Airborne electromagnetic survey of Paradox Valley will ultimately support a 3D numerical model of groundwater flow and brine discharge to the Dolores River

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

Over a seven-day period in October 2011, an aerial geophysical survey was conducted by SkyTEM Surveys in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey in an area over the Paradox Valley, Colo., and a small area in San Juan County, Utah. The purpose of the survey was to obtain geophysical measurements to map the subsurface structure of the rocks and the amount of salinity in the area’s groundwater. This survey was conducted using a low-flying helicopter with time-domain electromagnetic instruments suspended below that measure the electrical resistivity of subsurface areas at different depths and provides detailed, high-resolution data for mapping.

Measurements over the Paradox Valley were obtained in a 3 to 4.5-mile wide by 15-mile long area, from southeast of the Dolores River to the northwestern end of the valley, and in a 2.5-mile wide by 4-mile long area around Buckeye Reservoir, immediately northwest of the Paradox Valley.

The lowest resistivity area was located northeast of the town of Bedrock, Colo., near the area in which brine discharges to the Dolores River. Once all the data from the survey have been fully evaluated, it is anticipated to provide a better understanding of the three-dimensional subsurface distribution of various rock types and the quantity of salinity in the fluids they contain. Results from the analysis may also define locations where underlying salt is being dissolved and the depth to the freshwater-brine interface.

Ultimately, the results from this geophysical survey will support a three-dimensional numerical model of groundwater flow and brine discharge to the Dolores River that the USGS is preparing for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Electromagnetic survey methods have been used effectively in many groundwater studies and particularly for mapping water quality. Because the electrical properties of most rocks are primarily dependent upon the amount of water in the rock, the salinity of the water, and the distribution of the water in the rock, electromagnetic methods are well suited for investigating the subsurface distribution of brine in the Paradox Valley.

The Paradox Valley is formed by a collapsed salt dome. Groundwater in the valley comes into contact with the top of the salt formation, where it becomes nearly saturated with sodium chloride. Saline concentrations have been measured in excess of 250,000 milligrams per liter, by far the most concentrated source of salt in the Colorado River Basin. Groundwater then surfaces in the Dolores River. Reclamation studies show that the river picks up more than 205,000 tons of salt annually as it passes through the Paradox Valley.

More Dolores River basin watershed here.

2012 Colorado legislation: Two oil and gas bills, one for 1,000 foot setbacks and the other limiting the use of open reserve pits fail in committee

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From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe) via Longmont Times-Call:

The setback bill failed on a 3 to 8 vote and the bill requiring “closed-loop” tank system in place of open pits went down 3 to 7. Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, sponsor of the setback bill, told the House Local Government Committee the proposal was “in response to a serious situation” — the prospect of heavy oil and gas development near suburban areas. Another reason was a “lack action by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission,” Ryden said…

The bill requiring the use of closed-loop systems to handle hydrofracturing fluids, a process in which large volumes of liquid are pumped into a well, was sponsored by Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs. Wilson called the growing number of oil and gas pits in the state “an accident waiting to happen.” The bill would have required the use of the close-loop system whenever possible and not gone into effect for three years.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Leadville: Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 25-26, 2012

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From email from the Interbasin Compact Committee:

Save the date for the 2012 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum taking place at the Climax-Molybdenum Leadership Center at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, CO! See the attached reminder and check out the website (www.arbwf.org) for details on lodging and registration.

Registration ($45) may done online at our website or by mail-in. Exhibitors are also welcome at the same registration rate.

Our Keynote Speaker this year will be Mr. Richard Bratton – a Salida native with state wide experience in water law, agriculture, higher education, and public service. A member of Bratton-Hill LLC, he has practiced law in Gunnison since 1958 after discharge from the Army and a stint in Denver. He was counsel to the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (1961-2006). Mr. Bratton is a former Chairman of Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and founder of the Western State Water Workshop, recipient of the Colorado Water Congress Aspinall Leadership award and outstanding alumnus from CU (Law) and Western State College.

We also have interesting panels planned on the Effects of River Compact Calls, Restoration Innovations to Improve Water Quality, Source Water Planning, Advancements in the Mining Industry to Protect the River, and Trends in Agriculture.

Finally, join us for an evening on April 25 with Gillian Klucas, author of Leadville: The Struggle to Revive an American Town.

Questions may be directed to Chairperson Melissa Wolfe (Colorado Mountain College) at (719) 486-4239 or the Southern Region Extension Office at (719) 545-2045.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

2012 Colorado legislation: SB12-132 would set limit of one year for yea or nay on business water and air quality permits

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Sen. Kevin Grantham…sponsored [Senate Bill 12-132: Issue Air & Water Quality Permits Within 12 Months]. It aims to set a one-year deadline for the issuance or denial of permit applications. Grantham said during a tour of the state over the summer, many businesses complained to him that the slow permitting process has interfered with expansion, hindering job creation. “A company in this situation obviously faces many difficult personnel decisions over this period as they await the final determination, which in many cases takes a little over a year,” Grantham said…

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for air and water permitting, opposes the bill. Will Allison, director of the health department’s air-quality division, said the department is understaffed and overburdened by permit applications. That has hampered the department’s ability to meet the 18-month deadline on some permit decisions, much less the 12-month timeline that Grantham seeks to impose. “Frankly, we are currently experiencing delays meeting the existing statutory deadlines,” he said. The current backlog of pending air permits at the department is about 140, according to Allison.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill 4-3, with Republicans voting in favor of it and most Democrats, including Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, opposing it.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Pueblo: The city is starting to plan for Arkansas River stream improvements through town to accommodate greater numbers of fisherman

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo and Trout Unlimited are preparing an application to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a Fishing is Fun grant to do further work on the Arkansas River through Pueblo. “What’s driving it is the higher quality fishing on that reach of river,” said Scott Hobson, assistant city manager for community investment. “We are seeing more fly fishermen in the winter months when streams in other parts of the state are inaccessible.”

The city wants to add boulder clusters in the Arkansas River from the Juniper Bridge just below Pueblo Dam to Dutch Clark stadium. Agreements reached among water users in 2004 provided greater assurance of flows in winter months by curtailing exchanges when river levels are low. A new project, which could cost up to $300,000, would make improvements to the banks, add J-hook jetties and revegetate some areas. Improvements on the previous work and other features would be added. The features allow fish to survive and feed during a variety of conditions along the river.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

Snowpack news: Dust off your drought plan in northwest Colorado, La Niña is weakening

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From the Associated Press via USAToday.com:

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center says La Niña is showing signs that it will be over by summer. Center deputy director Mike Halpert said that’s too late for the U.S. Southwest because the rainy season will be over by that time. The effects of La Niña, a cooling of the central Pacific Ocean water, are generally weaker in summer. But it is good news for the Atlantic hurricane belt. More tropical storms and hurricanes form there during La Niñas.

Forecasters don’t know what conditions will follow this La Niña. Usually a multi-year La Niña is not followed by a neutral event, Halpert said. It either goes to El Niño or comes back as another La Niña, he said.

La Niña winters can lead to great snowpack. It hasn’t panned out this year but last year was one for the record books.

From Steamboat Today (Lori Jazwick):

So how bad is the snow situation for Northwest Colorado? Unfortunately, we can’t compare this year’s totals to last year’s. Last year was an above-normal snowpack year, so comparing 2012 to 2011 indicates our water drainage basin is only at 38 percent of last year’s total. But to compare it to the norm, let’s consider a block of 30 years of data to get a more realistic picture.

Snowfall in the Yampa River basin currently is 61 percent of that 30-year average, which means we are just a little bit above half of where we should be at this time of year. So are you a glass half-full or glass half-empty person? To err on the side of caution, I am going to go with half-empty. According to all of the data collected by the Natural Resources Conservation Service during the past 30-plus years, we have only a 10 percent chance of reaching the average peak for this season. It looks like the odds are against us.

The good news is that because of our epic snowfall last year, our reservoirs are in good shape. Stagecoach Reservoir is at 118 percent of average, and at 93 percent of total capacity. Almost all other reservoirs are in a similar situation within the state, so that hopefully will help us in the dry months to come this summer.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

It didn’t take long to set historic Greeley weather marks in 2012. Last month, Greeley experienced its driest and second-hottest January on record.