The Colorado Farm Bureau wants to see non-augmented out of priority pumping from the South Platte alluvial aquifer permitted in wet years

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via Windsor Now!:

…the farm bureau’s approved policy also supports allowing “pumping of existing wells to lower ground water level, creating space for Alluvial aquifers to be recharged during spring run off.”

The Colorado Farm Bureau supporting such policy likely comes as a relief for farmers in Weld County and elsewhere. Many in the region are dealing with high groundwater issues, stemming from what they and others believe is caused by the state curtailing the pumping of about 8,000 groundwater wells — 2,000 of which were completely shut down — all along the South Platte River…

Arnusch and others understand that shutting down the wells at a time of drought was necessary, but they say that common sense is needed now, and the state’s water courts need to allow the state engineer’s office to turn on those wells when water in the basin is abundant to lower groundwater levels in the area before further damage is done.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

CNET: The Department of Homeland Security and FBI today dismissed the conclusions of a report that a cyber intrusion caused a pump at an Illinois water utility to burn out

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From CNET (Elinor Mills):

“After detailed analysis, DHS and the FBI have found no evidence of a cyber intrusion into the SCADA system of the Curran-Gardner Public Water District in Springfield, Illinois,” DHS spokesman Chris Ortman said in the statement provided to CNET. “There is no evidence to support claims made in initial reports–which were based on raw, unconfirmed data and subsequently leaked to the media–that any credentials were stolen, or that the vendor was involved in any malicious activity that led to a pump failure at the water plant. In addition, DHS and FBI have concluded that there was no malicious traffic from Russia or any foreign entities, as previously reported. Analysis of the incident is ongoing and additional relevant information will be released as it becomes available.”

Control systems expert Joe Weiss unearthed what appeared to be the first report of an attack on a U.S. water utility last week. According to a report titled “Public Water District Cyber Intrusion” and released in the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center Daily Intelligence Notes of November 10, a pump at a water utility in Illinois burned out when a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system was repeatedly switched on and off. The report said an intruder was apparently able to get access to the SCADA system after stealing customer usernames and passwords from a SCADA vendor.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works has the correct security strategy in place according to this report from John Norton writing for The Pueblo Chieftain.

The average Colorado Springs Utilities rate payer will see an $8.32 increase in 2012

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

Including a previously approved 12 percent water rate increase to help pay for the massive Southern Delivery System water pipeline, the typical residential bill next year would go up $8.22 a month, or 4.3 percent. Wastewater rates are proposed to stay the same…

Bill Cherrier, Utilities’ chief planning and finance officer, said the key drivers for the proposed rate adjustments are primarily capital projects. “The largest of these capital projects is Southern Delivery System, and it has a $141 million increase in capital for 2012,” he said. “Also included with 2012 is the NeuStream scrubbers for the Drake Power Plant. That is approximately $44 million, or 14.5 percent of the capital budget. These two projects represent nearly 60 percent of the capital budget.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Buena Vista: Mount Princeton Geothermal is hosting a public meeting November 30 about a planned magnetotelluric survey of the Chalk Creek area

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From The Mountain Mail:

A public meeting to discuss the survey and surface measurements is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 30 in the Sangre De Cristo Electric Association community room, 29780 N. U.S. 24 in Buena Vista. The purpose of the survey is to verify the existence of a deep, highly conductive geothermal water reservoir…The survey consists of 125-150 noninvasive surface measurements of deep natural electrical currents in the earth. Measurements require two 1-meter-long magnetic sensors laid on the ground and four probes positioned in the ground at depths less than 1 foot. Magnetotelluric measurements require 2-12 hours to complete and can provide geological data to depths of 5,000 feet.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Steamboat Springs: Black hair count on Wooly Bear caterpillars is a good sign for the snowpack in water year 2012

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From Steamboat Today (Eugene Buchanan):

…The following indicators show we’re due for some shoveling:

Woolly [Bear] caterpillars

Sure, there were more of these little buggers out than usual this year. But more important than their sighting is the number of black hairs at each end — the more the merrier for powder buffs. More orange means a milder winter. Some believe that each of the caterpillar’s 13 segments represents one week of winter. Orange segments predict mild weeks, and black ones predict snowy weeks. Also pay attention to the direction it’s traveling: If it’s heading north, it’ll be mild; south, break out the shovel. “All I know is that usually I don’t see too many of them, and this year I saw them all over the place,” [Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane] says.

Skunk cabbage height

According to Native Americans, the height of skunk cabbage leaves predicts the season’s snowfall. And while not Jack-and-the-Beanstalk high, this year’s crop in Routt County seemed to trend skyward. “It got pretty big this fall along Steamboat Boulevard,” Lane says. “I noticed it every day driving home.” Skunk cabbage is far more than a snowfall soothsayer. Native Americans ground its roots to treat wounds and draw out splinters; used its root hairs to soothe toothaches, colds and headaches; and mixed its powder with vegetable pigments to be used as prevention tattoos. It’s also well-adapted to Steamboat’s winters. It can live for 100 years and has winter shoots that morph into reddish-brown, slippery sheaths called spathes, which protect the blooms and whisk unsuspecting insects down to the pollen-filled bottom. It also has its own heating system, trapping heat generated by the flower spike and using it to melt the snow around it (its inside is as much as 36 degrees warmer than the outside air). The heat also attracts insects, which come for the warmth and pollinate in the process. As for its skunk-like smell? It protects the plant from grazing animals and fools such insects as carrion beetles into thinking they’ve found a carcass while they’re in fact distributing pollen.

Birds and the bees

Steamboat sages also look skyward. Rumor has it that an early blackbird migration signifies a strong winter (locals report seeing them heading south in September). The height of beehives also can predict snowfall. The lower the hive the less snow, and the higher the hive the more snow. “This year, they’re about saddle-horn high,” says Marsha Daughenbaugh, of the Community Agriculture Alliance. “That means the snowfall should be about medium, which is still pretty good.”

More wives’ tales

Even beavers have insight into Old Man Winter. Old-timers maintain that the height of a beaver dam indicates how cold the winter will be (they seem about average this year). The same holds true for cobwebs. Bigger than normal or more in your house means a bigger-than-normal winter. And don’t ignore the old persimmon seed. Cut a persimmon fruit in half: A knife-shaped seed spells cold, spoon-shaped means heavy snow and fork-shaped means mild. Other indicators of a big winter include pigs gathering sticks, insects marching in a straight line and more mice than usual inside your home.

Bayfield: Town trustees are considering a 5% sewer rate hike

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From The Durango Herald:

In a statement, Town Manager Chris La May said he understands the impact of the increase on business and residential customers, but the revenue is needed to comply with Clean Water Act requirements. The town built a new wastewater treatment plant but faces more challenges to comply with health regulations. Groundwater infiltration from irrigation ditches and rising groundwater plagues the sewage collection system, La May said. The infiltration pushes the capacity of the treatment plant toward its limit and flushes bacteria used to break down fecal matter through the plant more rapidly.

More wastewater coverage here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works enters into a lease to supply 500 acre-feet per year to the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The water will be used by the district to augment water under new rules requiring irrigators to prevent improvements from increasing consumptive use and depleting return flows. Rule 10 allows for group programs. The rules were adopted last year and apply to surface-fed sprinklers, drip irrigation systems and off-farm canal lining that could reduce return flows, possibly in violation of the Arkansas River Compact. Systems fed by wells are covered by 1996 rules adopted after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Colorado in a lawsuit brought by Kansas over the compact. The Lower Ark District, with the help of state grants, started a group program that allows farmers to pay a fee for basic engineering and calculation of deficits to the river.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Rick Cables, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, ‘When I look at the 21st century, the issue will be water’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Early this year, Rick Cables took the job as director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife after serving as regional forester for the National Forest Service. It has meant a change of perspective. “The Forest Service had management responsibilities and, as a state, we’re the recipients,” said Cables, a Pueblo native who went to the work for the state in June.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Cables’ belief that a healthy forest is necessary to maintain water quality in Colorado. That quality is important in his new job, which oversees how both people and animals fit into the natural world. “When I look at the 21st century, the issue will be water,” Cables said. “Everything in Colorado is associated with water.”

Disclosure of the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids will be the subject for discussion at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rule-making hearing on December 5

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will have a rule-making hearing on Dec. 5. One of the changes would require companies to divulge the chemical used in fracking…

State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, is planning legislation that would estimate water use for fracking, and she is also concerned about potential contamination of groundwater sources from fracking operations…

“Governor Hickenlooper was right to demand full disclosure of fracking chemicals as a means of creating greater transparency in industry operations,” said Elise Jones, director of coalition. “It would be a shame if a wide loophole for unlimited trade secret claims undermined the governor’s goal.”

The Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, the National Wildlife Federation, the San Juan Citizens Alliance and the High Country Citizens Alliance, represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, will press the Commission at the Dec. 5 hearing to close the trade-secret loophole.

“The draft rule’s trade secret provisions highlight the oil and gas industry’s resistance to full public disclosure,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman. “Adopting this approach in the final rule would feed existing public skepticism that the oil and gas industry only supports disclosure to the extent it is limited to window dressing that allows companies to continue withholding information at their discretion.”

Here’s a look at the water required for hydraulic fracturing from Catharine Tsai writing for the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, estimates that it would take 6.5 billion gallons of water a year to drill the Niobrara formation. The state as a whole uses more than 100 times that a year.

“Even with a vastly increased drilling program, the quantity of water used is still small in the overall scheme of Colorado’s water use,” said COGA president Tisha Schuller. She said COGA plans to work with communities on planning for oil and gas development, including infrastructure and water needs.

Natural resource planners said they’re working with state regulators to find out how much water may be available for oil and gas drilling.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has proposed requiring companies to publicly disclose their fracking chemicals, but ingredients considered to be a “trade secret” would be disclosed only to state regulators and certain county officials and health professionals on request. Delta County commissioners have suggested clarifying how operators declare something to be a trade secret, while Pitkin County commissioners are pushing for public disclosure of all chemicals.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Commerce City Mayor pro tem Dom inick Moreno and state Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, joined environment groups Tuesday, saying that while trade secrets are important safeguards for business, letting companies avoid disclosure by invoking trade secrets would defeat the purpose of the rule. “Our residents deserve to know what chemicals are being used only yards away from their homes,” Moreno said. Wyoming and Texas already require companies to disclose the chemicals they inject.

While full disclosure “is definitely not a silver bullet,” it would be “a good foundation to make sure fracking is happening safely,” Earthjustice attorney Mike Freeman said. “If they deal with the trade-secrets issue, this will do a lot to improve transparency in Colorado.”

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Finally, here’s a report about Southwestern Colorado’s potential Gothic Shale play, from Benjamin Preston writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The document outlining the development potential of the Paradox Basin portion of the San Juan Public Lands planning area estimates a potential for construction of 2,954 new gas wells there by 2021. At 646,000 acres, Paradox Basin comprises 18 percent of the San Juan Public Lands planning area. Right now there are six wells in the area, only one of which — the Koskie-Brumley well — is producing anything. Because the well is on a non-federal lease, BLM does not keep records of its production numbers.

The federal assessment also indicates that the new wells could produce 9 million barrels of oil and nearly 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from the Gothic Shale Gas Formation — enough natural gas to power more than a million American homes for a year. Construction of new drill pads, processing plants, compressor stations and pipelines associated with the development would cause an estimated 9,072 acres — 1.4 percent of the Paradox Basin’s total land area — of well-related surface disturbance.

“The [Bill Barrett Corp.] is the main driver we’ve seen so far for gas development in the Paradox Basin,” said Rick Rymerson, Minerals Staff Chief at BLM’s Durango office.

[Dan Randolph, Executive Director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance] said that environmental groups like his are concerned that gas development will cause wildlife habitat fragmentation, soil erosion and air and water quality impacts.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.