South Metro Water Authority supply strategies

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From the Highlands Ranch Herald (Chris Michlewicz):

Water providers that would once compete for water rights have joined sides to ensure the future vitality of the south metro area, said Ron Redd, utilities director for the Town of Castle Rock, who was recently appointed to lead the board of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Its members — managers of water districts large and small — use their expertise and vision to strategically calculate what needs to be done today and in the future. They know that water pulled from underground aquifers is a finite resource. That’s why the group is hoping to finalize an agreement this summer that will enable it to purchase hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of treated water from Denver and Aurora. The SMWSA is also trying to secure permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to store the water in Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 72,000-acre-foot reservoir southwest of Parker…

“It does not solve the long term water supply issue because it’s interruptible and depends on the hydrologic cycle, but it helps go a long way toward meeting our needs,” Redd said. Wise, which stands for Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, would in its first phase bring between 5,000 and 11,000 acre-feet of reclaimed water per year to the supply authority during the first five years. It would increase to 10,000 acre-feet per year on average during the second phase. The entities are still negotiating the terms of the contract…

The project is only a small part of the group’s overall goals. SMWSA leaders developed, phased and priced out a master plan that serves as a guide to future water procurement. The public can view the plan at

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

The Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association is organizing opposition to Crystal River conditional storage rights

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Here’s an in-depth analysis of the potential reservoirs and the conditional water rights associated with them, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for the Aspen Daily News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

[Osgood Reservoir is] one of two conceptual dams on the books for the upper Crystal, the conditional water rights for which were created by congressional decree in 1958. While it is not clear if anybody actually plans to build these dams, or a smaller version of them, officials are keeping the plans alive in state water court, sustaining the prospect of some sort of water storage project in the area. That’s raising alarm among Crystal Valley residents, many of whom would like to see the conditional water rights abandoned and the Crystal protected for its wild and scenic qualities…

The other potential dam would create what would be known as the Placita Reservoir, to be located upstream near Marble. That is seen as potentially more feasible, as it would not put an entire town underwater…

[Redstone resident Bill Jochems] is a member of the Crystal River Caucus and a veteran of the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA), which fought against the reservoirs in the 1970s, and won. Or so it seemed, until a fresh set of color maps showed conceptual plans for the Osgood and Placita reservoirs are still alive. After reviewing these maps, the caucus voted 34-0 in January approving a motion to ask Pitkin County to fight the conditional water rights associated with them. And then the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association sent a letter to Pitkin County, warning the specter of dams is hindering a federal Wild and Scenic River designation. The group is also concerned the potential reservoirs will push back the boundaries of the proposed Hidden Gems wilderness areas, as the maps show and the districts have requested.

The fresh opposition in the Crystal River Valley comes as the two organizations that hold the conditional water rights, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the West Divide Water Conservation District, are expected to file their diligence reports in state water court in Glenwood Springs by a May deadline for Judge James Boyd to review and rule on…

Today, the River District still holds a conditional right to store 128,728 acre-feet of water behind a 280-foot dam just downstream from Redstone’s historic main street. The Osgood Reservoir, named for Redstone founder John C. Osgood, would be larger than Ruedi Reservoir, which holds 119,000 acre feet. The district also holds a conditional right to store 62,009 acre-feet behind a 285-foot-tall Placita dam, just downstream from the turnoff to Marble, at the site of what was once the largest coal mine along the Crystal.

More Crystal River watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado State University Little Shop of Physics Visits Four Corners Region March 16-18

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Emily Wilmsen):

Colorado State University students will spend part of their spring break, March 16-18, on an educational outreach tour showing children in the Four Corners region how science can be fun.

Students from Colorado State’s Native American Cultural Center will join student volunteers from the Little Shop of Physics to travel to schools in Ignacio, Colo., and Kirtland, N.M. The Little Shop of Physics program engages young students with experiments that use everyday objects to demonstrate scientific principles. Watch a video highlighting Little Shop’s recent open house at Colorado State University at

On Wednesday, March 16, the group will visit Grace B. Wilson Elementary School in Kirtland, N.M., where they will spend time with students from 8 a.m. -1 p.m. with students followed by a teacher workshop from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

The students will visit the Southern Ute Education Center in Ignacio all day on March 17 and 18. A teacher workshop will follow the student visits from 4-5 p.m. on March 17.

Accompanying the students are Brian Jones, director of the Little Shop of Physics, and Ty Smith, director of the Native American Cultural Center.
“It is very important to introduce science and technology education to these students and their communities,” Smith said. “These students need to know they can succeed in these academic areas, and that can best happen through a positive experience with hands-on experiments developed by the Little Shop of Physics. We are very supportive of any program that will inspire children to become more inquisitive of scientific fields.”

Each visit to the schools involves hands-on science experiments for children and after-school workshops for teachers to enhance their curriculum.
All experiments were built by undergraduate students at Colorado State. The heart of the Little Shop of Physics is its traveling program that has visited more than 250,000 students in the past 20 years. Each year, Little Shop visits about 40 different schools and presents programs to about 15,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

More education coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Department of Natural Resources enter into agreement to improve and coordinate exploration applications

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The deal is designed to improve cooperation and communication between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Department of Natural Resources when the BLM and Colorado State Land Board receive geothermal lease nominations, and when any other DNR divisions seek to convey geothermal rights, the BLM said in a news release. It also ensures that those obtaining leases will be notified of any state and federal rules regarding considerations such as water rights and protection of existing geothermal features.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Coalbed methane produced water update

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From The Trinidad Times (Randy Woock):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) annual report to the Water Quality Control Commission and Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stated that the 2,055,900,000 gallons (6,309.3 acre feet) of produced water extracted by CBM wells in Las Animas County comprised 89 percent of the region’s produced water in the first half of 2010. The produced water amounts were reported in terms of barrels, with each of the 48,950,000 barrels extracted in Las Animas County equivalent to 42 gallons. A total of 55 million barrels of produced water were extracted by CBM operations in southeastern Colorado during the first half of last year. “There’s still numbers coming in for 2010,” COGCC Environmental Manager Debbie Baldwin said. “Those final numbers (for a 2010 produced water total) haven’t been published yet.”[…]

The most recent produced water figures are a drastic decline from previous years. The fiscal year (FY) 2009-2008 report showed 462,4746,197.4 gallons of produced water generated from Las Animas County wells, and the FY 2007-2008 reported 6,454,568,642.3 gallons of produced water in the area, though that amount was from a combined Las Animas and Huerfano counties calculation. The FY 2006-2007 report showed 7,127,366,514 gallons of produced water from CBM wells in Las Animas and Huerfano counties…

“Approximately 70 billion cubic feet of gas was produced in this region (southeastern Colorado) during the first six months of 2010, with 84 percent of the gas produced from the 2,906 CBM wells in Las Animas County,” the COGCC report stated. “Approximately 212 drilling permits were issued for oil and gas wells in southeastern Colorado in 2010. Approximately 82 percent of the 212 were issued in four counties (41 percent in Las Animas, 23 percent in Lincoln, 11 percent in Fremont, and 8 percent in Cheyenne).”

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

University of Northern Colorado rural economic development summit recap

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FromThe Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

“It’s difficult to differentiate red tape and what is an appropriate regulation,” [Governor] Hickenlooper said in addressing the problem. To do that, he said, he wants to find ways to help business grow while holding the state at the highest level of accountability and ethics. He also wants to assure that the state is pro-business but is also intent on protecting the state’s natural resources…

Vilsack addressed the red tape and regulation complaints by noting the federal government has been given a reality check and that it must become more fiscally responsible and use resources more effectively to “create economic opportunities.” Agriculture, Vilsack said, was the one bright spot in the recession the country is now starting to move out of. He noted that the export of agricultural products is expected to increase again this year after seeing the same from 2010. Those exports, he said, generate jobs. At the same time, the federal government is working to open new foreign markets for agricultural products, noting a new trade agreement being worked out with Korea will help open doors to China. And programs like the Know Your Farmer Know Your Food effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping develop local markets for locally grown food.

During the morning and early afternoon, Hickenlooper’s staff and cabinet members hosted breakout sessions ranging from rural communities and government contracts to hurdles and achievements in energy and from small business success stories to water conflicts between agriculture, municipalities and industry as the state looks at future growth…

Sharing agricultural water with municipal and industrial needs and new water projects were two sessions, directed by John Stulp, the governor’s special adviser on water, drew standing-room-only crowds. Stulp said the fallback of drying up agriculture to meet growth demands, “which is what we’ve been doing for the past 150 years,” is no longer the answer. Finding those answers, however, will not be easy, he said, but there are efforts being made. Some of those will be developing partnerships between municipalities and farmers may be one answer. Jon Monson, director of Greeley’s water and sewer department, said if cities lease water from farmers, they must have a first right on that lease if the farmer decides to sell his water.

Gary Herman of Platteville, who is a board member of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, mentioned another problem with rules and regulations. Central, along with several others, has been working since the 1980s, he said, on the reallocation of Chatfield Reservoir water, which would provide farmers along the South Platte River from Denver to Julesburg with an additional supply of irrigation water.

More Colorado water coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: SB 11-050 (Value Of Condemned Conservation Easement)

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

On Monday, a bill that aimed to compel fair-market values for easements was retooled, and now calls for a task force to study the issue in the months between legislative sessions. Hundreds of conservation easements ceded to the state for tax credits are being challenged by the Colorado Department of Revenue on grounds that appraisers overvalued the parcels…

The 12-member interim task force that SB50 proposes would be appointed by Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, and House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. It would include two landowners who have placed easements on their property…

Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, asked the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, whether the task force would be seated with respect to regional representation. Roberts said she hoped so, but that would be up to the Senate president and the House speaker. Legislative Council is studying the feasibility of the interim effort, and will report back to the Legislature.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here. More conservation easements coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1083 — Hydroelectricity and Pumped Hydro — update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Next, the bill faces a formal vote in the Senate. If it passes there, it will return to the House for consideration of an amendment attached in a Senate committee that directs the PUC to consider costs and benefits of hydro projects when issuing permits for new plants.

In its first trip through the House, the bill passed unanimously. To date, there hasn’t been a vote against it in either of the committees that head the bill. [Sen. Kevin Grantham] credited House sponsor Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, for building consensus among groups that tend to oppose hydro projects before introducing it. “Keith carried a lot of the water on this thing from the front end,” Grantham said. “He laid the foundation for the broad support it’s getting.”

[Sen. Angela Giron] emphasized that HB1083 is an example of bipartisan cooperation in the interest of job creation. She said if the South Slope project comes to be, it could be the bill with the greatest economic impact of the 2011 legislative session.

More HB 11-1083 coverage here. More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here. More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works 2010 water deliveries

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We aren’t getting a huge increase in customers, but there has been an increase. The total water use has remained flat since the drought in 2002,” said Terry Book, deputy executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The water board pumped 9.03 billion gallons of water in 2010, nearly matching the 9.02 billion gallons used in 1980. Rainfall for Pueblo totaled 11.6 inches in 2010, compared with 11.59 inches in 1980. There were 39,470 customers at the end of 2010, compared with 33,182 in 1980. Besides the increase in numbers of customers — and the homes and lawns that come with them — there is a marked difference in the peak days. The highest daily use 30 years ago was 56.8 million gallons on July 8, 1980, while it was 52.3 million gallons on July 2, 2010. “Without the drought, we were headed for higher and higher peak days,” Book said. “We could see the trend in water use creeping up, so we needed more capacity.”[…]

Last summer, there were fewer 50 million-gallon days than in the past, and in three years out of the eight since 2002, there were no 50 million-gallon days at all. The information jibes with a study updated last year that shows Pueblo customers have voluntarily reduced use by 17 percent since the historic drought of 2002, when Pueblo received 3.94 inches of rainfall.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.