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.