Arkansas River Valley well users may end up owing water to the river from 2012 #codrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More bad news for farmers. Earlier this year, groundwater associations determined that there would be limited or no replacement water for wells in the Arkansas Valley. Upon reviewing plans submitted March 1, the state is working with the well groups to determine if more water still is owed from 2012. “Depletions have occurred that have not been paid back,” Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

Witte’s staff is reviewing wellpumping plans from the three large well groups to determine how much water might be owed under Rule 14 of the 1996 Arkansas Valley groundwater rules. It could mean a ban on pumping or allowing minimum pumping to occur this year. The state also is looking at domestic and municipal users who may need to implement restrictions in order to keep wells operating this summer. “We are encouraging conservation measures to meet critical needs,” Witte said.

One well association, the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, factored the 2012 depletions into its 2013 Rule 14 plan, said manager Scott Lorenz after the meeting. He said farmers should be able to pump at 30 percent on the mainstem of the Arkansas River and 48 percent on Fountain Creek. The Colorado Water Protective and Development Association informed its members who did not have their own sources of replacement water that no water would be available. The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association plan called for 30 percent pumping.

The Southeastern board received more gloomy news about snowpack and stream flow conditions. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Flows could be as low as last year — the second-lowest on record — while storage and soil moisture conditions are even worse.

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Meanwhile the Southeastern board also heard an update for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit will be recommended when the final environmental impact statement is released later this year. It could be a hybrid of alternatives being studied by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which can match components of various alternatives. “The Pueblo routes have raised concerns about what’s already in the ground, so the goal is to find a route that alleviates concerns without additional costs,” Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick told the district board Thursday.

Reclamation still is working on cost-benefit ratios for the project, which includes storage in Lake Pueblo for the conduit and other needs.

The estimated cost of the conduit, which will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo, is $500 million. But that could be high because of standard contingency rates added to early stages of construction projects. Benefits are likely to be in the $500 million range as well, said Broderick, who traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to discuss the project with federal officials.

No route for the pipeline was recommended in the draft environmental impact statement last year, but routes through Pueblo and south of the city are being considered. But the routes generated concern with the city of Pueblo. On Oct. 29, Pueblo interim City Manager Jim Munch, in a comment to Reclamation saying that any of the routes for the underground pipeline through the Pueblo area have the potential to interfere with infrastructure. Pueblo’s letter also detailed concerns about how water quality could be affected by reduced flows in the Arkansas River through Pueblo.

The city’s comments were among 25 received by Reclamation. Most dealt with mapping errors or water quality concerns.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

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