Drought news: Greeley is asking folks to stop watering on October 1

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From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano) via The Denver Post:

If residents stop watering their lawns by Oct. 1, the city will have more water in its reservoirs to use after this winter, said Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director. The city normally recommends that residents stop watering their lawns by Oct. 15.

Because water in the Poudre River was contaminated with ash and soot from the High Park and Hewlett Gulch fires this summer, much of Greeley’s water came from Boyd Lake and Lake Loveland. Coupled with one of the driest years on record, the drop in those reservoir water levels was one of the most drastic the city has experienced, cutting the supply in half.

Even so, Greeley has enough water to get through the winter, Monson said. He said the plea to residents to turn off their sprinklers is more of a proactive request…

If every Greeley resident stopped watering by Oct. 1, the city would probably save about 2,500 acre-feet of water, he said — enough to supply up to 600 Greeley households with water for a year.

Denver Water sets course for 2013 upgrades

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Over the past five years, Denver Water has invested nearly $420 million in repairing and upgrading its water system, some of which was built more than 100 years ago. Like utilities across the nation, Denver Water faces the arduous task of staying on top of maintenance for its aging system to ensure area residents continue to receive high-quality, award-winning water and reliable service every day.

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a budget and rate changes to fund essential repairs and upgrades in 2013.

The 2013 budget is $341 million, which will fund a number of multi-year projects, such as replacing failing underground storage tanks, upgrading water treatment facilities to maintain water quality and meet new regulatory requirements, and replacing aging pipes. Next year’s budget will be funded by water rates, bond sales, drawing down cash reserves, the sale of hydropower and fees for new service (tap fees).

The budget calls for a rate increase effective January 2013 of $0.55 per month on average for Denver residential customers using 115,000 gallons annually (the average annual consumption for Denver Water’s service area) and about $0.91 per month on average for full-service suburban residential customers using the same amount of water. The amounts will vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water. Customers in Denver tend to use less than 115,000 gallons per year; suburban customers tend to use more.

“In 2012, we completed a number of significant projects, like the $18.3 million upgrade of 100-year-old valves at Cheesman Dam, and a $17 million project to install a new hydro turbine and repair the 50-year-old valve system at Williams Fork Dam,” said Angela Bricmont, Denver Water’s director of finance. “We also reconstructed Harriman Dam, built in the 1890s, to bring it up to current standards.”

In the next decade, Denver Water plans to spend about $120 million on treated water storage tank projects, including the new 10-million-gallon reservoir in Lone Tree to store treated water (pictured) — a project that was completed in July. This fall, Denver Water will begin the $40 million construction of the Ashland Treated Water Reservoir facility that will take more than three years to construct.
The utility also completed Lone Tree Reservoir — a 10 million-gallon circular underground storage tank — to help meet the needs of residents on the south end of its service area. By the end of 2012, Denver Water will have replaced, upgraded or rehabilitated nearly 25 miles of pipe in area neighborhoods.

Denver Water owns and maintains more than 3,000 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 19 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. The utility examines and adjusts its capital plan as necessary each year.

“Looking ahead, we will need to continue to invest in our reservoirs, water treatment facilities, watershed protection, recycled water and conservation,” said Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “As always, our goal is to ensure that our customers, their children and grandchildren will receive a reliable supply of the highest quality water in return for the investment they are making in their water system.”

Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city would remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs would still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

The water department is a public agency funded by water rates and new tap fees, not taxes. Water rates are designed to recover the costs of providing water service — including maintenance of distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants — and also encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. Most of Denver Water’s annual costs are fixed and do not vary with the amount of water sold.

More Denver Water coverage here and here.

Northern Colorado Regional Issues Summit recap: More storage, conservation taken too far will kill the tree canopy

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Colorado’s population is expected to increase from 5.1 million people to nearly 7.2 million by 2030. Most of that growth will occur on the Front Range, including Northern Colorado. As a result, water use will surge from 511,800 acre feet to 630,000 acre feet, said Andy Jones, a water attorney for Lawrence Jones Custer Grasmick. An acre-foot of water is the amount required to fill one acre, one foot deep. That means the state must build even more reservoirs than are now planned if it hopes to address the projected 118,200 acre-foot gap in water supply, Jones said…

The panel addressed the situation as part of the Regional Issues Summit on Wednesday at the Embassy Suites in Loveland…

Water storage is particularly important for Northern Colorado considering the intense use of the resource by industry, including agriculture and brewing, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute.

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

If everyone stops watering their lawns, they will jeopardize their green grass, but “you’re also jeopardizing the tree canopy,” Wilkinson said. “Deep percolation off lawn water keeps trees alive.”

Experts at the summit agreed that there’s no way for water conservation alone to solve the region’s water supply challenges as the state endures extreme drought conditions and Colorado’s population is expected to explode to more than 7 million by 2030…

Though water conservation isn’t enough, the area needs to take water conservation more seriously so that the city can reduce water demand to from the current 155 gallons per person per day to 140, said Fort Collins Poudre River Sustainability Director John Stokes.

Bobby Magill was live-Tweeting the event at #nocoissues along with many others.

More coverage from Grace Hood writing for KUNC. From the article:

“With the water we have in agriculture in Weld and Larimer counties, we have plenty of water to sustain any population that you’d want to have in this area. It’s a question of how much agriculture do you want to dry up?” [Eric Wilkinson]

This problem doesn’t have easy solutions. Part of it could come from lowering Front Range water use by 10 or 20 percent. However reusing and recycling water more could present other problems according to Andrew Jones, an attorney who specializes in water issues.

“When we talk about conserving, we have to introduce that concept into the discussion that we may also be reducing flows in the river and changing the river regime,” he says…

Ultimately, Northern Water’s Eric Wilkinson says the region needs to become more protective of its water supply, particularly when it comes to Denver Metro expansion. And that could come from creating a so called “water bank,” which could buy water rights from retiring farmers, preserving and leasing them back to agriculture and northern cities…

“We will be pursuing a resolution from the legislature in support of NISP in order encourage its forward progress more swiftly given the dynamics at play,” [the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance’s Sandra Hagen] says.

More coverage from Craig Young writing for the Loveland Reporter-Herald. From the article:

[Eric Wilkinson], as head of a water conservancy district engaged in planning and building water storage projects, joined other panelists in urging the construction of reservoirs to capture water the region has rights to. He said the Denver metro area already has demonstrated its willingness to come north to obtain water for its burgeoning population…

“Satisfying Denver’s thirst is probably one of the more important aspects to look at,” he said.

Leaders in Northern Colorado “need to consider a protectionist attitude in regard to the water supplies in this area.”

One way to do that, he said, would be to tie up the water here in a cooperative arrangement between farmers and local entities “so it’s not a candidate for going south to Denver.”

Wilkinson suggested the formation of a water bank as something officials here should consider. Through a new tax, the bank could buy water from retiring farmers, “bank” it and lease it to young farmers and other users…

Panelist John Stokes, the city of Fort Collins’ director of Poudre River sustainability, made the strongest appeal for conservation. He acknowledged that Northern Colorado needs more water storage but said, “I agree we can’t conserve our way out … but we can be a lot more aggressive about conservation.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

‘I would suggest (skiers) take full advantage of the powder days and not take them for granted this season’ — Joe Ramey

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From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

[Joe Ramey, a meteorologist and climate expert at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction] is predicting the return of a weak El Niño this year, a climate pattern that typically has major winter storms track south of Interstate 70 and favor the San Juan Mountains. “I would suggest (skiers) take full advantage of the powder days and not take them for granted this season,” Ramey said. “The tendency (during El Niño years) is for snowstorms to be few and far between in Steamboat. But there are lots of ways for my climate prediction to be wrong.”

He said El Niño could cede to neutral conditions as early as January, a weather pattern Ramey said is more unpredictable and could bring an abundance of snowfall to Northwest Colorado, or a lack of it. Ramey bases his annual winter forecasts on snowfall data going back to 1950 and following the state of El Niño…

Ramey said the study of El Niño and La Niña is the best way to try and develop an early winter forecast. “Dynamic climate models and statistical climate models still are not as effective as looking at the state of El Niño and following those patterns,” he said. While the rising Pacific Ocean temperatures currently spell bad news for Steamboat’s ski season, Ramey said time always can prove the predictions wrong and reverse Steamboat Ski Area’s fortunes.

Drought news: Telluride lifts watering restrictions

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

With the summer high season coming to a close, Telluride has lifted the water restrictions that had been in place since June 12. Town Manager Greg Clifton repealed those restrictions on Friday with an executive order. Clifton said that it wasn’t a boost in water supply that prompted him to lift the ban. Rather, it was the drop in water demand that takes place on the heels of the festival season, coupled with the fact that irrigation and lawn watering are tapering off. “We’re at the point where consumption’s not going to surge anymore,” Clifton said…

Construction of the town’s Pandora water treatment plant, a new water delivery system that’s been in the works for two decades, has been proceeding on schedule this summer, Clifton said. The new system is designed to pipe water from lakes in Upper Bridal Veil Basin down Black Bear road to a new treatment facility located near the Pandora Mill, and is expected to improve the town’s water capacity. If all goes as planned, the new plant could be activated in the spring of 2014.

Can the Flaming Gorge pipeline save ag and water Colorado’s burgeoning population?

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Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by Eric Hecox. He is exploring the benefits of the Flaming Gorge pipeline, originally conceived by Aaron Million, now in the gunsights of the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition. Here’s an excerpt:

One potential new water project, the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, is being discussed and analyzed for its feasibility. The newly formed Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee is taking a closer look at this pipeline project. Simultaneously to this process, both public and private groups are investigating the potential of the project to meet present and future water demands. The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition, a public organization comprised of water and municipal entities in Colorado and Wyoming that could receive water from the pipeline if it is built, is conducting a feasibility study. A private developer, Aaron Millions, is also examining the project.

The Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee has identified three areas of focus related to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline: explore interests and issues related to a possible Flaming Gorge water supply project; gather and analyze current information about the potential impacts of such a project; and explore what additional work or activities would be needed to address the issues and interests.

The committee itself is a pilot project, created to assess the effectiveness of roundtable-based collaborations to explore water supply projects and issues. While the committee is focused on the Flaming Gorge project, it will also evaluate and track ideas and issues that emerge that can be applied to other potential water supply projects. The committee’s purpose is to gather information and explore ideas. It will not make recommendations about whether or not to build the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is also analyzing the feasibility of the project. Established in 2010, the coalition is a joint collaboration between Colorado and Wyoming entities. The Colorado entities are: Douglas County, South Metro Water Supply Authority, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Town of Castle Rock and Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. The Wyoming entities are: City of Cheyenne, City of Torrington and Laramie County…

The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is committed to a transparent examination of the Flaming Gorge Project. The coalition will complete the study, develop information, and engage in discussions with supporters as well as with skeptics and opponents.

Meeting Colorado’s water needs undoubtedly necessitates developing new water projects. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline project appears promising, however there is much work to be done including an objective examination of the project and open discussions among interested parties. Colorado has a robust water supply planning process and it is encouraging that, through this process and through project proponents, potential solutions to Colorado’s water shortage are emerging.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Windsor: A look at the town’s water resources

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From the Windsor Beacon (Carrie Knight):

Water is a confusing topic in the West. Windsor is not exempt from the historical idiosyncrasies of water law upon which Colorado was founded. Sitting at the heart of Colorado Water Law is Article 16 of the state Constitution, better known as “Prior Appropriation.” “Prior Appropriation” essentially states first in use, first in right. Many people are surprised when they find out that in addition to a set number of water “shares” the town holds in Windsor Lake, the town purchases its water from three additional providers, including the North Weld County Water District, city of Greeley and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District. Each of these districts holds prior appropriation to water sources from which the town directly benefits.

The “shares” or allotments of water in Windsor Lake are owned by the Kern Reservoir and Ditch Co., of which the town owns majority shares. The Kern Reservoir and Ditch Co., formerly the Lake Supply Ditch Co., has a long history in Windsor. As early as 1903, the Lake Supply and Ditch Co., had secured “first in right” of Windsor Lake. Today, it is used solely for recreational purposes and as a nonpotable irrigation reservoir. Windsor entered into its agreement with the city of Greeley for mountain water drawn from the Poudre River near Bellvue in 1908. Other early Windsor residents benefited from private wells drilled on their property. Some of these private wells still exist today.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.