Colorado River basin: Green Mountain Reservoir operations update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Starting tomorrow, we will be increasing releases from Green Mountain Reservoir to the Lower Blue River in 25 cfs increments. Like the increase the other week, this bump up in releases is in anticipation of late spring run off from the large snow pack currently reported in the Blue River Basin. The release increases will occur around 8 a.m. in the morning tomorrow, Thursday, March 3, Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5. By late afternoon Saturday morning, flows in the Lower Blue below the dam should be around 275 cfs. At this time, Green Mountain Reservoir is sitting at a water level elevation of 7901–that’s about 49 vertical feet from full. However, that’s about six feet higher than where we’d like the reservoir to be in late spring when run-off starts to come down. We’d like to start the run-off season closer to 7895.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

Water treatment: Montezuma Water Company is adding chloramines for secondary disinfection

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From The Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

Concerns have been raised by local residents after Montezuma Water Co. began adding chemical compounds known as chloramines to the treatment process of drinking water for much of rural Montezuma County.

Company Manager Mike Bauer said the issue was discussed at meetings for three years before chloramines were added to the process in December 2010. He said the decision to add chloramines was in anticipation of Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulations aimed at clamping down on the levels of disinfection byproducts created by the existing chlorine treatment. “The biggest reason we’re adding chloramines is to meet the new standards that actually have to be in place by 2013,” Bauer said, adding chloramines have been proven to reduce the levels of the byproducts of chlorine treatment…

Bauer said chloramines were also chosen because of their uses as a secondary disinfectant. While chlorine is a more potent disinfectant, it has a tendency to dissipate over time. Chloramines, essentially a combination of ammonia and chlorine, last longer and is more effective as a secondary disinfectant in the water as it travels through Montezuma Water’s network of more than 1,000 miles of pipe, he said. “If we use chloramines, it doesn’t dissipate as fast and it gets out to the far reaches of our system,” Bauer said. “That’s why large rural systems are going to chloramines.” For this reason, Montezuma Water has utilized chloramines in its long lines to Dove Creek since 2004.

More water treatment coverage here.

Lake Nighthorse recreation plan update

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Ann Christensen and Katie Nelson from Durango-based DHM Design said the process has come a long way since the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District decided to lead the charge two years ago in the absence of Colorado State Parks sponsorship. After a couple of public airings in April, two parallel processes can begin, Christensen and Nelson said. The sponsors can use the recreation plan to look for someone to oversee recreation and to look for financing.

More San Juan River basin coverage here.

A Sustainable Solution for Meeting Colorado’s Water Needs Through 2050

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Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Bart Miller), Trout Unlimited (Drew Peternell) and the Colorado Environmental Coalition (Beck Long):

Western Resource Advocates (WRA), Trout Unlimited (TU) and the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC) today released a plan that outlines how Colorado Front Range communities can meet projected human water demands through 2050 while keeping rivers healthy. In the new report, “Filling the Gap: Commonsense Solutions for Meeting Front Range Water Needs,” the conservation groups detail an approach that relies on low-impact water supply projects, conservation, water reuse, and agricultural-urban water cooperation to meet Colorado’s growing water demands.

Colorado is currently working through the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) process to determine how the state’s river basins can meet their future water needs. The IBCC is considering a number of new storage projects, transbasin diversions, and moving of water over long distances. The “Filling the Gap” report offers an alternative plan showing how Front Range communities in the South Platte River Basin, home to some of Colorado’s largest municipalities including Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, can meet future needs without new major diversions of water from other river basins. The plan outlined in the “Filling the Gap” report is designed to be less expensive than traditional water supply approaches.

“Filling the Gap” identifies some water projects that the conservation groups could accept, if they were developed using a set of economically and environmentally- sound principals for minimizing the harm to streams and rivers. Some of these projects include the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation, the Windy Gap Firming Project, Beebe Draw Aquifer Recharge, East Cherry Creek Valley’s Northern Project, as well expansion or enlargement of the Halligan Reservoir, Seaman Reservoir, and Gross Reservoir.

Coloradans are increasingly recognizing the critical importance of healthy flows to Colorado’s rivers and streams, which provide substantial economic and public benefits. For decades, many of these rivers and streams have been overtapped and pushed to the brink of collapse by multiple diversions.

“Many of Colorado’s rivers and streams are depleted to the point that they no longer support robust fisheries or recreational opportunities,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project. “Additional diversions from these streams could be devastating. ‘Filling the Gap’ charts a responsible path for meeting our water needs while protecting our state’s high quality of life.”

The report recommends that expanded conservation should play a key role in meeting future water demands. More than 50 percent of municipal water use is devoted to lawn watering, a use with low economic benefits when compared to other uses. By offering comprehensive incentives for consumers and industry to use water more efficiently, Front Range communities can achieve considerable water savings that can be used as new supply.

“This is low-hanging fruit,” said Drew Beckwith, the report’s primary author and WRA water policy manager. “Conservation is often the cheapest, fastest and smartest way to gain ‘new’ water supply.”

“Front Range communities are projected to double in size by 2050 so we must use water more wisely.” said Beckwith. “It is remarkable that increased water conservation and reuse efforts could nearly fill the gap between Front Range water supplies and growing demand.”

Agriculture, the largest sector of water use in the state, has been viewed as a target of water transfers to meet growing urban and municipal water needs. The report acknowledges that water sharing agreements can be beneficial to both sides, but “buy and dry” practices that permanently retire active farmland and reduce open space are the least desirable option. Instead, the report advocates voluntary and temporary market-based water transactions.

“By balancing competing uses and protecting rivers and streams, Colorado can sustain its growth and economy without harming its outdoors heritage and quality of life,” said Becky Long, Water Caucus Coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

The “Filling the Gap” report provides a realistic and achievable blueprint for meeting the water demands of a population that is expected to double by the year 2050.

The report and supporting materials are available at http://www.westernresourceadvocates.org/gap

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

The groups presented their own version of a “four-legged stool,” mimicking the imagery the Interbasin Compact Committee chose in presenting its plan to Gov. John Hickenlooper in December. The report, “Filling the Gap: Common Sense Solutions to Meeting Front Range Water Needs,” omits using new supplies of water and reduces the number of acceptable projects in favor of adding heavier emphasis on urban conservation and reuse. It also stresses cooperative ventures between agricultural water rights holders and cities, and using energy-efficient, environmentally responsible projects. “Many of Colorado’s rivers and streams are depleted to the point that they no longer support robust fisheries or recreational opportunities,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “Additional diversions from these streams could be devastating. ‘Filling the Gap’ charts a responsible path for meeting our water needs while protecting our state’s high quality of life.”[…]

The report identified 575,000 acre-feet of potential water supply without building new pipelines or tunnels, which were labeled as “old ideas” by Bart Miller, water projects director for Western Resource Advocates…

While cities have resisted characterizing conservation savings as a source of future supply because they are not reliable during droughts, Miller said that Western cities, in practice, are using conservation savings as a way to stretch permanent water supplies…

Other than small expansion of a few transmountain projects, Filling the Gap stays away from transbasin solutions. Additionally, it puts emphasis on cooperative ways to share ag water that keep water rights tied to the land, Miller said. “We are very much proposing no more buy-and-dry, but instead looking at voluntary, short-term ways to share the water,” Miller said.

More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The report focuses on conservation, re-use and conversion of agricultural water as cost-effective alternatives to developing new pipelines and reservoirs. Colorado is currently working through the Interbasin Compact Committee process to determine how the state’s river basins can meet future water needs. The committee is considering a number of new storage projects, transbasin diversions, and moving of water over long distances. The “Filling the Gap” report shows how Front Range communities in the South Platte River Basin, home to some of Colorado’s largest municipalities including Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, can meet future needs without new major diversions of water from other river basins…

The report recommends that expanded conservation should play a key role in meeting future water demands. More than 50 percent of municipal water use is devoted to lawn watering, a use with low economic benefits when compared to other uses. By offering comprehensive incentives for consumers and industry to use water more efficiently, Front Range communities can achieve considerable water savings that can be used as new supply…

The report identifies some water projects that the conservation groups could accept if they were developed using a set of economically and environmentally- sound principals to minimiz the harm to streams and rivers. Some of these projects include the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation, the Windy Gap Firming Project, Beebe Draw Aquifer Recharge, East Cherry Creek Valley’s Northern Project, as well expansion or enlargement of the Halligan Reservoir, Seaman Reservoir, and Gross Reservoir (the Moffat firming project). The key to making those projects acceptable is timing the diversions and releases to minimize impacts to aquatic life, Peternell said during a March 2 conference call…

“By balancing competing uses and protecting rivers and streams, Colorado can sustain its growth and economy without harming its outdoors heritage and quality of life,” said Becky Long, Water Caucus Coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

More coverage from Janice Kurbjun writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

The report combats utility company planning efforts that lean toward dams, diversions, pumps, pipelines and other traditional measures to provide the much-needed water and instead suggests using technology and creativity to solve the water shortage problem…

Tourism accounts for vastly more state revenue than agriculture, said Becky Long of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “It’s huge,” she said. “We need to make sure we have water for tourism.”[…]

But, is it possible to minimize impacts with these types of projects? “Yes and no,” [Jim Shaw of the non-advocacy Blue River Watershed Group] said. “Ecosystem development is based on natural flows. But, the natural variation is great enough that if we take water in high flow periods, impacts are far less than taking water from low-flow periods,” which can result in even lower flows and warmer stream temperatures. “You can do it better or worse, but you can’t do it perfectly,” he said.

Which seems to be the case with other measures, like cooperation between agriculture and urban water uses. The group proposes enhancing municipal supplies by granting financial benefit to the agriculture community through various measures such as water leasing. Shaw said reducing agriculture water consumption by 15 percent could create enough water to satisfy needs through 2050. “But with water law, that’s easier said than done,” he said, referring to the “use it or lose it” mentality that currently exists…

One main component of the approach is conservation — something both Front Range residents and mountain folk can be doing simultaneously, Long said. The report states that a 34 percent reduction in per-capita demand would result in a reduction of 362,000 acre-feet of water demand annually by 2050, some of which can be applied to new water demands.

More conservation coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: Woodmoor exchange case update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The exchange case was referred to Chief District Court Judge Dennis Maes on Monday, after the Pueblo Board of Water Works refused to settle the case in conferences with the water referee. The objections from the water board include the speculative nature of the exchange filing and concerns that water could be used outside the Arkansas River basin — Woodmoor, located in northern El Paso County, straddles the Palmer Divide.

Two other major El Paso County Water Court cases involving the transfer of water rights from the Upper Arkansas River basin are moving ahead as well.

A 2008 application seeking to change the use of water from the H2O Ranch in Custer County purchased for $3.5 million by Fountain and Widefield has been stayed pending the outcome of a 1996 Custer County water rights case that is being appealed to the state Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case could either increase or decrease the yield of the water from the ranch, according to Curtis Mitchell, water conservation and supply manager for Fountain. The water rights were initially projected to yield 600 acre-feet of water or less annually, but that estimate was shelved until the other case is decided…

A 2009 application involves the change of water rights from the Mount Massive Ranch, purchased by the Donala Water and Sanitation District. While all but four of the 18 objectors in the Water Court case have settled, the Donala case is scheduled to move to trial Tuesday. Donala paid $4.7 million for the ranch and expects about 300 acre-feet annually from the water rights associated with the ranch. The district just north of Colorado Springs envisions a number of ways to use the water, including becoming a future partner in the Southern Delivery System.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.