World Water Week 2012 kicks off

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It’s World Water Week. They are webcasting the presentations live so click through for all the gory details. Twitter hash tag #WWWeek.

Tomorrow in Denver: A public celebration of the life force and legacy of Joe Shoemaker

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From email from the Greenway Foundation:

A public celebration of the life force and legacy of Joe Shoemaker, Founder and longtime Chairman of both The Greenway Foundation and the Foundation for Colorado State Parks, will be held on Tuesday, August 28th, at Confluence Park (map), beginning at 10:00 a.m. Following, a reception will be held across the River at Shoemaker Plaza. Complimentary parking has been made possible by the Downtown Aquarium (map).

Confluence Park is a large open area. Chairs will be provided, but please be prepared for the weather. It is often very hot and sunny, and there is also the possibility of rain.

The Downtown Aquarium’s parking lot is located on Water St. – one block off of the I-25 and 23rd Ave. exit (#211), across the street from the Aquarium and Fishback Landing Park. The parking lot is situated approximately one block away from Confluence Park. Shuttles are being provided to assist those in need of transportation from the Downtown Aquarium parking to Confluence Park. Attendees are encouraged to car pool to maximize the availability of the limited free parking so generously provided by the Downtown Aquarium.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility Construction Completed

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have completed construction of a complex of grow-out ponds at the Horsethief Canyon Native Fish facility located just outside of Fruita, Colo. The ponds were constructed as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the San Juan River Basin Recovery Program, to hold and rear endangered Colorado River fish.

A total of 22 ponds were constructed by Kissner General Contractors Inc., of Cedaredge, Colo., at a total cost of $5.3 million which was funded by the recovery programs to rear endangered razorback sucker, and Colorado pikeminnow, as well as bonytail and humpback chub in the future.

The ponds range in size from 0.1 to 0.5 acres with a combined total of approximately 6.2 acres of ponds each between five and six feet deep and lined with a geo-membrane fabric to reduce seepage. This will allow the ponds to be drained, maintain water levels during operation, and provide an area for the fish to be concentrated when the time comes to be relocated. All design work on the ponds was completed by Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office. In the coming months, Reclamation will complete mitigation and re-vegetation of the site.

The need for the grow-out ponds was initially identified as an essential component of the recovery programs to ensure the successful reproduction of the endangered Colorado River fish and genetic monitoring efforts. Without the grow-out ponds, production of endangered fishes of optimal size and numbers for stocking cannot be ensured and certain research in the area of genetics and propagation will be hampered.

The FWS currently produces approximately 28,000 razorbacks suckers annually at the Ouray National Fish Hatchery, Grand Valley Unit in Grand Junction, Colo. Approximately 75 percent of these fish are taken to private ponds leased by the Service and the remainder of the fish are kept at the hatchery. The Service has an annual goal of releasing a minimum of 15,000 fish, at an approximate length of 300 millimeters (11.8 inches), back to the rivers.

The Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility will reduce, if not eliminate, the need for leasing private ponds. Also, since the facility will be operated and maintained by the Service, the facility will provide greater numbers of fish to be returned to the river…

The ponds were constructed at an elevation that will prevent overtopping up to the 100-year flood event. The facility will be fenced to prevent river otters from entering the ponds and to preclude entry by the public.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Sterling Ranch Rezoning and Water Appeal Revoked

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From email from Jennifer Riefenberg and the Chatfield Community Association:

On August 22, 2012, Douglas County District Court’s Judge Paul King, determined that Douglas County Commissioners abused their discretion in approving both the Sterling Ranch rezoning as well as its controversial water appeal, in May 2011, siding with the Plaintiffs, the Chatfield Community Association, et. al. In his determination, Judge King ruled that “The Board has no authority to approve the application without the Applicant demonstrating the adequacy of the water supply.” Judge King cited “In this case the applicant freely admits that it did not submit proof of an adequate water supply as part of its application.”

Douglas County has a long-held reputation for approving development which is dependent on non-renewable ground water or other non-sustainable water supplies. The Board of County Commissioners continued this trend when they approved the Sterling Ranch development in May 2011. Yesterday’s decision by the District Court focused on a 2008 revision to state statutes (CRS 29-20) that require “a water supply that will be sufficient for build-out of the proposed development in terms of quality, quantity, dependability, and availability to provide a supply of water for the type of development proposed…” , as well as Douglas County Zoning Resolution.

Water is a critical issue for the citizens and legislature of Colorado. However, Douglas County is currently proposing changes to their own zoning regulations that would make it even easier for development to occur without demonstrating a sustainable water supply. The impact of Judge King’s ruling should thwart this attempt to loosen these regulations..

Chatfield Community Association (CCA) is comprised primarily of citizens living in the Chatfield Basin area. CCA is interested in responsible growth, including clear and reliable evidence that the developer can provide the necessary infrastructure, water and wastewater commitments, density-appropriate plans for protecting sensitive areas, including Chatfield State Park, and protecting the rural way of life in the Chatfield Basin

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

CoCoRaHS a finalist in Jackson Hole Science Media

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Emily Wilmsen):

The program, called Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS, has been named a finalist in the Best Short Program category for a video about the water cycle called “CoCoRaHS Presents: The Water Cycle Community.” The educational video was created by CSU and Noah Besser.

More education coverage here.

San Miguel River: Montrose County water rights application amended, some objectors remain

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The agreement, which was also signed by the Town of Telluride, allows Montrose County far fewer water rights — both in volume and the ability to build reservoirs — than it originally applied for. The agreement mandates that the county drop its claims for the Marie Scott Reservoir and other facilities, which were proposed to be constructed near Specie and Beaver mesas, and forces Montrose County to select, within six years, one or two of the remaining four proposed new reservoirs to develop and abandon the others. It subjects all the water rights to volumetric restrictions of 3,200 acre-feet, and subjects the county to what are known as need-based reality checks. Under this measure, Montrose County is given a period of time to demonstrate that the predictions it had to justify the water rights applications were valid. If it fails to meet those requirements, its water use limit will be reduced.

The Town of Telluride, which was one of the parties that filed in opposition to the county’s application, signed off on the settlement agreement after determining that it sufficiently protects the water in the river. Town Attorney Kevin Geiger said the town will likely send the judge a fully executed stipulation and proposed decree this week to consider entering as an order to the court…

Montrose County Commissioner Gary Ellis, meanwhile, said he is happy with the settlement. He feels the agreement is a fair and realistic settlement that provides the county enough water to meet its needs…

Not everyone has given it the OK, however. The Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Division of Water Resources remain as objectors; Montrose County Attorney Bob Hill told the Montrose Daily Press this week that the county is working out some details with them. And Telluride-based environmental organization Sheep Mountain Alliance dropped out of the settlement agreement to preserve its right to challenge Montrose County in the future…

Montrose County filed the six applications for water rights in the San Miguel River and its tributaries in 2010. It filed the applications in a bid to get ahead of a planned Colorado Water Conservation Board instream flow water rights application, which aims at ensuring minimum flows in the waterway to protect aquatic habitat, and cited a need to supply future industrial, residential and commercial development, including a golf course, uranium milling activity and an anticipated population growth.

In its filings, Montrose County sought to adjudicate diversions of more than four cubic feet per second, six separate reservoirs and reservoir enlargements with a capacity of more than 51,000 acre-feet and potential annual diversions of more than 96,000 acre-feet, and water exchanges to facilitate diversions, storage and water delivery, according to Town of Telluride documents.

The filing raised alarms in the river’s watershed; soon, the Town of Telluride filed statements of opposition, joining several other objectors in the case, including Sheep Mountain Alliance, the owner of Gateway Resorts, San Miguel County and private landowners in the region.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.

Drought news: Instream flow leases help keep water in the Yampa River over the summer

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From the Summit Daily News (Zach Smith/Edalin Koziol):

As Colorado watched state snowpack report maps change from a dull yellow to bright red at the end of 2012’s spring, Yampa River flows at Steamboat Springs dove from 501 cfs on June 1 to 42 cfs on June 27. On June 28, when flows on the Yampa average near 1,000 cfs, Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District began releasing water from a pool of 4,000 acre-feet the Colorado Water Trust (CWT) and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) leased for instream flows. Since that day, flows through Steamboat Springs have ranged from 72 cfs to 138 cfs, staving off what might have been a disastrous summer for the Yampa River.

To date, CWCB and CWT have entered into three such leases in two different water divisions in the state, with several more still in the negotiation and approval stages. In addition, Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked directly with CWCB for a lease of water out of Lake Avery for the White River. But the lease with Upper Yampa, officially approved by the Division of Water Resources on July 11, represents the first use of a drought-response law crafted after the drought of 2002.

These voluntary, market-based transactions form the heart of CWT’s mission: to restore and protect streamflows using such solutions. We are neither an advocacy nor a policy group, but a Denver-based nonprofit organization dedicated to using existing tools within the prior appropriation system to rewet dry streams statewide. Founded in 2001 by a group of water attorneys and engineers, CWT also facilitates the permanent transfer of senior water rights into the CWCB’s Instream Flow Program.

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Chris Forman, Aspen’s city forester, says the yellow leaves popping up in the area could indicate stressed trees and could mean an early and shorter color season.

But Jim Kravitz with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies tells the Aspen Daily News the rain in July and August has helped nourish a lot of the forest. And he predicts the trees’ color will peak the third week of September, which is the time it typically occurs.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The town government on Friday lifted the mandatory watering restrictions it had imposed July 10. Recent rains have increased humidity and vegetation moisture levels, making the restrictions on irrigation less critical.

From email from the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District (Randy Gillette):

The District has been supplying potable water from a combination of deep wells and Lake Woodmoor since May 2012. With the combination of our customers practicing water smart conservation measures and the use of Lake Woodmoor, we were able to meet the peak demands during the summer irrigation season.

The lake level has been lowered approximately ten feet which is within the normal range of operations. The past few months have been warmer than normal and with the lower lake level, changes in water quality can be expected. The District’s water treatment facilities are designed to meet federal and state treatment standards in the event of changes to water quality. With the lake at the lower operating level and recent changes to water quality, we will transition back to using water exclusively from the Denver Basin aquifers.

Customers may notice a change in water quality; however, the transition to well water may take a few days to completely exchange throughout the distribution system.

National Weather Service: El Niño watch in effect

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Click here for the September – November Climate Outlook for Colorado from the National Weather Service. Here’s a preview:

During July, prevailing oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean indicated the presence of ENSO-neutral conditions. However, in recent weeks positive equatorial sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have continued to steadily increase, exceeding 0.5C across the eastern tropical Pacific. This and other indicators reflect a likely progression towards El Niño…

Nine of the 17 dynamical models used to predict the different phases of ENSO indicate an El Niño of at least moderate strength (an average SST anomaly of 1.0˚C and greater) during the September-November (SON) 2012 climate season. Two dynamical models go so far as to predict a strong El Niño during this three month period.

By contrast, none of the eight statistical ENSO prediction models indicate an El Niño stronger than weak during the SON 2012 season. Three of these models predict neutral conditions to persist through the 2012-2013 winter season…

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Precipitation in northeast Colorado for the [3-month] period of September, October and November has historically been above average during El Niño events, slightly below average during ENSO-neutral conditions and below average during La Niña episodes.

For the same three month period, temperatures were slightly below average during El Niños, and above average during ENSO-neutral conditions and La Niña events…

For the months of September, October and November, precipitation in southeast Colorado has historically been above average during El Niño events and near to below average for ENSO-neutral and La Niña episodes.

For the same three month period, temperature was below average during El Niño events and near to above average during ENSO-neutral and La Niña conditions…

Precipitation in western Colorado during these same 3 months was historically above average during El Niños, near to slightly below average for ENSO-neutral conditions, and below average during La Niña events.

Temperatures during the same period were slightly below average for El Niños, and slightly above average for ENSO-neutral and La Niña conditions.

Click through and look at the whole report. It’s chock full of data.