‘What the Frack?’ event recap: More than 100 people attend event last Saturday in Fort Collins

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

More than 100 people attended former EPA environmental engineer Weston Wilson’s Sierra Club-sponsored presentation about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Saturday at the Fort Collins Brewery…

Wilson, in a 2004 letter to Congress, said the conclusions of an EPA report about fracking were not supported by the evidence. The report claimed that injecting toxic material into the ground during a fracking job presented no risk to the environment. Wilson recently retired from the EPA…

“There’s really no place along the Front Range that’s unsuitable for drilling the Niobrara,” Wilson said. All those wells are going to be fracked, and that could be an issue with water quality and supplies, he said…

About 2 percent of fracked oil wells fail, possibly releasing contaminants into underground water supplies, he said. The challenge for regulators has been that nobody really knows much about those failures because those affected by them are legally bound to keep quiet, he said. “The industry buys out those they contaminate,” he said. “Well, we don’t learn anything from that. When they buy out the person with a nondisclosure agreement, there’s no public information.”

Wilson said he is advocating for making fracking cleaner, adding that fears about the impacts of fracking have encouraged several European countries to ban the practice in addition to New York City banning fracking within its watershed.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education ‘Future Horizons for Irrigated Agriculture in Northern Colorado’ tour October 17

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From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (Kristin Maharg):

How much water does Colorado need to grow? What is the threat to agriculture? How can water stay on farms while securing a desirable future? Attend a fast-paced tour to find out and network with others!

Join the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and expert speakers at “Future Horizons for Irrigated Agriculture in Northern Colorado” on Monday, October 17. The day will begin and end in Greeley and only costs $50/person thanks to the support of our sponsors!

CFWE first hosted this tour on September 9 and due to the overwhelming response plus the topic’s critical importance, we are able to do the same program again on 10/17. The harvest will be in full swing and we anticipate another sold out tour. So sign up now – registration is only open to CFWE members from now through Thursday.

Click here for the itinerary and CFWE member priority registration.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

Drought news: Some relief in early September but the return of La Niña has forecasters keeping one eye on the sky (and the models)

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

But meteorologists said the La Nina pattern that started the drought appears to be re-forming, meaning higher-than-normal temperatures and less precipitation in the coming months.

South El Paso County is in a moderate drought, while north El Paso County is considered abnormally dry, according to the weather service. That’s a major improvement over the spring and summer months, when the county was mired in a severe drought.

Moisture levels across the rest of southern Colorado also appear to be improving, though the remote southeast corner of the state continues to experience an exceptional drought.

Extreme drought conditions also still exist south of El Paso County and east of Trinidad.

Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum – October 18, 2011

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Here’s the link to the registration page. From email from the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread (Lynn Broadus):

Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum:
Exploring Colorado’s Solutions
to a National Challenge

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
(Continental breakfast available at 8:00 a.m.)

Taping of Rocky Mountain PBS’ Colorado State of Mind
and Reception to Follow

Denver Botanic Garden
1007 York Street – Denver, CO 80206

You are cordially invited to attend the Charting New Water’s Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum on Tuesday, October 18. This one-day meeting will bring together a diverse group of water leaders and experts from Colorado and other parts of the United States to exchange ideas and insights about how Colorado is addressing its most vexing freshwater challenges and the implications for national solutions.

RSVP by Friday, October 7, 2011. Seating is limited and will be held on a first come-first serve basis. I hope you are able to join us!

Durango voters are being asked to approve a $4 million loan to purchase water from the Animas-La Plata Project

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From The Durango Telegraph (Missy Votel):

This year’s ballot, which is mail-in only, will contain a measure from the City of Durango asking residents to approve a $4 million loan to be used to buy 3,800 acre feet annually from the project. City Charter requires a vote of the electorate before assuming debt. The $4 million would be borrowed from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, a state agency established to promote water and power development in Colorado. As such, the city will get a more favorable rate than it would on the open market. The 20-year loan will be at an interest rate of 1.95 percent, making for total repayment of just under $5 million…

The 3,800 acre-feet would supplement the City’s current municipal and agricultural use of about 5,000 acre-feet per year. According to a 2003 study, an additional 3,800 acre-feet is the amount needed to meet the needs of a projected population of 40,000. Currently, the City serves its nearly 17,000 residents plus another couple thousand in adjacent areas for a total of about 19,000 customers, Rogers said. However, if Durango keeps on its current growth rate – 20 percent from 2000-2010, according to U.S. Census data – it could need additional water well before reaching the 40,000 mark. Rogers estimated the City’s water capacity at 25,000 users during the summer. “That’s only 6,000 more. When we reach that number, we’ll need to invest in other supplies,” he said. In addition to concerns over meeting growing demand, Rogers said there is also concern over security. Right now, the City has only a seven-day supply of water in its reservoir on College Mesa. The A-LP purchase would ensure an additional 75 days.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Wastewater: The Pueblo City Council approves a 2.5% sewer rate increase

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

The higher rate will add 51 cents to the average monthly bill for residential users in 2012. That monthly increase then jumps to 56 cents the following year and so on through 2015, according to the rate information provided Monday night. Although those monthly increases are small, council only approved the rate hike on a 4-3 vote. Councilmen Leroy Garcia, Steve Nawrocki, Chris Kaufman and Larry Atencio voted for the measure, saying a rate hike was necessary to provide adequate funding for the city’s wastewater department. President Ray Aguilera along with Councilwomen Vera Ortegon and Judy Weaver voted against the increase. Weaver noted that the wastewater department’s operating fund would still be financially solvent for several years without any increase and that council should postpone raising fees for now.

More wastewater coverage here.

The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District is finalizing purchase of El Paso County ranch to change the water rights to municipal uses

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The district’s board will look at finalizing the purchase of the JV Ranch near Fountain in Southern El Paso County at its Oct. 13 meeting, and has dropped contracts to purchase water rights on the High Line Canal and Excelsior Ditch. Woodmoor still has active contracts on the Holbrook Canal, as well as an application in Division 2 Water Court to exchange water from Holbrook up the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. A trial in that case has been scheduled for June 2013. Woodmoor announced its intent to purchase the 3,500-acre JV Ranch, which has water rights of 2,500 to 3,500 acre-feet of water per year as well as a 70-acre reservoir. The purchase price will be $25 million to $35 million, depending on the historic average amount of water determined when a water rights change case is filed.

Woodmoor, which serves about 3,200 homes near Monument, has been hunting for water rights since 2009, to find renewable water supplies. It relies on 16 wells in the Denver Basin aquifers, which are being overtapped by new development…

If the JV Ranch can produce the full 3,500 acre-feet annually, it would provide nearly the full amount identified in the 2009 water plan, but [Woodmoor Manager Jessie Shaffer] said the district is looking to strengthen its water holdings…

The district has scheduled three meetings in the next two weeks to explain the JV Ranch purchase to its customers.

Here’s a Woodmoor Association letter to residents dated today:

In May, I updated you on the latest developments in the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District’s ongoing efforts to acquire renewable water to transition the District away from dependence on the Denver Basin aquifers. That update included a Board decision to enter into a contract to purchase water rights from the JV Ranch, a parcel of land in southern El Paso County.

The Board at its October 13 meeting will consider finalizing the District’s purchase of the JV Ranch and the issuance of bonds to finance the purchase of this important asset. The cost for JV Ranch’s decreed water rights (approximately 3,500 acre-feet annually), land and reservoir will be between $25 million and $31 million, with the final cost dependent upon the outcome of Water Court processes that will change these agricultural water rights to be used in the District’s municipal system. The District is currently in the final stages of the purchase contract and is moving forward on the financing and closing of this purchase—currently scheduled for late October or early November 2011.

This purchase represents the greatest milestone in the District’s Renewable Water Plan. The JV Ranch will provide long-term water security and protect the value of properties in Woodmoor. As you know, acquiring renewable water to meet current and future needs is the District’s highest priority, and the Board and staff continually work to implement the District’s Renewable Water Plan.

Most likely, you are wondering how this purchase will impact your water bill. The Board and staff have been working diligently with the District’s financial and engineering consultants to finance this purchase while limiting the financial impact to customers. The purchase will be financed through revenue-anticipation bonds and repaid through a modest increase in water rates and the implementation of a monthly “Renewable Water Investment Fee.”

The implementation of the Renewable Water Investment Fee and water-rate change are anticipated to begin January 1, 2012. At the same time, property taxes in the District will actually decline as the WWSD mill levy expires on December 31. This mill levy allowed the District to develop water and wastewater infrastructure and fund the District’s portion of expanding the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Plant back in 1996.

[Click here for a brochure about the Renewable Water Plan, which includes a discussion of the January 1 changes in rates and an explanation of how the rates will be computed. Additionally, an interactive calculator for estimating the change in residential rates is available on the District’s web site at http://www.woodmoorwater.com/water/renewable-water-plan.html. For information on commercial rate impacts, please contact me at 719-488-2525 x14.

The District has scheduled three public meetings to discuss the JV Ranch purchase, financial impacts on customer water bills and a general update on the District’s Renewable Water Plan. Please join us at one of the following public presentations.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here. More Denver basin aquifer system coverage here.