Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District: The Value of Water…1922 Colorado River Compact

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From email from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District:

When it comes to water in the west, the rule is “first in use, first in right,” which means those who could prove they put a quantifiable amount of water to beneficial use before their neighbors even arrived were generally granted a water right that says “I get mine before you get yours.” In the early years of the 20th century, the American West was rapidly changing. The lure of California and Arizona with endless days of sunshine had folks from the east packing their bags and heading west. California began to realize its potential as the center of western agriculture as it turned desert scrubland into fertile, well-irrigated farmland. To further this dream, California sought federal assistance to construct the “All American Canal” that would bring Colorado River water to the Imperial Valley on the US/Mexico Border.

Realizing that if California could prove that it needed and was fully utilizing all of this water, it could be granted rights that would constrain future growth in other states upstream; therefore, Colorado, led by local boy Delph Carpenter, proposed the idea of a treaty between all the states that rely on the Colorado River. This treaty intended to apportion the water equitably among the states to ensure that no state would be left high and dry. There are seven states in the Colorado River Basin – Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. A line was drawn in the river at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona and the states were divided into two categories; upper basin and lower basin. Why Lee’s Ferry? Because there are no other major tributaries feeding into the Colorado below that point and because Lee’s Ferry was the only place one could cross the Colorado River for many miles in either direction. Lee’s Ferry lies approximately 16 miles south of present day Lake Powell.

Based upon the best scientific evidence available at the time, the delegates from the seven states agreed that the average annual flow of the Colorado River was 17.5 million acre-feet (i.e., an acre-foot is a unit of measurement specific to the water world and is comprised of 325,851 gallons or enough water to cover one acre of land under one foot of water). Under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, 7.5 million acre-feet (maf) were allotted “in perpetuity” to the three lower basin states – Arizona, Nevada, and California, and the four upper basin states – Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah presumably got the rest. Although the original intent of the agreement was to fairly split the resource among the states involved, concerns have surfaced that it would be impossible for the upper basin states to receive their fair share in the future. Because the upper basin states are the “supply” states, a gauging station was erected at Lee’s Ferry to ensure the lower basin states received their full 75 maf allotment over a 10 year rolling average. Should the compact obligations not be met, a “call” would be placed on the Colorado River where post-1922 water rights would be systematically suspended until the river flow rebounded.

The 1922 Colorado River Compact has been fought over since the day it was signed, yet it has withstood the test of time. This concludes the first part of an e-newsletter series on the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and future newsletters will discuss how this “call” could impact Colorado and the other upper basin states, the implications of the 1948 Upper Colorado River Basin Compact that redistributed water in the upper basin states, and the 1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act that ushered in an era of big dams and water buffalos.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

The Fort Morgan Town Council approves contract for augmentation water

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The contract still needs approval from the owner, who would be severing the water rights from a parcel of Morgan County land. However, it is not certain if purchasing the rights will mean the town will be able to use the water for its municipal augmentation plan. Because the water is marked for agricultural purposes, the water court will have to determine if it can be transferred to a municipal use designation.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

The dam at Baseline Reservoir is getting rehabbed

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Aguilar):

The Baseline Land and Reservoir Co., which owns the reservoir at Cherryvale and Baseline roads, is slowly draining it in order to put $400,000 worth of work into two century-old, earthen dams.

“It wasn’t that it failed,” said Brad Dallam, assistant city engineer for Lafayette. “It’s just a new modern standard.”

Lafayette counts on the Baseline Reservoir for about half of its drinking water, and the city owns the majority — 68 percent — of the shares in the lake. Others that draw from the reservoir include Boulder, Louisville and the Boulder Valley School District.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District is raising rates 8%, Aurora is expected to pass through some of the costs to their rate-payers

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

Aurora’s sewer water is treated by the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, so when their rates go up, Aurora’s residents feel the effects as well.

New Environmental Protection Agency rules require the reclamation district to remove nitrogen and phosphorous in wastewater before they put the water back into the South Platte river, said Greg Baker, Aurora Water department’s spokesman.

The cost to remove the chemicals is more than $500 million, so the district is charging Aurora Water 8 percent more to treat the wastewater, he said.

Aurora Water is absorbing some of the costs, so residents could see their sewer water bills increase 4.1 percent through 2016. But Aurora City Council members have to make the final approval on the increase in October. The changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

More wastewater coverage here.

Donala Water and Sanitation is raising rates in January

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From The Tri-Lake Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

Donala customers are currently staring at a rate increase beginning in January if the Donala board of directors approves it at their Nov. 29 board meeting. Customers can expect to see a 40 percent increase for single family dwellings which comes to about $25, or a 29 percent increase for multi-family dwellings, at on average $18. Customers using 80,000 gallons of water per cycle will see a 60 percent increase. Following these bumps, customers will see smaller increases through 2025…

In November of 2008 Donala purchased the 711 acre Willow Creek Ranch near Leadville. Donala has already initiated conversions of the excess irrigation water which would flow through the Arkansas River. The ranch will be 20 percent of Donala’s total demand and has cost close to $6 million so far. The change of use permit that Donala was seeking, however, was denied by water court Judge Dennis Maes. Therefore Donala must continue negotiations with the state of Colorado. The water district is hoping to have up to 400 acre-feet of water per year. Duthie is confident that water will be flowing from the Willow Creek Ranch by the year’s end…

“We’ll still need more water,” Duthie said. The water district is putting together a reclaimed water project called the Donala Extended Water Supply Study that will look at streambed treatment, reservoir storage and construction of wetlands. Once that is complete and if the project moves forward Donala is looking at a cost of between $7-$19 million.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Durango: Water system triennial inspection turns up minor repairs

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From The Durango Herald (Lynda Edwards):

The city was asked to build a hatch on top of one of the water tanks where chemicals that treat the water could be more easily poured into the tank. That will cost a few thousand dollars. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment inspectors also said an overflow pipe had a gap in it and must be repaired.

Every three years, the Department of Public Health and Environment conducts a sanitary inspection of municipal water-treatment facilities. Recenty, the state health department gave Durango its inspection, and Durango Public Works Director Jack Rogers said he was fairly satisfied with the report card.

“In these inspections, they tell you what you are doing wrong, not what you are doing right,” he said. “The inspectors did not find any problems that would endanger public health. They did find what they called ‘major deficiencies.’ We’ll be able to make the necessary repairs with existing funds in our budget,” Rogers said.

More water treatment coverage here.

Arkansas River: Frostbite Fish-Off January 20-21

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Trout Unlimited will sponsor the Second Annual Frostbite Fish-Off Jan. 20-21 and is looking to expand the reputation of the Arkansas River through Pueblo as a winter fishery.

The river is stocked with fish and negotiated flow programs are aimed at maintaining minimal flows throughout the winter. Typically warmer temperatures than other parts of the state and ease of access make Pueblo a mecca for winter fishing.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Reclamation Hosting Two Open Houses on 10825 Draft EA

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Bureau of Reclamation is hosting two public open houses to introduce and collect comments on a draft Environmental Assessment related to releases from Ruedi and Granby reservoirs. The public comment period opens today and closes on October 24, 2011.

The first open house will be held on Tuesday, October 11, at the Eagle County Community Center, 0020 Eagle County Drive, El Jebel, Colo.

The second open house will be held on Wednesday, October 12, in the Commissioners’ meeting room of the County Building, 308 Byers Ave., Hot Sulphur Springs, Colo. Both meetings will run from 6-8 p.m.

At the request of east and west slope water users of the Colorado River, Reclamation is considering entering into three proposed long-term water contracts that would provide 10,825 acre-feet of water from Ruedi and Granby. The water would be released from the reservoirs to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River – critical habitat for four endangered fish.

In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Reclamation is preparing the EA to determine what effects might result from the three proposed contracts. Comments received from the public will help Reclamation refine and finalize the EA.

Reclamation is accepting written comments via e-mail or hard copy through close of business on October 24, 2011. Please send comments to the attention of Lucy Maldonado at lmaldonado@usbr.gov, or 11056 W. County Road 18E, Loveland, Colo., 80537.

More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Recent flooding took out ditches, roads, fences, land and flood control dikes on farms between Fountain and Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

…on the night of Sept. 14. Up to 5 inches of rain had fallen in parts of El Paso County in a short time, creating a wave that crested at 13,000 cubic feet per second at Pinon on the morning of Sept. 15…

…the [Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District’s] responsibility, as defined by the 2009 law that created it, is specifically for land use in the 100-year flood plain between Fountain and Pueblo. “The good news is that in 4-5 years, we will have $50 million,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner. “Every day we get closer to receiving the $50 million, and this board will closer to implementing solutions. . . . Engineers are looking at the best way to slow the water down before it hits you.”

In its 1041 land-use permit issued in 2009, the Pueblo County commissioners put a condition on Colorado Springs to pay the $50 million over a five-year period after SDS is completed in 2016. Of the amount, $300,000 has been paid for a dam study on Fountain Creek, and another $300,000 has been provided for interim district expenses. The board will hear an update on the dam study at its Oct. 28 meeting.

Chostner also mentioned the $75 million Colorado Springs will spend under the 1041 agreement to protect sewer lines from flooding. “This is more reason for the public to support the Fountain Creek district,” Chostner said. “We need the financial muscle on the legal framework that’s already there.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Larry Small, the [Fountain Watershed] district’s executive director, attended the March meeting of the board. He was term-limited as a [Colorado Springs] councilman in April elections. Seven new council members were elected, in addition to Mayor Steve Bach, Colorado Springs’ first strong mayor. The new council apparently appointed Tim Leigh to the Fountain Creek board, with Brandy Williams named as an alternate. So far neither has shown up for a meeting or even talked to Small about the district. While several staff members or representatives for Colorado Springs or Colorado Springs Utilities have attended the meetings or district events since March, the chair reserved for the board member has been empty since April.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

H.R. 2842: Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2011, introduced by U.S. Representative Scott Tipton

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From the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper):

H.R. 2842 would provide blanket authorization for installation of small hydropower on all U.S. Bureau of Reclamation canals and conduits. It also would require the Bureau of Reclamation to offer preference to water user organizations for the development of such projects under a federal lease of power privilege. Further, the bill would exempt small canal and conduit projects of less than 1.5 megawatts from the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act…

Developers already can exempt low-impact hydropower projects through either the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, opponents of the bill have noted. In fact, that was the point Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner of Operations David Murillo made to the House Subcommittee on Water and Power last week. While the Bureau of Reclamation supports much of the bill’s goals, it opposes exempting 1.5-megawatt projects from NEPA reviews. “The department understands the intent of H.R. 2842 to be that conduits and canals are existing man-made structures where environmental impacts associated with construction have already occurred or been mitigated,” he said. “However, the department’s view is that low-impact hydropower, particularly in conduits and canals, can be efficiently developed by utilizing existing environmental review provisions that will not unduly delay project development and ensure environmental health and safety.”[…]

At last week’s hearing, Robert Lynch testified on behalf of the Irrigation and Electrical Districts Association of Arizona and the National Water Resources Association, saying untapped water potential is typified by a Department of Energy report that found 1,400 megawatts of unused capacity in canals and ditches in Colorado where units of less than 5 megawatts could be installed. Lynch said the total of the small units is comparable to the 1,312-megawatts Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River…

Detractors of Tipton’s bill say the environmental reviews for small hydro projects by the Bureau of Reclamation aren’t as onerous as some people have made them out to be, but Chris Treese of the Colorado River Conservation District and Family Farm Alliance maintains development uncertainties can get in the way of districts and developers making timely investment decisions. “Environmental reviews under NEPA are universally time-consuming and expensive,” Treese said. “Even ‘just an Environmental Assessment’ will require considerable time and expense. The river district’s current experience with an EA on a non-construction action has taken over a year and nearly $1 million in outside expenses, not including substantial ‘unbillable’ district time and expense.”[…]

One of the best existing programs for streamlining small-scale hydropower projects can be found in Tipton’s home state of Colorado, Rice said. A memorandum of understanding…between the state and FERC, enacted last year under former Gov. Bill Ritter, authorizes exemptions for conduits and projects under 5 megawatts that are added to existing infrastructure and meet the criteria clearly spelled out in a number of environmental safeguards.

More H.R. 2842 coverage here.