Douglas County: Developers pull application for the proposed Penley Reservoir


From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

Douglas County attorney Lance Ingalls said the withdrawal of the application ends the process completely. If the developers decide to resume work toward approval of the project, it would require a completely new application, Ingalls said. It was not clear why Penley Water pulled the plug. Officials for Penley Water could not immediately be reached today for comment.

More Penley Dam Project coverage here.

Runoff news: Dillon Reservoir fills and spills for the 2011 water year


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

After weeks of carefully juggling inflows, releases through the outlet works and diversions through the Roberts Tunnel, Denver Water officials said Dillon Reservoir filled completely July 27 and started spilling through the overflow drain, known as the glory hole. It may be the latest the reservoir has ever filled, said Bob Steger, the Denver Water engineer who leads a team that computes the inflow forecasts and other information used to adjust the valves on the outlet works, sometimes on a daily basis…

The general idea is to fill the reservoir, which maximizes Denver’s water supply from the key reservoir, helping to maintain adequate supplies downstream in other storage buckets in the South Platte drainage. At the same time, Denver Water considers recreation needs in the reservoir (water levels at local marinas) and downstream in the Blue River (fishing and rafting) and the potential for flooding in Silverthorne neighborhoods. On top of all that, the water provider needs to anticipate downstream calls for water, from ranchers and fruit growers around Grand Junction and from hydropower providers.

This year was especially tricky. A near-record snowpack led to predictions of record runoff, but unseasonably cool weather lasted until late into the spring, delaying the runoff and setting up conditions for an almost unmanageable surge of runoff that, in the end, didn’t materialize.

To prepare, Denver Water drained Dillon Reservoir to levels not seen since the spring of 2003, following a historic drought, then slowly started to fill it again, all the while warily watching flows in the Lower Blue and in the key tributaries feeding the reservoir, where flows at times surged well above 2,000 cubic feet per second. Despite the drawdown, flows in the river below the dam ran perilously close to flood levels for several weeks, prompting warnings to boaters and even restrictions on river access through Silverthorne.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Aspinall Unit 2011 operations meeting August 18


From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

As a reminder, the 2011 August Aspinall Operation meeting will be held starting at 1:00 p.m. on August 18th at the Elk Creek Visitors Center located on the balmy banks of beautiful Blue Mesa Reservoir. The meeting will last 2 – 3 hours depending on the depth of discussions and questions. We will be reviewing operations from this past spring and summer along with projected operations for the coming fall. The meeting is open to the public and we look forward to your questions and reports regarding activities related to operations of the Aspinall Unit.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

The Daily Mail online is running a photo essay of the Marble Cathedral in Chile


Not a Colorado water story but a great series of photographs of a beautiful lake and cave system in Chile. From the article:

To reach this remote place located in the far southern tip of Chile visitors must fly from the capital, Santiago, 800 miles to the next nearest large city, Coyhaique, and then drive on challenging dirt roads 200 miles south to the lake. Yet photography students have travelled the world to learn from Ms Waidehofer about light in what could be the world’s most astonishing classroom. ‘Since 2003 I have taken many photography students into the caverns and it is always the highlight of their South American voyage,’ [landscape photographer and environmentalist, Linde Waidehofer, 67, from Colorado, USA] said.

Denver Post book review — ‘The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century’


From The Denver Post (Hank Lamport):

From the premise that water’s abundance is now waning on a planet with 7 billion people, [Alex Prud’homme], a writer for The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, plumbs the intricacies of its ebbs and flows.

He worries that the energy behind the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts of the 1970s has dissipated, allowing unregulated chemical runoff from agricultural, industrial and mining uses to poison wells and aquifers. Prud’homme revisits mid- decade European studies that found traces of cocaine in Italian water and analyzes “chemical cocktails” in U.S. supplies that impact the reproduction of fish species in Chesapeake Bay. We meet water managers of desiccated desert cities and read of the lengths they must go to assure supplies for their communities.

With all parties attempting to maximize their access to the resource, prognosis for a balanced response to these myriad challenges is not rosy. Big-project engineering maintains we need all possible solutions in our arsenal to combat the bottlenecks ahead. “Flipping the Mississippi” envisions extravagantly pumping excess floodwaters from the Mississippi drainage to the Front Range or the Ogallala Aquifer, leaving more of the runoff from the Western Slope in the Colorado Basin for residents of Arizona and California. Massive desalination efforts still appear to be prohibitively expensive and politically untenable.

A countervailing approach is provided by Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, who offers the environmentalist’s “tread lightly” view. Gleick promotes mechanical innovations such as low-flush toilets, drip irrigation and other proven conservation methods to forestall the crunch ahead. One wonders, though, if we are already past the point where even those measures can stop a dystopic water future where decayed infrastructure and corporate profits are the critical factors.

Here’s the link to the book on the Tattered Cover website.

Energy policy — nuclear: The DOE is reviewing the cumulative effects of uranium mining in western Colorado, public meeting August 9 in Telluride


From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

Until now, the DOE reviewed the mining operations piecemeal rather than addressing the cumulative impacts of increased production in the region, which it made possible in 2008 with the renewal of its leasing program in the Uravan Mineral Belt, awarding or renewing 31 leases for mining-related activities over 25,000 acres between Naturita and Moab, Utah.

In a pending lawsuit, the conservation groups — including Telluride’s Sheep Mountain Alliance — challenged the Department’s current leasing program for not complying with the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

The study will examine the effects of the DOE’s uranium-leasing program on 42 square miles of public land near the Dolores and San Miguel rivers. The DOE will host a public meeting in Telluride on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at the Sheridan Opera House from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

“Combined with the activities in the DOE leasing tracts, the impacts of new mining on unpatented claims in the area and the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in Paradox Valley all add up to serious new concerns for water quality,” said Hilary White of the Sheep Mountain Alliance. “We have to understand and mitigate existing contamination problems in the area before the government allows new mining to ramp up.”[…]

Gary Steele, Energy Fuels’ vice president, said the move by the DOE would put the brakes on any exploration the company hoped to conduct on any of its seven federal leases but that other endeavors, such as increased production at two existing mines on private claims, would persist.

“We’re kind of disappointed at that, to say the least,” Steele said, but also added that the study was a thoughtful endeavor in the longer run. “As far as the long term, it’s probably a good idea to have this regional development looked at in its entirety.” The mill would not be affected, Steele said…

The DOE will take public comment on its new environmental impact statement until Sept. 9. Comments will also be accepted at public meetings Aug. 8-11 in Telluride, Naturita, Monticello, Utah, and Montrose.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Parker conservation program: Evapotranspiration based irrigation controllers limit water use by 20-50%


From (Clayton Woullard) via The Denver Post:

“What we’ve found is by getting that message out and continually beating that message home with our users, people are starting to get it,” said [Craig Miller water efficiency expert for Parker Water and Sanitation], who added that he can walk down the average Parker street and see that three out of four of the houses are following the water restrictions.

He also holds about 30-40 educational programs a year at the Parker Library and at Tagawa Gardens teaching about wise water use and xeriscape gardens. That thirst for education has also resulted in the agency being overbooked on water audits, he said.

“So they’re realizing that the power of a water audit is to be able to understand how to set my sprinkler controller correctly, how often should I be watering, what kind of equipment should I be retrofitting to and word of mouth gets around,” he said.

To help them realize those savings they might discover on a water audit, Parker Water and Sanitation offers rebates on ET-based irrigation controllers. The controllers have sensors, which measure solar radiation, wind, temperature and other weather information and generate a precise watering schedule for each user based on their soil composition. Miller said that can result in 20-50 percent in savings.

More conservation coverage here.

Poudre River: CSU professor is urging the Fort Collins to take part in a proposal to create a network of real-time water-monitoring instruments along the river


From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Porter):

Mazdak Arabi, associate professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is proposing the city take part in a pilot project to reduce water utility costs by having a better picture of what’s coming downstream.

“The goal is to understand the hydraulics regime of the water so utilities can adjust their operations on a daily basis so they don’t treat more than they need to,” Arabi said.

It’s a prospect that’s appealing to Kevin Gertig, the city’s water resources manager.

“We want to put some of these instruments in the field and monitor conditions all the way to the river’s headwaters up to Cameron (Pass),” he said. “We could have almost real-time data and monitor subtle changes never before realized in the watershed.”

Arabi notes that the Poudre River, with its relatively nearby headwaters above Fort Collins, is a good laboratory for studying river flows and pinpointing sources of mostly naturally occurring pollutants, such as phosphorous and nitrogen.

Gertig said the city now does “grab sample” testing of the river with field technicians collecting samples. But a system of monitoring equipment along the river to continuously sample the water quality would be a much more sophisticated approach, he noted…

Gertig said wastewater treatment is one of the city’s highest energy consumers – about 70 percent of the city’s electricity needs – and lowering energy use and reducing the city’s carbon footprint is a city priority…

Arabi said the pilot project is part of the Water Innovation Network, a partnership he’s developing with CSU, local government and the water cluster. WIN’s goal is to create a “truly integrated collaboration” that would seek to “advance the development, demonstration and commercialization of clean water technologies,” he said.

More wastewater coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress annual summer meeting: ‘Water & Energy — Meeting Today’s Challenges & Tomorrow’s Opportunities’ August 23-25


Here’s the information from the Colorado Water Congress’ website:

People, water and energy supply are inextricably linked. In coming years, our ability to provide clean, affordable, and reliable energy and water will be further challenged by issues such as population and demand growth, a changing regulatory environment, climate change, and financial limitations.

This year the Colorado Water Congress is pleased to partner with Colorado Coal and Power Generation to offer a combined conference full of opportunities for new dialogue and information sharing.

The first two days of the joint conference (August 23-24) focus on current issues in water supply and protection, including population growth, financing issues and political dynamics. The Water and Energy Reception Wednesday night, marks the transition into Thursday’s conference sessions focused on energy and its relationship to water and economic development.

Registration for the full conference through the Colorado Water Congress web site provides access to the entire three-day conference program, including the Thursday afternoon tours of the Trapper Mine and Craig Power Plant. Registration for the Colorado Coal and Power Generation Conference (August 25) via their web site, includes the Water and Energy Reception on Wednesday night, the Thursday conference program and tours of the Trapper Mine and Craig Power Plant.

There is an additional charge of $35 for all participants to the attend the Feel the Energy BBQ with steak dinner and live music on Thursday evening.

The Colorado Coal and Power Generation group represents a cooperative effort by major coal producers, power-suppliers, local governments, and related businesses to provide relevant information and a practical perspective on current and future energy requirements, options, and economics, as well as associated challenges and opportunities.

The Conference Program is now available.

Click here for Registration and Lodging.

More Colorado water coverage here and here.

Pipeline from the Mississippi: Pat Mulroy (Southern Nevada Water Authority) would drop the instate project from Nevada’s Snake Valley if the U.S. were to build a Missouri-Mississippi flood project


From Vegas, Inc (Richard N. Velotta):

If innovative thinking is the key to solving Southern Nevada’s complex water puzzle, then Mulroy has a doozy of an idea. She suggests a massive public works project that not only could help relieve Colorado River Basin users but help solve the recurring problem of flooding in the Midwest.

“To me, it’s just counterintuitive,” she says. “One man’s flood-control project is another man’s water supply. You’ve got to remember that Hoover Dam was built as a flood-control project. That was its fundamental purpose: To prevent further flooding of the Imperial Valley down in Southern California.”

The idea is to build diversion dams for flood control and move the water to aquifers beneath the farmlands of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. If Colorado farmers don’t have to use Colorado River Basin water for their crops, it makes more water available to downstream users, like us.

“It makes no difference to the corn and the alfalfa whether it gets Colorado River water or Mississippi water or Missouri water,” she says.

“You could improve the transportation and cargo transports on the Mississippi River, which have been severely impaired this year by flood conditions, and at the same time provide some security for those communities that have lost everything by pulling some of that water off and moving it. My friends in New Orleans say, ‘Take it tomorrow, please!’ Their wetlands are being destroyed. It’s more water than the system down there can handle. Let’s use it. Let’s recharge the Ogalala aquifer, let’s replace some Colorado River users. Let them use some of this and leave the other water in the Colorado River for those states that are west of the Colorado. Let’s start thinking about this the way we thought about our national highway system.”

If a Missouri-Mississippi flood control project were implemented, Mulroy says she’d stop pressing the Snake Valley project. After this year’s floods in North Dakota, she says, people are starting to talk about it again.

“Every flood makes people start thinking about it,” she says. “And from an economic standpoint… building the national highway network was an enormous economic boon to the country, post-Depression. You build this kind of network and you could effectuate a number of jobs in the short term and provide economic opportunities.

“The instate project wouldn’t be needed because at that point what you’ve done is securitize the Colorado River. You’ve made the Colorado River much more resilient and you’ve augmented the entire river system to the benefit of seven states and two countries.”

Here’s a short Q&A with Ms. Mulroy from Richard N. Velott writing for Vegas, Inc..

More pipeline from the Mississippi River coverage here and here.