The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District is asking voters to approve a $60 million water bond issue

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Fall is always a hectic time of the year for Randy Knutson, but the LaSalle­area farmer has spent more time away from home during this harvesting season than probably any other.
In addition to rounding up matured crops in his fields and also managing operations for Zabka Farms near Greeley, Knutson in recent weeks has been trekking across the area to convince fellow producers and other residents that approving a $60 million bond issue is in their best interest.

His long hours are well worth it, as far as he’s concerned.

Without the bond issue and the water that would be purchased with the millions of dollars, harvests of future autumns could be minimal in Weld County, he says, with the local economy suffering as a result.

Knutson and others are asking taxpayers of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District to approve Measure 4A — the $60 million bond issue that would be used for more water storage and buying water rights.

Residents in Central’s district will vote on that measure as part of next week’s election. “Without the water, you’re going to see agriculture go away in Weld County,” said Knutson, who serves on the board of directors for Central and serves as chairman of the voluntary Yes For Water group that’s been promoting and raising funds for Measure 4A. “And now is the time we need to be going out to get the water we need.”

Central oversees two subdistricts that provide augmentation water to farmers in the LaSalle and Gilcrest areas and other parts of southern Weld County. The two subdistricts — the Groundwater Management Subdistrict (GMS) and the Well Augmentation Subdistrict (WAS) — also stretch into Adams and Morgan counties.

Augmentation water is needed to make up for depletions to the aquifer caused by pumping water out of the ground. All together, Central’s two subdistricts provide augmentation water for more than 100,000 acres of irrigated farmground, according to Randy Ray, executive director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. The additional augmentation water is needed since many of the wells in Central’s subdistricts were either curtailed or shut down back in 2006, when the state determined the pumping of those wells was depleting stream flows in the South Platte River Basin. As part of those decisions, the state made augmentation requirements more stringent. Many farmers haven’t been able to use their wells since then because they haven’t had the necessary amount of augmentation water to do so.

Knutson, himself, has three wells he still can’t use. Those wells are needed in dry years like this one, when flows in the rivers are low, bringing little water to irrigation ditches, Knutson said.

Also, Knutson said, cities in the region are growing rapidly and need more water, causing supplies to get tighter and more much expensive. For example, one unit of water from the Colorado­Big Thompson project, one of the largest water projects in the region that supplies supplemental water for municipal and agricultural uses all over northern Colorado, now costs about $10,000. It was only about $7,500 three years ago, according to Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

“It’s only gong to get more expensive the longer we wait,” Knutson said. Knutson, Ray and others say the additional water and the bond measure are needed because Central Water relies heavily on leased water from cities to supply its farmers, and, as Front Range cities grow, those cities will lease out less water.

The $60 million in bonds would pay for three of Central Water’s endeavors.

The district is one of 15 water providers looking to take part in the proposed Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project, a $184 million undertaking that would raise the Denver­area lake by as much as 12 feet and provide an additional 2,849 acre­feet of water to Central Water. Central Water officials also are considering the construction of gravel pits for an additional 8,000­9,000 acre­feet of storage, and buying 1,000 acre­feet of senior water rights.

If the bond measure is approved, taxpayers within Central Water’s boundaries would pay an additional $1.13 each month per $100,000 in property value for the next 25 years, Knutson said.

The district recently sent out a survey to about 18,000 residents, which it said showed about 75 percent of respondents favored the bond issue. The district encompasses nearly 20,000 households.

There’s no organized group opposing the project, but some have questioned why they need to pay additional taxes for water they couldn’t personally use.

“To be completely honest, I still don’t know which way I’m going to vote,” said Dave Dechant, a Weld County farmer.

Public meetings on the bond issue held this summer grew heated at times.

In response to those residents, Ray said he hopes they’ll still support the project, since the additional water would go toward strengthening the local agriculture economy, which benefits the entire area. Ray said Central Water also might lease some of the water to residential or other users.

Some who would benefit directly from the additional water also expressed frustration at the meetings because they’ve been paying taxes to the district for several years and have yet to see any additional water. Ray said those previous taxes have paid for the legal and engineering fees that have now given Central rights to 68,000 acre­feet of additional water.

The $60 million bond issue would pay for the infrastructure to finally put some of those water rights to use, Ray explained.

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.

Drought news: Yampa River streamflow up some, due to recent snow #CODrought #COSnowpack

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The 1.48 inches of precipitation, much of it in the form of snow, that has fallen in the Upper Yampa River Basin in October has had a positive effect on the river where it flows through Steamboat Springs. But the Yampa is still flowing below its historic range. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that the Yampa River beneath the Fifth Street Bridge in Steamboat jumped from just above 80 cubic feet per second on Oct. 23 to more than 100 cfs on Oct. 25 and remained at 103 cfs Monday.

Commerce City will test residents’ (with AquaKlene installations) treated water supply at no cost to the homeowner

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Precisely the reason I stay home and keep an eye on plumbers when I’ve hired them. Here’s a report from Jason Pohl writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The city on Monday warned 151 homeowners by mail that improperly and illegally installed water-softener systems may be contaminating their drinking water with raw sewage. Residents who have had a softener installed can get a free inspection if they’re worried about potential contamination…

Denver lawyer Dan Caplis, who represented the Cattaneos, said he fears the issue could reach beyond Commerce City.
“We have every reason to believe that, at this point, there are a lot (of cases) out there,” he said. “The risk we’re talking about here is a very serious risk.” Caplis said that homeowners may not notice a smell or problem with their water, but they should still get an inspection because the problem could worsen at any time.

Water in Commerce City is provided by the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District. “At no time was the district’s water system compromised because of the problem identified,” district spokeswoman Pam Droesch said in an email.

Update: From Law Week Colorado (James Carlson):

In its post-verdict state, the case has turned what were legal partners into potential opponents. Less than two weeks before trial, Aquakleen’s insurance carrier, CNA, who had hired attorneys for Aquakleen, made it clear in a court filing that it doesn’t think it should pay any of the damages. In its declaratory judgment action, CNA said the policy held by Aquakleen doesn’t cover damages caused by fungi, mold or microbes.

Also at issue is whether CNA acted in good faith earlier in the case when it refused to accept a plaintiffs’ settlement offer within the $2 million policy limits – the type of decision one local attorney called a “poker game.”

Colorado River Basin: ‘The water use for oil shale is quite modest’ — Jeremy Boak (School of Mines)

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Many eyes are on the Colorado River hoping that water in the basin won’t be developed past the carrying capacity of the river. Here’s an article about the concerns over oil shale exploration and production from Dennis Webb writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The county that’s home to Las Vegas, Nev., is supporting a proposed downscaling of federal land available for possible oil shale leasing and calling for thorough analysis of potential water impacts of commercial oil shale and tar sands development. Clark County’s recent, unanimously passed resolution comes as several other elected officials in Nevada and Arizona also have been sending letters to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar regarding oil shale, expressing concerns about the need to protect Colorado River water quality and quantity. The officials also back a Bureau of Land Management proposal to sharply reduce acreage available for possible leasing in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

“We believe that a comprehensive study of the cumulative impacts of oil shale development to the Colorado River basin should be conducted before the BLM considers commercial leasing of public lands,” says a letter signed by Nevada state lawmakers Peggy Pierce and Tick Segerblom, Arizona House Minority Whip Anna Tovar and Commissioner Paul Newman of the Arizona Corporate Commission, which oversees utility and transportation matters. The writers, all Democrats, also cited a Government Accountability Office estimate that industrial-scale oil shale development could require water equivalent to that used by 750,000 households.

Arizona’s House Minority Leader, Democrat Chad Campbell, sent a similar letter, as did Democratic Nevada lawmaker Maggie Carlton, Democratic Nevada state Sen. Mark Manendo and Las Vegas City Council member Bob Coffin. The writers generally urge Salazar to take a balanced approach to oil shale development. In an archived video on Clark County’s website, commissioners there indicated they weren’t trying to tell Colorado what to do or interfere with its economy. Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said the county simply wants to make sure that due diligence to protect water quality from any oil shale development occurs, to ensure “that what’s coming downstream is appropriate for the valley.”

The Colorado River provides water to 2.5 million people in the county. The commissioners also indicated they were trying to adopt a resolution that wouldn’t interfere with sensitive, ongoing interstate negotiations over Colorado River water.

Chris Treese, a spokesman for western Colorado’s Colorado River Water Conservation District, said if Clark County’s concerns are about water quality, that’s “curious.”

“They’re not going to see any change in their water quality — none,” said Treese, citing the pollution-control regulations that would apply to the industry and amount of dilution that would occur by the time water reaches Las Vegas.

Front Range water entities that rely on Colorado River water also have raised concerns about oil shale’s potential impacts on water quality and the resource’s future availability. The Front Range Water Council sent a letter to the BLM regarding its draft environmental impact statement analyzing a range of alternatives for how much land should be made available for possible leasing. The council said that study’s “analysis of impacts to water supply, water quality, and water development is inadequate, in part because it does not analyze the range of impacts associated with various technologies used by oil shale developers.” The council represents utilities for Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Aurora and other communities collectively meeting the water demands of about 80 percent of the state’s population.

The council says increased population and energy use related to oil shale development would have water ramifications, and the BLM also needs to assess how such development would affect efforts to protect endangered fish in the Colorado River in Colorado. The BLM says the fish impacts would be analyzed for individual leasing authorizations.

Jeremy Boak, director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the Colorado School of Mines, said some companies pursuing efforts to develop oil shale in place underground by means such as heating are working in geological zones isolated from groundwater, minimizing chances of contamination. Shell, which has been researching the use of a freeze-wall to protect surrounding groundwater, has shown the ability to use a steam process to clean groundwater within the freezewall before the wall is removed, he said.

As for water consumption, Boak believes an oil shale industry might use 2 percent of Colorado’s water, compared to about 80 percent currently for agriculture. “The water use for oil shale is quite modest,” he said.

More oil shale coverage here and here.