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.