Drought News: Colorado Springs water restrictions will ease up a bit August 1 #COdrought

usdroughtmonitorcolorado07232013.jpg

usdroughtmonitor07232013.jpg

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Although City Council could have changed watering restrictions to three days from two, members played it safe earlier this week and kept the rules at two days for now. However, Councilors did make a concession to residents who are complaining about dying lawns by increasing to 2,500 cubic feet the amount people can use without moving into the next, higher-priced stage of rates. The previous limit had been 2,000 cubic feet. In addition, the drought surcharge was cut from twice the rate to 1.25 times the rate of the next block of charges. All of this becomes effective Aug. 1, so July billings will reflect the previous drought restrictions.

Meanwhile the City of Sante Fe, et. al, are hoping to implement a conservation plan for Colorado River Basin water they have rights to. Here’s a report from Staci Matlock writing for the Sante Fe New Mexican:

“Water demand exceeds the supply,” Santa Fe Mayor David Coss said Thursday as he announced the city’s intention to join with other municipalities in seeking specific actions to help the Colorado River. The San Juan-Chama Project, which delivers water from a Colorado River tributary to the Rio Grande, provides almost half the drinking water for Santa Fe residents through the Buckman Direct Diversion project. As water flows in the San Juan and Rio Grande shrink, there’s the potential for Santa Fe to lose the river as a source of water. The city water system has municipal reservoirs and wells supplying water as well, but those resources also will be affected by an ongoing drought.

All told, an estimated 1 million New Mexicans and 100,000 acres of farmland depend on water from the Colorado River or one of its tributaries that flow through the state. Recreation on the river and its tributaries contributes an estimated $1.7 billion to the state’s economy…

Coss and other city officials think Santa Fe is well situated to be a model for other towns. Currently, Santa Fe residents and businesses use 105 gallons per capita a day, less than several years ago.

Harold Trujillo, a farmer in Mora and vice president of the New Mexico Acequia Association, said the group is trying to help agriculture producers and acequia members find new ways to conserve water. He said the state also needs to come up with a better funding mechanism for regular maintenance, repairs and upgrades of water infrastructure.

From The Watch:

It’s been one of those unpredictable Rocky Mountain spring/summers. One of the worst droughts in memory for most of May, June and July, and then monsoon downpours that flood both sections of the San Miguel Canyon – the Placerville to Norwood stretch first, and then a couple days later the Placerville to Deep Creek segment. The area around Newmire (Vanadium) was hit particularly hard. All the culverts got totally clogged, and water was running across the highway in one spot just upstream from the Silver Pick Road, even after most of the mud had been scraped off the highway … Road crews did a great job – both our local CDOT workers and our shorthanded but ever capable County Road and Bridge Department. Sheriff Bill Masters even did a handheld video drive-through that he posted online – better than any newscast … But, truth to tell, the unexpected is one of the things I love about the San Juans. It’s difficult terrain. Subject to rockfall, mudslide, avalanche, highway wildlife and wild storms. Not for the faint of heart … To live in the mountains, through all the various seasons – snow, mud, heat and rain – takes a special kind of person. Someone able to risk dangers and survive adversity. Soft city people need not apply. And yet even urban refugees can learn to adjust, if they’re willing. And motivated. And if they have the help of their neighbors, because that’s the secret of living in the rural West. It takes a rugged individual to cope with calamities, but it takes a community to support an individual’s grit.

from The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The shallow aquifer that waters crops across much of the San Luis Valley continues to shrink to historically low volumes, officials with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District said Tuesday. The unconfined aquifer is down 1.3 million acre-feet from when the district began measuring it in the north-central valley in 1976 and had almost no recovery from last year, leaving many farmers with less irrigation water. “Certainly what we’re hearing is the production on the wells is getting less and less,” Steve Vandiver, the district’s general manager, said. Division Engineer Craig Cotton did not have exact figures on the number of permit applications to redrill wells received by his office.

But that number has grown as last year’s drought extended into this year. “It’s more than we had last year and the last several years,” he said.

Normally, the aquifer recharges in spring and early summer when farmers irrigate with surface water from the Rio Grande. But low flows on the Rio Grande for the last two years have limited the recharge.

A groundwater subdistrict that assesses fees on farmers for their pumping is in its second year of operation. And while its primary objective is to mitigate the impacts of pumping on surface water users, it also has the goal of raising the aquifer to at least 900,000 acres from today’s level over the next two decades.

District Engineer Allen Davey said computer modeling that would help subdistricts to form in other parts of the valley is almost complete. That state-run model would determine the amount of water that would be needed to replace depletions from pumping, but Davey said ground and surface water users still have to discuss where they might find the replacement water. “It’s quite a task to get our arms around those issues,” he said.

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