Creede: The town board approves CWCB contract for a $250,000 grant for restoration efforts on the upper Rio Grande watershed

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From The Mineral County Miner (Judith Stone):

A $250,000 grant contract from the Colorado Water Conservation Board was submitted for approval. In order for the town to receive the grant funds, the Lower Willow Creek Restoration Company has to review, sign and send it to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. When obtained, the grant will provide funds ensuring preservation of water quality and quantity in the Rio Grande.

A funding grant contract for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment which needs to be approved by the Lower Creek Restoration Company is expected to be ready by the April regular town board meeting.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack/drought news: The backward march of snowpack continues, statewide snowpack at 58% of average

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Here’s a report from Eric Brown writing for The Greeley Tribune. Click through and read the whole article and check the photos of the NRCS guys getting snowpack readings this year and last. Here’s an excerpt:

“We knew it would be low, but not this low,” said [Todd Boldt, NRCS], who has been making the monthly drives from Fort Collins up to the mountains to conduct surveys for 17 years. Boldt made that statement early in the afternoon while sitting in his truck at Cameron Pass, a 10,000-plus-elevation spot where they had taken their final readings of the day. The overall snow-water equivalent measurement they had just taken at that location was 50 percent below the 30-year average for late March.

And those were the good numbers for the day. [John Fusaro, NRCS] and Boldt had taken readings earlier that showed the snow-water equivalent at Big South was only 7 percent of the 30-year average.

Low snowpack figures this year aren’t isolated to the Poudre River Canyon. According to the Colorado Snotel Snowpack Update Map on Friday, Colorado’s statewide snowpack was 42 percent below the 30-year average for March 30 — only 2 percent better than it was for that date in 2002, the year of Colorado’s historic drought. Additionally, the South Platte River Basin’s overall snowpack was 36 percent below normal Friday, and the Colorado River Basin’s snowpack was 43 percent below average — the latter of which is 11 percent worse than it was in 2002, and only 3 percent better than the all-time low for March 30, recorded in 1977.

More coverage Electa Draper writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

It looks as if this will be the second-warmest March on record for Denver, surpassed only by 1910. Daytime highs in Denver were 9 degrees higher than the March average. Nighttime lows were 6 degrees higher.

“If it weren’t for the early fires, we’d call this a nice spring,” state climatologist Nolan Doesken said.

“People are loving the warm weather. It’s more like May. But there’s this nagging discomfort watching the mountain snowpack go so early. You’re enjoying the sunshine but knowing it’s not quite right.”

The snowpack is at 60 percent of normal statewide. Almost the entire state is either “abnormally dry” or in a short-term “moderate drought,” according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. The state’s southeastern corner is experiencing severe drought.

More coverage from KKTV.com:

…water officials from both Pueblo and Colorado Springs tell 11 News they are prepared if we see a repeat. Pueblo water officials say they have been building up a water reserve for years, just in case we see extreme drought conditions. At this point, Southern Colorado officials are optimistic that customers won’t have any watering restrictions this summer…

The Pueblo Board of Water Works says they expect significantly lower than average stream flow in the Arkansas River this year and tight water supply situations throughout the Arkansas Valley because of the lack of rain and poor snow-pack. Officials say the board is carefully monitoring the water supply, and maintained an ample reserve supply in storage at Clear Creek, Twin Lakes, Turquoise and Pueblo Reservoirs. The board also does not anticipate any curtailment of extraterritorial water leases for this coming summer.

Southern Delivery System: ‘They have to meet the level of commitments in the record of decision’ — Kara Lamb

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs voters in 2009 disbanded the stormwater enterprise approved by council in 2005. Since then, only about $1.2 million has been spent annually to meet federal mandates.

“They have to meet the level of commitments in the record of decision,” Reclamation spokeswoman Kara Lamb said this week. “If any requirement in the record of decision is not met, there has to be new mitigation. That’s the commitment they made.” Lamb clarified that, even once the SDS pipeline, pumping stations and treatment plant are constructed, Reclamation still may decide whether the project may use Lake Pueblo, a federal facility, to deliver the water.

Colorado Springs intends to fulfill its requirement with continued monitoring of conditions on Fountain Creek and the impact caused by SDS. There are regional issues that will play a role, too, as population grows in Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities, said Janet Rummel, a spokeswoman for the utilities agency. The city also will meet stormwater commitments in the 1041 permit for SDS issued by Pueblo County in 2009, Rummel said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Orchard City: The town board approves $20,000 for planning, design, and permitting activities for proposed small hydroelectric installation

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The full Orchard City Town Board has endorsed a trustee water committee request to pursue a $20,000 grant application that would pay for “planning, design, and permitting activities” of a proposed small hydro power unit at the town’s water treatment plant…

During their March 14 meeting, the board voted unanimously to go ahead with the application for the $20,000 grant, which would require a matching $20,000 from the town. But a complication since March 14 could slow the project. “Since we met,” Gage explained, “we found out we were not able to get into the (state’s grant) program, so we are going to have to (work) through (federal permitting regulations) on our own.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

CWCB: Funding approved for Terrace Reservoir spillway replacement and Conejos River stream gages

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $407,000 grant to install gauging stations in the Conejos River basin and signed off on a $1 million loan and a $1.5 million grant to replace a spillway at Terrace Reservoir. Terrace Reservoir, which backs up the Alamosa River, has had the size of its storage pool restricted by the state since the 1980s due to the inadequate size and poor condition of the reservoir’s spillway…

The Terrace Irrigation Co. owns the reservoir and has 24 shareholders. It irrigates 9,300 acres in Conejos and Rio Grande counties. The restrictions required the storage pool to remain roughly 2,000 acre-feet below the reservoir’s 15,182 acre-foot capacity. The added capacity would accommodate a 2,000-acre foot instream flow water right that is being worked on by the CWCB and the Alamosa Riverkeepers…

Construction could begin this summer once the State Engineer’s office signs off on the spillway’s design, Reinhardt said. Terrace’s project also will benefit from $2 million in Natural Resource Damage funds, which came from fines assessed to the operators of the Summitville gold mine that has since been turned into a Superfund cleanup site.

The second project to earn funding from the state called for the installation of 72 river gauges and four remote-controlled headgates by the Conejos Water Conservancy District. The district, which has 86,000 acres of irrigable land in the southwestern corner of the valley, hopes the gauges will allow for a more accurate accounting of the Conejos River’s deliveries under the Rio Grande Compact.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here and here.

Flagstaff, Arizona: Glen Canyon Long Term Experimental and Management Plan EIS meeting April 4 – 5

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Here’s the latest newsletter from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. Here’s an excerpt:

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and National Park Service (NPS) are working on a plan that will use the latest science to help ensure releases of water from the dam and other potential actions meet the goals of protecting the environment in Glen and Grand Canyons while continuing to supply water and power for communi- ties, agriculture, and industry. Known as the Long Term Experimental and Management Plan (LTEMP), it requires the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environ- mental Policy Act, one of the nation’s oldest environmental laws.

Here’s the link to the meeting agenda.

Here’s the link to the LTEMPEIS website.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack is 60% of the thirty year average, a year ago the statewide figure was 115%

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The snowpack map for Colorado now shows snowpack across the entire state at below 70% of the thirty year average. The April 1st snowpack is important for planners across the state and this year’s picture is cause for reflection. There is hope, but not much, looking at the 30 day forecast from the Climate Prediction Center. Readers may remember the Saint Patricks Day storm in 2003 that brought the Front Range out of the 2002 drought with record snowfall in some areas.

Click on the thumbnail graphics above and to the right for the current snowpack map and the April 1, 2011 snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service along with yesterday’s U.S. Drought Monitor map.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There’s no mud in Leadville, much less snow. That’s at 10,152 feet above sea level. On the other side of the mountains, in Glenwood Springs, the water slide opened at the Hot Springs pool this week, much to the delight of local school children on spring break. Higher up in the mountains, there still is snow — skiers were adroitly avoiding the rocky places on slopes at Vail — just not as much as would be expected at this time of year. “February was a good month, but in March it just stopped,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for the Bureau of Reclamation. “Usually at this time of year, we’re building a snowpack.”[…]

All of the state’s basins are below average — ranging from 67 percent in the northwest corner of the state to 83 percent in the Arkansas River basin. “Typically by this time of the year Colorado has reached 92 percent of its average peak snow water equivalent for the season,” said Veva DeHeza, of the Colorado Water Conservation Board in the latest state drought planning report. “However, to date, the state has only achieved 67 percent of the peak and 72 percent of the average statewide.” The Arkansas River basin is now in its 18th month of drought and as spring arrives is again susceptible to fire. Water storage levels remain near average.

From The Mountain Mail (Cailey McDermott):

Decreased snowpack in the Arkansas River Valley basin, 70 percent of average as of Tuesday, threatens agriculture and the tourism economy in Chaffee County. Mage Skordahl, assistant snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said this time last year the snowpack in the Arkansas River Valley basin was 95 percent of average…

Skordahl said lower tributaries, which don’t contribute much to the overall flow of the Arkansas River, skew overall numbers for the Arkansas River basin. More telling numbers, she said, are those for just the upper portion of the basin where snowpack level is 60 percent of average – down from 78 percent March 1. Feb. 1 the entire basin was 81 percent of average and the upper basin was 71 percent. “We usually receive 20 percent of our snowpack in March, but we’ve had little to no snow across the state – and it’s been warm,” she said…

“The good news is we’re having below-average snowpack following an above-average year, so we have plenty of water stored in reservoirs,” Skordahl said. March snowpack was lower in 2000 and 2002, she said.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

According to figures provided by the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins, this month has so far been the driest and hottest March for Greeley since the city’s climate records started being kept in 1967. And the effects are seemingly sparing no one, from farmers — some of whom have been forced to replant wheat and may have to irrigate their spring crops sooner than normal — to municipal water users — who could potentially see lawn-watering restrictions this year or increased water fees next year as a result on the ongoing dry times. In a month in which Greeley averages about 8.3 inches of snow, there has been none this March — which has only happened two other times, in 1972 and 2004, according to Wendy Ryan with the Colorado Climate Center. And the .01 inches of precipitation recorded during this month match the all-time low, also set in 2004. Even March 2002 — in a year that, according to some measures, was the driest for the area in centuries — had more moisture to offer Greeley than this month. There was .51 inches of precipitation that month…

National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Fredin said temperatures are expected to drop in the first week of April, with highs in the 50s and 60s. But precipitation is an uncertainty…

Most wheat farmers in the area said their crops have so far survived the dry, hot and windy conditions and still look decent, but they need rain soon so damage is prevented. Farmers who are planting their spring crops or soon will be — producers of corn, onions, sugar beets, potatoes, dry beans — are also hoping for moisture. Without snow or rain, farmers will soon have to start tapping into the stored-water supplies to irrigate their crops, doing so ahead of their normal schedule.

Municipal water officials, too, could be forced to tap into their stored-water supply ahead of schedule if rains don’t come soon. Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley Water & Sewer Department, said the ongoing dry spell — at a time residents either are or will soon begin watering their lawns — has led water officials to look at whether or not to send more water from the city’s reservoirs, or save that water for the future and, in doing so, put watering restrictions in place for Greeley residents. Already, Monson said, the city is producing about 20 million gallons of water a day from its Bellvue Treatment Plant — a water-usage mark the city typically doesn’t hit until later in April — and the city could be forced to begin producing water from the Boyd Lake Treatment Plant as early as next week, about two weeks ahead of most years. That move would increase costs for the city, an expense that could trickle down to the city’s water users next year…

“At this point, we’re holding out hope for a wet April,” Monson said. “That’s about the only way we’re going to avoid these potential problems we face.”

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The water in the snowpack 10 miles east of Aspen was 8.6 inches Thursday, only 52 percent of the average between 1971 and 2000, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported. On March 29, 2002, the snowpack was at 78.5 percent of average. The snowpack disappeared quickly that year because of high temperatures and dry soil conditions that persisted from 2001. The central mountains and much of Colorado were in the grip of a severe drought through half of July. This year, the U.S. Drought Monitor, operated by the federal government, officially classifies the Aspen area as “abnormally dry.” The center’s outlook says more severe drought conditions could develop in Colorado in the next few months. “It’s looking horrid,” said Sharon Clarke, a land- and water-conservation specialist with Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit that focuses on water quality and quantity issues in the valley. “I haven’t seen anything that looks very hopeful.”[…]

The Colorado River District, a Glenwood Springs-based public water-policy agency, is urging water providers to come up with a contingency plan in case of drought. Reservoir operators, for example, can scale back releases in anticipation of less snowmelt this spring, said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the river district. Water providers can get customers thinking in advance of conservation. Property owners who are considering installing new sod and other landscaping that requires watering might want to consider delaying plans. “I think it’s not too early to talk about it now,” Kuhn said about the possibility of drought…

Streamflow forecasts, based on snowpack levels and weather forecasts, will be updated by federal agencies during the first week of April. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center says Colorado’s mountains can expect continued warmer and drier weather over the next eight to 14 days, with only a small disturbance creating the chance of precipitation on Sunday and Monday.

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District has a little over 8,000 acre-feet in storage to meet augmentation requirements for groundwater Sub-district one

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The annual [groundwater Sub-district 1] replacement plan, which still requires the approval of the State Engineer, will be the subject of a public meeting Tuesday. One of the main impacts from pumping has been to deplete stream flows and a court-approved computer model has determined the subdistrict will be responsible for paying back 5,016 acre-feet to the Rio Grande this year…

To meet that demand, the subdistrict has amassed 8,072 acre-feet in three reservoirs near the Rio Grande’s headwaters. The division engineer will determine when those releases will be made, starting May 1…

The subdistrict also has contracted with 39 growers to fallow 10,312 acres, a move the plan predicts will reduce consumptive use by roughly 12,700 acre-feet. The subdistrict’s goal is to add between 300,000 to 500,000 acre-feet back into the aquifer from its current level.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Colorado Water 2012: Justice Hobbs is heading up to Greeley on April 4 to talk water

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Here’s the announcement from the High Plains Library District:

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs will discuss his book (Living the Four Corners: Colorado Centennial State of the Headwaters) and his brother Will’s young adult adventure novel, River Thunder on Wednesday, April 4 at 7 pm at the High Plains Library District offices (2650 W 29th St. Greeley, CO).

Hobbs’ presentation is part of Colorado Water 2012 – a statewide celebration of water: past, present and future. Using his brother’s photos and narrative as well as his own stories and poems Hobbs’ will portray the great adventure of running the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Colorado Water 2012 is a state-wide celebration of Colorado’s unique heritage as a headwaters state. The event, which started as a small celebration to commemorate the major anniversaries of some of Colorado’s most important water organizations and legislation grew into a statewide water awareness campaign following a declaration by Gov. Hickenlooper proclaiming 2012 The Year of Water.

For more information about this presentation please visit http://www.water2012.org or http://www.MyLibrary.us.

Colorado Water 2012

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Routt County, et al., are teaming with the USGS to monitor water quality in the upper Yampa River basin

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Joining the county and Steamboat Springs in the local funding are the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, Mount Werner Water District and Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District. Like the county, the city and the Conservancy District will contribute $9,071. Mount Werner Water and Morrison Creek Water each will contribute $2,268.

The new water-quality monitoring sites are in addition to the water-quality measuring site maintained by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment at the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat since 2007. Now, samples at five sites will be tested for chemical content, nutrients, E. coli and alkalinity, among other properties…

[Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf] added that he expects to receive recommendations in the near future from the U.S. Geological Survey about a program to monitor water quality in aquifers in the valley, which could lead to monitoring groundwater quality, as well as surface-water quality.

More Yampa River basin coverage here and here.

McPhee Reservoir operators plan releases this spring for native fish and whitewater enthusiasts

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

Unlike sport fish introduced from outside sources, native species have been swimming local rivers for an estimated 2 million years. But the past few decades, they have become not only low on the food chain, but low on the water chain after water is prioritized for irrigation, industry, drinking water and recreation.

Native fish species found on the Lower Dolores River include the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker and roundtail chub.

This year, after a winter of below average precipitation, water officials will be releasing a trickle of spill water a little early from the cold bottom of the McPhee Reservoir before the spring rafting spill in an effort to keep water temperatures low during warm spring weather and prevent native fish from spawning too soon…

“The problem is when you get a really rapid rise in temperature very quickly, and then these fish start to mature, there are eggs, and they start to get in spawn mode,” said Jim White, an aquatic biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Then the spill [for whitewater enthusiasts] comes along and that water temperature just plummets. That can be very hard on the newly hatched larval fish.”

Recognizing that a threatened or endangered species designation for the native fish could bring government intervention and regulation of the river, whitewater boating organizations have agreed to sacrifice some spill water for the fish, said Mike Preston, manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

Durango: The Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 30th annual water seminar April 6

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From the Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District (Jane Maxson) via the Pagosa Sun:

The Southwestern Water Conservation District will hold its 30th annual Water Seminar on Friday, April 6, at the Doubletree Hotel, 501 Camino del Rio, Durango.

This year’s theme is “2012“ — Water Through the Looking Glass,” and we have a lineup of notable speakers who will address water history in Colorado and water issues in the West. Invited speakers include a political analyst, the state’s climatologist and a water policy consultant, among others.

Registration is $30 in advance and $32 at the door, per person. This fee includes morning and afternoon snacks and a buffet lunch.

Registration on April 6 begins at 8 a.m. The seminar will conclude approximately 4:30 p.m.

Registration forms and a draft agenda can be found at our website, http://www.swwcd.org/.

CWCB: The North Delta Irrigation Company scores grant/loan dough for repairs to the water tunnel through Cory Bluff

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

On Tuesday, March 30, company representatives Lynn French and Ken Nelson traveled to Denver and secured a grant/loan funding package from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) for making emergency repairs to the company’s irrigation tunnel through Cory Bluff. Since a section of the 110-year-old tunnel collapsed last summer, work has proceeded non-stop in an effort to put estimates, engineering, and funding in place and get water flowing again from the Gunnison River for this year’s season…

The tunnel will be replaced with a 54-inch-diameter, thick-walled pipeline running the same course under Cory Bluff. The pipeline will then be grouted in place with an expanding concrete material that completely surrounds and seals the structure for many decades into the future.

The CWCB funding support was augmented by additional funds approved by the Gunnison Basin Water Roundtable. “Both of the organizations understood the urgency of the situation and our problem,” French said. They responded to the need with expedited approval of the company’s request for assistance, he added.

The company can use a backup water supply for North Delta irrigators delivered to its system via Tongue Creek. It is hoped that will last until construction of the pipeline is completed in time for use this season.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: March 2012 is likely to set a record as the driest on record, snow dances are in order

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Another day another drop in statewide snowpack levels. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the statewide snowpack ogive from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NRCS calculates that Colorado would need precipitation at 903% of average to reach the average peak snowpack for the year. That probably won’t happen so everyone needs to start thinking about conservation, now. Storage should get the cities and many irrigators through this season but there may not be much runoff to store for next season. We could also see a early runoff peak that will pass by the direct irrigators before they need the water and reduced flows for whitewater fans.

Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

…this month is tracking toward becoming the driest March on record for many locations, including Summit County, where the snowpack has dwindled to just 68 percent of average based on SNOTEL readings from most of the higher elevation sites, including Grizzly Peak, as well as Fremont and Hoosier passes. “The temperatures just keep getting warmer and the snow keeps disappearing,” said Blue River Basin water commissioner Troy Wineland, responsible for administering water rights in for ranchers and other users. The best thing Wineland could say was that the snowpack readings look a bit better than 1981, another notoriously dry year. But as of Wednesday, the numbers were looking ominously similar to 2002, which ended up as one of the driest years on record…

“In general, most of the water providers look to April 1 snowpack numbers to get an idea of what kind of runoff they’re going to have through the season,” said Scott Hummer, who preceded Wineland in the water commissioner post and now is a special project manager for the Colorado Water Trust. “It’s mirroring 2002 in some places, and the Upper Colorado is less than 2002 … In 2002 it was 33 percent below average, this year, it’s down to 40 percent below average,” he said. “The best thing that the state has going for it right … they’ve got enough water in storage, combined with what runoff is going to come this year, to make it through this year in pretty good shape,” he said, adding that water restrictions may be in store for some jurisdictions. “The one thing that I’ve noticed is that water is already starting to move,” he said, referring to the early runoff. “Many stream gages are already running way way above historic averages.”

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

A relatively dry winter across Colorado and recent wildfires have some people asking about the water outlook for the summer.

“Spring in Colorado can be unpredictable, so it’s too early to say what our water outlook will be,” said Sally Covington, director of public affairs for Denver Water. “But we are concerned about how dry it’s been.”

As a result, Denver Water is asking customers to use only what they need as we move into spring.

“Customers’ continued conservation habits have made a huge difference in our water supply,” said Covington.

While Denver Water’s reservoir storage currently is above normal for this time of year due to 2011’s wet conditions and customers’ continued conservation habits, the utility asks customers to be mindful of the impact of dryness on supply availability, offering the following guidelines:

Check your sprinkler system for leaks — a lot of outdoor water use is wasted due to leaks in irrigation systems.
Hand-water your trees and shrubs.

Watering your lawn once a week or once every two weeks during this dry spell should suffice. To encourage deeper root growth and more drought-resistant lawns, water thoroughly once, rather than brief spritzes.

Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado President Barry Wagner offers this advice: “It is crucial that homeowners check the amount of moisture in their soil before applying water to their grass. An easy way to test for soil moisture is to probe your lawn with a screwdriver. If it goes into the soil easily, that indicates sufficient moisture, but if the screwdriver can’t probe the soil, you want to apply water to that area.”

Denver Water always closely monitors area weather conditions and impacts on its water system this time of year.

“In 2002 we learned that reservoir storage is only one indicator of drought, and reservoir levels can drop quickly when we don’t get much snow and rain,” said Covington. “Droughts are always a reality in Colorado, which is why regardless of snowpack and reservoir levels, we ask customers to use water wisely.”

Following the drought that began in 2002, Denver Water nearly ran out of water in the north end of its system.

“The north end of our system, which is experiencing unusually dry conditions right now, is more susceptible to water supply problems during a dry year,” said Covington. “Without the blizzard of March 2003, we likely would have run out of water on that end. Earlier this winter we changed our operations and reduced the amount of water leaving the Moffat Treatment Plant — fed by Gross Reservoir, north of Boulder — to reserve more water in the north end of our system. We currently are in the permitting process to enlarge Gross Reservoir to help us avoid running out of water any given year and to help us put water where we need it.”

Here’s the executive summary from last week’s CWCB Water Availability Task Force Meeting (Veva Deheza/Kevin Rein):

Despite decent precipitation in February, the month of March has been warm and dry across most of the state. Little to no precipitation is forecast through the end of the month and some places, like Ft. Collins, are on track to have the driest March on record. All major basins of the state have seen a decline in snow water equivalent since March 1st, and all continue to be below normal. Severe drought conditions remain in southeastern Colorado, while lesser drought intensities have been introduced and expanded elsewhere in the state. Water providers are watching the situation in the mountains closely, but most feel they have sufficient storage at this time.

 March temperatures, to date, have been 6 to 8 degrees above average for most of Colorado, with pockets on the northeastern plains experiencing temperatures 10 degrees above normal. The San Juan Mountains have been the coolest region of the state with near normal temperatures.

 Typically by this time of the year Colorado has reached 92% of its average peak snow water equivalent for the season, however, to date the state has only achieved 67% of the peak and 72% of average statewide.

 Reservoir storage remains above average in the Yampa/White, Gunnison, Colorado, South Platte Basins, and San Miguel/ Dolores/ Animas/ San Juan. Statewide, reservoir storage is 107% of average. The Rio Grande and the Arkansas River basins continue to be the regions with the lowest reservoir storage levels in the state at 69 and 98% of average, respectively.

 As of March 20, 2012 US Drought Monitor, D1, moderate drought, conditions remain in the northern and central mountains, while D2, Severe drought, conditions remain over much of the southeast and south central portions of the state. D0, abnormally dry, conditions account for much of the rest of the impacted areas of the state. Expansion of D0 on the northeastern plains and an introduction of D2 in the Yampa/White river basin is expected within the next few weeks unless conditions drastically improve.

 Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values range from -2.96 in the East Taylor Park sub-basin to +2.59 in the Big Thompson sub-basin of the South Platte. The remainder of the state is near normal, in part due to sufficient reservoir storage. The higher value in the Big Thompson is due to high storage levels and the fact that reservoirs in this basin are more heavily weighted. The Arkansas Headwaters, -2.22, is lower, due to operational drawdown of Homestake Reservoir. Other basins with a SWSI indicating moderate drought are the result of low stream flow forecasts. Streamflow forecasts have declined roughly 5-10% since March 1st and early runoff is expected.

 La Niña conditions are weakening, which is somewhat typical for this time of year, but there is still a greater than 40% chance that this will be a three year La Niña event. Three year La Niña events have been associated with some of the driest periods on record for Colorado.

 The long-term seasonal forecast for late spring (April-June) shows a tilt towards dryness covering much of the state, with the exception of the eastern plains which ‘lean’ towards near-normal moisture. This coupled with below average snowpack will likely result in earlier runoff. The best chance for increased moisture might derive from a sudden transition to El Niño, but there is only a 20% chance that this will occur.

Colorado Water 2012: ‘…about 10 of the oldest priority dates in the Rio Grande system belong to the Conejos River’ — Nathan Coombs

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Here’s the current installment for the Colorado Water 2012 series from the Valley Courier written by Nathan Coombs the Manager of the Conejos Water Conservancy District. Click through and read the whole article for the history of the area. Here’s an excerpt:

In the 1850-70’s when the railroads were carving out rights-of-way through Northern New Mexico and the San Luis Valley, the US military was expatriating hostiles, and farmers and ranchers were focusing on water. This was the era of the canal building and ditch digging. Land was being cleared and the essential element- water was being acquired. In this high desert, the ranchers and farmers were quick to learn the importance of this life-giving substance.

Settlers to the Conejos River area, which rivals the San Luis area for antiquity of civilization and establishment, were not any different. These water users filed for and received their adjudicated decrees. In fact about 10 of the oldest priority dates in the Rio Grande system belong to the Conejos River. Early on these pioneer/settlers were legally and progressively seeking and putting to beneficial use water. With their shoulders bowed to the work they kept their vision focused on the future.

The southern end of the San Luis Valley has always had strong developmental ties to the rivers. The oldest communities in the area were established along the waterways and dependant on the rivers for their success. Ditches like the Guadalupe and the Headsmill (priorities 1&2 respectively) were developed for 1,000’s of acres of land and industry, with examples like the Finley Ranch and the Antonito grist mill and the Town of Antonito’s drinkable water supply developed from their priority on the Conejos River. Although these structures had to be hand built to divert the water, the area developed and progressed.

The people of the Conejos did not sit back and expect gravity to do the work. They looked up, up stream, 10,000 feet up in fact. In the early 1940’s The Conejos Water Conservancy District was formed to be the local vehicle that would seek partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation in building a reservoir. The San Luis Valley Project study identified the Platoro site at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level as the most feasible. As soon as WWII ended and funding became available construction began. This $3 million project was completed one year ahead of schedule and under budget. (Where have those days gone?)

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

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

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Here are the summaries from Tuesday’s webinar from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the March precipitation summary.

Snowpack news: The snowpack is dropping daily across the state, statewide snowpack is 64% of the thirty year average

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Colorado has abnormally dry conditions or one stage of drought or another across the entire state except for a area around Metro Denver and points north to Wyoming. This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor will come out tomorrow. Click on the thumbnail graphics above and to the right for the current snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the 8-10 day precipitation forecast from the Climate Prediction Center and last week’s drought map from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Remember to conserve water going into the summer. The nights are still cool so there is no reason to water the bluegrass yet. Trees and shrubs probably do need water though since it’s been so dry. Send some positive energy towards the storm that is expected over the weekend.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Northern Colorado’s mountain snowpack is now diminishing to levels matching that of 2002, the notorious year of drought and wildfire across the state. “It’s just really, really dry,” said meteorologist Judy Fossum of DayWeather in Cheyenne, Wyo. Looking at the long-term forecast, “Honestly, there’s nothing significant headed our way for the next 10 days.”[…]

The water content of the snow in the Upper Colorado River Basin was 40 percent below normal Tuesday morning. For the same date in 2002, it was only 33 percent below normal. In the South Platte River Basin, which includes the Poudre River drainage, the snowpack was 34 percent below normal Tuesday. In 2002, it was 41 percent below normal, according to U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service data. According to the National Weather Service, the warm weather, wind and lack of new snow contributed to the South Platte River Basin showing Colorado’s greatest basinwide decrease in snowpack this month, diminishing 16 percent between Feb. 24 and March 22. But, Colorado can often see dry spells and numerous wildfires during March, and this dry spell isn’t enough to catapult Northern Colorado into a drought, said Mike Baker, a meteorologist and climate scientist at the NWS in Boulder…

Two of Colorado’s major shots of winter weather this season were thanks to a moisture-laden tropical wave over the Pacific Ocean, Baker said, and a similar shot of moisture appears headed in Colorado’s direction for early April…

“The models are showing a wimpy sort of system that comes through on Sunday,” Baker said. “Maybe a rain shower on the plains.”

From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

The Upper Colorado River Basin snowpack has an average peak date of April 14, the date when the snowpack is typically the highest it is all winter. Currently, the basin’s snowpack is at just 57 percent of its peak. That means the river basin needs 740 percent of its average snowpack between now and April 14 to reach that average, according to snowpack telemetry (SNOTEL) data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service…

Mage Skordahl, assistant snow survey supervisor with the National Resources Conservation Service, said even if the area “has a huge April, we still probably wouldn’t reach our average peak.” “We’re so far below average and things are starting to melt,” Skordahl said…

She expects the April 1 data to show statewide average streamflow conditions at 60 percent of average, and maybe lower in some places. “It’s definitely going to be a low runoff year,” Skordahl said, adding that there are still unknowns, like spring rains, that could change things for the better…

Statewide, the good news is that last year was a record snow year, which left reservoirs full or almost full. In 2002, a major drought year, reservoirs were low because the previous years had also been grim in terms of precipitation. Currently, the snow water equivalent — the amount of water actually in the snow — is much lower than it was even in 2002. As of March 20, this year’s snow water equivalent was around 10 inches. In 2002 around the same time, it was closer to 15 inches, according to Eagle River Water and Sanitation District data. The data also shows the current snow water equivalent as being the lowest out of all of the “low” years on record.

IBCC: Wyco Water and Power, Inc. and the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project proponents briefed the state task force yesterday

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A private developer and a public group who want to build major water supply pipelines from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range met Tuesday for the first time with a state task force. “Can both projects go? Folks, there should be collaboration. If this task force wants an additional task it could look at finding collaboration,” said Aaron Million, who first came up with the idea for the project about six years ago. “One of the outcomes of the task force has been a huge pushback from the environmental community.”

Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. faces competition from the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water and Sanitation General Manager Frank Jaeger. The task force, formed at the request of the Arkansas and Metro basin roundtables, was formed to identify issues, interests and impacts associated with a Flaming Gorge project. It won’t recommend either project, and right now just has a growing list of questions and concerns…

The Colorado-Wyoming Coalition still is investigating whether it even wants to pursue the project and is waiting on a Bureau of Reclamation determination of whether water is available, Jaeger said. “We don’t have all the answers,” Jaeger said. “We have to know what the Bureau of Reclamation plan says before we go any further.” The group has clearly identified it would serve a population of 569,000 in the next 60 years. The project would divert 100,000 acre-feet of water, which through re-use could provide about 200,000 acre-feet of need. About one-fourth of the water would go to communities in Wyoming.

Million filed for water rights in 2007 on the Green River in Wyoming and has applied for a contract with Reclamation. He is using an earlier decision by Reclamation as the basis for his claim of 250,000 acre-feet. He has identified potential users, but does not have a specific list, unlike the coalition. So far, $5 million has been spent to develop his plan…

While the project faces stiff opposition in Western Wyoming, there is a growing realization that the decision could be made without the area’s consensus. There is a spectrum of opinion heavily weighted toward stopping the project to those who realize control of the water is in someone else’s hands and the object is to reduce the impacts of diverting some of it. “I think our mission is to stay informed on the issues,” said Don Hartley, of the Rock Springs, (Wyo.,) Chamber Enterprise Committee. “We have to stay abreast of the issues with an eye to minimizing the impacts.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

CWCB: March additions to the 2012 proposed instream flow program includes eight reaches in the Upper Laramie River watershed

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the March list, I couldn’t get the email attachment to open on my Macintosh computer this morning. Below is the email from the CWCB (Rob Viehl):

At its March 20-21, 2012 regular meeting, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) declared its intent to appropriate instream flow water rights for the 8 streams listed on the attached instream flow appropriation list. The attached list contains a description of the instream flow recommendations including: stream name, water division, watershed, county, upper terminus, lower terminus, length, USGS quad sheet name(s) and recommended instream flow amounts. Copies of the Instream Flow Recommendation Summary Reports and Appendices submitted into the Official CWCB Record are available for review during regular business hours (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) at the CWCB’s office, located at 1313 Sherman Street, Room 721, Denver, Colorado, 80203. This information is also available on the CWCB website at:
http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/instream-flow-program/Pages/2012ProposedInstreamFlowAppropriations.aspx

In addition to the above Instream Flow Recommendation Summary Reports and Appendices, staff may rely on any additional data, exhibits, testimony, or other information submitted by any party as part of the Official CWCB Record to support its Instream Flow Recommendations. Pursuant to Rule 5d.(3) of the Rules Concerning the Colorado Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program adopted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, it should also be noted that:

(a) The Board may change flow amounts of contested ISF appropriations based on information received during the public notice and comment period.

(b) Staff will maintain, pursuant to Rule 5e.(3), an ISF Subscription Mailing List for each water division composed of the names of all persons who have sent notice to the Board Office that they wish to be included on such list for a particular water division. Any person desiring to be on the ISF Subscription Mailing List(s) must send notice to the Board Office.

(c) Any meetings held between Staff and members of the public will be open to the public. Staff may provide Proper Notice prior to any such meetings and may provide notice to persons on the ISF Subscription Mailing List(s).

(d) Any Notice to Contest must be received at the Board office no later than April 30, 2012. Notice of any Contested Appropriations will be sent out to the ISF Subscription Mailing List(s) by May 4, 2012. All Notices of Party status and Contested Hearing Participant status must be received at the Board office no later than May 31, 2012.

(e) Staff will announce its Final Staff Instream Flow Recommendation concerning contested appropriations at the November 2012 Board meeting and, prior to that meeting, will send notice of the Final Staff Recommendation to all persons on the Contested Hearing Mailing List.

(f) The Board may take final action on any uncontested ISF appropriations at the May 2012 Board meeting.

A notice to contest an ISF appropriation shall be made in writing and contain the following information: (a) Identification of the Person(s) requesting the hearing;(b) Identification of the ISF appropriation(s) at issue; and, (c) The contested facts and a general description of the data upon which the Person will rely to the extent known at that time.

Should you wish to comment on the proposed Instream Flow Recommendations, you may do so by writing Jeff Baessler of the Board’s staff at the address given above or by sending your comments by email to jeffrey.baessler@state.co.us. It should be noted that while your appearance at any meeting is welcome, such an appearance is not necessary for your concerns to be recognized. Staff will take your comments into account and, if you so request, will present them to the Board in your absence.

More instream flow coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 125 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We made another change at Green Mountain Reservoir earlier today [March 27]. As we continue to prepare for some upcoming maintenance, we scaled releases from the dam to the Lower Blue back another 50 cfs. The Lower Blue is now running at about 125 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Denver: 2012 Colorado Small Hydro Conference May 17

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From the Colorado Small Hydro Association:

This year’s Colorado Small Hydro Conference is being held in conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society’s (ASES) annual conference and the World Renewable Energy Forum (WREF). Why attend this year’s conference? You will meet other property owners interested in hydro development, current hydro owners and operators, utilities, government staff from municipalities with currently untapped potential in their water lines, ditch companies, environmental consultants, and state and local officials.

Here is a sampling of what to expect from the conference:

– Presentations on new hydro technologies
– Project financing
– Updates about recently completed government resource assessments
– Updates on federal and state policy to support hydro, including Colorado’s FERC pilot program
– Updates on a recent hydro project construction in Colorado

REGISTRATION

Advance registration is necessary this year. The registration fee of $75 includes the conference, beverages throughout the day, breakfast, and entrance to the WREF Expo Hall on the day of the conference. Be sure to check out lodging specials at http://www.ases.org/conference/lodging

Here’s the registration page.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

The Custer County commissioners are considering the augmentation plan from the Upper Ark District, again

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Here’s an in-depth look at the history of an augmentation plan with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District and Custer County, from Nora Drenner writing for The Wet Mountain Tribune. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

A blanket water augmentation plan was brought to the table again in 2003 at the urging of the county commissioners to address the depletion of wells in Custer County. The UAWCD submitted such a plan to water court in June 2009. Once again, the proposed plan came under fire when several Valley citizens urged the county commissioners to ask the UAWCD to pull the plug, and subsequently the UAWCD voluntarily withdrew its proposed water augmentation plan. Additionally, the commissioners and the UAWCD decided to keep the line of communication open in regards to bringing another proposed water augmentation plan to Custer County. The UAWCD and commissioners also agreed at that time that there was a lack of understanding in regards to how a water augmentation plan works, and as such UAWCD would strive to educate Custer County residents and elected officials.

Moreover, the commissioners appointed an ad hoc water assessment committee to study the need for a county-wide blanket water augmentation plan in Custer County. That committee, led by commissioner Butler, concluded in June 2011 that a water augmentation problem did not currently exist, and such a problem would likely not exist for at least 10 years. According to the findings of the ad hoc water committee there were only 320 parcels in the county that are 35 acres or less that would need a water augmentation plan to get a well permit.

More Custer County coverage here and here.

San Miguel River: Montrose County files for diversion rights for the nascent uranium boom ahead of Colorado in-stream flow program

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Benjamin Preston):

water supply along certain parts of the San Miguel River isn’t guaranteed during certain parts of the year. That’s why the Colorado Water Conservation Board began moving in 2010 to preserve in-stream river flows by filing water rights claims with the 7th Judicial district Court. Montrose County wasted no time filing water rights claims along the San Miguel River — before CWCB filed its claims — aimed at securing water to supply a uranium boom its officials see coming on the county’s West End.

The proposed water development project — for which Montrose County has already had preliminary engineering and analysis done — calls for 6,400 acre-feet of water per year to supply West End uranium milling and its associated economic growth.

More significant, perhaps, is that the water would be stored in a number of new reservoirs — one of the larger ones to be sited in San Miguel County, in a canyon near Wright’s Mesa once slated for the development of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Marie Scott dam — holding more than 25,000 acre-feet of water, according to court water rights application documents….

Nearly 20 different entities — including San Miguel County, the Town of Telluride, Sheep Mountain Alliance, several ranchers, Discovery Channel and Gateway Canyons Resort owner John Hendricks and even the state engineer — have formally objected to Montrose County’s filings, contending that its uranium development projection is speculative, and therefore in violation of state water laws.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack drops to 65% of average, South Platte = 69%, Colorado = 61%, San Juan/Dolores/San Miguel = 69%

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Last week I told the CWCB’s Water Availability Task Force that I thought Standley Lake would fill this runoff season, “barring a snowpack disaster.” This week I’m not so confident. I’m eagerly awaiting the April 1 Basin Outlook Report from the NRCS to look at their streamflow forecast for Clear Creek. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the current snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

Winter was late to arrive in the Colorado mountains, and it’s apparently making an early exit, boosting tan lines but creasing the brows of those who watch the state’s snowpack with an eye toward summer water availability and fire danger.

Twenty percent of Colorado’s annual snowpack typically accumulates in March, according to Mage Skordahl, assistant snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver. The state typically hits its snowpack peak in early to mid-April. Instead, the snowpack has been eroding. Statewide, the snowpack stood at 81 percent of average at the start of March and had dropped to 71 percent of average by Friday, Skordahl said. The Roaring Fork Basin was looking good by comparison, at 78 percent of average on Monday. “That’s good,” Skordahl said. “It hasn’t melted out as much as it looks like from down low.

Still, the snow-measuring site at 10,600 feet on Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen, dropped from 40 inches of snow on March 20 to 34 inches by Monday. And the high temperature at the high-elevation site hit nearly 56 degrees on Friday. It was much the same story at other measuring stations around the basin. On McClure Pass south of Carbondale, for example, the snowpack dropped from 34 inches on March 20 to 27 inches on Monday, and Sunday’s high at the site was 61 degrees. The McClure station is at 9,500 feet…

It’s too early to say whether [drought] conditions are on the horizon, but it’s on the minds of those who contemplate such things. “We’re starting to whisper it, but it’s not official,” [Paul Frisbie, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction] said.

The Colorado Mesa University Water Center March newsletter is hot off the press

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Here’s the link to the March 21 newsletter from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University (Hannah Holm). Here’s an excerpt:

On March 1, Basin Roundtable members from around Colorado gathered to compare notes on their portfolios for how to meet the state’s growing urban water needs in coming decades: How much from agriculture? How much from the Colorado River? How much from conservation? The meeting was one step in the process of developing a statewide water plan.

More education coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: Home gardens contribute to the quality of life in urban areas

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Here’s an excerpt from the latest article in The Pueblo Chieftain’s Colorado Water 2012 series (Zachary Stanifer):

Just 10 short years ago our business felt the full effects of the scarcity of water. Restrictions in the use of water crippled our spring planting business. Even the most avid gardeners cut back the amount of plantings they installed that year, having no guarantee that they would have the water necessary to nurture their plants. While most of what we grow is not essential to a person’s livelihood, I would argue that the simple joy found in fostering a vegetable plant to harvest or a flower to bloom in your favorite color is priceless.

It is vitally important to our community that water remain plentiful and reasonably priced. There have been great efforts put forth in the last decade to educate residents on proper water use and it is finally starting to sink in. A recent article stated that Pueblo’s water use has dropped to levels not seen since 1980, even with adding more taps. This has resulted from a new mindset in landscape usage: Water established plantings for longer periods but less frequently. This develops a more robust root system, requiring less water over time and actually increases the overall health of the plant. We have made many changes in our greenhouses in the last three years to water our crops more efficiently. We have installed regulators and timers to ensure that we are using only the water that we need to use. We use more water in June than any other month of the year. With the upgrades in water applicators we used only one-third of the water in June 2011, compared with June 2009. This decrease in usage was significant since we were actually growing more plants in 2011.

Over the past six years we have increased our plant offerings that are better suited for our climate. These heat tolerant, lower water use plants are essential in the Pueblo landscape. They are often easier to maintain and require much less “prodding” to establish than other thirstier plants. As we begin to utilize more sustainable ornamental plantings we allow ourselves the opportunity to free up more water for the growth of our wonderful city.

More conservation coverage here.

Reclamation has $170,000 for conservation projects in eastern Colorado

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From the Targeted News Service (Mary Grace DeJucos) via Water World:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Great Plains Region has announced that it expects to award a maximum of three cooperative agreement grants to manage, develop and protect water and related resources in eastern Colorado. The estimated total program funding available was cited as $170,000 with a ceiling of $100,000 for each award under this program. This funding opportunity is open to state, Indian tribe, irrigation district, water district and other organization.

A funding opportunity notice from the Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Region states: “The objective of this Funding Opportunity is to invite eligible applicants to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with Reclamation on projects/activities that will do one or more of the following: promote the preparation of written water management and conservation plans that will lead to subsequent implementation of conveyance, measurement or operational improvements which will conserve water, increase water use efficiency, or enhance operational efficiency, demonstrate new or previously unknown water management technologies and practices, implement activities identified in approved and written water management and/or conservation plans, promote improvement understanding of good-water use practices and techniques.”

The funding opportunity number is R12SF60009 (CFDA 15.530). The application closing date is April 30.

More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.

Colorado State University Extension agent Leonard Pruett to join the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Leonard Pruett of Lamar was appointed to replace Scott Reed in an order released Monday in Division 2 Water Court. He will represent Prowers and Kiowa counties.

Four other directors were reappointed: Kevin Karney, at-large; Gibson Hazard and Harold Miskel, El Paso County and Vera Ortegon, Pueblo County. The appointments will take effect at the April 19 board meeting and their terms will expire in 2016…

Pruett served as a livestock agent and area director for seven Southeastern Colorado counties for 38 years during his career with CSU Extension prior to retiring in 2007. He was inducted into the Colorado Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2009.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here and here.

‘Longmont’s oldest water rights today come from the Beckwith Ditch, which dates back to March 1861’ — Longmont Times-Call

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It’s an exciting time of year if you’re a water supplier, farmer or rancher. The irrigation ditches are turning on for the season. Here’s a history of St. Vrain Valley ditches from Tony Kindelspire writing for the Longmont Times-Call. Click through and read the whole article and check out the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

Two ditch companies were established in 1860, 11 years before Longmont became a city, and Longmont’s oldest water rights today come from the Beckwith Ditch, which dates back to March 1861.

Many of the names of the ditches that date back a century and a half are familiar: Left Hand, Highland, Pella, Rough & Ready, Niwot, Oligarchy and Clover Basin.

And so are the names of some of those associated with the founding of those ditches: George L. Beckwith sold the first 80 acres of what later became Longmont to the Chicago-Colorado Colony and was one of four original shareholders in the Beckwith Ditch. Morse Coffin settled Sandstone Ranch but, more importantly from a water perspective, was the namesake in a landmark Colorado Supreme Court ruling — Coffin vs. Left Hand Ditch — that still governs water law today. And L.C. Mead was the superintendent on the Highland Ditch project, which is one of the largest ditches in the region…

Today, Longmont owns water rights in dozens of ditches in the area, with the percentages of ownership ranging from less than 2 percent of the Left Hand Ditch to 100 percent of the Longmont Supply and the Palmerton ditches. The ditch companies, as do the ditches themselves, vary in size. Most of them usually have a superintendent and a board of directors, but the smaller companies could just be one person, Huson said. One thing every ditch company has to have is a ditch rider. Maintaining proper water flow and cleaning up debris are the ditch rider’s primary responsibilities.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Project could signal a big turn in how Colorado views and measures agricultural consumptive use

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Whatever else it may do, the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch has already sparked a change in thinking about water rights for farmers in the valley. For decades, farmers have operated under a “use it or lose it” philosophy. Water must be applied in priority or it passes to the next user along the river. In a complicated system like the Arkansas River basin, operating under the doctrine of prior appropriation, that’s not always the next downstream headgate.

At a meeting in Rocky Ford last week, farmers began a conversation about flexibility of use. They talked about the possible benefits of quantifying consumptive use, claiming it for other uses in water court, selling the water and even reselling the return flows. It’s a strategy cities have worked with for more than 40 years as they acquired farm water and converted it to municipal use, said Heath Kuntz, an engineer hired by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The cities have models that account for everything from toilet flushes to water that flows off lawns.

With Super Ditch, the farmers could have the same ability to maintain control over water whether it’s on a field or flowing through faucets.

Water rights in Colorado are decreed in courtrooms, with the earliest dates of use receiving the highest priority…

A change in water court adds another dimension to the water right. Because deliveries up and down the river could be affected, big changes draw a big crowd of water attorneys. Differences are usually settled outside the courtroom, and that means compromise. In recent talks, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs has warned ditches that there is a risk in changing senior agricultural water rights. Decisions in the South Platte and Arkansas river basins have put more limits on how the water can be used once the water right is changed.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

‘Watershed’ movie: ‘I think we have such a tendency to think short, short term, and therefore apply short term solutions to longer term problems’ — Robert Redford

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From Reuters (Robert Muir):

[Robert] Redford, 76, who lives in Utah, traveled to Washington, D.C. along with Jamie Redford, a Northern California resident, to discuss the urgency of the message in their film, “Watershed,” featured recently at the D.C. Environmental Film Festival.

Both father and son have been tireless vocal advocates for conservation, particularly in the western United States. Their documentary, produced by Jamie Redford and narrated by his father, draws attention to the enormous and, they say, unsustainable demands on the Colorado River system that provides much of the American west with water…

The film opens with an explanation of the history of the Colorado River system’s development, starting with the Colorado River Compact of 1922, which provided for the equitable division and apportionment of the water among seven states in the U.S. and two in Mexico.

But “Watershed” holds that the compact, 90 years later, has transformed one of the world’s wildest rivers to the point where it will soon be unable to provide sufficient water for the populations dependent upon it.

“With population in the region expected to reach 50 million by 2050, temperatures rising and precipitation patterns becoming more erratic, demand will outpace supply unless we embrace a new water ethic” Redford says in the film…

The film illustrates the various demands on the Colorado River through the eyes of the people who live on it, from a fly-fishing instructor near the river’s source to farmers and families living downstream. Jamie Redford said that by enlisting real people in the project, the issue was more likely to resonate with audiences.

“It was pretty clear from our point of view that what we wanted to do was specifically focus on people, and we wanted to take a positive look at what is a challenging situation,” he said.

“So, in that regard, we found characters up and down the river from the headwaters all the way out to the Colorado delta in Mexico that are fighting to make a difference and are making a difference and setting an example of what you can do.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Western Resource Advocates’ report ‘Filling the Gap: Meeting Future Urban Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin’ may be too optimistic regarding conservation impacts

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A report, “Filling the Gap: Meeting Future Urban Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin,” by Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited and the Colorado Environmental Coalition states that the projected 2050 urban water demand for El Paso and Pueblo counties can be met by a combination of conservation and the completion of Southern Delivery System and the Eagle River joint use project.

But the 34 percent reduction in per capita demand may not be realistic or desirable, said Alan Ward, water resources director for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “A 1 percent per year reduction in per capita water use for the next 50 years is a realistic goal that will require a sustained, long-term effort, yet will not entail draconian measures, onerous lifestyle changes or landscaping modifications beyond those already being implemented in many areas across the West,” the Filling the Gap report states.

“At this point we cannot concur with that opinion,” Ward said last week. “Additional study needs to be done to fully understand how a 34 percent reduction in per capita water demand would impact the socioeconomic and quality of life issues unique to the Pueblo community.”[…]

Water Works Executive Director Alan Hamel said the Filling the Gap report errs in applying water savings in Pueblo to the overall gap in the Arkansas River basin, where most of the need will be in El Paso County. Those savings will be applied to Pueblo’s need if they materialize.

More conservation coverage here.

Take the time today to learn how you can help alleviate the problem of waterborne disease around the world

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Last week Your Water Colorado Blog pointed to this article, Water For All from Erin McIntyre writing for Headwaters Magazine. From the article:

To further its mission, Rocky Ford-based Innovative Water Technologies designed the Sunspring, a self-contained, solar-powered, portable water filtration unit. The Sunspring uses membrane technology developed by General Electric that can filter particles as small as .02 microns. “You can drink the water straight out of it and it’s bacteriologically safe,” says Barker.

The 900-pound Sunspring arrives at its destination with all the necessary tools for assembly, and can produce purified water within two or three hours, given fresh water and sunshine. It can continue to filter up to 5,000 gallons per day for ten years and perhaps longer. The unit also has a Category 5 hurricane rating, making it durable for parts of the world which endure frequent natural disasters.

Barker got a first-hand look at the impact a Sunspring can have on a community after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Haiti’s fuel crisis made it difficult for water treatment plants, which needed power generators, to operate. When Barker arrived, the threat of cholera and dysentery loomed. “They were sending down plane loads of anti-diarrheal medicine and they were taking it with dirty water,” says Barker. “It was just a vicious circle there.”

Within hours of the earthquake, General Electric donated 10 Sunsprings. The Pentair Foundation donated two more. And Innovative Water Technologies donated time and travel to teach the local people how to use the technology.

“When we would show up to install a Sunspring, it was like a festival—hundreds of people waiting to see if it worked,” Barker recalls. Barker demonstrated the purified water’s safety, drinking the first cup as the crowd cheered. “We were able to give the Haitian people the same exact technology that we use here in the U.S. for our drinking water. To me that’s an honor.”

More water treatment coverage here.

Metro Water Roundtable public reception, ‘Is There Enough Water?’ Thursday, April 5

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Here’s the announcement from the Metro Roundtable. Here’s an excerpt:

Get an inside look at the work of the Metro Water Roundtable, meet top public officials, and have your questions answered about future water supplies.

Is There Enough Water?: Thursday, April 5, 2012 3:00-6:00pm; Metro State College, Tivoli Student Union, Room 250; Turnhalle, Auraria Campus.

The Norris Family plans to build the reservoir at the site eyed by both the Flaming Gorge Pipeline and the Southern Delivery System

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Norris family, owners of T-Cross Ranches, has filed a plan for the Marlboro Metropolitan Water District with El Paso County. “I’m going to build the reservoir,” said Steve Norris…“There has been lots of interest throughout the region for creating a regional storage reservoir.” Norris said it would hold nearly 30,000 acre-feet of water and would be built on land owned by the family and the State Land Board southeast of Colorado Springs. The application was filed earlier this month. The dam would be just south of the site targeted for the second phase of the Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs Utilities, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West are building the SDS pipeline from Pueblo Dam, along with three pumping stations and a treatment plant. It is expected to be complete in 2016.

The reservoir on Upper Williams Creek is contemplated several years after the first phase of SDS…

The reservoir is also identified as terminal storage in Aaron Million’s plan to build a pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River in Wyoming. Million and Norris are longtime friends.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Cañon City: Local organizations combine forces to remove debris from the Arkansas River mainstem and banks

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burroughs):

“This project focused on the area west of First Street on the north bank of the river,” said Rec. District Executive Director Jim Hoar. “It’s in conjunction with our new trail project, but it’s also our ongoing clean up of the river.”

As part of the efforts, the Rec. District will offer its annual Clean Up Green Up project on April 28, where numerous volunteers will do a lot of hand-on work.

“Each year in conjunction with Arkansas Headwaters Recreation District, the Outfitters and the Division of Wildlife, we try to identify hazards in the Arkansas River within our community, clear from MacKenzie all the way up to Grape Creek,” Hoar said. “Our focus was on the east side of the Fremont Ditch Diversion Dam earlier in the year and this second project focused around the Black Hills Clark Power Station. It was very successful. We’re 99 percent done. We actually removed 23,000 pounds of scrap iron, steel, railroad rails, bridge beams, old pipeline valves and all sorts of metals and debris from the river.” In addition, crews removed an old bridge deck that weighed 33,000 pounds. With 98 percent being recycled, the materials were put in proper places.

“The whole focus was to make the river cleaner, safer and better looking,” Hoar said. “It’s something in the past that many generations have taken for granted. Now we’re realizing the importance of our river for drinking water, recreational and agricultural uses.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

The National Park Service has released their draft EIS for mitigation of the 2003 Grand Ditch breach

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Here’s the release from Rocky Mountain National Park (Kyle Patterson):

The Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been released by the National Park Service (NPS). A public workshop will be held on Wednesday, April 11, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Larimer County Courthouse/Commissioner’s Office at 200 W. Oak St., in Fort Collins and on Thursday, April 12, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Grand Lake Fire Protection District at 201 W. Portal Road in Grand Lake. The public is encouraged to attend one of the meetings. The workshop format will be informal. A presentation will be followed by a question and answer period. Park staff will be on hand to discuss the DEIS and answer questions. Exhibits will be on display to describe the project and the environmental analysis. Attendees will have the opportunity to offer written or verbal comments.

The purpose of this project is to restore the natural hydrological processes, ecological services, and wilderness character of the area in the Upper Kawuneeche Valley impacted by the 2003 Grand Ditch breach. Implicit in this purpose is that the ecosystems restored are naturally dynamic and self-sustaining. The Upper Kawuneeche Valley area of impact contains more sediment, debris, and subsequent injuries from the 2003 breach than it would under natural conditions. The breach has resulted in highly unnatural conditions within the project area as a large amount of excess sediment has been deposited into the system and remains in an unstable, erodible state. The estimated 47,600 cubic-yard debris flow from the 2003 breach resulted in channel morphologic changes, deposition of a large debris fan, increased sedimentation along the Colorado River, altered aesthetics of a wilderness area, and tree mortality and scarring. These impacts have degraded the aquatic, riparian, and upland ecosystems, in addition to the wetland communities that support a unique array of species in comparison to other habitat types in the park.

The Grand Ditch Breach Restoration DEIS analyzes five alternatives to guide restoration of the area within Rocky Mountain National Park impacted by the 2003 Grand Ditch breach.

Alternative A, the alternative of no action / continue current management, would continue current management of the impacted area, following existing management policies and NPS guidance. This alternative serves as a basis of comparison for evaluating the action alternatives.

Alternative B, minimal restoration, would emphasize a smaller scale of management activity, compared with the other action alternatives, to restore portions of the impacted area. This alternative would focus actions on areas that are unstable and present a high potential of continued degradation of existing ecosystem resources and services. Management activities would be conducted using hand tools to reduce impact on wilderness character. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.

Alternative C, high restoration, would involve more intensive management actions over large portions of the impacted area. This alternative would focus actions on unstable areas that present a high to moderate potential of continued degradation of existing ecosystem resources and services. Restoration methods would be used to stabilize banks, slopes, and disturbed areas, and to lessen the availability of breach debris and sediments to the system over a larger portion of the project area. This alternative would involve the use of heavy equipment and possibly reusing excavated debris for restoration and stabilization actions both within and between zones. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.

Alternative D is the preferred alternative. This alternative would emphasize the removal of large debris deposits in the alluvial fan area and in the Lulu City wetland. Actions would be conducted to stabilize limited areas of unstable slopes and banks throughout the upper portions of the restoration area. Hydrology through the Lulu City wetland would be restored in the historical central channel through removal of large deposits of debris, relying on the historical channel to transport river flow. Small-scale motorized equipment would be employed for stabilization and revegetation activities, while larger equipment would be employed for excavation of large debris deposits and reconfiguration of the Colorado River through the Lulu City wetland. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under the preferred option, option 1.

Alternative E, maximum restoration, would involve extensive management activity and use of motorized equipment over large portions of the impacted area to restore the project area to reflect both pre-breach and desired historical conditions. Extensive recontouring and stabilization of 2003 debris deposits along banks and slopes would be conducted to approximate pre-breach contours and to reduce transport of sediments over a larger portion of the impacted area. Extensive changes would be made to both the existing and historical Colorado River channels to route the river to its historical alignment through the center of the Lulu City wetland. To facilitate movement of heavy mechanized equipment and excavated debris from the wetland to upland disposal areas, a temporary haul road would be constructed. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.

The potential environmental consequences of the actions are evaluated for each alternative. Short-term, adverse impacts on natural soundscape, wilderness, water resources, wetlands, visitor use and experience, and wildlife that range up to major would result from restoration activities and the use of mechanized equipment. Up to long-term, major benefits would accrue for all impact topics under alternatives C, D, and E as a result of a high level of restoration of ecological reference conditions within a 100-year period.

A copy of the DEIS is available for public review online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo Printed copies may be obtained from Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517-8397, 970-586-1206. The DEIS will also be available at the Boulder Public Library in Boulder, the Estes Valley Library in Estes Park, the Juniper Library in Grand Lake, and at the Poudre River Public Library in Fort Collins.

The National Park Service will accept comments until May 25, 2012. If you wish to comment on the Grand Ditch Breach Restoration DEIS, you may submit your comments by any one of several methods. You may mail comments to: Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517-8397. You may also comment via the Internet at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo…you may hand deliver comments to: Rocky Mountain National Park Headquarters, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park or to the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Rocky Mountain National Park, 16018 Highway 34, Grand Lake.

Please be aware that names and addresses of respondents may be released if requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Individual respondents may request that their home address be withheld from the record, which will be honored to the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which a respondent’s identity may be withheld from the record, as allowable by law. If you wish to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. All submissions from organizations, or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses are available for public inspection in their entirety. Anonymous comments may be included in the public record. However, the NPS is not legally required to consider or respond to anonymous comments.

More coverage from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

The park lays out five possibilities of how to repair the landscape, including two that use heavy equipment for higher levels of restoration, one that uses hand tools only for minimal restoration and one in which no additional work would be completed. The preferred option, however, focuses stabilization by removing debris from the alluvial fan and in the LuLu City wetlands, using larger equipment for some of the work and small-scale equipment for the rest, according to the national park.

Crews also would stabilize limited areas of the slopes and banks, restore the historical channel in the Lulu City wetland and remove large debris deposits using traditional river flow.

The work also would include stabilization of the road cut hillside immediately below the ditch.

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The Grand Ditch diverts water that would naturally flow into the Colorado River beneath the Never Summer Mountains and sends the water over the Continental Divide to the Poudre River to be used by Front Range farmers downstream. Fort Collins-based Water Storage and Supply Co., which operates the ditch, was sued by the federal government to claim compensation for the breach, and a settlement was reached in 2008. Since then, park officials have been working with Colorado State University to learn more about the ecology of the damaged area, and in 2010, they came up with five possible restoration scenarios…

The plan the NPS prefers doesn’t call for the highest level of restoration, and isn’t the “environmentally preferable” option, according to the analysis. The maximum level of restoration would involve extensive use of motorized equipment over a large area, according to the analysis. Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson called the plan park officials want to go with a “strategic alternative” that would reduce the project’s impact to wilderness yet achieve a nearly ideal level of restoration for the area.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

Republican River compliance pipeline tour recap: On schedule the project should be complete in mid-July

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

More than 50 wells were purchased by the RRWCD, for approximately $49 million, from the Cure family in the hills about 12-14 miles north of Laird near the state line. Eight have been designated as primary wells, from which water will be pumped to the hilltop collection tank, from where the water will be sent down the pipeline through gravitational force to the outfall structure. Besides the eight primary wells, seven others have been designated as backup wells. Garney Construction submitted the winning bid of $13.54 million to construct the 12 mile pipeline, ending at the outfall structure on the North Fork of the Republican River less than one mile from the Colorado-Nebraska state line. Work is progressing as scheduled, with completion set for mid-July. It will be tested out later in the year.

The pipeline will be used to make up any deficits from Colorado in regards to its obligations to the Republican River Compact, an agreement between Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas first enacted in 1942.

More Republican River basin coverage here and here.

National Ski Areas Association files new complaint in their lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

At issue is language in the permits under which most Colorado ski areas operate on public land. The two sides have been engaged in a long-running tussle over who owns the water originating on national forest lands. By amending its original lawsuit against the Forest Service in Federal District Court, the ski industry also gives the Forest Service an extra month to respond to the legal challenge. The industry also claims the new permit condition is an unlawful “takings ,”and that it conflicts with state water law. “The bottom line is, I don’t think the 2012 revisions solved the problem,” said attorney Glenn Porzak, representing the National Ski Areas Association in the legal challenge…

The industry has called the new permit language a takings, claiming that the Forest Service is forcing ski resorts to “abandon” or trnaswer water rights when permits are not renewed, and requiring ski areas to relinquish any legal claim for compensation for water rights “seized, taken, and subject to compelled transfer under the 2012 directive.”

The area where the industry may find relief from the court is related to the procedure or lack thereof) used by the Forest Service to adopt the new policy. According to the industry’s lawsuit, the agency failed to subject the change to any sort of environmental analysis, or to allow for public review and comment. According to Porzak, the Forest Service violated its own regulations by inserting the new clause without following those procedures.

More water law coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Aaron Million files a reconsideration request with FERC in response to their denial of the preliminary application

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Environmental groups promise to fight the project at every turn, while a state task force will hear about Flaming Gorge pipeline proposals next week in Glenwood Springs. Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million on Friday filed for a rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for his proposed 500-mile water pipeline from the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. FERC rejected the application from Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. on Feb. 23.

Million’s response states that FERC made errors in its determination that the application was filed prematurely. The basis was that the water pipeline associated with hydropower projects has not been constructed. “Wyco contends that sufficient information and maps associated with the pipeline alignment have been provided to the commission,” Million stated in an 11-page request for rehearing and clarification. “We’re asking for clarification of why the decision was made, other than political pressure. That shouldn’t be a factor,” he said.

Million contends FERC has granted preliminary permits to other power projects in their infancy, including the Lake Powell pipeline project in Utah. He said Wyco plans to build the pipeline. Wyco already has issued requests for proposals to manage the project.

On Tuesday, the Flaming Gorge task force, formed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board at the request of the Arkansas Basin and Metro roundtables, will hear presentations from Million and from Frank Jaeger, whose Colorado-Wyoming Coalition has proposed a similar, but competing project.

More coverage from Electa Draper writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

On Feb. 23, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismissed Wyco Power and Water Inc.’s application for a preliminary permit on the basis it was premature. Officials said there was no purpose in issuing a hydropower permit without information on construction and operation of the pipeline, which Million couldn’t provide. Conservationists hailed the decision as a victory for the environment because, they said, Million’s project, which would divert water from the Upper Colorado River Basin to Front Range cities, would drastically lower the level of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, threaten four species of endangered fish, and further harm ecosystems, wildlife and recreation. “We hope that FERC will reject this appeal, and the project will die a much-deserved death,” wildlife biologist Erik Molvar said in a statement from the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance…

Million, in a telephone interview from Fort Collins, said FERC had asked for some additional information when Wyco filed the application in September. If there were additional deficiencies in the application, he said, FERC should have told him before accepting the application. However, Million said, Wyco doesn’t need the FERC preliminary permit to keep moving forward with other elements of the project. “We already hold the water filings in the river and for federal water rights,” Million said. “We already hold the priority filings. We’re going to move through the process, regardless.”

More coverage from Brandon Loomis writing for The Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:

Utah has used the same rationale in seeking approval for a Lake Powell pipeline to St. George, and Million’s new application questions whether FERC imposed the same requirements in advancing that project. “Wyco contends that it will be counterproductive and cost-prohibitive to secure all necessary permits and authorizations to construct the pipeline without confirming the locations of the associated hydroelectric facilities,” the company said in its filing…

“FERC certainly got it right the first time,” Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt said. “This project would clearly devastate the Green River.”

More coverage from Troy Hooper writing for the Colorado Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

Critics say the pipeline would drain 81 billion gallons of water each year from the Green River, a tributary of the already stressed Colorado River, and the state of Colorado projects the pipeline could cost as much as $9 billion to build. The Colorado River Water Conservation District, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, county and local governments in southwestern Wyoming and a multitude of conservation groups are opposing the potential pipeline that Million claims is needed for Colorado to meet its rising demand for water.

“FERC made the right decision in February,” said Matt Rice, director of the Denver-based chapter of American Rivers. “It is clear this is nothing more than a speculative project that if ever built would severely harm the recreational, economic, agricultural and natural values of the Green River. Mr. Million is grasping for straws. It is highly unlikely that FERC will reverse their decision.”

Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre added that “Mr. Million seems to think this process is like an Etch-A-Sketch, where he can just keep shaking and redrawing until he finally wears down the federal agencies and the opposition. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a fatally flawed concept that would devastate the Green and Colorado River ecosystems — we will fight it at every opportunity.”

More coverage from Amy Joi O’Donoghue writing for the Deseret News. Here’s an excerpt:

In a document filed Friday requesting a rehearing before the agency, Million argued that FERC should question if it erred by tossing his application for a permit in February on the basis that it was “premature” or incomplete…

Million said the agency needs to consider if it let the amount of comments and objections on record by multiple agencies unduly sway the commission. Opponents like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Sweetwater County and Colorado Springs Utilities — as well as numerous conservation organizations — have asked the commission to legally recognize objections raised.

When the commission dismissed the preliminary permit application for Million’s Regional Watershed Supply Project, the agency said until the pipeline is built and authorizations are in place, it would be premature move the hydropower project forward. “The commission’s order implies that the final pipeline alignment, all authorizations to construct the pipeline and even the construction of the pipeline should be completed prior to filing an application for a preliminary permit” Million’s rehearing request said. Such a requirement, he added, is counterproductive and cost prohibitive absent knowing where the hydroelectric components would be sited…

“The developer’s application for a rehearing is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Michael Hiatt, an attorney with Earthjustice.

More coverage from Mark Wilcox writing for the Wyoming Business Report. From the article:

Aaron Million and his company Wyco, first proposed the water project to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps rejected the application in July of 2011 after two years’s consideration because they said Million failed to provide sufficient information. Million then proposed the Flaming Gorge pipeline to FERC as a power-generating project that would simultaneously quench the Front Range’s thirst in Colorado, and received an initial dismissal Feb. 23. The multi-billion dollar pipeline would transport water more than 500 miles to a reservoir at its final destination in Pueblo, Colo. “As presented in Wyco’s application, these hydropower projects are exclusively dependent on water from the proposed water supply pipeline,” the dismissal stated. “However, this pipeline does not currently exist, and Wyco’s application does not provide any information about the timeline for seeking and obtaining the necessary authorizations for the construction and operation of such a pipeline.”

Additionally, officials cited a lack of information on the route the pipeline would take through public and privately held lands. “Until…authorizations have been obtained for a specific route or the process to identify a specific route has been substantially completed, Wyco will be unable to prepare “[s]uch maps, plans, specifications, and estimates of cost as may be required for a full understanding of the proposed [hydropower] project,” the order read.

While the initial government dismissal was based on technicalities, many environmentalist groups are pushing for a more permanent dismissal. “Anyone who tries to divert Wyoming’s Green River over the Continental Divide doesn’t appreciate the value that it provides for native fish and wildlife, local economies and the western way of life,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt in a statement. “The Flaming Gorge Pipeline—one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States—would irreparably damage the Green and the Colorado River downstream.”[…]

Another group is now touring the region with a short film and presentation that reflect the damage the pipeline would do to Flaming Gorge and the Green River’s $118 million outdoor recreation economy. Studies indicate the lost water could raise salinity levels in the gorge and river to lethal levels for fish and other marine mammals. Opponents of the pipeline also indicate the potential downsides to mammals of building a 10-foot pipeline over the Continental Divide. “This thing is still on the rails,” said Walt Gasson, Trout Unlimited’s endorsed business director, “And still constitutes — to my way of thinking — to our way of thinking, a clear and present danger to wildlife conservation in Wyoming.”

More coverage from Steve Lynn writing for the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

“[Wyco Power and Water Inc] respectfully requests that the commission grant re-hearing of the dismissal of preliminary permit application for the regional watershed supply project and to issue the preliminary permit for a term of 36 months,” the company stated in the document…

The pipeline would help meet the water needs of Colorado, which faces a water supply shortfall of between 500,000 and 700,000 acre feet in the next two decades, Wyco principal Aaron Million has said. He contends the federal government will take steps to protect river flows for recreation as well as enhance fisheries.

From the Denver Business Journal:

The Associated Press reports that Aaron Million of Fort Collins filed the request Friday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…

FERC’s permission was needed for the pipeline’s water to be used to generate electricity.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

It turns out that Colorado Springs did need a stormwater enterprise after all — where is Douglas Bruce?

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

Melcher gave Mayor Steve Bach and the City Council five options, including making stormwater a responsibility of Colorado Springs Utilities and asking voters to pass a tax.

Melcher emphasized that Utilities should play a big role in the solution because he said the future of the $2.3 billion Southern Delivery System water pipeline is at stake. “Utilities right now has a shared interest with the city for a number of reasons, but particularly because their SDS project is contingent on a permit that requires the city, which includes Utilities, the entire city, to have a functioning stormwater system,” Melcher said during the monthly Mayor’s Counsel Meeting between Bach and council members. The 62-mile pipeline from the Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs is under construction.

Colorado Springs is falling woefully behind on its stormwater needs.

The city should be spending $13 million to $15 million annually on stormwater, and the unfunded capital needs for stormwater are estimated at $500 million. The city is spending only about $1.2 million to pay for the federally mandated stormwater component of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program.

At least two council members — Tim Leigh and Angela Dougan — said the city should try to find a way to pay for stormwater through Utilities’ budget of more than $1 billion.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado Springs Council, in a meeting with Mayor Steve Bach this week, was told by City Attorney Tim Melcher that it should be spending $13 million-$15 million a year for stormwater projects, rather than the bare minimum it now spends, about $1.2 million a year, to satisfy federal requirements…

There is a $500 million backlog of stormwater projects dating back to the 1980s. Options to fund improvements include raising water rates, already expected to double to pay for the $2.3 billion cost of SDS; shifting Utilities’ payments to the city; finding more money somewhere in general fund; or asking citizens to vote on creating a stormwater enterprise. Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise from 2005-09, but eliminated it after a campaign led by tax activist Doug Bruce against a “rain tax.”[…]

The option to vote on the enterprise could conflict with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District’s plans to ask voters in El Paso and Pueblo counties to approve a mill levy. The district, formed in 2009, will run out of money at the end of this year, and no other source of funding is in sight until SDS is completed in 2016. At that time, Colorado Springs Utilities will begin making five annual payments totalling $50 million.

The [Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District] will hear a report at its April 27 meeting from Summit Economics on a regional stormwater solution. The study was commissioned by El Paso County communities to come up with a unified approach to stormwater management.

More coverage from J. Adrian Stanley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent Indy Blog. From the post:

Really, this was inevitable. Drainage problems aren’t going away. In fact, neglecting them too long will get the city in trouble with the feds, piss off [Colorado Springs Utilities], and probably lead to a few streets caving in.

According to City Attorney Chris Melcher, who spoke on the issue at today’s Mayor’s Counsel meeting, the city has a few options. City Council could simply write a law making Stormwater, or at least parts of Stormwater, the responsibility of Utilities. Alternately, Council could ask for a tax increase, or simply ignore the problem.

One thing’s for sure, the city general fund can’t pay for what needs to be done — about $15 million a year in work.

Both Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin and Councilor Brandy Williams responded by saying the city should cooperate with the Fountain Creek Watershed board, which is working on a regional solution to Stormwater. When that process wraps up, voters will likely be asked to approve a tax to cover project costs.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Parker: Rueter-Hess opening celebration recap, 72,000 acre-feet surrounded by 2,000 acres of open space

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From the Parker Chronicle (Rhonda Moore):

District manager Frank Jaeger, who led the charge to build Rueter-Hess, welcomed dignitaries at the March 21 celebration, atop the dam of the 72,000 acre-foot reservoir.

Originally planned as a 16,000 acre-foot reservoir, the project was expanded with the financial support of Castle Rock, Castle Pines and Stonegate to its present capacity in hopes of serving as a regional storage system, Jaeger said.

“We started planning for this 27 years ago when we recognized the need for a renewable source of water for Douglas County and this area,” Jaeger said. “You’re now sitting (along) what will be the jewel of Douglas County and what will be the provider for Parker and its partners. This is one step in a long journey.”

The reservoir project includes 2,000 acres of open space, contingent upon future funding, according to the district. If financing comes through for recreational use, activities could include fishing, hiking, cycling and non-motorized boating.

Completion of Rueter-Hess, which is owned and managed by the Parker Water and Sanitation District, came the same year that the district is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Rueter-Hess Reservoir is about three miles southwest of Parker and, when filled, will have a surface size of 1,140 acres, 50 percent larger than Cherry Creek Reservoir. On grand opening day, the reservoir was filled to a depth of about 57 feet, with enough water to serve 9,000 houses for one year.

More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.

CPDHE cries foul over NRC’s findings with the permit process for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill

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From The Telluride Watch (Gus Jarvis):

In responding to that NRC finding, Dr. Christopher Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer at the CDPHE, stated in a March 16 letter to the NRC that his department has not received any formal notification on needed “corrective actions” from the NRC. He went on to say that these claims by the federal agency at this stage of the approval process, and during litigation, is unwarranted.

“The department conducted a robust public process, including two public hearings and six additional public meetings,” Urbina stated. “For a federal agency to come along at this late date and appear to muddy the waters is an outrage to all the community members, stakeholders and others who took the time to participate in the public process regarding the radioactive materials license.”

In its letter to the NRC, the CDPHE requested a retraction or clarification to mitigate any damage done by the distribution of this mischaracterization to the press…

CDPHE Community Involvement Manager Warren Smith said during the most recent NRC review, his department raised the issue as to whether or not the state’s public hearing process follows federal regulations, and up until the March 6 letter, CDPHE understood that its processes were in line with federal standards.

“The NRC has been stunningly inconsistent on the public hearing issue,” Smith said in a statement obtained by The Watch. “We raised the issue with NRC on several occasions around the application process and 2010 program review. As recently as the October 2011 NRC review of the Colorado statute and regulations, no incompatibility or corrective action was identified. Later, we believe federal officials flip-flopped and said they were reconsidering their answer.”

The first time the CDPHE heard of any issue with its public hearing process, according to Smith, came on Feb. 27 when NRC officials sent a letter to the radiation program of the CDPHE’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division that “misstated” our previous conversations with them on the issue, giving the department until the end of March to respond.

“We asked for clarification on March 7, only to learn the NRC already had announced its predetermined decision in the March 6 letter without communicating this information directly to the state,” Smith said.

More coverage from Katie Klingsporn writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

Late last week, the radiation program of the CDPHE responded with a letter to the NRC rebuking the federal agency for interjecting itself into ongoing litigation to which it’s not a party. The letter, signed by CDPHE’s Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Urbina, urges NRC officials to retract or clarify the March 6 letter.

“Given that the NRC is not a party to this litigation and has no regulatory jurisdiction over the Energy Fuels license issued by the State of Colorado … it is inappropriate for the NRC to have interjected itself in this ongoing state litigation,” the letter reads…

[CDPHE’s Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Urbina] also wrote that despite what the NRC wrote, no determination has been made that “corrective action” is required because the CDPHE is in compliance with the Atomic Energy Act. He noted that NRC’s letter “materially mischaracterized the CDPHE’s discussion with the NRC staff.”

Finally, he expressed disappointment that the CDPHE found out about the letter through third parties and after it was shared with the press.

It was unclear on Wednesday how this response will affect licensing process.

But the claim of a flawed public hearing process is a key part of the lawsuit filed by Sheep Mountain Alliance, Towns of Telluride and Ophir against the CDPHE. Litigation for that case is ongoing.

Hilary White, SMA’s executive director, said that the CDPHE failed to offer the public an opportunity to request a public hearing — as required under the Atomic Energy Act — after the agency issued its environmental report and draft license on the project.

“If Energy Fuels and the state really believe that they followed every appropriate procedure and took comment … why not have an official public hearing like they are required to do?” she asked. “Why not let their science and their technology stand on its own? All we’re asking for is a fair venue for our science and our technological information to be considered against theirs, and let the best science win.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Aaron Million files a reconsideration request with FERC in response to their denial

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From the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via The Columbus Republic:

Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million on Friday filed the reconsideration request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency last month dismissed his application, saying it was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline…

Million says his project is essential to helping Colorado meet its increasing demand for water. The state of Colorado also is evaluating the project’s merits.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

As he indicated in late February, Million has submitted a new application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the project, challenging the same agency’s previous rejection of the application by requesting a rehearing and clarification.

In the new document, Million says it would be prohibitively expensive to secure pipeline permits without first “confirming the locations of the associated hydroelectric facilities.” The application also claims that, for the purposes of the preliminary permit he’s seeking, “sufficient information and maps associated with the pipeline alignment have been provided to the Commission.”

Million also charged that FERC’s rejection is inconsistent with other preliminary permits issued by the agency.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: The Arkansas River basin drops below 80% of the thirty year average, Upper Colorado = 68%, South Platte = 74%

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the latest snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Read it and weep if you are a direct diverter. Be thankful for storage.

Environment Colorado: Over 720,000 Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into Colorado’s Rivers

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Here’s the release from Environment Colorado (Bessie Schwarz):

Industrial facilities dumped over 700,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into Colorado’s waterways, more than a third of which went into the South Platte, according to a new report released today by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also reports that 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.

“From the mighty Arkansas river to our smaller streams, Colorado’s waterways are a haven of beauty. However, right now they are also a safe-haven for polluters— where polluters dump over 700,000 pounds of toxic chemicals in 2010 alone,” said Bessie Schwarz, Field Organizer with Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. “We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”

“Our business has been serving outdoor enthusiast for over 30 years and we are dependent on clean, flowing water,” said owner of Anglers Covey, David Leinweber. “More than 600,000 people buy Colorado fishing licenses every year and take advantage of the incredible resources we have in this great state. Water quality is paramount to sustaining this resource.”

The Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center report documents and analyzes the dangerous levels of pollutants discharged into America’s waters by compiling toxic chemical releases reported to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2010 (the most recent data available). Cargill Inc. was the biggest polluter in Colorado, dumping over 235,000 of the nearly 250,000 pounds of toxic pollution discharged into The South Platt alone.

Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center’s report summarizes discharges of cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment, and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems ranging from birth defects to reduced fertility. Among the toxic chemicals discharged by facilities are arsenic, mercury, and benzene. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders.

This pollution affects foundation industries in Colorado with our agriculture and recreation being potential hit the hardest.

“Those in Colorado agriculture know that very few crops can be raised without water for we live in a High Plains Desert,” said Berry Patch Farms owners, Tim and Claudia Ferrell. “Our farm, located in Brighton, depends on water from the South Platte to irrigate from March through October. We all must take whatever steps necessary to protect this invaluable gift.”

Almost 70% of Colorado’s waters and 75,000 miles of our rivers and stream may be un-protected by The Clean Water Act.

“There are common-sense steps that we can take to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” added Schwarz.

In order to curb the toxic pollution threatening Colorado’s rivers, Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center recommends the following:

1. Pollution Prevention: Industrial facilities should reduce their toxic discharges to waterways by switching from hazardous chemicals to safer alternatives.

2. Protect all waters: The Obama administration should finalize guidelines and conduct a rulemaking to clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to all of our waterways – including the nearly 75,000 miles of streams in Colorado and 3.7 million Coloradans’ drinking water for which jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act has been called into question as a result of two polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.

3. Tough permitting and enforcement: EPA and state agencies should issue permits with tough, numeric limits for each type of toxic pollution discharged, ratchet down those limits over time, and enforce those limits with credible penalties, not just warning letters.

“The bottom line is that Coloradan’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s paradise, they should just be paradise. We need clean water now, and we are counting on the federal government to act to protect our health and our environment,” concluded Schwarz.

Thanks to KWGN for the heads up.

More water pollution coverage here.

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies is facing a funding shortfall

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Here’s the release from the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies:

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies was established in Silverton, Colorado in October 2002. IRS 501(c)(3) status was obtained shortly thereafter. CSAS’s director (Landry) bootstrapped the startup, contributing his first full year’s time and effort and $20,700 in weather instrumentation, and raising another $5,000 in seed money. By fall 2003 the 720 acre Senator Beck Basin Study Area (SBBSA) at Red Mountain Pass had been permitted by the USFS, initial instrumentation was installed, and CSAS had received $75,000 in USFS Rural Development funding. A year later the CSAS received its first National Science Foundation research grant to study dust-on-snow. CSAS has operated and enhanced SBBSA since then, collecting an integrative set of “mountain system” data 24/7/365, in support of both active research and our climate change monitoring missions. Four arrays of highly sophisticated instrumentation capture SBBSA weather, snowpack, hydrologic, soils, radiative regime, and plant community data that, in their totality, are unique in the Colorado River Basin. Although these data have already supported breakthrough research in the effects of desert dust on snow hydrology, and 8 years worth of data are archived and available, SBBSA’s greatest potential value is in sustained data capture of actual regional climate change effects. However, although hosted academic researchers do provide nominal support, and we also receive some private and outdoor industry support, due to our chronic lack of adequate general operating support, for operation of Senator Beck Basin, SBBSA operations and CSAS staff may be terminated in summer 2012.

To prevent that, CSAS needs new commitments totaling $100,000 in sustained annual operating support in order to continue high quality data collection at Senator Beck Basin. Numerous federal agencies – USGS, USFS-GMUG, NOAA/NWS/CBRFC, NASA/JPL, USACE, Army CRREL, BLM, and NRCS-Snotel – are among those already receiving and using, or seeking to use, SBBSA data and facilities. The Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Avalanche Information Center also use SBBSA data. All of these agencies understand the scarcity and value of long-term, high quality, integrative datasets which holistically capture systemic mountain system behaviors like snowmelt, at a tractable spatial scale, and the challenges of operating an alpine study area like SBBSA. None of them would prefer to operate their own SBBSA; supporting CSAS is clearly the much more cost-effective way to ensure that these data are available. (Programs like our Colorado Dust-on-Snow work for the Colorado water management community require additional funding, on top of that $100,000 in general operating support, to support the direct costs of those program activities).

Given the absence of federal agency grant programs (including NSF) or private foundations that will fund long-term mountain system monitoring (the equivalent of general operations funding in our case), we have proposed to our federal agency stakeholders that one or several of them provide sustained annual funding totaling $100,000, per year, to contract with CSAS to operate Senator Beck Basin, conduct 24/7/365 mountain system monitoring, and provide those data to their agencies. Because there are no grant programs calling for such a proposal, and because the SBBSA product is such an unique “deliverable”, there may be a need to enable non-compete awards of discretionary funds that sole source the CSAS for these services. Again, in the absence of commitments of this level of stakeholder funding in the near term, the board of directors has determined that CSAS is not viable, as an organization, and anticipates terminating SBBSA operations and staff in summer 2012.

Executive Director Chris Landry is available at clandry@snowstudies.org, or (970) 387-5080. Please consult our comprehensive website, http://www.snowstudies.org, for additional details about the CSAS.

Thanks to the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn) for the heads up.

Colorado River basin: ‘Watershed — Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West’ premiers today in Washington D.C.

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The film is available for anyone to host a screening. Here’s the release from the Redford Center and Kontent Films via PR Web:

In honor of World Water Day, the Redford Center and Kontent Films are pleased to announce the World Premiere of WATERSHED: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital on March 24, 2012 at the National Museum of American History at 3 pm. The film will be introduced by Robert Redford and will be followed by a panel discussion on the urgency of the problem in the Colorado River Basin and what can be done. Panelists include:

– James Redford, Producer of WATERSHED
– Mark Decena, Director of WATERSHED
– Sandra Postel, National Geographic Freshwater Fellow
– Osvel Hinojosa Huerta, Director of Conservation for Pronatura
– Edith Santiago, Colorado River Delta Project Manager for Sonoran Institute

Narrated by Robert Redford and Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Mark Decena, WATERSHED tells the story of the threats to the once-mighty Colorado River through heartening character vignettes that reveal a new water ethic as well as 21st Century solutions.

Sweeping through seven US and two Mexican states and over 20 major dams, the Colorado River is a lifeline to expanding populations and booming urban centers that demand water for drinking, sanitation and energy generation. The river also faces significant demands from the Agricultural Sector. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 70% of the Colorado River’s water is used to support $45 billion in agricultural crops, a yield that equals 20% of America’s Agricultural output. Combine this demand on the Colorado River with population growth, current energy demands and climate change and an unsustainable picture emerges. As of today, the Colorado River already runs dry before it reaches its natural end at the Gulf of California. Unless action is taken, the river will continue its retreat – a potentially catastrophic scenario for the millions who rely on its availability.

“The Colorado is one of the most iconic natural landmarks of the American West and it’s facing unprecedented demands on its water, a resource historically taken for granted by those of us who have enough,” says Robert Redford. “Films like WATERSHED are a necessary part of the solution. Raising awareness of the problem is a first step. Engaging the masses in taking action comes next, and in this case action means conservation.”

Having made the film with a grassroots campaign in mind, Redford anticipates WATERSHED will be the entry point for viewers who want to engage. Promoting personal water conservation pledges of 5% – symbolic of the small amount of the rivers’ flow required to reconnect the river to its delta – and garnering donations to help purchase the water rights necessary to restore the connectivity, WATERSHED will serve as a central tool in a larger effort. The Redford Center has joined leading environmental organizations in the US and Mexico to foster education and inspire action.

”The content and timing of this film are of critical importance,” said Francisco Zamora, director of the Sonoran Institute’s Colorado River Delta Legacy Project. “Our work in the Colorado River Delta over the past decade has demonstrated that the Delta is very resilient and that even a little additional water can make a dramatic difference. The Delta will not continue to come back to life, though, without the kind of community awareness and support Watershed will engender.”

The Redford Center is making WATERSHED available to anyone interested in hosting a screening. To learn more, visit http://www.watershedmovie.com.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Colorado State University Water Café Series recap: Water conservation and sustainability were front and center at the session

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From the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Jordan Kurtz):

Brian Richter, the director of Global Freshwater Strategies for The Nature Conservancy, presented his “Meeting the Global Challenges of Water Scarcity” lecture to a crowd of more than 100 people in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center Thursday night…

Richter focused on sustainability throughout the evening, making it very clear that the definition of this term varies greatly depending upon the location.

“Sustainability to us is to have a reliable supply of water, but also recognize that there are impacts when you use that water,” said Donnie Dustin, the water resources manager for Fort Collins. “You try to find a balance between meeting water needs and reducing demands and developing your water supplies to consider the environment as well.”[…]

According to Richter, our society also consumes water in astounding quantities. A healthy and hydrated human consumes about three quarts of water per day, but the average household usually uses around 12 gallons in the shower, 15 gallons in the washer, 19 gallons for the toilet and hundreds of gallons in landscape watering per day. Richter added, however, that 90 percent of household water that is used, with the exception of landscape watering, is returned.

The water that is used in consumer products is being documented into a measurement called a “water footprint.” The water footprint for the average American is 800 gallons per day – the equivalent of 12 bathtubs, Richter said. “We don’t want you to feel guilty about using water,” he added. Instead, he said he hopes that increasing the awareness of water conservation will spur more effective use of the life-essential resource.

Richter is part of another event at the university today at 10:00 AM. Here’s the announcement from Colorado State University:

Water Sustainability in the 21st Century: Why the world needs what CSU has

Brian Richter of the Nature Conservancy, along with panelists from CSU faculty, will discuss how we can integrate and build cross-campus research and education in water sustainability.

Panel Members

– Leroy Poff, Department of Biology
– Kurt Fausch, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology
– Brian Bledsoe, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
– Gene Kelly, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Recognizing the importance of dialog and planning on this topic, the Colorado State University Water Center and the School of Global Environmental Sustainability have teamed up to host the CSU Water Café.

Water Café is an interdisciplinary, interactive series designed to examine critical water issues and the University’s roles in their solutions.

More conservation coverage here.

Becky Long: ‘Phosphorus and nitrogen are incredibly prevalent…we’ve ignored it for 20 years’

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

“Phosphorus and nitrogen are incredibly prevalent. They’re in animal waste, human waste, fertilizer, and we’ve ignored it for 20 years,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. If left unaddressed the pollution causes algae blooms and dead zones in waterways, impacting aquatic wildlife and Colorado’s outdoor recreation opportunities. Long said she’s encouraged by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission’s early support for the new standards limiting nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The rule is still subject to challenge at subsequent hearings, as well EPA review and final approval. Long said the standards go beyond simply protecting aquatic life and human health by addressing potential impacts to recreation…

Phosphorus has been identified as a potential problem in Cherry Creek reservoir. In the high country, effluents from Grand County have affected water quality in Grand Lake. The two pollutants are a problem anywhere there’s a lot of effluent going back to the stream, for example downstream of the metro wastewater treatment facilities east of Denver, Long said, explaining that the new rules are forward looking and will protect water quality for the next 50 years, as the state’s population grows by up to 5 million.

While she expects some challenges from agricultural stakeholders and perhaps some municipalities, Long said the rules are written with built-in flexibility and can be implemented in phases, as waste water treatment plants plan for future upgrades. State water quality regulators were responsive to small- and mid-sized communities as they crafted the rule, she said.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the pollution generated in Colorado have impacts far beyond the borders of the state. Addressing the issue of nutrients here helps tackle the serious issue of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, Long said. “We need to own the fact that this is us causing the problem. It’s not Mr. Burns, it’s us, every time we flush the toilet. If we don’t pass the state rule, we could meet the same fate as Florida. The EPA will write a rule that’s a lot more stringent and we’ll lose our chance to do this at the state level,” she said.

More wastewater coverage here and here.