Water 2012 Book Club discussion starts up tomorrow: First up, ‘The Colorado River Flowing Through Conflict’

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Here’s the link to the Your Water Colorado Blog where the discussion will take place for The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict by Peter McBride and Jonathan Waterman. From the blog:

…online discussion of the featured 2012 books, beginning with Waterman and McBride’s the Colorado River Flowing Through Conflict tomorrow, February 1– here on Your Water Colorado Blog.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Conservation in the West poll: Western voters across political spectrum agree — public lands are essential to our economy

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Here’s the release from the State of the Rockies Project:

The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in- between – view parks and public lands as essential to their state’s economy, and support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that swing voters across the west – who will be key to deciding the outcome of a number of U.S. Senate and governors’ races, and possibly the presidential race – nearly unanimously agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of these states. Four in five western voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator.

Survey results are a sharp contrast to the energy and environmental debates currently happening in Washington, and in many state capitals. “Western voters consistently believe that conservation helps create and protect jobs for their states,” said Dave Metz. “In fact, by a 17 point margin, voters are more likely to say that environmental regulations have a positive impact on jobs in their state rather than a negative one.”

Seven in 10 Western voters support implementation of the Clean Air Act, and updating clean air standards. They see regulations designed to protect land, air, water and wildlife as having positive impact on public safety (70 percent), the natural beauty of their state (79 percent) and their quality of life (72 percent).

The survey also found strong approval ratings for most governors in the region, and an electorate divided in hotly-contested U.S. Senate races in Montana and New Mexico. Key swing voters in these contests often express pro-conservation views.

“What we read in the press and what politicians say about an ever-sharpening trade-off between environment and jobs in a deep recession do not square with views of many western voters,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Instead, those stubborn westerners continue to defy stereotypes, by arguing that a livable environment and well-managed public lands can be — in fact must be — compatible with a strong economy.”

The survey results echo the sentiments of more than 100 economists, including three Nobel Laureates and Dr. Hecox, who recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create and invest in new federal protected lands such as national parks, wilderness and monuments. Studies have shown that together with investment in education and access to markets, protected public lands are significant contributors to economic growth.

Similarly, western voters voiced support for continued funding of conservation, indicating that even with tight state budgets, they want to maintain investments in parks, water, and wildlife protection. When specific local issues were tested with voters in some states – such as increasing the state’s renewable energy standard in Montana, establishing national monument protections for the Arkansas River canyon in Colorado, and updating energy standards for new homes in Utah – voters want to actually strengthen protections.

While there are geographic and partisan distinctions on a number of key issues, such as energy development on public lands, the data show that the broad conservation values uniting westerners are much more prevalent than the occasional issues that divide them.

“The depth and breadth of the connection between westerners and the land is truly remarkable – – when people are telling us that public lands are essential to their economy, and that they support continued investments in conservation, even in these difficult economic times,” said Lori Weigel. “Westerners are telling us that we’ve got to find a way to protect clean air, clean water, and parks in their states.”

The 2012 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 2,400 registered voters in six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) January 2 through 5 & 7, 2012, and yields a margin of error of + 2.0 percent nationwide and +4.9 statewide.

The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.

More coverage from Tim Hooper writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Other findings from the poll showed:

• 78 percent of Coloradans said that the state can protect land and water and have a strong economy at the same time.

• 93 percent agreed that, “Our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s economy.”

• 63 percent of Colorado voters view environmental laws more as “important safeguards to protect private property owners, public health and taxpayers from toxic pollution and costly clean-ups” while 29 percent see them as “burdensome regulations that tie up industry in red tape, hurt them too much financially, and cost jobs.”

• 75 percent say Colorado should maintain protections for land, air and water in the state rather than reduce them in an effort to create jobs as quickly as possible.

• Only 34 percent said that, “One of the best ways to create jobs is to cut back environmental regulations that are weighing down Colorado’s businesses.”

• 71 percent support the EPA “continuing to implement the Clean Air Act by updating the standards for air quality, including for smog, dust, and emissions from power plants, factories and cars.”

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (Scot Kersgaard):

A full 67 percent of Colorado voters identify themselves as conservationists, including 62 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents. A whopping 93 percent say parks and open space are essential to the state’s economy.

The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that Western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in-between – support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife…

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing the need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator according to the survey…

Seventy-six percent want state Lottery funds to continue to be used to protect parks, wildlife habitat, and natural areas and school construction, instead of being redirected to the general state education budget. Sixty-six percent support protection of some of the lands in the Arkansas River Canyon as a national monument…

“Investments in conservation of our public lands and water are not only critical to providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities, but also a critical component of the $192 billion sportsmen contribute to our national economy annually,” said Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Sportsmen and women continue to value a stubborn stewardship of our natural places and the recreational opportunities those places provide.”[…]

In Colorado, 66 percent of hunters identified themselves as conservationists, 75 percent of anglers identified that way. Asked whether environmental regulations have a positive or negative impact on jobs in the state, 44 percent said the effect was positive, compared with 29 percent who thought regulations were bad for the job market.

More conservation coverage here.

Climax mine to open this quarter

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From The Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

The Climax Mine will be up and running sometime in this quarter, according to officials at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX), mine owner, who discussed the mine start-up during the earnings report for fourth quarter 2011, held on Jan. 19. Construction of the $700 million in mine improvements is now 95 percent complete…

FCX is projecting production of 80-million pounds of molybdenum this year. Thornton said about 7 million of these pounds will come from Climax, which eventually can produce up to 30 million pounds a year.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack is approximately 73% of average, South Platte — 81%, Rio Grande — 83%

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for yesterday’s statewide snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Click here to zero in on your basin of interest.

Meanwhile here’s a summary of snowmaking efforts around the west from The Durango Telegraph:

With warm temperatures and scarce snow, winter has been long for snowmaking crews at most Western ski resorts. For many, the work typically ends by Christmas or at least early January.

Not this year. Snowmaking continues even as storms have now arrived.

With the rockiest start to winter in decades, many resorts will probably re-evaluate investments in water, snowguns and other infrastructure, say ski industry officials.

“Snowmaking is something you can never take for granted,” says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association and a former supervisor of snowmaking crews. “It takes constant upgrading, constant improvements, constant effort to improve your water rights. And just when you think you don’t need it, you will need it the most,” he added.

Spanked by two hard-luck winters in 1976-77 and 1980-81, most Colorado destination ski areas invested heavily in snowmaking.

This investment paid off this year for Steamboat. Despite warm nights that idled snowmaking crews in November and December, the ski area had 1,900 acres, or 65 percent, of the terrain open at Christmas. That was among the best in Colorado. Only two ski areas, Durango Mountain Resort and Wolf Creek, both in the southwestern tier, were 100 percent open.

Last summer, Steamboat bought seven new energy-efficient snowmaking guns, which use 30 percent less energy.

Water is another vital component of snowmaking. At Breckenridge, where snowmaking continued as of Jan. 21, the ski area had consumed 900 acre-feet, compared to the normal 700 to 750 acre-feet, according to Glenn Porzak, the resort’s water lawyer.

Not all resorts have substantial snowmaking, however. Particularly the ski areas along the crest of California’s Sierra Nevada. which suffered almost no natural snow and just thin ribbons of man-made.

“I don’t think I have ever been in a mountain area in the latter of part of January where there was so little snow,” said Porzak after a ski industry meeting at Squaw Valley. “It was brutal.”

Porzak has helped ski areas in Western states secure water rights for snowmaking since the 1970s. After every significant drought, ski areas have invested heavily in additional snowmaking capabilities. The more well-heeled have invested even when no drought is imminent.

This year, Porzak expects ski areas to engage in an intense re-evaluation of water needs and snowmaking infrastructure. The need is most obvious in Lake Tahoe, where fresh snow is often measured by the foot, not the inch.

This year, however, Squaw had just two runs covered with snow as of Jan. 19, the day before natural snow started arriving. Heavenly and Northstar both have sophisticated snowmaking systems, which put them in better stead for the tough early season this winter, says NSAA’s Berry.

The Colorado Geological Survey has developed an online tool to further understanding of the Niobrara shale play

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Here’s the link to the CGS page. Here’s the introduction:

The Niobrara strata in the Denver Basin are currently being developed for oil production using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This development is moving into parts of the Denver Basin where many people depend on groundwater to meet their household needs. Citizens are concerned that this activity may adversely affect their water wells. This calculation tool was developed to help citizens or planners understand the geologic conditions that exist beneath their property.

The tool is designed to help people visualize the spatial relation of hydraulic fracturing in the Niobrara Formation to the important fresh-water aquifers. The tool will show the average depth to the Niobrara Formation at any selected point or address on the map. It will also show the minimum thickness of the shale barrier (Pierre Shale) that separates the Niobrara strata from fresh water aquifers. The tool also provides the depth of the deepest fresh water aquifer at any spot on the map.

The above cross section [ed. Click on the the thumbnail graphic above and to the right] represents what we would encounter if a giant, vertical slice were cut out of the Denver Basin so that we could observe the various layers of rock. Notice that the Niobrara strata are so deep that they are actually below sea level in some parts of the basin.The illustration shows how an oil company would drill a vertical well into the Niobrara strata and then turn the drill bit so that it would drill horizontally in the Niobrara limestone layers. After the horizontal part of the well is drilled (sometimes more than a mile in length), the company pumps liquid and sand out into the horizontal borehole. The pressure of this slurry fractures the limestone so that the oil flows into the well at much higher rates than it normally would without the artificial fracturing.

Controlling where fracturing occurs is important for two reasons. First, if fracturing were to extend into overlying freshwater aquifers it would create a potential pathway for contamination of water supplies. Second, oil production would decrease if fractures extended into non-oil bearing formations.

Fortunately, in the Denver Basin we have a stack of rocks (the Pierre Shale) that separates the Niobrara from shallower aquifers. The properties of the Pierre Shale are ideal for preventing upward migration of fractures or fluids. The Pierre Shale has extremely low permeability and it is very thick (varying from more than a half a mile thick to about a mile and a half thick). These two properties combine to make the possibility of fractures or fluids working their way up through it, essentially nil. The calculation tool will show you how thick this barrier is at any spot in the Denver Basin.

More coverage the Craig Daily Press:

Citizens around the state have been seeking a better understanding of how ground water supplies are protected amid energy development and the geologic conditions that separate ground water from the oil and natural gas deposits in the Niobrara.

The purpose of the tool is to answer the following questions: If a company were to hydraulically fracture the Niobrara formation under a house, how deep would this be occurring? How thick would the shale barrier be between the house’s water well and the Niobrara strata?

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

‘Rally for the Rivers’ asks EPA to protect the Upper Colorado River from diversions

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Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

More than 100 river advocates holding signs and chanting slogans gathered in front of the Environmental Protection Agency building in downtown Denver Thursday to ask federal regulators to protect the Upper Colorado River system from proposed water diversions to the Front Range.

“This is a moment of truth for the state,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, which helped organize the gathering of Denver residents, kayakers, anglers, outdoor recreationists and other river supporters. “We have to do something to save our state’s namesake river from dying.”

Scores of signs at the event underscored that theme, including “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry,” “Protect Our Flows,” and “EPA: Be a Hero.”

The rally is part of an ongoing campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River and its tributary, the Fraser River, and the mountain communities, businesses, people and wildlife that depend on them. The Denver rally, say organizers, was meant to show EPA and other federal decision-makers that Denver residents care about the state’s outdoor quality of life and the health of rivers.

The Defend the Colorado coalition is asking EPA–which Eberle called a “partner” on river protection–to take additional steps to ensure the health of the river in the face of two proposed water diversions.

Already 60 percent of the Upper Colorado is diverted to supply Front Range water users. The Windy Gap Firming Project proposal, along with a separate Moffat Tunnel water project, could divert as much as 80 percent of the Upper Colorado’s natural flows. The current proposed Windy Gap protections from the Bureau of Reclamation fall short of what’s needed to address mounting problems, such as low flows, rising temperatures, spreading algae and smothering sediment.

As Eberle told the lunchtime crowd, a state study released earlier this year shows that entire populations of native fish and the insects they feed on have virtually disappeared from the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir due to past diversions.

“Is this what we want to see happen to our rivers?” Eberle asked.

“NO!” the crowd responded.

Field and Stream magazine editor-at-large Kirk Deeter, a Colorado resident, said he was lucky enough to travel the world in his job but always looks forward to coming home to his home state and home waters. He called the Upper Colorado a ”special place” that deserves protection.

Also speaking was Jon Kahn, owner of Confluence Kayaks in Denver, who stressed the economic impact of water-based recreation, which he noted contributes “hundreds of millions of dollars” annually to the state’s economy. “I am just one of hundreds of business owners whose livelihoods depend on healthy flows in our rivers,” he said.

According to the Defend the Colorado coalition, additional steps must be taken to protect the rivers, including:

· Managing the water supply to keep the rivers cool, clear and healthy.
· Ensuring healthy flushing flows to prevent river habitat from filling in with silt.
· Monitoring of the rivers’ health and a commitment to take action if needed to protect them.
· Bypassing the Windy Gap dam to reconnect Colorado River and restore river quality.

“The health of the Colorado and Fraser rivers is critical to local communities and the state’s recreation economy,” Eberle said. “But many Coloradans don’t realize that these rivers are having the life sucked out of them. At some point, they cease to become functioning rivers—and we lose a huge part of what makes our state a great place to live. Our state and federal leaders need to finish the job of protecting these incredible places.”

The group is planning additional rallies and events this spring to highlight the plight of the rivers and demand action from state and federal decision-makers.

The Defend the Colorado coalition includes Colorado Trout Unlimited and a range of stakeholders, including conservation and wildlife groups, landowners, and outdoor recreationists. More than 400 western slope businesses have signed a petition asking state leaders to protect the Upper Colorado.

For more information, go to www.DefendTheColorado.org

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Colorado conservation activists last week gathered outside EPA headquarters in Denver, asking federal regulators to protect the Upper Colorado River system from proposed water diversions to the Front Range.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Steve Maxwell: ‘We’re going to see big companies start making decisions based on the availability of water’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re going to see a shift in population (migration),” said Steve Maxwell, an investment banker who co-wrote “The Future of Water” with Scott Yates. “We’ll begin to see water issues affecting demographic changes.” That means places with plenty of water, for example Buffalo, N.Y., and Cleveland, may become more desirable than sun belt destinations such as Las Vegas and Tucson. Maxwell’s comments were a wet blanket during the 54th annual convention of the Colorado Water Congress, which for years has been wrestling with the potential for future shortfalls in state water supply…

In his global view, water is increasingly becoming a commodity, like oil and gas, as well as a necessity for human life. Water projects are attracting more private investment and will cost more as time goes by. As an investment banker, Maxwell sees similarities to other commodities for water: It’s critical to the world economy; there is a fixed amount; the demand is increasing. Unlike coal, oil, gas or any other commodity, there is no substitute for water. In addition to finding a supply, there are huge costs looming in maintaining or repairing infrastructure. Private companies are taking over where public water providers leave off, Maxwell said. “We’re going to see big companies start making decisions based on the availability of water,” he said. “And it will impact personal decisions as well.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: Colorado’s water planning efforts lag other states

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Other states have plans that identify projects, such as Texas, or programs, as California does. And some states, such as Kansas, use some combination in their plans and guide by policy. All are locally driven, and have some procedure for implementation. In Colorado, water planning historically has been difficult because of mistrust between the Colorado River basin, where most of the water is, and the Front Range, which has most of the population lives — and where future water demands are expected to escalate.

Since 1956, there has been some sort of document in place to guide the state through water controversies, but they essentially boil down to finding out how much Colorado River water is left to develop, Hecox said. “Colorado Water Resources,” published in 1956, was a small document that covered the same issues as the voluminous Statewide Water Supply Initiative, published in 2004 and updated in 2010. The state plans to continue updating it every six years…

“On the West Slope, we want good choices that avoid future crisis,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Conservation District. “We understand the Colorado River is part of meeting future needs, but we need to focus on making good choices.” Kuhn said the consequences of overdeveloping water resources can be seen in all of the state’s other basins and must be avoided on the Colorado River…

Fort Morgan dairy farmer Chris Kraft said agriculture must be protected in any future state plans. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people who went before us,” Kraft said. “Everybody has a stake in this game if we’re going to keep moving forward.”

More CWCB coverage here. More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Climate change: What was once south is heading our way (Plant Hardiness Zones)

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From the Louisville Courier-Journal (James Bruggers):

The USDA this past week updated its plant hardiness zone maps, catching up to what many gardeners have known and experienced for a while — our warming climate. The maps show average annual extreme minimum temperatures. While USDA said the map does not confirm any long-term climate change because it’s not based on enough years of data, news reports, bloggers and environmental groups aren’t necessarily buying that.

Whit Gibbons: ‘Why do we need the Environmental Protection Agency?’

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From the Tuscaloosa News (Whit Gibbons). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Want to have cancer-causing, bird-killing DDT sprayed in your neighborhood? How about having high levels of brain- damaging mercury dumped into your favorite fishing spot? What about paper mill wastes clogging up rivers and fouling the air people breathe?

These health hazards were once commonplace in communities throughout our country. That they are no longer the hazards they once were is due in no small part to the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects us from these and other environmental abuses. Without EPA oversight, the United States would be a much less healthy place to live.

Those who believe we do not need federal regulation of activities that can turn the country into a toxic waste dump are likely unaware of the far-reaching environmental and human health consequences of such actions. They may also not want to accept the fact that some individuals and many corporations will put profit ahead of all other considerations–including the health and well-being of the general populace.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: Water is essential for health and fitness

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Kanda Misiaszek):

Did you know that your body is estimated to be about 60-70 percent water? Our blood is 83 percent water, and our muscles and vital organs contain a lot of water. Each of us needs water to regulate body temperature and provide means for nutrients to travel throughout our body…

Water exercise classes improve physical fitness by using water for resistance with only 10 percent impact on your joints

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments has released a report about the importance of water to Colorado’s headwaters counties

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Here’s the Outreach Summary from NWCCOG. Here’s an excerpt:

REPORT PURPOSE

This report describes the:
– Unique economic characteristics of six headwaters counties;
– Direct link between water and these local economies;
– Economic relationship between water and the headwaters
counties and their relationship with the Front Range and Eastern Plains, and;
– Compromised conditions triggered by transmountain diversions and other competing demands for water and potential economic consequences of over allocation of West Slope water.

The report provides a counterbalancing perspective to the recent attention to the adverse economic consequences of purchasing agricultural water rights from properties on the Eastern Plains. This report is descriptive; it does not take issue with Front Range municipal water users or Eastern Plains agricultural water users. All parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view.

KEY MESSAGES

1. Front Range water users, Eastern Plains agricultural properties and statewide economic developers need healthy headwaters county economies. There are numerous, mutually supportive economic relationships among the regions of the State.

2. Water in its natural stream course is essential to the economies of headwaters counties. Headwaters counties’ water needs are primarily nonconsumptive.

3. The West Slope is already compromised from historic transmountain water diversions. Diverting more water without full mitigation will have West Slope and statewide adverse economic consequences. From the water-basin- of-origin, transmountain water diversion is 100% consumptive.

4. Historical strategies to manage remaining West Slope water have provided mitigation relief but a continuation of these same strategies may not work in the future. We may be near the environmental tipping point.

5. Moving forward, future transmountain water diversions from the headwaters counties should only be approved after close coordination with interests of the basin-of-origin counties and robust mitigation of environmental and socioeconomic impacts. There are creative management solutions to be explored and activated. West Slope and East Slope interests have a strong history of creative and cooperative problem solving. High-level and inclusive leadership is needed now.

UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HEADWATERS COUNTIES

– Provide a source of water not only throughout Colorado, but also to six other states and the Republic of Mexico.

– The adage: “The West Slope contains 11% of the State’s population and 85% of the State’s water.” is often misinterpreted because a substantial portion of this water is legally and physically spoken for.

– Contain world-class recreation venues that attract national and international visitors and require minimal consumptive water.

– Provide the iconic image and draw for many Front Range economic development initiatives.

Download the full report here.

More coverage from Laura Glendenning writing for the Vail Daily. From the article:

The environmental consequences of pumping Western Slope water to the east include everything from lower streamflows and increased water temperatures to degradation in water quality and clarity, compromised aquatic environments and the health of fish, according to the report. But it’s the economic consequences that are often overlooked, the report says…

Streamflows in local rivers are part of the local economy, said Linn Brooks, general manager of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District. The report, she said, is raising the awareness of just how important the rivers are for the overall state economy.

“Without a good, healthy river system with all its components — habitat, clearness, flows — without that, Colorado as a whole loses out,” Brooks said. “Because if we don’t have ski resorts and fishing and hunting and all the things that people come to the Western Slope for, a lot of people won’t come to Colorado at all.”

Anglers, for example, might do most of their fishing in headwaters counties, but the impact is felt statewide. The report says that headwaters counties capture 14 percent of the total positive economic impact from anglers, while the Front Range captures 57 percent because anglers spend so much on transportation and equipment there.

Water attorney Glenn Porzak said the report is countering the thought that the East Slope should primarily focus on transmountain diversions to meet future water demands.

Eagle County has been successful in protecting its headwaters from heading east, Porzak said. In an agreement made a few years ago, the city of Denver can’t seek new water rights in Eagle County without the permission of the local stakeholders — Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Eagle County and Vail Resorts.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Stormwater detention/management and other improvements subject of seminar

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Balancing flood protection, water quality concerns and water rights will be necessary to develop projects on Fountain Creek and other areas. A crowd of about 100, mostly regulators or developers whose work involves stormwater control, attended a seminar last week at the Pueblo Convention Center to discuss those issues…

A study of dams on Fountain Creek by the U.S. Geological Survey will determine how effective dams at various locations would be at controlling flows, but a further study of water rights is needed, Witte said. “A big dam would be easier to regulate and easier to analyze,” he said. “There are a lot of advantages to a single flood control structure. There are also negatives to consider, like the loss of riparian habitat.” Gates at Pueblo Dam can be shut when flows exceed 6,000 cfs at Avondaleto avoid flood conditions. There is no similar mechanism on Fountain Creek, Witte said…

The seminar, now in its second year, was staged to acquaint people from Pueblo and the surrounding area with policies and laws affecting stormwater, said Louise Bosché, stormwater quality inspector for the city of Pueblo. “Stormwater is a huge issue for Fountain Creek and the city of Pueblo,” said Ross Vincent, of the Pueblo Sierra Club. “If we hope to hold Colorado Springs to high standards to protect the Arkansas River, we have to do at least as well or better here in Pueblo.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Downstream Neighbor 2012 Symposium: Keynote speaker Maude Barlow remains optimistic for her cause and diametrically opposed to water markets

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Update: here’s the link to the audio for Ms. Barlow’s presentation.

Maude Barlow managed to end a dreary tour through the world’s water supply problems on an optimistic note. She hammered home the point that real science, statistics and information interchange, will carry the cause in the day.

Water for basic needs and sanitation is a human right in her view. She laments the lack of respect for nature in our economy. She advocates for changes that will lead to a sustainable future for all.

I came to know Maude Barlow a bit after reading Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water her 2005 book about the disasters of privatization in the global south. She’s since released Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Ms. Barlow has been active lately, standing with the protestors that surrounded the White House, to help end the nonsense of the Keystone Pipeline.

At a Keystone protest in Canada she got cuffed by a reluctant mountie. Apparently he was apprehensive about facing his wife, a Barlow fan, when he got home.

Barlow advocates against water markets and can cite instance after instance where they have failed. This includes driving the poor in some areas to rely on surface water infused with waterborne disease.

Of Colorado, she maintains that we will inexorably move to a water commons model — she cited riparian law in Vermont as an example. She understands that western water law is mostly founded on the doctrine of prior appropriation. She doesn’t favor someone being able to divert, “…just because they got there first.”

On the subject of privatization I line up pretty well with Barlow. No surprise since I’ve read her work and she can make a point.

I do want to remind readers however that the water market in Colorado operates pretty well.

Prior appropriation is a good mechanism for allocating water in times of scarcity.

Colorado Water law prevents speculation in water rights acquisition. Recently the Pagosa Springs Water and Sanitation District lost big in water court over their planned Dry Creek Reservoir. In essence one of the judge’s findings said that they were trying to appropriate more water than projected customer growth would warrant.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District recently filed comments to a proposed permit for private water developer Aaron Million’s Flaming Gorge Pipeline. The project is speculative in nature they say.

The environment has a seat at the table in the Colorado water market. The Colorado Water Conservation Board is allowed by state statute to hold instream flow rights. Working with the non-profit Colorado Water Trust they’ve secured flows in critical reaches across Colorado.

Tax policy contains provisions for conservation easements designed to keep appropriated water with the land traditionally irrigated.

Finally, there is little enthusiasm amongst water providers to switch their operations to a for-profit model. Most ditch and reservoir companies also operate as non-profits.

The Downstream Neighbor Symposium is part of the Colorado Water 2012 celebration being spearheaded by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

The keynote event was a hoot. Things kicked off with a Denver/Boulder folk singer. During one song she invited us to sing along. A big crowd is my perfect place to sing. No one can hear me.

A graphic artist was on hand to capture the keynote address in words and picture while Ms. Barlow was speaking. The artist did an impressive job. I want to hire her for any meeting I facilitate from now on.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

U.S. Representative Scott Tipton pens letter to Congress asking for hearing about water storage

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Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

Stressing the important role that water plays in western economies, jobs, and food security, Congressman Tipton (R-CO) has requested a Congressional hearing to examine issues surrounding water storage in the West.

In a letter to Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock, Tipton wrote:

“The uncertainties of annual water availability can imperil those communities which are hindered by an unwieldy regulatory framework that hinders the ability to store water for vital purposes. Through prudent supply management and the ability to store much needed water, communities can support jobs that depend on the availability of water, protect food security, control flooding, ensure continued recreation opportunities, provide water for the development of hydropower, and meet environmental protection needs.

“Among the immediate concerns regarding water storage is this year’s relatively low snow pack levels in Colorado. Streamlining the regulatory permitting process can help better prepare those communities that rely on snow pack to support local economies.

“I respectfully urge the Water and Power Subcommittee to take up this issue in a hearing so that we can identify the hurdles to water storage and work towards regulatory reform that will support Western communities that rely on the ability to store water.”

View the entire letter here.

Tipton recently spearheaded a bipartisan effort to stop the U.S. Forest Service from implementing a permit condition to require the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government as a permit condition on National Forest System lands. Tipton expressed concern over the impact the requirement would have on water rights held by ski areas and ranchers in particular. The U.S. Ski Industry Association is currently suing the U.S. Forest Service over the matter.

Thanks to the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper) for the heads up.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: David Robbins receives the Aspinall Water Leader Award

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Robbins was honored for his longtime service to water interests in the state, including his yeoman work on Kansas v. Colorado. Click on the thumbnail graphic for my photo of Robbins and some of the past recipients.

When accepting the award Robbins underscored the need to keep all of Colorado’s entitlements under the various compacts in Colorado for future generations of Coloradans to be put to use as they see fit.

Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

David Robbins, president and co-founder of the Denver law firm of Hill & Robbins, was awarded the Wayne N. Aspinall water leader of the year award at the 54th annual CWC convention…

“We should not give away a drop of water that this state needs,” Robbins said, upon receiving the award. “We owe it to future generations.”[…]

In the Arkansas River basin, he was the attorney for the state of Colorado during the 24-year Kansas v. Colorado U.S. Supreme Court case involving the Arkansas River Compact. He also represented Colorado Springs through a contentious permitting process for the Southern Delivery System

While with the attorney general’s office, he defended the state’s in-stream flow program that protects water for the environment.

More Colorado Water Congress coverage here and here (Twitter).

Frank Jaeger: ‘The CWCB, in the face of a high-profile, professionally orchestrated lobbying campaign, kept its promise to consider all options,’ with the Flaming Gorge pipeline

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I caught up with Mr. Jaeger at this week’s Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention on Thursday. He told me that the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition has the customers signed up for the water so that there is little question that the group will meet the “can and will” provisions in the permitting process. He also says that the coalition’s estimates of costs for building the project are between two and three billion dollars. In addition they plan to use existing storage in southeastern Wyoming with their partners there.

I got to chat briefly with Aaron Million as well. He is positive that the project, now modeled after the Lake Powell Pipeline to the St. George, Utah area, is on track and will pass environmental muster.

Here’s a report Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado- Wyoming Coalition this week wrote to state water officials confirming its interest in a Flaming Gorge pipeline. The group represents 550,000 people in five Colorado and three Wyoming cities or water districts…

“The CWCB, in the face of a high-profile, professionally orchestrated lobbying campaign, kept its promise to consider all options, including new projects that have some level of support and appear worth examining,” Frank Jaeger, manager of Parker Water and Sanitation District, wrote…

Jaeger said a pipeline project could help both Wyoming and Colorado develop what is left of each state’s allocation under the compact. “This project is a bi-state effort that provides an approach for two upper basin states to develop a portion of our compact entitlement in a collaborative manner,” Jaeger said.

More Colorado-Wyoming Coalition coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: U.S. Representative Tipton says the federal environmental reviews have put costs out of range

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“One thing we need to recognize is the regionalization of the United States,” [U.S. Representative Scott Tipton] said, noting that he has received support on both sides of the aisle from Western states on water issues. “People in the Northeast don’t see the need for water projects because they have plenty of water.”[…]

[CWC Board member Chris Treece] asked the congressmen what role the federal government should play in smoothing the way for water projects in Colorado. “There should be a state-based review and the federal government should get out of the way,” [U.S. Representative Cory Gardner] said.

Tipton said federal policies requiring expensive environmental reviews of projects have put costs out of range. “It’s unnecessary,” Tipton said. “We could do that at the state and local level instead.”

More Colorado Water Congress coverage here and here (Twitter).

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: State lawmakers oppose public trust measures on fall ballot

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“If we don’t defeat these initiatives, those uneducated about water will take control and irrigated agriculture will cease to be important,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, D-Sterling…

The [Colorado Water Congress] has opposed two initiatives by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay and his attorney Phil Doe of Littleton. Those measures seek to supplant constitutional provisions that form the basis for Colorado’s prior appropriation doctrine and replace it with a public trust doctrine. The CWC has hired attorney Steve Leonhardt to fight the ballot initiatives during the early stages and has received support of other water groups, such as the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, in its effort. The CWC plans to appeal the state title board’s approval of ballot measures 3 and 45 because they include multiple subjects in violation of Colorado law, Leonhardt said…

Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, said more education of the state’s population about water issues is needed to defeat such ballot measures.

More coverage of the CWC annual convention from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The good news is that Colorado is coming out of the recession. It’s slow. It’s hard, but it’s there,” said Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee. The state has siphoned $200 million in mineral severance funds meant for water projects to bolster the general fund since 2008.

This has the potential to damage water availability in the future as more projects are backlogged. “We need something to show our grandchildren about our investment in water in Colorado,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village…

“Without water, we have limited jobs and growth,” [State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg] said. “We have water leaving the state beyond our compact obligations. Water storage has to be a priority.”

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news: Statewide — 74% of average, Arkansas Basin jumps back into average range (barely) at 90%

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via The Fence Post:

“We’ve had some snow recently that’s helped us rebound a bit, but we’re still a ways behind … and nowhere near where we were a year ago,” [State Climatologist Nolan Doesken] said, reflecting back to the winter and spring of 2011, when snowpack numbers were well above normal. As Doesken explained, most of the snowfall in the mountains doesn’t come until March and April. Last year, it wasn’t until the second week of April that the heavy snowfall came, he said during his presentation Wednesday. But the persisting La Niña weather patterns make it tough for forecasters to predict big snows this spring, he added. La Niña patterns traditionally result in dry weather, even bringing on drought in some areas — as it did in Texas this past year…

While much of the state has seen some improvement during the month of January, the South Platte River has taken a step backward, with its snowpack 19 percent below average Wednesday after it was 15 percent below average on Jan. 1…

While some farmers can depend on that stored water to irrigate their crops later this year, dry weather could cause problems for dryland wheat farmers and others who plant crops that don’t use irrigation.

CWCB: La Veta scores $372,000 to shore up North Lake Reservoir

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

La Veta serves about 800 residents and uses 209 acre-feet of water annually, on average. Its two reservoirs hold a combined 350 acre-feet. The town, located southwest of Walsenburg, already has a hefty debt from replacing water mains, so the 3 percent, 30-year loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board is very welcome, [Rob Saint Peter] said…

The North Lake reservoir was built in the 1940s and holds about 80 acre-feet, but is deeper than the South Lake reservoir that holds 270 acre-feet. The state engineer put restrictions on North Lake that have kept it drawn down by 2 1/2 feet…

The CWCB also heard updates:

– On a $1.18 million loan to the Two Rivers Water Co. for rehabilitation of Orlando Reservoir.

– On a $9 million loan to Penrose for the purchase and storage of water rights from the Goodwin Ranch.

– On a $1.3 million renovation of the Las Animas Consolidated Ditch extension diversion on the Arkansas River. Xcel Energy owns most of the water rights, but the CWCB provided a $260,000 loan to the remaining shareholders of two ditch companies to complete the roller-compacted concrete intake.

More CWCB coverage here.

Animas-La Plata Project: Colorado and Reclamation are getting close to a deal for storage in Lake Nighthorse

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Columbus Republic:

Colorado’s Legislature has authorized paying $36 million to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its share of 10,460 acre-feet of water, plus interest on construction costs. But the interest has been building, and the $36 million likely won’t cover everything Colorado owes.

The tribes had proposed that Colorado allow its share of water to revert back to the tribes, which weren’t assessed for construction. The tribes would then sell the water back to the state at what they say would be a much lower price than what the state would pay the bureau…

However, after two years of talking with tribal representatives, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has directed its staff to move forward on contract talks with the Bureau of Reclamation, board director Jennifer Gimbel said.

Gimbel said the board took the tribes’ proposal “very seriously.” However some board members questioned whether outside parties would challenge the proposal in court. Though legislators have already approved $36 million for project water, some board members also questioned how willing legislators would be in future years to spend on Animas-La Plata project water.

If you’re interested in Native American issues in the Colorado River Basin please think about attending Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Speakers Series Monday night. The theme for the shindig is, “Unheard Voices of the Colorado River Basin: Bringing Mexico and Native American Tribes to the Table.” It should be a hoot, every presentation in the series so far has been.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: Governor Hickenlooper announces 2012 as the Year of Water

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Here’s the link to the video announcement. Here’s a report from YourHub.com via The Denver Post. From the article:

The year 2012 is a big, wet milestone for water in Colorado. In a state almost entirely defined as desert or semidesert, 2012 is a milestone anniversary for many of the organizations and policies that protect our precious water resources.

Colorado Water 2012 started as an idea to celebrate these milestones. It has since grown into an unprecedented statewide celebration of water, its uses and its value. By celebrating these anniversaries collectively we hope to increase awareness about the importance of Colorado’s water resources.

Colorado Water 2012 launches with Governor Hickenlooper’s declaration of 2012 as the Year of Water at the Colorado Water Congress being held on January 25-27. Understanding the importance of water to the economic and social prosperity of our state, Governor Hickenlooper is supporting Colorado Water 2012 by officially declaring 2012 the ‘Year of Water’. See the video announcement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtPVc7ASzPE.

Colorado Water 2012 is organizing several activities throughout the year including: Water 2012 Book Club: Featuring Colorado authors: Peter McBride, Jonathan Waterman, Craig Childs, Will Hobbs, Greg Hobbs, George Sibley and Patty Limerick, Library and Museum Displays scheduled yearlong and statewide, K-12 lesson plans and poetry contests, Higher education social networking events, and a traveling speaker presentation covering water challenges and successes in Colorado.

Click here to go to Your Water Colorado Blog for updates and to take part in the conversation.

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Here’s the latest installment from the weekly Water 2012 series from the Valley Courier (Allen Davey). The article is a primer on the hydrology of the San Luis Valley. Here’s an excerpt:

Precipitation on the Valley floor is approximately seven inches per year…

The geological formation of the Valley has provided high mountain ranges around its edges that receive significant snow in the winter which then melts and flows together with water from summer rains into the Valley through streams and rivers. These mountains form a watershed of approximately 4,700 square miles. Water from these streams is then diverted by ditches and canals which provide irrigation water to crops on the floor of the Valley. Most of the streamflow is derived from snowmelt and averages about 1,500,000 acre-feet per year…

The San Luis Valley is located within a geologic feature called the Rio Grande rift. This rift can be visualized as a trough probably resulting from the earth’s crust pulling apart resulting in stress faulting and down dropping of a block of the crust. This several 1,000 foot deep trough extends in a nearly north-south direction generally along the center of the Valley.

Through the erosional process over millions of years in the nearby mountains, this trough has been largely filled with sand, gravel and clay layers. It is likely that many of the clay layers were formed through a soil evolutionary process with a large part of the process occurring at the bottom of a lake that covered the Valley floor. In 1822 trapper Jacob Fowler wrote in his journal of the probability of a lake, similarly in 1910 C.E. Siebenthal studied the Valley and described evidence of a historic lake, and finally U.S. Geological Survey investigators in 2007 published a report concerning ancient Lake Alamosa. The combination of erosional material filling this rift trough and Lake Alamosa’s existence created a very large aquifer system into which wells were drilled beginning in the 1880’s.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Sand Creek: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment orders Suncor to prevent new offsite contamination

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Warren Smith):

The Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today issued additional orders to Suncor Energy (USA) Inc. as the company works to clean up a release of petroleum products from its Commerce City refinery.

The new order responds to liquid hydrocarbons from petroleum contamination detected on the water table at the southwest corner of Suncor’s Plant 1, near the Suncor property boundary with Republic Paperboard Co., 5501 Brighton Blvd in Commerce City.

“We are concerned that the petroleum contamination may begin to move from the Suncor property to the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District property in a second location,” said Walter Avramenko, leader of the Hazardous Waste Corrective Action Unit. “We also want to prevent contamination of the Burlington Ditch and impacts to indoor air quality at Republic Paperboard. We can’t afford to wait for the problem to emerge, and we believe that something must be done immediately to slow and reverse what we suspect may be happening under this section of Suncor’s property.”

The department ordered Suncor to perform the following interim measures by the specified deadlines:

Suncor must immediately begin securing access and sampling indoor air in all Republic Paperboard Co. buildings to determine indoor air quality, comparing test results to the department’s action levels for workers including, but not limited to, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylenes. Suncor also must collect outdoor air samples to help distinguish between vapors coming from contaminated groundwater and vapors in the outside air.

If indoor air samples exceed worker action levels and are determined to come from contaminated groundwater, Suncor Energy must install a mitigation system on any affected buildings within seven days. All the buildings on the Republic Paperboard property must be sampled and, if necessary, mitigated by Feb. 29. Suncor also must report air sampling results and mitigation status to the department by that date. Suncor must inventory and sample all water taps used by employees in Republic Paperboard buildings for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing and report the results to the department by Feb. 29. Suncor also must submit detailed information about Republic Paperboard’s water distribution system to the department by that date.

Suncor must immediately begin a quick-turnaround field investigation of groundwater beneath Republic Paperboard property and the south end of the Burlington Ditch slurry wall (an underground wall designed to intercept groundwater flow) to verify that contamination has not migrated around, under or into the ditch. Results are due to the department by Jan. 31.

Suncor must immediately begin a long-term groundwater investigation beneath Republic Paperboard property and the Burlington Ditch slurry wall to determine whether additional steps are needed to contain contamination on Suncor property, and to determine if contamination is affecting the Burlington Ditch or Republic Paperboard. This investigation will require Suncor to install new, permanent monitoring wells. Suncor must submit laboratory results to the department by March 16.

Suncor must begin evaluating options for extending the southern end of the Burlington Ditch slurry wall to prevent contamination from migrating under the ditch. Suncor must submit a proposal to the department by March 16.

The Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division is coordinating with the department’s Water Quality Control Division, the Environmental Protection Agency, Tri- County Health Department, Denver Water and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Previous orders remain in effect, including those requiring water sampling in Sand Creek and South Platte River. Suncor is responsible for cleaning up the effects of releases from its refinery regardless of how far downstream they extend.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will continue to update the public as the situation changes and additional orders refining the cleanup operation are issued.

Governor Hickenlooper seeks additional federal drought assistance

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Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper has asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide drought assistance to Lincoln County.

“Farmers and ranchers have seen winter wheat wither due to lack of precipitation beginning in October 2011 and continuing into this year,” Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to Vilsack. “Winter wheat production is estimated to be reduced by 36 percent, and native grass pastures are producing 40 percent less forage for livestock.”

The drought declaration, if approved, would allow farmers and ranchers to apply for emergency loans if they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere.

Water use in hydraulic fracturing by Colorado drillers will increase but will remain a small part of overall water use

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

“In relative terms, the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing is a very small percentage of the water that’s used in the state of Colorado — most of it is used for agriculture,” said David Neslin, the director of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates industry activities in the state.

The report — “Water Source and Demand for the Hydraulic Fracturing of Oil and Gas Wells in Colorado from 2010 through 2015,” available for download here — cautioned that predicting water use related to oil and gas operations is difficult.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Rural Community Assistance Corporation announces the initiation of its Household Water Well System Loan program for homeowners in rural areas of Colorado

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Here’s the release from the Rural Commnunity Assistance Corporation:

Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) announces the initiation of its Household Water Well System Loan program for homeowners in rural areas of Colorado and Utah. The program makes 1 percent interest loans available to homeowners in rural areas to construct, refurbish or replace a household water well system. The program provides low-cost financing to homeowners that rely on well water as their primary access to clean, reliable drinking water.

RCAC was awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service, to develop the water well loan program. The program offers loans of up to $11,000 for a term of up to 20 years. Applicants must own and occupy the home being improved or be purchasing the home. The program cannot be used as a substitute for an existing community water system and cannot pay for plumbing or septic tank repair.

Applications for a Household Water Well System Loan are accepted throughout the year on a first come, first served basis. Household income may not exceed $49,793 for Colorado and $46,711 for Utah.

Anyone with interest or questions should contact: Josh Griff, RCAC loan officer, by telephone at 720/898-9463 or by e-mail at jgriff@rcac.org.

Founded in 1978, RCAC provides a wide range of community development services for rural Native American communities, agricultural workers and community-based organizations in 13 Western states. RCAC has strong core services and expertise in housing, environmental infrastructure (water, wastewater and solid waste), leadership training, economic development and financing. To find out more about RCAC’s services, visit www.rcac.org/doc.aspx?82.

Thanks to The Chaffee County Times for the heads up.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Study shows restored wetlands rarely equal condition of original wetlands

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Here’s the release from the University of California at Berkeley (Robert Sanders):

Wetland restoration is a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States that aims to create ecosystems similar to those that disappeared over the past century. But a new analysis of restoration projects shows that restored wetlands seldom reach the quality of a natural wetland.

“Once you degrade a wetland, it doesn’t recover its normal assemblage of plants or its rich stores of organic soil carbon, which both affect natural cycles of water and nutrients, for many years,” said David Moreno-Mateos, a University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow. “Even after 100 years, the restored wetland is still different from what was there before, and it may never recover.”

Moreno-Mateos’s analysis calls into question a common mitigation strategy exploited by land developers: create a new wetland to replace a wetland that will be destroyed and the land put to other uses. At a time of accelerated climate change caused by increased carbon entering the atmosphere, carbon storage in wetlands is increasingly important, he said.

“Wetlands accumulate a lot of carbon, so when you dry up a wetland for agricultural use or to build houses, you are just pouring this carbon into the atmosphere,” he said. “If we keep degrading or destroying wetlands, for example through the use of mitigation banks, it is going to take centuries to recover the carbon we are losing.”

The study showed that wetlands tend to recover most slowly if they are in cold regions, if they are small – less than 100 contiguous hectares, or 250 acres, in area – or if they are disconnected from the ebb and flood of tides or river flows.

“These context dependencies aren’t necessarily surprising, but this paper quantifies them in ways that could guide decisions about restoration, or about whether to damage wetlands in the first place,” said coauthor Mary Power, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology.

Moreno-Mateos, Power and their colleagues will publish their analysis in the Jan. 24 issue of PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology.

Wetlands provide many societal benefits, Moreno-Mateos noted, such as biodiversity conservation, fish production, water purification, erosion control and carbon storage.

He found, however, that restored wetlands contained about 23 percent less carbon than untouched wetlands, while the variety of native plants was 26 percent lower, on average, after 50 to 100 years of restoration. While restored wetlands may look superficially similar – and the animal and insect populations may be similar, too – the plants take much longer to return to normal and establish the carbon resources in the soil that make for a healthy ecosystem.

Moreno-Mateos noted that numerous studies have shown that specific wetlands recover slowly, but his meta-analysis “might be a proof that this is happening in most wetlands.”

“To prevent this, preserve the wetland, don’t degrade the wetland,” he said.

Moreno-Mateos, who obtained his Ph.D. while studying wetland restoration in Spain, conducted a meta-analysis of 124 wetland studies monitoring work at 621 wetlands around the world and comparing them with natural wetlands. Nearly 80 percent were in the United States and some were restored more than 100 years ago, reflecting of a long-standing American interest in restoration and a common belief that it’s possible to essentially recreate destroyed wetlands. Half of all wetlands in North America, Europe, China and Australia were lost during the 20th century, he said.

Though Moreno-Mateos found that, on average, restored wetlands are 25 percent less productive than natural wetlands, there was much variation. For example, wetlands in boreal and cold temperate forests tend to recover more slowly than do warm wetlands. One review of wetland restoration projects in New York state, for example, found that “after 55 years, barely 50 percent of the organic matter had accumulated on average in all these wetlands” compared to what was there before, he said.

“Current thinking holds that many ecosystems just reach an alternative state that is different, and you never will recover the original,” he said.

In future studies, he will explore whether the slower carbon accumulation is due to a slow recovery of the native plant community or invasion by non-native plants.

Coauthors with Moreno-Mateos and Power are Francisco A. Comin of the Department of Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology in Zaragoza, Spain; and Roxana Yockteng of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France. Moreno-Mateos recently accepted a position as the restoration fellow at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

The work was supported by the Spanish Ministry for Innovation and Science, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology and the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics of the U.S. National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.

More restoration coverage here.

Senate Joint Resolution 4 passes the state senate 33-2

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

[Senator Ellen Roberts] got senators to agree to her Senate Joint Resolution 4, which points out the dangers of spending down the accounts Colorado uses to build pipelines, repair dams and increase the size of reservoirs. The resolution simply states that the Legislature “should avoid future diversions” of money set aside for water projects…

But legislators are unlikely to heed their own warning. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2012-13 budget calls for another $33.9 million transfer out of the water account, and no serious effort has emerged among legislators to block the transfer.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention

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I’m packing up the bicycle for the trip to the Denver Tech Center for the first day of the CWC annual convention. I’ll try to post from the convention. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter (@CoyoteGulch) for updates during the next three days.

Vail: Eagle River Watershed Council’s Water Wise presentation tonight

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From the Vail Daily:

Allen Best, a former Vail-area journalist, will speak at the Eagle River Watershed Council’s Water Wise at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Route 6 Café in Eagle-Vail. His topic is “Deciphering the Science: One Journalist’s Take on Climate Change and Water in the West.”

More education coverage here.

Selenium Management Program Plan Released for the Lower Gunnison River Basin

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Hock/Steve McCall):

After nearly two years of cooperative efforts, Reclamation has released a blueprint for selenium control in the lower Gunnison River Basin of western Colorado, on behalf of Selenium Management Program partners. In addition to defining the selenium issues, the document describes a series of cooperative efforts to improve water quality while ensuring water security, environmental compliance, and regulatory certainty for water users in the Gunnison Basin.

When implemented, the SMP will benefit local water users and regional economies by protecting existing and future water uses through improvements to irrigation system infrastructure and on-farm irrigation practices that also reduce selenium. The program also attempts to expand efforts to control selenium from non-agricultural sources and improve scientific understanding of how selenium is released, how it moves, and where it ends up.

Carol DeAngelis, Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Manager said, “The release of the final SMP Formulation Document is an important step that will lead to the reduction of selenium in the Gunnison Basin. It gives us a road map for how program partners will work together to put into practice what we learn about selenium and reduce selenium concentrations in our rivers.”

Selenium is a naturally-occurring trace element found in Mancos Shale. When water comes in contact with these soils it can mobilize the selenium, flushing it into streams and rivers. Selenium concentrations in the lower Gunnison River, downstream in the lower Colorado River, and some of their tributaries currently exceed levels that are deemed safe for sensitive aquatic life, including endangered fish species set by the Colorado Water Quality Control Division.

The program document is available at the website below, under the ‘Documents’ tab. For more information about the SMP visit the SMP website at www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/progact/smp.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Governor Matt Mead Asks EPA to Respond to Wyoming’s Questions on Pavillion Test Wells

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Here’s the release from Governor Mead’s office (Renny MacKay):

Governor Matt Mead sent a letter to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency saying that the State of Wyoming still has not received a response to questions raised by scientists and engineers working for the State. Governor Mead said a response would provide clarifications to draft report findings from two test wells drilled near Pavillion, Wyoming.

Governor Mead wrote that the majority of the State’s questions remain outstanding. “I ask you to work with me to ensure that the EPA responds to the remaining questions and requests for information as quickly as possible. The response is necessary to conduct a complete analysis and interpretation of the data and findings contained in the report. Those responses will clarify information for both the public and the peer panel as they review and comment on the report.”

Governor Mead pointed out that the public comment period on the draft report ends in less than two weeks and without a full response from the EPA and time to assimilate that response it will be difficult to comment. “Therefore, I request that EPA, in addition to posting its responses to the questions on its Pavillion webpage now, also extend the public comment period for an additional 30 days from the date requested information is publicly provided. This extension will provide the public and the peer panel opportunity to review additional information provided by EPA’s response and to consider it in their comments,” Governor Mead wrote.

“Both Wyoming and the EPA should have a common goal of an unbiased, scientifically supportable finding open to the public. I believe providing answers and information, making these available to the public and the peer review panel, and extending the comment period accordingly are the best ways to accomplish this,” Governor Mead wrote to Administrator Jackson.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Colorado Mesa University: ‘2012 Water Course’ February 9, 16, 23

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From email from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University:

Water Course 2/9, 2/16, 2/23, 6-9pm

To reserve your spot & make sure we have materials for you, please sign up as soon as possible. Sponsorship opportunities are also available; benefits include the opportunity to place a handout in the course packets.

COURSE OVERVIEW
Feb 9: Water Law & Roles of Local Managers
Feb 16: Water Supply & Planning
Feb 23: Water Quality (including a panel on nutrient rulemaking)

LOCATION, TIME & DETAILS
All sessions will be held at Ute Water (22 Road & H 1/4) from 6pm – 9pm.
For complete details, visit the Water Course page here.

More education coverage here.

Commerce City delays decision on moratorium for hydraulic fracturing for one more month

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From 9News.com (Jeffrey Wolf):

…the council decided to push off a decision on a moratorium for another month to discuss the issue further. Another vote on whether to move ahead with the six-month moratorium will happen on Feb. 27. The state received an application by Texas-based Hilcorp to begin fracking at a well near Tower Road and 96th Avenue. It would be the first well in Commerce City if it goes through…

The state’s rules regarding oil and gas development trump local control, but Hilcorp would still need to get a conditional-use permit from the county…

If Hilcorp does not get a conditional use permit from the county, yet meets all the requirements to get one, the attorney representing Hilcorp says the company might take legal action.

From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

The city also set up a committee to specifically examine fracking and its implications.

Several residents argued that the city needed the six-month suspension of fracking to further study the implications of oil and gas drilling.

However, [Councilman Jim Bensen] warned that an oil company could ignore the moratorium and start fracking activity within the city because state law supercedes any local restrictions. That could land the city in court, fighting an expensive legal battle with the oil company and the state, he said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Improvement most everywhere, statewide — 74% of average, Colorado River basin — 70%

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to view yesterday’s snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch/Tom McGhee):

With 17 inches, Silverton Mountain was the greatest beneficiary from the weather system that rolled into Colorado Saturday and out on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Telluride ski area reported 16 inches, Crested Butte got 15 inches and Steamboat Springs recorded 13 inches, according to weather data.

Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act: AWWA joins statement to Senate on infrastructure

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From the American Water Works Association:

For a Senate hearing on Dec. 13, AWWA, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the Water Environment Federation submitted a jointly prepared written statement laying out concerns about the state revolving fund (SRF) program and urging Congress to pass a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

The hearing on water infrastructure by the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife addressed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s SRF program. Among those providing oral testimony were James Hanlon, director of the office of wastewater management at USEPA; Gregory DiLoreto, president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers; and Van Richey, president and CEO, American Cast Iron Pipe Co.

Here’s the joint statement (Tom Curtis/Dan Hartnett/Tim Williams):

The American Water Works Association (AWWA), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) commend the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife for addressing the challenges and opportunities surrounding our nation’s water infrastructure. High-quality drinking water and wastewater systems are essential to public health, business, and quality of life in the United States. Our organizations and others have documented that our water and wastewater infrastructure is aging and that many communities must begin to increase their levels of investment in the repair and rehabilitation of water infrastructure now in order to protect public health and safety, business continuity and economic viability and to maintain environmental standards. The tenets outlined in this paper provide a path toward truly sustainable water infrastructure for all Americans.

AWWA, AMWA and WEF have long believed that Americans are best served by water systems that are self sustaining through rates and other local charges. However, we recognize that at present, some communities need assistance due to hardship or special economic circumstances. There are also times when communities must access large amounts of funding in a short time period to address major water infrastructure needs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s latest estimates for needed investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure shows that more than $500 billion must be invested through 2028 to maintain our current levels of service. And that only includes projects that would be eligible for state revolving loan fund projects (SRF). According to the US Conference of Mayors, more than 95 percent of water infrastructure funding is historically provided by state and local sources.

In addition to the vital role water infrastructure plays in local economic growth and even sustainability, water infrastructure has significant impacts on the nation’s economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated that every additional dollar invested in drinking water or wastewater sector results in an increase in revenue for all industries of $2.62. Furthermore, the Department estimates that every additional job in the water sector creates 3.68 jobs in the national economy.

The primary federal role in water infrastructure is one of leadership. Among other things, that role includes demonstrating and encouraging:

• Utility use of modern asset management tools and full-cost pricing;

• Use of rate structures that accommodate low and fixed-income customers as much as
practical;

• Adoption of green technologies and approaches such as water and energy conservation, water reuse, and innovative stormwater management;

• Use of cost-saving watershed and regional strategies, such as system consolidation, regional management, and cooperative approaches among water, wastewater, and highway agencies within a region; and

• Use of advanced procurement and project delivery methods.

However, there is also an important role for the federal government in lowering the cost of capital for water and wastewater investments. Almost 70 percent of American communities use bonds to finance local infrastructure. They pay billions of dollars in interest costs each year. Lowering the cost of borrowing for water and wastewater infrastructure is an important way to leverage local funding and help America rebuild and rehabilitate our aging water infrastructure.

A Novel Approach: The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act

To lower the cost of infrastructure investments and to increase the availability of lower-cost capital, AWWA, AMWA and WEF urge Congress to enact a “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovations Act” (WIFIA), modeled after the successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovations Act (commonly called TIFIA). Such a mechanism could lower the cost of capital for water utilities while having no or little effect on the federal budget deficit. WIFIA would access funds from the U.S. Treasury at Treasury rates and use those funds to support loans and other credit mechanisms for water projects. Such loans would be repaid to the Authority – and thence to the Treasury – with interest.

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovations Act would:

• Provide for loans, loan guarantees, and other credit support for large water infrastructure projects and those with national or regional importance. Communities undertaking these projects often find it difficult or impossible to access SRF loans in meaningful amounts, due in part to inadequate capitalization of the SRFs.

• Reduce the cost of leveraging for SRF programs by lending to them directly. WIFIA could lend to those SRF wishing to leverage their capitalization grants at the lowest possible interest rates. This would allow SRFs to make more loans and would increase their ability to offer special assistance to hardship communities if they chose to do so. Currently, about 27 states leverage their SRF programs on the bond markets. WIFIA loans to an SRF would offer another mechanism to accomplish the same goal and make such a practice more attractive to additional states.

WIFIA should enable projects and state SRFs to obtain financing with no more burden than going to traditional credit markets through a streamlined review and application process. Fitch Ratings, a top credit rating agency, calculates that the historical default rate on water bonds is 0.04 percent. Indeed, water service providers are among the most creditworthy and fiscally responsible borrowers in the United States. Moreover, those states that leverage their SRF programs all have AAA or AA bond ratings and no history of defaults, placing them among the strongest credits in the country. Consequently, WIFIA – because it involves loans that are repaid – involves minimal risks and minimal long-term costs to the federal government…

The SRF Program

It is also important for the federal government to continue to directly capitalize state revolving funds, which can be used to both broadly lower the costs of water infrastructure investment and to address the needs of communities in hardship or special circumstances. AWWA, AMWA and WEF propose several enhancements to the State Revolving Fund programs to allow them to better serve our communities:

• Continue support for SRF capitalization. Despite growing needs and the implementation of new drinking water regulations, overall federal investment in the SRF programs has decreased significantly in recent years. We ask that Congress carefully consider the broad and important economic and public health benefits that flow from each dollar of support for the SRF programs.

• Provide states with flexibility in using SRF funds. This should include the ability to address the special needs of hardship communities they identify. This flexibility should also include the ability to use state procurement processes and standards that minimize process and administrative “burdens” for grant recipients and for states themselves.

• Eliminate arbitrage restrictions. Allow SRF programs that issue bonds to keep arbitrage earnings on their invested funds to the extent such earnings are used to support additional investment in water infrastructure. Based on historical market rates, this would provide $200-400 million per year in additional funds for water and wastewater investment.

• Streamline the SRF application. Provide incentives to streamline the SRF loan review process. It can take almost a year to obtain an SRF loan. This deters many communities from using the SRF, and leads them to issue higher-cost municipal bonds instead. Due to the revolving nature of the Fund, increasing the pace of awards through streamlining will help increase the revolving flow of funds, allowing even more projects to get built, and so on into the future.

Americans can be proud of the progress we have made in protecting public health and the environment through past investment in water infrastructure, but we risk a reversal of that progress unless significant new investments are made in our aging water and wastewater systems. AWWA, AMWA, and WEF greatly appreciate your leadership on this issue and we look forward to working with you and other members of the committee in the months ahead to develop bi-partisan, sustainable solutions to the water infrastructure challenges that the country faces.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Cortez: Wastewater plant process primer

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Here’s a look at the wastewater treatment plant that came online in 2006 from Reid Wright writing for the Cortez Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

At the head works of the Cortez Sanitation District’s sewer treatment plant, Jay Conner pulls back a metal hatch, revealing a trench through which the raw sewage sloshes — fresh from the district’s more than 60 miles of pipes serving many of the Cortez area’s more than 8,400 people. “We’re on the front line,” Conner said of the plant and its workers. “It’s probably one of the best environmental protections you can have.”

The trench was covered by panels after neighbors complained of the smell. A rake and auger system picks out larger debris and garbage, all of which is taken to its rightful home in the county landfill. Too much garbage, such as plastic wrappers and feminine hygiene products can gum up the plant’s pumps, Conner said. These items should be thrown in the garbage.

A second process removes smaller items, such as rocks, sand and eggshells. The gritty mixture also contains a fair amount of corn.

Petroleum products, paint, paint thinners, herbicides and kitchen grease are also harmful to the system, Conner said, and should not be dumped down the drain.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Colorado Water 2012: The video from the first book club event featuring Pete McBride is up on Your Water Colorado Blog

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Click here to go to the Colorado Water 2012 blog post about last Tuesday’s shindig. They’re running the video.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Colorado College State of the Rockies Project: Will and Zak are almost to the end of their boat journey down the Colorado to the Sea of Cortez

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the SPOT map of their location.

From email from Jon Pushkin (Pushkin Public Relations):

Just a quick update. Will and Zak are nearly at the end of their four-month, Source to Sea journey down the Colorado River. You can see their new videos and photos here: http://coloradosourcetosea.coloradocollege.edu/[…]

The final two programs in the speaker series: On January 30 the program will look at how water issues are impacting the Native American and Mexican communities. On Feb. 6 the program will feature Harris Sherman talking about the impact of deforestation in the region: http://www2.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies/speakerseries.html

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Cheesman Reservoir closed until July 2012

Cheesman Dam via Denver Water

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Cheesman Reservoir is closed to visitors until July 1, 2012, as Denver Water completes essential upgrades to the dam, which was built in 1905. Upper and lower Gill Trail remains open to hikers who want to access Cheesman Canyon.

The reservoir has been closed to visitors since Jan. 1, 2010. During the first phase of the project, crews completed upgrades to valves inside the dam hundreds of feet below the reservoir’s surface. Denver Water hoped to have the reservoir reopened this spring, but the second phase of the project — removing the original valves from inside the dam — requires extensive rock excavation that is more challenging than anticipated.

Cheesman Dam is more than 100 years old and is considered the “workhorse” of Denver’s supply system. The underwater valves were installed when the dam was first completed in 1905, and more were added in and the late 1920s.

More Denver Water coverage here.

CWCB: Water Availability Task Force meeting presentations are now available online

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

Attached is the January 2012 Drought Update which is a summary of the information presented at the Water Availability Task Force Meeting onJanuary 18, 2012. All of the presentations from the meeting can be found on the CWCB website

The next Water Availability Task Force Meeting is scheduled on February 16 from 9:30a-11:30a at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquaters, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO in the Bighorn Room.

More CWCB coverage here.

Hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas consumes about a tenth of a percent of water used in Colorado in 2010

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas used consumed than a tenth of a percent of water used in Colorado in 2010, a new report shows.That amount could increase by about 4,800 acre-feet in 2015 from 13,900 acre-feet in 2010, but that still would represent just a little more than a tenth of a percent of the state total, according to the study, prepared by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff with the help of the state Division of Water Resources.

The Commerce City council plans a vote on a six month moratorium on hydraulic fracturing tonight. Here’s a report from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The city also set up a committee to specifically examine fracking and its implications. The committee’s recommendations are expected to be considered at tonight’s [6:30 PM] meeting. The meeting will be held at the Commerce City Council chambers at 7887 East 60th Ave. The council building is located just west of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Lower Colorado River basin states eye the low snowpack in the Rockies with concern

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the snowpack map from last Friday. The beautiful snow over the weekend is not reflected in the map.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A wet Pacific storm delivered widespread snow across the entire state, with many ski areas reporting more than a foot of snow, including 17 inches at Crested Butte, 16 inches at Telluride and six to 10 inches at the resorts along the I-70 corridor.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

One year removed from near-record snow levels that sent 4 trillion gallons of much-needed meltwater into Lake Mead, winter has gotten off to a terrible start in the mountains that feed the Colorado River. Conditions are so dry that water supply forecasters have slashed their projections for Lake Mead by a whopping 2.45 million acre-feet in the past month alone. That’s 24 vertical feet of water gone — poof! — from what had been a promising forecast for the valley’s primary source of water…

Randy Julander summed up this year’s snowpack in two words: “It stinks.” From his office in Salt Lake City, Julander supervises the federal snow survey program in Nevada, Utah and California for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The measurements collected by Julander’s team are used to predict floods and forecast the water supplies for farms and cities across the West. January is a month that “typically puts down a lot of snow,” Julander said, but conditions so far across much of the West have been “drier than the Sahara Desert.” “And December was even worse,” he said. “The whole upper Colorado River basin is in really terrible shape in terms of snowpack.”[…]

Julander said this winter so far ranks as one of the worst on record, but it’s still not quite as bad as 1977, the so-called “year without snow.”[…]

Based on current conditions, forecasters now expect roughly 5 million acre-feet of water to flow into Lake Powell over the entire season. Last year, the reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border collected more water than that in June alone…

A series of winter storms is expected to sweep across the region over the next week or so. With any luck, the weather will turn cold and wet and stay that way for a while, Julander said. “As we say in this business, every day without snow is just another stinking day of sunshine.”

From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

“Where you have mountains, you have a lot more micro climates than you have in the flat terrain like the Midwest,” said Jim Pringle, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Gratz said Steamboat Springs in particular is one of the more challenging areas to forecast for…

There are two major factors for predicting storm totals at Steamboat, Gratz said. The first is the wind direction. Steamboat is favored by storms that produce a wind coming from the west and northwest, Gratz said. To produce large amounts of snow, you need wind to hit the mountain directly and force air into the atmosphere…

The second big factor in producing big snow totals at the ski area is whether there is cold air trapped in the valley.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District may go to voters to approve mill levy in the next twelve to twenty-four months

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I really want to work on getting a mill levy proposal before voters in the next 12 to 24 months,” [Jeff Chostner, chairman of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District] said. The district can assess property in El Paso and Pueblo counties at up to a 5-mill rate under the legislation, but it would require approval from voters in both counties. No decisions have been made on the size of mill levy that would be initially requested, and that would be one of the purposes of establishing a committee to look at the issue, Chostner said. The district has primary land-use authority in the 100-year flood plain from Fountain to Pueblo, and an advisory role in decisions throughout the watershed.

Chostner, a Pueblo County commissioner, was elected chairman at the Friday meeting of the district’s board, replacing El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey. The chairmanship rotates between the two counties, and goes to an elected official under bylaws. The board also reappointed Larry Small, a former Colorado Springs councilman, as executive director.

Here’s a report about the possible effects on senior rights from proposed Fountain Creek projects from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“If you change the timing, you change the water right,” Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer, told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board last week. The state Division of Water Resources denied a substitute water supply plan for a side detention pond in Pueblo last fall because a wave of water that roared down Fountain Creek showed the pond did not work as intended. Tyner showed a slide of water still in the pond one month after mid-September rains inundated the pond. “This was not the intent of the original design,” he said…

All water rights in the Lower Arkansas Valley could be satisfied if flows at Avondale gauge on the Arkansas River were maintained at 6,000 cubic feet per second, Tyner said. Right now, the gates at Pueblo Dam are used to reduce flows above the Fountain Creek confluence to reduce flooding risk when flows at Avondale reach the 6,000 cfs mark. Fountain Creek structures in the future might detain flows as well, reducing the likelihood of downstream flooding. However, artificially prolonging that level could change the relationship of junior and senior water rights, as well as having an impact on the river call upstream from Pueblo, Tyner said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Denver: Rain Bird Academy for irrigation professionals March 5-9

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Here’s the announcement from Colorado Water Wise:

Rain Bird Academy is pleased to announce our revised training dates for classes in Denver, CO. Please come and join us March 5 – 9, 2012 on the University of Denver campus for our Regional Irrigation Training Camp. Do not miss this great opportunity to enhance your irrigation knowledge and develop your skills in the irrigation industry. If you would like more information regarding the classes being offered or for more information regarding Rain Bird Academy, please visit our website:

http://www.rainbirdservicescorporation.com/training/index.htm?fc_c=3585703x14443460x536812648

NASA Finds 2011 Ninth Warmest Year on Record

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Here’s the release from NASA (Steve Cole/Leslie McCarthy):

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis that shows temperatures around the globe in 2011 compared to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.

“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS director James E. Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Nina influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”

The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). This underscores the emphasis scientists put on the long-term trend of global temperature rise. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.

The first 11 years of the 21st century experienced notably higher temperatures compared to the middle and late 20th century, Hansen said. The only year from the 20th century in the top 10 warmest years on record is 1998.

Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. These gases absorb infrared radiation emitted by Earth and release that energy into the atmosphere rather than allowing it to escape to space. As their atmospheric concentration has increased, the amount of energy “trapped” by these gases has led to higher temperatures.

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, when the GISS global temperature record begins. By 1960, the average concentration had risen to about 315 parts per million. Today it exceeds 390 parts per million and continues to rise at an accelerating pace.

The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis.

The resulting temperature record is very close to analyses by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years because solar activity is on the upswing and the next El Nino will increase tropical Pacific temperatures. The warmest years on record were 2005 and 2010, in a virtual tie.

“It’s always dangerous to make predictions about El Nino, but it’s safe to say we’ll see one in the next three years,” Hansen said. “It won’t take a very strong El Nino to push temperatures above 2010.”

For more information on the GISS temperature analysis, visit: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

NASA Sees Repeating La Niña Hitting Its Peak

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Here’s the release From NASA:

La Niña, “the diva of drought,” is peaking, increasing the odds that the Pacific Northwest will have more stormy weather this winter and spring, while the southwestern and southern United States will be dry.

Sea surface height data from NASA’s Jason-1 and -2 satellites show that the milder repeat of last year’s strong La Niña has recently intensified, as seen in the latest Jason-2 image of the Pacific Ocean, available at: http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/images/ostm/20120108P1.jpg.

The image is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Jan. 8, 2012. It depicts places where the Pacific sea surface height is higher than normal (due to warm water) as yellow and red, while places where the sea surface is lower than normal (due to cool water) are shown in blues and purples. Green indicates near-normal conditions. The height of the sea surface over a given area is an indicator of ocean temperature and other factors that influence climate.

This is the second consecutive year that the Jason altimetric satellites have measured lower-than-normal sea surface heights in the equatorial Pacific and unusually high sea surface heights in the western Pacific.

“Conditions are ripe for a stormy, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest and a dry, relatively rainless winter in Southern California, the Southwest and the southern tier of the United States,” says climatologist Bill Patzert of JPL. “After more than a decade of mostly dry years on the Colorado River watershed and in the American Southwest, and only two normal rain years in the past six years in Southern California, low water supplies are lurking. This La Niña could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and could also worsen conditions that have fueled recent deadly wildfires.”

NASA will continue to monitor this latest La Niña to see whether it has reached its expected winter peak or continues to strengthen.

A repeat of La Niña ocean conditions from one year to the next is not uncommon: repeating La Niñas occurred most recently in 1973-74-75, 1998-99-2000 and in 2007-08-09. Repeating La Niñas most often follow an El Niño episode and are essentially the opposite of El Niño conditions. During a La Niña episode, trade winds are stronger than normal, and the cold water that normally exists along the coast of South America extends to the central equatorial Pacific.

La Niña episodes change global weather patterns and are associated with less moisture in the air over cooler ocean waters. This results in less rain along the coasts of North and South America and along the equator, and more rain in the far Western Pacific.

The comings and goings of El Niño and La Niña are part of a long-term, evolving state of global climate, for which measurements of sea surface height are a key indicator. Jason-1 is a joint effort between NASA and the French Space Agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES). Jason-2 is a joint effort between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, CNES and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). JPL manages the U.S. portion of both missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

For more on how La Niña and other climate phenomena are affecting weather in the United States this year, see: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/17jan_missingsnow/.

For more information on NASA’s ocean surface topography missions, visit: http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov.

Meanwhile La Niña cooled the earth in 2011 according to this report from Doyle Rice writing for USA Today. From the article:

The release of the two primary climate data sets — from the National Climatic Data Center and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) — both show the Earth as much warmer than average, but not as warm as recent years have been. The climate center reported that the globe had its 11th-warmest year on record, while NASA marked the year as the ninth-warmest on record. For the most part, the two organizations use the same climate data sources but have slightly different methods of interpreting the data. Climate records go back to 1880…

Since 2011 was the second-coolest year of the 2000s, does this mean global warming has slowed? “There is no long-term cooling trend,” said climate scientist Jake Crouch of the NCDC.

Colorado Water 2012: Save water and save money

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jimmy Rogers):

Chances are that the greatest “water-waster” inside your home is that constant flow in your toilet tank. That spill can waste one gallon every 24 minutes, or more than 60 gallons per day, which could cost over $4 extra each month on your water bill…

So, when I flush my toilet or turn on my shower, I think about everything it takes to bring that water to my house. I know it takes a lot of money to keep the water flowing and I’m concerned that some of that money could be used for police departments, fire protection and schools.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.