Colorado Water 2012: The Custer County Library District is planning a special water display from May 15 – 25

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From The Wet Mountain Tribune:

From May 15 through May 25, the West Custer County Library District will be hosting a water display and film to commemorate the 75th anniversary of legislation regarding management of Colorado’s water resources. Partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Custer Conservation District, and the CSU Extension office, the Library is participating in Governor Hickenlooper’s “Year of Water” project.

Library director Marty Frick explains that “Colorado Water 2012” is the governor’s idea for celebrating the creation of water organizations from the three-quarter century old legislation. In a state almost entirely defined as desert or semi desert, water is precious—perhaps one of the most controversial assets the state has. Hickenlooper partnered with the Supreme Court, Colorado Art Institute and libraries across the state to create the travelling eight-foot long triptych accompanied with the film, “The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?”

In addition to statewide information about water and The West, the display will have local information provided by NRCS, the Conservation District, and the CSU Extension office.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 16, Custer Conservation District Manager Carol Franta and CSU Extension Agent Robin Young will present the River Trailer Education Program at the Custer County Schools. The River Trailer travels to schools and events to teach children and adults about watersheds, the water cycle, water conservation, and stream bank restoration. It’s a very effective hands-on tool, popular with young and old alike.

A free showing of “The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?” is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23, at 5 p.m. in the community room adjacent to the library, 209 Main St. in Westcliffe. The 80 minute movie will inform viewers about water reuse, consequences of urban growth, water policy and solutions such as desalination, rainwater harvesting and green construction.

Stop by the library to see the water display during regular library hours, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Call 783-9138 for more information.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

‘It just speaks to how increasingly difficult it is to get a project like this put on line’ — Janet Rummel (Colorado Springs Utilities)

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Even with recent good news regarding interest rates, SDS is going to cost ratepayers about $1.6 billion, including interest. Complications, of course, could drive the cost higher. And quite a few have been popping up lately.

A contrary court ruling. A competing reservoir plan. Skirmishes over access to engineer the 60-mile line from Pueblo Reservoir. Unresolved deals for real estate and trenching.

Utilities thought it was home-free last year after negotiating a long-term storage deal in Pueblo Reservoir with the federal government. It’s already installed 20 miles of pipe and acquired 63 percent of the roughly 300 parcels it needs. So what could go wrong?

Plenty, apparently.

“It just speaks to how increasingly difficult it is to get a project like this put on line,” Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel says. “At this time, we believe we can continue to manage these risks within the approved budget.”

More coverage from Chris Vanderveen writing for 9News.com. From the article:

The Southern Delivery System will, when completed in 2016, bring 78 million gallons of water a day from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs.

Major construction began on the 60-mile pipeline last year.

“Colorado Springs Utilities has been planning on the Southern Delivery System since really the late 80s,” SDS spokesperson Janet Rummel said. “It’s really going to help insulate us from a drought like we saw in 2002.”

It’s impossible not to notice the massive project in Pueblo West. Construction crews are feverishly digging trenches to house the pipeline. It’s often grueling work, requiring crews to dig into land that is flush with rock…

What is clear is that the project is providing much-needed relief for a construction industry that has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Jared Nessler works for HCP Constructors and is based out of Pueblo West. “We started working on SDS early in 2011,” he said. This job, he said, is right in his backyard.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

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

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary. Click here for the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Habitat Work to Improve Arkansas River Below Leadville

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

This summer, fish habitat enhancement work is slated to begin on public parts of the upper Arkansas River below the Highway 24 bridge. Biologists and engineers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife will take a hard look at what natural resource impacts are evident due to high metal content. It should set the stage for restoration alternatives to be developed.

The project continues the federal and state work to restore the California Gulch Superfund site, an 18-square mile area where historic mining activities discharged heavy metals and acid into California Gulch at the headwaters of the Arkansas River. Heavy metals make it hard for fish to sustain healthy populations.

Currently, trout can live in the river because of earlier mine cleanup efforts.

“The planning for this project has been going on for many years and people in the area (say they are) 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.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

American Water Works Association: Drinking Water Week — May 6 – 12

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Click here to go to the AWWA webpage. They write:

For more than 30 years, the American Water Works Association and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week – a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives. Join AWWA in celebrating the essential by celebrating water.

From The Fort Morgan Times:

The City of Fort Morgan is joining with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and water professionals across North America to celebrate Drinking Water Week May 6-12 and to highlight the importance of investing in water infrastructure.

“We all agree that water is an essential element in our daily lives, but for North Americans, water service is a convenience that we too often take for granted,” said Mitch Church, city water distribution superintendent. “Those buried pipes deliver the water that is vital to our quality of life and economic vitality. They are among our most valuable community assets, and we need to assure they are in good working order for the next generation.”

Much of the drinking water infrastructure in Fort Morgan was constructed by previous generations during the early 1900s, the 1920s and during the post-World War II boom. Many of the water mains from all three eras must be replaced or repaired in the next 25 years.

In fact, according to a recent AWWA study titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” the cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure will top $1 trillion in the next 25 years. That figure will rise to $1.7 trillion by 2050.

The City of Fort Morgan has more than $5 million in water distribution infrastructure upgrades planned in the next five years.

Addressing these issues will be costly, but not insurmountable, according to the “Buried No Longer” report. Facing them head-on by proactively investing in tap water systems is a smart, safe, common sense investment that will pay off for generations to come.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Parker: The quest for a sustainable water supply leads to political fallout over Rueter-Hess Reservoir and water rights purchases

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Tracy Hutchins, who served on Parker Town Council for eight years, has turned her attention to what she believes is negligence by the water district’s top authorities. She is decrying, among other dealings, the $7.7 million investment in farms and water rights in the Sterling area because she says the district has no way to transport the water back to Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a $105 million project that PWSD officials say is vital for storing water for Douglas County’s future. Instead of relying on underground aquifers that are rapidly being depleted, Parker Water planned Rueter-Hess as a mechanism to store water from wet years for use during times of drought. PWSD customers voted in 2004 to approve a bond issue that would use tap fees from ongoing development to pay for the reservoir construction. Hutchins says many Parker residents don’t know that when the real estate market crashed, the ratepayers were suddenly on the hook for the tab, which now stands at $97 million.

“In the bond election, we said we would use all means and methods necessary, including a tax increase in the event we could not make payments,” said Jim Nikkel, project manager and assistant district manager for PWSD. The quasi-governmental agency raised its mill levy for the 2011 tax year. Nikkel says water rate increases offset rising utility costs and don’t pay for the reservoir debt.

Hutchins says poor planning has saddled Parker’s water customers with debt, and the reservoir, which was officially opened in March, has only a puddle of water in it.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Routt County: The Board of Commissioner’s pony up $1 million in tax dough for two conservation easements

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The first property is Elkhead Ranch, where 1,560 acres of agricultural land will be conserved in the foothills of the Elkhead Mountains about 16 miles north of Hayden. The ranch is visible from Routt County Road 56.

The second is the Agner Mountain Ranch, where 1,337 acres of conserved agricultural land and wildlife habitat will be added to the 1,237 acres already under easement. The southern two-thirds of the ranch is typified by rolling hills covered in a mix of gambel oak and sagebrush. Calf Creek runs through the valley below, and Buck Mountain is a nearby landmark.

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust will hold the conservation easements.

Funding for the county’s purchase of development rights program comes from 1.5 mills of voter-approved property taxes that were renewed most recently in 2006. The purchase of development rights program is intended to give landowners an economically attractive alternative to selling land for development by instead compensating them for the development rights they agree to put under a conservation easement. By giving up those future development rights, the owners typically donate more than half of the appraised value of the land.

More Yampa River basin coverage here.