Douglas County is hosting a public workshop on October 4 for review of the county’s water regulations


From the Highlands Ranch Herald (Rhonda Moore):

County planners on Oct. 4 will host a public workshop to review proposed revisions to Section 18A of the Douglas County zoning resolution. Section 18A is the resolution that addresses the commissioners’ discretion to determine when an applicant shall satisfy the adequacy of the water supply for a proposed development. It is also the section of the county’s zoning regulations at the heart of the Sterling Ranch lawsuit.

In May 2011, commissioners approved the Sterling Ranch application to rezone 3,400 acres in a development planned for up to 12,000 homes. At the same time, the county approved an exception to section 18A of its regulations to permit Sterling Ranch to prove its water supply at each phase of construction, rather than at the beginning of the planned development. The board’s decision was challenged in court and, on Aug. 22, a district court judge ruled against the county.

Commissioners asked staff to revisit the county’s regulations to ensure the county remains aligned with state statute, said Commissioner Jack Hilbert.

Meanwhile the Sterling Ranch has asked the judge to reconsider. Here’s a report from Rhonda Moore writing for the Castle Rock News Press. From the article:

In a motion filed Sept. 12 in Douglas County District Court, the motion asked District Court Judge Paul King to have a second look at his Aug. 22 order in favor of the Chatfield Community Association that reversed the Douglas County Board of County Commissioner’s approval of the Sterling Ranch planned development and water appeal.

With their approval, commissioners granted Sterling Ranch permission to rezone 3,400 acres in a development planned for up to 12,000 homes. In tandem with the rezone, commissioners approved a water appeal that granted Harold Smethills, Sterling Ranch managing director, to prove an adequate water supply for the development at each plat filing, or phase, of construction.

King’s ruling came about a year after commissioners approved the Sterling Ranch application. King applied a state law that says “the Board has no authority to approve the application without the Applicant demonstrating the adequacy of the water supply.”

Attorney David Foster, on behalf of Sterling Ranch, hopes King will reconsider his decision. His argument is two-fold: that the rezone is not for new construction, it is for use; and that the state only requires a water analysis at one point during the development process.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Drought news: Much of the nation is still fighting drought


From Reuters (Carey Gillam)

In Colorado, studies predict a chain of Colorado River reservoirs that serve about 30 million people has a 50 percent chance of running dry in the next 45 years. This will affect seven states — Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Longer and more frequent droughts, decreases in snowpack, and increasing demand are key factors.

“Over the last couple of years, people have started realizing that what they thought they had in terms of supply is not materializing. They are really panicking,” said Barney Austin, director of hydrologic services for INTERA Inc., an Austin, Texas-based geoscience and engineering consulting firm.

Overall, more than 30 U.S. states are anticipating water shortages by 2013, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Denver Water is raising rates starting in January 2013


From the Associated Press via KRQE:

Denver Water said Wednesday that rates for an average residential customer in Denver using 115,000 gallons annually would go up 55 cents per month, or about 1.5 percent. It would go up about 91 cents per month on average for full-service suburban residential customers.

The rate increases were included in a $341 million budget for 2013 that the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted Wednesday.

The budget includes funding for projects including replacing failing underground storage tanks, upgrading water treatment facilities, and replacing aging pipes. The budget relies in part on the rate increase, bond sales, drawing down cash reserves, selling hydropower and tap fees for new service for funding.

More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

Denver Water’s 2013 rates will rise an average of 55 cents per month for residential customers inside the city, while rates for its suburban customers are expected to rise an average of 91 cents per month. That’s based on customers using 115,000 gallons a year, the average annual consumption for Denver Water’s customers, the utility said Wednesday

More Denver Water coverage here and here.

The General Assembly may come out for the skiing industry against the USFS’s ‘taking’ of water rights


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The proposed resolution, under review by an interim legislative committee, would oppose a new Forest Service water rights clause in ski area special use permits that would bar resorts from transferring certain water rights to third parties. The Forest Service clause also requires ski areas to transfer certain water rights to the United States or to subsequent special permit use holders if a permit is terminated. The measure is one of several water bills on the agenda during a session of the interim Water Resources Review Committee. The bills will be discussed by lawmakers Thursday (Sept. 27) morning, with public testimony in the afternoon. The session will be streamed on the web. Go to this Colorado Legislature website and click on the House Committee 0112 link…

One of the bills includes language that would guarantee water-rights owners a right-of-way through lands between the point of diversion and where the water is used…

Another bill under consideration, possibly prompted by this year’s drought conditions, could clarify when so-called graywater could be reused…

Yet another measure addresses enforcement of permit terms by ground water management districts for small-capacity well permits.

Another issue that comes up perennially is the use of severance tax funds for water infrastructure improvements, and one of the proposed bills claims that diversions of “significant sums from their originally intended purposes has had a devastating effect on the maintenance and development of water infrastructure in Colorado.”

More 2013 Colorado Legislation coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Construction costs come in at $500 million


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The costs of building the Arkansas Valley Conduit would be about $500 million no matter which alternative is chosen, according to a preliminary analysis by the Bureau of Reclamation. Four routes from Pueblo Dam are being considered and the costs of annual maintenance range from $3.4 million-$4.6 million. More detailed cost estimates are being prepared and will be released in a report later this year, said Signe Snortland, who is heading a Reclamation team evaluating the conduit, master storage contract for Lake Pueblo and an interconnection at Pueblo Dam. The projects have been requested by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

While the Arkansas Valley Conduit would meet water supply and quality needs of 40 communities east of Pueblo, it first has to make it out of the city. “The conduit must go through or around Pueblo,” said Signe Snortland, head of a Bureau of Reclamation team evaluating the environmental impacts of the conduit and two other projects. Reclamation hosted two hearings in Pueblo on Tuesday on the conduit, a $500 million project that would bring clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley. Few comments were received, but the public has until Oct. 30 to provide input. Other hearings have been at Salida and La Junta. The hearings end today in Lamar.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.