Roaring Fork watershed: Robert Woods was named the 2014 River Conservator Award at River Rendezvous last week

Georgetown: Meter replacement project nearly complete

Georgetown Colorado
Georgetown Colorado

From the Clear Creek Courant (Beth Potter):

Georgetown is about to complete its water-meter replacement program, and rather than asking homeowners to foot the $550 installation bill, the town took out a loan and got a grant to cover the cost. The town is replacing 660 meters because they were not accurately recording how much water homeowners were using. The town board discussed the issue for two years, trying to determine the best way to foot the cost.

The town received a $170,000 grant in 2013 from the state Department of Local Affairs and has taken out a loan for $211,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to pay the rest of the cost. The loan is for 30 years at 4.1 percent interest, according to town administrator Tom Hale.

Residents will repay the debt through increases to their water bills, though Hale is unsure how much the increase will be. The $211,000 loan is part of a larger amount the town has borrowed to pay for renovations to the Georgetown Lake dam. He expects water rates to reflect the entire loan repayment in 2016.

Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson said having residents pay for the new water meters through small increases in their water bills would be “an easier pill to swallow” for most people.

The town hired a company from Utah to replace the meters, which will allow a meter reader to drive down the street to collect meter data.

The primary purpose of replacing the meters, Abrahamson said, is to improve their accuracy and help the town better assess how much water residents actually use.
More than 87 percent of Georgetown’s 597 water users needed new meters. The radio-read meters cost $400, and installation costs $150. The remaining 75 were installed within the last couple of years and don’t need to be replaced.
Based on readings from the new meters, the town may determine whether it can lower water rates.

More infrastructure coverage here.

On this day in 1922, construction began at Grand Coulee Dam as the first shovel of dirt was turned

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

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 to July 15, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 to July 15, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

Water Lines: Colorado needs a better water plan — Jim Pokrandt #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jim Pokrandt):

It’s almost time for football training camps, so here’s a gridiron analogy for Colorado River water policy watchers: Western Colorado is defending two end zones. One is the Colorado River. The other is agriculture. The West Slope team has to make a big defensive play. If water planning errs on the side of overdeveloping the Colorado River, the river loses, the West Slope economy loses and West Slope agriculture could be on the way out.

This is how the Colorado River Basin Roundtable is viewing its contribution to the Colorado Water Plan ordered up by Gov. John Hickenlooper. A draft plan will be submitted this December and a final plan in December 2015. The Roundtable is assessing local water supply needs and environmental concerns for inclusion into the plan and there is plenty of work to consider in the region. But the big play may very well be the keeping of powerful forces from scoring on our two goal lines.

Here’s why: Colorado’s population is slated to double by 2050. Most of it will be on the Front Range, but our region is growing too. Mother Nature is not making any new water. We still depend on the same hydrological cycle that goes back to Day 1. So where is the “new” water going to come from? Right now, there seems to be two top targets, the Colorado River and agriculture (where 85 percent of state water use lies in irrigated fields). Colorado needs a better plan.

The Colorado Basin Roundtable represents Mesa, Garfield, Summit, Eagle, Grand and Pitkin counties. This region already sends between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water annually across the Continental Divide through transmountain diversions (TMDs) to support the Front Range and the Arkansas River Basin.

That water is 100 percent gone. There are no return flows, such as there are with West Slope water users. On top of that, this region could see another 140,000 acre feet go east. A number of Roundtable constituents have long-standing or prospective agreements with Front Range interests wrapped around smaller TMDs. Existing infrastructure can still take some more water. That’s the scorecard right now. We assert another big TMD threatens streamflows and thus the recreational and agricultural economies that define Western Colorado, not to mention the environment.

In the bigger picture, the Colorado River Compact of 1922 requires Colorado to bypass about 70 percent of the river system to the state line to comply with legal limits on depletions so six other states can have their legal share of the water. Failure to do so, by overdeveloping the river, threatens compact curtailments and chaos nobody wants to see. For one thing, that kind of bad water planning could result in a rush to buy or condemn West Slope agricultural water rights.

The Roundtable has heard these concerns loudly and clearly from its own members across the six counties as well as from citizens who have given voice to our section of the water plan, known as the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP). A draft of the BIP can be viewed and comments offered by going online to http://coloradobip.sgm‐inc.com/. It is under the “Resources” tab.

Jim Pokrandt is Colorado Basin Roundtable Chair.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress webinar — today: The Story of SB-023 #COleg

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

From the Colorado Water Congress:

SB14-023, Transfer Water Efficiency Savings to Instream Use, more commonly known as the “Ag Efficiency Bill” gained both controversy and publicity during the 2014 legislative session. On July 16th from 12:00 to 1:30 pm, the Colorado Water Congress will offer an informational webinar providing factual overview of the bill’s contents, intention, and process.

The presentation will include an introduction from the bill sponsor, Senator Gail Schwartz, an overview of the bill from Kevin Rein, Deputy State Engineer, and a narration of the bill’s long journey with Bruce Whitehead of Southwestern Water Conservation District and Aaron Citron of the Environmental Defense Fund. This is a not-to-miss opportunity whether you want to learn the facts about SB14-023 or you just want to better understand how a bill becomes a law.

Click here to register.

Forest Service ‘Groundwater Directive’ prompts questions from Western Governors on state authority, science

Fen photo via the USFS
Fen photo via the USFS

From the Western Governors Association:

Western Governors have expressed concern to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the United States Forest Service’s (USFS) recent Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management.

Western states are the exclusive authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing groundwater resources, and they are responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries. That authority was recognized by Congress in the Desert Land Act of 1877 and reasserted in a 1935 Supreme Court ruling.

Despite that background, the Proposed Directive only identifies states as “potentially affected parties” and asserts that the proposed actions would “not have substantial direct effects on the states.”

An initial review of the Proposed Directive, however, leads Western Governors to believe that this measure could have significant implications for states and their groundwater resources. (Read our letter)

As a result, the Governors are requesting that USFS seek “authentic partnership” with the states to help achieve policies that reflect both the legal division of power and the on-the-ground realities of the region. In addition, the letter from the Western Governors’ Association — signed by WGA Chairman and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Vice Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — also asks a number of questions, including:

  • Given the legislative and legal context, what is the legal basis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and USFS assertion of federal authority in the context of the Proposed Directive?
  • How will USFS ensure that the Proposed Directive will not infringe upon, abrogate, or in any way interfere with states’ exclusive authority to allocate and administer rights to the use of groundwater?
  • How will definitions be established, particularly regarding the definition of “groundwater-dependent ecosystems?” Will states be able to weigh in with information regarding the unique hydrology within certain areas?
  • To read all of the Western Governors’ questions, download our letter.

    More groundwater coverage here.

    CWCB: Basin implementation plan presentations will dominate today’s board meeting agenda #COWaterPlan

    Basin roundtable boundaries
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Plans that detail the needs of water users in each of the state’s eight river basins and the Denver metro area will be studied today by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The board, meeting in Rangely, will spend the entire day looking at the plans, beginning with the Arkansas River basin.

    The CWCB also will look at the Interbasin Compact Committee’s Conceptual Agreement.

    All of those reports feed into a state water plan that was ordered last year by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper has asked the CWCB to have a draft plan on the governor’s desk in December, whether he or Republican nominee Bob Beauprez is elected in November.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable held about 20 meetings during the last three months soliciting comments. It looks at how to meet the urban gap in the Arkansas River basin while preserving agricultural, recreational and environmental water interests.

    Most of the urban gap is driven by growth in El Paso County.

    More meetings on the state water plan also are planned by the Legislature’s Interim Water Resources Committee. It will have its public outreach meeting in Pueblo from 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 29 at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com
    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs will be taking a more regional approach and looking at risk factors as it develops its 50-year water plan. That’s a shift from the 1996 water resources plan that focused solely on supply and led to Southern Delivery System, said Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities.

    “We are seriously evaluating the timing of future SDS components,” Gracely told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday.

    Utilities is updating the plan that will determine its actions in water development after SDS comes online in 2016. The plan will look at watershed health, fire vulnerability and climate change, as well as social values and tradeoffs. It also will incorporate traditional factors like water supply, demand and quality.

    “Because of changes in technology and software, we can run thousands of scenarios through our models,” Gracely said.

    Another key difference is that Colorado Springs Utilities is not planning on building another $1 billion pipeline as a result of this plan, but more carefully evaluating its options after SDS.

    “It’s a completely blank page,” Gracely said. “But it will have no effect on SDS phase I.”

    The first phase is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, served by three pump stations and a treatment plant. The second phase of SDS includes the construction of two reservoirs on Williams Creek southeast of Colorado Springs.

    Water board members Tom Autobee and Kevin McCarthy questioned Gracely on what conservation measures Colorado Springs envisions in order to cut demand. Reduced water use after the 2002 drought has been complemented by a tiered rate structure that makes expanded water use more costly, he explained. Colorado Springs also has dropped minimum landscaping requirements that at one time would have encouraged greater water use.

    “What is your telescope telling you about West Slope imports?” McCarthy asked.

    “Warmer weather is what we’re expecting,” Gracely replied. “Half the (climate) models are showing it will be wetter, and half drier, but they all say it will be warmer.”

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

    Arkansas River: Aurora’s planned Box Creek Reservoir stirs questions from Mt. Elbert Water Association members

    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red
    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red

    From The Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

    Members of the Mt. Elbert Water Association had many questions for representatives of the Aurora Water Department Saturday regarding the proposed Box Creek Reservoir. Because of the timing of the processes for planning and then constructing the reservoir, not many answers were available. However the association members now know that they will be informed of what is happening through email, and there will be a representative of Aurora Water at subsequent annual meetings.

    The association held its annual meeting at the Lake County Public Library Saturday morning with 56 in attendance.

    Representing Aurora Water were Gerry Knapp, Aurora resources program manager, and Kathy Kitzmann, senior water resources engineer.

    An early question concerned the Box Creek well that supplies water to the association. Concerns were expressed that the reservoir might impact the well in some way.

    “We have no intent of adversely affecting your well,” Knapp responded. “We couldn’t build the project if we did.”

    In response to later questions about possible decreased river flow and its impact on rafting, he pointed out that any negative impact to river flow as a result of the reservoir cannot occur.

    “What comes in must go out,” he said.

    The pool at the reservoir also would have to be kept at 20 percent except in cases of extreme drought.

    Knapp said that Aurora would be following the National Environmental Policy Act process as set forth by the federal government regarding environmental issues. He made it clear that Aurora is not working with the federal government on the project.
    Other questions centered on the types of recreational activities that would be permitted once the reservoir is built.

    A separate study on appropriate recreation will be done, and Knapp anticipates broad public input. The county commissioners will be responsible for managing recreation on the reservoir although they could turn management over to another entity. Possible recreation could include fishing, boating, camping and more. Some concerns were expressed over ATVs and noise levels.

    Other concerns related to construction activities and dust. The construction period is estimated to be two years. Negative impacts on property values were mentioned by one resident.

    Kitzmann said one issue they’re dealing with is wetland restoration. Aurora has purchased a parcel of land from a private owner that will be restored as wetland to be used as a credit for wetland that would be used in the project.

    No decision has been made on what will happen to the old buildings that exist on the Hallenbeck Ranch where the reservoir will be built. Knapp said some talks are under way with Colorado Mountain College, owner of the Hayden Ranch, about possibly moving some of the buildings there, but no decisions have been made.

    There would be no road over the top of the reservoir dam and, according to Knapp, there are no plans to close the road leading to Pan-Ark subdivision, whose residents are served by the Mount Elbert Water Association.

    “We may have to move it a little bit,” he said.

    The permitting process could begin in one to three years, and is a 10-year-long process, Knapp said. Although there initially was hope that the process would move faster, 2030 was the date given at the meeting for possible completion.

    The Hallenbeck Ranch property was purchased by Lake County in 1998. The county granted Aurora an option to purchase the main portion of the ranch property in January 2001, retaining all water and ditch rights associated with the ranch. The purchase-option agreement stipulates that Aurora will design, construct and operate the reservoir project and manage the surrounding land in combination with the Lake County Open Space Initiative partners.

    Lake County will be able to use 20 percent of Aurora’s operational capacity for storage of its own water.

    More infrastructure coverage here.