“This will make your day! Made mine, and I was on a pretty determined bummer” — John Perry Barlow

Water rules: Be prepared or stop pumping — the Valley Courier #RioGrande

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

It’s not a broken record; the needle’s just stuck. Sounding like a broken record, for several years the Colorado Division of Water Resources has warned well users that rules would be coming soon. Several years’ worth of advisory committee meetings and groundwater model runs later, it appears the well regulations are finally close to completion.

“We anticipate one more advisory committee meeting ,” Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten told attendees of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District meeting on Tuesday.

“We are fairly close on the rules, just some last minute tweaks.”

He said the peer review team working on the groundwater model that is providing crucial data for the regulations will be meeting again on Friday in Denver. He said he hoped everyone would come to a consensus on the model and go forward.

“We are fairly close to having that model done,” Cotten said.

Once groundwater rules are in place, well users will have to either be covered by a sub-district of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District or their own augmentation plan, which must be approved by the water court. Well users’ other option would be to shut down.

Subsequent sub-districts after the first one are going with an opt-in policy where only those who are interested in being included in the subdistrict are part of it. RGWCD staff stressed on Tuesday, however, that well owners opting out of any of the subdistricts would either have to come up with their own augmentation plan to comply with the new groundwater rules or quit pumping.

“If you want to continue to use water from your well you need to be thinking about how you are going to participate in a sub-district or create an augmentation plan,” said RGWCD Program Manager Cleave Simpson. “It’s that simple.”

RGWCD Attorney David Robbins added, “If you don’t do a sub-district or augmentation plan, Craig’s guys will come out and red tag the well. They have done it in the Arkansas Valley ” People have choices to make.”

Cotten said, “One thing’s very important for people to realize these rules aren’t going to be only for irrigation wells. It will be for large capacity wells and even some small subdivision wells in South Fork ” commercial wells ” municipal wells. It’s not just irrigation wells.”

He said his office is trying to get that word out to folks and has held a meeting in South Fork already to alert folks to the pending well rules and how they would affect them.

RGWCD staff has also been meeting with water users around the Rio Grande Basin (San Luis Valley) regarding their options in light of imminent groundwater rules. They are trying to work with municipalities and agencies not otherwise qualifying for sub-district inclusion so they can contract with subdistricts to comply with the new rules requiring replacement of injurious depletions to surface water rights. The water district’s first sub-district is already in operation, and four or five others are in the works. Subdistrict #1 is replacing 1,784 acre feet to remedy its injurious depletions this year, with 61 percent of that through forbearance agreements with ditches and canals, RGWCD Program Manager Rob Phillips told the water district board on Tuesday. He said a larger percentage of the sub-district’s replacement water would come through forbearance agreements in the future.

RGWCD General Manager Steve Vandiver said forbearance agreements have worked well, especially since there is “not enough water in the right places at the right time to offset depletions.”

He said the sub-district has forbearance agreements with six of the major ditches this year.

Phillips said the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was successful this year with 3,400 acres in CREP 1,800 acres in temporary fallowing contracts and 1,600 in permanent retirement.

Simpson updated the group on the status and size of future sub-districts . The first sub-district encompasses more than 3,000 wells involving more than 300 well owners. A legal challenge to the sub-district’s 2012 annual replacement plan is still pending with the Colorado Supreme Court, which heard arguments on September 30 and could announce a decision sometime between the end of next month and the first of the year, according to Robbins.

Statistics on the other proposed sub-districts include:

• #2, Rio Grande alluvium; unconfined aquifer; encompassing about 300 wells, half of which are active and are owned by about 60 individual well owners, with 10 non-irrigation wells in that area including Colorado State Veterans Center, City of Monte Vista, City of Del Norte and school districts; ready for the petition drive; unlike the first sub-district will go with an opt-in approach where only those wanting to be in the subdistrict will be in it; meeting next week will kick off the petition drive; hope to have petitions collected by January 31; next meeting of the work group is 3 p.m. on Oct. 30 in the basement of the Methodist Church in Monte Vista

• #3, Conejos response area; confined aquifer; about 200 wells, 117 of which are active; 50-55 well owners ; private wells including towns of Manassa, Sanford and La Jara; biggest delay is clarity on sustainability; work session set next week to finalize conceptual plan of water management

• #4, Alamosa/La Jara response area; confined aquifer wells; 600 wells with 300-400 of them active owned by about 200 individual well owners; more than 40 nonirrigation wells such as the City of Alamosa and wells owned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Colorado Parks & Wildlife; conceptual plan essentially completed; community meeting Thursday, Oct. 23, in Carson Auditorium at 6 p.m.

• #5, Saguache Creek; RGWCD stopped working with this group due to lack of progress but on Tuesday resumed district support after seeing renewed interest in moving forward; working on developing conceptual plan; meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Saguache County Road & Bridge building

• #6 San Luis Creek; 157 wells, about half active; about 35 individual well owners ; next meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 in Moffat

Robbins said there is also a way legally to form a subdistrict of well owners within Costilla County but there has not been much interest from Costilla County well owners to do that at this point.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here.

“The cheap and abundant water supplies are not there anymore” — Jacob Bornstein #COWater Plan

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A statewide panel’s conceptual agreement on a framework for negotiations on possible transmountain diversions was “a major victory” for the group, a Mesa County member of the panel says. But that Interbasin Compact Committee member, Carlyle Currier, acknowledges that the devil is in the details.

“Getting down in those weeds, in the details, I think is where the discussion is going to take us in the next year,” Currier told representatives of the Colorado Basin Roundtable at a meeting in Glenwood Springs this week.

That discussion ensued in earnest at that meeting, as roundtable members scrutinized aspects of the framework at length.

“It’s a Front Range plan with a couple things tossed in the bottom for the Western Slope,” groused roundtable member Mike McDill, deputy utilities director for the city of Aspen.

The Interbasin Compact Committee exists to facilitate conversations between basins and on statewide issues about water. It has proposed that its new, seven-point framework for diversion negotiations, which it finalized in June, be included in the new state water plan being drafted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. That board is asking for input from the roundtables on the IBCC concept.

The first of the framework’s points is that the Eastern Slope “is not looking for firm yield” from a new transmountain diversion project “and would accept hydrologic risk for that project.”

The concept that is emerging for such diversions is that they would occur only in wet years and not in dry ones. But Louis Meyer, a Glenwood Springs engineer whose company has been assisting the Colorado Basin Roundtable in providing input on the state water plan, said he worries that that approach “puts the risk on people” relying on those water projects, rather than on big water suppliers.

Jacob Bornstein, a program manager with the CWCB, said that concern is addressed by another of the framework’s principles, which calls for any new diversion to be used conjunctively with backup resources such as the Denver Basin water aquifer and interruptible supplies for agriculture.

“It takes that risk of the citizens and puts it on the water provider, saying we have a redundant system here,” he said.

He acknowledged that such a dual system is expensive to build, but added, “The cheap and abundant water supplies are not there anymore … the choices are really expensive.”

A concern for roundtable member and conservationist Ken Neubecker is that taking water in wetter years will leave parts of the Western Slope subject to a permanent drought condition.

“How is that going to be dealt with and mitigated?” he wondered.

The IBCC framework also indicates that triggers will be needed to determine when new diversions occur.

“But what are those triggers?” Currier said. “Finding those triggers is going to be (subject to) a lot of discussion from here on out.”

Roundtable member and Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards worried that diverting water in wetter years reduces Colorado’s ability “to build up extra credit” in the form of additional storage in Lake Powell, which helps it fulfill its water delivery obligations to states in the lower Colorado River Basin under an interstate compact.

The last four components of the seven-point framework include:

■ providing an insurance policy against involuntary curtailment of Colorado River water use in Colorado under that interstate compact should flows fall too low;

■ accommodating future West Slope needs as part of a new diversion;

■ continuing Colorado’s commitment to improving conservation and reuse;

■ addressing environmental resiliency and recreational needs both before, and in conjunction with, a new diversion.

Bornstein called that last provision “a bit of a breakthrough.” But the concern for some, including McDill, is the listed order of the seven points, which he worries seem to make things such as conservation less of a priority than a new diversion. Bornstein sought to assure that the list’s order wasn’t priority-based.

Bornstein also heard concerns about the sustainability of continued growth on the Front Range.

“It’s a good question,” but one the state water plan can’t solve, he said. Rather, it can only lay out scenarios for responding to varying amounts of growth, he said.

Some roundtable members wonder about the insistence of some on the Front Range that new homeowners should be entitled to have grass lawns rather than landscaping that reflects that Colorado is a dry state and keeps more water in streams. Richards finds it contradictory to hear the contention that a lot of growth is coming to Colorado because people want to live here, but at the same time property values will decline if they can’t grow lawns.

If people are going to move to the state because of its lifestyle, “then the new homes need to be created in a way that supports the Colorado lifestyle,” she said.

Bornstein said he thinks the desire for green grass in new Front Range developments reflects a desire to provide people with a “reasonable experience” that provides them access to parks and the ability to toss a ball in their yards, and that also reduces “the heat signatures of cities.”

For all the concerns voiced this week, Neubecker said he finds a lot of good intention in the seven-point framework.

“It’s a place you can start the discussion from. Hopefully it could be meaningful. … I would hope in the end that it doesn’t turn into a roadmap to hell,” he said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Denver, South Metro purchase pipeline to move finished water to customers (WISE Project)

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A pipeline that will tie metro areas together has been purchased by Denver and the South Metro Water Supply Authority. The purchase will delay other efforts by metro water providers to take water from other parts of the state by allowing water suppliers to be used more effectively.

The 20-mile long East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District’s western pipeline was purchased for $34 million, connecting Denver’s supply line to Aurora’s Prairie Waters Project. South Metro will pay 85 percent and Denver 15 percent. The ECCV pipeline originally was built to move water from a well field to the west to the community located between Denver and Aurora. It was built with excess capacity and will be modified to serve several other districts along its route.

The move will allow districts in the South Metro group to receive water from Prairie Waters and give Denver and Aurora a source of emergency supply.

Those districts are largely dependent upon Denver Basin groundwater, but need surface supplies in order to sustain underground resources. By cooperating with neighbors, they are able to reduce the costs of new supplies.

Denver, Aurora and 10 members of South Metro entered the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership in order to share water resources. Other projects have included reallocation of Chatfield Reservoir water, opening of Rueter-Hess Reservoir at Parker and other projects by individual members.

“With those successes, we’re taking another look at our long-term plan,” said Eric Hecox, general manager of the South Metro District.

That could be good news for the Arkansas River basin, which was targeted among future sources of water supply in South Metro’s 2007 water plan. Since then, conservation efforts have reduced demand. In addition, growth slowed during the recession, giving the water providers a little breathing room, Hecox said.

“With WISE moving ahead, it complements other water supply efforts. It doesn’t meet all of our needs, but moves things forward,” Hecox said. In the next few months, the Colorado­Wyoming Coalition, led by South Metro, will be completing an analysis of whether to launch a feasibility study for the Flaming Gorge pipeline, which would deliver water from Wyoming to cities within that state as well as Colorado’s Front Range.

One of the South Metro’s members is the Rangeview district east of Aurora, backed by Pure Cycle, a company which has proposed piping water from shares it owns on the Fort Lyon Canal near La Junta to the northern cities.

The groups also will be looking at coordinating its plan with the upcoming state water plan.

“Many of the options in the state water plan are the same options we’re looking at,” Hecox said.

More WISE Project coverage here.

Telluride: New Pandora treatment plant awaiting final state approvals to go online

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Mary Slosson):

The Pandora Water Treatment Plant valves were opened up on Oct. 24 and everything worked, Telluride Public Works Director Paul Ruud said. The plant will not plug into the municipal water supply until a few remaining state certifications are completed, he added. Those final approvals from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will probably be finalized in the new two weeks, Ruud said. Town officials were obligated to have the plant functional by a Nov. 1. deadline.

But the plant works, a fact that Ruud and members of the Telluride Town Council and town staff have heralded this week.

“We’re quite pleased after 20-some years of working on it, we finally have a functional water plant,” Ruud said. “It’s been quite an undertaking. We’re happy to be at the place we are now.”

The facility, located off Bridal Veil Road on the east end of the box canyon, has been under construction for three years. The plant can produce one million gallons of water per day, and has the capacity to be expanded to double that – two million gallons of water per day – if the need ever arises in the future, Ruud said.

“It is our expectation that once the Pandora Water Plant comes online and is functioning as it is designed… we will basically be in a very good position with water for the foreseeable future, possibly the next 50 years,” Ruud said.

City planners realized 20 years ago that neither Corner Creek nor Mill Creek would be sufficient sources of water, Ruud said, especially if the region went into a drought scenario.

“We’re very, very fortunate that our elected officials 20 years ago got the ball rolling. Projects this big take 20 years to accomplish. They had a lot of foresight to start thinking about this way back when,” Ruud added. “For a small town like ourselves, that’s a fairly ambitious undertaking.”

They began working to acquire water rights in the Bridal Veil Basin and converting those rights to municipal water rights. But that effort sometimes caused delays.

After voters approved a $10 million bond in 2005 to fund the construction of the project, it stalled for years as the town and Idarado Mining Company, which owns much of the land and infrastructure involved, tussled over water rights.

Work on the project finally began in earnest in the summer of 2011. In 2013 the town had to add around $4.7 million to the project after a budgetary shortfall.

Now the town will be able to take water out of Blue Lake, Lewis Lake or even Bridal Veil Creek.

The San Miguel Power Association has agreed to purchase electricity generated by a hydropower generator in the treatment plant, Ruud added, so the facility can also contribute to the electrical grid.

“It’s very, very exciting. Anytime a community can take care of some of their really, really important infrastructure needs, it’s a tremendous milestone for the community,” Ruud said.

More infrastructure coverage here.