Cloud seeding: Applied science or alchemy?


From the High Country News’ Goat blog (Emily Guerin):

Making rain may seem a bit like alchemy, but the practice has been around since the 1940s, when engineers at General Electric began experimenting with dumping dry ice into clouds from airplanes. Water districts and ski resorts around the West got into the practice in the 1970s, shooting silver iodide into winter clouds from mountain-top cannons…

Silver iodide crystals behave like ice, attracting water droplets to them until they grow big enough to fall to the ground as snow. Cloud seeding advocates say the practice is inexpensive—$10-20 per acre-foot of water created—and can boost snowfall by 10 to 15 percent. They’re also quick to point out there are no documented negative environmental effects of the process.

But it’s hard to separate cloud seeding-induced precipitation from what falls naturally from the sky. A 2010 study by Israeli researchers examining rainfall patterns and cloud seeding over the Sea of Galilee in Northern Israel found that a series of cyclones were responsible for increased rainfall over a six-year period, not cloud seeding. The state of Wyoming is currently spending $11 million on a multi-year study to determine whether the practice works and is cost-effective. Results are expected in 2014.

Still, the science is apparently convincing enough for water districts in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona to pay Upper Colorado River Basin states to seed clouds. Since 2006, Lower Basin states have spent over $800,000 in Colorado and around $500,000 in Utah and Wyoming.

More cloud seeding coverage here and here.

Telluride: Engineering report rates the town’s water system as ‘poor’ and the sewer system as ‘fair’


From the Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

Engineers from Farnsworth Group presented a review of Telluride’s water and sewer systems to the Telluride Town Council on Tuesday. In their assessment, Engineers Xuehua Bai and Eric Garner reviewed the health of miles of the town’s pipeline based on factors like age and material of the pipe, assigned scores to segments of the system and gave overall ratings. Based on their data, they concluded that the overall rating of the town’s municipal water system is poor, while the sewer system fared better with a rating of fair.

The town’s municipal water system is fed by Mill Creek, and includes the treatment plant at Mill Creek, a backup source at Stillwell Tunnel, three storage tanks and 19.6 miles of pipeline…

The Farnsworth Group concluded that the town needs to replace 14,000 feet of its water pipelines, or 13.6 percent of the total water line. The cost is estimated to be about $1.6 million, although that estimate is based on 2011 prices.

In the sewer system, meanwhile, the engineers identified 5,200 feet of pipeline, or 4.2 percent of the overall sewer line, that needs to be replaced, at a cost of $660,000.

More infrastructure coverage here.

‘The return of chilly air and early season snow is expected in the Rockies for Fall 2012’ — Meghan Evans


From (Meghan Evans):

The return of chilly air and early season snow is expected in the Rockies for Fall 2012, while temperatures will remain mild for portions of the Midwest and Northeast…

“I think there will be some early cold outbreaks out over the central and northern Rockies, especially. I think that where the season-winter season-actually is going to start much quicker,” [AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok] emphasized. Temperatures are expected to average 1-2 degrees below normal for the northern Rockies this fall…

The mountains in Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico may start to get snowfall during October. “As far as early snowfall goes, I think places in the Four Corner region will be the places to watch. The jet stream will be increasing across that area. And I think they will start to see some snow falling by as early as early- to mid-October,” Pastelok said…

Western and central portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas will get some rain relief from the brutal drought…

A gradual fading of the tropical season is expected to occur during October, depending on how fast and strong El Niño comes on.

Windy Gap Firming Project: ‘No bypass or increased flushing flows, no permit’ — Kirk Klancke


From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

The hearing gave all of the interested parties a chance to voice their opinions and concerns about the project before it was submitted to the Grand County Commissioners for approval or denial.

Enhancements and mitigations to the Colorado River, Grand Lake, and Willow Creek are part of the proposed agreement and include a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir, larger flushing flows for the Upper Colorado River, and a list of other possible mitigation measures.

Planned mitigation measures

The existing diversions at Windy Gap take 60 percent of native flows out of the Upper Colorado and the proposed expansion to the project would take another estimated 15-20 percent of flows, according to Trout Unlimited.

“Under present plans, expanding Windy Gap would make a bad situation worse because it would increase periods of low flows and significantly reduce runoff, which is critical to clean the river of excess silt and sediment contributed by Windy Gap Reservoir,” said Amelia Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project.

Mitigations and enhancements meant to address the impacts are proposed in the agreement for the Colorado River, Grand Lake, and Willow Creek.

“We are not opposed to this project, we just want to see the right mitigations take place,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Headwaters of the Colorado chapter of Trout Unlimited. “No bypass or increased flushing flows, no permit.”

The enhancements that are proposed were the main topic of discussion during the meeting as interested parties made arguments for specific mitigation’s and enhancements.

Each party agreed that the river would be better off with the proposed mitigations and enhancements than it would be without them. However, the parties differed about which mitigations should take priority.

Some of the parties who voiced their opinions about the proposed mitigation’s and enhancements include the Upper Colorado River Alliance, Trout Unlimited, Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Town of Grand Lake, and members of the public.

Some of the main enhancements that are proposed are the construction of a bypass around or through Windy Gap Reservoir and increased flushing flows to the Colorado, which would help to restore the habitat of the gold-medal fishing waters below the Windy Gap Dam.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

Drought news: The ‘Cameo Call’ and forgone deliveries will float Aspen’s annual Ducky Derby


From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

Diversions from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. have ceased for the time being in order to fulfill a call for water on the lower Colorado River. The so-called “Cameo Call” near Grand Junction is the second-most senior water right on the Colorado, sending water to irrigate farms and other land in western Colorado. Water is being left in the Roaring Fork, which joins the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, to meet that call, boosting flows in the river through town. In addition, the Salvation Ditch Co. has agreed to suspend its diversion from the river Saturday, and the city of Aspen, which has a small ditch diversion, will do the same. The Salvation Ditch pulls water from the river just east of town.

“All those things combined are allowing us to run the race in the river,” said an enthused Chris Berry, Aspen Rotary Club member and “head duck,” on Wednesday. “We’re excited.”

The Rotary Club, sponsor of the event, had planned a series of relay races Saturday, anticipating a dearth of water in the river. The alternate plan called for racing youngsters to carry ducks. Winners would deposit their ducks into a swimming pool, which was to be emptied into a chute to produce a winner. Instead, a truckload of rubber ducks will be dumped into the river at No Problem Bridge, and the bobbing yellow competitors will float to the finish line, adjacent to Rio Grande Park, as usual.

More prior appropriation coverage here.

2012 Colorado November election: Rifle Council puts funding for new water treatment plant on the November ballot


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Niki Turner):

The city wants to get the money for the plant through a $25.5 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Authority.

City officials have said the existing Graham Mesa plant is aging, undersized to serve projected population growth and unable to meet possible tougher federal water quality standards in the future.

Under the water rate structure approved earlier this year by council to help repay the loan and cover operating costs of the new plant, the base rate charged to city water users will nearly double, as of Sept. 1.

City Finance Director Charles Kelty said Tuesday that if voters approve the three-quarter cent sales tax measure in November, the second phase of the rate hike, due to take affect April 1, could be lowered. That would require City Council action sometime after the first of the year, he added.

Kelty said the bonds for the loan were sold last week and he expected to receive the paperwork this week. After those documents are signed by city officials and returned to the water and power authority, the closing date will be Aug. 14. No further action by council is needed to finalize the loan, he added.

More 2012 Colorado November Election coverage here. More infrastructure coverage here.