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.