Colorado Springs Utilities project: Pikeview to Mesa construction

From Colorado Spring Utilities:

In late September 2013, we started construction on a drought mitigation project that will have the ability to deliver an additional 8 million gallons of water a day to customers next spring. The initial phases of the project will include lane restrictions on West Fillmore Street.

The $8 million pipeline project will connect the Pikeview Reservoir, near I-25 and Garden of the Gods Road, to the Mesa Water Treatment Plant, near Mesa Road and Fillmore Street. The effort will enable us to maximize water rights in Monument Creek, and further insulate customers from existing and future droughts.

As part of the project, we will install a 24-inch diameter, raw water pipe underneath portions of West Fillmore Street, Chestnut Street, Ellston Street, Sinton Road, Sutton Lane and Interpark Drive.

Pipe installation will occur on Fillmore in two phases. The first phase, which began at the end of September, will include work between Centennial Boulevard and Grand Vista Circle, while the second phase will be between Sage Road and Centennial Boulevard.

Lane restrictions will be in effect for the impacted portions of Fillmore during construction. Heading west on Fillmore, traffic will be reduced to two through lanes, while eastbound traffic will be reduced to one through lane. Depending on construction activities, lane restrictions may vary. Alternate routes are strongly advised.

The drought mitigation project will not impact recent Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority roadwork near Fillmore and I-25. However, we will continue to coordinate construction efforts with PPRTA and the City of Colorado Springs.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Denver Water sets course for 2014

Denver Water plans to rehabilitate Antero Dam in 2014
Denver Water plans to rehabilitate Antero Dam in 2014

From Denver Water:

Like utilities across the nation, Denver Water faces the challenge of staying on top of maintenance for its aging system — some of which was built more than 100 years ago — to ensure area residents continue to receive high-quality water and reliable service year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a budget and rate changes to fund essential repairs and upgrades in 2014.

The 2014 budget is $371 million, which will fund a number of multi-year projects, such as replacing aging pipes and failing underground storage tanks, upgrading water treatment facilities to maintain water quality and meet new regulatory requirements, and rehabilitating Antero Dam. The budget is funded by water rates, bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and fees for new service (tap fees).

Effective January 2014, the budget calls for a rate increase of $1.29 per month on average for Denver residential customers and full-service suburban residential customers using 115,000 gallons annually (the average annual consumption for Denver Water’s service area). The amounts will vary depending upon customer water usage and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water. Customers in Denver tend to use less than 115,000 gallons per year; suburban customers tend to use more.

“We continue to prepare for Colorado’s increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather cycles, which require us to do all we can to make sure our system is even more resilient,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “In response to the dry conditions earlier this year, we prepared financially by reducing our 2013 operating expenses, deferring projects and tapping into our cash reserves to help reduce our costs and balance our finances.”

“We adjust our budget and corresponding water rates each fall for the following year after we examine the necessary projects needed to maintain and upgrade our system.”

Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 19 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants.

“Denver Water’s collection system covers more than 4,000 square miles, and we operate facilities in 13 counties in Colorado,” said Lochhead. “It takes an extensive network of pipes, pump stations, treatment plants, people and more to make sure our customers can turn on the tap and enjoy fresh, clean, safe water every day. We must continue to invest in that system to ensure a secure water supply for the future.”

Under the 2014 budget, rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city would remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs would still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

The water department is a public agency funded by water rates and new tap fees, not taxes. Water rates are designed to recover the costs of providing water service — including maintenance of distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants — and also encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. Most of Denver Water’s annual costs are fixed and do not vary with the amount of water sold.

‘Climate change … requires urgent action, not tomorrow but today’

Summit County Citizens Voice

World needs action on global warming

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For many people, the concept of global climate change remains abstract until they feel the impacts of global warming first-hand — just ask the residents of Sandy Hook, New Jersey or Boulder, Colorado.

That’s completely understandable, and ultimately, the impacts of global warming will mostly play out in the arena of day to day, month to month and year to year weather.

Some areas, like the Southwest, are already starting to see longer and more intense heatwaves and droughts, while other areas, like the coast of Alaska, see rising sees encroach on the land.

Here is how the World Meteorological Organization reacted to this week’s release of the IPCC‘s latest global climate change assessment:

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USGS: Chemistry and Age of Groundwater in the Piceance Structural Basin #ColoradoRiver

Piceance Basin
Piceance Basin

Click here to read a copy. Click here for the release. Here’s the abstract:

Fourteen monitoring wells were sampled by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, to better understand the chemistry and age of groundwater in the Piceance structural basin in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, and how they may relate to the development of underlying natural-gas reservoirs. Natural gas extraction in the area has been ongoing since at least the 1950s, and the area contains about 960 producing, shut-in, and abandoned natural-gas wells.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

‘What lessons can be gleaned from this Biblical deluge in Colorado?’ — Allen Best #COflood

Evans Colorado via
Evans Colorado September 2013 via

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

But what caught the eye of Nolan Doesken and his staff at the Colorado Climate Center was the rainfall patterns. In most such summer rains, the deluge occurs at 7,500 feet in elevation and lower, or in the foothills. This time, rain fell up to the Continental Divide.

“The majority of the water is still from the base of the foothills up to 8,000 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Our analysis will probably confirm that. But there’s a lot of contribution of elevations above 8,000 feet, which is why water was flowing through Estes Park,” said Doesken, Colorado’s official state climatologist, in an interview on Sept. 19.

“This is pertinent to mountains towns,” Doesken added, “because mountain towns to a certain extent have always been conveniently, climatically immune to the worst of flooding. Estes Park, at an elevation of 7,500, would be at the low end of such mountain towns. Most of the flooding at those elevations has been snow melt caused after blistering sunshine rather than pouring rain.”[…]

But what lessons should be drawn from this rain and flooding along Colorado’s Front Range. The most notable takeaway is that even if this is a 1,000-year rainfall event in certain places, a conclusion not accepted by all meteorologists, the flooding was far less. In Boulder, it fell within the framework of a 50-year flood, maybe less. The flooding of St. Vrain Creek, which so heavily damaged Lyons and Longmont, may have been something approaching a 100-year event…

Many questions remain. How much should a community invest in a 200-year flood event? How much can it afford? Well-heeled Boulder did pretty well handling this 50-year event, but even so there were problems in some residential areas, where water cascaded off slopes. And the flood there in 1894 delivered more than twice as much water, about 13,000 cubic feet per second, as compared to about 5,000 cfs this time…

n my travels during the last two weeks, I only got a glimpse of the great power of this water and the destruction it has wrought —and this is just a 50- or perhaps 100-year flood. I haven’t seen the homes destroyed in Lyons, Longmont and Jamestown, nor the carnage in Big Thompson Canyon. Will people there rebuild again, as they did after the 1976 flood?

As a human species, we tend to forget. We know about flooding, but it’s an intellectual thing, an abstraction. But even when we know it form direct experience, it’s easy too forget after 10, 20, or more years. Much harder yet is imagining a future that’s not quite like anything in our recorded past.

‘A moratorium [on RICDs] would have the effect of denigrating one class of water rights’ — Karen Stiegelmeier

New supply development concepts via east slope roundtables
New supply development concepts via east slope roundtables

Here’s a guest column running in The Pueblo Chieftain written by Karen Stiegelmeier:

Northern Colorado communities have been devastated by unprecedented storms and floods. While their long recovery process begins, Southern Colorado continues to suffer from years of drought. Governor Hickenlooper issued an executive order in May of this year directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to prepare a Colorado water plan.

Although people say that “whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting,” I believe that East Slope county and municipal officials, and those of us in the headwater communities of Colorado, share common values and responsibilities that are an important backdrop to the Colorado water plan effort. Regardless of the location, local government land-use planning and management decisions drive the demand for more water, local government entities are the major water providers, and local government regulatory powers extend to the location and construction of water projects that transfer water from one part of the state to another.

As elected officials, we all are charged with protecting public health, safety, welfare and the environment, and we should honor each other’s responsibility to do so. If not properly guided, the Colorado water plan runs the risk of driving a wedge between different areas of the state by allowing Front Range water supply needs to trump the local government plans in areas of the state that are targeted as the source to meet those needs.

Whether in the Arkansas Valley or the mountains of Colorado, communities already have engaged in extensive land-use planning and long-range water supply planning that should be honored in the Colorado Water Plan.

Some on the Front Range have called for new supply projects from the Colorado River basin to address the anticipated demand for water to supply new growth. We hope that the governor, the CWCB, and the advocates for new supply projects will consider the lost agricultural production, degraded fisheries and compromised wildlife habitat caused by existing transmountain diversions from the headwaters of the Colorado River.

These environmental impacts translate to socioeconomic impacts. Agricultural land stripped of water rights produces no revenue and alters the community fabric. Reduced stream flows means fewer recreational opportunities for rafting, kayaking and fishing. Higher water temperatures produce a danger to healthy fish populations and threaten the status of “Gold Medal” fisheries. Water quality and clarity degradation impacts tourism and property values. And reduced flushing flows increase the cost of water and wastewater treatment.

The Front Range also has proposed a moratorium on new applications for recreational in-channel diversion water rights until new supply projects have been identified. This is an alarming proposal for two reasons.

First, RICDs are water rights under Colorado water law. The Colorado Water Plan is designed to honor this law.

Second, RICDs are a critical economic development tool for communities that are lucky enough to be located along stretches of river conducive to rafting, kayaking and other water-based recreation.

A moratorium would have the effect of denigrating one class of water rights while elevating the desire for new growth on the Front Range over economic development plans of existing communities.

I propose that, in identifying future water supplies for a growing population, each water basin in the state will first consider how to fill those needs within its own basin before eyeing sources of water supply outside the basin. The Colorado Water Plan should identify processes and requirements for each basin to conserve, reuse and maximize in-basin water supply.

New development accommodating new population should use smart growth principles such as xeriscaping, water wise appliances, and cluster development so that our scarce water supply will be used efficiently, and agricultural lands can be protected for future generations if the landowner desires.

No water project should be supported by the state without the approval of the local government where it would be located.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Parker diverts 240 acre-feet of water so far into Rueter-Hess under free river

Rhode Island Hotel 1908 Parker via Best of Parker
Rhode Island Hotel Parker (1908) via Best of Parker

From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District is taking advantage of the wet weather by using its diversion dam on Cherry Creek near Stroh Road. In the last two weeks, it has helped redirect 240 acre-feet of rainwater into Rueter-Hess. That’s 78,204,342 gallons, courtesy of Mother Nature. It’s among the few upsides to the soaking rains that have resulted in historic floods, displacing thousands in the north metro area, decimating roads and homes and taking eight lives along the way…

The PWSD, for the first time this year, raised its diversion structure and pulled off as much as 10,000 gallons per minute during the peak of the first day of storms. Then, just as the weekend was approaching, Cherry Creek was “called out” — in other words, those with downstream water rights declared their privileges to the flows, said Ron Redd, district manager for the PWSD. “We were pulling quite a bit off for a while,” he said. “When they put the call out, it was frustrating with all of that flooding.”

The district worked with a local water commissioner, who grants requests from water rights owners, and was able to lift the restrictions the following day. “We’ve been pumping ever since then,” Redd said.

Some of the rainwater has entered Rueter-Hess through Newlin Gulch, the drainage channel into which the reservoir was built. But much of the work has been done with the diversion dam, which was finished in 2006. It has gotten little use in recent years because of the low water level in Cherry Creek; the PWSD, however, captures alluvial flows from the creek.

The reservoir is a tool for the district to store excess flows, but if there is a call out on the river, the district must release that water, as it did last summer after heavy rains deluged northern Castle Rock, Franktown and areas south of Parker.

More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.