The fire “can mobilize a lot of organic material,” said Steve Gunderson, director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. “If that gets into a public water sys-tem, that can be tough to treat. It can mobilize a lot of sediment, and that can wreck havoc on a stream.”
Kevin Gertig, Fort Collins water resources and treatment operations manager, said it’s unclear if the Crystal Fire could impact the city’s water supply, but it’s unlikely the fire is burning in an area that drains into Horsetooth Reservoir, one of two major sources of the city’s municipal water. “Our current assessment is no impact,” he said, adding that city utilities officials can’t make that de-termination final until they see a detailed topographic map showing the burn area.
The city of Loveland takes its water from the Big Thompson River upstream of its confluence with Buckhorn Creek. “We don’t have any impacts to our domestic water supply,” said Steve Adams, Loveland water utilities manager.
Officials at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, do not believe the fire will impact Northern Water’s facilities, said spokesman Brian Werner.
“We’ll be seeing drastically different runoffs when we get things warming up,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “We’re likely to see water availability shortages down south. We’ll probably have a little more water than we know what to do with up north. It could be some high water.”[…]
Data collected during March showed the snowpack at 130 percent of average in the Colorado River Basin, 135 percent along the North Platte River, 131 percent along the Yampa and 123 percent along the South Platte. That’s the best snowpack report for the South Platte since 1997.
Around southern Colorado, however, tributary systems flowing into major rivers contain 50 to 70 percent of average snowpack, Gillespie said. The snowpack along the Rio Grande River was measured at 76 percent of average, and 86 percent for the San Juan, Animas, San Miguel and Dolores rivers.
The bigger losers in this water-soluble game of Chinese fire drill are agriculture, which currently uses 85 to 90 percent of the state’s water, and natural ecosystems, such as the vast complex of life along waterways…
Already, much water originally allocated for farms in the Fort Morgan and Sterling areas has been sold to water providers in the Denver metropolitan area, said Joe Frank, executive director of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District. “It’s not very visible yet because the water hasn’t been removed from the (agricultural) land,” said Frank, whose district distributes water from Fort Morgan to the Nebraska border…
But John Sanderson, water program director for The Nature Conservancy, pointed out that free-running rivers during spring also have value. “Those high flows are important to maintaining habitat,” he said. Sanderson noted that 15 percent of aquatic species found in and along Colorado’s creeks and rivers by the first settlers have been extirpated form this region, while another 40 percent are now endangered, threatened or otherwise at risk…
Among the new ideas to emerge since the 2002 drought was development of water in the Green River in either Wyoming or Utah. The water later passes through Colorado for about 20 miles, giving Colorado an arguable right to water in the river even if it is diverted to another state. Aaron Million, a Fort Collins-based entrepreneur, came up with the idea and continues to pursue it. But the South Metropolitan Water Supply Authority later proposed a similar idea, drawing on either Flaming Gorge Reservoir or Fontenelle Reservoir, both located on the Green River. Rod Kuharich, executive director of the South Metro group, said his group has met with people from the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Casper, Torrington and Green River, but he ultimately sees the deal being a state-to-state transaction, if it ever occurs.
The 4-3 ruling solidified water rights for the King Consolidated Ditch Co. and seven others. The companies wanted to make sure their 1930s-era rights are protected against a plan to fill Vallecito Reservoir twice a year in order to maintain winter flows in the river…
Lawyers for the [Southern Ute] tribe argued the Utes and about 100 other water rights owners on the Pine River should have been served with legal notice that the ditch companies – which own the some of the most senior water rights on the stream – were going to court to clear up their rights. “This is a declaration that affects not particular water rights, but virtually all senior water rights on the Pine River,” said Adam Reeves, a lawyer for the tribe, during September’s arguments.
The high court was sharply divided on its March 14 ruling. Dissenting Justice Nancy Rice called the ruling a precedent that “opens the floodgates for the scope of already-adjudicated water rights to be revisited and reinterpreted without direct notice to rights holders.”
From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education:
This Friday, CFWE will honor two water resources professionals who have shown exemplary leadership in water resources education throughout Colorado. Join CFWE and friends on April 8 at the NCAR Lab in Boulder to honor Nolan Doesken, State Climatologist, and Hannah Holm Coordinator of Mesa County Water Association. This Reception is CFWE’s only fundraising event of the year and we rely on supporter attendance to fund important water education programs. Registration is open so sign up while there is still room! Click here for more information.
More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.
From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):
Both projects penciled out looking like profitable opportunities in the early stages. The difference in bringing the two to completion turned out to be the cost, complexity, and lengthy compliance burden of federal regulations. The [Tarr family of Delta’s] hydro project is a planned 27 kilowatt (kW) turbine that will be built on their own property using their own irrigation water. The project has received USDA grant funding and loan approvals and, says Janell Dawson, daughter of Pete and Sandra Tarr, they hope to be producing electricity a year from now.
By contrast, [Mike Mason of Cedaredge’s] idea of using water flows of Kiser Creek to generate 750 kW from a turbine located near Hwy. 65 and Old Grand Mesa Road hit the federal regulatory wall. He explained that agency known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is known among low-head hydro enthusiasts for the project killing complexity of its regulatory scheme. The FERC regulatory regimen came into play with Mason’s project because it would be located on public land administered by the Forest Service. The Tarr family project by contrast is on their own property…
Mason said that low-head hydro project proposals can also run into problems finding a buyer for their power if the electricity generation is produced by seasonal water flows, or if the amount of power generated is not in at least the several megawatt range.
Colorado Springs will elect seven of its nine council members and a mayor on April 5, creating uncertainty about who will replace Small on the Fountain Creek board. “I have been proud to be a part of this,” Small said at Friday’s meeting. “I can envision a band of life along this creek in the future.”
Small was praised by several board members for his hard work on the board and as a member of the Vision Task Force to resolve differences over Fountain Creek between El Paso and Pueblo counties…
The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities presented a competing plan to have its employees run the district. They are working on a Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan under a four-year $1.2 million agreement. Part of that agreement has been to provide $100,000 annually to fund the district. The three groups jointly are administering about $3.6 million in grants and other payments that have been leveraged for projects along Fountain Creek…
The Fountain Creek board also:
Heard an update on a study by Summit Economics to look at an approach to finding a regional stormwater solution. The demise of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise in 2009 has created questions about promises made during negotiations for Southern Delivery System permits. In February, Chostner successfully argued against putting district money toward the study, because it remains solely an El Paso County issue…
Learned about the progress of Fountain Creek dredging in Pueblo from Dennis Maroney, Pueblo stormwater consultant and head of the technical advisory committee. A bid has been awarded for work on a side detention pond, while an in-stream sediment removal system is still being negotiated.