NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the precipitation summary map for February 1-18, 2012. Here’s the link to the slides from yesterday’s webinar from the Colorado Climate Center.

Prior appropriation snags plans by the University of Colorado to implement a graywater system in a new dorm

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Brittany Anas):

… it may be at least another year before CU can begin recycling the dorm’s water through a planned pilot program. “It’s a simple concept,” said Moe Tabrizi, CU’s campus conservation officer. “The complexity is in the water law and water rights.”[…]

So far, CU has spent $230,000 on a plumbing system in the Williams Village North building capable of recapturing water from showers and sinks, sending it to a collection tank to be disinfected through a filtration system and then re-circulating it through separate plumbing system that would only be used for toilets, said Malinda Miller-Huey, a spokeswoman for CU’s Boulder campus.

Once CU gets the green light to use the graywater system, campus officials will need to install a collection tank and filtration system, according to Miller-Huey. She didn’t have a cost estimate for that portion of the project.

A bill introduced earlier this year would have given local municipalities greater control over graywater use, allowing them to pass their own regulations. The measure, which had Boulder County’s support, died in committee.

More graywater reclamation coverage here.

Snowpack news: Central and northern basins snowpack jumps slightly with weekend storms

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the latest snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Snowpack, the major source of water for Colorado, Tuesday was at 76 percent statewide, 85 percent in the Arkansas River basin and 71 percent in the Upper Colorado River basin. Pueblo imports some of its water from the Colorado River basin.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Pierrette J. Shields):

While only 1.3 inches of snow fell in Longmont on Sunday night and Monday morning, the powder nudged the month’s total to 16.6 inches and the snowiest February since 1928, according to Times-Call weather consultant Dave Larison. So far, February 2012 ranks as the sixth snowiest February on the city’s record books…

Though February is the snowiest month since 1928, the record seems fairly safe because it stands at 30 inches. Longmont’s snowfall so far this season is 60.4 inches, while on average it’s 29 inches at this time of the year. An average season typically is 45 inches, but Larison noted that if the city gets its average snowfall through May, the total would hit about 76 inches and rank among the top three snowiest on the books…

Eagle River area water providers and Eagle County are the first groups to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

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From the Associated Press via CBS4Denver.com:

Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Co. met Tuesday to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement…

“With this Colorado River Cooperative Agreement I really think it completes the paper trail if you will; it completes a package where Denver is no longer a threat, Denver is now a partner,” Eric Kuhn with the Colorado River District said…

The Eagle County water users are the first parties in the state to ratify the deal.

Update: I’m now linking to a corrected story from the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz). Thanks to Diane Johnson from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District for the heads up. Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a photo of those present at the signing (photo credit Diane Johnson).

More coverage from Derek Franz writing for the Eagle Valley Enterprise. Click through for the photo from the signing. Here’s an excerpt:

Eagle County representatives became the first large group of 40 entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at Tuesday’s regular commissioner meeting. The agreement addresses numerous water issues from the Continental Divide to the Utah border…

The agreement was mostly completed by April 2011, when Gov. John Hickenlooper announced, “This cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water. It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.” Almost a year later, with some final details in place, the document still needed to be signed. Eagle County decided to get the ball rolling…

“Porzak said the Eagle River has never had any significant transmountain diversions when compared to Grand and Summit counties. Nearly 300,000 acre feet of water are diverted from Grand County and more than 100,000 from Summit County, he said. According to the Denver Water website, one acre-foot of water serves about 2 1/2 families of four for one year. The Eagle River only has about 20,000 acre feet diverted and it’s now likely to stay that way…

“Now Denver would need consent from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company to expand its diversion from the Eagle River watershed,” Porzak said. In exchange, Eagle County will not oppose a future interconnect between Clinton Reservoir and Eagle Park Reservoir. Other details about the plan and how it pertains to other entities can be found at the websites of Denver Water and the Colorado River District (see info box).

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

Today: ‘Rally for the River II’ — Conservationists hope to get Governor Hickenlooper’s ear regarding the Windy Gap Firming Project

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Building on the boisterous success of last month’s Rally for the Upper Colorado River at the Environmental Protection Agency building in Denver, a coalition of conservationists hoping to derail a pair of transmountain water diversion projects is taking its message to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s doorstep today. Sportsmen, boaters, wildlife enthusiasts and others concerned about the collapsing upper Colorado River are being encouraged to meet outside the Capitol at 11 a.m. for Round 2.

The EPA, apparently having heard Defend the Colorado’s message, recently issued a letter to federal permitting authorities at the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raising concerns of “critical adverse impacts” resulting from the Northern Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project. The agency determined the proposal to divert up to 67 percent of the upper Colorado River’s natural flows into a tunnel across the Continental Divide may cause “significant degradation” to the struggling river and recommended “a more robust monitoring and mitigation plan” to protect it. Now it’s the governor’s turn.

As reported last week by Bruce Finley of The Denver Post, state officials stand behind Hickenlooper’s contention that Northern Water’s current plan to pull an extra 21,296 acre-feet of water a year from the Colorado River near Granby “comprehensively addresses impacts to Colorado’s fish and wildlife.”[…]

To their credit, Northern and Denver Water both bolstered mitigation efforts while seeking approval of their respective projects by the Colorado Wildlife Commission last summer. Northern has committed $250,000 to study a possible bypass around the Windy Gap Reservoir, a collection pond that pumps water back uphill.

With the federal permit decision looming, the governor can expect to be asked to help broker an agreement making the bypass a reality. He might also be asked to explain his April comment: “This state has to realize, people in the metropolitan Denver have to realize, that their self-interest is served by treating water as a precious commodity and that its value on the Western Slope is just as relevant as its value in the metro area.”

More coverage from Alan Prendergast writing for Westword. From the article:

…environmentalists say the further depletion of the river will alter the temperature, kill fish and insects that a healthy river needs, increase sediment — and generally trash the tourism business for folks in places like Fraser and Granby. A state study found a dramatic drop-off in aquatic insect species over the past two decades from previous diversions, and a recent EPA report is calling for more study and better monitoring of the project.

Opponents say the Upper Colorado can survive additional Front Range incursions, but only by developing further mitigation measures, including periodic water releases to flush out sediment gathering in the depleted riverway. Hoping to bend Hickenlooper’s ear a bit, speakers at tomorrow’s rally, which starts at 11 a.m., include Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited and Field and Stream columnist Kirk Deeter.

More coverage from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

In a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, both dated Feb. 6, the agency outlined its concerns with the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project, saying more mitigation needs to be tied to an upcoming record of decision.

Among recommendations, the agency would like to see a bypass channel constructed around Windy Gap Dam for times when the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and municipal subdistrict are out of priority.

The bypass channel was identified in a 2011 report by researchers of division of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The report spells out ongoing problems in the Upper Colorado River basin that have been worsening over the past half-century, primarily chronic sedimentation, high temperatures and a lack of high flushing flows that have already caused the disappearance of the mottled sculpin, a native fish.

“Two things must be done if there is to truly be any hope of enhancement of aquatic ecosystem in the upper Colorado River in the future,” the 2011 Nehring Parks and Wildlife study reads. “A bypass channel around Windy Gap Dam and a major investment in stream channel reconfiguration for the Colorado River below Windy Gap Dam are both equally important and the only way true enhancement has any possibility of success. Either one without the other will have virtually no chance of succeeding.”

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works board approves over $1 million in water sales this season

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The board agreed to sell nearly 14,000 acre-feet of water to eight water users in one-year lease agreements for surplus water. The sales do not affect water rights. The board also gets about $6.8 million for 21,000 acre-feet of water in long-term leases.

Rates ranged from $67.55-$150 per acre-foot, with an average of $74 per acre-foot. Most of the water is going to irrigated agriculture. Rates are about 60 percent higher than recent years because of dry weather and high prices for agricultural commodities, said Alan Ward, water resources manager. Three well augmentation groups in the Arkansas Valley will purchase 7,250 acre-feet for about $556,000, while the Bessemer Ditch will buy 6,000 acre-feet for $405,000. There were bids for 53,696 acre-feet of water.

Meanwhile, the board named the new director to take over for Alan Hamel who is retiring. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Terry Book, 60, will take the helm of the Pueblo Board of Water Works in August, the latest step in a 33-year career that has lasted longer than he first imagined…The training period starts May 23, and Book will become executive director Aug. 30…

When Hamel became executive director in 1982, he offered Book a job as a division manager. Book stayed on, rising to his present job as deputy executive director…

“I appreciate the opportunity and the confidence the board has shown in me,” Book said. “Alan has been a mentor to me, and he has set a high standard I will try to live up to.”

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.