Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pikes Peak Library District and twelve non-profits plan Water 2012 kickoff on January 26

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

“Colorado Springs Utilities – in partnership with the Pikes Peak Library District and twelve other non-profits – is holding a local kickoff event for Colorado Water 2012 on Jan. 26, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Citadel Mall, Imagination Celebration space (between Dillard’s and Burlington Coat Factory).

“Colorado Water 2012 is a statewide celebration and recognition of water; a resource of huge importance nationally, but even more so in states like Colorado, and cities like Colorado Springs where there is no local river or waterway. State population is projected to double by 2050, causing municipal water demands to increase dramatically, and putting an even greater emphasis on conservation and the infrastructure required to bring water to Colorado communities. “

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District has plans to spend $15 million on the stream corridor

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold) via OutThereColorado.com. From the article:

Local officials will apply for $8 million in grants from state lottery funds, to be matched by $7 million in local money, for trails, open space, bridges, tubing and other amenities along the creek between Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

“What we want to do is get people to the creek,” said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed District, formed in 2009 to address environmental issues. “We decided it’s important to get people to the creek so they can get an appreciation for it and an understanding of what we’re trying to do and get an attachment to the creek.”

(Take a look at the Fountain Creek Watershed Master Plan.)

Long regarded as an urban drainage channel, unnaturally straightened and eroded by runoff from development in Colorado Springs, Fountain Creek received renewed attention when Colorado Springs Utilities sought approval to build the Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. The city-owned utility agreed to pay for a host of measures to restore the creek’s natural state, to ease concerns in Pueblo about downstream flooding and water quality.

Some of these, such as $3 million for wetland and wildlife habitat in southern El Paso County, are incorporated into the grant proposal.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.

Mage Skordhal (NRCS): ‘We still have a lot of season left, but it’s not a good start’

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

“In the western states, about 75% of our water comes from the snowpack,” Skordhal says. “That’s a lot.”

So when the snowpack measured here at the headwaters of an arid region is at just over half of normal? It’s time to take notice. “We still have a lot of season left, but it’s not a good start,” Skordhal says…

[Northern Water] officials and their counterparts at other agencies in the region aren’t worried yet because last winter was so snowy. “But if this year lags, and next year lags, yeah, we can lose levels in our reservoirs and get a little concerned,” Strongin says. “A good portion of the 2000s was pretty rough on our storage.”

So it’s not a crisis yet if you’re in the water business.

New Mexico and Texas have a stake in watching the Colorado snowpack. Colorado’s deliveries under the Rio Grande Compact are determined by the snowpack each season. Here’s a report from KTSM.com. Here’s an excerpt:

Estimates of the size of the snow pack in the areas that flow into Rio Grande by the Bureau of Reclamation are for 86% of average snowmelt to flow into the Elephant Butte reservoir. But the actual amount that ends up in the reservoir could be much lower. Last year, the Bureau estimated 91% of normal water into the reservoir, but the percentage of normal runoff from the snowmelt ended up being only around 14%. Weather patterns last year produced many days of high winds that dried large amounts snow before it could flow into Elephant Butte. This year, long range forecasts for the spring season look very similar to last year, with warm and dry weather.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Discussing the link between rapid climate changes in the Arctic and weather patterns in mid-latitudes, [Jennifer Francis, with Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences] said her most recent research points to a direct link between changes over the Arctic and mid-latitude weather patterns driven by the jet stream. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the Earth and essentially, that heat is changing air pressure gradients and reducing the speed of circumpolar winds. That leads to a greater amplification of the high pressure ridges and low pressure troughs in mid-latitudes. As those kinks in the atmospheric circulation grow more pronounced, it slows the progression of weather systems moving from west to east around the northern hemisphere, allowing weather systems to get stuck over certain regions.

Speaking to an audience of TV meteorologists, Francis called it the “revenge of the atmosphere,” then explained some of the recent changes in the Arctic. “When the ice was thick in the good old days … the variations we saw were caused by wind, moving the ice around a bit. The winds would change, the ice didn’t respond so much … now that it’s thinner, it moves around more,” she said.

Click through to this article about precipitation over the western U.S. from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. He’s running all the precip maps. Here’s an excerpt:

Much of the West, with the exception of a few pockets in Arizona and New Mexico, have been exceptionally dry so far this fall and early winter, with precipitation in California tracking toward all-time record low levels.

The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable ponies up $407,000 to increase SCADA installations along the Conejos River to facilitate streamflow monitoring

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

While the move still requires approval of state water officials, the Conejos Water Conservancy District hopes the proposal will return some water to its users while allowing for a more accurate accounting of delivery requirements under the Rio Grande Compact. The district, which has 86,000 acres of irrigable land in the southwestern corner of the San Luis Valley, wants to add 72 electronic gauging stations and automate four of the most-used headgates in the river basin. The district and ditch companies inside its boundaries would put up $92,000 in matching funds.

The Conejos, like the Rio Grande, is subject to the Rio Grande Compact, which has fluctuating requirements for how much water must be sent downstream to New Mexico and Texas, depending on the amount of snowpack in a given year. As much as 70 percent of the river’s flow is allowed to head downstream in a wet year and as little as 25 percent in a dry year…

The added gauges may also help the district pin down return flows from diversions, a task that’s complicated by a jumble of river channels and irrigation ditches near the junction of the Conejos with the Rio Grande. The district also hopes the gauges would allow for a more accurate tracking of releases from Platoro Reservoir, which has a capacity of 59,000 acre-feet.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Climax Mine to re-open this year, plans in place to protect water quality in reservoirs used for augmentation and supply

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From the Vail Daily (Laura Glendenning):

The Eagle Park Reservoir wasn’t always so beautiful, though — it was once a pond that collected highly acidic tailings from the nearby molybdenum mining and milling operation known as the Climax Mine. Molybdenum is a metal used as an addition to steels, irons and nonferrous alloys…

A Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology report, “Mined Land Reclamation in Colorado,” cites a 1993 agreement between Vail Associates and the Climax Molybdenum Co. to complete a tailing-removal project and reclamation of the Oxide Pond to a fresh-water reservoir. Water attorney Glenn Porzak said Vail Associates later paid a total of $6 million for the cleanup, with another $6 million paid by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Those groups make up the Eagle Park Reservoir Co., formed in 1998. The reservoir is now the major in-basin water supply for augmentation water — basically water that is used to replenish stream water — for all of those water entities, Porzak said — “it’s the motherlode.”[…]

Fast forward to 2012, and the Climax Mine, now owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, is reopening its molybdenum-mining operation, except this time around, the Eagle Park Reservoir is off limits as a tailings dumping site. The Eagle Park Reservoir Co., which includes board members from Vail Resorts and the local water authorities, came to an agreement with Climax outlining a water-quality-monitoring plan that was recently reviewed and approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety…

[Eric Kinneberg, spokesman for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold] said the Climax Mine plans to start production this year, but he couldn’t release an exact date just yet. He said there will be more information on the scheduled start released with the Freeport-McMoRan fourth-quarter financial results announcement Thursday. Production from the Climax molybdenum mine is expected to ramp up to a rate of 20 million pounds per year during 2013, Kinneberg said, and depending on market conditions, may be increased to 30 million pounds per year. The company is currently in the process of hiring about 70 more employees, for a total of 350 employees, to work at the mine, he said.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.