CWC Summer Conference: ‘The money available for infrastructure projects, especially for water, is going to be very challenging’ — Carl Steidtmann

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From Steamboat Today (Frank Ameduri):

“The real issue here with water is, ‘What are we going to do about it?’” Carl Steidtmann said. “The problem is our government entities are deeply in debt.”

Steidtmann, a Steamboat Springs resident who is chief economist for Deloitte, was the lunchtime speaker during the 2012 Summer Water and Energy Conference at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort on Wednesday. The three-day conference goes through Friday and is put on by the Colorado Water Congress. There are 240 people registered for the conference, and attendees include local politicians, state legislators and representatives from water conservancy districts, water departments and municipalities across the state.

Steidtmann’s keynote Wednesday was titled “The Regional Impact of the National Economy: Letting Go of the Status Quo for Water and Energy.”[…]

Steidtmann, who consults with Fortune 500 companies, said water is becoming an increasingly important issue for energy companies because of its increasing scarcity. To illustrate this point, he showed a map forecasting water availability in 2025. “The western part of the U.S. becomes one of those areas of critical water shortages,” Steidtmann said.

In an era of a contracting government where more money is being spent to pay off debt, Steidtmann said infrastructure projects are the ones that are easy to delay. “The money available for infrastructure projects, especially for water, is going to be very challenging,” he said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Environmentalism is a luxury good,” said Carl Steidtmann, chief economist for Deloitte Services. “Richer countries are more environmentally conscious.” In his view, poorer nations are more focused on the need to survive, and have a greater impact on the environment as populations grow. It takes money to protect the environment, he said. Energy development has been the greatest factor in the divide between rich and poor nations, but in the future, the availability of food and water will also have economic consequences, he said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We need to make sure the most water goes to the hottest fires,” said Reeves Brown, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. He was among state officials who discussed water project funding last week at the summer convention of the Colorado Water Congress. There is an estimated $5 billion backlog in about 1,000 community water projects across the state.

Mineral severance or federal lease fund revenues are a major source of funds for Colorado water projects to provide drinking water or treat wastewater. Since 2008, the state has looked toward those cash funds to make up shortfalls in other budget areas, particularly health care, education and prisons.

About $250 million over four years in funds that would have gone to local impact grants through DOLA have been diverted. That money would have leveraged three times as much in other grants or loans, Brown said. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has seen $163 million of construction funds diverted during the same period, while making about $80 million in loans to water projects.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Gypsum: LEDE Reservoir enlargement costs are up to just over $5 million

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From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

LEDE has a current capacity of 473 acre feet of water. The latest plans are to expand it to 947 acre feet. The expansion will submerge some small wetland areas that are around the reservoir at its present size and the town has plans to compensate for that loss by replacing the wetland areas with new ones. Those plans are mainly what need approval from the Corps of Engineers and it’s unclear if that will happen.

“We might want to get some other plans in the works if it looks like they’re going to fight us on these,” said water attorney Ramsey Kropf. “Then again, they might fight us on anything we propose.”

Costs were also bumped up in 2010 when the latest plans for the expansion were approved by Gypsum Town Council. Council members opted to expand the reservoir to 947 acre feet instead of 680 acre feet as originally planned. That budget presented the town with a $680,000 funding shortfall. However, the larger option was a much better value per acre foot.

At that point, the project was estimated to cost about $4.5 million. Now that number is just over $5 million, leaving a difference of $536,000 to scratch up.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Ceratium and gomphosphaeria are blooming in Arvada Reservoir

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From the Arvada Press (Sara Van Cleve):

Because of the extreme heat this summer, several kinds of algae, specifically ceratium and gomphosphaeria, have sprouted in Arvada Reservoir. “It’s the extended period of it that’s causing it to grow,” said Wendy Forbes, communications manager for the city of Arvada. “There is not enough fluctuation in temperatures.”

As the algae dies, it releases into the water a harmless chemical that causes the change in smell and taste, Forbes said. Though some residents have tasted and smelled the algae’s effects in their water, Forbes said, it is completely harmless.

“Arvada Water is adding carbons to the system to help with some of that,” she said. “It should stop once the algae is gone.” It takes about four days for water to pass through the purification system completely, so it takes about that long to collect enough data to see if the extra carbon is helping.

More water treatment coverage here.

Cherokee Metropolitan District ousts absentee director

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Bob Stephens):

A May recall failed to oust three members of the district board of directors, leaving the panel split 3-2. That split was on display Tuesday as board member Steve Hasbrouck was voted off for missing three consecutive meetings. So, once again, applications are being accepted for the vacancy and a special meeting is scheduled Aug. 29 to appoint a new board member.

This is typical for 8,000 homeowners in the district. They’ve endured astronomical rate hikes, reaching 87 percent, and water rationing since the board took bad legal advice and used water from the Upper Black Squirrel Basin without proper water rights. Cherokee lost a court battle and was ordered by a water court judge to abandon four of its 17 wells. Those wells provided more than 20 percent of Cherokee’s water supply. To replace the lost wells, Cherokee has been forced to buy expensive water from Colorado Springs Utilities, causing rates to soar.

More Cherokee Metropolitan District coverage here and here.

Forecast news: El Niño building in the Eastern Pacific Ocean

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From the Aspen Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

At this point, the weather gurus are confidently predicting that a full-fledged El Niño will develop by autumn, perhaps reaching peak strength during the winter, when its effects are most often felt.

And that could be good news for at least the first part of the ski season, according to Klaus Wolter, a meteorologist with the University of Colorado’s CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center and NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory.

From the Summit Daily News (Paige Blankenbuehler):

In Colorado, the eastern plains have the best chances of moisture from October 2012 to June 2013, according to Klaus Wolter, a climatologist who makes long-range forecasts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder. But things still may bode well for the mountains.

“In fact, one could argue that the northern Front Range and Rocky Mountains may end up with the wettest outcome,” Wolter said.

The last two years have been La Niña seasons and “long-lived La Niña events have a more pronounced tendency to flip to El Niño, 60 percent of two-year events end up in El Niño in the third year,” Wolter said.

Drought news: July inflows to Lake Powell = 14% of average

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Water managers are now forecasting a total inflow for water year 2012 of about 5.15 million acre feet, which is less than half (48 percent) of average. That would make it the third-driest year on record, but still much wetter than 2002, when total inflow was only 2.64 million acre feet (24 percent of average).

The water level in the key reservoir — which helps balance competing demands from the upper basin and lower basin states — has dropped fast, to 24 feet below the maximum 2011 level.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is reporting that July inflow was about 154,000 acre feet, with almost 900,000 acre feet released downstream. At the end of July, Lake Powell was at 60.4 percent of capacity, storing about 14.7 million acre feet. Read the full report on the Bureau’s Upper Colorado/Lake Powell web page.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

…thanks to a deal brokered by the Colorado Water Trust and sanctioned by the State Engineer’s Office, the [Colorado River] will get a measure of relief. Some “extra” water historically used for irrigation will help boost flows in some critical reaches of the Colorado.

In addition to the Colorado Water Trust and the State Engineer’s Office, the complex deal involves the Colorado Water Conservation Board; CLP Granby, LLC; and Aspen Shorefox LLC, a financial partnership on the Western Slope that were lenders in a proposed development and own 40 cfs of water on Willow Creek, a Grand County tributary to the Colorado River.

The water trust, privately funded primarily through donations, will pay to for the short-term lease. No public money is being spent on the lease. “Instead of that water being used for irrigation it will be used for instream flows just downstream of where it would have been diverted,” said Colorado Water Trust attorney Zac Smith.