World Water Day 2011

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So how is humankind going to get drinking water and grow food for an ever-increasing population? The participants at World Water Day 2011 are hoping to figure out that riddle before more of a crisis builds. Here’s a report about the goings on in Cape Town, South Africa from The Guardian (Lee Middleton):

In Africa, where the rate of urbanisation is the world’s highest and urban populations are expected to double in the next 20 years, water services have been on the decline since 1990. Amcow highlighted the opportunities provided by the conference for African ministers, mayors, civil society organisations and representatives of development banks and the private sector to discuss how they can move faster and more effectively in closing this gap and achieving millennium development goals. The critical need for collaboration and communication between sectors, and the need for visionary leadership to manage the planet’s limited water resources were recurring themes.

Conference sessions covered topics as diverse as how cities can decentralise urban water management systems to make them sustainable, the role of water in urban green growth, and how cities can address sanitation issues in rapidly growing informal settlements and slums. “Urbanisation, a greener world, and coping with climate variability – those are the three issues that just about every session is looking at in some way or another,” said Margaret Catley-Carlson, executive board chair of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

Numerous speakers highlighted the need for a shift away from “old models” of water management and business-as-usual thinking. “I see a transition from people being consumers of water to people being custodians of water. We need to manage water as a flux instead of a stock,” said Anthony Turton, director of TouchStone Resources, a natural-resource management company based in South Africa, at a World Bank panel on public-private partnerships.

The privatisation of water supplies has been a controversial issue in the past, sparking protests when attempted in Bolivia and South Africa. Last year, the African Development Bank recommended privatisation as the only way to meet the continent’s water and sanitation needs. However, Richard Makolo, leader of the South African Crisis Water Committee, reportedly called privatisation “a new kind of apartheid”.

“I think the issue of who owns the utility and who provides the service is much less than it used to be,” said Julia Bucknall, sector manager of the central unit for water at the World Bank’s Energy, Transport and Water department. “There are some basic fundamentals of good governance of water that need to be respected, independent of who owns them.”

Snowpack/Lake Mead news

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From (Erin Jordan):

Above Lake Powell, upstream of Lake Mead, the average snowpack for the Colorado River watershed is 112% of average. As the snow melts, it’s expected to raise water levels in Lake Powell, which will then allow an increased release of water downstream into Lake Mead. The Bureau of Reclamation forecasts a 97 percent probability that more than 2.5 million acre-feet (more than 850 billion gallons) of additional river water will be released from Lake Powell into Lake Mead this year. The above average release from Lake Powell will raise water levels in Lake Mead about 25 feet.

Sterling: The city is partnering with CSU Logan County Extension to offer ‘Water Smart Turf Management’ classes

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate:

Presentations begin on April 5 and will be held on Tuesdays at the Extension office, 508 South 10th Ave. Suite 1 in Sterling, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The April 5 presentation title is “Soils and Soil Amendments” with Joanne Jones, horticulture agent, CSU Extension, presenting. On April 12, the topic will be “Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Turf Species” with Jones. April 19 will be “Fertilizing, Mowing and Aeration of Home Lawns” with Steve Cramer, retired horticulture agent of CSU Extension. Dr. Tony Koski, CSU professor and turf specialist, will present “Turf Pests (insects, diseases and weeds)” on April 26. May 3 will be “Irrigation Systems” with Joel Schneekloth, Regional Water Resource Specialist, CSU Extension. May 10 will be “Sprinkler Audits of Home Systems” with Tammy Maggard and Pat Harrington, Colorado Master Gardener volunteers. Maggard and Harrington will discuss the sprinkler audits that participants will schedule for later in the season.

More conservation coverage here.

Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority deals are the subject of a Denver Post investigation

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From The Denver Post (Karen Crummy):

Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, known as ACWWA, proposes delivering its excess water to Castle Rock, even though the water isn’t yet approved for residential use. Castle Rock officials are wary. “We’re comparing projects. We’re not rushing into anything,” said Ron Redd, the town’s utilities director. “We need to make sure we partner up in a secure, long-term water deal. We can’t afford to make a mistake.”[…]

“Given ACWWA’s current surplus of treated and untreated water capacity and Castle Rock’s future water demands, a joint solution involving Castle Rock, ACWWA and United could be advantageous for all parties,” wrote Jim Dyer, ACWWA’s government-relations director, in a Feb. 11 letter to Redd…

Ten days ago, Redd gave the Town Council a memo that outlined the proposed project: South Platte River Basin water would be treated near Barr Lake and conveyed south through a pipeline to a delivery point near E-470 and Smoky Hill Road. Castle Rock would then have to build infrastructure to get the water to the Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Parker and then to the town service area. Redd’s memo points out his initial concerns, which include the town’s reliance on water that must be changed from agricultural use to municipal use…

Redd and his staff are analyzing the ACWWA/United proposal and another one from WISE — Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency. WISE is a joint collaboration among Denver Water, Aurora Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority (of which Castle Rock is a member and Redd is board president).

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1286, Clarify [State Engineer] Nontributary Rule [Authority]

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee voted 13-0 to adopt HB1286, sponsored by Reps. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and John Becker, R-Fort Morgan. The bill aims to streamline the decision-making process on water permits. A 2009 Colorado Supreme Court decision found that water used in coal-bed methane natural gas extraction is subject to the requirements of tributary water permitting. The ruling granted Water Courts authority over permitting conflicts and appeals…

Nontributary water can be exempt from permitting, Following the court’s ruling, the state engineer developed rules to govern permitting within the framework of the court’s decision, and developed a map that reflects extraction operations subject to permitting under it. Among them were some wells in the Raton Basin near Trinidad. Under HB1286, the state engineer’s rules would be acknowledged in statute, appeals of permit decisions would be routed through the rule-making process instead of through Water Court and further appeals of those decisions to a Water Court would require a higher standard of proof to overturn earlier rulings in the chain of appeals.

The chief opponent of the bill to testify Monday was lawyer Philip Lopez of the firm White & Jankowski, which represents the plaintiffs who were victorious in the 2009 case. He characterized the bill as an attempt to legislate around judicial decisions, argued the ruling has not led to the shutdown of any gas wells and said the state engineer’s map confers by default a water right to the oil and gas industry that other water users must follow process to attain.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

House Bill 1286 raises the legal standard the ranchers will need to prove to win their lawsuits against State Engineer Dick Wolfe. Last year, Wolfe drew maps that showed which gas and oil wells needed to get water permits and which ones could drill without going to court to fight about who owns the water…

The Vance and Fitzgerald families took Wolfe’s office to court several years ago for not protecting their water rights from gas wells, and they won at the state Supreme Court in 2009. The ruling shocked the gas industry, and legislators worried all 40,000 gas and oil wells in the state would need to get water permits. So they gave Wolfe’s office the power to draw maps that show where gas wells interact with surface water. Gas wells outside the zone do not need to replace the water they use because the water is assumed to be so deep underground that it will have no effect on surface streams.

But the Vance and Fitzgerald families sued again, along with the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project and the city of Sterling. Several lawsuits are active, and the main one is working its way through the water court in Greeley…

Mike King, director of the Department of Natural Resources, urged legislators to pass the bill. Wolfe’s office is in King’s department, and King cited the extensive work the engineer’s office did to draw the maps. “What we’re asking is an affirmation of that to remove all doubt,” King said. “This is critical that we resolve this issue and that it doesn’t get litigated and then appealed to the Supreme Court, and we have a two-year window of uncertainty that would not be good for oil and gas production in Colorado.”

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here. More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1093 clears state House 65-0 on the way to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

On Monday, the Colorado House by a 65-0 vote passed an amended version of HB1083, which now moves to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk awaiting his signature to become law. It passed unanimously through two committee hearings, two votes in the House and a vote in the Senate — more than 180 votes cast, and not one in opposition.

The bill adds hydroelectric and pumped-hydro operations to the list of new energy technologies that the Public Utilities Commission can consider. Those projects would now qualify for cost recovery through rates…

An amendment to the bill that guides the PUC to consider projects’ impacts on aquatic life and another that firmed-up that downstream water users would not be adversely affected by new hydro projects helped the legislation to sail through the Legislature. In the Senate a provision was added that directs the PUC to consider the costs and benefits associated with projects when mulling their approval.

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