Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million says that the regulatory gauntlet will not stop him from building the pipeline

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Million asked the Army Corps in April to halt its environmental review of the project for 60 days because the project may focus on hydropower, not just supplying water for Colorado agriculture and municipal needs. The 60 days officially runs out on July 2, but because of the Fourth of July holiday, he has until July 5 to inform the Army Corps of his intentions…

The Army Corps’ environmental review of the project was expected to continue through 2018, but Million said Thursday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which permits hydropower projects, may be the appropriate agency to conduct the environmental review of the project because of its new focus on hydropower. FERC, he said, could fast-track the permitting of the project and approve it in about two and a half years…

Million said he and his water team will decide next week whether to formally apply for a permit for the project through FERC…

Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, said the task force is necessary because the state needs to have a role in the development of a Flaming Gorge pipeline. “This is a very large project with repercussions that are interstate and that are East Slope-West Slope,” Waskom said, adding that the task force will allow environmentalists and Western Slope interests to have their voices heard about a Flaming Gorge pipeline from the very beginning…

Waskom said the task force will provide a way to encourage the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee, which includes the state’s river basin roundtables that allow local interests’ voices to be heard on water policy, to take some ownership over a Flaming Gorge pipeline project. Million said he supports the task force and will attend the Silverthorne meeting if he can…

Randy Ray, Interim Director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, said the district has committed interest in both the Regional Watershed Supply Project and the Parker district version of the Flaming Gorge pipeline. “Someone will build it,” Ray said. “Myself and the board of directors are interested in these projects and we’re watching them at a distance to see how they unfold.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project: The Upper Colorado River benefits from the seventh spill in Lake Granby history

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina). Click through for the cool video footage of the spill that Ms. Bina shot yesterday. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

This is the seventh year that water has gone over the Granby spillway because of abundant runoff, according to Dana Strongin, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The last time was 14 years ago. Before the dam spillway was built in 1965, water would cascade over the cliff rocks into the pool of Colorado River water below.

Although that stretch of the Colorado River directly below the Granby Dam may pose some flood risks, it is now receiving long-awaited flushing flows deemed necessary to river health. Flushing flows remove sediment and make it easier for fish to spawn. They also rejuvenate the riparian areas adjacent to the river. Such areas are important since 90 percent of Colorado’s wildlife live in or near water…

Silt had accumulated at the river bed to a point that made it difficult to even wade in it, [Jon Ewert, DOW aquatics biologist based in Hot Sulphur Springs] said. Such conditions can choke life in the river. “From what I’ve seen on that section of river before this flow, it had some of the most impaired habitat on the Colorado in Grand County,” he said.

That Upper Colorado section can go years with average flows around 150 cfs, according to the state Division of Water Resources website. From a prescription set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1961 having to do with the management of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, flows on the Colorado River in that section from May to July must be at a minimum of 75 cfs, and in late summer a minimum of 40 cfs…

On Wednesday, June 22, flows at the gauge below Granby dam were at a healthy flushing rate of about 1,800 cfs, which included flows coming out from the bottom of the dam.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Runoff news: Flood advisories in effect for the Colorado River, Cache La Poudre, Elk River and rivers in Jackson County

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From NorthernColorado5.com:

Damage to the Glenwood Canyon bike trail from continued flooding will keep riders in the 2011 Bicycle Tour of Colorado from pedaling into Glenwood Springs on Thursday.

Meanwhile, flood advisories remain in effect for minor flooding in Colorado. The National Weather Service says river levels will begin to increase and could affect more areas by week’s end.

H.R. 2018: The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 passes out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

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From the Colorado Independent (Virginia Chamlee):

“This is not about the state versus the EPA. This is about clean water versus dirty water, plain and simple,” says Earthjustice senior legislative counsel Joan Mulhern, in a press release.

Among those to vote against the bill was Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., who offered a failed amendment that would have exempted water that are sources of public drinking water and provided flood protection for communities.

More H.R. 2018: The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: 1,200 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The current elevation of Blue Mesa Reservoir is 7498.2 feet, leaving about 20 feet or 183,000 ac-ft of storage left to fill. Hydrologic conditions have continued to change, causing inflows to Blue Mesa Reservoir to lag behind predictions. Observed inflow rates have been dropping over the last few days and the forecast shows this trend to continue. The result will be an actual June runoff volume short of the forecasted inflow. Consequently, to improve the likelihood of a complete fill of Blue Mesa Reservoir this runoff season, Reclamation will again decrease releases from the Aspinall Unit. Over the next several days, releases will be slowly decreased by 100 to 200 cfs per day until flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge reach about 1,200 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 1,500 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After a brief maintenance stint on one of the hydro-electric generating units at Green Mountain Power Plant, releases from the dam to the Lower Blue River are back on the rise.

Starting this morning at 11 a.m. (June 22), we increased releases from 750 cfs to 900. Later this evening around 8 p.m., we will increase again to about 1100 cfs.

Shortly after midnight tonight, we will bump up to 1300 cfs. And tomorrow morning (June 23) around 5 a.m., we will increase one more time to 1500 cfs.

The 1500 cfs release rate will stay in place until further notice.

Meanwhile, the reservoir is filling pretty steadily at about a foot a day. We’ve got a lot of melting snow pack to still pass on downstream, but are storing what we can, balancing inflows, outflows, and the various demands served by the reservoir.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Releases from Ruedi Reservoir falling

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Inflows to Ruedi Reservoir have started to drop off. As a result, today [June 22] we will start decreasing releases from the dam to the lower Fryingpan River.

The first change will be made this evening around 6 p.m. We will decrease by 50 cfs. The resulting release from the dam will be about 673 cfs.

With the Rocky Fork still contributing upwards of 60 cfs, the gage below Ruedi Dam has been reading around 783 cfs. After the change this evening, it will read closer to 730 cfs.

I have a new graphic of reservoir fill timing on the website. I’m having a little Internet glitch, right now, but should have the updated website available later tonight or first thing in the morning.

Once the updated site is live, you will notice I have included some information towards the bottom of the page regarding upcoming public meetings. Although the schedule is not firm yet, it looks like we will be having our annual Ruedi Operations Public Meeting on Wednesday, July 13. At this meeting, we will give a quick overview of this year’s run-off and look towards the projections for Fryingpan flows in late summer and early fall.

Also, it is most likely we will host another public meeting on Thursday, July 28 as part of our public involvement process under the National Environmental Policy Act for a draft Environmental Assessment on Ruedi’s participation in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Species Recovery Program. I’ll have more details on that meeting as we get closer to firming up the date and the draft EA. But, if all scheduling goes as planned, both meetings will be at the Basalt Town Hall, starting at 7 p.m. So, please mark your calendars.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We are diverting a full Boustead Tunnel from the upper Fryingpan Basin to Turquoise Reservoir on the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project–around 900 cfs.

We continue to balance Fry-Ark, and other project, imports with native inflow at Turquoise Reservoir. As a result, we are releasing approximately 265 cfs–all native snow-melt run-off from local mountains we have to pass downstream–from Sugarloaf Dam to Lake Fork Creek.

There are currently some municipal exchanges going on that have adjusted the releases from Twin Lakes to Lake Creek. On June 22, releases from Twin Lakes Dam dropped to about 192 cfs. Currently, no Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water is being released to Lake Creek. Once the municipal exchanges are completed, Fry-Ark project releases will resume. As a result, we anticipate that releases from Twin Lakes to Lake Creek will be back to over 600 cfs by noon on Friday, June 24.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Conservation: Vail watering restrictions

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From the Vail Daily:

The regulations prohibit outdoor water use on Mondays and require customers to adhere to an odd/even watering schedule on Tuesday through Sunday. Also, watering must occur before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to minimize losing water to evaporation. Property owners may water up to three days per week; those with a street address ending in an odd number can water on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Those, with a street address ending in an even number may water on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

More conservation coverage here.

Water Center at Mesa State College: Call for abstracts for the October 31 ‘Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum’

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From email from the Water Center at Mesa State College (Hannah Holm):

The Water Center at Mesa State is planning a one-day Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum on October 31. I’ve attached the call for abstracts for the event…

We’re more interested in fresh ideas than polished projects, and this is intended to be primarily a networking event: No keynote speaker, just people sharing ideas and making connections. We’d love to have practitioners as well as academics present, and we’re interested in shining the spotlight on research people feel needs to be done as well as projects already completed.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Municipal Deliveries of Colorado River Basin Water: New Report Examines 100 Cities and Agencies

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Here’s the release from the Pacific Institute:

The Pacific Institute’s Municipal Deliveries of Colorado River Basin Water documents population and water delivery information and trends for 100 cities and agencies that deliver water from the Colorado River basin. Since 1990, the number of people in the United States and Mexico who use Colorado River basin water has increased by more than 10 million – but their overall per capita water use declined by an average of at least one percent per year from 1990 to 2008.

The new report provides – for the first time – real numbers on the extraordinary population growth among cities that depend on water from the basin and on changing water delivery rates by these cities. The report documents the substantial water-efficiency gains made over the past twenty years by agencies delivering water from the Colorado River basin – even by agencies and cities such as Flagstaff that already had relatively low per capita delivery rates in 1990.

Download the full report here.

Water taken from streams and rivers and pumped from the ground within the nearly quarter-million-square-mile Colorado River basin now meets some or all of the needs of almost 35 million people, including fast-growing cities within the basin such as Las Vegas and Phoenix and St. George, Utah. Some cities, especially in Arizona and Utah, have more than tripled in size since 1990. But more than 70% of the people receiving such water live outside the basin, in cities such as Cheyenne, Denver, and Albuquerque to the east and Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Tijuana to the west of the basin.

From 1990 to 2008, total municipal water deliveries from the Colorado River basin increased by more than 600,000 acre-feet, at a rate much slower than population growth. In fact, the new study shows that if water deliveries had increased at the same rate as population growth, they would have grown by almost two million acre-feet – assuming that much additional water was even available for delivery.

From 1990 to 2008, per capita water delivery rates declined dramatically in Albuquerque (38%); Southern Nevada (31%); Phoenix (30%); and San Diego County (29%). Southern California agencies delivered 4% less water in 2008 than they had in 1990, despite delivering water to almost 3.6 million more people. In fact, 28 water agencies in five different states delivered less water in 2008 than they had in 1990 despite population growth in their service areas, evidence that water deliveries do not simply track population.

Municipal deliveries – which include deliveries to the residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors, but do not include deliveries to agriculture, energy producers, or mining – comprise about 15% of total Colorado River use (agriculture uses more than 70%). But as the fastest-growing sector, municipal use drives demands for additional water supplies and places pressure on a river system that is over-allocated and facing a supply-demand imbalance, as well as the prospect of long-term declines in run-off due to climate change.

Municipal Deliveries of Colorado River Basin Water shows that projecting future water demands should take into account the successes achieved in cities where there are many examples of water conservation in practice that could be adopted or emulated by the less water efficient providers.

The Pacific Institute has also posted the data used for the report, available as a spreadsheet here.

Data were generally reported by the agencies themselves. Email crbwater [at] pacinst.org if you have any corrections to the data, or would like any additional information.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

The Pacific Institute report, to be released today, shows cities in the Colorado River Basin saved 2 million acre-feet a year compared with their per-person consumption rates in 1990. “That’s a huge amount of water, so that’s a lot of savings for the system,” said Michael Cohen, author of the report…

Durangoans use an average of 209 gallons of water a day, above the 2008 Colorado average of 176 gallons. The Durango City Council adopted a water-efficiency plan Monday night with the goal of further reducing waste in the system…

The Colorado River serves as the main water supply in the Southwestern United States, from Denver to Los Angeles. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found this year that the average demand on the river has begun to exceed the average supply. Farms still consume 70 percent of the river’s water, but cities present the fastest-growing demand, the report says. The basin’s population has boomed to 33.5 million, an increase of 10 million since 1990, according to the report. But the increase in water use was far below the population increase, and some cities – including Los Angeles and Albuquerque – used less total water in 2008 than in 1990, despite growing populations.

More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

“This is a significant achievement, demonstrating that water demand can be successfully delinked from growth,” study author Michael Cohen of the Oakland, Calif.,-based Pacific Institute wrote in its report: “Municipal Deliveries of Colorado River Basin Water.” While the notion that water can be used more efficiently is not a new one, the study illustrates there is plenty of room for improvement, said Gigi Richard, director of the Water Center at Mesa State College.

“There is the potential for leaps and bounds of water savings” through more efficient use of water, Richard said. “I think we still have a long way to go” to make maximum use of water…

Had water agencies from the Front Range of Colorado to the Pacific Coast delivered water to their customers in 2008 at the same rate they were in 1990, they would have piped about 8.5 million acre-feet into homes and businesses. Instead, the amount delivered was about 6.5 million acre-feet…

Cohen, who began his study in August, carefully avoided trying to draw policy conclusions. “I’m trying in this report to be unbiased,” he said. “I hope other people use the data and draw their own conclusions.” The study, however, “certainly raises the question” as to how much water remains in the Colorado River for appropriation, he said.

More conservation coverage here.