Longmont: South Platte Forum October 23-24

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I’m a bad blogger. I totally forgot to do a post about next week’s South Platte Forum. I believe that there is still time to register for all the fun and great information.

Click here to register.

Also, the Colorado Water Congress POND committee is holding a silent auction to help with flood relief in the basin at their event on Wednesday.

Click here to register for the POND event.

Ski areas, et. al, kick off this winter’s cloud-seeding program

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters
Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

From the Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

In Colorado, ski-area operators and water managers have been known to do a few rain dances and — privately at least — pray to their own God when drought strikes. But in the age of technology and hubris, when nearly every challenge is met with engineering, they aren’t just waiting for Mother Nature to put her cards on the table. Instead, there’s a growing interest in seeding clouds with silver iodide to coax every possible bit of moisture from passing storms.

Weather modification has historic roots in the Cold War era, when both the U.S. and Soviets looked at ways to weaponize weather, and more recently, U.S. intelligence agencies decided to help fund a far-reaching study aimed at determining if there’s a way to mitigate global warming with technology and engineering.

Proponents have claimed for years that seeding can increase snowfall in targeted areas by as much as 15 percent. As a result, water providers like Denver Water, and big ski resorts, including Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park, are all helping fund a $1 million cloud-seeding program in Colorado’s north-central mountains, hoping to improve ski conditions, as well as boost stream flows and reservoir storage.

Recent news about record-low flows from Lake Powell, the key Colorado River reservoir, has spurred even more interest in enhancing natural precipitation, said one of the state officials who manages what’s formally called a weather modification program. A roster of companies involved in cloud seeding and related activities shows that weather modification is a growth industry.

The state program is run by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which issues permits and sets basic rules — for example cloud-seeding stops when the snowpack reaches a certain level to address concerns about avalanches and flooding.

But those rules haven’t quelled concerns, as there are still a few people left who probably think that tinkering with the weather on a large scale is probably one of the worst ideas ever. Those sentiments were reflected during a hearing for cloud seeding permits in the early 2000s. Residents of Evergreen turned up en masse to claim that, ever since Vail started seeding clouds (way back in the 1980s), snowfall in their town has declined.

The CWCB program was jump-started with state seed money in the early 1970s, but since then has become 80 percent – 90 percent self-funded through grants and participation by resorts and water providers, with everyone seeing cloud-seeding as a low-cost alternative to building new reservoirs and pipelines. And with an uncertain outlook for Colorado River flows, even downstream states like Arizona and California are ponying up to help pay for cloud seeding in the headwaters.

The question about downwind impacts seems reasonable. After all, there’s only so much moisture in every cloud. But weather experts like Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken say there’s not a shred of evidence to show that cloud-seeding affects snow and rainfall downwind of the specific target areas. The weather pattern most suitable for mountain cloud seeding (a steady, moisture-laden jet stream out of the northwest) generally leave the plains high and dry.

On the other hand, Doesken said there’s no clear evidence to show that seeding enhances snowfall anywhere near the amount claimed.

“If it really increased snowfall by 15 percent, you’d be able to see that in streamflow records from, say, the Gunnison Basin (where seeding has been ongoing for many years), but that’s not the case,” Doesken said. Overall, he believes that seeding does boost precipitation, but by a lesser amount than claimed…

So when your score your first face shots this coming winter, go ahead and enjoy the celebratory bonfire in honor of Ullr, the Norse god of skiing. But just to be on the safe side, don’t forget to raise your glass in a toast the men and women who promise better living — including more snow — through chemistry and engineering.

More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.

Arvada water and wastewater rates to increase for 2014

Arvada School circa 1888 photo via ArvadaHistory.org
Arvada School circa 1888 photo via ArvadaHistory.org

From the Arvada Press (Crystal Anderson):

The rate increase, which will affect current water, wastewater and water tap rates, will go before the city council mid-November, and should it be approved, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
According to Jim Sullivan, the director of utilities for Arvada, this is a general, annual increase.

˝The rates change every year, so that there isn’t a sudden jump, by doing small increases, we are allowing for the increase to be incorporated into budgets,” he said.

When the new year begins, Arvada’s water rates will rise around 4 percent adding an additional $1 a month or $12 an year to residents’ water bills. Wastewater rates will also rise around 4 percent, which will increase bills 90 cents a month or $10.80 a year…

The increase comes as a result to increases in raw water by Denver Water and increased service charges by the Metro District. The funds will go towards the water system and the costs associated such as repair materials and maintenance…

Compared to neighboring cities, Arvada has one of the lowest water rates, and is projected to stay low despite a possible increase in 2015.

The public hearing will be held Monday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 8101 Ralston Road, Arvada.

More infrastructure coverage here.

CMU: Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin Water Conference — Sharing Experiences Across Borders

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows
Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

From Colorado Mesa University (Hannah Holm) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

On Nov. 6-7, water experts and users from around Colorado and other states in the Colorado River Basin will converge on Colorado Mesa University for the third annual Upper Colorado River Basin Water Conference.

The theme of the conference is “Sharing Experiences Across Borders,” and it will provide an opportunity for the exchange of fresh information and fresh ideas on how to address our region’s water challenges.

Regional water leaders will explain how they are planning to address increased demands on dwindling water supplies and discuss whether changes are needed in how water is allocated between states. Scientists will present new insights on what river and stream flows could look like in the future, as well as relate how the weather systems that caused catastrophic flooding on the Front Range in September affected our side of the mountains. Farmers will talk about some of the challenges they face related to environmental issues, and examples will be given of how stream and habitat restoration has been accomplished at the Moab mill tailings site and on ephemeral streams in Colorado’s high country. Literary and historic perspectives on water in the West will also be offered.

Some of the high-profile speakers will include:

Keynote speaker James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board

Dan McCool, University of Utah political science professor and author of the 2012 book “River Republic: The Fall and Rise of Americas Rivers”

Sandy Fabritz-Whitney, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources

Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District

In addition to listening to formal presentations, participants will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with each other and learn about participants’ projects and experiences.

The conference will be held in the University Center on CMU’s campus. It begins at 8 a.m. and continues until late in the afternoon both days, with an evening reception on Nov. 6. The full program, registration and lodging information can be found at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter.

The public is welcome to participate in this conference. The conference fee of $140 includes breakfast and lunch both days, as well as the reception. One-day and student rates are also available, and CMU students and employees can attend for no charge. A limited number of scholarships are also available for those who would otherwise not be able to attend. For more information, check the website, email watercenter@coloradomesa.edu or call the Water Center at CMU at 970-248-1968.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs’ Mayor Bach includes $25 million for stormwater projects in his 2014 budget

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 -- photo via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater in 2011 — photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach says his 2014 budget contains $25 million for stormwater projects. The amount breaks down to $9 million for new construction, $7.2 million in pending grants and $8.8 million in emergency funds related to fires. A list provided by city staff shows that $14.25 million would go to high-priority projects identified in the recent stormwater needs assessment by CH2MHill.

“The City of Colorado Springs is not standing idly by when it comes to our stormwater needs as we head into 2014. The $25 million we anticipate spending in the next year includes numerous projects identified as high priorities in the recent CH2MHill Stormwater Needs Assessment. We are finding efficiencies and repurposing dollars wherever possible to address this critical need in our city,” Bach said in a press release.

Bach is at odds with Colorado Springs City Council, El Paso County and communities on a regional task force over the approach to stormwater. The mayor wants to redirect existing funding to cover needs, while the task force wants a long-term, sustainable approach.

Pueblo County commissioners have asked Colorado Springs to identify projects that help protect Pueblo from flood impacts as part of an ongoing inquiry into conditions agreed to in a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

Meanwhile Colorado Springs Utilities is proposing rate hikes for 2014. Here’s a report from Abbie Burke writing for Fox21News.com. Here’s an excerpt:

…the rate hike for water was approved back in 2012.

“We already had approved a 10 percent increase for water services,” Bill Cherrier, Chief Planning and Finance Officer for CSU, said.

The water rate increase was approved to help pay for the Southern Delivery System.

“That is our new water system to provide more water supply and redundant water supply to the community,” Cherrier said…

“When we look at the residential bill it’s expected to go up about 4.75 percent in the next year,” Cherrier said.

For the average customer, with a $200 bill, that’s about $10. The rate increase will go before city council for approval at the end of November. A public rate hearing will be held November 12, which will be open for comments.

More stormwater coverage here.