#COleg Interim Water Resources Committee meeting recap: Storage needs cited #COWaterPlan

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia
South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

Here’s a report from Marianne Goodland writing for The Colorado Statesman. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s [The need for more storage] a message the interim Water Resources Review Committee heard and acknowledged during the hearings, held Monday in Greeley and Tuesday in Aurora.

Representatives of the Denver South Platte River area basin roundtables hammered on that desire, as did members of the public who spoke to the committee.

The hearings solicited public input on the statewide water plan, now in its second draft. A final version is expected to be delivered to Gov. John Hickenlooper by Dec. 10…

Much of the water shortage anticipated in the next three decades is likely to occur in the South Platte region, said Joe Frank, chair of the South Platte roundtable. He told the committee his roundtable needs a better understanding of those numbers and how much of the 400,000 acre-feet applies to the gap.

Most of the South Platte gap will come from municipal and industrial needs, Frank said, and there’s also a gap for the agricultural sector, which dominates the eastern part of the state. Frank wound up on the hot seat with several West Slope lawmakers when he said his roundtable wants to preserve its “rights” to Colorado River water. It’s a sore subject for West Slope residents who fear the East Slope will seek more water from the Colorado River, which advocates claim is already over-appropriated. In response to several questions from state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango and state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, Frank said he didn’t believe taking more Colorado River water would dry up West Slope agriculture, and that he didn’t anticipate this would have to happen “tomorrow.”

But storage is the major need for the South Platte and Denver Metro area, Frank told the committee. The basin already has a 300,000 acre-foot shortage for agriculture, reflected by wells that have been shut down all over the area. Without new storage, half the farmland that relies on irrigation could dry up. More than half of the identified projects in the South Platte/Denver basin plan are for storage, he noted.

Coram also pointed out that 1 million acre-feet went out of state this spring to Nebraska, an amount that exceeded the legal contracts between Colorado and Nebraska. Everyone wants to keep that water, Frank replied, but they have no way to store it.

Storage needs to become a much higher priority in the statewide plan, said state Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, who isn’t on the committee but attended many of the hearings.

But storage has always been a controversial topic in Colorado. Several storage projects have been killed because of opposition from environmental groups, including the Two Forks Dam, proposed in the late 1980s for the South Platte near Deckers. Environmental groups also are fighting a storage project on the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins — the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP — which would put two reservoirs on the river.

“We need to get past the controversy,” Frank said.

#WISE: Water project the right mix — The Pueblo Chieftain

WISE Project map via Denver Water
WISE Project map via Denver Water

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A $6.4 million project to blend water in a 21.5-mile pipeline in the South Metro area won state approval this week.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $905,000 grant toward the project which connects Aurora’s $800 million Prairie Waters Project with a $120 million pipeline that serves 14 water providers who are members of the South Metro Water Authority.

The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, which includes Denver Water, Aurora and South Metro members, says the new connection paves the way for recovering up to 10,000 acre-feet (325.8 million gallons) of water annually. The project does this by providing Prairie Waters flows balance water quality from Denver Aquifer wells and other sources.

Prairie Waters captures sewered flows downstream and treats the water for reuse at a plant near Aurora reservoir. The East Cherry Creek Village pipeline can redistribute the water among other users.

At a July meeting of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, South Metro Executive Director Eric Hecox claimed it would relieve pressure on taking water from farms, including those in the Arkansas River basin.

Three conservancy districts which have agreements with Aurora — the Lower Arkansas, Upper Arkansas and Southeastern — were skeptical that Aurora might use the WISE arrangement to manipulate storage levels in order to trigger more withdrawals from the Arkansas River basin.

Aurora provided assurances that would not happen, gaining approval from the roundtable in August.

“What’s significant is that six other roundtables joined to fund this project,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the CWCB.

Roundtables have funds in basin accounts, and contributed $105,000 to the grant, of which the Arkansas Basin chipped in $10,000. A statewide fund provided the remaining $800,000.

prairiewaterstreatment
Prairie Waters Project graphic via Aurora Water