District Manager Terry Scanga said his counterparts Jim Broderick, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Jay Winner, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, attended the meeting, as did Alan Hamel, executive director with Pueblo Board of Water Works.
Scanga said the men agreed that more storage in the Arkansas basin is crucial for meeting future municipal and industrial water demand as identified by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which projects a significant supply shortfall by 2050.
Scanga also said new storage capacity would be needed if more Western Slope water were to be diverted into the Arkansas Basin and additional storage is needed to support effective environmental conservation along basin waterways.
The Multi-Use Project recently proposed by the Upper Arkansas district would increase basin storage capacity and has generated interest among other conservancy districts and municipal water providers, Scanga said.
Here’s the link to the forum webpage. Thanks to Hannah Holm for the heads up. From the webpage:
The Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum will provide an opportunity for water experts focused on the Upper Colorado River Basin to share information about current projects and ideas for future projects…
Lunch and refreshments are included in conference registration. Pre-forum events on Sunday afternoon and evening will include a 2:00pm hike in the canyons of the Colorado National Monument (learn about flash floods!) and a 5:00pm reception on the terrace of the University Center featuring artistic celebrations of water.
[Chad Rudow] is the water quality coordinator for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Basalt-based conservation organization. The conservancy has partnered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to survey bug life in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Surveying the variety of creeping things in the water, Rudow explained, is key to determining water quality and stream health. “Looking at what lives in the river is a great way to find out how clean this water is,” he said as he dipped a water quality meter into the river to take some initial readings for acidity and temperature.
Rudow and a team of volunteers spent six days sampling bug life on the Roaring Fork over the last week. They went to 17 different sites on the Fork, along with some of its tributaries, including Brush Creek. They’re looking for aquatic macroinvertebrates. That’s science jargon for insects that live in the water and are big enough to be seen with the naked eye, Rudow explained…
…Rudow excitedly pointed out mayflies and stone flies, which cannot live in water with even minimal pollution. It’s a good initial indicator that the upper Roaring Fork is in good shape.
In a work session on Monday, September 26 the Town Council reluctantly but firmly agreed to raise the monthly water bill from $22 per month to $27 for the basic 8,000 gallons per residence. According to a memo from Finance Director Lois Rozman and Pubic Works Director Rodney Due, “The increase in the base rate is necessary to cover operating costs (including depreciation) of the water division. There is no proposed increase for the wastewater division.” They estimated that leaving the water rate at the current level would result in a $98,000 operating loss. Even with the increase, the fund is expected to lose $11,000.
“We have seen a lot of efficiencies in the last three years,” explained Due. “And in fact we are saving about 50 million gallons of water a year compared to three years ago. But the fixed costs don’t go down and it is getting more expensive. Still, even with the new rate, our water is the best deal of any commodity around.”
More than 86 percent of the water diverted from the Arkansas River in Colorado goes to agriculture, but in some counties the rate is much higher. Even though water supplies have been depleted by urban transfers, irrigated agriculture is the mainstay of water use in the Arkansas Valley.
El Paso and Pueblo counties are the population centers of the basin, and water usage reflects the need to supply cities and power companies. In El Paso County, only 20 percent of water withdrawals are used for agriculture, while 41 percent of the water used in Pueblo County goes to farms, according to published estimates by U.S. Geological Survey. But in the four counties east of Pueblo, about 99 percent of the water that is diverted irrigates crops. About 250,000 acres of land have been irrigated, on average, over the past five years under the largest ditches and wells east of Pueblo…
“If you take the water off the land, you get grass and weeds,” [John Schweizer, president of the Catlin Canal and Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] said. “This year, the grass Aurora planted on the Rocky Ford Canal looks dead. This part of the country is not equipped to handle dry-land farming.”[…]
As it stands, about one-third of the farmland under the ditches east of Pueblo could eventually be dried up for other purposes — either because cities or power companies have purchased water rights or speculators purchased them with hopes of selling it to thirsty Front Range communities. Other large blocks of land were dried up after Kansas prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit on the point that Colorado irrigation wells were in violation of the Arkansas River Compact. A study last year by The Pueblo Chieftain showed 145,000 acres in the Arkansas River basin from Leadville to Holly could be dried up when water rights are fully developed. Figures from the Colorado Division of Water Resources show that 80,000 acres of farm ground already have been lost as water rights were transferred to cities, or well augmentation. More than 100,000 of the acres at risk are or were under the 20 largest canals east of Pueblo. Those canals at one time or another irrigated more than 300,000 acres. The canals today are unable to irrigate more than 50,000 acres in the Lower Ark Valley, mostly on the Colorado Canal and Rocky Ford Ditch, because Water Court decrees required drying up the land in order to remove the consumptive use of water — the amount once used to grow crops.