There are four seats open for directors of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Expiring terms are: Division 1, Fremont County School District RE-3, Timothy Canterbury; Division 2, Chaffee County School District R-32-J, chairman Glenn Everett; Division 4, Custer County, vice chairman Robert Senderhauf; and Division 6, Fremont County School District RE-2, John Sandefur.

Property owners at least 18 years old who have lived in one of those divisions at least one year may apply for appointment to the directorship for the division in which they live. Terms begin June 1 and continue four years. Applicants should have backgrounds reflecting agricultural, municipal, industrial or other interests in beneficial water use within conservancy district boundaries.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

The Las Animas County Commissioners ask for disaster declaration

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From The Trinidad-Times (Steve Block):

Drought and the potential for the deadly fires were at the center of discussion in Tuesday’s meeting of the Las Animas County Board of Commissioners. The board passed a resolution supporting the submission of a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, requesting consideration of a Drought Disaster Declaration for the county. Once the letter gets to the governor, he will send it on to John Salazar, the state agricultural commissioner. Salazar will do an evaluation of the situation at the state level, to determine the parameters and qualifications for a drought disaster declaration. The agriculture secretary will look at precipitation records and crop production records in the county. If Salazar is persuaded there is sufficient reason, he will forward the county’s request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That department will examine the request at the federal level.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: The Fowler town council votes to drop support for conduit EIS

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):</p<

The main reason for deciding against the project was not having information on its cost as it plays out, said Town Manager Wayne Snider on Tuesday. “I think the council wanted to consider other options.” Snider was out of town when the vote was taken, but said the council had expressed concerns over signing a “blank check” for the conduit. Fowler currently has adequate water resources for its population, relying on springs north of the town.

It is also looking at working with Innovative Water Technologies of Rocky Ford on a membrane treatment system to improve water quality and with BiO2 Solutions of Strasburg on an algae treatment for wastewater systems. “We were concerned about the conduit, because you can’t project the cost: not only for the study but for future construction,” Snider said.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Bureau of Reclamation: March status report for Jackson Gulch and McPhee reservoirs

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FromFrom the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 5,496 acre-feet with a 9,977 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 5,008 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end of month content. At Jackson Gulch, no water was released into the Mancos River, and monthly total volume of 10 acre-feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 273,370 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 305,506 acre-feet average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 1,807 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 740 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 30/34 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More San Juan River basin coverage here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works water rights have best yield in five years

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A new report by the water resources department of the water board shows the yield from all sources in 2010 was 86,291 acre-feet, up slightly from yields in the previous three years. In 2006, yields were 89,137 acre-feet. It’s surprising because 2008 was the best recent year for snowpack. The water board didn’t fully take advantage of the conditions then because its reservoirs were relatively full. “I think the difference is that we didn’t take any Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water in 2008,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo water board. “You always have to walk that line between having enough and, I guess you’d call it, gluttony.”[…]

Still, 2010 was a banner year for direct-flow water rights in the Arkansas River basin, because a heavy runoff at the right time allowed the water board to capture more water than it otherwise would have. About 60,310 acre-feet, or 70 percent of the total, came from within the Arkansas River basin in 2010. That was the most in a decade from native sources. “The key reason was that for several days we got to store water in Clear Creek Reservoir because all of the downstream rights were satisfied,” Ward said.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

Education: Aurora Water, the Colorado River District and Denver Water are helping with the Keystone Science School’s H2O Outdoors program

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

“It’s about getting kids up here,” [Aurora Water’s Mary Dawson] said. “No matter what they do … they’re getting out of the concrete jungle. … It’s one thing to talk about it, but to see the relationship between snowfall and streamflow is key.” Dawson observed on Friday last week’s H2O Outdoors students gathered to discuss water policy solutions. The Town Hall meeting was modeled after the Keystone Center’s process of bringing together public, private and civic sector leaders to take on environmental, energy and public health problems. The afternoon prior, students met with experts in the water field to inform them of the roles they would play at the meeting.

Beyond gaining a deeper understanding of water issues in the west, the program’s goal is for students to see collaboration at work — how personalities interact and the way difficult compromises are made. “It shows that we do work together. It’s not just about bumping heads,” said Matt Bond, Denver Water’s youth education program manager…

Mike Wilde of the Colorado River Water Conservation District added that H2O Outdoors, which was pioneered by the district, aims to change students’ awareness, attitude and action toward water issues. The experts were impressed with the students’ ability to learn so quickly, particularly amidst a learning curve Wilde said is “like drinking out of a fire hose for three days.”

More education coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Industry reps defend hydraulic fracturing at BLM public forum in Golden

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The forum, which included speakers from the Bureau of Land Management, state regulators and the oil and gas industry, drew about 300 to the Denver West Marriott in Golden. It was the third in a series of BLM-hosted hearings nationwide about fracturing, or fracking, and energy production on public lands. The BLM is contemplating new federal regulations, though the Environmental Protection Agency has found no evidence of water-quality degradation from fracking, said Dave Cesark of Mesa Energy. The EPA is conducting another study into fracking to be completed next year…

Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry on private lands, said Colorado ranks fifth in the nation for gas production and 10th in oil. He said most of Colorado’s 44,000 active wells rely on fracking to create permeability in the rock and open pathways for oil and gas to reach the surface. “This technology is absolutely vital to unlocking Colorado’s rich oil and gas reserves,” he said…

Rich Ward, a geologist with the Aspen Science Center, said there are seven layers of steel piping and cement that isolate the well from contact with subsurfaces, including water tables. “Well integrity is the absolute key in this whole process,” he said. That said, he noted it’s possible for a casing to be flawed but that if proper pressure checks are done, any such flaws can be quickly repaired…

Neslin said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s regulations are similar to the BLM’s. He said the COGCC has investigated hundreds of complaints about contamination related to fracking “and to date we’ve not found any instances of groundwater contamination.” He said the agency is going beyond regulations with participation in a new website – – where oil and gas producers voluntarily report the chemicals used in fracking. Thirty-five operators have so far registered to participate, including large operators such as Halliburton. Cesark said, in general, 99.5 percent of fracking materials are sand and water. The other 0.5 percent of materials used, he said, are chemicals commonly found in households, such as acids, antibacterial agents, corrosion inhibitors, lubricants and gels. He said there is typically a mile to two miles of separation between an aquifer and shale formations where fracking takes place. Between those layers is impermeable rock. “The risk of fracking fluid coming in contact with an aquifer is extremely remote and there really are a great many precautions that take place to prevent it,” Cesark said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Water availability is a primary main concern driving the Pueblo County commissioners in rejecting new electrical generation plant

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Citing concerns about safety and a lack of water, the Pueblo County commissioners Monday night unanimously voted down a zoning change request by a Pueblo attorney seeking to build a “clean energy park,” including a nuclear power plant, just outside the city. The vote was 3-0 to deny the zoning change…

Ultimately, the commissioners decided the potential jobs were outweighed by community concern over a lack of water to cool any future reactors and the potential safety and environmental concerns stemming from storing spent fuel on site.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Colorado Farm Bureau counters the claim from ‘Save the Poudre’ that the Northern Integrated Supply Project will harm agriculture

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Here’s a release from the Colorado Farm Bureau:

Statement by Don Shawcroft, President, Colorado Farm Bureau, Regarding Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeepers ‘Farm Facts’ Report

Alamosa rancher and Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft had strong words for Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeepers upon reading their ‘report’ on the impact of NISP on northern Colorado agriculture.

“The so-called report is nothing but propaganda, spread by Save the Poudre in a vain attempt to derail the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). Save the Poudre does not speak for Colorado agriculture, an industry forthright and vocal in its support for NISP. Their attempts to divide the ag industry are tiresome. They speak only for themselves and their attempts to stall a project supported by large majorities of northern Colorado citizens.

The NISP project is a crucial step in reducing the pressure from development on irrigated agriculture in Northern Colorado. Opponents of NISP would have us do nothing in the face of increasing water needs along the northern Front Range. Whether the Save the Poudre crowd likes it or not, more people are moving into the region served by the NISP participants. The project is a proactive, environmentally sound step to manage the growth along the Front Range and it will insure that irrigated farmers along the South Platte Basin will have access to their water for years to come.

Colorado farmers and ranchers support the NISP project. Unlike the Poudre Waterkeepers, food producers in Colorado have been managing our states water resources for hundreds of years. If we support the development of a water project, you can bet it will help keep irrigated farmers on the land. The public knows this. Lawmakers know this. So does Gary Wockner and the rest of the Waterkeepers. They just won’t tell you that.”

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

“There’s nothing new in the filing. We can tear each one of their claims apart. Where’s the science come from?” Brian Werner said Monday. He’s the spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which filed a detailed EIS report with the Corps more than five years ago. The Corps, in 2008, asked for additional comment, and Werner said it is hoped the final EIS will be released later this year or early next.

In its filing, the Fort Collins group said if NISP is built, it would harm about 123,000 acres of agricultural land, or about one-sixth of all the irrigated land in northern Colorado. In addition, the group claims the project would accelerate the buy-up of farms for subdivision development, would accelerate salinization of productive croplands, would end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact existing water users, and would submerge and divide productive agricultural land. It also says the initial filling of the two reservoirs and ongoing diversions into the two would likely come from northern Colorado and Western Slope farm water.

“There has not been, to our knowledge, one farm organization that has come out in opposition to the project. In fact, most of them are in favor of it. This latest filing is nothing but garbage. It’s not based in reality. We can easily refute anything they have said,” Werner said.

[ed. I’ll be on radio AM 1310 in Greeley Thursday afternoon discussing surface water and Colorado’s water supply gap sometime after 3:00 p.m.]

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

The southern metro Denver suburbs are looking to surface water to lessen dependence on the Denver Basin aquifer system

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This is not news to many Coyote Gulch readers. Here’s a in-depth report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Today, nearly every glass of water drawn by residents in Castle Rock, Castle Pines and Parker originates deep underground, data from utility managers show.
Twenty-five utilities between Denver and Colorado Springs are together pumping 38,742 acre-feet of water from 449 municipal wells each year, according to data provided by the water suppliers. That works out to about 400 gallons per second being squeezed from the Denver Basin aquifer. It’s not that the water in the vast aquifer is expected to run dry anytime soon. The problem is that pumping water from as deep as 2,200 feet below the surface is getting more difficult — and expensive…

The water table and well-production data kept by some utilities show well levels falling by as much as 30 feet a year and that well flows in summer slow by as much as 20 percent…

When Two Forks was rejected, “the consensus was that groundwater was a very viable source that could be replenished,” said Jim Sherer, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator at the time, who favored the dam. “You could put water back in. What seemed to be easy answers 20 years ago is creating problems today.”

The prime alternative for some suburbs today involves diverting wastewater from Denver and Aurora and purifying it for use by others. Over the past year, 15 south metro suburbs have been been negotiating the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, or WISE, project. It would take advantage of Aurora’s new $660 million Peter D. Binney treatment plant, combined with the city’s 34-mile pipeline that diverts water from the South Platte River, downstream from Denver’s Metro Wastewater Reclamation facility…

But Denver’s participation depends on diverting more water from the west side of the Continental Divide, he said. The proposed Moffat Tunnel diversion project is under review. “The more water we bring over from the Western Slope, the more return flows (to the South Platte) we have,” Little said. “If we didn’t get the Moffat project, it could limit our ability to fully participate in the WISE project. I don’t think it would kill it.” Suburban leaders are counting on WISE. They anticipate receiving as much as 60,000 acre-feet of wastewater annually for reuse, said Pat Mulhern, who manages the Cottonwood, Inverness and Stonegate water districts. The cost has not been calculated.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Their wells at the rim of the heavily subscribed Denver Basin aquifer first ran dry in 1997. Today some still run dry. The experience honed their survival skills. The southwest metro neighbors flush infrequently, redirect rainwater off roofs into gardens and redrill old wells. Most have buried 500-gallon cisterns near their homes…

When wells first went dry, about 150 homeowners formed the South Chatfield Water District. They bought rights to 69 acre-feet of surface water and arranged for Denver Water to deliver it through an extended pipeline. Below 10,000 gallons a month, each household pays $4 per 1,000 gallons. Above that, the fee increases to $60. Some have paid $1,000 a month trying to maintain lawns.

More Denver Basin aquifer system coverage here and here.

Snowpack/precipitation news: Diane Johnson — ‘You just hope for a slow melt’

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From the Vail Daily:

Vail Mountain logged 524 inches for the season as of Sunday’s closing day, but the inches just keep piling up. There wasn’t even dirt showing on the runs leading down to the base of the mountain Sunday, which also happened to be one of Vail’s latest closing days in history…

Mike Gillespie, the snow survey supervisor with the National Resources Conservation Service in Denver, said the Colorado River Basin is at 144 percent of average. “It’s turned out to be a pretty phenomenal snow year,” Gillespie said. “In the last 30 days or so, we’ve really seen some really remarkable increases in the snowpack.”[…]

Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said that as long as there’s not constant warm weather that causes everything to melt, combined with no rain, then the local water supply should be fine. “You just hope for a slow melt,” Johnson said.

[ed. I could not download the latest snowpack chart. The server appears to be down right now.]