Red Cliff is back in the water and wastewater business

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From the Vail Daily:

According to a release from the district, Red Cliff and the district mutually decided in mid-April to end the operations agreement and arranged for the contract to expire May 12. Red Cliff’s former and current Board of Trustees supported the decision.

“In 2007, the district brought industry expertise and financial assistance to improve Red Cliff’s drinking water facility and treatment processes,” district director of operations Todd Fessenden said. “We helped bring the new wastewater treatment plant to fruition and upgraded other system components. We agree with Red Cliff that now is a good time to transition to a new operator to run the town’s systems.”

The district provided technical expertise and support to Red Cliff while the town successfully secured funding for a new wastewater treatment plant, which was subsequently built and put into operation in October 2010. Some of the funding Red Cliff secured required upgrades to the town water distribution system, including installation of water meters at every residence and business in town. District staff completed that project between 2007 and 2009 and also coordinated a rehabilitation of Red Cliff’s drinking water facility in 2008.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado River Basin: ‘There are no innocent parties’ — Pat Mulroy (Southern Nevada Water Authority)

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Here’s the first installment of the Deseret News’ (Amy Joi O’Donoghue) series about, “the impacts of the West’s shrinking water supply and the costly battle to find solutions.” Ms. O’Donoghue is a terrific writer so be sure to click through and read the whole article and check out the photo slideshow. Here’s an excerpt:

“There are no innocent parties,” said Nevada’s Pat Mulroy, who manages a water-delivery system for more than two thirds of her state’s residents. “No one on the river has the luxury of doing nothing.”

The reason? Colorado River flows are shrinking…

Ensuring the availability of water is among Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s highest priorities. “It is the only limiting factor to growth in Utah,” the governor said. “We’re going to have to worry about loss of flow and less capacity and volume in the river.”[…]

With this past winter’s snowpack well below average for the Colorado basin states — dipping down at 50 percent or below of what states normally get — this year is shaping up to be near-record setting for drought for the Colorado River system in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico…

The two largest reservoirs in the system, Lake Mead in Nevada and Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona, have been experiencing drastic declines. It took 19 years to fill Lake Mead to a level of 24 million acre-feet in 1998, but by 2007, the lake’s level had already decreased 54 percent. Mead supplies water to Las Vegas and surrounding communities — two-thirds of Nevada’s population…

Lake Powell, behind the Glen Canyon Dam, is experiencing a similar situation. It took 17 years to fill Lake Powell to its full capacity of 27 million acre-feet, and in just six years, between 1999 and 2005, the level of the lake was reduced by 60 percent.

The latest numbers projecting the volume of this year’s runoff into Lake Powell show that in only two other years — 1977 and 2002 — was there less water, leaving water managers to yearn for the conditions of last year, which was the third wettest on record since the gates at Glen Canyon Dam were closed in the mid-1960s.

“Never in the historic record have we seen a swing in hydrology from wet to dry of this magnitude,” said Rick Clayton, hydraulic engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation…

“The biggest hazard in my mind is that people don’t take this problem of future imbalances seriously,” [Malcolm Wilson, chief of water resources with the Bureau of Reclamation] said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

The IBCC hopes to focus grassroot efforts on a statewide water plan

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“If we are going to have a meaningful plan, it has to have the respect of everyone in the state,” John Stulp, the governor’s water adviser, told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable last week.

The roundtables and the Interbasin Compact Committee, created by state law in 2005, have been the vehicle moving toward a statewide water plan by 2016.

“What’s going to keep it from getting push-back like every other water plan proposed by previous governors?” asked Jeris Danielson, a water consultant and former state engineer.

“Those were top-down approaches,” Stulp said.

Here’s a guest column written by Lane Wyatt that’s running in the Summit Daily News. Here’s an excerpt:

Like most of the others, the Colorado Basin Roundtable created a list of environmental and recreational attributes for its basin’s waterways and maps that show where they occur. However, due largely to experience with transmountain diversions that take water from the Colorado’s headwaters to the Front Range, the members of the Colorado Basin Roundtable also decided they wanted to better understand how much water was needed to maintain those attributes. To achieve this understanding, the Roundtable participated in the development of the Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool, a cost-effective approach to assess the flow-related status of environmental and recreational attributes across the watershed.

The Colorado Basin Roundtable obtained funds from a pool of state grant moneys set aside for roundtable projects to develop the Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool and to apply it throughout the Colorado River Basin within Colorado. The tool evaluated the flow needs of certain environmental attributes that serve as indicators of the larger ecosystem needs. For example, flow needs for warm- or cold-water fish species indicate aquatic species flow needs, and flows necessary for the abundance and recruitment of cottonwoods indicate riparian flow needs. A key assumption embedded in the tool is that aquatic and riparian ecosystems rely on a variable flow regime: low flows are needed to maintain aquatic habitat; seasonal high flows are often needed to flush fine sediment and cue spawning of certain types of fish; and flood flows are needed to sustain riparian ecosystems, scour the channel, and to maintain alluvial water storage.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

GP Resources files change of use application

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re looking for versatility for other uses,” said Bill Grasmick, who sold water rights to GP and continues to farm for the Littleton-based company. “We’re adding some ability to use the wells for other local uses, such as water for oil wells. It’s the ability to change the use from irrigation, but it may not ever be used.” Grasmick is also a member of the board of the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, which filed the application in Division 2 water court last month.

The application also includes four wells owned by the Santa Fe Trail River Ranch, six by Ronald Wollert and two by the East Prowers Cemetery District.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Project spearheaded by Colorado State University aims to collect water quality data for the Cache la Poudre River

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

a first-of-its-kind Colorado State University project will try to gain a better understanding of the Poudre River and how climate change and industrial, agricultural, energy and urban development within its watershed affect its waters.

The Poudre begins in pristine wilderness, but flows through a variety of developed landscapes on its 126-mile run to the South Platte River. Scientists want to find out exactly how those uses of land above the river’s banks affect its water quality and flow.

When it’s complete, the project, called the Water Innovation Network, will place 60 water quality and water flow monitoring stations along the river from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to the Poudre’s confluence with the South Platte River east of Greeley. The stations will send real-time data to CSU, where scientists can measure the water flow, pollutants and other information as rain storms and development near the river’s banks affect its waters.

It will take researchers about five years to put most of the stations in place, and up to eight stations are expected to be installed by the end of the year, said project lead Mazdak Arabi, CSU assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“We want to know precisely what the condition of our water is because we drink that water, we use it in industrial processes, we use it to irrigate our crops,” said John Stokes, Fort Collins Natural Areas and Poudre River Sustainability Director. “The more we know about the qualities of that water, the better-equipped we’re going to be to steward that water, to take care of it, to improve the quality of that water and to use it wisely.”

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.

Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Post La Niña monsoons sometimes miss Colorado

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Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Click through for the cool graphic of possible monsoon scenarios. Here’s an excerpt:

The larger Pacific weather patterns are in a transitional phase. With winter’s La Niña officially over, it’s unclear if and how quickly an El Niño might form, or whether neutral conditions will persist over the Pacific for the next few months…

Some forecasters have suggested that a quick shift to a strong El Niño could bring better chances for a solid monsoon season to Colorado, but forecasting skills for the summer rains are not completely reliable. Monsoon moisture generally arrives in Colorado in mid-July, rotating clockwise around an area of high pressure to the south and east of the state, but the exact trajectory of that flow is hard to pinpoint in advance.

National Weather Service forecasters in Boulder say that post-La Niña monsoons often shift farther west, delivering the best moisture over Arizona and Nevada.

‘Unlike motorcycle riders, the trout has nowhere else to go besides Bear Creek’ — Jack Hunter

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

There are only four populations of pure-strain greenback cutthroat trout in the world, and genetic studies suggest the Bear Creek population is unique — an irreplaceable element of Colorado’s natural history. The trout were nearly extirpated from over-fishing by early settlers, and the introduction of non-native trout, as well as numerous water diversions, nearly drove them to extinction.

“Protecting Bear Creek is absolutely critical to saving this unique population of cutthroat trout,” said Jack Hunter, trout enthusiast and former Colorado Springs resident. “Unlike motorcycle riders, the trout has nowhere else to go besides Bear Creek.”

In recent years, the Forest Service has taken action to address the well-recognized impacts of motorcycles in Bear Creek, where steep slopes and fragile soils are a recipe for destruction by the vehicles, including building bridges to keep some crossings out of the stream.

Despite these efforts, a habitat assessment conducted last year by an independent consultant found ongoing problems with motorcycles causing erosion into the creek, which smothers spawning beds and fills pools that provide critical habitat for the vanishing fish. Population surveys show the trout in steep decline in Bear Creek over the past few years.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.