Colorado College: The next State of the Rockies Project speaker series topic is ‘The law and the Colorado River’


Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs and Colorado River legal scholar Larry MacDonnell will discuss the Colorado River Compact on October 17. The presentation is the next for the State of the Rockies Project speakers series.

Since it’s been a while since I published one of Justice Hobbs’ poems I thought this would be a good occasion. Here you go:


On wheels born Western man
he warned of that mobility
from which he sparng
unbridled optimism and the roar

Of the Reclamation Bureau he swore
as a blooming desert Mormon might
swear to God of locusts,
cranky cast iron stove he smoked
more we stoked his heat

Matter of lenses, I think,
his were not fit for preaching–
more for teaching in
a living room

Themes that marked him most

One-armed Major’s headlong
river plunge, careless harvest
of the wilderness, natural law
of limits, the good of settling in

Died in Santa Fe
not by hanging rope or pistol shot–
myths he fought cantankerous about–
but by Ford or GM truck
like many a Western man struck down

He in the line of duty,
a peace officer,
posting speed control signs
on the borders of our frontier minds:

A True Civilization
Not A Ruthless Occupation
Disguised As Romantic Myth

Reprinted, with permission, from Colorado Mother of Rivers: Water Poems by Justice Greg Hobbs. Click here to order the book from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

A little of Wallace Stegner’s unbridled western optimism has rubbed off on two Colorado College grads, Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore, who will be traversing the length of the Green and Colorado rivers, Source to Sea down the Colorado River, starting this week. As soon as they hit Green River, Wyoming, they’ll be seeing a lot of the same stuff that John Wesley Powell did on his first trip down the river.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Nutrient pollution is becoming a primary water quality concern, wastewater treatment plants are a major source


From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Colorado has nutrient standards for only a few problem bodies of water – among them Cherry Creek Reservoir in the Denver area and Fruit Growers Reservoir near Grand Junction – but no statewide standards. Only 17 states do, but none with standards that apply to all streams and lakes as Colorado is proposing.

The [Colorado Nutrient Coalition] is about 40 entities – stormwater dischargers, water-conservation districts, homebuilders and wastewater dischargers – that would fall under nutrient guidelines.

Kane’s briefing was in anticipation of the Oct. 17 release of requirements for water-treatment plant upgrades and nitrogen and phosphorus levels by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Division of Water Quality Control. The state Water Quality Control Commission has scheduled a hearing on the issues in March.

Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division, said Friday that the nutrients issue has been his biggest challenge. “I’ve been at this for 10 years,” Gunderson said. “Nutrients is a challenge that hasn’t been dealt with, so we’re trying to figure a way to make progress in the next 10 to 20 years.”

Critics who say the regulations are too stringent abound, Gunderson said. But there are those who like them and environmentalists who say they’re not tough enough.

“You can quibble over science,” Gunderson said. “Our challenge is to find consensus among widely divergent opinions.”[…]

The initial cost of upgrading wastewater treatment plants would cost $3 billion statewide, $74 million in Southwest Colorado. Future upgrades to meet phased-in standards could cost from $5.8 billion to $23.2 billion. Even with upgrades, some plants could fall short…

Nancy Keller, a regulatory compliance officer in the city of Pueblo Wastewater Department, said science supporting the proposed criteria has not undergone peer review. She coordinates the coalition’s work. “Nutrients are very complex, and wastewater plants aren’t their only source,” Keller said. “Temperature, canopy cover, the amount of dissolved oxygen, the pH and sediment can affect algae growth in addition to nutrient levels.”

More wastewater coverage here.

Cool photo of the week: Big trout, big smile


Update (October 10, 5:20 a.m.): The Salt Lake Tribune deep link doesn’t work any longer. You can click here for my screen shot of the photo.

Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to go to this column by Tom Wharton running in The Salt Lake Tribune. The photo is of a proud fisherman and his recent catch. Mr. Wharton also jabs the Flaming Gorge Pipeline:

…there was the news that the Colorado Water Conservation Board will spend $72,000 to fund an exploratory study to look at the feasibility of taking 81 billion gallons of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir 560 miles in a pipeline to Colorado’s Front Range. The cost of such a project, opposed by 87 percent of Wyoming voters according to a recent Trout Unlimited poll, would be $7 to $9 billion.

If you fish on the Green River, boat and fish on Flaming Gorge or, for that matter, want to use water from Lake Powell for southwestern Utah via another pipeline, this pipeline should be frightening.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

The water needs picture for developing the Niobrara shale is unclear at this time


Here’s an in-depth report about the current state of oil and gas exploration and production in Larimer and Weld counties, from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

“One thing that’s really concerning me and a lot of people, there are so many pending (oil and gas drilling) permits and approved permits in Weld County and Larimer County, are they reserving future water for fracking purposes, and where are the sources coming from?” said Shane Davis, chairman of the Poudre Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, which held a public forum on the issue in September. “It’s a very serious question that needs to be addressed.”[…]

“In terms of how it affects the state’s water planning, it still is fairly unclear,” said Eric Hecox, section chief of the Water Supply Planning Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Although we have a good handle on how much water it takes per well to frack the wells, we have very little information ultimately on how many wells there will be. Making quantitative projections on how much water will be needed is difficult at this time.”[…]

There is great national and international interest in the Niobrara in Colorado, [Tisha Shuler, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association] said, but the wells that have been drilled so far have produced mixed results partly because of the Niobrara’s complicated geology…

Most of the wells in Weld County are conventional oil wells, which are drilled vertically and require between 250,000 and 1 million gallons of water each per frack job, Shuler said…

Wells tapping the Niobrara shale are horizontal wells. The well bore is drilled vertically thousands of feet beneath the ground until it hits the Niobrara shale, then it angles horizontally into the shale, parallel with the ground. For decades, tapping the Niobrara oil deposit was difficult for drillers to reach because technology that hadn’t advanced enough to make it economically feasible…

Each of those horizontal wells requires somewhere between 1 million and 5 million gallons of water to bore into the Niobrara, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission data…

Shuler cautioned, however, that the oil industry’s water consumption figures sound staggering, but other water consumption by agriculture and cities is much greater. Less than 1 percent of the state’s available water is consumed by the energy industry each year, she said…

The city of Greeley sells about 250 million gallons of water to the oil and gas industry each year, earning the city $1 million in sales to the industry so far this year, said Greeley Water and Sewer Director Jon Monson…

Water regulators in Colorado say the overall impact of the oil and gas industry on the state’s water supply is negligible and shouldn’t have any significant impact on water availability in the future. “In the overall scheme of things, from the water standpoint, it’s a very small fraction,” Hecox said of the industry’s water consumption.

Meanwhile, here’s a blog post from Amy Mall running on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Switchboard weblog. She has a list of health experts that are warning about the potential health hazards for those living near natural gas production facilities.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.