‘Recharge Ponds’ Show How Water Needs Of Animals And Ag Can Align — KUNC

Recharge pond
Recharge pond

From KUNC (Shelly Schlender):

Colorado’s South Platte River basin is a powerhouse for crops and cattle. Massive reservoirs quench the region’s thirst, with farm fields generally first in line. Wildlife? It’s often last.

A small win-win though is giving waterfowl a little more room at the watering hole. It’s a program that creates warm winter ponds for migrating ducks — then gives the water back, in time for summer crops…

Dabbling ducks need shallow water. In a nearby hayfield you’ll find some mud flats, each about the size of a city dweller’s yard and only two feet deep. Yahn calls them “recharge” ponds, but they could also be described as mud holes, or maybe soggy hollows.

“Recharge pond,” though, is their official name, and they don’t just happen; they’re intentionally made from natural depressions that previously did not hold much water…

To transform these features into recharge ponds, farmers must first earn a water right through Colorado water court. Then, documenting every drop, farmers pump water into their recharge ponds starting around November, when groundwater is plentiful. They keep refilling them until March, as water constantly seeps out of them. The water then percolates through the soil, slowly heading back to “recharge” the South Platte River.

“The goal,” says Yahn, “is to have it during those critical times – July, August, and September. That’s really where there’s a demand for water above what the supply is.”

A farmer who legally captures winter water through a recharge pond has essentially retimed it, making it possible to add that same amount to summer crops.

As a side effect, during the winter, ducks benefit.

During winter on Colorado’s northeastern plains, ducks can bob up and down in the recharge ponds because the pumped up groundwater is so warm that it doesn’t freeze.

“Most people … are very used to seeing that duck butt sticking straight up in the air with the bill kind of grazing off the bottom of the pond,” says Denver nature lover Kent Haybourne. “So you really want this water to be at a depth where the duck can tip its head under water and eat.”

Heybourne, a doctor, is so impressed by recharge ponds, he’s contributed land and money for creating them. He donates his water credits to nearby farmers, who use them for summer crops. Assisting him financially and with legal and engineering expertise is Ducks Unlimited, one of the nation’s oldest and largest conservation groups.

“We did about $20 million worth of those grants. And there was probably about 26 different landowners and about 40,000 acres conserved,” says Greg Kernohan, who leads the Ducks Unlimited recharge pond efforts. “It’s been a pretty incredible impact over a 10-year period.”

Kernohan teams up with hunting groups, farmers, and even businesses that provide matching grants, to help offset their corporate water use. Companies helping range from carmakers and software giants, to brewers.

As for the ponds, Kent Heybourne says that visiting one during the winter is kind of a miracle.

“You go out there when it’s 10 or 15 degrees below zero . . . and there’s this beautiful open water with steam rising off of it, and of course, you know, that’s fabulous habitat for the ducks.”

Nature lovers like Kernohan and Heyborne hope the success of recharge ponds will inspire more Coloradans to find win-win ways to share water with wildlife.

CWCB: September 2015 Drought Update

Click here to read the current update. Here’s an excerpt:

Warm dry conditions have continued across much of eastern Colorado, while the mountains have seen near average precipitation so far this month. Drier conditions have resulted in declining soil moisture levels, but overall evapotranspiration rates are below average for the season, and pasture conditions and harvest yields are reportedly good. Water providers are also reporting increased demands during August and September, however system-wide storage levels remain above average and providers have no immediate concerns.

The abnormally dry conditions along the eastern plains and Front Range are not serious enough to require action.

  • The Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan was formally deactivated by Governor Hickenlooper on September 15, 2015 due to improved conditions. Additional information on this can be found at http://cwcb.state.co.us/water-management/drought/Pages/DroughtResponse.aspx
  • Statewide water year-to-date precipitation is 94 percent of average, a slight decline since last month. Statewide August received only 62 percent of average precipitation while September to-date have seen only 71 percent of average. Generally, the west slope has seen greater precipitation than the eastern plains.
  • August temperatures were above average by 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with the warmest temperatures along the southern Front Range. September to-date has seen slightly above average temperatures on the west slope and well above average temperatures on the eastern plains. Warmer temperatures typically drive up demand for irrigation water during the growing season.
  • Reservoir Storage statewide is at 115 percent of average as of September 1st. The Arkansas has the highest levels in the state at 145 percent of average. The Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 92 percent of average, this is also the only basin with below average storage. However, the Rio Grande levels are 31 percent greater now than this time last year.
  • The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) is highly variable across much of the state. The majority of the sub-basins remain near normal, however most have seen declines over the last month. Portions of the South Platte and Arkansas have abundant supplies due largely to reservoir storage levels. The greatest declines have been in the Colorado and Yampa River basins.
  • The state has recently complete an automation tool for the SWSI index and a revised detailed monthly report can be found at http://water.state.co.us/DWRDocs/Reports/Pages/SWSIReport.aspx
  • El Niño has gained strength over the last few months and continues to be forecasted as a strong event, which is likely to persist through winter. Strong El Niño events typically result in above average precipitation in the fall, but not necessarily in the winter, with the highest risk of a dry winter for the northern and central mountains. The best combination would be for the El Niño to weaken over the winter, and then come back strong in spring.
  • Who had a worse water season, Denver or Vancouver?

    Mile High Water Talk

    The answer just might surprise you.

    stanley park pano Vancouver’s Stanley Park still captivates, even with dormant grasses.

    By Kim Unger

    One of the things I love about visiting the Pacific Northwest is the endless sea of green. The trees, plants, grasses, moss … everything is green.

    Except this summer. On a trip to Vancouver, where I looked forward to cooler, rainy weather, what I learned instead was a new mantra. Brown is the new green.

    I work for Denver Water, so I got curious. This year, it was as if Denver and Vancouver had traded places. While Denver’s spring and early summer saw extremely wet conditions, Vancouverites have been dealing with hot, dry weather.

    To make matters worse, the spring rainfall in Vancouver was abnormally low. In May, the city typically receives about 2.43 inches of rainfall. This year? A mere 0.20 inches.

    “We’ve had the perfect storm of conditions,”…

    View original post 917 more words

    #ColoradoRiver: Reclamation Awards a $1 Million Contract to Upgrade Four Dolores Project Pumping Plants

    Mcphee Reservoir
    Mcphee Reservoir

    Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation:

    The Bureau of Reclamation announced that it has awarded a $1 million contract to PAF Electrical, LLC, Oregon, on September 17 to replace nine existing variable frequency drives that will upgrade the Cahone, Dove Creek, Pleasant View and Ruin Canyon Pumping Plants near Cortez, Colorado.

    “Replacing the variable frequency drives will increase the energy conservation where there is a need to vary the flow in distribution systems,” said Western Colorado Area Manager Ed Warner. “The new frequency drives will lessen the mechanical and electrical stress on the motors, reduces maintenance and repair costs and extend the life of the motor.”

    The Dolores Water Conservancy District provides seasonal irrigation and delivers vital water to Montezuma and Dolores Counties as part of the Dolores Project which is owned by Reclamation and operated by the District. The contract provides upgrades for four pumping plants by replacing the nine existing variable frequency drives with modern drives which provides more reliability with increased flow flexibility.

    The Pleasant View and Ruin Canyon Pumping Plants currently use medium 2400 VAC drives and motors that require the use of old technology and are significantly aged. To support the change in pump operating voltage to 480 VAC at these pumping plants, the equipment at each plant will include a new section of 5 kilovolt metal-enclosed switchgear, a new station service transformer, as well as new a distribution switchboard. New 480 VAC inverter duty motors will replace the four 2400 VAC motors on the existing pumps at those two plants and provide one spare. These new motors will be a hollow shaft design.

    The Cahone and Dove Creek Pumping Plants were originally constructed using 480 VAC drives and motors. The contract will replace the old 480 VAC variable frequency drives.

    For more information about Dolores Project, please visit: http://www.usbr.gov/projects/Project.jsp?proj_Name=Dolores+Project

    Shell shuts down Arctic drilling program

    Summit County Citizens Voice

    Regulatory hurdles cited as part of the reason for decision

    ;oi Shell Oil is giving up on drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

    Shell Oil's Arctic drill rig, Kulluk, stranded near Kodiak Island, Alaska One of Shell’s Arctic mishaps came in 2012, when a drilling rig escaped its tow ships and ran aground. Photo via U.S. Coast Guard.

    By Bob Berwyn

    Shell Oil’s hotly contested Arctic oil-drilling operation will shut down for the foreseeable future, the multinational fossil fuel company announced today, drawing sighs of relief from environmental advocates who had described the exploration efforts in apocalyptic terms.

    The company’s efforts have been stop-and-go for a long time. In 2013, for example, Shell announced a temporary pause in the program after a string of incidents, including failed tests of oil spill containment gear, runaway ships and notices for violations of environmental regulations.

    View original post 277 more words