Grays and Torreys peaks at moonrise


Bob Berwyn took a terrific photo tonight up in Summit County. Click here to see it.

I have a Grays and Torreys story.

The day I climbed both mountains we got to the top of Torreys and there were maybe a dozen or so climbers on top with us.

That was back in my cub scout leader days so I was used to the whole “let’s sing some songs” thing.

I said to the crowd, “Let’s sing America the Beautiful.” A woman with a good singing voice got us started. I think everyone on top at that time sang along. No kidding.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin #CODrought


Here’s the link to the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center.

Rio Grande cooperation aids irrigation and wildlife


Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

A cooperative agreement among water users in the San Luis Valley this summer helped assure that water was delivered to agricultural producers and domestic users, and that river and stream flows were maintained for the benefit of wildlife and recreationists.

The Rio Grande Cooperative Project, a public-private partnership between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, proved crucial during 2012 because snowpack reached only 15 percent of average in the mountains of south central Colorado.

“The agreement was critical because it enhanced flows in the Rio Grande and provided water during the critical low-flow period during October,” said Steve Baer, a state water commissioner in the San Luis Valley.

During 2010 representatives of the two agencies started discussions on how they could use their storage facilities to make water supplies in the area more reliable. The result was the formation of the Rio Grande Cooperative Project and plans were implemented for the first time last summer. The project is being supported by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Moving water around effectively in the upper San Luis Valley has always been a complex exercise and water users have always cooperated when possible. But the work done this summer shows that water can be used, stored and delivered more effectively than in the past.

“This agreement has opened the door wider for Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make a variety of exchanges,” said Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager in Monte Vista.

In previous dry years, agricultural and domestic users have had to divert all surface water and engage in extensive pumping of ground water. That often left the flows in numerous streams and the Rio Grande extremely low. Water experts from Parks and Wildlife and the irrigation district determined that their water could be shared more effectively for mutual benefit.

The irrigation district owns Rio Grande Reservoir high in the drainage which has a capacity of 54,000 acre feet.

Parks and Wildlife owns water rights throughout the Rio Grande drainage, including trans-basin supplies that are diverted from west of the Continental Divide. In all water years in the Rio Grande basin storage occurs in a complex of small reservoirs, some of which are owned by other users. However, secure storage and timely releases of water at Rio Grande Reservoir in harmony with Beaver Park Reservoir are essential to ensuring the most effective and efficient use of the diverse menu of rights owned by Parks and Wildlife and those of other water users.

Normally, the small reservoir owners, through agreements with Parks and Wildlife, keep their reservoirs full. In exchange, Parks and Wildlife releases replacement water from Rio Grande Reservoir and Beaver Park Reservoir to supply irrigation needs of the small-reservoir owners.

But this year because Beaver Park Reservoir–which is owned by Parks and Wildlife–is drawn down due to problems with the dam, the agency stored more water in Rio Grande Reservoir and released the replacement water from that location. Consequently, water needed for wildlife throughout the valley was maintained while Parks and Wildlife was able to supply agricultural and domestic users with water from its reliable sources.

Because of the complexity of water right holdings in the San Luis Valley, the Rio Grande Cooperative Project now makes achieving exchanges easier than in previous years.

“Through these agreements we were able to coordinate water releases to improve conditions for fish and wildlife through the drought, and we were able to deliver water to other users who needed it throughout the valley,” Basagoitia said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is a major water-rights owner in the valley. By working closely with other owners, water can be used more efficiently to enhance agriculture, domestic supplies and wildlife resources.

Tom Spezze, recently retired from Colorado Parks and Wildlife as the southwest regional manager, has worked for years on water issues in the San Luis Valley. He said that cooperation is vital to everyone in the area.

“The Rio Grande Cooperative Project exemplifies a new way for Colorado Parks and Wildlife to conduct its water business,” Spezze said. “In one of the most water-critical times in our state’s history, we can’t afford to do business as usual. We have to be collaborative and more willing than ever to think outside the box. We can manage our collectively diverse water rights in the Rio Grande Basin as business partners in a way that is creative, transparent and responsible.”

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

Forecast news: ‘Atmospheric River’ to hit California this weekend, Colorado to stay warm and dry #CODrought

Here’s the link to the NOAA model animation.

Here’s the lowdown on atmospheric rivers via the NOAA and YouTube (2 minutes or so).

Fort Collins: Watershed screening December 4 #CORiver


From email from Save the Colorado.

Great News! We are hosting Robert Redford’s new documentary film, the”Watershed Movie”, about the Colorado River at the Lincoln Center on Dec. 4th at 7:00pm. Come meet the producer, Robert’s son James Redford, and see this great movie! Fort Collins gets half of its water from the Colorado River, so come learn what you can do to make a difference to protect this great river for future generations.

It will fill up fast! Details below and sign up here:

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Lake Estes lowered for winter maintenance


From the Estes Park Trail-Gazette (John Cordsen):

The bureau stopped diverting water through the Adams Tunnel into the lake on Nov. 5, as well as moving water from Lake Estes through the Olympus Tunnel to the southern power arm of the Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion, storage and delivery project, of which Estes, Marys and East Portal are a part. This was in preparation for some regular maintenance projects on that section.

Water that would normally hit the three power plants between Lake Estes and the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon was instead released directly from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River. That bumped flows in the canyon up to around 150 cubic feet per second where they stayed for about a week.

“With the 150 cfs being released from Lake Estes, but no water coming in, the water level elevation at Estes dropped a little over a foot a day until it reached the elevation it is currently at now: 7460 feet, or about 15 feet down from full,” said Kara Lamb, the Bureau of Reclamation public information officer. “Then, we curtailed the releases back to native inflow and are now holding steady. Our plan is to keep Lake Estes at this elevation until mid-December.”

Lamb said the bureau, the agency that manages the lake, drops the water level down to this elevation every two to three years for regular maintenance projects.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Pagosa Springs: Increased focus on water loss yields results


From the Pagosa Springs Sun (Lindsey Bright):

During Tuesday afternoon’s PAWSD board of directors’ meeting, the directors looked at the gallons of water being produced both at Hatcher and Snowball.

At Hatcher, in the time since new meters were installed and monitored, Nov. 6-8, the plant produced 174,000 gallons of water, with 124,310 gallons sold — a loss of 49,690 gallons in the three-day period.

The Snowball treatment plant, which has one meter left to be installed, produced 10,951,611 gallons of water, with 7,697,100 sold between Sept. 29 and Oct. 28, making for a monthly loss of 3,254,511 gallons of water.

PAWSD District Manager Ed Winton said one area of water loss was discovered when PAWSD and Bartlett and West engineers, “shot elevations.” During the process, engineers realized the Reservoir Hill and Cemetery water tanks are not at the same elevation, as had been thought — there is a 38-inch disparity. Since the two tanks work together, when one is being filled, instead of filling completely, it fills part way and the other tank overflows.

Director Roy Vega asked how much of the overall water loss can be attributed to the tank overflowing.

Winton said he could not answer that, but did say that just fixing the tanks would not solve the overall water loss problem.

By the next regular meeting in December, all the new water meters should be installed at the treatment plants, which should provide accurate monthly numbers.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.

CWCB: Water-Energy Nexus workshops, December 10, 12, 13


Here’s the link to the announcement on the Colorado Water 2012 Facebook page.

Details for the workshops: December 10 — Glenwood Springs; December 12 — Berthoud; December 13 — Colorado Springs.

More CWCB coverage here.

Colorado Springs: Council takes up issue of discounted water rates for city parks, city reserves to be tapped to cover shortfall


From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

“I think there’s a strong assumption, at least by the executive branch and maybe some others, that there should be a municipal rate as it relates to parks,” Chief of Staff Laura Neumann told council members.

The idea was floated even before Bach was mayor. It came up a few years ago when the city cut parks watering to balance the budget. Utilities, which offered the city a water conservation rate pilot program that has saved more than $1 million, says a discounted water rate would mean that ratepayers would absorb the costs.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about other people’s money,” Utilities CEO Jerry Forte told the council. “We’re talking about ratepayer dollars, and if we were to find opportunities to reduce costs, that money belongs to ratepayers first.”

After a long debate Monday, a council majority decided to tap the city’s reserve to balance the budget and to direct Utilities to work with the city on a water rate solution before irrigating kicks into high gear.

The city’s proposed budget is up for first reading Tuesday, and the council’s decision to dip into reserves is likely to trigger a mayoral veto.

“I believe I can say confidently that (Bach) does not believe we should dip into the general fund reserves and so if that is the direction of council, I believe he will veto that,” Neumann said.

The council can override a mayoral veto with six votes.

Council President Scott Hente said the Bach administration’s assumption that Utilities would cover the $545,000 gap was unreasonable.

“In making that assumption, you’ve put us between the proverbial rock and a hard place,” Hente said. “If — and this is a big if — if we were to accept that, now all of a sudden we have a $545,000 problem on the Utilities side of the equation.”

Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin said the city was asking for a “special subsidy” for parks…

Leigh said the debate about discounted water rates for parks highlights the “inherent conflict of interest” with council members also serving as members of the Utilities Board.

“I think the real important point is we could resolve this as City Council. We can override Utilities Board. They are subservient to us, so we could resolve this very quickly if we chose to,” [Councillor Tim Leigh] said.

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here and here.