New partnership formed to address drought in Colorado River Basin — Denver Water

Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From Denver Water (Travis Thompson):

In a first-of-its-kind partnership, agricultural and environmental organizations, West Slope water districts and Denver Water have come together to explore measures that could help benefit the Colorado River and avoid reaching critically low water levels in Lake Powell. Should levels in this important reservoir continue to decline due to the prolonged drought in the basin, it could result in a compact call, putting water supplies to much of Colorado and the upper basin states at risk. This also could result in a loss of regionally important hydropower production, a reduction in revenues derived from the sale of this power, and an associated loss of funding for important programs like the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program that provides the means by which all existing water use and an increment of future use in the upper basin can comply with the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado River District, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Denver Water, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited are working together to leverage $11 million made available under the Colorado River System Conservation Program, which will fund pilot projects to reduce demands in the Colorado River Basin and improve reservoir levels in Lake Powell as well as Lake Mead, which also has declined to its lowest level in its 80 year history.

“Without collaborative action, water supplies, hydropower production, water quality, agricultural output, recreation and environmental resources are all at risk in the next several years in the upper basin, if Lake Powell reaches critically low levels,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado water project director of The Nature Conservancy in Colorado.

The Colorado River System Conservation Program, announced last week, was created by the Bureau of Reclamation and four municipalities in the upper and lower Colorado basins, including Denver Water, to provide funding to develop, test and gather data on potential short-term demonstration or pilot programs that keep water in lakes Powell and Mead through temporary, voluntary and fully compensated mechanisms. If a pilot program proves to be successful, it could be part of a contingency toolbox developed by states and the federal government to be implemented only if a severe shortage looks imminent and discontinued when conditions improve.

“Our interest is to protect water users in Colorado and the upper basin. We know that if there is a compact call, agriculture is the first area that will be looked at for the solution,” said Don Shawcroft, Colorado Farm Bureau. “A crisis is bad for everyone — especially agriculture. It is vital that we have a voice at the table.”

The upper basin pilot projects developed under the System Conservation Program will be used to demonstrate ways to put water immediately in Lake Powell, through voluntary, compensated means, and only for as long as a drought continues.

“Lake Powell is the ‘bank account’ that assures the upper basin has the wherewithal to meet our obligation to the lower basin under the Colorado River Compact. While the risks of Lake Powell going below its power pool are low, the consequences are high,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “Currently there are no contingency plans for such an event. Denver gets half its water supply from the Colorado River so we have a big stake in the future security of the river, not just for ourselves, but for all water users in Colorado. As leaders, we simply cannot wait for a crisis to happen before we come together to figure out how to address it. That would be irresponsible.”

“For a number of years now we have been working with Colorado, Front Range water providers, Southwestern, TNC, and agricultural producers on a long-term water banking solution. The System Conservation Program is a natural outgrowth of that effort. The challenge is to be sure all parties are represented and that we have fair and transparent processes,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District.

In order to ensure that local concerns are addressed, and that there is equity and fairness among all parties, the upper basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and the Upper Colorado River Commission will have a direct role in program efforts. This envisioned structure is distinct from that of the Lower Colorado River Basin, where the Bureau of Reclamation will manage conservation actions in Arizona, California and Nevada to address declining reservoir levels in Lake Mead in a manner consistent with past programs.

“Complying with the Colorado River Compact is a shared responsibility across all water-use sectors and among all the upper basin states” said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “We must control our destiny. The worst case is a compact call or a situation where the federal government determines how we will manage critical flows. We simply must work together to protect the future of this state, all our economies and critical industries to avoid a future compact call.”

As this is a basin-wide project, the coalition will continue to seek additional stakeholders throughout the upper basin states. The members also plan to actively seek additional funding for education and outreach.

“This is not a one-sector or one-state solution. The pilot programs will demonstrate the viability of cooperative means to reduce water demand from any number of different sources where water is lost or consumed — agriculture, municipal and industrial,” said Frank Daley, president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

“We have learned in Colorado though our Water Conservation Board and Basin Roundtables how critical public awareness is to project success. Education and awareness of the pilot projects may be equally as beneficial as the projects themselves. We have to be sure people have the real facts of what we are trying to do, buy in to the process and then document the benefits,” stated Bruce Whitehead, executive director of the Southwestern Conservation District.

The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use, and the combined metropolitan areas served by the Colorado River represent the world’s 12th largest economy, generating more than $1.7 trillion in Gross Metropolitan Product per year along with agricultural economic benefits of just under $5 billion annually.

More Denver Water coverage here.

The latest ENSO discussion is hot off the presses

Mid-July 2014 plume of model ENSO predictions via the Climate Prediction Center
Mid-July 2014 plume of model ENSO predictions via the Climate Prediction Center

Click here to read the latest discussion. Here’s an excerpt:

Synopsis: The chance of El Niño has decreased to about 65% during the Northern Hemisphere fall and early winter.

During July 2014, above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) continued in the far eastern equatorial Pacific, but near average SSTs prevailed in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. Most of the Niño indices decreased toward the end of the month with values of +0.3°C in Niño-4, – 0.1°C in Niño-3.4, +0.2°C in Niño-3, and +0.6°C in Niño-1+2. Subsurface heat content anomalies (averaged between 180o-100oW) continued to decrease and are slightly below average. The above-average subsurface temperatures that were observed near the surface during June (down to 100m depth) are now limited to a thin layer in the top 50m, underlain by mainly below-average temperatures. The low-level winds over the tropical Pacific remained near average during July, but westerly wind anomalies appeared in the central and eastern part of the basin toward the end of the month. Upper- level winds remained generally near average and convection was enhanced mainly just north of the equator in the western Pacific. The lack of a coherent atmospheric El Niño pattern, and a return to near-average SSTs in the central Pacific, indicate ENSO-neutral.

Over the last month, model forecasts have slightly delayed the El Niño onset, with most models now indicating the onset during July-September, with the event continuing into early 2015 . A strong El Niño is not favored in any of the ensemble averages, and slightly more models call for a weak event rather than a moderate event. At this time, the consensus of forecasters expects El Niño to emerge during August-October and to peak at weak strength during the late fall and early winter (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index between 0.5°C and 0.9°C). The chance of El Niño has decreased to about 65% during the Northern Hemisphere fall and early winter (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome).

Evans scores $1 million in flood relief #COflood

Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com
Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

From 9News (Blair Shiff):

The City of Evans received notice from Governor Hickenlooper’s office on Aug. 1 of a $1-million grant awarded to the city from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Division – Natural Disaster Grant Program…

The City of Evans will use the grant monies according to the guidelines established by the Water Quality Control Division of CDPHE for the following:

  • Repairs to the existing wastewater treatment facility to allow reliable and effective wastewater treatment until the new facility is fully operational
  • Hazard Mitigation Plan implementation at the Evans Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • Preliminary site applications, process design report, design of a future wastewater treatment facility and associated approvals.
  • When the flood occurred in September 2013, the City Council was already evaluating needed improvements to increase capacity of the wastewater infrastructure at the Evans Wastewater Treatment Facility. The flood caused serious damage to the facility, highlighting the vulnerability of maintaining a treatment facility in a floodplain. Receipt of these grant monies moves Evans one step closer to a treatment facility of appropriate capacity, out of the floodplain and which meets upcoming state regulatory standards.

    From 9News (Meagan Fitzgerald):

    Nearly a year after last September’s historic floods, many businesses in Boulder County are still trying to recover.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration says they have approved nearly $11 million in loans to help with relief efforts…

    Matt Varilek with the USBA says the long-term loans that were approved for businesses in Boulder County were at a 4 or 6 percent interest rates…

    An SBA spokesperson says the window to apply for the business loans have passed. But, those who are in need of assistance can contact their local Small Business Development Center. There is still grant money available for businesses devastated by flood water.

    The Small Business Development Center is an economic development organization that helps small businesses. There are 14 centers across Colorado to include to include one in Boulder and Larimer County.

    Drought news: Vigorous monsoon circulation leads to heavy rain in the central and southern Rockies #COdrought

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

    Summary
    A vigorous monsoon circulation led to heavy rain (locally 2 inches or more) in parts of Arizona and the central and southern Rockies. The rain provided some drought relief, benefited rangeland and pastures, and eased irrigation demands. At times, showers spread as far west as California, resulting in some rare, locally heavy summer rainfall but having little overall impact on the state’s 3-year drought. Moisture also spilled across portions of the central and southern Plains, where interaction with a cold front led to copious rainfall (2 to 6 inches) in Oklahoma and environs. Rainfall totals were much lighter, however, across the majority of Texas. Farther north, however, only isolated showers interrupted an otherwise dry pattern from the Pacific Coast to the northern Plains and western Corn Belt. Despite a July drying trend, many Midwestern crops continued to thrive due to moderate temperatures and adequate subsoil moisture reserves. On August 3, USDA rated nearly three-quarters of the U.S. corn (73%) and soybeans (71%) in good to excellent condition—the highest such ratings this late in the season since 2004. In stark contrast, the return of extremely hot weather to the interior Northwest maintained stress on rangeland, pastures, and rain-fed crops. Elsewhere, locally heavy showers peppered the East, although amounts were highly variable. Some of the heaviest rain fell in the southern Mid-Atlantic States, helping to ease the effects of short-term dryness…

    California
    A strange thing happened on the path to California’s historic drought: it rained. Although the rain’s overall effect on the drought were inconsequential, there were some short-term benefits such as reduced irrigation demands and evaporation rates; lower temperatures in the wake of record-setting heat; and temporary relief for drought-stressed rangeland and pastures. Reasons that California’s rain did not provide substantial drought relief included: 1) a lack of widespread coverage of the heaviest showers, 2) the fact that heavy showers mostly fell outside California’s key watershed areas in the Colorado River basin and the Sierra Nevada, and 3) the fact that the high runoff rate of the heaviest rain did not allow for significant percolation into drought-parched soils. Nevertheless, intense rainfall on August 3 led to memorable flooding on the slopes of Mt. Baldy in southern California. Selected daily-record rainfall totals in California on August 3 included 0.49 inch in Needles and 0.07 inch in Long Beach. Scattered showers were reported in other parts of California on various days. Despite the cooler weather and showers, California’s rangeland condition remained steady (70% very poor to poor on August 3). Similarly, topsoil moisture (80% very short to short) and subsoil moisture (85% very short to short) were unchanged from the previous week. Across the northern tier of California, several wildfires—including the 30,000- to 40,000-acre Eiler and Bald fires—remained active in early August…

    Northern Plains and Midwest
    Spotty showers accompanied below-normal temperatures across the northern Plains and Midwest. Due to persistently cool weather and a lack of heat stress, impacts from short-term dryness have been slow to emerge. Nevertheless, there was some minor expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) in the southwestern Corn Belt, while a new region of D0 was introduced in northeastern Wisconsin and northwestern Michigan. From June 1 – August 5, rainfall in Traverse City, Michigan, totaled 4.77 inches (71% of normal). Similarly, Green Bay, Wisconsin, netted a June 1 – August 5 total of just 5.29 inches (67% of normal). In Wisconsin, USDA reports indicated that “dry soil conditions and a lack of heat units were keeping corn development behind normal, especially for late-planted fields.” Reports from Michigan echoed those comments: “cool, dry weather in most regions has been a challenge [with respect] to crop development.” In Nebraska, “another week of only scattered rainfall stressed dryland crops and pastures, [while] irrigation continued non-stop in many areas.” North Platte, Nebraska, completed its driest July on record, with rainfall totaling just 0.14 inch (5% of normal) [ed. emphasis mine]. Previously, North Platte’s driest July had occurred in 1901, when 0.34 inch fell. By August 3, topsoil moisture was rated at least one-third very short to short in Missouri (52%), Montana (52%), Nebraska (49%), South Dakota (36%), and Wisconsin (33%). On the same date, nearly one-fifth of the rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor in Montana and Nebraska—both at 18%…

    Northwest
    Record-setting heat returned to the interior Northwest, leading to some further increases in drought coverage—mainly in Washington and Oregon. In Washington, Omak posted consecutive daily-record highs (105 and 104°F, respectively) on July 29-30, followed by another record setting high of 100°F on August 2. Wenatchee, WA, also notched a pair of daily-record highs (105 and 103°F, respectively) on July 29-30. Other triple-digit, daily-record highs on July 29 included 105°F in Yakima, WA, and 104°F in Pendleton, OR. Effects of heat and drought were apparent on rangeland, pastures, and rain-fed summer crops. For example, 35% of Washington’s spring wheat crop was rated in very poor to poor condition on August 3, according to USDA. On the same date, 39% of Oregon’s rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor. And, topsoil moisture was rated more than half very short to short in Washington (65%), Oregon (62%), and Idaho (56%)…

    Southern Plains
    Heavy rain swept across Oklahoma and environs on July 30-31, resulting in modest reductions in drought intensity and coverage. A stripe of 2- to 6-inch rainfall totals stretched across southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, central and eastern Oklahoma, and northeastern Texas, with official, 2-day totals reaching 5.18 inches in McAlester, Oklahoma; 4.02 inches in Paris, Texas; and 2.18 inches in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Oklahoma’s topsoil moisture was rated 36% very short to short on August 3, an improvement from 47% the previous week. However, the effects of a multi-year drought were still apparent in the fact that, on August 3, subsoil moisture was rated 59% very short to short in Oklahoma, along with 52% in both Colorado and Kansas.

    Aside from some heavy showers in northern and eastern Texas, significant rainfall largely bypassed the Lone Star State in late July and early August. As a result, both topsoil and subsoil moisture was rated 67% very short to short on August 3, according to USDA. Several degradations in the drought depiction were introduced in Texas, while USDA reported that rangeland and pasture “conditions began to deteriorate in areas of Edwards Plateau due to dry weather.” In addition, some producers in southern Texas “began to provide supplemental feed.”[…]

    Southwest
    Locally heavy showers associated with the monsoon circulation continued to pepper the Great Basin, Intermountain West, and Southwest, resulting in further improvements to the drought depiction where significant rain fell. Many of the improvements were concentrated across New Mexico, as well as portions of west-central and southeastern Arizona. On August 3, rangeland and pastures were rated 56% very poor to poor in New Mexico and 50% very poor to poor in Arizona. However, those numbers represented improvements from 65 and 56%, respectively, from the previous week. Shower activity continued to bypass many areas in Utah, which topped the Southwestern States on August 3 with 61% of its topsoil moisture rated very short to short. In northeastern Arizona, rain also continued to skirt much of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Indian Reservation, leading to an increase in the coverage of severe drought (D2)…

    Looking Ahead
    From August 7 – 11, showery weather will gradually shift from the north-central U.S. into the Southeast. Five-day rainfall totals could reach 2 to 4 inches from the southwestern Corn Belt to the Carolinas. Meanwhile, mostly dry weather will prevail across the Great Lakes region and the southern Plains, although generally cool weather in the Midwest will contrast with hot conditions in the south-central U.S. Farther west, monsoon showers will be mostly confined to the northern Intermountain region, although a new surge of moisture may reach the Southwest during the next few days. In Hawaii, the remnants of Hurricane Iselle will pass over or very close to the Big Island during the night of August 7-8. Iselle, expected to be a tropical storm upon reaching the Big Island, could result in torrential rainfall and gusty winds. Effects from Iselle may also reach some of the other Hawaiian Islands, mainly on August 8.

    The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for August 12 – 16 calls for the likelihood of below-normal temperatures from the central Plains into the Midwest and Northeast, while hotter-than-normal conditions can be expected across the northern High Plains, Deep South, and much of the West. Meanwhile, near- to above-normal rainfall across the majority of the U.S. will contrast with the likelihood of drier-than-normal weather in southern Texas and from the Pacific Northwest to the northern High Plains.

    Geothermal in Pagosa Springs — The Mountain Town News


    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Nobody doubts that the Colorado town of Pagosa Springs has hot water. It bubbles to the surface at around 140 degrees and in quantities sufficient to sustain a large commercial spa and several more public pools along the San Juan River.

    As well, the hot water heats 13 businesses and 5 homes in downtown Pagosa Springs plus the Archuleta County courthouse, delivering this energy at a cost roughly 20 to 25 percent below the going rate for natural gas and 30 percent less than electricity.

    But is there sufficient hot water available to produce electricity, warm 10 acres of greenhouses, and deliver heat to 600 homes?

    Geologic modeling suggests there is, but until additional wells are drilled, as is expected later this summer, there’s no way of knowing for sure. If those exploratory wells confirm large volumes of hot water, then two large-bore wells will be required to extract the hot water and, after the heat is transferred from the water, return it underground.

    Federal and state grants this year have given the project traction. The U.S. Department of Energy delivered $3.9 million, followed by $1.9 million from state sources. The town and county governments created a consortium called the Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority to provide 30 percent in local funds, or $520,000, as required by the federal grant.

    A private company, Pagosa Verde, which is pushing the project, came up with an equal amount in in-kind services. It owns 20 percent of the project and has the backing of a South Carolina-based investment firm called Natural Energy LLC.

    Another milestone occurred in late May, when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped in Pagosa to sign H.B. 14-1222 into law. The law, co-sponsored by Sen. Ellen Roberts, a Republican from Durango, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, lengthens the repayment period and otherwise provides great flexibility for private-activity bonds issued with the backing of the state government for geothermal and other renewable energy projects.

    Michael McReynolds, policy advisor at the Colorado Energy Office, says the new law recognizes the large costs of proving the geothermal resource exists before development can occur.

    However, other areas of the state are interested in replicating the business model of diverse revenue streams being assembled at Pagosa Springs. “It really depends upon the specific communities and what they want to pursue,” he said when asked if the new law will be used to finance other community renewable energy projects.

    Jerry Smith, the chief executive at Pagosa Verde, says the new law was “huge” in allowing the project in Pagosa Springs to go forward.

    In providing access up to $16.7 million available for as little as 2 percent interest, Smith’s project can now proceed. He estimates the need to spend $26 million before revenue can be gained.

    “It’s a community-scale project, replicable throughout the Rocky Mountain states. I wanted town and county citizens to own it,” says Smith. “They only way they could participate was by forming an authority, similar to a housing authority. It’s a quasi-governmental authority.”

    The public-private partnership is called Pagosa Waters LLC.

    Because of the lower-cost money produced by the state and federal grants plus the clear bonding authority enabled by the new state law, he sees a financial path opening up.

    Bonds will be just 2 percent. “That’s essentially free money,” he says. “We can borrow as much as we need to secure revenue for the project, “and it’s a way we go.”

    Cheap borrowed money also relieves the onus of finding extremely hot water and arranging for sale of electricity, says Smith. If tests reveal merely hot water, such as bubbles up in the local springs, then that’s still hot enough for greenhouses and living rooms.

    From the Romans forward

    Hot water originating underground has long been put to practical uses. Romans at Pompei used hot water to heat buildings.

    The Idaho Capitol Building has been heated with water drawn from 3,000 feet below ground, but 86 buildings with more than 5.5 million square feet of space are also heated by a separate geothermal heating district, according to Jon Gunnerson, geothermal coordinator for the City of Boise Public Works. It is the largest geothermal heating system in the United States, he says.

    Commercial electrical production from geothermal sources began in 1911 in Larderello, Italy. The first commercial electrical production in the United States began in 1960 at The Geysers in California.

    In 2013, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, the United States had 3,386 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity, or about three times as much as the trio of giant coal-fired power plants found in the Comanche complex near Pueblo, Colo.

    Less prominent than photovoltaic panels, geothermal was nonetheless responsible for 0.41 percent of all electrical generation last year, ahead of solar at 0.23 percent. Biomass, wind, and hydro all produced more than geothermal.

    California far and away has the most geothermal installed capacity, followed by Nevada, then trailed more distantly by Hawaii, Utah, and Idaho.

    In Colorado, geothermal resources have been used to heat small greenhouses associated with the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, near Buena Vista, as well as commercial springs. But no electrical production has been achieved because of concerns that new uses will rob existing users of their heat.

    “Until very recently, Colorado’s geothermal potential for generating electricity has been assigned little promise,” notes the Colorado School of Mines at its geothermal website. “This appears to be based more on a lack of study, rather than on sound science.”

    The website article goes on to note that a 2008 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that Colorado is the top state in the nation for potential commercial development of its heat, mostly if deep wells are drilled near Rico, Trinidad and other hot spots in a process called enhanced geothermal recovery.

    Potential in Pagosa

    Just how much electricity the Pagosa project could produce depends upon the heat of water. Colorado School of Mines studies concluded a strong likelihood of substantial hot water 2,000 to 5,000 feet under the land leased by Smith’s company about two miles south of downtown Pagosa Springs. Hot water for the downtown heating district is drawn from a depth of 300 feet.

    Smith says it’s a cinch that the water found 2,000 to 5,000 deep will be at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of the water found closer to the surface. If so, it should be enough to produce four megawatts of round-the-clock electricity, what is called base-load generation.

    If the water is 250 degrees, as the geological modeling suggests, it could generate 12 megawatts—and still have residual heat for the greenhouses and the homes.

    Archuleta County altogether has baseload demand for 20 megawatts of generation. Another renewable source, a proposed biomass plant that would burn forest products to generate electricity, would generate 5 megawatts. Both biomass and geothermal generators probably need to get paid more for their electricity by the local electrical cooperative, La Plata Electric, than what the cooperative currently pays.

    Biomass plant proponent J.R. Ford last winter said he needed 15 to 20 percent more than what the La Plata and other electrical cooperatives pay wholesale provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Tri-State’s power comes primarily from coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric.

    Distributed generation

    Both the geothermal and biomass projects in Archuleta County are representative of small sources of electricity called distributed generation. In a famous 1976 essay published in Foreign Affairs, Aspen-area resident Amory Lovins advocated more localized generation as necessary to shift power production from giant but often distant coal-fired power plants. In that same essay, Lovins also stressed that more local sources of electricity would reduce the vulnerability of the grid to terrorism.

    “Distributed energy is what the world needs to get to,” says Smith, who cites Lovins as one of his heroes.

    Smith moved to Archuleta County in 1989 after a career in the entertainment industry in California. He describes himself as a “liberal arts guy who values things that most people find technical and dry.”

    Pagosa Skyrocket via Native Ecosystems
    Pagosa Skyrocket via Native Ecosystems

    Geothermal is wet, of course, but whether it moves forward in Pagosa Springs depends upon the outcome of a review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 600 acres of land leased for the drilling between the San Juan River and Highway 84 has a plant species, the Pagosa skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha), which has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

    The plant grows one or two feet tall, often in the understory of Ponderosa pine, and has been found in only three places, all near Pagosa Springs.

    The federal grant money triggered the need for a biological assessment, which will be the basis for a biological opinion. If adverse effects can be avoided, such as by using care in the placement of wells, the Fish and Wildlife Service can approve the drilling this summer.

    Existing wells reach a maximum 1,200 feet, but Smith expects to need wells 2,500 to 5,000 feet deep. The working hypothesis is that the underground rocks at the site are fractured than those that provide the water for the commercial hot springs and downtown heating district.

    How will anybody know if the new wells are tapping a new source of heat instead of robbing the existing geothermal resource? Smith says his company will inject heat and pressure gauges on all local hot-water wells, “so they know immediately whether we are tapping the resource.” Colorado law and new regulations in Archuleta County protect existing geothermal users in case of damage to their resource.

    Chris Gallegos, who administers the town’s geothermal heating district, says it’s “an unknown” whether Smith’s project would impair the existing users. “Through the test wells we should be able to determine whether the extraction of that heat would affect us or not,” he says.

    Additional resources:

    http://coloradogeologicalsurvey.org/energy-resources/renewables/geothermal/uses/electrical-generation/

    http://www.eesi.org/files/geothermal_030206_gawell.pdf