Drought/snowpack news: Gore Creek may have started melting out #COdrought




From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Grand Valley residents will be asked to limit their water use, but no measures aimed at limiting use by high rates or rationing are on the horizon. The main suppliers of domestic water — Clifton Water, Grand Junction, Ute Water Conservancy District and Palisade — asked Friday, though, that residents water and wash with one eye on the state’s parched peaks.

The winter of 2012-2013 “makes for two years in a row of below-average snow and moisture levels,” said Dave Reinertsen, chairman of the Mesa County Drought Response Information Project, noting that snowpack statewide and its equivalent water content has been well below historical averages. “Grand Valley residents have always stepped up to volunteer for the various needs of the community,” Reinertsen said. “We’re asking for the community to once again step up and volunteer to help us all preserve our most valued and precious resource — our limited water supplies in our high-desert environment.”

A continued dry spring and summer could force a second look at the valley’s water supply, so it’s possible that conservation measures could be instituted, said Reinertsen, also the assistant manager of Clifton Water.

Among the steps residents can take is reducing watering from two or three times a week to one or two deep waterings per week.

Residents also can log on to http://www.thedripwebsite.com for links to water-conservation measures anyone can take to reduce water use through efficient practices.

Below is the snowpack graph from Vail Pass above Gore Creek, via Diane Johnson.

From USA Today (Doyle Rice):

The nation is seeing a sharp divide between dry and wet as summer approaches: While the eastern USA is almost entirely drought-free, drought continues to persist and intensify in much of the country to the west of the Mississippi River.

Many areas of the West are ending the wet season with “bleak spring runoff prospects and increasing drought concerns,” according to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal website that tracks drought. Every state west of the Mississippi, except for Washington, is enduring some level of drought conditions. In all, 66% of the Western U.S. is in a drought, with the worst conditions in Texas, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico.

In the East, the only states where drought is occurring are small portions of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.

Nationally, 47% of the contiguous U.S. is in a drought.

From from The Grand Junction Free Press (Caitlin Row):

Though the Western Slope of Colorado remains in drought, there’s one silver lining. Ute Water Conservancy spokesman Joe Burtard recently announced that Mesa County’s Drought Response Information Project (DRIP) decided universally to keep the area in a Stage 1 Drought, not bump up to Stage 2…

“The recent storm really boosted all our water sheds,” Burtard said. “With a colder spring, that’s a big player in preserving the snowpack we have. It’s (still) not the greatest, but we will maintain at Stage 1.”

Here’s the NWS Grand Junction April 26 2013 Dust/Snowpack Briefing:

The Western Colorado Conservation Corps scores $10,000 for restoration along the Colorado River mainstem


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The Western Colorado Conservation Corps will partner with the Bureau of Land Management to remove invasive tamarisk and Russian olive trees from the banks of the Colorado River. The introduced trees suck up water needed by native flora and fauna.

The funding is the result of a partnership between the Royal Bank of Canada and the Conservation Lands Foundation. The bank is is one of Canada’s largest corporate donors. “We are extremely grateful to RBC for helping us put ‘boots on the ground’ in Colorado,” said Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “McInnis Canyons and the Colorado River are cornerstones of the National Conservation Lands and important to so many people. RBC’s gift has given this partnership and river an important boost.”

McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area is part of the National Conservation Lands. The National Conservation Lands are a 28-million-acre system of protected lands in the west known for their culturally, ecologically and scientifically significant landscapes managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The volunteers will also remove Russian knapweed, and plant and protect native Freemont cottonwoods and coyote willow. The re-introduction of these native species will enhance wildlife habitat, help rehabilitate the river corridor and improve water quality.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here and here.

Coalbed Methane: ‘The reason I go to meetings like this is so someone might listen to me’ — Brett Corsentino


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

For most of two days, Brett Corsentino sat quietly listening to theoretical discussions about the relationship of oil and gas drilling to water. For him, however, there is a much more direct and personal link. Toward the end of the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, he spoke up about how he believes gas drilling has brought tainted water from under the ground and to the surface, where it ruined his land. He also feels he has hit a brick wall trying to get the state to make things right. “The reason I go to meetings like this is so someone might listen to me,” Corsentino said.

Instead, he got into a public argument with Peter Gintautas, an environmental protection specialist from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. “We have a difference of opinion over whether remediation on my land has failed,” Corsentino said. “Not a single representative from COGCC has come out to verify that remediation has taken place.”

“The agency has taken its final action, and offered other courses of action if you disagreed with staff,” Gintautas replied.

For Corsentino, it was another in a long string of disappointments. A fourth-generation dairy farmer, he milks about 400 head of cattle and employs 14 at his dairy east of Walsenburg. Over nearly a decade, beginning in 1998, Petroglyph Energy pumped about 100,000 acre-feet of highly saline water into the Cucharas River while exploring for gas. The company agreed to some remediation by supplying gypsum to reduce salinity, but Corsentino still is dealing with the damage. “They say it will take time and a lot of water to reverse the damage. I don’t have either,” Corsentino said, while giving a windshield tour of the 300 acres of fields that lie fallow.

A reservoir above the fields is dry, partly because of a three-year drought, but also — Corsentino believes — because the gas drillers took so much water out of the aquifer. He also blames poor water quality for low resistance to tuberculosis, which infected his entire herd a few years ago. He is now building a new herd. “This problem continues and I just want to know what a person is supposed to do,” Corsentino said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two tables side-by-side outside the meeting room at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum this week told the story. One table featured an array of handouts touting the benefits of produced water, monitoring programs by Norwest on behalf of Pioneer Natural Resources and pleas for science-based watershed protection. The other counteracted the display next door with informational handouts from groups that highlighted the dangers of fracking, warned about health concerns from produced water and expressed alarm at how much water could be used.

Inside the meeting room, proponents and opponents of gas drilling shared the stage. “There are issues of water quality and quantity,” said Alan Curtis, a partner in the White-Jankowski law firm, who highlighted the dangers of oil and gas drilling. Locally, those include wells that had exploded, caught fire or have caused pollution. The current practices of oil companies involve using large amounts of dangerous chemicals that companies try to downplay by talking about percentages, he said. White-Jankowski, in the 2009 Vance v. Wolfe case, obtained a Supreme Court ruling requiring the state engineer to administer oil and gas wells in the same way that water wells are regulated.

From other presentations, it became clear that state regulation is fragmented when it comes to water and gas drilling. In one session, staff members of the Division of Water Resources and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission were unable to answer some questions from local concerned citizens, because they involved the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission instead.

Industry spokeswoman Sarah Landry sought to dispel “myths” about fracking, saying hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells goes back to 1947. She said the chemicals used in the process are the same type as found in most households. While some opponents say there are hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals in use, less than a dozen might be employed at any given drilling operation, she explained.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-1248 (Irrigation Water Leasing Municipal Pilot Projects) is backed by the CWCB


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board wants to develop strategies that would allow temporary transfers of water from farms to cities that allow farmers to maintain ownership of water rights, staffer Todd Doherty told the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum this week.

“Programs are being set up to reduce the costs of transactions to lease water,” he said. Much of that cost is legal fees by taking cases to water court, but some want to determine how to avoid injury to water rights without going to court.

The CWCB is backing legislation, [HB13-1248], to set up 10 pilot programs in Colorado to explore alternative transfer options under the supervision of the CWCB. The bill passed the House and is now moving in the Senate. The bill allows water to be leased by farmers to cities three years in 10 through rotational fallowing through programs such as the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch. The goal of the programs, along with other efforts already undertaken by the CWCB, is to streamline engineering questions to make sure engineering is correct while other water rights are not injured, Doherty said.

Among the current efforts is a cooperative project among the CWCB, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and farmers Wes and Brenda Herman on the High Line Canal. The idea is to use a conservation easement to ensure water stays in farming, but allows temporary leases to cities.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar: Flooding along Fountain Creek is a major concern


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A heavy rain over the area burned in last summer’s Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs could cause significant damage downstream on Fountain Creek. That’s because thousands of tons of sediment and debris could wash down in a severe storm, Carol Ekarius, executive director of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday. “Unless we have a ’99 type flood this year, they wouldn’t see the effects immediately in Pueblo, but there are water quality impacts that show up later,” said Ekarius, who is also a professional engineer.

CUSP is working with the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Springs Utilities and other El Paso County groups to assess the damage from the Waldo Canyon Fire and develop a remediation plan. The group formed after the 11,000-acre Buffalo Creek Fire in 1996, which was the largest in the state at the time. Since then, fires have become larger in scope because of poor forest management. CUSP has been working to restore the 2002 Hayman Fire burn area for more than a decade. The group will unveil an action plan next week in Colorado Springs that will require $25 million-$50 million over several years to complete. About $10 million-$12 million from federal, state and local sources has been committed so far. There is also much remediation and flood prevention work to be done on private land.

The Fountain Creek district is considering whether to ask voters for a mill levy and decide purposes that would be included in a ballot question. “The question this board grapples with is could this be a part of our mission,” said Richard Skorman, who serves as liaison with a citizens advisory group of residents from both counties. “It’s hard to ask Pueblo County to pay for a disaster that happens in El Paso County.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.