Alarms Sound on the Shrinking Colorado River

Your Water Colorado Blog

We’ve seen, heard and gossiped about low flows through the Colorado River, from the designation of the river as ‘endangered’ in April to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Water Supply and Demand Study— there’s been a lot of big news on the river recently. Still, Friday’s announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation about the unprecedented alarm on the Colorado has brought new urgency to the slow shrinking of river flows.

The Colorado River’s low flows and shrunken reservoirs– lakes Mead and Powell– have triggered cuts in the amount of water allowed to flow downstream. On Friday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it would cut water released from Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam by 750,000 acre-feet next year. That’s about enough water to serve 1.5 million homes. This is the first time in the history of the nearly 50-year-old Glen Canyon Dam that downstream water releases will be cut.

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Reuse: The WISE Partnership gets approval from the Denver Water Board

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From the Denver Business Journal:

Denver Water last week approved the WISE partnership agreement that clears the way for the utility to delivery treated water to the area’s southern suburbs.

Approval of WISE, which stands for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, formalizes the regional cooperative water project. The agreement calls for the permanent delivery of 72,250 acre-feet of treated water from Denver and Aurora to members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA).

SMWSA was formed in 2004 from the banding together of smaller water utilities in south Denver.
With the agreement now in place, some of the water that currently flows down the South Platte River and out of the state would be recaptured by Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Waters Pipeline and pumped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. There, the water would be treated and piped to the southern suburbs.

The water delivery will begin in 2016. Members of the SMWSA must have infrastructure in place to move the water from the purification facility. The cost of the water and infrastructure for its delivery is estimated at $250 million over the next 10 years. Each member will independently determine how to finance their share of the project.

The participating members of SMWSA are the town of Castle Rock, Dominion Water & Sanitation District, Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, Cottonwood Water & Sanitation District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Rangeview Metropolitan District, Parker Water & Sanitation District, Meridian Metropolitan District and Inverness Water & Sanitation District.

More WISE Partnership coverage here.

Fountain Creek: ‘At some point, this board is going to lose its patience’ — Buffie McFadyen

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners are more than happy to throw some money into the hat to keep a Fountain Creek district afloat. At the same time, patience is wearing thin for El Paso County to come to grips with stormwater funding. “At some point, this board is going to lose its patience with the largest city in the state without a stormwater fee,” said Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen. “I feel like we’re standing knee-deep in water and not going anywhere.”

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, asked commissioners Monday to consider the district’s plan to patch funding until 2016. The district is nearly out of funds, and is asking county and city governments to come up with $50,000 to meet administrative needs in 2014. Pueblo County’s share would be $10,000.

If Southern Delivery System comes online in 2016, as projected, the district would begin receiving payments from Colorado Springs toward the $50 million negotiated in the Pueblo County 1041 process. That money is earmarked for Fountain Creek flood control projects that protect Pueblo. Interest from the $50 million could be used as soon as next year to begin planning flood-control projects that could benefit Pueblo. But commissioners still are sore that Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater enterprise in 2009 and has not replaced it.

Colorado Springs City Council is seek­ing a regional solution to meet $900 million in identified projects in El Paso County. Nearly 80 percent of those are in Colorado Springs. Mayor Steve Bach is pursuing a separate course to prioritize projects. While that discussion continues, the Fountain Creek district has put its own plans for a mill levy election — the district can assess up to 5 mills of property tax — on hold just in case there is an El Paso County stormwater fee election in 2014. “The longer (the Fountain Creek district) goes without passing a mill levy, it limits the time you’re able to do projects,” said Commissioner Sal Pace.

Small pointed to a U.S. Geological Survey study that showed 10 retention ponds south of Fountain would provide protection for Pueblo by cutting 46 percent of the peak flow off a 100-year flood. The SDS money would all go toward those types of projects, or a large dam, an option that is unlikely. But commissioners want results sooner. “If we put the district in mothballs for too long, we defeat the statutory mandate,” said Chairman Terry Hart.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.