He will discuss a recent water series: “Coming Up Short — Stretching Our Water Supply.” Copies of the 15-part report will be distributed to participants.

Here’s the link to the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum website.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

IBCC Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program draft report available online

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From email from the IBCC:

The draft report on the Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program is now available on the CWCB homepage This draft report provides an overview of the CWCB’s program and projects geared towards the advancement of alternative agricultural water transfer methods.

The CWCB appreciates public input on the draft report and will accept comments through Friday, April 15, 2011. Submit comments to Todd Doherty or call 303-866-3441 x3210.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: The FRAC act is back — S. 587 (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act)

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, both Colorado Democrats, have once again introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act) to regain federal regulatory authority over the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

DeGette and Polis unsuccessfully ran the legislation last session, seeking to close the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” named for the oil and gas services company previously headed up by former Vice President Dick Cheney. It was during the Bush-Cheney administration in 2005 that Congress granted hydraulic fracturing an exemption from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Here’s the GovTrack page for the bill.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

CWCB: March 17 Water Availability Task Force presentations available online

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From email from the CWCB (Ben Wade):

All of the presentations from the meeting can be found on the CWCB website. If you have any questions regarding the drought update, please email Veva Deheza.

The next scheduled meeting for the Water Availability Task Force is April 14, 2011 at the Colorado Division of Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO.

More CWCB coverage here.

The Stockholm Water Institute: American Environmental Scientist — Stephen R. Carpenter — Named the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate

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Here’s the announcement from the Stockholm Water Institute.

Thanks to Loretta Lohman for the link.

Energy policy — nuclear: Japan’s disaster sinks uranium futures

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The disaster shook the world’s uranium market the same week that Energy Fuels Inc. was wrapping up a financing deal for its proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill, between Naturita and Paradox, said Gary Steele, the company’s vice president for corporate marketing. “I’ve had better weeks than the last one, believe me,” Steele said. Tuesday’s weekly spot price of uranium fell to $60 per pound, according to UxC Consulting, a company that tracks global uranium prices. That’s down $6.50 from a week earlier and $12 from the end of January…

Already, China and Germany have announced moratoriums on new nuclear plants, and U.S. congressmen like Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey are calling for the same thing here. Italy will hold a national referendum on building more nuclear plants in June. Reaction to the disaster has played havoc with Energy Fuels and other uranium companies, which mostly are headquartered in Canada. “It is sell now, ask questions later for the uranium market,” Canada’s Financial Post said Tuesday.

Energy Fuels wrapped up its plan Thursday to sell $10 million in shares of the company. The price was dependent on market conditions at the time, and Energy Fuels stock had dropped to 41.5 cents per share at Thursday’s close on the Toronto stock exchange, down from 87 cents the day before the earthquake.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs SB 11-021 (Term Limits Water Facility Operators Boards)

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From the Longmont Times:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today signed Black Hawk Democratic Sen. Jeanne Nicholson’s Senate Bill 21, removing term limits for people serving on the state’s Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Certification Board. Previously, members of that panel had been capped at serving two consecutive four-year terms.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: What is the future of nuclear power generation in Colorado?

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has long been a proponent of launching a nuclear power renaissance in the United States to combat the climate change impacts of carbon-spewing fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, which currently dominate as the nation’s preferred and cheapest methods of generating electricity. Nuclear, largely on hold in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania in 1979, still produces 20 percent of the nation’s electrical power. Udall would not directly address [Pueblo Attorney Don Banner’s] nuclear power plant concept in Pueblo, but the Democratic senator did say the earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant should serve as a serious wake-up call for the nation’s new-found nuclear ambitions. “The tragedy in Japan should give us all pause,” Udall told the Colorado Independent this week. “It’s a reminder of how important it is to ensure we proceed carefully and cautiously on nuclear energy, especially regarding spent fuel storage. We need to review our own nuclear facilities and future plans to ensure we’re prepared not only for disaster, but also to deal with the waste.”

Spent nuclear fuel rods stored onsite at Fukushima Daiichi have exacerbated the crisis and hampered response efforts, and the New York Times this week reported similar waste-storage situations exist at many of the 104 nuclear reactors currently operating in the United States. Efforts to establish a national repository for spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada have been derailed by politics.

Mr. Williams reporting got him a recent gig on Rocky Mountain PBS show Colorado State of Mind.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1286 (Clarify State Engineer Nontributary Rule Authority) passes the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee

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From The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland):

The state is made up of groundwater basins, designed by the Colorado Ground Water Commission. Nontributary groundwater is located outside those basins, and is defined as places where water withdrawal, within 100 years, will not “deplete the flow of a natural stream at an annual rate greater than one-tenth of one percent” per year. It is water that is so deep and isolated from surface water that the impact of its withdrawal would be minimal.

More importantly, nontributary groundwater is not subject to the doctrine of prior appropriation. That’s a fundamental concept within Colorado water law, and in its simplest form says whomever was there first gets the water right. According to the HB 1286 fiscal note, nontributary groundwater “is based on ownership of the overlying land and a 100-year aquifer life expectancy.”

According to [State Engineer Dick Wolfe’s] presentation, a domestic water well generally drills down to about 300 feet. An oil or gas well may need to drill down by 3,000 feet or more, and in Southwestern Colorado, they’re drilling for coal bed methane at levels up to 7,000 feet deep. When an oil or gas well is drilled, it results in “produced water.” That’s water that is removed from a geologic formation during the extraction process of mining for oil or gas. Once the water reaches the surface it must be separated from the mineral. If the state engineer determines that groundwater is coming from a tributary source, then the oil and gas company must get a water permit. No permit is needed if the water comes from a nontributary source.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Lake Pueblo master storage contract update

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Here’s an in-depth look at what it’s going to take to get a contract in place, including an environmental impact statement, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The EIS will study the cumulative impacts of storing non-project water in Fry-Ark reservoirs, which could total close to 100,000 acre-feet in the next 50 years. A 2006 Reclamation study determined there is about 130,000 acre-feet of storage space available annually. Current contracts account for about 50,000 acre-feet of storage annually, and Southern Delivery System contracts now under final review would amount to 40,000 acre-feet. Security, Fountain and Pueblo West are in both the SDS and Arkansas Valley Conduit contract processes. Many other current users who rely on one-year contracts are in the Southeastern’s master contract proposal.

Thursday’s meeting was primarily about the cost of the EIS to each participant, and there was some wrangling about how some participants had reduced the amount requested, thus increasing bills for smaller districts…

Joe Kelley, La Junta water superintendent, asked if communities could expect to see as much or more of the water they signed up for in determining their share of the EIS cost. [Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District general manager Jim Broderick] and [Southeastern attorney Lee Miller] said the numbers used for the EIS are most likely a minimum that communities can expect to receive if they participate in the later phases of building and operating the conduit. Some communities may drop out, and the final decision will be made by future Southeastern boards. “We have spent four to five years in this process to determine use,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern board. “It’s not likely that the board would make changes.”

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

Under operating guidelines, an estimated 12,800 acre-feet of water would have to be released from the dam beginning April 15 to maintain flood storage capacity in the reservoir. But the Corps has agreed to allow 25,000 acre-feet of the flood control pool to be used to store water until May 1, and 12,500 acre-feet until May 15, said Roy Vaughan, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. “Unless something unusual happens, we shouldn’t have to release anyone’s water,” Vaughan told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

Here’s a look at the Arkansas Valley’s winter water program from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The winter water program was first envisioned in the 1930s, and began after completion of Pueblo Dam in 1975. It was formalized in a Water Court decree in 1987. It allows irrigators to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15. “One of the multiple purposes of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project was to store . . . irrigation water for summer use,” attorney Alix Joseph told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The southeastern district oversees the operation of the program, which benefits most of the major ditches between Pueblo and John Martin Reservoir, as well as the Amity Canal. The glaring exception is the Rocky Ford Ditch, which is now almost largely owned and controlled by Aurora. Rocky Ford always had the opportunity to join the winter water program, but Aurora’s decrees have changed how it uses the water.

The use of winter water, or Fry-Ark water, is frequently referenced in Water Court applications, which is always a red flag for southeastern district lawyers. When water changes from agricultural to urban uses, the accounting becomes complicated. “Any decree that uses winter water for purposes other than agriculture cannot store in Pueblo Reservoir,” Joseph said. That provision relates to the repayment of the Fry-Ark Project.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Snowpack news: The snowpack as a percent of average is declining across the state with the southern basins leading the way

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Arkansas River basin snowpack slipped below average for the first time this season, while snowpack throughout the state declined slightly. Dry conditions continued to worsen in the Rio Grande basin as well, according to measurements by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Statewide, snowpack is 111 percent of average, about 10 percent less than it has been most of the year. The Arkansas River basin is a mixed bag of snow conditions, listed at 91 percent of average, but not as bleak as the numbers would appear. “We’ve seen no appreciable increase in snowpack since the second week of March,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor, of the Arkansas River basin conditions. “Dry periods right near the peak of snowpack are not good. A wet trend is needed to get back to average, and one good storm could do that.”[…]

Near the Arkansas River headwaters above 10,000 feet in elevation, snowpack has already surpassed the average peak, which usually occurs in mid-April or early May. The readings are running 114-132 percent of average. In the headwaters of tributaries lower in the basin — the Purgatoire, Apishapa and Huerfano rivers — readings are only 20-80 percent of average.

It’s part of the continuing La Nina weather pattern — cooling in the Pacific Ocean — that keeps sending storms through the northern part of the state, missing the southern mountains…

The bright spot is that reservoir storage remains high and imports from the Western Slope are expected to be above average. “We’ll have enough space to store the water we bring over,” said Roy Vaughn, Bureau of Reclamation manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Over the next week, Reclamation will cut back its releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo to make room for an expected 70,000 acre-feet of imports. The water is brought in from the Hunter-Fryingpan watershed in the Upper Colorado River, where snowpack remains well above average. On average, about 54,000 acre-feet is imported.

Natural Resources Law Center: Navigating the Future of the Colorado River Basin June 8-10, 2011

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Here’s the announcement from the NRLC:

Competition for scarce Colorado River water resources is nothing new, but the conflicts that prompted the seven basin states to negotiate the 1922 Colorado River Compact have grown considerably fiercer and more complex in recent decades. In 2007, responding to the challenges of increasing demand and sustained drought, the seven basin states and a number of other affected interests agreed to a set of interim guidelines for allocating Colorado River water in the event of shortages. This agreement represents an important evolution in the governance of the Colorado River, suggesting that the many interests in the basin can work together to address shared risks, concerns, and needs. Yet, an increasing number of experts predict that this agreement alone will not be sufficient to address the many challenges ahead.

This conference will examine current laws and policies governing Colorado River management, highlight new developments and studies that will inform future decisions, and explore a broad range of options for addressing the identified challenges and opportunities. This forward-looking conference focuses on one broad question: What future do we envision for the Colorado River, and what will it take to get there?

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2011 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference — The First Drop Lands Here: Call for Papers

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

We would like to hear from you. Do you have a recommended topic or are you interested in presenting at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference this year? The 6th Annual Watersheds conference will be at the Westin Riverfront in Avon from October 4th through 6th.

The purpose of the conference is to inform participants about new issues and innovative projects and network citizen groups with agencies, consultants and legislators to expand cooperation and collaboration in natural resource conservation, protection and enhancement. Last year’s conference drew over 200 people from around Colorado! Click here to read more about last year’s conference.

This year’s conference will focus, as always, on issues we see affecting lands throughout our watersheds, but will also look at Colorado’s unique headwaters. Please submit abstracts and recommended topics within the following categories:

Protecting and restoring our watersheds
Education and policy
Water quality and quantity

The Watersheds conference offers the following presentation types:

Technical session: ½-hour presentation, indoor classroom
Technical workshop: 1 to 3 hours, indoor or outdoor classroom

Abstracts and recommendations must be emailed to and will be accepted through April 12, 2011.

Submittal of an abstract or recommended topic does not imply selection.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce calls the project an economic driver for El Paso County

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From the Colorado Springs Independent Indy blog (Pam Zubeck):

The study sets the cost at $880 million for phase one, to be completed by 2016, and up to $740 million for subsequent phases. Those costs don’t include financing charges, which drive the cost of the first phase up to more than $2 billion.

But researchers emphasize the great deal we’re getting by noting that bonds issued per capita for the Homestake transmountain project during the 1960s cost more than $4,000, compared to $1,600 for SDS. Homestake drove water bills up by 141 percent in eight years, while water bills will double for SDS within six years (by 2016). However, the study notes that only 75 percent of that increase is due to SDS, with the balance paying for upkeep and upgrades to the existing system.

The bottom line is we can’t all get as rich as we are hoping without SDS, the study says. “Without additional water capacity, economic friction surfaces; thereby limiting growth and opportunity by creating economic drag,” the study notes, and then says without SDS, we’d see 35 percent less population growth by 2050, leading to less personal income — $866 million by 2020 and increasing to $6.7 billion by 2050.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

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Here’s a release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

The “snow water equivalent” at the Vail Mountain SNOTEL site is measuring 107 percent of the historical average for March 23. Eagle River Water & Sanitation District closely follows snowpack because most of the water supply comes from snowmelt. The District tracks the snow water equivalent, a measure of how much water is in the snowpack, to help determine the water supply outlook for the upcoming summer and fall.

Higher moisture content in the snow should result in more snowmelt feeding local streams, which are the source of our public water supply. The snow water equivalent at the Vail Mountain SNOTEL site has been above the historical average since mid-December, and Wednesday’s measurement of 20.5 inches is far above last year’s (3-23-2010) value of 13.7 inches.

The average March 23 measurement for the Vail Mountain site is 19.1 inches, which puts this year’s 20.5 inches at 107 percent of average. March 23, 2009, saw the same value, while March 23, 2008, was at 23.5 inches.

While the District keeps close watch on the statistics, the weather creates the numbers. For example, 2010 saw an abundance of late season snow, peaking at 20.80 inches on May 16 and May 20, and the District saw a normal water supply year. 2009 peaked at 28.20 inches on April 21, while 2008 peaked at 29.40 inches on May 16. The drought year of 2002 saw a peak of only 14.60 inches, and occurred early, on March 24, and stayed there until mid-April.

The Vail Mountain site shows a historical average peak at 23.594 inches on April 28, so there’s about five weeks of accumulation to add three more inches to reach an average snow water equivalent year.

Data comes from the National Water and Climate Center SNOTEL (or snow telemetry) system, which is operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Weekly graphs are available on the District’s website or they can be emailed to you by contacting ERWSD Public Affairs at 970-477-5457.

Energy policy — geothermal: Gypsum town council green lights exploration project

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Derek Franz):

The plan to drill an exploratory well about 4,000 feet deep at the Eagle County Regional Airport has been in the works since July 2010. Since then, lawyers for the town and the company who wants to do the drilling — Flint Eagle LLC — have been sorting issues of water, mineral and property rights. “Thank you for entertaining this concept,” Robinson said to the council. “We feel we’re on solid ground after months of research.”

Robinson hopes to find water in the Rio Grande Rift that’s hot enough to use for heating or energy. The concept of going that deep is a relatively new one. Most geothermal resources that are used today are much closer to the earth’s surface…

The drilling for the exploratory well will take about two weeks to 30 days. The bore will only be 77⁄8 inches in diameter — just enough to see what’s down there. If there’s a resource, the diameter of the well will be expanded.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education: 2011 President’s Awards Reception April 8

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. From the website:

Each year the Foundation’s Board of Trustees solicits nominations from our members for our annual President’s Award. The award is bestowed on a Coloradoan who meets a predetermined set of criteria, including: a body of work in the field of water resources benefitting the Colorado public; reputation among peers; commitment to balanced and accurate information; geographical, gender, ethnic, and constituency diversity; among others.
Past recipients include John Fetcher (2007) and Ken and Ruth Wright (2008), and Dick Bratton (2009).The award is presented at an invitational annual reception held each spring in a location appropriate for the recipient…

CFWE’s annual reception promises to be a fun and entertaining event. Join us on Friday, April 8 at the NCAR Mesa Lab in Boulder. CFWE has the privilege to honor two professionals who exemplify what it means to be a water leader in Colorado. Congratulations to State Climatologist Nolan Doesken, receiving the President’s Award and Hannah Holm of Mesa County Water Association, receiving the Emerging Leader Award.

Download flyer and recipient biographies

Click through to register or sign up to sponsor the event.

More coverage from Sharon Sullivan writing for the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

Hannah Holm is coordinator of the Mesa County Water Association, an organization that offers an annual water course series to educate the public on water issues affecting the Western Slope. Holm will be given the Emerging Leader award at the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s annual meeting in Boulder April 8. Holm has been working with Mesa State College faculty and an advisory board comprised of industry, water providers, scientists, farmers and policymakers to establish a Water Center at the college to provide education and facilitate research on emerging water issues facing the region — from the Western Slope perspective. Field trips and a website of published water articles could also be offered at the center…

Water has been transferred from the Western Slope to the Front Range for the past 100 years. Additional transmountain diversions could be possible in the future to meet Eastern Slope demands for water, Holm said. “There’s controversy over how mush water is left in the Colorado River to develop,” Holm said. “There has already been a lot of impacts to the headwaters. There are some streams that just don’t flow anymore. Others are diminished.” Also, diversions take the best water, she said. “The pristine, high quality snow melt — it takes off a good chunk of that, reducing the ability to dilute salts and other materials,” that otherwise end up in the river, she said…

“The whole purpose of the Water Center is to help our region be as smart as it can be, because we’re going to have to be smart, and work together — whether our priorities are for environmental health, agriculture, or keeping our lawns green,” Holm said.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Silt family files lawsuit against Antero Resources over pollution in drinking water well

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From the Associated Press via Bloomberg Business Week:

Beth and Bill Strudley and their two sons live near Silt. They filed their negligence lawsuit Thursday in Denver District Court against Denver-based Antero Resources Corp., Frontier Drilling and Calfrac Well Services. The family is represented in part by a law firm that has filed a lawsuit alleging drilling by the Anschutz Exploration Corp. in New York contaminated the drinking water of nine families…

In Colorado, the Strudleys are seeking damages to cover health monitoring and medical costs.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Southwest Resource Advisory Council recommends 13 stream segments for Wild and Scenic designation

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From The Telluride Watch (Karen James):

Among 11 segments of the San Miguel River previously determined as eligible for inclusion in the national system, the local sub-RAC and RAC recommended five be determined as suitable for recreational designations in the national system. They include: Beaver Creek, and four segments of the San Miguel River.

No segments were found to have scenic suitability, but three segments: Saltado Creek, one in the San Miguel River, and Tabeguache Creek, Segment 1, received recommendations as wild.

Three of the 11 eligible San Miguel River segments: Dry Creek, Naturita Creek and Tabeguache Creek, Segment 2, were not recommended for inclusion in the system.

Among eight, eligible segments of the Upper Dolores River, the sub-RAC and RAC recommended that four not receive suitability designations. They include: Ice Lake Creek, Segment 2; La Sal Creek, Segment 1; Lion Creek, Segment 2, and Spring Creek.

Two of the four remaining eligible segments: Dolores River, Segment 2; and La Sal Creek, Segment 2, received suitability recommendations as recreational.

The final two eligible segments: La Sal Creek, Segment 3, and Dolores River, Segment 1, received suitability recommendations as wild.

On the Lower Dolores River the RAC recommended that one of two eligible sections, the Lower Dolores River segment, receive a scenic designation. The second eligible section, the North Fork Mesa Creek section, did not receive a suitability recommendation.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here. More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.

Longtime manager of the Uncompahgre Water Users Association, Mark Caitlin, resigns

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From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

Montrose native and long-time manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association Marc Catlin has resigned. His resignation was tendered Feb. 22 and announced March 14. The parting was not something Catlin had sought…

UVWUA announced Catlin’s resignation in a brief release. A call in to new acting manager Stephen L Fletcher had not been returned by press time.

The Water Users was created by an act of Congress in 1902 in the same legislation that also created the Bureau of Reclamation and authorized the digging of the Gunnison tunnel. That single event, Catlin told audiences celebrating at the 100th anniversary of the tunnel’s opening in 2009, made Montrose and its agricultural bounty possible.

Since that diversion of Gunnison River water, the Water Users Association has built and managed over 575 miles of canals and lateral ditches, which supply irrigation water to over 80,000 acres of cropland. UVWUA, through Project 7, also supplies water to the three municipalities of Montrose, Delta and Olathe, as well as to Tri-County Water District for its rural pipelines.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.

Sterling: Lower South Platte Symposium recap

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus) via The Fort Morgan Times:

Dave Nettles, division engineer for the South Platte River Basin, presented an overview and update on the water supply and the future administration of that supply. He noted the use of technology that will be used in water reporting and water accounting highlighting the fact that of 2010 most or all major surface water diversions in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 64 are on data loggers and telemetry. It was also during that time that remote reporting of flow meter readings was investigated. Nettles also addressed the proposed well measurement rules that are being finalized. It is ex-pected that there will be public meetings for comment and information sometime in April or May and the goal is adoption of the rules by the end of this year…

The first step to the [Lower South Platte Water Cooperative] was identifying the excess supplies of water and meeting the strong desire for optimizing water use, Yahn said. Studies included alternative transfers and other water sources after which time a steering committee was formed, made up of water users and water professionals. The steering committee members began meeting with potential participants sharing their initial objectives for the group. The major defining objective was that any plan for moving water must be “fair, open, and transparent and must work within the existing system of water right so that no injury occurs,” Yahn said. Objectives to meet their goal included investigating the feasibility of moving water and if there was a potential, to raise support for it and work toward implementation.

The group joined the Colorado Corn Growers Association Alternative Transfer Method (ATM) Project team and through the ALT grant, was able to study the various components of amount of excess, how it can be exchanged, how much free river water exists and if a new infrastructure be useful. The committee continued to raise support for further study through not only the ATM grant, but also CWCB funds and a WSRA grant according to Joe Frank, executive director of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District. The WSRA grant will help them to meet the objective of evaluating an organizational frame-work for the water cooperative and eventually begin operation planning and develop an organiza-tional structure. The ATM grant will continue to assist in meeting the objective of evaluating the operation plan through meetings with stakeholders, data, measurement and accounting needs, as-sess operational costs and methods of financing and other economic and operational considerations for the Coop. The ATM grant is currently in the contracting process and is scheduled for completion two years after the notice to proceed, Frank said.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Executive Director Tom Cech resigns from the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District

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From The Fence Post (Bill Jackson):

Cech, however, will remain involved in water issues, working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board on its 75th anniversary celebration, as well as teaching water classes at the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University. He has also authored books on water in Colorado and plans to continue that venture and work with CSU on water research. “I’ve enjoyed working with the board, the staff and our constituents over the years, but it’s just time to move on to other things,” Cech said. Central’s 12-member board, he added, has been aware of his intentions for several months and has appointed Randy Ray, the district’s assistant manager, as the interim executive director. The district has about 15 employees…

The board, Cech added, plans to conduct a national search for his replacement and at some point in the next few months will decide if it wants to hire from that search or look internally for a replacement.

The district, headquartered in Greeley, was formed in 1965 to develop, manage and protect water resources in northeast Colorado. It has grown substantially over the years and now provides water augmentation — water replacement — for more than 1,100 irrigation wells mainly along the South Platte River from Brighton, through Weld County and into Morgan County. A groundwater management subdistrict was added in 1973, and the well augmentation subdistrict was created in 2004.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Broomfield: City and County manager pulls raw water pipeline from council consideration

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From the Broomfield Enterprise (Joe Rubino):

The project, presented to council Tuesday, would have created a roughly half-mile pipeline along the western bank of Glasser Reservoir that could divert water coming into the reservoir directly to Broomfield’s water treatment plant. The project was designed to address concerns about the taste of drinking water from Glasser, and as a incremental step in the construction of the proposed Broomfield Reservoir project. City and County Manager George Di Ciero removed the project from council consideration Tuesday without it being put to the vote, stating city staff would reexamine the project.

Council raised concerns that the project was not designed in the most cost-effective manner, that it addressed only minor issues of water taste, and it was part of a Broomfield Reservoir project, which has an uncertain future. “I understand that if we are going to do a Broomfield Reservoir project, this is part of that project” Mayor Pro Tem Walt Spader said. “(But) until that gets resolved, I’m not that gung-ho on spending a million dollars on a pipeline for a reservoir we may never build.”[…]

A pipeline was necessary to allow a portion of the city’s drinking water, being pumped from Carter Lake outside of Loveland, to skip a stay in Glasser Reservoir if needed, according to a staff memo. Carter Lake, whose water is pumped to Broomfield via a pipeline owned by various entities, including Broomfield, provides Broomfield with 58 percent of its raw water. The remaining 42 percent is provided by Denver Water, according to Broomfield Director of Public Works Alan King. In recent summers, most notably 2010, Glasser was home to large blooms of blue green algae, King said. When the blooms died off, they created the chemical byproduct Geosmin. While nontoxic and safe for human consumption, Geosmin can be detected in drinking water in even small concentrations, leading to a “earthy” or “musty” taste and aroma, according to city staff…

Cost estimates for Broomfield Reservoir, designed to help the city meet its projected future water needs, are between $63 million and $100 million, and it would be the largest public works project ever undertaken in Broomfield. Construction was supposed to begin in 2009, but bonds for the project were not issued that year or last, because of a moratorium on capital improvement projects.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

National Snow and Ice Data Center: Arctic annual maximum ice extent reached

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From the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Arctic sea ice extent appeared to reach its maximum extent for the year on March 7, marking the beginning of the melt season. This year’s maximum tied for the lowest in the satellite record. NSIDC will release a detailed analysis of 2010 to 2011 winter sea ice conditions during the second week of April.

Overview of conditions

On March 7, 2011, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.64 million square kilometers (5.65 million square miles). The maximum extent was 1.2 million square kilometers (471,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average of 15.86 million square kilometers (6.12 million square miles), and equal (within 0.1%) to 2006 for the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record.

Conditions in context

As of March 22, ice extent has declined for five straight days. However there is still a chance that the ice extent could expand again. Sea ice extent in February and March tends to be quite variable, because ice near the edge is thin and often quite dispersed. The thin ice is highly sensitive to weather, moving or melting quickly in response to changing winds and temperatures, and it often oscillates near the maximum extent for several days or weeks, as it has done this year.

Since the start of the satellite record in 1979, the maximum Arctic sea ice extent has occurred as early as February 18 and as late as March 31, with an average date of March 6.

More climate change coverage here.

Rio Grande River basin: Some ditches to start running early

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

At the request of the majority of water users attending the Rio Grande Water Users Association meeting Wednesday afternoon, Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Division Engineer Craig Cotten agreed to permit an early irrigation start date for irrigators on the Rio Grande main stem (District 20.) Irrigators in District 27 (La Garita Creek and Carnero Creek) will also be permitted to turn on their water on March 28, not quite a week before the normal start date. In keeping with a new irrigation policy, the presumptive irrigation season for the Rio Grande Basin (the San Luis Valley) is April 1 to November 1. However, the current dry, warm conditions in the Valley have prompted irrigators to seek an earlier irrigation season start date this year. The irrigation season for La Jara Creek drainage began on March 16. Saguache Creek irrigation season began a couple of days ago, and Schrader Creek has also been permitted to turn on…

Some farmers said a small amount of water immediately would make a big difference in their crop success, and they believed they would require less water later in the irrigation season if they could begin irrigating sooner, on this end of the season. On the other hand, every week irrigators wait to turn on their sprinklers and ditches means less curtailment during the irrigation season to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations to downstream states, Division of Water Resources staffer Patrick McDermott said. He estimated that each week the irrigators held off, the curtailment would drop by 1-2 percent. Cotten estimated curtailment to meet the compact at 11 percent but said return flows have been 4 percent, so he was looking at a 7-percent curtailment, if the irrigation season began April 1…

Cotten said as of Wednesday, the Rio Grande at Del Norte was only running 200 cubic feet per second (cfs). Taking reservoir water out of storage would only push the cfs up to 250, he added…

Cotten said this is the first year the new irrigation policy has been in effect, so it is a learning process for his office as well as irrigators. This is also the first year well users have to follow the same irrigation season as surface water users.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

Blue River watershed: Longtime water commissioner Scott Hummer moves on

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

The former Blue River Basin water commissioner was the first to take up the Blue River basin post more than 20 years ago, and on April 1, he starts a new position in Larimer and Weld counties.

Hummer also gets sentimental when he thinks of his participation with the Summit County Open Spaces and Trails program — and its protection of more than 13,500 acres in its nearly 15 years of existence. He’s particularly hopeful that the department is successful in securing ranch land in the Lower Blue River area. “I hope (the accomplishments) leave the kind of legacy of why people come to this place,” he said of the organization he’ll likely miss most…

[Lane Wyatt, co-director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Water Quality and Quantity group] said Hummer’s been able to bridge the gap between ranchers and environmentalists during his tenure, which doesn’t happen often. He said Hummer understands how personalities drive what happens in water. And Hummer himself is more than his gruff exterior — like when he cared for his ailing wife for years. “He was an angel,” Wyatt said. “He did everything to make her life easier.”[…]

Hummer’s job has brought him into contact with “everyone who owns a water right,” he said, and he remembers being welcomed by some, disdained by others. The basin has approximately 2,600 adjudicated water rights and includes 1,300 individual structures — canals, ditches, reservoirs, wells, pipelines — that need attention, he said. He’s worn many hats — engineer, accountant, politician, attorney, shoulder to cry on, someone to cuss at. In many ways, water commissioners are the on-the-ground experts other officials turn to for information. Hummer’s jurisdiction covered an area that provides one-fifth of the water to Denver’s millions of users. The Upper Blue River provides one-tenth of Colorado Springs’ water. And among the state’s reservoirs, Dillon and Green Mountain are the fourth and eighth largest, respectively, and with great influence on the Front Range, Hummer said.

“To move in and initiate water administration in arguably the most complex and controversial basins in the state was a challenge to say the least,” he said. And it’s not just irrigation. It’s diversions, it’s junior and senior water rights, it’s power plants, it’s dam safety, and more. “The sheer variety of players in this basin demands oversight and knowledge that’s different than the other basins,” he said…

Hummer will be working with the New Cache La Poudre Irrigating Company and Cache La Poudre Reservoir Company, managing a canal diversion and small reservoir system that extends into the plains. His job is to ensure the water gets to the farmers’ headgates as they order it. “It’s the opportunity to do something different. It’s the opportunity to go back home so to speak and the challenge of working on the other side of the headgate is intriguing,” he said.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.

Rifle: Free irrigation system audits and rebates available starting April 1

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From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (John Gardner):

The Rebates and Audits for Irrigation Networks (RAIN) program will offer local homeowners with residential sprinkler systems a free audit that will provide recommendations for upgrades and improvements to make their system more efficient. The audits will look at water use and the overall size of the system in an effort to implement the city’s water conservation plan.[…]

The program will require qualified homeowners to fill out an application, which will be available at the city’s website,, starting April 1. Qualified applicants will then receive an irrigation system audit that will include recommendations for upgrades that will make the systems more efficient of water use. Program participants may be eligible to receive 50 percent, up to $100 to implement the audit recommended improvements, and an additional $100 rebate toward the purchase of a new irrigation system controller, or $200 toward a weather-based controller.

More conservation coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce calls the project an economic driver for El Paso County

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Update From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

“The findings of this report indicate new water supply capacity is critical to support future economic development,” according to Summit Economics, LLC, which prepared the report. The report, which cost $15,000 was funded primarily by Colorado Springs Utilities, which is building SDS, a 62-mile pipeline between the city and Pueblo Reservoir. The Center for Regional Advancement, an arm of the pro-SDS Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, and the Pueblo Board of Water Works also contributed money, said Stephannie Finley, the chamber’s president of governmental affairs and public policy…

…the report also found that the project will come at a heavy price. “While the financial impact of SDS on water rates is consistent with past water projects in Colorado Springs, it is a large amount of money that impacts area households, companies and organizations,” the report states. “Lower income homeowner households and water intensive businesses are impacted disproportionately. This creates hardships, especially with a utility rate structure that cannot discriminate between economic classes or business types.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Center for Regional Advancement commissioned a report on the economic impacts of SDS by Summit Economics LLC that shows water demand by 2050 would increase about 125 percent without SDS, compared with 175 percent with SDS. Summit Economics partners include Dave Bamberger, Tucker Hart Adams, Mike Anderson, Tom Binnings and Paul Rochette…

The report was released this week partly because of concern about upcoming mayoral and council elections, said Stephanie Finley, executive director of the center…

“The Southern Delivery System has been two decades in the making, and we believed it was time for an independent analysis of the economic impact of SDS, now and for the future,” added Martin Wood, chairman of the center’s board…

The center concluded that SDS is necessary for reliability of water supply for the future growth of Colorado Springs, which affects the entire region. Without SDS, the reduced water demand would mean a reduction in the rate of growth by about 41 percent…

The Summit Economics analysis predicts that Colorado Springs would gain 107,000 less people without SDS by 2050. That still implies there would be some population growth, just not as rapidly as what would occur if SDS is built. The growth rate would decline because of reduced jobs for current families, fewer military retirees, manufacturers locating elsewhere, fewer small business opportunities and slowdown in construction and home-building industries, according to the report…

The Summit Economics Report stresses the interconnected nature of El Paso County with its neighbors. While Colorado Springs dominates the economic landscape with $50.3 billion in sales — compared with $10.3 billion in Pueblo County, $2.4 billion in Fremont County, and $1.3 billion in Teller County — there is about $1.5 billion in trade among the four counties…

Colorado Springs’ demand for water peaked at 85 million gallons per day in 2000, but has slowed to around 70 million gallons per day since the drought of 2002. The capacity of the system is rated at about 90 million gallons per day. Colorado Springs Utilities estimates its needs will exceed supply by 2016, when it is scheduled to complete SDS. Work already has started on some portions of the project. However, if the rate of growth in demand for water follows the track for the past 25 years, demand would remain under the 90 million gallon-per-day threshold until at least 2030, according to the report. Utilities’ projection more closely follows the steep increase that the city experienced in the 1995-2000 period.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

South Platte River basin: $153 million ACWWA water supply project catches the eyes of the Arapahoe County commissioners

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From The Denver Post (Karen Crummy):

The commission also intends to publicly question Gary Atkin, general manager of the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, about the $153 million project that experts have criticized as mismanaged and risky.

Here’s the announcement of the deal from ACWWA in December of 2009.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.