Snowpack news: Upper Colorado Basin = 115% of avg (best in state), Upper Rio Grande improves = 70%

Click on a thumbnail graphic for a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Colorado Water Congress 2015 Annual Convention January 28-30

David Robbins and J.C. Ulrich (Greg Hobbs) at the 2013 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention

Click here to register. From the website:

Our premier event draws more than 500 attendees from across Colorado, including legislators, representatives of state and federal agencies, leading water attorneys, water resource managers, engineers, scientists and a broad spectrum of water users. All share concerns about the legislation, management, protection and preservation of Colorado’s water.

Please email Meg Meyer below in the question box or call 303-837-0812 x2 with any questions.

Registration by fax or mail Click HERE.

From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Fiona Smith):

Registration is open to the public for the 2015 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention. From January 28-30, 2014, the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center will host the premier water industry event in the state, attracting 500+ attendees who convene for networking and collaboration on the important water issues of the day.

Our population is increasing, our climate is constantly throwing curve balls, and our cities are growing taller. Whether we recognize it or not, we have already begun to rethink water both in terms of how we manage it professionally and interact with it personally. Now is the time to join water experts from across the state as we celebrate our successes in water management innovation and plan towards a future with new ideas and flexible philosophies.

A full day of workshops begins on Wednesday at 8:00am. Join us as we use case studies to define and understand our environmental values, and work with media experts to delve into the intricacies of storytelling. The Colorado Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance will introduce a new model that hopes to aid in the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan.

The primary Convention sessions will begin on Thursday. We are excited to announce that Dr. Wallace J. Nichols will be Thursday’s lunch speaker at the 2015 CWC Annual Convention. Dr. Nichols is the author of the New York Times Bestseller, Blue Mind, which explains, “the surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.” Dr. Nichols will offer a new perspective and a thought-provoking activity.

In conjunction with the Annual Convention, Colorado State University Water Resources Archive will host their annual Water Tables Event Thursday, January 29 from 6:15-9:15pm. The evening will feature a presentation by the Honorable Ken Salazar, former US Secretary of the Interior.

The CWC Annual Convention is open to the public. Learn more, view the agenda, and register at:

CSU Water Archives Water Tables 2015 — Partnering the Waters, January 29

From the Water Tables 2015 website:

Welcome to Water Tables 2015! We are excited to be working in conjunction with the Annual Convention of the Colorado Water Congress to host our annual fundraising dinner in Denver on Thursday, January 29, at the Hyatt Regency in Denver.

A fundraising dinner for the Water Resources Archive, Water Tables features hosted tables for an evening of conversation on specified topics. Guests have their choice of host on a first-come, first-served basis.

5:00 to 6:15 p.m.: Reception
6:15 to 7:45 p.m.: Dinner/Table Discussion
7:45 to 8:15 p.m.: Presentation
8:15 to 9:30 p.m.: Dessert/Table Discussion

Keynote Speaker: Ken Salazar

Topic: Partnering the Waters

Partnering to use, move and protect water in Colorado and the West has been occurring since the first humans set foot in these arid lands. Water partnerships may not have always been easy to form or smooth to maintain, but they make for some interesting stories. In modern times, partnerships prove essential to any watery endeavor, whether irrigating crops, saturating cities or protecting nature. At Water Tables 2015, more than twenty water leaders from Colorado and beyond will host table discussions on a mix of historical lessons, professional experiences and potential future needs, all related to partnerships. Come partner with the Water Resources Archive and join the discussion!

Click here to register (and register for the Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention at the same time).

Remembering an environmental science pioneer — High Country News

Theo Colburn via Power of One Woman
Theo Colburn via Power of One Woman

From the High Country News (Joshua Zaffos):

Theo, who died December 14 at age 87, lived a life rooted in commitment and boldness. After years as a small-town pharmacist and sheep farmer in western Colorado while raising her four children, she went through a divorce and decided to study watershed science and the environment. She earned her Ph.D at age 58, an unlikely third act in life.

“So many people – sometimes much younger – were in awe of what she accomplished and to realize that she began that work at the age of 58 is so inspiring,” says Carol Kwiatkowski, executive director of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, the nonprofit research clearinghouse that grew out of Theo’s kitchen repository.

Theo’s Great Lakes doctoral research found manmade chemicals accumulating in female birds, fish and wildlife and, alarmingly, being passed along to their offspring and impacting early development. The findings introduced scientists and policymakers to the uncomfortable consequences of endocrine disruption.

She went on to work as a Congressional research fellow and then a scientist for World Wildlife Fund in D.C., and helped organize the first gathering of researchers studying endocrine-disrupting chemicals in 1991.

Her 1996 book, Our Stolen Future, coauthored with J. Pete Myers and journalist Dianne Dumanoski, told the story of how low-level yet chronic exposure to chemical compounds used as flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, softeners, and fragrances are stunting people’s development and fertility and increasing the probabilities of cognitive and behavioral disorders, developmental delays, thyroid problems and obesity, and cancers. In his foreword, Al Gore called the book a sequel to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and it’s no exaggeration to say Theo’s efforts triggered new laws and research around the world. The fact that people know what bisphenol-A is – and that many companies have removed the compound from water bottles and baby products – is part of her legacy.

The first time we met, Theo shared the bad news that I likely had lower sperm counts than men a generation ago due to the chemical burden accumulating in my body, saying, “You’re half the man your father is.” She warned everyone against microwaving plastics, because that increased the leaching of chemicals into foods and people’s bodies. While government research and regulations never lived up to her concerns, she never stopped advocating for greater oversight toward endocrine disruption. In 2012, Theo shared those concerns at a TEDx gathering, in the form of an open letter to President Obama.

Even as she got older, her memory remained razor sharp, and despite serving as a constant messenger of discomfiting news, she also maintained a delightful and animated demeanor. “She was twice the age of anybody who worked here, and we all had a hard time keeping up with her,” Kwiatkowski says.

Theo’s influence is far-flung. Remembrances shared by colleagues and friends speak to the energy and warmth that drove her work and also made her a superb science communicator. Young scientists and reporters grasped and explored the looming environmental health crisis thanks to her. Often reluctant to be quoted, she would instead direct reporters to researchers in the labs and field and to people suffering health ailments on the ground. In the last decade, Theo honed her attention on the human health effects of the oil and gas boom and the use of fracking chemicals in western Colorado and beyond.

“She was a visionary – she jumped on the whole natural gas and fracking issues before anyone was thinking about them,” Kwiatkowski says. “Her drive and tireless energy, her passion and commitment to uncovering the truth and sharing that information were really some of her defining features.”

That Goethe poem is taped to a wall at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange’s office, Kwiatkowski told me. It’s been taped to my office wall ever since, too.

Southern Delivery System: “Stormwater is a terrific concern in Pueblo” — Nick Gradisar

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo water board members [Tuesday, December 16] made it clear to Colorado Springs Utilities that they expect full compliance with all permits for the Southern Delivery System.

SDS Project Director John Fredell made it clear that Utilities has been spending millions to make sure that happens.

After Fredell’s update of progress on the SDS pipeline, water board members had a couple of pointed questions about the details.

“Stormwater is a terrific concern in Pueblo,” said board member Nick Gradisar. “What I hear in the community is that Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise in place when the 1041 permit was granted. I would think county commissioners would say there should be at least the same amount of money before SDS is allowed to be turned on.”

Gradisar said he and City Council member Dennis Flores are among those discussing Pueblo community options following the failure of a vote in November to establish a drainage district.

Fredell agreed stormwater funding is needed, not only to satisfy Pueblo, but to benefit Colorado Springs. That said, he also pointed out that both Pueblo County and Utilities knew the enterprise could be threatened by voters during SDS negotiations.

“In 2008, Doug Bruce took his first run at the stormwater enterprise,” Fredell said. “We could not control the vote.”

So, the negotiations for the 1041 permit focused on achieving standards for new development that would not exacerbate flood conditions, Fredell said.

“It doesn’t matter how you do it, you just have to do it,” he added.

Water board member Tom Autobee expressed concern that Lake Pueblo will drop 6 feet when SDS reaches its full capacity.

Fredell said that would not be for many years. During its first year, probably starting in 2016, SDS will pump about 5 million gallons per day. At full tilt, it would pump 78 million gallons per day.

Fredell walked the board through a laundry list of multimillion dollar commitments and benefits to Pueblo County, Fountain Creek, Lake Pueblo and the Arkansas River that Colorado Springs is paying for as a result of SDS.

They total $400 million.

Included in the list are $150 million toward wastewater system improvements since 2000 to prevent sewer lines from breaking as they cross drainages. Colorado Springs had numerous breaks in its sewer system after the 1999 flood and faced state and federal fines. There have not been any breaks for several years.

Utilities has spent $37.5 million in additional sewer line fortification toward meeting a $75 million commitment to fortify more sewer lines by 2024.

Colorado Springs also is partially funding and providing technical support for a study of water rights protection if flood-control structures are built on Fountain Creek, Fredell said.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utilities is appealing a judge’s ruling that would compensate the Walker Ranches with $500,000 for mitigation along the pipeline route. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The city of Colorado Springs is appealing a decision by Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes that would require it to pay Pueblo County rancher Gary Walker more than $500,000 in costs in a legal dispute over value of the Southern Delivery System easement across Walker Ranches.

Reyes issued an order last week that Colorado Springs pay costs of $387,000 dating back to May 2011, plus 8 percent annual interest.

Reyes on Thursday issued another order saying the first order is binding because Colorado Springs signed an intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County that it would cover Walker’s costs.

A condition in the 1041 permit for the SDS pipeline tates: “Private property owners shall be treated fairly by (Colorado Springs) and the SDS project shall not create undue financial burdens on existing or future residents of Pueblo County. No landowner should have out-of-pocket expenses from the project.”

Reyes went on to cite Colorado Springs’ actions in paying for second appraisals for some Pueblo West homeowners affected by the pipeline showed that the 1041 permit is binding.

Walker’s attorneys asked for the payment because a condemnation trial on the value of the 5.5-mile SDS easement has been continued several times. The trial was supposed to begin in November, but has been pushed back to April.

According to court documents, Walker’s attorneys intend to prove at trial that the value of the 97 acres involved in the easement and the damage to the rest of Walker Ranches amounts to $25 million.

Colorado Springs appraisers valued the property at less than $100,000.

“By the time of trial, this case will have been pending for approximately four years. Given the extended duration of this case, and considering that the sheer size and scope of the taking has required numerous experts, Walker Ranches requests reimbursement for its reasonable costs incurred through September 2014,” Walker Ranch’s motion for costs says.

“Granting Walker Ranches its reasonable costs now would prevent (Colorado Springs) from gaining an unfair advantage through the granting of the trial continuance. (Colorado Springs) should not be allowed to bleed Walker Ranches dry by dragging this case out even further.”

In a petition filed Wednesday with the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Springs argued that the payment of costs was ordered without a hearing or specific findings. Interest was included for years before any actual costs were incurred, the appeal said. It also argues that court costs can’t be granted before a trial has started.

“(Reyes’) order has ignored the controlling law on costs in at least five substantial areas, and this court should protect the citizens and ratepayers of Colorado Springs from paying $509,713.52 based on such an exceptional and unjustified order,” the appeal stated.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.

Denver: 24th Annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture February 25-26, 2015

Denver City Park sunrise
Denver City Park sunrise

Click here to go to the website for all the inside skinny. Here’s an excerpt:

Water, Colorado’s Treasure

At the 2015 Governor’s Forum on Agriculture, participants will hear from leading water experts about the challenges facing Colorado in meeting the water demands of a diverse state with competing needs. The program, “Water, Colorado’s Treasure” is intended to provide agriculture producers and agriculture professionals a greater insight into the challenges we face as a state in meeting increased water demands, balancing competing interests and agriculture’s role in today’s “water wars.”

NISP: Northern Water officials looking to 2019 to turn dirt for Glade Reservoir

Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site -- photo via Northern Water
Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site — photo via Northern Water

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

When the Northern Integrated Supply Project was first proposed, Northern Water hoped to have Glade Reservoir complete and filled by 2013.

Now as the permitting process has stretched over a decade, the earliest date that construction could begin is 2019, with water flowing in by 2021.

“In this process, we learned a long time ago that there is no set date of when it’s going to be done,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, which is spearheading the project on behalf of four water districts and 11 cities and towns…

Despite delays, Northern Water is convinced that NISP and its two reservoirs, Glade and Galeton, will be built and are the answer to a growing population’s needs by storing water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers.

“Those 15 participants, their resolve is even stronger than ever,” said Werner. “The more time that goes by, the more important it is to have that water supply.”

However, an environmental group that opposes the project is just as convinced that construction will never begin and that participants are beginning to look to alternative options…

The Northern Integrated Supply Project is intended to provide additional water to the 15 Front Range providers by pulling excess water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers during plentiful years to fill two new reservoirs.

The water from the Poudre would be stored in a 5-mile-long reservoir northwest of Fort Collins. Glade Reservoir, which would be slightly larger in capacity than Horsetooth Reservoir, would hold 170,000 acre-feet of water and require relocation of seven miles of U.S. 287.

The second reservoir, Galeton, would hold 40,000 acre-feet northeast of Greeley and would be filled from the South Platte River downstream from Greeley. This water would be delivered to two irrigation companies in exchange for their Poudre River water.

Save the Poudre and other groups that oppose NISP say that science shows this project would drain the river to a mere trickle through Fort Collins, impacting habitat, wildlife, fishing, tubing, kayaking and trails that span the river corridor…

Northern Water says say this scenario will never happen. With required minimum flows in the river, Werner has said the water would be pulled only in years when there is excess.

And as soon as a supplemental environmental impact statement is released, Northern Water will begin working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to mitigate any habitat or wildlife concerns, Werner said.

“Once the supplemental is out, we will start moving on some of these areas that have been stuck in molasses,” Werner said.

What is the process?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer is the lead federal agency on the permitting process for the proposed water project.

The first step of creating an environmental impact statement began more than a decade ago — in August 2004.

Four years later, the first draft EIS was opened to public comment. During that time, supporters and opponents rallied at several public hearings and community events.

The federal agency then announced in 2009 that a supplemental draft EIS was necessary to include additional studies.

The supplemental report was anticipated to be released this year but instead was pushed back to sometime in 2015. If that does indeed happen, a final decision could come in 2016. If it’s approved, design would take place in 2017-2018, then construction in 2019…

How much does it cost?

As the project timeline has stretched out over the years, the cost too has stretched.

Northern Water and the participating water providers are paying for the studies and costs associated with permitting. So far they have spent about $14 million just for permitting, and Werner estimates that each additional year adds $1 million to $1.5 million to the tally.

Once a final decision is issued, and if that decision allows the project, construction is estimated at $500 million. That, too, could change depending on the final design, the year it is built and the economy.

“We’re at the mercy of the process and the federal government on this one,” said Werner. “It’s been an interesting ride.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Cloud seeding study boosts hopes in parched West — WyoFile

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters
Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

From Environment & Energy Daily (Annie Snider) via WyoFile:

As a painful reckoning sets in throughout the West, where the Colorado River Basin is in its 15th straight year of drought, desperate water managers are welcoming a new cloud-seeding study as rare good news.

The concept of cloud seeding — using aircraft or ground-based generators to inject microscopic particles of silver iodide into clouds around which ice crystals can form and fall as snow — dates back to the 1940s.

Today, ski resorts, water districts and farmers across the West swear by the practice to produce both snow and water, spending millions of dollars a year on machines and flights.

But proving that money is well-spent has been tricky. Because, while it might snow or rain after a cloud’s been seeded, it’s hard to know whether the seeding actually caused the precipitation…

Wyoming’s Legislature took the challenge and, buoyed by coffers filled from oil and gas severance taxes, poured $14 million into a major study over the past 10 years that employs the latest scientific techniques recommended by the NRC panel, as well as an independent evaluation team.

The topline findings, recently unveiled to the Legislature: Seeding the right storms the right way can produce 5 to 15 percent more precipitation. That could increase streamflows by as much as 3.7 percent, the researchers’ initial findings indicate.

The study also found seeding to have next to no downwind impact, suggesting seeding storms to get precipitation in one place is not decreasing precipitation elsewhere.

“We know that silver iodide produces ice crystals, so really it ends up being an engineering problem: Can the ice crystals get into the right cloud at the right place and can we do all this?” said Roy Rasmussen, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research who led the study’s outside evaluation team.

“That’s what the Wyoming program demonstrated: That, yes, they can do it,” he said. “With modern technologies — through satellite-controlled silver iodide generators, and with good forecasting, with good real-time modeling — we can figure out when the storms are right for seeding and apply the seeding, and there is a measurable effect.”

More cloud seeding coverage here.