— Denver Water (@DenverWater) February 27, 2014
From the Green River Star (David Martin):
The Aaron Million water project continues on in the form of a request to the Bureau of the Interior. Million’s request, as published in the Federal Register Feb. 12, calls for a standby contract for the annual reservation of 165,000 care-feet of municipal and industrial water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir for a transbasin diversion project…
Mayor Hank Castillon, who is a member of Communities Protecting the Green, said he isn’t sure what Million’s plans are with this latest move. Citing his previous denials from the Army Corp of Engineers and FERC, Castillon said the amount Million wants to use has dropped from the initial 250,000 acre feet of water his project would require. Castillon said he expects a battle to occur between the eastern and western sides of the continental divide. Castillon is aware Cheyenne and other cities in eastern Wyoming need water, along with locations in northern Colorado. The problem they need to address, according to Castillon, is the fact that the water isn’t available…
The Sweetwater County Commissioners commented on Million’s proposal Tuesday, voicing their opposition to the idea. Commissioner Wally Johnson said the transfer of water to Colorado isn’t in Sweetwater County’s best interest, saying “it doesn’t matter if it’s Mr. Million or Mr. Disney” making the proposal. Commissioner John Kolb also voiced his opposition, saying opposition to the idea is unanimous between Gov. Matt Mead, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and the commissioners themselves.
“I’d like to see us not wasting our time on crazy, hare-brained schemes,” Kolb said. “(Transbasin water diversion) doesn’t work.”
From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):
New floodplain regulations were implemented in Montezuma County Jan. 13 to comply with higher standards established by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Colorado adopted rules to provide increased floodplain management standards in order to help communities prepare, plan for, respond to, and mitigate the effects of future flood damage.
The main change for the county, explained community services director James Dietrich, will be for critical facilities. If in a designated flood plain, those structures must now be built 2 feet above the base-flood elevation instead of the previous 1-foot standard.
Critical facilities include hospitals, schools, nursing homes, daycare facilities, power stations, and government/public buildings.
Building regulations for non-critical facilities in the floodplain did not change from the 1-foot over the base-flood elevation. Also, there were no changes to the county floodplain boundaries.
More Montezuma County coverage here.
Click here for the pitch, to view the session descriptions, and register. Here’s an excerpt:
The Colorado Water Trust is coordinating and facilitating a number of water sessions at the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts’ Conservation Excellence Conference in Denver in March.
The Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts (CCLT) promotes and supports land conservation at a state level and serves as the collective voice for land conservation in Colorado. CCLT’s annual Conservation Excellence Conference offers conservation professionals opportunities for learning and networking in Denver on March 17, 18, and 19.
Because water is often crucial to the conservation values of conserved lands, the Colorado Water Trust has worked closely with CCLT and the land conservation community over time. We provided general guidance, technical assistance, and educational programming specific to land conservation transactions to help professionals make informed decisions about water rights.
This year, the Colorado Water Trust is coordinating and facilitating a number of sessions and workshops at CCLT’s Conservation Excellence Conference as part of our continuing efforts to assist the land conservation community in understanding water issues.
More education coverage here.
From Colorado PBS (Jim Trotter):
There’s so much snow in the South Platte River Basin that water managers there are “holding their breath” for a normal, well-behaved runoff when melting begins in earnest, said assistant State Climatologist Wendy Ryan.
In other words, they don’t want an unexpected streak of 90 degree days that could create a deluge in river channels damaged from last September’s massive flooding.
Elsewhere in the state, conditions range from the mostly positive to the downright worrisome. Snowpack in the San Juan Mountains is 90 percent of average, with drier conditions in the Four Corners. In the Rio Grande and lower Arkansas River basins, however, where drought has persisted in a multi-state region for three years going on four, conditions are less promising.
Snowpack in the Rio Grande is only 74 percent of normal, which could have grim portent for New Mexico and D2 (severe), D3 (extreme) and D4 (exceptional) drought conditions now exist in Colorado’s southeastern corner. Springs storms and a healthy monsoon season could change all of that, of course, but for now – given recent history – there are plenty of reasons to worry.
The southeastern plains received moisture from September’s epic storms, but by that time ranchers had sold off most of their cattle because there was no water and no wheat. What grew from the moisture instead is what Ryan described as an “epidemic of tumbleweed.”[…]
Among other measures followed by the climate center at Colorado State University, is reservoir water storage. There, too, the news ranged from good to not so good. Lake Dillon is standing at 111 per cent of average and 94 percent full, while Lake Granby is 91 percent of average and 47 percent full – good numbers for this time of year. But the massive Lake Powell is only 56 percent of average, 39 percent full.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):
Jennifer Tanaka, an attorney for the Cascade Metropolitan District, said the $25 increase for residents with a standard, three-quarter inch tap will help the district offset costs related to a legal dispute with Colorado Springs Utilities. CSU has been leasing water to the western El Paso County town as part of a pact signed in 1990.
“The board made it clear that the fee is only for the purpose of repaying the city,” Tanaka said of the decision made at Tuesday’s meeting. “Once everything is paid off, the fee goes away.”
According to Tanaka, a trial between CSU and the district was avoided by an agreement made in mid February. The Cascade Metropolitan District has an outstanding debt of $495,000 owed to the utilities company.
More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.
Click here to register to download the report.
Thanks to the Boulder Weekly (Haley Gray) for the link. Here’s an excerpt:
Water is the lifeblood of Colorado’s Weld and Garfield counties, and lately it’s been in short supply. Both of these counties face extremely high stress in terms of water scarcity, and both have seen an intense concentration of the water-intensive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process.
It’s a bad combination, according to a recent report issued by Ceres, a nonprofit devoted to promoting corporate responsibility and sustainability leadership.
The report, released Wednesday, Feb. 4, is titled, “Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Demand by the Numbers,” and it projects that the clash between water shortages and fracking is only going to get worse, given that a significant increase in shale development via fracking in these areas is likely. In the Denver- Julesburg (DJ) Basin alone, which covers parts of Boulder and Weld counties, Ceres predicts a redoubling of fracking activity by 2015…
CERES FOUND THAT 100 PERCENT OF THE NATURAL GAS AND OIL WELLS IN COLORADO ARE LOCATED IN AREAS FACING EXTREME WATER STRESS, 89 PERCENT OF WHICH ARE LOCATED IN WELD AND GARFIELD COUNTIES…
Ceres’ report constitutes the first systematic effort to investigate water usage by natural gas companies. One of the purposes of the report is to identify water sourcing risks to oil and gas companies, thereby generating information previously unavailable to the public. Famiglietti lauds the “deep dives,” or meticulously detailed case studies, conducted by Ceres for the report.
It is, however, by no means a comprehensive study of the risks associated with fracking. Concentrated usage of water in extremely dry regions was just one of three primary concerns Famiglietti points out regarding the report. Famiglietti listed earthquakes and the removal of water from the natural water cycle as additional issues demanding further investigation. Both of these concerns arise from the practice of using injection wells to dispose of wastewater from the fracking process by injecting it into deep formations.
The report also issues recommendations and identifies some of the most progressive current practices in the industry. It specifically mentions, among other companies, Anadarko, the single largest natural gas producer in the DJ Basin in terms of water use, as a “pocket of success.” Anadarko earned the mention for its practice of leasing wastewater from local municipalities. Even so, Anadarko is one of the most at-risk companies in terms of drilling in water-scarce areas, according to Freyman.
“In a general year, cities have more water than they can use,” says Brian Werner, public information officer of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (NCWCD).
Leasing excess water to oil and gas companies to use for fracking allows municipalities to pad meager budgets. The years 2009, 2010 and 2011, for example, were wet years, according to Werner. In 2012 the Front Range was hit with a drought. Werner expects 2014 to be a particularly wet year.
According to Werner, it is not unheard of to see a town both lease excess water and impose water rationing simultaneously, since water rationing is used to keep water conservation on the public’s minds. “In most years [how much, if any, excess water leased] depends on comfort levels and a number of other factors,” Werner says.
No towns in Colorado currently lease water directly to companies for fracking purposes, according to Werner. Generally, a water leasing company such as A&W Water Service Inc. secures water from municipalities or local farmers, who might own the rights to more water than they need, and then resells the water to a third party for fracking purposes.
The increased demand for water by “deep-pocketed” oil and gas companies is not beneficial to all farmers, though. According to the Ceres report, it has driven up the price of water in Colorado, making it difficult for struggling farmers to stay afloat.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):
California’s largest municipal water supply agency, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, took about 80,000 acre-feet from its water savings account in the lake last year. Now the agency is contemplating a withdrawal at least twice that size, enough to cause the surface of the massive reservoir to drop two feet and the shoreline to recede by as much as 60 feet.
“Things are so bad in California, unless it starts raining like crazy we are probably going to take another 150,000 to 200,000 acre-feet this year,” said Bill Hasencamp, Metropolitan’s manager of Colorado River resources.
The withdrawal is on top of the roughly 1 million acre-feet of water the agency already gets each year from California’s total annual allotment of 4.4 million acre-feet from the Colorado River…
Metropolitan deposited the water, so Metropolitan has every right to withdraw it, said J.C. Davis, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
“The people making an issue of this only see the negative, because water is being taken out,” he said. “But if Met hadn’t banked it in the first place, that water wouldn’t be there.”
Without the water stored in Lake Mead so far by California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico, Davis said, the surface of the reservoir formed by Hoover Dam would be at least 10 feet lower than it is right now…
Nevada, California and Arizona won the right to store unused Colorado River water in Lake Mead as part of an interstate agreement enacted in 2007.
Mexico started banking water in the lake a few years later, after a major earthquake in April 2010 damaged canals and pipelines that country uses to divert water from the Colorado south of the border. A treaty amendment struck in 2012 expanded Mexico’s ability to store water in the reservoir.
There are restrictions on how much of the banked water, officially known as Intentionally Created Surplus, can be taken out in a single year. California’s annual withdrawals are capped at 400,000 acre-feet, Nevada’s at 300,000 acre-feet. The bank cannot be tapped during a declared shortage on the river or if federal officials determine that a withdrawal would tip the river into shortage.
All Intentionally Created Surplus accounts are subject to a 3 percent reduction each year — call it a bank fee — to account for evaporation.
Since the program began, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has socked away some 540,000 acre-feet and used about 16,000 acre-feet, leaving it with the largest bank account right now. Metropolitan has stored more water than the authority, but Southern California has withdrawn more of its water…
The surface of the lake has fallen more than 100 feet over the past 12 years amid persistent drought on the overtaxed Colorado River. If the lake level drops another 35 feet, it will trigger the first federal shortage declaration and force Arizona and Nevada to trim their use of river water. If the lake drops 60 feet, the authority will lose the use of one of two intake pipes that supply the Las Vegas Valley with nearly all of its water.
Current projections by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation call for Lake Mead to shrink by 20 feet by the end of the year and 30 feet by April 2015, when it could hit a record low. For now, though, the lake is expected to hover just above the trigger point for a federal shortage at least through January 2016.
In other words, just a few extra feet of water in Lake Mead could make a big difference.
Even so, Davis said Southern Nevada officials have made no effort to dissuade their counterparts in California from making a withdrawal from the water bank.
“It’s for a rainy day, or rather a non-rainy day,” he said. “If you want to create a banking system and you want people to participate in it, you can’t admonish them every time they make a withdrawal. That’s the whole point of a banking system: to give people the flexibility to take the water when they need it.”[…]
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January, and Met’s board of directors followed that last month by issuing a water supply alert to spur conservation ahead of possible mandatory water-use restrictions.
Conditions have been so bad that Met won’t be allowed to take any water this year from the State Water Project that links Southern California to rivers and lakes some 500 miles to the north.
“We are relying heavily on the Colorado River,” Hasencamp said.
Met, as his agency is commonly known, supplies about half of the water used by 19 million Southern California residents. It serves 26 member utilities in six counties spanning an area that stretches from the Mexican border to Oxnard, north of Los Angeles, and from the coast to the Inland Empire.
Agency spokesman Bob Muir said Met currently has about 2.4 million acre-feet of water stored in “various accounts,” enough to meet its demand for a little more than one year.