There’s a new water education center in the works at Metropolitan State College

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From email from Sandra Haynes, PhD, Dean, School of Professional Studies and Susan Noble, Advancement and External Relations, Office of Development via Colorado Water 2012:

On September 8, the Board of Trustees of Metropolitan State College of Denver approved the establishment of the One World, One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at Metropolitan State College of Denver (the OWOW Center), made possible through the generosity of a noted local philanthropist and conservationist.

More education coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Conservationists are not convinced that the proposed feasibility study is worth even $72,000

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

“We are encouraged that the state will waste less taxpayer money on this study, but we still think it’s a complete waste of time and money even in its watered-down form,” said Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado.

“The pipeline would irrevocably harm the Green and Colorado Rivers, cost up to $9 billion, and negatively impact the West Slope’s economy. The state should spend the public’s money elsewhere.”

Here’s a joint release from Save the Colorado (Gary Wockner), the Colorado Environmental Coalition (Elise Jones) and Western Resource Advocates (Peter Roesmann):

At its Wednesday, September 14, 2011 meeting, the Colorado Water Conservation Board passed a diluted proposal to fund an exploratory study for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. The original proposal was for $240,000 and multi-year meetings; the final proposal approved by the board funds just over $72,000 with only a few months of meetings. The watered-down proposal passed despite opposition from thousands of members of the public, a large coalition of environmental groups, taxpayer representatives, and West Slope businesses. Board members expressed many concerns, only some of which were addressed in the water-down version.

Our organizations continue to have numerous concerns about the project even in a scaled back form. While smaller, the proposal would still spend thousands of dollars in state funds to investigate a controversial and environmentally damaging project which thousands of Colorado citizens believe should not be funded at all. This week members of the Joint Budget Committee expressed their concerns over the project notably that this process seems to duplicate an existing efforts of the Interbasin Compact Committee.

Ultimately, a Flaming Gorge pipeline project entails enormous costs and infeasibility. We will continue to work with the CWCB, project proponents, water utilities and other stakeholders to further the important and difficult dialog around meeting Colorado’s future water needs, in ways that—unlike the Flaming Gorge pipeline—are cost-effective, feasible, and do-able in a short time frame.

Finally, Trout Unlimited released results today from a survey of Wyoming reaction to the proposed pipeline. From their release:

Public Opinion Strategies recently completed a statewide survey of voters throughout Wyoming regarding their perceptions of water. The survey results show that Wyoming voters are soundly opposed to a proposal to pump water from the Green River near Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado communities and farms, and to eastern Wyoming. In fact, a majority are strongly opposed to the proposal, and opposition remains high even after hearing arguments in support of the project. After all additional information was provided, an overwhelming 90% of Wyoming voters reject the proposed pipeline.

Respondents in the survey and those in focus groups conducted earlier in Cheyenne indicate their opposition is founded in a concern for allowing Wyoming water to leave their state and an uncertainty over the state’s future needs due to drought or other conditions.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

CWCB: HB10-1051 Conservation Data Collection DRAFT Guidelines Available for Public Comment

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly adopted House Bill 10-1051, an Act Concerning Additional Information Regarding Covered Entities’ Water Efficiency Plans. The Bill requires covered entities to annually report water use and water conservation data to the CWCB to be used for statewide water supply planning. The Bill also directs the CWCB to adopt guidelines regarding the reporting of water use and water conservation by covered entities, and to report to the Legislature regarding the Guidelines.

For the past 10 months the CWCB, with the invaluable support and detailed input from two advisory groups representing a diverse group of stakeholders, including many municipal water providers around the State, has been working on a draft set of Guidelines Regarding the Reporting of Water Use and Conservation Data by Covered Entities. The process has also developed a set of accompanying documents to support the Guidelines and their implementation.

The Draft Guidelines Regarding the Reporting of Water Use and Conservation Data by Covered Entities and Appendices are posted on the CWCB website and are available for public comment. The public comment period will run for 45 days and end at 5:00pm on October 29, 2011. We encourage the public to review the Guidelines and documents and provide the CWCB with comments. Please direct any questions or comments to Veva Deheza, Section Chief, Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning, at 303-866-3441 ext. 3226.

More CWCB coverage here.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is set to pony up $70,000 to study feasibility of the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline water supply project

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

“I think it’s interesting and probably good that the state is looking at it,” said Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million, whose Regional Watershed Supply Project is the most advanced proposal for a Flaming Gorge pipeline now being considered. CWCB members think the project proposal is strong enough for the state to study it, Million said. “I’ve always argued for the project to be fully vetted on all environmental issues and all issues associated with it,” he said. “The more it can be looked at, the more beneficial it will be to the eventual outcome.”[…]

Environmentalists are unhappy that the state is spending money to study a pipeline they believe will be too costly both to taxpayers and the environment.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Denver Water Board taking comments on rates adjustment for 2012

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Ellen Cinchock):

Denver Water is launching a public comment period on proposed rates for 2012. The Board of Water Commissioners will vote on rates during its Sept. 28 meeting.

The proposal, a 5.5 percent increase for all customers, provides further funding for the utility’s capital projects, which include upgrades to aging infrastructure. Under this proposal, the average residential Denver customer would pay about $19 more per year.

The increase is about half of what the Board had anticipated last year. In 2011, Denver Water reprioritized projects that can be delayed a few years and implemented additional efficiency measures throughout the organization.

“We are keenly aware of our need to spend our customers’ dollars wisely,” said Angela Bricmont, director of finance. “That’s why we’ve reduced our budget for 2012 and have launched an organization-wide efficiency initiative to keep us as lean as possible.”

Next year, the utility’s major projects include protecting the watershed through its From Forests to Faucets Partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, expanding the recycled water system and stepping up the pipe rehabilitation and replacement program.

Denver Water owns and maintains more than 3,000 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 12 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. Ongoing rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure is needed throughout the water distribution system, much of which dates back to post-World War II installation or earlier.

Denver Water plans to expand its system capacity over the next decade to meet the future needs of its customers by expanding the utility’s recycled water system, enlarging Gross Reservoir by 18,000 acre-feet, developing gravel pits that store reusable water, and exploring ways to work with other water providers to bring more supplies to its system.

The effects of the proposed changes on customer bills would vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water. The more customers use, the more they will pay. Under the current rate proposal, average Denver residential customers would see their bills increase by $19.43 a year — an average of $1.62 per month. Typical suburban residential customers served by Denver Water would see an increase of $34.11 per year — an average of $2.84 per month. Commercial, industrial and government customers also would see a 5.5 percent increase.

If the proposed adjustments are approved, they would take effect January 2012. Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city would remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs would still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

“Denver Water has a long history of sound financial management, fiscal responsibility and efficiency,” Bricmont said. “Our AAA bond rating is a reflection of that. It allows us to build projects at lower cost — savings we are able to pass along to our customers.”

The water department is funded through rates and new tap fees, not taxes. Its rates are designed to recover the costs of providing reliable, high-quality water service and to encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. A significant portion of Denver Water’s annual costs do not vary with the amount of water sold and include maintenance of the system’s distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants. Denver Water also examines and adjusts its capital plan as necessary each year.

The Board is expected to vote on the proposed changes on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Please send public comment to dbwc@denverwater.org or call 303-628-6320. Public comment also will be taken during the Board meeting at 9 a.m. on Sept. 28. For more information about the Board meetings, visit www.denverwater.org/AboutUs/PublicWaterBoardMeetings.

More coverage from KWGN.tv:

Denver Water has proposed raising rates by 5.5% to help fund construction projects, including ones to upgrade aging infrastructure. That means the average residential customer would pay about $19 more per year. If approved, the rate hike would take effect in January.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Lamar pipeline: Any potential GP Water change case faces close scrutiny from the Arkansas River Compact Administration

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Formed in 1949, after Kansas and Colorado had ratified the 1948 Arkansas River Compact, the administration has proven to be an unwieldy body when it comes to moving water. No transfer of water ever has been approved from District 67, which covers the Arkansas River and its tributaries downstream from John Martin Reservoir. Both states are committed to abide by the compact under an act of Congress, and violations are serious. A U.S. Supreme Court case filed in 1985 was the latest round in a fight that has gone on for more than a century. While the massive water district touches corners of Elbert and El Paso counties, taking water to populated urban areas would require moving water outside District 67.

The compact has “bright red letter” language that prohibits that, said Steve Witte, Division 2 engineer for the State Division of Water Resources and ARCA operations secretary. The movement of water is covered in Article V, Section H of the compact, which prohibits transferring water into other districts or upstream of John Martin Dam unless it can be proved there are no adverse effects. “It’s pretty clear you can’t change water rights in Colorado to other districts unless you can prove there are no depletions,” Witte said…

Because the commission meets only once a year and it takes the agreement of both states to pass any resolution, change in the compact is glacially slow. Kansas can stop a discussion just by not addressing the issue. In recent years, the states have started talking again, but they proceed carefully. Under procedures developed during the court case, most matters are referred to an engineering committee, and it takes action by one of the state representatives to even get the administration to hear requests…

GP Water officials have portrayed the proposed pipeline project as one which moves only the consumptive use of the water, by drying up 4,000 acres of farm ground. No change would be made in the point of diversion and returned flows would be timed to meet historic conditions.

Colin Thompson, who represents District 67 on ARCA, said he is concerned about any plans to move water along the river — including the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch — because of the potential to diminish return flows and degrade water quality…

[Matt Heimerich, who represents upstream water users on ARCA] said the compact was adopted 63 years ago, and did not anticipate that large blocks of water could be moved from agricultural to urban use. He too sees problems with how [Lower Arkansas Water Management Association] shares figure into the GP plan…

Heimerich still farms on land in Crowley County that was left behind after much of the farm water was sold to Colorado Springs and Aurora. He can relate to concerns raised by other farmers in the Granada-Lamar area about the depletion of so much water on one canal. “It is really important to keep the people who are left whole,” Heimerich said.

More Lamar Pipeline coverage here.