What a beautiful rain/snow today, so far: 63 hundredths near Brighton by nine this evening #WinterIsBack


Click on the thumbnail for the Denver Metropolitan Area precipitation totals from Urban Drainage at about 9:00 PM. I just got home from my second soaking ride in one day on my bike. Curse of the bicycle commuter.

Environmental Stewardship: ‘We Get It’ — Denver Water


From Denver Water:

Denver Water recently earned a spot on The Climate Registry’s list of Climate Registered organizations, one of many steps the utility is taking to reduce its impact on the environment.

The Climate Registry is a nonprofit organization that operates a greenhouse gas registry, supported by states, provinces, territories and tribes throughout North America. Currently, 141 organizations are Climate Registered.

To become Climate Registered, Denver Water had to measure its electric, natural gas and fuel consumption, among other data, have it verified by a third party and report it to The Climate Registry.

Taking stock of greenhouse gas emissions helps Denver Water look at cost-effective ways to reduce its environmental impact. It also helps Denver Water prepare for possible greenhouse gas emission regulations, which are being considered at the state and federal level.

More Denver Water coverage here.

El Paso County and the COGCC reach agreement for groundwater testing


From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Bob Stephens):

Commissioners clashed with the commission over the past year and in January adopted strict regulations for water testing before and after drilling. Threatened with a lawsuit by the state attorney general, commissioners amended and softened county regulations —they still required groundwater testing — but insisted the state was not strict enough.

They met in the middle with a memorandum of understanding, which the state commission is expected to approve Nov. 15.

“The regulations are going to be stricter than any others in the state of Colorado,” said senior assistant county attorney Diana May.

She said Ultra Resources and Hilcorp “are 100 percent behind these requirements.”

Meanwhile Darryl Hannah was at the Frack Free Colorado Rally Today according to a report the Associated Press via the Huffington Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers, actress Daryl Hannah and others ended the four-hour Frack Free Colorado rally by singing “Stand By Me” on stage together. Co-organizer Allison Wolff said the roughly $45,000 rally was meant to push for the acceleration of clean-energy alternatives and to educate the public on what Wolff called the dangers of hydraulic fracturing…

Colorado overhauled its oil and gas drilling regulations in 2008 and is working to update rules for how far wells must be from homes and other buildings. In Longmont, voters are being asked this November whether hydraulic fracturing should be banned.

Daniel Rodriguez of the Nederland-based band Elephant Revival, which also attended the rally, said, “I want people, including myself, to become more aware of how we use energy and how it’s sourced.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Acequia project provides students an introduction to water basics, research methods


Here’s the release from Metropolitan State University of Denver (Cliff Foster):

The law in Colorado and the West generally awards the greatest control over a water source to the person who first puts it toward a “beneficial use.” As for everyone else―stand in line.

But, as a research team of students, faculty and administrators from MSU Denver learned, a much different system governs the water delivered to farms in the San Luis Valley and other places settled well before Colorado became a state.

The team made three trips to the Valley in September and this month to interview farmers about acequias, community-operated irrigation ditches introduced by settlers from colonial Mexico. Acequias not only deliver water but are part of the cultural, civic, economic and historical heritage of communities in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The research fits nicely with the upcoming visit to MSU Denver by Devon G. Peña, this year’s Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professor and the University’s new One World, One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship. Peña, a professor of American ethnic studies, anthropology and environmental studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, is also secretary of the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association in Colorado and a leading expert on acequias.

Peña’s testimony before the Colorado Legislature contributed to the passage of a 2009 bill that recognizes acequia practices, including defining water as a communal asset, allocating water distribution based on equity and not just priority and sharing of scarcity in times of drought.

The University research, supported by funding from the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association and the OWOW Center, and information about the law will be presented at the 2012 Colorado Congreso de Acequias this week in San Luis. The research results will also likely be woven into a book sponsored by MSU Denver’s Department of Chicana/o Studies based on the papers of Castro, the late civil rights activist and MSU Denver graduate and instructor, who served five terms in Colorado’s House of Representatives.

Four students took part in the acequia project. Tom Cech, director of the OWOW Center, led the first trip to communities in the San Luis Valley; Adriana Nieto, assistant professor of Chicana/o studies, the second, and research assistant Richard Gould the third.

Specifics about the research, including the names of the participating students, are confidential. Nieto said students interviewed farmers about issues such as who uses which acequias, the condition of the ditches and their knowledge of water rights. Most of the farms have been family owned for generations and vary in size from a few acres to hundreds, Nieto says.

The project benefitted students in several ways, she says. They received a crash course in water basics, research methods and the ethics of “parachuting” into a community and asking sensitive questions. Nieto recalls suggesting the students could present their findings to the Undergraduate Research Conference in May. “They were like, ‘Yeah that would be great but what do these people get out of it’? They’re asking really probing questions that most people don’t even start asking until they’re doing Ph.D. research.”

Ramon Del Castillo, chair and associate professor of Chicana/o Studies, says research such as the acequia project provides essential information about the contributions of Latinos.

“For too long our cultural customs and traditions haven’t been respected,” he says. The research, he adds, “enhances the understanding of cultural and historical systems that have been in place a long time. So, maybe there are pieces of that acequia system that should be emulated as we fight over this drought and over water.

“We really do have something to offer if people are willing to look at it.”

More education coverage here.

Clean Water Act 2.0: Rights of Waterways — Linda Sheehan


From the Huffington Post (Linda Sheehan):

Over the last 40 years [ed. since the Clean Water Act was passed], progress has undeniably been made — but it has also undeniably stalled. Over half of monitored rivers and streams nationwide, and almost 70 percent of lakes, reservoirs and ponds, still cannot meet one or more established beneficial uses such as swimming, fishing or habitat. Water flows are also increasingly compromised, with fish and even whales disappearing as water diversions increase. Climate change also is threatening waterways; in the recent opening days of the 67th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for urgent action on climate change to ensure water and food security world-wide…

The 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act calls for reflection on next steps. While the Act’s vision was laudable, it has in effect legalized pollution and extraction, with slowed but ongoing degradation. Our other environmental laws similarly have fallen short in protecting people and planet, their limitations evident from growing, global problems such as spreading species extinctions and accelerating climate change impacts.

One of the key reasons our environmental laws are falling short is that they accept without question the overarching assumption that the natural world can and should be manipulated and degraded for short-term financial profit [ed. emphasis mine]. Our laws fail to reflect the fact that we are inextricably intertwined with the natural world, and that what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. We must modernize our laws to correct this fundamental misunderstanding and guide us on a better path.

Thanks to @downstream2012 for the link.

More water pollution coverage here and here.

Drought news: Breckenridge city council ends watering restrictions #CODrought


From the Summit Daily News (Caddie Nath):

With the summer season over, and the drought conditions that plagued Colorado after last year’s dry winter less of a concern, the Breckenridge Town Council voted unanimously to remove the restrictions…

A decade-old law, adopted during Colorado’s last major drought in 2002, allows Breckenridge officials to authorize water restrictions when the Blue River’s inflows to Goose Pasture Tarn, the town’s water storage facility, are expected to drop below 20 cubic feet per second (cfs). The river’s flow dropped to about that level in July, a significant decrease from the year before. The Blue River peaked at more than 400 cfs in the summer of 2011, following heavy precipitation and an above-average snow year, town staffers said.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: ‘There is no reviewable decision to appeal at this time’ — Judge Schwartz


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Opponents of the Super Ditch pilot program jumped the gun when filing a complaint, Division 2 Water Judge Larry Schwartz ruled Monday. In June, Prowers County water users filed the complaint against State Engineer Dick Wolfe and the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, saying the state did not have authority to approve a substitute water supply plan for Super Ditch. But the plan never was given final approval, because Super Ditch could not meet all of the conditions that were outlined, Schwartz said in the decision.

“There is no reviewable decision to appeal at this time,” Schwartz said.

The pilot program set out to lease 500 acre­feet of water from the Catlin Canal to Fountain and Security. Water would be taken from dried­up acres and released to the river over time through recharge ponds. An exchange would move the water to Lake Pueblo, where it could be used by the cities through the Fountain Valley Conduit. After a public meeting in January and two technical meetings with objectors, Wolfe cut some farms from the plan and the amount of the program in half. Because of the drought and conditions put on the plan, it was never approved or carried out.

Amity Mutual Irrigation Co., District 67 Irrigating Canals Association, Lower Arkansas Water Management Association and Tri​State Generation and Transmission Association filed the court case in May, saying Wolfe lacked authority.

Super Ditch eventually plans to move larger amounts of water from as many as seven canals that take water from the Arkansas River in Pueblo and Otero counties, but has not filed an application for change of water rights, the opponents contend. Super Ditch officials say the pilot program must come first to work out details of how the full program would operate.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.