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Developers opt out of water rights application for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Opponents of a proposed uranium mill near Naturita crowed Friday that a judge dismissed the mill’s water-right claim, but the mill’s backers noted that it was they who sought the dismissal.

The Sheep Mountain Alliance fired off a news release after Water Judge Steven Patrick dismissed Energy Fuel’s Inc.‘s petition for rights on the San Miguel River.

Patrick dismissed the case, but he did so in a way that permits Energy Fuels to reapply for the water right if necessary. The environmental organization had sought to prevent the company from refiling for the water.

The company failure to pursue the water rights “clearly indicates the lack of intent to follow through on the construction of the uranium mill.” Hilary Cooper, executive director of the alliance, said in the statement.

“We decided that we did not need this water at this time,” Curtis Moore, Energy Fuels director of investor relations and public relations, wrote in an email. “Keep in mind that we have wells and a water right in the Dolores River basin that should meet most (or all) of our water needs.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – ‘Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand’ — Sept. 13

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From email from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – “Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand” — takes place 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo. The cost is $30 and includes lunch. Student cost $10. Register at http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org, by calling (970)-945-8522 or e-mailing mspyker@crwcd.org.

The seminar is an easy, one-day presentation of the latest hot subjects that challenge the Colorado River and how science, politics and other actions seek to address them. The Colorado River District was created 76 years ago to protect Western Colorado water and stages the seminar to promote public education about critical challenges to the lifeblood river of the Southwest.

Speakers include Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District, who will give an overview to recent findings that promise the Colorado River faces greater challenges than ever from climate change and human use of the Colorado River. Other speakers will address a U.S. Geological Survey study that confirms warm springs are reducing snowpack, a forecast for drought and the latest Bureau of Reclamation ruling to reduce releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.

The keynote speaker at lunch will be John Entsminger, the Senior Deputy General Manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Climate and reservoir levels most directly affect Las Vegas and its surrounding community and Entsminger will give a view of what that means.

In the afternoon, the developers of Sterling Ranch in the southern Denver metro area will talk about how they want to build a community with water conservation as a first concern.

The day concludes with a presentation by the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James Eklund, about the Colorado Water Plan. Earlier this year, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered that a plan be given to him by 2015 that addresses measures to meet a looming water supply gap as Colorado grows to as many as 10 million people by 2050.

A discussion of the plan and ways to meet the gap will take place in a panel discussion. Making up the panel will be the chairs or representatives of six Basin Roundtables – citizens groups in each basin created by the Colorado General Assembly in the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act.

Agenda Topics
Change: It is for Certain
– Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn provides an overview of the trends that lead to the day’s subjects regarding snowpack, drought, Lake Powell equalization and the Colorado Water Plan

It’s True: Spring is Killing our Rocky Mountain Snowpack, U.S Geological Survey confirms – lead study author Greg Pederson from Bozeman, Mont., will describe the findings that we have long suspected to be true

A Dry Subject: Drought and a Look Ahead – Klaus Wolter of the NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center in Boulder, the Southwest’s preeminent forecaster, will describe conditions that are developing for snowfall this winter

Level With Us: Whither Lake Powell – Malcolm Wilson, Chief, Water Resources Group, Upper Colorado Region of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will talk about the recent drought-induced decision to reduce water releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and what that means for now and into the future for the states depending on the Colorado River

Lunch Keynote Speaker – John Entsminger, Senior Deputy General Manager at Southern Nevada Water Authority of Las Vegas, Nev., will present a Lower Basin view of Lake Powell, Lake Mead and Big River Issues

Putting Conservation on the Table: the Sterling Ranch Story – Beorn Courtney, an engineer helping to plan Sterling Ranch in Douglas County, south of Denver, will describe how land use, clustering, landscaping, rain water capture and other efficiencies will be employed in this new community

The Colorado Water Plan: a Call and Response – James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will discuss why Gov. Hickenlooper has ordered up a Colorado Water Plan on a tight deadline and what that means for water policy and the solving a looming water supply gap as Colorado continues to attract and give birth to new residents

A Response from Both Sides of the Continental Divide: How Does This Play Out – A panel discussion among six representatives from the Basin Roundtables. Guests include Gary Barber of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable; Mark Koleber of the Metro Roundtable, Joe Frank of the South Platte Basin Roundtable; Tom Gray of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable; Michelle Pierce of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable; Mike Preston of the Southwest Basin Roundtable and Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado Basin Roundtable.

More Colorado River District coverage here.

Video: Can’t flush this

Windsor rate payers are going to be asked to pony up $6.7 million for gravel pit storage

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From The Greeley Tribune (Jason Pohl):

A major project that could put Windsor one step closer to water security is inching forward as town leaders explore funding options for the $6.7 million Kyger Gravel Pit redevelopment.

The Windsor Town Board last week heard several staff presentations about the early renderings of the 2014 budget, which will be discussed in-depth later this year. The biggest item up for discussion was the Kyger project, which would transform a barren mining area on the outskirts of town near Weld County Road 13 into a 1,100-acre-foot reservoir that would revolutionize how Windsor handles its augmentation water supply.

The funding mechanism is anything but simple, said Dean Moyer, Windsor’s director of finance. He explained that money would stem from a number of different funds, loans and parts of the 2013 and 2014 budgets including:

» $4.5 million, 20-year loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The draw of borrowing the money is the low-interest rate and flexible repayment options, including early payoff, Moyer said. That would amount to roughly $250,000-$300,000 each year.

» $750,000 from the 2013 water fund along with $200,000 from the non-potable water fund

» $625,000 from both the park improvement fund and the capital improvement fund divided over 2013 and 2014

The estimated cost of the project is about $6.3 million, but staff wants to ask for more to provide a contingency of about 12 percent, just in case.

Each year, the town must resupply nearby rivers and ditches after drawing water from them throughout the year to irrigate area parks and open spaces. That resupply of water has to be stored somewhere in the meantime, and this has typically been Windsor Lake at Boardwalk Park. Earlier this year, those water levels were drastically low and almost jeopardized the summer recreation season, Town Manager Kelly Arnold said previously.

Though the development would be a non-potable supply, it could pave the way toward even bigger development plans for the area, including a potential for a drinking water treatment facility on an adjacent lot, the board said at a past meeting.

The town will submit a feasibility study to the CWCB this month and plans on officially purchasing the Kyger Reservoir infrastructure in December, Moyer said. Design work is slated to wrap up in June and construction could be done by January 2015.

The reservoir could eventually be used for recreation purposes, but those conversations won’t be happening for about three years, Arnold said Monday.

“We’ve got to get the intended purpose up and running first,” he said, adding that actually filling the reservoir with water will take plenty of time and planning. “Then we can talk about other benefits.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

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

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the August month to date precipitation map from the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to read the current drought assessment Click here to go to the archives.

Drought news: ‘It’s time to stop the religious discussion about climate change’ — Pat Mulroy #COdrought

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Across the Upper Colorado River Basin, and across Colorado, a generous monsoon season has made August nice and wet, with the exception of northwestern Colorado and adjacent areas of Utah and Wyoming. The Four Corners region and Colorado’s Eastern Plains, both areas where the drought has been particularly persistent and extreme, have received some of the highest rainfall totals.

Little by little, this moisture is starting to put a dent in drought conditions, although there is still a lot of ground to make up from a very dry winter on the heels of a very dry 2012. Current stream flows are starting to get back up into the normal range, with the exception of the White River Basin in northwestern Colorado, which is experiencing very low flows. Cumulative stream flows for the 2013 water year, which started Oct. 1, 2012, remain significantly below average across the region. In southwestern Colorado, dry soils have soaked up a lot of the recent rain, blunting its impact on stream flows.

Vegetation remains drier than average across most of the Upper Colorado River Basin, with the most extreme conditions in southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah. The northern and central Colorado mountains, on the other hand, are showing normal-to-wet vegetation moisture levels.

Forecasters are anticipating that the next few weeks will bring more monsoon moisture to western Colorado and the rest of the Colorado River basin, but the 3-month forecast is totally up in the air for Colorado and the rest of the Southwest.

Although conditions have been improving, the U.S. Drought Monitor still shows over 98% of Colorado under some level of drought classification, with similar conditions in surrounding states. Long-range forecasts are only moderately optimistic about any improvement.

Meanwhile, reservoir levels, our best indicator of the long-term water supply-demand balance, continue to drop, as they normally do in August. Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest, and Lake Powell, the Upper Colorado River Basin’s largest, are both at about 45% of capacity, containing just over half their historical average August volumes.

From Government Executive (Todd Woody):

According to a new report from Ceres, the Boston-based nonprofit that promotes corporate sustainability, the price tag to modernize pipes, pumping stations and other water infrastructure in the US will reach $300 billion by 2030.

But budget-stressed municipalities, which operate most of the water systems in the US, face a conundrum. Customers’ bills are based on how much water they use. But thanks to low-flow toilets and other water-efficient appliances, as well as successful efforts to promote conservation, revenues are dropping as customers use less water. That means less money to finance much-needed improvements to the water delivery system.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Just what part of this drought and increased temperatures is natural and what part is a result of human-caused greenhouse effect, scientists cannot say with precision. Tree rings document decades-long droughts in the Colorado River Basin a millennium ago similar to the one now underway. But while climate models haven’t figured out how increased greenhouse gases will affect precipitation, they are clear about rising temperatures – which are almost certain to exact much higher tributes of water for everything from corn fields north of “Denver to residential lawns in Salt Lake City to fountains in Las Vegas. All depend on the Colorado River in some way.

Mulroy long ago accepted the science of climate change. “It’s time to stop the religious discussion about climate change,” she said.

She also called for greater federal involvement in drought planning and mitigation in advance of climate change. “We have an interesting attitude in this country,” she said. “We think we only have to pay once the destruction has occurred.”