Reclamation Releases Final Aspinall Unit Operations Environmental Impact Statement


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

Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office announced today the release of the final Aspinall Unit Operations Environmental Impact Statement. The purpose of the EIS is to outline Aspinall Unit operations to avoid jeopardy to downstream endangered fish species while continuing to meet the congressionally authorized unit purposes. In general, new operations will provide higher spring flows and protect base flows in the Gunnison River. Reclamation will not make a decision on the proposed action until at least 30 days after release of the FEIS. After the 30-day public review period, Reclamation will complete a record of decision which will state the action to be implemented and discuss all factors leading to that decision.

If you have questions or need additional copies of the final EIS, please contact Steve McCall at 970-248-0638 or Terry Stroh at 970-248-0608. The final EIS is also available on Reclamation’s web site.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

USGS: How Does a U.S. Geological Survey Streamgage Work?


Click here for the publication from the United States Geological Survey. Here’s an excerpt:

The most common method used by the USGS for mea- suring velocity is with a current meter. However, a variety of advanced equipment can also be used to sense stage and measure streamflow. In the simplest method, a current meter turns with the flow of the river or stream. The current meter is used to measure water velocity at predetermined points (sub- sections) along a marked line, suspended cableway, or bridge across a river or stream. The depth of the water is also measured at each point. These velocity and depth measurements are used to compute the total volume of water flowing past the line dur- ing a specific interval of time. Usually a river or stream will be measured at 25 to 30 regularly spaced locations across the river or stream.

Here’s the link to the USGS Water Watch website.

More USGS coverage here.

Western Colorado Congress meeting recap: Planning for future shortages in supply


From (Andie Adams):

“We’re facing a future that could very possibly be drier than we’ve gotten used to, and the demands on the water that we have is almost certainly going to be higher,” said Hannah Holm, coordinator for the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

Holm was the guest speaker at a Western Colorado Congress of Mesa County meeting on Sunday.

She discussed the many factors that could lead to a strain on our water, including a growing number of users. “There are a number of population projections that project that Colorado’s population will double by 2050,” Holm said…

Holm said that [avoiding] a crisis depends on planning, even if issues can be daunting. “Even though the challenges are kind of global in nature and kind of overwhelming,” said Holm. “I think we’ll find the solutions in a lot of really small local initiatives that are a little easier to get your hands around.” Those initiatives, she said, are to be created by citizens who educate themselves about the issues.

“The more we all know about water the better off we’re going to be the more we’re going to be able to act collectively in our own best interests,” [Tom Phillips, a citizen representative for the Water Center Advisory Council] said. “We can do more conservation, but that doesn’t completely solve the problem either.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

CWCB: Joint Water Availability & Flood Task Force Meeting – March 22


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

A Joint Water Availability & Flood Task Force meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, March 22 from 9:30a-12:00p at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway Denver, CO, in the Bighorn Room.

More CWCB coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012 book review: ‘House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest’ by Craig Childs


Justice Greg Hobbs has posted a review of Craig Childs’ book House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest on Your Water Colorado Blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Follow the T-shaped doorway, the signature architectural marker of their [Ancestral Puebloans] abode and passage. It’s the perfect sign and symbol of the inverted mountain, where a sacred spring breaks forth from some deep subterranean place into what the Navajos continue to call this “glittering world,” a place to drink and farm and live in water pockets of community with your clan and domesticated turkeys.

You’ll find them not really disappeared. They’ve left their hands imprinted all over the face of sandstone cliffs, along with mountain sheep and the spiraling swirl of their creation story carved into petroglyphs on the front of kiva cornerstones. You’ll find the water frogs they carved, inlaid with turquoise eyes, at the back of alcove dwellings, continuing to offer blessings for a trickle. Shards of their drinking mugs and shriveled corncobs litter the landscape of your inquiry.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Fort Collins: Evapotranspiration Workshop March 21


From email from the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Thomas W. Ley):

[Register here for] the 2012 Evapotranspiration Workshop to be held in Ft Collins, CO on March 21, 2012. This workshop is a follow-up to the highly successful Evapotranspiration Workshop held in Ft Collins in March 2010. Speakers at this year’s workshop will provide up to date information on evapotranspiration research and operational support during the morning session. The afternoon session is designed to meet many of the needs expressed by participants of the 2010 Workshop: specifically, how to tie all the information presented together in an example case study.

Aurora offers $502,500 in incentives to Niagara Bottling in move to help create jobs


Aurora is a friend to the bottled water industry. Readers may remember the city leasing augmentation water to Nestlé Waters North America up in Chaffee County. The city has offered incentives to California-based Niagara Water to locate a bottling plant in the city anticipating the creation of 36 jobs. Here’s a report from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Aurora City Council members at their council meeting Monday approved the incentive package on a vote of 9 to 1 with Councilwoman Renie Peterson opposing the deal. The proposed 10-year agreement would provide California-based Niagara Bottling with waivers and rebates of city taxes up to $502,500. The agreement also contains a provision for the company to repay a portion of the incentive if the number of jobs is not maintained throughout the agreement, according to the documents. The company is set to construct a 177,000 square foot facility at Prologis Park 70 near E-470 and I-70 and create 36 full-time jobs while investing about $10 million for land and building improvements and $20 million in capital equipment.

Peterson said before the formal vote that all of Aurora’s water should be kept for its residents, not sold to a private company. “I would not be for having a water bottling company come into Aurora even if it was not incentivized,” she said. “To allow it to come with an incentive is really against what my people that I represent would expect of me.” She also reprimanded her fellow council members for their unwillingness to share information about the incentive deal with the public or the media until it came to council for a formal vote…

Niagara is set to use about 300,000 gallons of Aurora’s water per day, six days per week, which totals to about 290 acre-feet of water per year, according to Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker. Aurora produces about 77,000 acre-feet of water on average annually, he said. That means the company will use less than one percent of Aurora’s total water production. Councilman Bob Roth said it’s important to be cognizant of that fact. “It sounds like a lot, but I want to keep in mind that it’s three-tenths of one percent of our average normal yield,” he said.

Niagara would pay market rate for the water, said Mayor Steve Hogan. “Aurora cannot continue to have residential customers bear the full weight of paying water bills,” Hogan said in an email. “We must have a balanced package of residential users, tap fees payers, industrial users, and other users. If we don’t, residential users will be totally abused by rate increases. This company will fall nicely into the category of industrial users.”

More coverage from Melanie Asmar writing for Westword. From the article:

Aurora’s city council has agreed to offer waivers and rebates of city taxes up to $502,500 to the California-based Niagara Bottling, according to the Aurora Sentinel. The company hopes to construct a plant at ProLogis Park that would create up to 36 jobs, the Sentinel reports. Niagara would use about 300,000 gallons of water a day, which city officials say is less than one percent of Aurora’s total water production.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Monday is the deadline for the USFS to respond to the Ski Area Association’s lawsuit over permit requirements for water rights


From The Wall Street Journal (Ann Zimmerman):

Federal officials have until Monday to respond to a lawsuit by a trade group for the owners and operators of ski destinations, challenging a new directive that requires resorts operating on Forest Service lands to transfer water rights to the federal government.

The group’s suit, filed in U.S. district court in Colorado in January, alleges the change is an “uncompensated taking of private property” by the federal government. Ski-area owners contend it will diminish the value of the water rights they obtained “at great expense,” according to the suit, and prevents them from selling those rights to anyone but another ski operation. The Forest Service says the new directive will guarantee the water will always remain with the mountain…

The ski-resort operators argue the regulation covers water rights they have purchased from both federal and private lands. But the Forest Service insists it only pertains to water rights obtained from federal lands, and the agency said it plans to change the directive’s language to make that clear. Even so, the ski operators say they still wouldn’t be satisfied…

The ski association and its members are concerned that they wouldn’t get fair market value for the water rights if there was only one type of buyer, rather than allowing numerous bidders. “We had no choice but to defend ourselves and our property by filing suit,” said Geraldine Link, the group’s director of public policy.

Officials with the Forest Service, part of the Department of Agriculture, said the aim of the revamped clause is to make clear that resorts cannot sell the water rights and leave towns and mountains high and dry…

Last fall, after news of the impending permit clause became public, the ski association and several congressmen asked the Forest Service to study the issue further and get public comment. The agency declined and began enforcing the directive in November.

Ski groups noted that under the new clause, the federal government would be permitted to sell off the same water it is worried the resorts will auction to the highest bidder. The Forest Service’s Mr. Peña said his department plans to strengthen the language to make clear it doesn’t intend to sell the rights or repurpose them for any use but skiing.

More water law coverage here.