— Bob Berwyn (@bberwyn) December 21, 2013
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
IS DROUGHT ON ITS WAY BACK?
A wet fall brought most of CO out of drought, and current soil moisture and snowpack numbers look great, but the latest US Drought Monitor seasonal forecast map indicates “drought development likely” for most of Western CO. The same map shows either “persisting” or “developing” drought conditions UT, NM, and AZ.
More education coverage here.
From email from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Todd Hartman):
Colorado this week completed successful negotiations with Kansas and Nebraska to allow for operation of the Compact Compliance Pipeline to deliver water to the North Fork of the Republican River in 2014. The agreement marks an important step toward resolving long-standing disputes under the Republican River Compact and providing more certainty to the agricultural economy across the region.
The agreement allows Colorado to operate the pipeline in 2014 and demonstrate its benefits to agricultural operators in Kansas and Nebraska. The 12-mile pipeline will deliver irrigation water directly to the North Fork of the Republican River near the Nebraska state line, providing the water necessary for Colorado to meet its Compact obligations with Kansas and Nebraska.
“This is a great step forward,” said Colorado’s State Engineer Dick Wolfe. “This has been a hard-fought matter, and hopefully this demonstrates that we can work together as three States to address these challenging issues and come to a permanent resolution on the Republican River.”
Colorado sought arbitration of this matter in May after Kansas denied Colorado’s request to operate the pipeline indefinitely to comply with the Compact. This fall, Kansas proposed a path forward that would allow Colorado to operate the pipeline for Compact compliance in 2014 so all parties could gain experience with its operations.
On Thursday, the three states voted to approve a resolution to use the pipeline in 2014. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources and its Division of Water Resources, along with the State Engineer, express their appreciation to the Attorney General’s Office in its efforts to negotiate with Kansas, and also thank the Republican River Water Conservation District and the Sandhills Ground Water Management District for their efforts to assist in reaching a resolution.
From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas have agreed to use a 12-mile pipeline to transfer water from wells in northeastern Colorado to the Republican River for agriculture in Kansas and Nebraska in 2014.
The deal made this week may help resolve a decades-old dispute over rights to water in the river, which flows from eastern Colorado into Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado hasn’t been meeting its obligations under the 1942 Republican River Compact that governs use of the river.
In May, Colorado officials sought arbitration after Kansas rejected a request to use the pipeline to meet its obligations under the compact.
Kansas also has argued that Nebraska farmers took more than their share of river water and tried to stop Nebraskans from irrigating 500,000 acres in the 5.8 million-acre Republican River Basin.
The pipeline would carry irrigation water pumped out of the ground into wells north of Wray and deliver that water to the North Fork of the Republican River near the Nebraska state line. Colorado natural resources officials said Friday the pipeline potentially could deliver 13,000 acre-feet of water a year to Nebraska.
State engineer Dick Wolfe called the deal to use the pipeline “a great step forward” in a hard-fought matter. “Hopefully this demonstrates that we can work together as three states to address these challenging issues and come to a permanent resolution on the Republican River.”
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in recent years has convened state legal officials to encourage collaboration. Past agreements have aimed at state monitoring and control over water use to comply with the compact, which allotted 300,000 acre-feet a year for Nebraska, 240,000 acre-feet a year for Kansas and 40,000 acre-feet a year for Colorado.
From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):
Doug Flanders, COGA’s director of policy and external affairs, issued a statement this week calling the study’s link between drilling and chemicals known as endocrine disruptors “short sighted.”
“The Colorado River is a drainage basin for almost half of western Colorado,” reads the statement. “To correlate the (endocrine disrupting chemical) levels in the river to oil and gas drilling is extreme cherry-picking from a number of sources that are known to contain (endocrine disrupting chemicals).”
The study from researchers with the University of Missouri at Columbia and the U.S. Geological Survey who collected water samples from the Colorado River and water wells near oil and gas development in Garfield County found chemical activity linked to cell destruction. The study is published in the journal Endocrinology…
She noted that though the study found higher levels of the endocrine disruptors in waters near fracking sites, more research is required to determine whether fracking is causing more of the chemicals to appear in the water supply. Nagel is conducting additional testing on the Western Slope as part of a new, more comprehensive study, she said.
The researchers collected control water samples in Boone County, Missouri, an area with no natural-gas drilling, and found lower levels of endocrine disrupting chemical activity.
The Colorado Oil & Gas Association argues that the region in Missouri has a different geology, topography and environment.
“Additionally, authors of the study are unsure of the exact source of the (endocrine disrupting chemicals) and even acknowledge that the chemicals could come from a host of other sources besides fracking,” the industry group’s statement reads.
Naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals could contribute to the activity observed in water samples collected by scientists, according to the study. Researchers noted, however, that they collected samples in areas without recent agricultural activity and wastewater contamination that could have led to additional endocrine disrupting chemical activity.
The researchers also contend that water samples taken in the more urban Boone County lend further support for a link between fracking and chemical activity in water.
“The more urban samples were found to exhibit the lowest levels of hormonal activity in the current study,” the study states.
Meanwhile, the State of Colorado has toughened regulations for oil and gas spills. Here’s the release from the COGCC (Todd Hartman):
The nine-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission today unanimously approved new spill reporting regulations that significantly tighten the volume thresholds and timeframe for operators to report spills of oil as well as exploration and production waste.
Under the new rules, any spill of five barrels or more must be reported within 24 hours. In addition, any spill of one barrel or more that occurs outside secondary containment, such as metal or earthen berms, must also be reported within 24 hours. The previous threshold for such reporting in both instances was 20 barrels, and spills between five and 20 barrels could be reported within 10 days.
The rules continue to require reporting within 24 hours of any spill that impacts or threatens to impact waters of the state, any occupied structure, livestock, a public byway or surface water supply area.
The rules approved Tuesday build upon House Bill 13-1278, which was approved by lawmakers earlier this year and took effect August 7.
“These are important improvements to our spill reporting requirements and improve our ability to track and respond to spills and releases across Colorado,” said COGCC director Matt Lepore.
“These regulations will improve the public’s confidence in our ability to protect public health, safety and our environment.”
From Gazzettes.com (Harry Saltzgaver):
I took a few days off last week to attend the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual meeting. Yes, this is my idea of a vacation…
The upper Colorado Basin, where all that liquid life starts as snow and mountain springs, is suffering a long-term drought similar to, and in ways exceeding, what we’ve experienced in California. Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two primary water storage reservoirs on the river, look like half-empty bathtubs. They have been slowly drained over the last two decades as users tried to keep land and cities from drying up.
Things are getting critical now, 15 years into a long-term drought. The powers that be are spending hundreds of millions on a three-mile-long tunnel under Lake Mead to get to a spot where water can still be taken out of the reservoir when it’s less than half full.
The Law of The River, called the Colorado River Compact, calls for limiting the amount of water released from Powell and Mead when they get below certain levels. Those levels likely will be reached in 2016.
Moreover, Mead will continue to drop even if “normal” amounts of water are released from Lake Powell. Users are taking out almost 10% more than is coming in, year in and year out.
Except for cloud seeding or rain dances (about equally effective), there is no way to increase the amount of water in the Colorado River. The only solution is to use less — conservation, in other words.
The folks who rely solely on the Colorado have accepted that reality. Farmers talk more about new irrigation techniques than the price of hay. In Nevada and Arizona, desert metropolises have permanent water restrictions, from landscape use to water served at restaurants, and recycling water is an art form. You didn’t think all those Las Vegas fountains really just used water once, did you?
As I mentioned, California and Long Beach are blessed with multiple sources of water. But the concept — and the reality — is the same. We have a finite amount of water, and an ever-increasing population looking for its share. The only long-term solution to limited supply is reducing demand — increasing conservation. We need to learn how to live with less water than we use today.
Long Beach Water is committed to providing an adequate supply of safe water to all of our residents, now and in the future. But be prepared — the definition of adequate supply is changing.
That’s the lesson of the Colorado, and one we need to embrace sooner rather than later.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The Bureau of Reclamation will extend the repayment contract for Trinidad Lake to 75 years because prolonged drought has reduced the anticipated use of storage in the reservoir. The reservoir, formed by the completion of Trinidad Dam in 1977, was built by the Corps of Engineers for flood control, but the project also includes recreation and wildlife values, as well as an irrigation contract between Reclamation and the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District. The contract dates back to 1967 and the original debt was $6.46 million.
The construction of Trinidad Dam was a matter of dispute when Kansas sued Colorado over violations of the Arkansas River Compact in 1985. The compact commission reviews operating principles at the lake every 10 years.
“The contract repayment is tied to water supply, and we determined the contract could not be repaid over 70 years, so we extended it to 75 years,” Andrew Gilmore, Reclamation engineer, told the compact commission this week.
He explained that several years of drought, including just a 17 percent of average snowpack in the Purgatoire River basin last year, have reduced payments by the district to a minimal level.
Meanwhile there is a request by the city of Trinidad to store water from outside the Purgatoire River district boundaries in the lake. Jeris Danielson, manager of the district, supported using more capacity in Trinidad Lake, which has a capacity of 125,967 acre-feet, with 20,000 acre feet set aside for irrigation, municipal and industrial storage contracts. Flood control is 50,000, while a joint use pool is 39,000 acre-feet. However, the reservoir often does not contain much more than the permanent pool of about 16,000 acre-feet set aside for fish and wildlife. The current level is about 14,400 acre-feet.
Danielson told the commission flooding has rarely occurred and more conservation storage could be used.
“In the joint use pool there is 35,000 acre-feet of storage that goes unused each year,” Danielson said. “It’s an incredible resource that just sits there.”