Habitat Work to Improve Arkansas River Below Leadville

arkansasriverleadville.jpg

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife:

Fish habitat enhancement work is set to begin later this year on public parts of the upper Arkansas River below the Highway 24 bridge as biologists and engineers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife prepare to restore a section of river that was once mostly lifeless because of decades of mining activity.

The river restoration work is a key part of the federal and state effort to restore the California Gulch Superfund Site, an 18-square mile area where historic mining activities occurred. Mines in the area created the discharge of heavy metals and acid into California Gulch at the headwaters of the Arkansas River, making the river in that area unable to sustain healthy fish populations. The river currently supports a good trout population because of earlier mine cleanup efforts and will be further enhanced by the upcoming habitat improvements.

“The planning for this project has been going on for many years and people in the area are excited to see it moving forward,” said Greg Policky, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the area. “By this summer we hope to be in the river and physically manipulating the habitat to restore the environment for aquatic life in that section. Over the next few years, we hope anglers will start to see the benefits.”

Improvements will be centered on an 11-mile stretch of the river from California Gulch downstream to Twobit Gulch. Public river access in the area includes the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, which is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and numerous fishing access easements held by the agency.

While this project is on public lands, there are separate projects on the privately held sections of the river, including two large publicly-accessible ranches owned by Aurora Water. The Hallenbeck Ranch and part of the Hayden Ranch are owned by Aurora Water and are private lands though there is some public fishing access. Public access to the Hallenbeck Ranch parcel ended this year but Aurora officials are opening the river sections of the Hayden Ranch for public access on May 1.

“These habitat improvements will provide immense benefits to the fishery and the anglers who frequent this part of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area,” noted Rob White, Park Manager for the Arkansas Headwaters. “We are very fortunate to have received funding for this work.”

The restoration work will utilize heavy machinery to move rocks, logs and other materials in and out of the river channel to improve fish habitat. As a result, downstream anglers may see periods of muddy water and other evidence of disturbance during the project.

“Anglers might deal with a short-term disturbance, but in the long run this work should have a big positive upside,” said Tracy Kittell, Colorado Parks and Wildlife engineer. “For public safety, we’ll mark the areas where work is occurring and require that anglers bypass those areas.”

The in-stream and riparian habitat restoration projects are only one part of the overall river restoration effort on the upper Arkansas. Other elements include water-quality monitoring, upland habitat improvements, habitat protection efforts and noxious weed control.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is pleased to be a partner in the river restoration project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The full restoration plan and environmental assessment for the project can be viewed online at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/nrda/LeadvilleColo/CaliforniaGulch.htm.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

How would the State Engineer administer diversions with respect to the Flaming Gorge pipeline?

flaminggorgepipelineearthjustice.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I just laid out the options we have if either Flaming Gorge plan were to move forward,” State Engineer Dick Wolfe said following a meeting last week of the Flaming Gorge Task Force in Grand Junction. The options include special legislation to cover bringing water from outside the state, an agreement between the states or state rules on water imports…

Wolfe is concerned that a pipeline could inadvertently injure Colorado water rights. Prompted by Million’s plan, Wolfe talked to the Colorado legislative interim committee on water resources last year about the possibility of legislation…

Colorado already has agreements with Wyoming and Utah on how to administer specific rights that cross state lines. Those involve smaller quantities of water than Flaming Gorge would divert, and neither targets a specific water right. Under an agreement, Colorado would be able to ask Wyoming to curtail diversions if they threatened rights on the Colorado River within Colorado. There could also be impacts to the Colorado River Compact, among seven states, that could affect Flaming Gorge diversions. “We don’t want Wyoming making judgments on how much water we have left to develop under the compact,” Wolfe said…

“It would involve a very public process, and would create the conditions for importing water,” Wolfe said. “Right now we have no venue to do that.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado November Election: The sponsors of Initiatives 3 and 45 are looking for help gathering signatures

hydraulicfracturingrulisonhaliburtonap04152009.jpg

Here’s a letter to the editor written by Dennis Obduskey, Vice Chair, Park County Democrats that’s running in The Fairplay Flume. Here’s an excerpt:

Sponsored by microbiologist Richard Hamilton of Fairplay and Littleton attorney Phil Doe, both of whom have been active in Park County and Colorado water issues for years, Initiatives 3 and 45 are looking to give us more control over our water and treat it as a public trust. The proposals require more than 86,000 signatures to be placed on the November ballot, and we strongly support the effort to put the issues to a public vote. The amendments would change our water laws away from just who owned the water rights first to one related to the public good – something that should be important for the more than five million citizens who call Colorado home.

One underlying theme in Amendment 45 is allowing for control of “fracking,” the process of injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals, some toxic, into the ground in an effort to induce natural gas back to the surface for profit, and returning that polluted water to large evaporation pools or, worse yet, dumping the contaminated water onto the ground…

Initiative 3 also grants public access to streams and waterways while also requiring state government to act as steward of and to protect, enforce, and implement public ownership of water. Our understanding is that they would allow anyone to use the state’s water and then leave it up to the public to determine if the water is being used for the common good. If members of the public were to determine the water isn’t being used for the common good, they could file a lawsuit in an effort to curtail or prevent further water use in that capacity…

Those proposed pieces of legislation collectively seek to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water rights through a constitutional change, and would override the state’s current prior-appropriation system – law that states those who own older water rights have a higher priority in using them…

If you would like to volunteer to help gather signatures to be able to see these initiatives on the ballot in November, please email: ProtectColoradoWater@gmail.com.

2012 More Colorado November election coverage here.

Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Summit ‘State of the River’ public meeting May 8

usdroughtmonitor04242012.jpg

snowpackcolorado04262012.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current U.S. Drought Monitor map and the Colorado snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From the Summit Daily News:

The National Integrated Drought Information System has declared a severe drought in Summit County and the Colorado River Basin. As of Wednesday, snowpack levels in the basin stood at 33 percent of average, tracking below the last memorable drought year of 2002.

The public can learn more about the drought, snowpack and critical reservoir operations at the annual Summit County State of the River meeting set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. on May 8, at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco. The event is sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group.

Presenting on the river and snowpack conditions will be Summit County water commissioner Troy Wineland. Bob Steger of Denver Water and Ron Thomasson of the Bureau of Reclamation will discuss the operations of Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs, respectively.

The meeting will also update the public on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which Summit County is scheduled to sign on May 15 in conjunction with Grand County and Denver Water. Summit County manager Gary Martinez will offer details.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

“We have an adequate water supply for the entire year, in the bank,” said Ken Huson, the city’s water resources administrator. “We’re doing quite well and we’re very happy about that.” If the figures are right, “quite well” might be an understatement. The city is projecting that its water supply will be 147 percent of its demand — basically, that for every acre-foot Longmont needs, it’ll have one and a half. Surpluses are projected over the next two years as well…

As of mid-April, the Upper Colorado river basin had about a third of the snowpack that it should. The South Platte basin had about half its usual levels — low, though still above the desperate levels of the 2002 drought. In fact, of all Longmont’s river basins, it’s the St. Vrain that’s holding up the best, and even that’s at about 65 percent of its typical snowpack…

…communities that draw their water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project — which brings water from the Western Slope to the Front Range and the plains — got an extra dollop this year. This year, the participants get a 90 percent quota, meaning they can draw nine-tenths of an acre foot for every share they hold. A normal year sees a 60 or 70 percent share. In plain numbers, that means Longmont can claim 19,424 acre-feet of “transbasin” water this year. Even after putting aside 2,542 acre-feet for future use, that’s still almost enough to meet the city’s demand by itself…

Now add in the rest, such as a lot of very senior water rights — the city’s oldest, on the 1861 Beckwith irrigation ditch, is the third-oldest claim on the St. Vrain — and storage reserves such as Button Rock Reservoir. Put it all together, take out the water that Longmont rents and leases to other communities, and it comes to an estimate of 25,921 acre-feet for this year. The city’s demand estimate, meanwhile, comes to 17,621 acre-feet. It might even come out tighter — the first three months of this year saw the lowest Longmont water use of the past 10 years, according to Huson. Through March, Longmont had used 2,310 acre-feet. (By comparison, the city’s residents used 2,488 at the same point in 2002.)

From The Aspen Times (Randy Wyrick):

There are good years and not-so-good years, but as long as there’s water where water’s supposed to be, there are no bad years, Hoeve said. So far, the Colorado and Arkansas rivers are “dam” good — they’re dam controlled. The Arkansas River and the Colorado River are running at 100 percent because they’re fed from reservoirs, and those reservoirs are full because last year’s snow and water levels were so high. “They’re augmenting the rivers by running water out of these dams,” [Ken Hoeve, a local television personality and competitive kayaker and stand-up paddler] said.

Not getting out on the river because you think the likely summer drought is already here is a bad idea, Hoeve said. “People are misinformed, I think,” he said…

Locally, Homestake Creek, where they hold a Teva Mountain Games event, is running at 61 cubic feet per second. You can run at it at 25 if you don’t mind getting knocked around a little…

The average snow accumulation in February that boosted the snowpack across the state was short lived. March brought dry, warm and windy weather to Colorado, resulting in significant declines in the snowpack, the NRCS reported. When that warm and windy March hit, that February statewide snowpack shrank by 29 percent. By April 1, the statewide snowpack was 52 percent of average, said Phyllis Ann Philipps, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Also, March snowfall was 29 percent of the historical average, Phillipps said.

Colorado Water Trust Employs New, Unique Tactics In Drought Response

cutthroattrouthistoricranges.jpg

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

he Roaring Fork Conservancy and the Colorado Water Trust are asking owners of water rights in the upper Roaring Fork River basin and in the Crystal River basin to leave some of their water in the river this summer to benefit fish and the environment.

The two nonprofit organizations are seeking water owners who might be willing to lease their water on a short-term basis to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) — without endangering their water rights — as part of an innovative program launched in the face of a looming drought…

The snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin is currently at 22 percent of average and conditions are similar to 2002, when the Roaring Fork through Aspen was reduced to a trickle.

A meeting has been set for Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Carbondale Town Hall for interested water rights owners to meet with representatives from the Water Trust and the Conservancy to discuss the program, which is called “Request for Water 2012.” The deadline for water rights owners to sign up for the program is May 11. The initial round of screening is set to be wrapped up by June 6 and the leases are to be implemented — and the first round of checks to owners to be sent — by July 1. That’s working at warp speed compared to how Colorado water law usually proceeds, but the Water Trust has designed the facilitated process in conjunction with the CWCB, which will lease the water and hold the water right for up to six months.

The Water Trust is not a policy or advocacy organization but instead works “with willing sellers and lessors to put senior water rights back into rivers to benefit the natural environment.”

More coverage from Scott Condon writing for The Aspen Times. From the article:

Sharon Clarke, a land and water conservationist with the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said the lower Crystal River and the Roaring Fork River in Aspen and just east of Aspen are among the local stretches that desperately need extra water during dry times. Irrigation draws the rivers down to extremely low levels in dry years.

Rick Lofaro, executive director of the conservancy, said the water-loan program is “critical” this year because all streamflow forecasts for the state are below average. “Recent information shows the Colorado Basin with the lowest snowpack in the state — at 37 percent of average,” Lofaro said in a statement. “If conditions don’t improve, we could see some streams dry up in the Roaring Fork watershed — just as they did in 2002. We need to take steps now to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.

Upper South Platte River: Slow recovery from sedimentation after the Hayman burn

uppersouthplattebasin.jpg

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

“How is that poor, mutilated stream doing these days?” [Former Denver Post outdoors editor Bob Saile] queried upon reading the success story of the river through Eleven Mile Canyon last week. “Maybe another follow-up is in order on what is surely going to be a long, long recovery for what used to be the most important section of trout stream in the state.” Like most of the South Platte River, the Deckers section below Cheesman Canyon has seen its share of ups and downs. Along with the upstream reaches of Eleven Mile Canyon profiled on these pages last Wednesday, this downstream segment of the river is on the upswing these days. But a full decade after the fire, it still has a long way to go.

“I thought maybe after 10 years that the sediment would pass, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be,” said Jeff Spohn, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist for the region. “The lower (Cheesman) canyon is holding up pretty well. But once you get down into that Deckers reach — below Wigwam Creek and Horse Creek — there’s still a lot of sediment coming down. It’s definitely making progress, but if you look at the fish data pre- and post-fire, it’s nowhere close to what it was.”

The most telling statistics relate to brown and rainbow trout size. In 2001, the year before the Hayman Fire, CPW biologists measured the biomass, or pounds of fish per acre, at 216, with 89 fish measuring greater than 14 inches. In 2010, the biomass fell to 88 pounds per acre, 24 fish longer than 14 inches.

The greatest impact is being felt in the lower portion of the 8-mile unit, where the river flattens out. Upstream, from Cheesman Reservoir down to Deckers, the fishery is rebounding, benefiting in part from trophy trout escaping from the privately owned Wigwam Club separating the two reaches.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: Alan Hamel receives the Bob Appel Friend of the River Award

alanhamelcsu.jpg

Alan Hamel was honored for his 50+ years serving the rate payers of Pueblo Board of Water Works. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum gave Hamel the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas award Thursday at the culmination of a two-day event at Colorado Mountain College. “I’m humbled,” Hamel said. “I’ve been blessed to work in the field of water.”

Hamel is retiring in August as executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, and in an April 22 Pueblo Chieftain opinion piece he tried to get people excited about tap water for the Water 2012 celebration.
Must have worked.

Actually, his accomplishments in water circles have gone far beyond the water board’s mission to provide safe, reliable drinking water for Pueblo. Hamel currently serves on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is the governor’s appointee to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He also has represented the Arkansas River basin on other state water panels, including the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Interbasin Compact Committee.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: One of the takeaways from the conference was the need to protect ag water and ag production

arkansasriverleadville.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I’m surprised we don’t protect our agricultural resources like it was our only child,” said Mike Bartolo, who has a small farm east of Pueblo and is manager of the Colorado State University Research Center in Rocky Ford. Water is the front line of defense, and needs to be incorporated even in urban water planning, he said. “Are we willing to say no to a particular industry to protect agricultural?” he asked, while discussing urban economic development. “How does locating a water-intensive business in a municipality affect agricultural water users 50-60 miles downstream?”

Bartolo said the Arkansas Valley’s climate and soil make it an ideal place to grow fruits and vegetables, and urged city-rural partnerships to encourage farming.

Young farmers need to be encouraged with financial help to get started in agriculture.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

San Miguel River: New storage on the river is a long way off

sanmiguelriver1109.jpg

From the Montrose Daiy Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

In support of water rights it has filed against an instream flow, the county earlier this week released expert reports prepared by Deere & Ault Consultants Inc. and related documents from GEI Consultants and Economic & Planning Systems. Montrose County wants to secure water rights to meet future anticipated needs in the West End. It has identified six possible sites where reservoirs could be built to capture the water. But securing the rights — a bid that is contested by Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance and other objectors — would be only part of the battle.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.

The Water Center at Mesa State University current newsletter is hot off the press

grandmesa.jpg

Click here for a copy of the current newsletter from The Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. Don’t forget to sign up for the May 2 State of the Rivers public meeting.

The Summit State of the River is May 8.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Broomfield is set to review rates from stem to stern

broomfield.jpg

From the Broomfield Enterprise (Megan Quinn):

Broomfield will hire a private company to assess the fees residents pay for water, sewer and reclamation water systems. In the past few years, costs have continually risen for water treatment supplies, electricity costs and the cost of buying water. Yet there has not been an increase in water and sewer fees since 2008, said City and County Manager Charles Ozaki.

“We need to conduct this study to determine the appropriate rates going forward,” he said.

Public Works Director David Allen said the city will likely have to raise water rates, because it has been more than three years since rates were adjusted to reflect current costs. Yet the report also might look at better ways to conserve water and provide better rate equity for past, present and future residents.

Staff initially proposed raising water license fees several years ago, but City Council members were hesitant to raise fees before doing a full assessment to see if the water operations were operating at maximum efficiency. They asked for a two-part study to examine both the city’s operations and water rate structure, Allen said.

The first part, which examined operations, was completed late last year. The report showed the city was close to maximum efficiency, Ozaki said. The water rate and fee study is a second part to the assessment.

The report, set to be complete in October, could change the way residents are charged and billed for their water and wastewater usage, because the city has not done a full assessment of the rates since 1996.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Weather news: Aspen sets records with a 75 degree day April 23

smugglermineaspen.jpg

From the Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

The temperature hit 75 degrees Monday afternoon, setting not only a record high for the date but a record high for the month of April, according to local weather blogger Ryan Boudreau, who maintains the local forecasting website aspenweather.net along with Cory Gates. The previous record for April was 73 degrees, according to data maintained at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, he said. The weather records date back to 1945…

In Grand Junction, the high hit 89 degrees on Monday afternoon, setting a new daily record for the date and tying the record for the month, according to the National Weather Service. It hit 89 degrees in Grand Junction again Tuesday, a record for the month first set in 1992, according to the weather service. The weather service said Denver International Airport hit 88 degrees Tuesday afternoon, breaking the previous record for April 24 of 85 degrees, set in 1949. Pueblo had a high of 92 degrees Tuesday to break the old mark of 89 degrees, set in 1996.

Colorado Water 2012: Check out the photos from the Greeley Children’s Water Festival

irrigationditchgreeleyhistoricalresources.jpg

Check out the photos from the Colorado Water 2012 Facebook page.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: Colorado Springs Utilities has a slug of events planned over the next few months

coloradowater2012.jpg

Here’s the link to the Colorado Springs Utilities Water 2012 webpage.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Cañon City high-schoolers toured the water treatment plant recently

watertreatment.jpg

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canteburry):

Students in Dave Laughlin’s biology class at Cañon City High School got an up-close look at the process from coagulation to disinfection during a tour of the plant Wednesday.

“I take my students here because their final in the spring semester is a project on the quality of our water,” he said. “We are intimately tied to its health and the ecosystems that surround us. We come up here to see what the people do for us on a daily basis that we take for granted.”

The plant is a 7-day a week, 24-hour operation that runs throughout the year, and it is required to meet the most stringent and updated state and federal water quality regulations as identified under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Plant operator Travis Payne said the time it takes for the water to make it from the Arkansas River to a home can be as little as two days.

The site was developed in 1908 and served as a slow sand filtration system for several years. Today, the plant has a 22-million gallon per day capacity. The average use is about 5.5 million gallons per day. During summer months, when more people water their lawns and gardens, fill swimming pools, wash cars and run swamp coolers, the plant supplies close to 12 million gallons of water each day.

More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“As water resources are getting smaller and smaller, we have a very small amount of water to use every day for our needs,” Bob Hartzman, plant manager told the students. He talked to students about the “fascinating chemistry” of the water treatment process and how jobs in the field can be high paying — about $25 an hour. “We have the capacity to treat 22 million gallons of water a day, but the city uses 5.5 million gallons a day on average. So we can probably meet demand for the next 10 to 15 years,” Hartzman said.

The water treatment plant featured two football-field sized slow sand filters when it opened in 1908. Today it is a surface water treatment plant. Plant operator Travis Payne told the students that once particles settle out of water in the sedimentation tanks it would have been “sent out the door with some chlorine 20 years ago but things have changed.” Nowadays the intense process includes a coal filtering system and lab testing. During spring runoff, the workers have to take water that has a particle reading as high as 2,200 and clean it up to a reading between 0.06 and 0.09 on the turbidity scale.

More water treatment coverage here and here.

North Platte River basin: The EPA sounds the alarm over discharges from Lone Pine Gas facilities into Spring Gulch Creek

northplatteriverfloodjune2011.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Oil stains extend from Lone Pine Gas facilities for about 1.25 miles along shorelines of Spring Gulch Creek. Besides oil, Englewood-based Lone Pine — with state permission — has been releasing 200,000 to 400,000 gallons a day of treated drilling wastewater directly into creek waters, raising landowner concerns. The Environmental Protection Agency has begun to assess the damage along the creek, which flows into Hell Creek and then into the North Fork of the North Platte River.

A Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission inspector will join an EPA coordinator today. “We got a call from concerned landowners on April 3. We were up there by April 5,” EPA spokesman Matthew Allen said. “(The EPA) is categorizing the types of damage along the shoreline to determine the best cleanup actions for the responsible party to take.” This is the latest of crude-oil spills dating to 2006 at Lone Pine’s gas and oil field about 14 miles west of Walden — near protected state wildlife areas.

A COGCC inspector in December found the spill, and agency officials met with Lone Pine managers in January. Lone Pine’s operations are somewhat uncommon because the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has allowed the company, through a discharge permit, to release up to 420,000 gallons of drilling wastewater per day into the creek from settling ponds. A couple of years ago, CDPHE learned that Lone Pine’s drilling wastewater did not meet state water-quality standards and, in September 2010, ordered the company to stop polluting the creek.

The CDPHE “cease-and-desist” order, however, “does not require that Lone Pine cease its operations while they return to compliance,” agency spokesman Mark Salley said. CDPHE’s water-quality division “is primarily concerned with the wastewater treatment facility’s ongoing inability to reliably and consistently comply with the terms and conditions of its discharge permit.”

From the Associated Press via Billings Gazette:

Wyoming water quality director John Wagner says the water is not from fracking or drilling and he believes it’s not harmful to Wyoming streams and wildlife.

Colorado water officials said Lone Pine Gas violated water quality standards a number of times since 2007, including dumping water with excess levels of copper and iron. The company says it shut down the plant in March and did a complete cleanup.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

IBCC: Gunnison Basin Roundtable non-consumptive needs workshop, May 3

gunnisonriverbasin.jpg

Click here for the agenda.

Windsor: Oil and gas exploration and production is moving southwest of downtown next to the Cache la Poudre River

derrick.jpg

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Great Western Oil and Gas Co. is proposing to drill 19 new natural gas wells within the town of Windsor near the shore of the Poudre River. The wells will be drilled from two separate sites southwest of downtown near the Larimer-Weld county line, allowing the company to drill beneath residential neighborhoods remotely.

Some of the wells will be drilled beneath the Poudre River, and some will be drilled beneath homes using a method called “directional drilling.”

Here’s a report about oil and gas exploration and production produced water from Andrew Wineke writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

After the well is drilled, after the target formation is fractured and as the oil and gas begins flowing up the well, wastewater comes along with it. As Colorado Springs and El Paso County wrestle with the sudden interest in drilling in the area, what to do with that wastewater is a big concern.

As much as half of the fluid used to fracture the rock gradually returns to the surface as flowback water, emerging from the well along with the oil and gas over a period of weeks. Many rock formations, including the Niobrara, also contain water, often briny and laden with minerals, that comes out of the well as what is called produced water, over several years. “Produced water can be nasty, nasty stuff; other places you can drink it,” said Thom Kerr, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which oversees oil and gas drilling in the state.

Getting rid of flowback and produced water is a challenge for drilling companies, since it’s generally too toxic to simply be poured out on the ground — although the state allows drillers to spread produced water on roads if it meets a purity standard. Some of the flowback fluid can be put through filters and reused at the next well.

Ultra Resources, a Houston, Texas-based oil company, is drilling three exploratory wells in El Paso County and has applied for permits to drill three more, two of those on Banning Lewis Ranch in Colorado Springs. The company isn’t recycling the water for those initial wells, officials say, but company officials say it will if it moves on to large-scale drilling.

Meanwhile, water providers are looking to cash in on sales to water haulers. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

[Platte River Power Authority] often sells its water for agricultural uses, but because all the region’s reservoirs are full, irrigators didn’t come to the utility looking to buy excess water this year, said Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat, who sits on the PRPA board of directors. “We’re sitting with surplus water,” she said. “There are several places that have asked us for excess water. Some are municipalities and others are the oil and gas industry directly.”

“We’re sitting with surplus water,” she said. “There are several places that have asked us for excess water. Some are municipalities and others are the oil and gas industry directly.” Now, she said, the PRPA board members must ask themselves if they’re comfortable with determining specifically where the excess water should go. “Do we sell it, or do we need the resources?” Weitkunat said. “I don’t know where everybody stands on this.”

Environmentalists, including Save the Poudre, are taking umbrage at the idea of selling the water to the energy industry because they’re unhappy that PRPA water from the Colorado River could be used for hydraulic fracturing, a water-intensive process they believe is harmful to human health and the environment.

Oil and gas exploration is heating up down by Del Norte. Here’s a report from Judith Stone writing for the Del Norte Prospector. From the article:

According to Wilson, oil companies often have the absolute right to drill, especially in connection with split estates, when the minerals are owned by the oil company and land by a surface owner. In that case, he said, oil companies can drill regardless of zoning or homeowner’s association laws. On the front range, Wilson said, companies are drilling within 300 feet of schools; in rural areas, the state limit is 150 feet within any property by right.

According to Wilson, the owner fares better when the mineral rights are part of the property, but he or she but can still have those rights taken by what is known as a “forced pool.” A forced pool says that part of the objector’s product is being extracted, so the rights must be pooled in order to determine each person’s share of revenues.

The only way to avoid any of this,Wilson emphasized, is to effect local county commissioner control now via home rule. By enacting home rule, Wilson said the commissioners can protect the land for its water users, citizens who like to breathe clean air, and everyone who enjoys a peaceful Valley.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

2012 CWCB Statewide Drought Conference, September 19-20

2012cwcbstatewidedroughtconference.jpg

Here’s the link to the conference webpage with registration information. From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

Registration for the 2012 CWCB Statewide Drought Conference: Building a Drought Resilient Economy through Innovation, begins May 1, 2012. This two-day conference is on September 19-20, 2012, and will be held at the Colorado History Museum, 1200 Broadway Denver, CO 80203. Please visit the CWCB website for information on registration, the conference agenda, hotel arrangements, parking and other conference related items.

This interactive conference will be focused on the latest and innovative information, techniques and policies to prepare for and adapt to drought in Colorado. Governmental, private sector and non-profit professionals are encouraged to attend.

Conference space will be limited. Please register early. Registration will begin May 1 and will close on September 14, 2012 at 5p. Registration fees are non-refundable.

More CWCB coverage here.

Drought news: The Upper Colorado River snowpack is at 26% of the thirty year average

snowpackcolorado04262012.jpg

basinhighlowcoloradoriver04262012.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current statewide snowpack map and the Basin High/Low graph for the Colorado River Basin from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Here’s a report from Janice Kurbjin writing for the Summit Daily News. She wades into the question of the potential for a Colorado River Compact Call in a drought year. The chances are pretty slim with all the water in Lake Powell. In addition the Bureau of Reclamation sent extra water to Lake Mead last year when the river was roaring. From the article:

It’s the agreements that will be key, what with storage well below the comfort level, population growth and climate data indicating a poor trend, said John McClow of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. A 2007 landmark agreement to share adversity came after more than two years of work. In short, it says, “we can manage this river in a shortage situation,” McClow said.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s President’s Award Reception recap: Lewis Entz and Diane Hoppe were honored

lewisentzcfwepresidentsawardreception04202012.jpg

dianehoppecfwepresidentsawardreception04202012.jpg

From the Monte Vista Journal:

The ceremonies were part of the CFWE’s 10th anniversary celebration, and Entz was honored as one of the founders, along with State Rep. Diane Hoppe…

Ten years ago, at the onset of the 2002 drought, then-Sen. Entz co-sponsored legislation that established a non-profit statewide water education program for the purpose of promoting a “better understanding of water issues through educational opportunities and resources so Colorado citizens will understand water as a limited resource and will make informed decisions.”[…]

At various times, he chaired the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Weather news: Six tornadoes touch down in Prowers, Kiowa and Bent counties

tornadomappueblochieftainprowersbentkiowa.jpg

The Pueblo Chieftain (Ryan Severance) is running a report including a photo essay from the areas hit by the tornados. Click through and read the whole thing and check out the photos. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Six tornadoes touched down overnight in Prowers, Kiowa and Bent counties, destroying homes and knocking out power across Southeastern Colorado. At 2:30 a.m. Friday, a tornado touched down eight miles south of Lamar. The twister destroyed at least five homes and took out a power substation, plunging the town into darkness. Two people suffered minor injuries.

Loveland: City council supports water sales to oil and gas water haulers

waterhaulerearlylongmont.jpg

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Tom Hacker):

City councilors considered the question of whether the city’s water utility should continue sales of treated city water to oil and gas producers and, without dissent, told water managers to keep the spigots open. “We don’t have enough in front of us right now to get beyond the practicality of the revenue we derive from this,” said councilor Ralph Trenary, who asked for the study session on the issue after hearing from constituents…

The six metered hydrants in east Loveland that water haulers use to load trucks headed for drilling rigs around the region are money makers for the city. But the profits don’t gush: Since 2004, petroleum companies have paid $1.7 million for the water, an eight-year total that is a tiny percentage of the water Loveland’s rate payers used during the same time…

Councilor Chauncey Taylor said that fracking technology, advanced by horizontal drilling as deep as 7,000 feet underground, would remain a routine practice in the region regardless of the city’s decision on water sales. “Fracking is going to continue with or without us,” Taylor said. “I look at the revenue, and the impact. I want to be an environmental steward. I’m not out there saying, ‘Drill, baby, drill.’ But I don’t see any reason not to do this.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

IBCC: The Flaming Gorge Task Force March 27 meeting notes are hot off the press

greenwithenvytrailerscreenshottroutunlimited.jpg

From email from Peak Facilitation (Heather Bergman):

…please find the summary of the March 27 meeting of the Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee: Flaming Gorge here.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Snowpack/drought/runoff news: ‘We’re lucky that this historically dry water year is following a historically wet one last year’ — Hannah Holm

urbandrainage24hour04272012.jpg

basinhighlowcoloradoriver04262012.jpg

lowlakepowell2004.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current statewide snowpack map and the Basin High/Low graph for the Upper Colorado River basin from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. I’ve also posted a screen shot of the new Urban Drainage and Flood Control District alert map for the past 24 hours. Depending on where you were in the Denver Metro area yesterday evening you could have seen good moisture from the thunderstorms that rolled through. For example, 47 hundredths near Denver International Airport.

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

As of April 24, the Colorado River Basin snowpack in Colorado held just 38% of the water content it would have on this date in an average year; the Gunnison River Basin held 34% of its average water content for this date. In 2002, the last extremely dry year, the Colorado River snowpack was doing about the same at this point; the Gunnison was a bit worse at 25%.

We’re lucky that this historically dry water year is following a historically wet one last year, which provided exciting high river flows, filled local reservoirs, and raised levels in Lake Powell, the “bank account” used by Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico to help meet obligations to our downstream neighbors in Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico.

As for next year, who knows? Variability from year to year is the norm, and predictions from one year to the next are notoriously unreliable. There are reasons to believe we could face more challenging times ahead.

A recent Bureau of Reclamation study of water supply in the Colorado River Basin found that both ancient tree rings and climate change models seem to indicate that our long-term future could hold both longer and more severe droughts than have been observed over the past century.

Meanwhile, water consumption doesn’t seem to be going anywhere but up. The state demographer projects that by 2050, Colorado’s population could nearly double, to about 10 million people. Where will this water come from? State water planners and groups of stakeholders in each of the state’s major river basins (Basin Roundtables) are wrestling with this question right now. Solutions include taking more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to the Front Range, taking more water from agriculture, and increasing conservation — each of which faces different hurdles and has different impacts on state and local economies and quality of life.

The public can learn more about the current drought and the state’s long-term water planning efforts at the annual Mesa County State of the Rivers Meeting set for Wednesday, May 2, 6:30-8:15 p.m., at the University Center Ballroom of Colorado Mesa University. The event is sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Water Center at CMU.

Water Center at CMU is working with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about how water works in our region. The Roundtables are groups of stakeholders engaged in local and statewide water planning. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, go to www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

So far this year, wildfires have burned only about a third of the acreage compared to the same time period last year.

“We are ready to meet the challenge,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy provides a strong, new blueprint to ensure community safety and the restoration of ecosystems to benefit all Americans, especially those who live in the urban-wildland interface areas. Our concern does not stop at the border of federal lands, but rather a strategy that is an all-lands approach for safety and wildfire management,” he said.

The remarks came during a teleconference Thursday, when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also responded to a letter from Colorado senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet asking for a review of federal prescribed burn policies in the wake of the deadly Lower North Fork Fire.

“Both the Forest Service and the BLM have a very careful, meticulous process for determining how to manage prescibed fires … We feel very confident that if the process is followed, we can successfully manage prescribed fires. We will be responding to senators Udall and Bennet,” Salazar said.

From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

“It’s not as severe as in 2002, but drought is expanding and becoming more intense,” Jim Pringle said during a stop at The Durango Herald. “But conditions since haven’t been as bad as they are now.”

Justin Kincaid, the U.S. Forest Service’s fire management officer in Durango, agreed that the situation looks grim.

“We could be in our fire season a month early – mid-April instead of mid-May,” Kincaid said. “We have to wait for the results of the spring rains.”[…]

Meteorologists measure drought by various standards, including soil moisture, water content of the snowpack, stream flow, water stored in reservoirs, the moisture level of fuels such as trees and grass and the amount of precipitation other than snow, Pringle said. By way of example, Pringle said, the snow-water equivalent at Vallecito on April 16 was 23 percent of average; at Cascade, 7 percent of average; at Mancos, 5 percent of average; and 16 percent of average at Molas Lake. On the same date in 2002, there were only zeros in the snow-water equivalent chart for Mancos, Cascade and Vallecito and 9 percent at Molas Lake. Even at the Wolf Creek Pass summit, which had a wet 2011-2012 winter, the snow-water equivalent was only 65 percent of average. In 2002, the percent of average was 29.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap: ‘By 2005, two-thirds of the water in Lake Powell was gone, but it snowed in 2006’ — Lee Miller

lowlakepowell2004.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“By 2005, two-thirds of the water in Lake Powell was gone, but it snowed in 2006. What happens the next time, if 2006 doesn’t happen?” said Lee Miller, attorney for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “The first thing that happens would be litigation.”

The Colorado River might seem like an unlikely topic for the annual Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, but as Miller pointed out in a presentation Wednesday, more than half of the water for Colorado Springs and Pueblo comes from the Colorado River. Water imports from the Western Slope also provide supplemental water for agriculture in the Arkansas Valley…

Miller’s comments came on a panel of lawyers talking about the implications of a call on the Colorado River — the potential for lower basin states in the compact to demand deliveries from upstream states. Another implication could be politicians trying to reopen the compact — along the lines of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s comments to a Pueblo Chieftain reporter during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Finally, a severe drought on the Arkansas River could mean more sales of agricultural water rights on both sides of the mountains, particularly if water imports by Colorado cities are curtailed…

Colorado is working toward a statewide water plan that will look at risks to the Colorado River supply that will incorporate more than 10 years of water planning efforts within the state, [Gunnison lawyer John McClow] added.

James Eklund, an attorney for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said the law of the river is a complicated group of Supreme Court decisions, federal legislation and policy, which is anchored by the 1922 Colorado River Compact. California, Arizona and Nevada are in the lower basin, while Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are in the upper basin. There is also an international treaty with Mexico…

“It’s in vogue to say there’s not enough water in the Colorado River,” Eklund said, pointing to comments made earlier this month by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. “But they (compact negotiators in 1922) knew there would be dry years, which is why reservoirs (where Lake Mead and Lake Powell are now located) were drawn on the early maps.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

2012 Colorado legislation: HB12-1278, South Platte Groundwater Study Augmentation, do-over is on its way to the House appropriations committee

groundwatermovementusgs.jpg

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via Windsor Now!:

By a 9-4 vote, HB 1278 — sponsored by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins — received approval to again go before the House Appropriations Committee. The appropriations committee, after voting last week to send the bill back to the ag committee for a second look, will discuss the bill Friday, Fischer said.

Back in February, Fischer’s bill — which proposes a study of the high groundwater levels in the South Platte Basin that have flooded basements and destroyed crops in the LaSalle, Gilcrest and Sterling areas — received approval from the ag committee to be passed along to the appropriations committee. That marked the first time a bill expected to help with the groundwater problems received a favorable vote from state lawmakers.

However, last Friday, the appropriations committee agreed that enough changes had been made to the bill in the previous weeks that it required another look by the ag committee — much to the disappointment of Fischer and the farmers and residents affected by the problem. Fischer stressed that action needs to take place soon, since residents have been experiencing problems for years, and because there’s only so much more time before the legislative session ends.

Fischer had made changes to his bill in recent weeks out of fear that its original price tag — $3.8 million all together, with about $130,000 having to come out of the state’s General Fund — would prevent it from passing through the appropriations committee. With the changes Fischer has made, including taking out an entire section of the bill and scaling back the extent of the groundwater study, the bill’s price tag is now $2.47 million, with no dollars coming out of the General Fund.

More groundwater coverage here.

Aspen: City council okays purchase of power from new hydropower facility planned for Ridgway Dam

ridgwaydamusbr.jpg

From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

Aspen electric utility officials presented details of the proposal to City Council at a work session Tuesday. Nearly a decade ago, city officials began discussions with Tri County Water Conservancy District (TCWCD) officials about plans to retrofit the existing Ridgway Reservoir dam with two turbines to generate hydropower. The new facilities are expected to come online in 2015.

The city has worked out a deal with TCWCD and the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), which supplies Aspen with wind and coal power to supplement locally generated hydropower. Under the deal, Aspen will essentially swap coal-fired power from MEAN with power from the Ridgway dam during the winter months. The city will pay the same rate for the Ridgway power that it pays the Nebraska provider, which is 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The initial contract is for a 20-year agreement with MEAN and the Ridgway facility operators.

The city will only buy the Ridgway power during the winter months, as that is when Aspen’s demand peaks, but also when the supply of local hydropower is at its lowest.

“It fits our energy requirements like a well-tailored glove,” city utilities director David Hornbacher said of the Ridgway facility.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC is reviewing Wyco Water and Power’s request for a rehearing for the project’s preliminary permit

flaminggorgepipelinemillion.jpg

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

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filed a notice Monday saying it needs more time to study a request for a rehearing filed by Aaron Million’s Wyco Power and Water Co.
While notice was titled “Order Granting Rehearing for Further Consideration,” it did not in fact approve a rehearing on the entire pipeline project, FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said [ed. emphasis mine]…

“All the notice meant was that the commission needed additional time to consider the rehearing request. If there was no action, the request would have been denied,” Miller said. “The commission is still reviewing the request.”

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Mark Wilcox):

The rehearing comes despite multiple protests from environmentalist groups, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Sweetwater County, Colorado Springs Utilities and others. Opponents claim it would damage the ecosystem surrounding Flaming Gorge, thereby damaging the $118 million local outdoor economy.

In his rehearing request, Million invoked the approved, 139-mile Lake Powell Pipeline, which will cost $1.064 billion and be finished in 2020. He said his preliminary proposal was similar to the Lake Powell Pipeline, but while Lake Powell got a green light, Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. was stopped on red.

“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.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Denver Water implements Stage 1 watering restrictions

snowpackcolorado04252012.jpg

statewidehighlow04252012.jpg

basinhighlowsouthplatte04252012.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the statewide snowpack map, the statewide High/Low graph and the Basin High/Low graph for the South Platte Basin from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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

A dry winter has created drought conditions across Colorado. Now, more than ever, Denver Water needs its customers to use only what they need.

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring a Stage 1 drought in recognition of the extremely dry conditions.

“Our customers have done a good job of using water wisely, but this year saving water matters even more,” said Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning for Denver Water. “We need customers to cut back water use and be mindful of the impact of the dry conditions on supply availability.”

In response to the Stage 1 drought declaration, Denver Water is asking its customers to reduce outdoor watering. Customers can do that by:

– Watering only two days a week, and using a day of rain to skip watering.
– Only watering the areas of your yard that are dry. For example, if shady areas look fine, only water the dry areas that get the most sun exposure.
– Watering early in the morning or in the evening to avoid evaporation.
– Adjusting sprinkler systems throughout the summer, starting with using less water this spring. Don’t just set your sprinkler system once and forget about it.
– Watering two minutes less.

“We’re seeing conditions very similar to the drought that began in 2002, where we learned that reservoir storage is only one indicator of drought, and those reservoir levels can drop quickly when we don’t get much rain and snow,” said Fisher. “If the dry weather continues, our reservoirs may not fill and we will be vulnerable if there is low snowpack in 2013. We need to maintain our reserves in case we are entering the first in a series of dry years. We must consider the long-term potential supply outlook.”

Denver Water’s mandatory summer watering rules, which are always in effect during the summer, will begin May 1. Depending on conditions, the watering rules could change later this summer. Denver Water’s summer watering rules are:

– No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
– Do not water more than three days per week (there are no assigned days for watering).
– Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
– Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
– Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
– Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.

During the last drought, Denver Water nearly ran out of water in the north end of its system, which is more susceptible to water supply problems during a dry year. Earlier this winter, the utility changed its operations and reduced the amount of water leaving the Moffat Treatment Plant — fed by Gross Reservoir — to reserve more water in the north end of its system. The utility currently is in a Federal permitting process to enlarge Gross Reservoir to help avoid running out of water any given year and help balance its water system.

“We will monitor conditions closely and keep customers informed of any changes in our watering rules,” said Fisher.

From KKTV.com (David Nancarrow):

In Colorado Springs, the experts say resources are in good enough shape to use the water to green up the lawn. “As a result of our community dedication to conservation and using water wisely, we are not at this time projecting water restrictions for 2012,” said Patrice Lehermeir, spokesperson for Colorado Springs Utilities.

From 9News.com (Christina Dickinson):

Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department says it’s going to cut its water use by 10 percent effective immediately. The department says it’s going to cut back from 30 inches per acre to 27 inches per acre. By doing so, the department says taxpayers will save $450,000. “For us reducing one inch of water for our entire park system that basically means we save $150,000,” Jill Wuertz with the Department of Parks & Recreation said. Wuertz is hoping May and June will be rainy months to help moisten the dry season.

From National Geographic (Paul McRandle):

On April 10th, 61 percent of the lower 48 states were listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor to be in abnormally dry or drought conditions. And the Southwest, which largely relies on ice melt into the Colorado River Basin from the Rocky Mountains and previous years’ melt stored in the Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoirs for its water supply, is poised for a dry, hot summer, because those areas received less than 70 percent of the average snowfall according to the USDA National Water & Climate Center.

These reservoirs are already at only 64 percent capacity following a decade-long drought from 2000 to 2010. And the possibility of more drought years to come is raising concerns over how to manage a river of which every drop (and then some) is now allocated to some use.

Drought, however, may be only one factor in the drying up of the Colorado River Basin. To assess the vulnerabilities of the watershed and consider how water supply and demand might change in the coming years, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation has embarked on a study of the Colorado River Basin to be released this July. An interim report shows that current water use outstrips the supply and projected demand for water could be greater than the projected supply by more than 3.5 million acre-feet within 50 years, particularly when the effects of climate change are included.

From the North Forty News (Kate Hawthorne):

Local rafting companies anticipate a good start to the river season on May 15. They say the abnormally high snowpack, timely precipitation, and long slow runoff last spring left reservoirs with plenty of water that will soon be moving downstream. “I say thanks to all the farmers who need the water,” said Bob Klein, manager of A Wanderlust Adventures based at Vern’s Restaurant on Highway 287 at the entrance to Rist Canyon. “We just ride on it.”[…]

The dry conditions this year prompted the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District to set the highest April quota since 1977 for Colorado-Big Thompson water shareholders. Stephen Smith, operations manager of North Poudre Irrigation Co., based in Wellington, said his company’s first water release was set for April 23. “The farmers need the early water to get crops in the ground,” he said. “We will be releasing more during the season as needed, but we have to save enough for the harvest. The reservoirs are pretty full but we have to balance what we have with what’s needed. It looks like this will be a pretty tight water year.”

Colorado Water 2012: ‘The value of water is rising along with Colorado’s population’ — Rio De La Vista

blancawetlands.jpg

Here’s the latest installment of their Colorado Water 2012 series from the Valley Courier (Rio De La Vista). Here’s an excerpt:

The value of water is rising along with Colorado’s population, increasing demands for limited water supplies. One of the key roles of water managers and communities is to better understand where, when and how water is used, and to try to figure out how to meet those many needs as sustainably as possible.

Over many decades of water “development” to meet such needs, people have built systems and infrastructure to expand their ability to use water. These range from the vast system of reservoirs, canals and ditches to wells, irrigation sprinklers and drip systems that have been built to deliver water for ranch and farm operations to the wells, storage, pipelines, treatment plants and other systems that deliver clean water for municipal and industrial needs.

Within the current statewide conversation about water planning, these agricultural, industrial and municipal uses are referred to as “consumptive” uses. However, even within these consumptive uses, not necessarily all the water that is stored, diverted and/or delivered is actually “used” or fully consumed in the process. In many cases, some of that water may return to the system and be available to be used again.

Consumptive use of water in agriculture is measured (for management and legal purposes) by the amount used by the plants grown, and again, not all of the water applied to the land is actually “consumed.” For example, some of the water that flows across an irrigated meadow is used by the plants there, which serve as pasture or hay for livestock. But not all of the water applied is consumed, and some of it may flow into lower areas, creating wetlands and habitat for wildlife; and some of it may return to the river as well, sustaining flows to some degree and being available to the next user, some seeps into the ground recharging the aquifer, and so on.

This leads to another defined set of water uses that are every bit as vital to the “water is life” concept. Water uses for or by the environment and recreation are called, in the water vernacular, “non-consumptive” uses. These uses also don’t fit neatly into categories, as the environment, from the highest forests which take the first “drink” of the melting snow in the spring, to the wetland plants (that provide food and habitat to the multitude of ducks, geese, cranes and other birds and wildlife that rely upon them) do actually consume some water to grow too, like any other plant.

A healthy environment can provide all kinds of important “services” to people, from storing water in natural settings, recharging aquifers, purifying water to mitigating floods, to name a few. At the same time, there are many factors across the landscape that people can also affect profoundly, which can help the environment help us too. From good grazing management to building soil health on farms, management practices can help nature better stretch limited water supplies further as well.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: The alternative ag transfer plan has 15 objectors at water court

arkbasinditchsystem.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“It’s [opposition] unprecedented in this basin,” said Peter Nichols, water atto’rney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District at the boards monthly meeting Wednesday. “The only other plan that could compare was the issue of wells in the South Platte (basin).”

The district is seeking a substitute water supply plan from State Engineer Dick Wolfe on behalf of the Super Ditch, and hosted a meeting with potential opponents of the plan in January. Despite that effort, 15 objectors filed “hundreds of pages” of concerns about the plan prior to an April 9 deadline for comments.

Division Engineer Steve Witte said many of the objections are duplicative, and the state engineer is considering them at this time.

The Amity Canal, which is half-owned by Tri-State Generation & Transmission Assoc., and others say a water court filing is needed before the water plan should be considered. They also make the point that some of the impacts could continue longer than the five-year limit required by state legislation.

Meanwhile, the State Engineer has approved the Super Ditch Substitute Water Supply Plan. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The draft substitute water supply plan was approved this week, complete with 46 terms and conditions added at the request of 17 objectors to the plan sponsored by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

A major objection has focused on the fact that no change of use application has been filed in water court. Many of the 46 provisions of the plan deal with the sorts of issues typically covered in a water court filing.

The one-year plan will provide 250 acre-feet of water from the Catlin Canal to Fountain and Security in El Paso County. Water will be exchanged to Lake Pueblo, where it could be shipped via the Fountain Valley Conduit to the end users. In turn, about 175 acres on four Catlin Canal farms would be fallowed to provide the water needed for the deal. “I recognize that . . . the Super Ditch Co.’s ultimate goal is a long-term rotational fallowing program,” Wolfe wrote in the draft plan. “However, the only plan application before me is for 12 months and I do not believe the company’s ultimate larger goal precludes my authority to grant a one-year plan.”[…]

“In a way, this is good, since it would put the same restrictions on future attempts to move water in the Arkansas River basin,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “The next time Aurora applies for a substitute water supply plan, we’re going to email those 46 terms and conditions to the state engineer.”

It’s still important to develop the Super Ditch, he said. “The Super Ditch is the future of Colorado water,” Winner said.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

The city of Pueblo and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are asking the CWCB for an instream flow designation below Pueblo Dam

puebloreservoir.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The city of Pueblo, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, made the request of the Colorado Water Conservation Board earlier this year. The state agency is the only body that can legally hold water in streams for the benefit of habitat conservation, and typically makes decisions about protected streams at its November meeting…

“This is an area that truly deserves consideration, if you think about what the fishery between Pueblo Dam and Fountain Creek has become,” Hamel said. “I think Pueblo is seeing the recreation benefits.” While mountain streams typically get the instream designation, there are portions of the mainstem of the Colorado River that have been protected, Hamel said. Pueblo’s attempt to secure a water right of 100 cubic feet per second on the 10-mile stretch of river was rejected by the CWCB on a 7-2 vote in 2006…

The city, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and 22 partners have invested millions of dollars for improvements to the river through the Legacy Project. The effort will continue to provide more fish habitat with the placement of boulder clusters in the river next winter. The city also obtained an recreation in-channel diversion in a 2006 water court decree…

The water right would have a 2013 priority date, if accepted by the CWCB. The state agency has to file its application for a water right in court, which would give other water users the opportunity to protect their rights.

The CWCB also is considering five other instream flow rights in the Arkansas River basin. Two are on Beaver Creek in Fremont County. Others are Baker Creek and Bonnet Creek in Huerfano County and on the headwaters of the Apishapa River in Las Animas County.

Meanwhile the Colorado Water Trust is hoping to secure some water is this water short year. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Water Trust for the first time will lease water under 2003 state legislation to put into the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s in-stream flow program. The group is calling it a pilot program. The CWCB, a state agency, is the only body that can hold water rights strictly for habitat or environmental purposes. Under the Colorado Constitution, water must be put to a beneficial use or it returns to the pool available to other water-right holders. The 2003 statute allows short-term leases for habitat outside of court action that could take years to complete. “We intend to put this statute to work to make a difference both to water users facing what could be an uncertain summer if conditions don’t improve and to the state’s rivers,” said Amy Beatie, executive director of the water trust…

Four reaches of rivers in the Arkansas River basin are part of the program: The Lake Fork of the Arkansas River near Leadville; Greenhorn Creek, which flows through Rye and Colorado City, above Graneros Creek; Texas Creek west of Canon City; The Huerfano River above Stanley Creek northwest of Walsenburg.

In the Rio Grande basin, portions of Saguache Creek and La Jara Creek have been identified.

More coverage of the Colorado Water Trust program from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The Colorado Water Trust this week issued a notice seeking people interested in the voluntary leases. Trust leaders have been working on protecting tributaries to the Colorado, Eagle, Fraser and Gunnison rivers and may be able to devote as much as $400,000 to fund leases. The Nature Conservancy also is exploring possibilities on the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins and the Dolores River down from McPhee Reservoir in western Colorado. “This is not about taking water away from people. This is about keeping our rivers whole — and sharing water between people and the environment,” said Nature Conservancy state director Tim Sullivan.

“There are values associated with the flows in rivers — recreation, riparian benefits, water quality” — not fully captured in Colorado’s prior appropriation use-it-or-lose-it system of allocating water, Sullivan said. “Drying up rivers is not a good way for us to manage our water in the West.”

During the severe 2002 drought, some streams and rivers were so warm and depleted that state wildlife crews trudged with buckets to rescue fish from isolated pools.

State agencies have been working since 1973 to ensure minimum “in-stream flows” to prevent irreversible environmental degradation. The Colorado Water Conservation Board, working through state water courts, has established minimum flows — from half a cubic foot per second to 300 cfs — on 1,581 segments of rivers and streams covering 9,120 miles.
Private-sector funding could boost the government efforts.

“We appreciate the help for our partners and think this can result in additional protection this year,” said Linda Bassi, the CWCB’s chief for in-stream flow. “This is something that potentially could do a lot.”

More CWCB coverage here.

Snowpack news: The Upper Colorado Basin is in a virtual dead heat with 2002, statewide = 33%

snowpackcolorado04242012.jpg

statewidehighlow04242012.jpg

basinhighlowcoloradoriver04242012.jpg

Another day another drop in snowpack. The storms forecasted over the next few days can’t come soon enough. Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the statewide snowpack graph, statewide high/low graph and Upper Colorado River basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A record-low spring snowpack and continued dry and warm weather doesn’t bode well for Colorado’s rivers and streams this summer, but a few critical reaches could get a boost thanks to the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust. After the 2002 drought, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Division of Wildlife created a list of critical stream segments where low flows and warm temperatures posed a potential threat to aquatic ecosystems.

Based in part on that list, the water trust proposes to facilitate short-term leases of water from agricultural users to keep flows at levels deemed adequate to ensure stream health. “We are testing totally new waters here,” said Colorado Water Trust director Amy Beatie. “We have our own cash we’re willing to put into the program and our goal is to raise $500,000,” she said, explaining that funding comes exclusively from private sources, with no state money going toward the program.

Scott Hummer, special projects manager for the water trust, said the Eagle River Basin is one of the priority areas, as are the headwaters streams above the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers.

Colorado steps up efforts to monitor and prevent infestations of invasive mussels

zebraquaggamussels.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A boat coming into Lake Pueblo from Wisconsin on April 10 was contaminated with mussels. Another contaminated boat was stopped at Chatfield Reservoir earlier in the month…

“The good news is that we haven’t seen any new mussel discoveries since 2008,” said Gene Seagle, an aquatic nuisance species coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “But we can’t let our guard down and assume that problems don’t exist.” More than 200 inspectors already have received training this spring with more sessions planned before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season in the state.

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Warm weather arrived early this year in Colorado and officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are ramping up boat inspections at more than 85 sites around the state. The aquatic nuisance species boat inspections are mandatory at state parks open for boating and at most other boatable waters in the state.

“The good news is that we haven’t seen any new mussel discoveries since 2008,” said Gene Seagle, an aquatic nuisance species coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “But we can’t let our guard down and assume that problems don’t exist.”

Seagle added that Colorado inspectors have already decontaminated two mussel-infested out-of-state boats this year.

During the first weekend in April, inspectors at Chatfield State Park stopped a mussel-infested boat that had been purchased in Indiana and brought to Colorado. On Tuesday, April 10, inspectors at Lake Pueblo State Park inspected a boat that had come from Wisconsin and was carrying mussels from the Great Lakes region. Both boats were decontaminated before being allowed to enter Colorado waters.

More than 200 inspectors have already received training this spring with more training sessions planned before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season in the state. Trained inspectors will be stationed on boat ramps around the state throughout the boating season. Inspectors are watching for all aquatic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails and Eurasian watermilfoil. The inspectors also work to prevent the movement of water from lakes or reservoirs to other bodies of water as microscopic young mussels, not visible to the human eye, could be accidentally moved in live wells, anchor basins or other places on a vessel where water can accumulate. The aquatic nuisance species could do substantial damage to ecosystems, boats and water delivery systems in Colorado if they become established. These invaders typically can’t be controlled once they get introduced and have cost other states in the nation billions of dollars to continue operating water distribution systems to homes, farms and businesses.

The first significant aquatic nuisance species detection in Colorado occurred in 2007, with the discovery of zebra mussel larvae in Pueblo Reservoir at Lake Pueblo State Park. The Colorado General Assembly allocated funding for a large-scale prevention effort and Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program has been operating for four years. Every year inspectors have stopped boats that were headed into Colorado waters with attached mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, rusty crayfish and invasive plants and weeds.

“Each year we get better at conducting the inspections and boaters become more understanding of the need for the program,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Inspectors are better trained than ever before and most boaters are showing up with their boats clean, drained and dried which gets them on the water faster.”

Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species program requires that all boats which have been in waters outside of Colorado must be inspected and receive a green inspection seal prior to launching in any water of the state. CPW staff encourages boaters to plan ahead to reduce delays due to boat inspections.

Boaters who live in, or are traveling through, Denver, Grand Junction or Hot Sulphur Springs have access to advance inspections and decontamination facilities. These are located at the Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region office at 6060 Broadway in Denver, at the CPW Northwest Region office located at 711 Independent Ave. in Grand Junction and at the Hot Sulphur Springs Area Office, located at 346 Grand County Road 362. These stations are in service weekdays during regular business hours. Advance inspections at these facilities provide a secure green seal that will speed up the next inspection at boat ramps in Colorado.

Inspection stations are also available at boating waters around the state. A complete list of inspection sites and hours of operation can be found at http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Pages/MandatoryBoatInspections.aspx.

Several short videos about aquatic nuisance species and boat inspections can be found at http://www.parks.state.co.us/NaturalResources/ParksResourceStewardship/AquaticNuisanceSpecies/Pages/AquaticNuisanceSpeciesHome.aspx

More invasive species coverage here and here.

RGWCD Groundwater Sub-district 1 public meeting recap: ‘The perception is there’s a magic box that isn’t working’ — attorney Steve Atencio

slvdischargerecharge.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

he subdistrict’s plan and a state computer model project that 4,706 acre-feet of water must be put back in the Rio Grande to make up for the harm caused by pumping. Toward that end the group has acquired access to water, which would be sent down the river from reservoirs near its headwaters. The subdistrict also hopes to use up to 2,500 acre-feet from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Closed Basin Project, which pumps groundwater from the eastern side of the valley and sends it to the Rio Grande…

Wells from both the subdistrict and the project draw from the unconfined aquifer — the shallower of the valley’s two major groundwater bodies. That aspect of the plan drew objections from five parties, including Del Norte-area water user Norman Slade. “Who pays that 2,500 acre-feet to make up for the compact?” he asked.

Critics of the plan also include surface water users who fought the formation of the subdistricts in court for four years. Their attorneys have questioned how the state’s computer model could come up with such a small figure for injurious depletions given that subdistrict wells are expected to pump 308,000 acre-feet of water this year. “The perception is there’s a magic box that isn’t working,” attorney Steve Atencio said.

More coverage from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

Everyone speaking, whether for or against the proposed plan to replace well pumpers’ injurious depletions to streams this year, also agreed this was a historic moment for the San Luis Valley. “We have the opportunity to change the course of history,” Wolfe said.

The state engineer added, “It really comes down to all of us as being stewards of this precious resource that we have here … We have all got to work together.” Wolfe’s approval of the annual replacement plan for the San Luis Valley’s first water management sub-district is the final step before the sub-district begins putting water into the system to begin repairing damages from well pumping to surface water users, the aquifer and the Rio Grande Compact. That process must begin May 1. With the short time frame for Wolfe to make a decision on the replacement plan, he will only be accepting comments on the plan through April 23. His decision may be to approve, deny or approve the plan with conditions…

[Sub-district 1 Program Manager Rob Phillips] listed several sources the sub-district is using this year to provide water to the streams including the Santa Maria/Continental Reservoirs, Rio Grande Water Users and the Closed Basin Project, with all of those combined sources providing 10,074 acre feet. The Closed Basin Project will provide 2,500 acre feet of that.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

16 Organizations Praised for Environmental Compliance: Perfect compliance with industrial wastewater discharge permits

wastewatertreatmentprocess.jpg

Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District (Steve Frank):

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District has named 16 metro area organizations Gold Award winners for perfect compliance with their industrial wastewater discharge permits during 2011. The awards will be presented [today] at a ceremony at the Metro District’s headquarters at 6450 York Street north of Denver. Chairman of the Board Curt Aldstadt will also commend the organizations the Metro District oversees for a full year in which all of them demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence. A Gold Award represents one year of perfect compliance. All 16 organizations discharge wastewater under industrial discharge permits issued by the Metro District. Metro issues the permits under authority granted by the Clean Water Act.

The 16 organizations being honored not only had perfect industrial wastewater discharge compliance records for 2011 but were also good all-around environmental citizens, said Lori Maag, industrial waste pretreatment supervisor for Metro. She noted that, in 1990, 37 companies were in what’s called significant non-compliance, which means they seriously violated pretreatment standards.

“The number of companies in significant non-compliance has shrunk substantially. Five companies were in significant non-compliance for 2009, none in 2010, and two in 2011,” she said.

The non-compliant companies were Advanced Circuits and 7-Eleven, Inc., both located in Aurora. Advanced Circuits implemented corrective measures and has returned to compliance. The other firm, 7-Eleven, failed to maintain their system, perform the required monitoring, have an authorized representative sign all reports, and didn’t provide all information/data on time. They were required to cease discharge and were penalized $35,900.

Ball Metal Beverage Container Group will receive its 15th Gold Award tomorrow, and both RJR Circuits Inc. and Goldberg Brothers Inc. will receive their 12th.

“We are extremely happy with the performance of our 16 award-winning companies and hope everyone congratulates them on a job well done,” Maag said. “Performance like theirs deserves to be recognized.”

Here (in alphabetical order) are the Gold Award winners and where they’re located:

· Advanced Surface Technologies, Inc. (Arvada )
· Ball Metal Beverage Container Corporation (North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District)
· C W Elaborations, Inc. (Crestview Water and Sanitation District)
· Denver Metal Finishing (Denver)
· Industrialex Manufacturing Corporation (Arvada)
· International Paper – Golden Container Plant (North Table Mountain)
· KBP Coil Coaters, Inc. (Denver)
· Majestic Metals, Inc. (North Washington Street Water and Sanitation District)
· Pepsi Beverages Company (Denver)
· Quality Corporation (Denver)
· RJR Circuits, Inc. (Denver)
· Safeway, Inc., Denver Beverage Plant (Denver)
· Structural Coatings (Denver)
· United States Mint (Denver)
· U.S. Geological Survey – National Water Quality Lab (City of Lakewood)
· Wanco, Inc. (Arvada)

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District serves most of the metro Denver region and is the largest wastewater treatment agency in the Rocky Mountain West. It treats about 140 million gallons of wastewater a day for 1.7 million metro Denver residents in its 715-square-mile service area.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado legislation: HB12-1161’Nutrients Scientific Advisory Bd Water Quality’ would suspend nutrient rules from the CWQCC

bluegreenalgaebloom.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

…the Pueblo Board of Water Works broke ranks with the Colorado Water Congress and the city of Pueblo Tuesday and voted 5-0 to oppose HB1161. The bill has cleared committee and is awaiting action by the state House of Representatives. The bill would suspend rules adopted by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission last month for review by the legislative Water Resources Committee later this year. A recommendation to the commission would be made by Nov. 1…

The Colorado Water Congress represents broad interests, many of which operate both drinking water and wastewater systems, explained Paul Fanning, legislative liaison for the water board. “It’s cheaper for drinking water providers to treat it than for dischargers,” he told the board.

Using political means to answer scientific questions could risk federal Environmental Protection Agency intervention in Colorado water quality regulations, Fanning said.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

The Dillon Valley Water District stops fluoride dosing

calciumfluoride.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Kathryn Corazzelli):

The fluoride was stopped last month because of worn-out equipment — and a capital expenditure to replace it — and limited space, according to district manager Francis Winston. After the district’s board members did some research on the subject, Winston said they couldn’t find anything definitive on the benefits of the mineral, and weighing the equipment cost and space limitations, decided to stop it for the time being.

Winston said the Environmental Protection Agency has a limit of 1.1 milligrams of fluoride per liter, which the district has been told they’re getting ready to lower to .7; the natural fluoride levels in Dillon Valley’s water are .5 to .6.

The Dillon Valley Water District isn’t alone. A few other neighboring districts like East Dillon Water, the Snake River Water District, Copper Mountain Metro and the Town of Frisco don’t add the mineral. There’s one well in Frisco where it naturally occurs, but that source is used infrequently, said water foreman Dave Koop…

The Town of Dillon still adds fluoride to its water. Both Winston and Dillon utilities superintendent Trevor Giles said the mineral isn’t expensive to add each month — it’s about 50 cents per pound, and Dillon adds about 40 pounds per month, Giles said. The cost isn’t much compared to the $25-30 per month it costs to buy fluoride pills for an individual, he said.

More water treatment coverage here.

Snowpack news: Every basin is below 50% of the three-year average, what was there is running off early this water year

clearcreekatgolden04232010.jpg

basinhighlowstatewid04232010.jpg

snowpackcolorado04232012.jpg

Whoa Nellie! Snowpack is a thing of the past. Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the statewide map and the statewide Basin High/Low graph along with the hydrograph for Clear Creek at Golden.

Clear Creek was running 10 CFS higher than median yesterday.

Meanwhile, here’s the executive summary from last week’s Water Availability Task Force from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Here’s an excerpt:

March 2012 tied 1966 for the driest on record and it was the third warmest March for Colorado. Records date back to 1895. April has seen some improvement in precipitation with beneficial precipitation on the eastern plains that has lessened extreme and severe drought conditions. However, much of Colorado remains well above average for temperature and below average for precipitation. All major basins of the state have seen significant declines in snowpack. All continue to be below normal for the year. Statewide snow water equivalent at SNOTEL sites is 39%. Severe drought conditions have been reintroduced in the San Luis Valley and established throughout portions of the Yampa/White, Colorado and Gunnison River basins. Water providers are watching the situation very closely.

 To date, April temperatures have been 2-8 degrees above average for most of Colorado, with multiple areas experiencing temperatures 10 degrees above normal.

 Historically, Colorado reaches its average peak snow water equivalent for the season by April 12. However, this year only 68% of average was achieved and that peak occurred a full month early on March 12, 2012. Some basins, including the South Platte and the San Miguel/ Dolores/ Animas/ San Juan peaked as early as March 4.

 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 108% 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 73% and 86% of average, respectively.

 As of the April 17 US Drought Monitor, 95% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought classification, down from 100% two weeks earlier. D1, moderate drought, conditions remain in much of the Arkansas River basin and the northern and central mountains, while D2, severe drought conditions, have been introduced in the northwestern part of the state and the Rio Grande River basins. D0, abnormally dry conditions, account for the rest of the impacted areas of the state (35%). Removal of D0 on the central plains and a reduction of D2 in the southeastern plains resulted from early April storms that brought substantial precipitation.

 The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values range from -3.86 in the Arkansas headwaters sub-basin to -0.13 in the Upper Arkansas sub-basin. The Arkansas headwaters’ low value is, in part, due to operational drawdown of Homestake Reservoir. All SWSI values throughout the state are negative.

 La Niña conditions have weakened, and the long term forecast for late spring (April-June) shows a shift towards dryness covering southwest Colorado, near-normal moisture over the eastern plains, and a slight shift towards wetness in northwest Colorado.

 There is about a 40% chance that we could see a transition towards El Niño within the next few months, which would favor more moisture for the state.

 On the West Slope, combinations of prevalent fine fuels and the possibility of a drier than normal season could lead to significant fire potential concerns as the season progresses.

More CWCB coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC grants a rehearing for the project’s preliminary permit

flaminggorgepipelineearthjustice.jpg

Update: FERC did not grant a request for a rehearing. They need more time to review the request.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced Monday it will grant a rehearing for Aaron Million’s Wyco Power and Water Co., over the objections of environmental groups and Colorado Springs Utilities…

Among those opposing the rehearing were the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association, Western Resource Advocates and the Sierra Club.

Colorado Springs Utilities on April 6 filed a motion asking FERC to exclude consideration of a reservoir in El Paso County at the same site where it plans to build a reservoir for the Southern Delivery System. The Norris family, owners of T-Cross Ranches, are family friends of Million. They have filed an application with El Paso County for the Marlborough Metropolitan District with the intention of building a regional reservoir on Upper Williams Creek, southeast of Colorado Springs.

Million also could have competition in building the pipeline from the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Frank Jaeger, manager of Parker Water, which is studying its own plan for a Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

Meanwhile, a state task force continues to meet to identify issues that could arise if either project is built. Its next meeting is Wednesday in Grand Junction.

Here’s the agenda for the next task force meeting via email from the IBCC facilitator.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Trust Employs New, Unique Tactics In Drought Response

cutthroat.jpg

Click here to to the Colorado Water Trust website to download the materials for the program. Here’s the announcement:

The Colorado Water Trust (CWT), a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring streamflows in Colorado, is making a Request for Water. CWT uses market-based, voluntary mechanisms to ensure that water flows in Colorado’s rivers and streams. At this point in time, reports show statewide snowpack at 38% of average, and streamflow forecasts indicate flows are likely to be below average to well below average in all basins. These low flow conditions can stress important aquatic ecosystems. This Request for Water is a pilot program released in limited fashion to address both the drought impacts to streams and the financial needs of Colorado’s water users this summer and fall.

To maintain sufficient streamflows in Colorado’s rivers and streams, we are seeking direct flow or storage water rights for short-term lease into Colorado’s Instream Flow Program for the coming summer and fall seasons. Leasing water into the Instream Flow Program during a dry year will help protect streams and aquatic habitat when it is most critical. We intend to lease appropriate water rights and offer water users the opportunity to both protect Colorado’s natural heritage and generate revenue this year—lease your water for instream flow use, obtain compensation, and grow a crop of fish habitat.

CWT has coordinated this process with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (“CWCB”), which runs the state’s Instream Flow Program. CWT will be paying for and facilitating these leases under a state law specifically designed for this purpose. The law provides several protections for those who choose to lease their water. It also protects other water users from injury when these leases are implemented.

With this Request for Water, we are requesting offers of water from interested water right holders. To lease your water through this pilot program, please read carefully the “Leasing Terms and Conditions” and the “Guide to Initial Offer Form & Frequently Asked Questions” and submit an Initial Offer Form as soon as possible; time is of the essence. Please be diligent in following all Initial Offer Form instructions. Many restrictions are based upon the legal tools available.

Initial Offer Forms and associated documents must be received by the Colorado Water Trust, by mail or by e-mail, by close of business on Friday, May 11, 2012.

More coverage from Grace Hood writing for KUNC. From the article:

Today the Colorado Water Trust announced plans to lease water from willing users to boost stream flows. The idea is to take advantage of a state statute created after the 2002 drought, which allows agencies to lease water short-term from willing sellers to help preserve wildlife, fish, bugs and plants. Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust, says this will be the first time an organization has taken advantage of the 2002 statute.

“What we’re trying to do is keep low-flow streams alive during what we anticipate to be a fairly dry summer,” she says. For example, fish in low-water flow hunker down in pools where they are more susceptible to parasitism and disease, says Beatie.

CWT is planning on purchasing water rights and initiating projects in all seven of Colorado’s river basins.

More instream flow coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 124 CFS in the river below Olympus dam

olympusdamrelease062011.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The continuing heat is generating some early season run-off. With highs in the low 80s, we are anticipating some run-off tonight down the Big Thompson River and into Lake Estes. We will bypass that increase through the dam, on down the Big Thompson Canyon. Around midnight tonight, April 23, we anticipate bumping releases up to about 150 cfs.

Earlier this month, I e-mailed that we were increasing releases from Olympus Dam to the lower Big Thompson River for similar reasons. Since that time, releases from Olympus Dam have averaged about 127 cfs. They’ve gotten as high as 159 cfs and dropped down to about 112 cfs. Currently, we are releasing about 124 cfs.

It is likely these types of fluctuations will carry on into May.

Please keep in mind that we typically make our adjustments late at night; so, the river might look different in the morning than it did the night before.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project update: ‘The NISP project really fits like a glove on our water portfolio for the future’ — said Doug Short (Lafayette)

nisp2.jpg

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Breanna Draxler):

“The NISP project really fits like a glove on our water portfolio for the future,” said Doug Short, the public works director in Lafayette. The city is trying to diversify its water supply to prevent vulnerability from dependence on a single source, especially considering the unknown future impacts of climate change, Short said.

The proposed supply project would include two reservoirs, two pump plants and a series of pipelines aimed at providing water for the growing population east of the Rockies. “One way or another we’re going to need additional water,” said Brian Werner, of Northern Water, the organization proposing the project…

The proposed project would increase Northern Water’s storage capacity so it could collect more water in wet years, like last year, to be used in dry years, like this year. “We’re there for those dry times,” Werner said, equating Northern Water to a water supply savings account.

The proposed Glade Reservoir would store water from the Cache la Poudre River. Its location northwest of Fort Collins would require the relocation of seven miles of U.S. 287. The second proposed water storage facility, Galeton Reservoir, would be located northeast of Greeley and would collect water diverted from the South Platte River…

In addition to the economic costs, opponents fear environmental degradation related to the project. Laura Belanger, a water resources and environmental engineer at Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, said diverting water from the rivers will be detrimental to the riparian ecosystems. “There will be no peak flows left in the Poudre River,” Belanger said.

Peak flows provide habitat and spawning areas for wildlife, she said, as well as move sediment and remove vegetation. “If you remove peak flows from a stream system, that stream system can’t survive,” Belanger said…

Belanger commended Northern Water and the project’s participating communities for their conservation efforts and outreach, and she said that these savings should be considered a larger portion of future water supplies. But Northern Water is unconvinced that it will be enough. Limiting water projects will not limit growth, Werner said. “We can’t conserve our way to future supply,” he said.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Denver: Niobrara Shale Conference recap — Two new possible plays near the Niobrara

denverbasincrosssectionniobrara.jpg

From The Greeley Tribune (Jason Shueh) via Windsor Now!:

The inaugural Niobrara Shale Conference, named after the oil and gas shale formation running beneath Weld, was held at the Colorado Convention Center on Tuesday and Wednesday and called in a variety of industry specialists, resident mineral owners and geologists…

A notable presentation during the conference included one on hydraulic fracturing by Anadarko’s Jim Raney, who was speaking as spokesman for American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group. Raney encouraged industry leaders to take a more proactive and environmental approach when working with the community. He strongly cautioned that if the industry didn’t work with the community first, there would be less of an industry to work in.

Another notable presentation included a panel discussion among land and mineral rights owners about leasing negotiations.

Smiley said that while he enjoyed all of the presenters, he thought the lecture by geologist Steve Sonnenberg sparked a lot of attention, especially when Sonnenberg pointed to a few Niobrara hot spots…

The new exploration areas included the Fort Hays Limestone — part of the Niobrara — and the Greenhorn formation — near the Niobrara — as potential territories for drilling.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Peter Binney: ‘You are on the cusp of a major change in water management’

suburbs.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado’s efforts to deal with water problems, such as the Interbasin Compact Committee he once sat on, are not effectively meeting the need for action on water projects. Basin roundtables have created discussions that continue to return to the same dilemmas, he said. “We need a General Patton to lead us out of circular motion and into forward motion,” Binney said…

The United States is in the third era of water development, in Binney’s view. The first was an attitude of “man over nature” that lasted until the 1960s. From then until now, the country has gone through “social awareness” that recognized other needs like the environment and recreation need to be incorporated in water planning. From this time forward, the country will look at balance needs, dealing with shortage or crisis management, he predicted…

Binney’s solutions to the looming crisis involve changes in the way water is used:

– Land-use planning and water supply need to be integrated. That will mean more high-rises along water corridors.

– Agricultural uses of water must continue, but it could mean a change in cropping patterns. In Colorado, cattle and cattle feed are the major agricultural products. That could change as the global food market shifts.

– Regional water supply systems will become more common. The changes will come from local districts charged with providing water, and a statewide “metro water district” is possible.

– Projects will be paid for over their life cycle. Currently, there is a $2 trillion infrastructure gap nationwide that cities and water districts will be tasked to pay for.

– More efficient appliances will conserve some water, but larger savings will be realized by better choices for urban landscaping.

– Water users will have to overcome the “yuck factor” when it comes to direct reuse for potable water.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: ‘Celebrate tap water!’ — Alan Hamel

coloradowater2012.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Alan Hamel):

…we at the Board of Water Works want you to be sure to include tap water in your celebrations. Plain old tap water? That’s right, tap water. Or, as we like to call the safe, bountiful supply of water we provide our customers, Pueblo’s Vital Blue.

Although it’s easy to take our municipal water system for granted as we turn the tap to fulfill our drinking, cooking, cleaning or landscape irrigation needs, we really should be mindful of all the things tap water does for us — things that no other water can do…

The No. 1 job of the Board of Water Works is to keep healthy water flowing to Pueblo’s homes and businesses all day, every day.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Loveland: The Spring Waterway Cleanup attracts 350 people, ‘It’s amazing how dirty it gets’ — Lynn Adame

lovelandspringwaterwaycleanup04212012reporterherald.jpg

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Shelley Widhalm):

“I love to be out here by the river,” said Waneka, a member of National Honor Society like his peers who came out that day. “Everybody sweeping in, getting every bit of trash, it makes a world of difference. It looks like nature and less like a river in the middle of the city.”

An estimated 350-plus people met at five cleanup stations throughout Loveland, coming alone, with friends and family, or as part of civic, school or community groups to help protect and improve the local waterways.

“It’s amazing how dirty it gets. We clean it every year, and every year, we find more stuff,” said Lynn Adame, a city employee helping out at the Loveland Civic Center station.

For three hours, the volunteers removed trash from the Thompson River, Jayhawker Ponds and other lakes, creeks and ditches in Loveland. They found a few large items, including shopping carts, a toilet, a vacuum cleaner and car tires, along with bottles, cups and cans, pieces of plastic, metal objects, barbed wire, tarps and trash bags…

Eight-year-old Travis Hallmark’s finds included cans and plastic.

“I love the Earth, and I don’t want it to go to waste,” the second-grader said. “I want to clean the river so animals don’t die from the garbage.”

Joe Chaplin, storm water quality specialist for the city, said the volunteers collected fewer large items than they did in past years, though the number of volunteers is comparable — he won’t have a final number of volunteers and the volume they collected until early next week, he said.

More Big Thompson River watershed coverage here and here.

Earth Day 2012: Take the time today to plan your strategy for reducing your water and carbon footprints

bootprintearth.jpg

Here’s the link to the Earth Day Network website.

Here’s the link to the EPA website for Earth Day.

Drought/snowpack/runoff news: Upper Colorado River Basin down to 36% of average

usdroughtmonitor04172012.jpg

basinhighlowcoloradoriver04202012.jpg

snowpackcolorado04202012.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the statewide snowpack map and the basin high/low graph for the Upper Colorado River basin from the Natural Resources Conservation Service along with the current U.S. Drought Monitor map.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

At 37 percent of average snowpack so far in April, which is when snowpack levels hit their maximum in the Colorado mountains, 2012 in the Upper Colorado River Basin is looking even drier than its two drought-ridden companion years. In 1977, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack readings in April fell from 54 percent of average to 38 percent in May. In 2002, April snowpack dropped off more precipitously, from 63 percent of average to 27 percent in May. The water content of snowpack on Grand Mesa, which supplies water to two utilities in the Grand Valley, is better, 59 percent of the 24-year average, as measured on April 4…

The Colorado River already is running “so low that we’re not being able to get a full ditch of water” into the canals that lace the Grand Valley, connecting the Colorado River to the fields and orchards along its path, Proctor said…

One factor that could play a role in how the summer plays out is whether Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling fills this year, [ Ute Water Conservancy District General Manager Larry Clever] said. Green Mountain Reservoir is frequently a source of water for the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River through the Grand Valley, to aid four endangered fish species, including the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.

“We’re not going into this summer empty,” said Greg Trainor, utilities director for the city of Grand Junction, noting Juniata and Purdy reservoirs are full right now.

From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

Aspen City Council will hold a preliminary hearing Monday on an amendment to the city’s water shortage ordinance. The existing legislation allows the city to enact temporary higher water rates if a user takes more than a prescribed level, and it spells out policies to be enacted corresponding to three stages of drought severity. For example, if council declares a “Stage 2” drought, no lawn or garden watering is allowed between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“It is too early to know if actual conditions this year will cause streamflows to drop below [drought stage], but initial snowpack estimates indicate this will be a very dry year,” according to a memo to the council from the city’s water department, which notes that precipitation on Independence Pass is 61 percent of average this year as of April 16.

With the water rates, the ordinance aims to encourage conservation in drought years by instituting surcharges if water usage goes above a certain level for individual accounts. But the ordinance has not been updated in more than a decade, and the higher fees it provides for are lower than existing rates, according to the city’s memo.

The proposal would allow the city to impose surcharges of 175 and 200 percent, respectively, for users in “Tier 3” or “Tier 4,” which are the highest categories of water use for city customers.

The city last enacted the water shortage ordinance in 2002, the last severe drought year, when council declared a “Stage 1” drought.

Stage 1 seeks to cut city water usage by 10 percent, Stage 2 sets the target at 20 percent and Stage 3 aims for 50 percent. City Council must vote on whether Aspen falls under those categories.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

To-date, April precipitation at the Dillon weather observation site is 88 percent of average, at .65 inches. For January through March, the Dillon site has measured 1.94 inches of water compared to the average 2.74 inches, which is 71 percent of the historic average. On April 1st, 17 Colorado SNOTEL sites set new record lows, while 16 others were near-record lows. By April 9th, several sites had either melted out with record early melt-out dates or were on a likely trajectory to do so.Spring and summer runoff in some areas may approach record-low volumes…

In Colorado, April 1 streamflow forecasts call for much-below-average runoff conditions throughout the state. Most forecasts fall in the 40 percent to 60 percent of average range. The highest forecasts in the state are barely above 70 percent of average, for areas of the Upper Rio Grande and portions of the Front Range near Boulder. The lowest forecast in the state is for the North Platte near Northgate, at 20 percent of average. Forecasts decreased very significantly in most areas from the March 1st forecasts due to extremely poor conditions in March. Spring and summer runoff in some areas may approach record-low volumes.