Aspinall Unit update: Flows in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon should remain at 1,400 cfs for a while yet

A picture named aspinallunitdescription.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users are beginning to increase diversions from the Gunnison River. Consequently releases from the Aspinall Unit are increasing a corresponding amount. Today, releases from Crystal were increased by 200 cfs to 1,800 cfs, to match the Water Users’ diversion increase. Flows in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon should remain at 1,400 cfs for the time being. This is significantly higher than last year at this time (550 cfs) due to the above average hydrologic conditions.

We are beginning to plan for spring runoff operations, including operations related to the Crystal Exciter Realignment. The Crystal work will take place the week of April 18th and will require flow through the powerplant to vary on an hourly basis on April 20th and possibly the 21st. However, any increases or decreases in flow from the unit during calibration will be compensated through bypasses, thus fluctuations in the river will be minimal. Due to the current runoff forecast, we anticipate releases during the Realignment to be at or near the powerplant capacity of 2,150 cfs.

Speaking of the forecast, throughout the snowfall season, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) has been providing a fairly consistent April through July forecast of 800,000 af runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir. If the May 1st forecast remains at 800kaf, the one day peak target for the Black Canyon water right is 6,369 cfs, which will likely require a total release from Crystal in excess of 7,000 cfs (combined Crystal powerplant and bypass is about 4,300 cfs; expect a Crystal spill of over 2,700 cfs). Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to allow this peak target to be met sometime between mid-May and early June.

We will be discussing this in more detail at the April Aspinall Operations meeting on April 21st starting at 1:00 p.m. in Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office, Grand Junction. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Dan Crabtree or Erik Knight by replying to this email or call 970-248-0600.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

A picture named spainsunflower.jpg

Bump and update: Here are the notes from today’s webinar, from the Colorado Climate Center.

I’m way late in posting this. Here are the notes from last week from the Colorado Climate Center.

Center for ReSource Conservation: (Free) Water-Wise Landscaping Seminars

A picture named moongarden051108

Here’s the link to the web page with all the inside skinny. From the web page:

Each spring and fall, the CRC partners with our community to provide numerous free seminars on the how-to’s of xeriscaping and other water-wise landscape practices. From getting started to more advanced topics, there is surely a seminar to suit your needs.

Seminars are FREE and open to anyone.

More conservation coverage here.

American Water Resources Association — Colorado section Annual Symposium April 22

A picture named elkheadreservoir.jpg

Here’s the link to the website. From the web page:

The Art of the Deal: Colorado’s Landmark Water Agreements
Friday, April 22nd, 2011

This year’s symposium will feature talks on agreements that shape the use and distribution of Colorado’s Water Supplies.

We are pleased to announce that John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to Governor John Hickenlooper, will be our keynote speaker and Patty Limerick, Faculty Director of the Center of the American West, will be our luncheon speaker.

To raise money for the Scholarship Fund, we are holding our second annual silent auction at the symposium. If you would like to donate an item for the auction, please contact the Scholarship Committee Chair, Laurel Stadjuhar (303) 806-8952.

USGS: Well Installation, Single-Well Testing, and Particle-Size Analysis for Selected Sites in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin, North-Central Colorado, 2003–2004

A picture named coloradodesignatedgroundwaterbasins.jpg

Here’s the release from the USGS:

This report describes results from a groundwater data-collection program completed in 2003–2004 by the U.S. Geological Survey in support of the South Platte Decision Support System and in cooperation with the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Two monitoring wells were installed adjacent to existing water-table monitoring wells. These wells were installed as well pairs with existing wells to characterize the hydraulic properties of the alluvial aquifer and shallow Denver Formation sandstone aquifer in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin. Single-well tests were performed in the 2 newly installed wells and 12 selected existing monitoring wells. Sediment particle size was analyzed for samples collected from the screened interval depths of each of the 14 wells.

Hydraulic-conductivity and transmissivity values were calculated after the completion of single-well tests on each of the selected wells. Recovering water-level data from the single-well tests were analyzed using the Bouwer and Rice method because test data most closely resembled those obtained from traditional slug tests. Results from the single-well test analyses for the alluvial aquifer indicate a median hydraulic-conductivity value of 3.8 x 10-5 feet per second and geometric mean hydraulic-conductivity value of 3.4 x 10-5 feet per second. Median and geometric mean transmissivity values in the alluvial aquifer were 8.6 x 10-4 feet squared per second and 4.9 x 10-4 feet squared per second, respectively. Single-well test results for the shallow Denver Formation sandstone aquifer indicate a median hydraulic-conductivity value of 5.4 x 10-6 feet per second and geometric mean value of 4.9 x 10-6 feet per second. Median and geometric mean transmissivity values for the shallow Denver Formation sandstone aquifer were 4.0 x 10-5 feet squared per second and 5.9 x 10-5 feet squared per second, respectively. Hydraulic-conductivity values for the alluvial aquifer in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin generally were greater than hydraulic-conductivity values for the Denver Formation sandstone aquifer and less than hydraulic-conductivity values for the alluvial aquifer along the main stem of the South Platte River Basin reported by previous studies.

Particle sizes were analyzed for a total of 14 samples of material representative of the screened interval in each of the 14 wells tested in this study. Of the 14 samples collected, 8 samples represent the alluvial aquifer and 6 samples represent the Denver Formation sandstone aquifer in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin. The sampled alluvial aquifer material generally contained a greater percentage of large particles (larger than 0.5 mm) than the sampled sandstone aquifer material. Alternatively, the sampled sandstone aquifer material generally contained a greater percentage of fine particles (smaller than 0.5 mm) than the sampled alluvial aquifer material consistent with the finding that the alluvial aquifer is more conductive than the sandstone aquifer in the vicinity of the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin…

Beck, J.A., Paschke, S.S., and Arnold, L.R., 2011, Well installation, single-well testing, and particle-size analysis for selected sites in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin, north-central Colorado, 2003–2004: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1024, 23 p.

Here’s the link to the report. More groundwater coverage here.

Gunnison River basin: Trout Unlimited hires new basin coordinator

A picture named ohbejoyfulslatecreek.jpg

From Colorado Trout Unlimited:

Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project today announced the hiring of Cary Denison as project coordinator for the Gunnison River basin in west-central Colorado. Denison, a native and long-time resident of the Gunnison basin, will be headquartered in Delta.

Denison will plan and implement habitat improvement projects on key stream reaches in the Gunnison basin, with the goal of protecting, reconnecting and restoring trout populations. Cary will collaborate with water users, private land owners and agency staff to improve streams and implement cooperative arrangements that benefit both agricultural producers and fish habitat.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: School of Mines Geophysics Field Camp in Chaffee County is assessing geothermal potential including drill sites for exploration

A picture named geothermalenergy.jpg

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Enhanced geothermal systems require injecting fluid into hot underground rock to create fractures. After rock is fractured, water can be injected and pumped back to the surface after it has been heated by the hot rock.

Geophysics Field Camp supports the project by gathering data helping refine and validate imaging technology, [Mike Batzle, professor of geophysics at Colorado School of Mines] said. The imaging project will provide an overall understanding of the Mount Princeton geothermal system and “identify potential drill sites to optimize the geothermal yield of the valley,” according to the energy department on-line project description.

It gives students a real-world problem to which they must apply classroom knowledge, Batzle said. Students have used a variety of techniques to help map underground water and heat resources. Electrodes on the ground can identify hot water flow within 60 feet of the surface, including “one really big one up above Deer Valley Ranch near the (Chalk) Cliffs,” Batzle said. Batzle said the dramatic white cliffs consist not of chalk but kaolinite, “an alteration of granite that indicates a stable hydrothermal system active for thousands of years.” Field camp students have also been gathering data on deeper features using seismic and gravity imaging that can provide a subsurface map to the bottom of the basin, Batzle said. He said field camp studies are not directly concerned with hot water flow, but with deep geologic structure of the basin at the northern end of the Rio Grande Rift. The rift formed where tectonic plates were pulling apart. Near Mount Princeton, hot water reaches the surface along fractures at intersecting faults.

From a scientific viewpoint, Batzle said, researchers are “more interested in what’s happening in the center of the valley.” He said a deep borehole is needed to determine if the geothermal resource is hot enough to support generation of electricity. He said state-owned land near the center of the valley could be a potential location for drilling. Drilling on the Colorado-owned parcel would require state approval, but the location would have none of the split-estate issues that generated protests from landowners potentially affected by the Mount Princeton geothermal lease…

Copies of Geophysics Field Camp reports from 2007-2010 are available on-line at

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Republican River basin: The U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for Kansas to get Nebraska back in court

A picture named republicanriverbasinbydistrict.jpg

From the Associated Press via the Lawrence Journal World:

The high court gave Kansas permission to file a new petition over its allegations that Nebraska took more than its share of water in 2005 and 2006 — enough to supply a city of 100,000 people for a decade. Kansas sued Nebraska over the Republican River in 1998. The two states settled the case five years later, but Kansas contends Nebraska violated the terms of the agreement. Now Kansas wants to force Nebraska to reduce farm irrigation in its portion of the nearly 25,000-square-mile river basin and to pay Kansas back for the economic gains Nebraska allegedly saw for using too much water. Kansas previously calculated the amount of the potential payment at $72 million…

If Kansas prevails, Nebraska will be forced to stop irrigating about 500,000 of the 1.2 million acres in its portion of the Republican River basin, and farmers there would have to rely on rain to grow crops. Nebraska officials have acknowledged some overuse of Republican River water but questioned Kansas’ accounting, and they’ve noted that Nebraska has been in compliance with the settlement since 2006…

Lawsuits among states over water are filed directly with the Supreme Court, but it typically appoints a special master to review evidence and make recommendations to the justices. To hear Kansas’ latest petition, the Supreme Court appointed William J. Kayatta Jr., an attorney from Portland, Maine. Use of the Republican River’s water is governed by a 1943 compact between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado was given 11 percent of the water, while Nebraska was allotted 49 percent and Kansas, 40 percent.

More Republican River basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack/Reservoir storage news: State’s Snowpack Remains Above Average

A picture named snowpackreservoirstorage04012011

Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to see the table. Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Services (Mike Gillespie):

The latest measurements of mountain snowpack, conducted by the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), indicate that Colorado’s statewide totals continue to track above average. The April 1 surveys show statewide snowpack is 113 percent of average, and is 28% above the state’s readings of one year ago. Although these statistics show a slight decline from last month, they continue the trend of above average totals measured throughout the winter of 2011. This is good news for the state’s major water users who rely on melting snowpack for a majority of their annual surface water supplies.

March weather brought a continuation of the La Niña pattern where most of the storms crossing the state favored the northern mountains, while only dusting the southern mountains, according to Allen Green, State Conservationist with the NRCS. As a result, snowpack readings across the northern and central mountains saw significant increases in snowpack percentages, while percentages declined sharply across the southern mountains. “It was a month where the rich got richer and the poor just got poorer”, said Green.

For those river basins with their source in the northern mountains, including the Colorado, Yampa, White and South Platte Rivers, this year’s April 1 snowpack is the highest since back in 1996. At 135 percent of average, the North Platte River Basin had the highest basinwide total in the state. These totals are the highest for April 1 since the computation of basinwide totals began in 1968. The outlook for spring and summer water supplies in these river basins is excellent this year. Seasonal runoff volumes are anticipated to be well above average, and this year’s flows are expected to be drastically different than last year which was plagued by low runoff.

Meanwhile, the latest readings show snowpack conditions across the southern mountains continued to decline for the third consecutive month. Percentages have now declined to the lowest readings of the year and are consistently below average in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel basins. In striking contrast to the snowpack readings across northern Colorado, some smaller tributary basins in the Rio Grande Basin have dropped to nearly 50 percent of average. As one might expect, the outlook for spring and summer water supplies across southern Colorado is for below average runoff throughout the Rio Grande, San Juan, Animas, Dolores, San Miguel and the southern tributaries of the Arkansas basin this year. While it’s still possible for spring snowstorms to improve conditions in these basins, the chances are extremely remote, given that the normal maximum snowpack is reached in early April in these basins.

From the Associated Press via CBSNews5:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service says the snowpack statewide on the first of April was 113% of average, down slightly from a month ago. But the federal agency’s survey of the northern mountains shows the snowpack there is at its highest levels since 1996. The North Platte River Basin’s reading was 135% of average, the highest basinwide total. In southern Colorado’s Rio Grande basin, the snowpack is only 76% of average. That’s still better than the 66% of average it showed this time last year.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Statewide, the federal survey data released Monday indicate snowpack settling at 113 percent of average. That’s down from 117 percent of average in February and 136 percent at the start of winter but 28 percent above readings last spring…

In northern Colorado, the data that federal snow-measuring crews collected during March showed snowpack at 130 percent of average in the Colorado River basin, 135 percent along the North Platte River and 131 percent along the Yampa and White rivers. The South Platte basin is at 123 percent of average, the highest since 1997.

In southern Colorado, however, tributary basins emptying into the major rivers contain 50 percent to 70 percent of average snowpack, said Gillespie. The snowpack along the Rio Grande was measured at 76 percent of average, and 86 percent for the San Juan, Animas, San Miguel and Dolores rivers. Arkansas River basin snowpack registered at 103 percent of average, and the Gunnison River basin had 115 percent of average snowpack.