From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):
The call was initiated to satisfy in-stream flow rights below McPhee Dam of 78 cubic feet per second, but local water managers say the water will never get there.
In-stream flow rights are administered by the water board to preserve the natural environment in state rivers to a reasonable degree. They are a priority water right senior to some, but junior to others.
A call is made to maintain a water right’s priority in the Colorado system of prior appropriation, commonly referred to as “first in line, first in right.”
Because of the call initiated this month, a man-made ditch diverting water from Little Fish creek and Clear creek to Groundhog was shut off, allowing the creeks to flow naturally into the Dolores River via the West Fork.
Marty Robbins, District 32 water commissioner for the Department of Natural Resources, said the call caused water administrators to enforce Groundhog’s one-time fill system that legally allows the reservoir to only fill from Nov. 1 to May 1. Groundhog Reservoir, owned by the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., typically diverts the streams into the reservoir year-round.
“Just because it has been done before, does not mean it can when there is a call,” Robbins said. “These calls may happen more regularly.”
On Nov. 1, the reservoir will go back on priority for filling, and the diversion ditch will be reopened, officials said.
The administrative call sends the creek water into the upper Dolores River and McPhee Reservoir, managed by the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
But Dolores Water Conservation District general manager Mike Preston says the extra water will stay in the reservoir and not flow through the dam to the lower Dolores River.
“McPhee’s water rights are senior to that in-stream flow right, and we have a storage right that allows for refill,” he said.
The in-stream flow water right on the Lower Dolores River is intended to preserve habitat for native fish, including the round-tail chub, bluehead sucker, and flannelmouth sucker. Federal and state biologists have reported that an increase in flows below the dam is needed to improve native fish habitat.
But the unexpected call by the state for delivery of in-stream water rights had an unintended consequence of threatening trout elsewhere, said Montezuma County Commissioner Larry Don Suckla.
The diversion ditch from Clear Creek to Groundhog Reservoir supports trout population, he said, but they became doomed when the water was cut off.
“Explain to me how water can be diverted for native fish, but is allowed to hurt trout?” he said.
Brandon Johnson, manager for the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., said the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s administrative “call presents issues at Groundhog we were not anticipating.”
The Colorado Water Conservation Board also made administrative calls for in-stream flows rights on other rivers in the state to establish that the rights exist and to reveal if any water users are out of priority, officials said. The calls were made after irrigation season so they would be the least disruptive.
The additional water flowing into McPhee as a result of the call will be divided among allocation holders in 2017, Dolores Water Conservation District officials said.
From 9News.com (Next with Kyle Clark):
There’s another orange, rusty flow of water coming from our Colorado mountains, this one on the North Fork of Clear Creek near Black Hawk.
A viewer sent Next a question about this, asking what was going on.
We found out that environmentalists know about it, and have known for a few years.
It happens when rocks, which have been buried for years in Colorado’s mines, reach ground water. These rocks have likely never been exposed to oxygen because of that. Once rocks touch groundwater, iron is oxidized and acid is formed. The oxidized iron turns the water orange, but the acid is the concern. Acid dissolves necessary metals in the water, and can kill off wildlife in a stream.
The substance dilutes once reaching the main stem of Clear Creek, but there is not currently wildlife living in that fork.
The water treatment plant being built will take care of all that by treating the water with lyme, which will neutralize the acid in the water. The plant opens in January.
The good news is we won’t have a repeat of the Animas River incident from 2015.
“The two point sources that are contributing to this right now have been open and they are just openly leaking into the stream continuously, and so there’s not that build up like we saw with the Animas River,” said Elizabeth Traudt, from the Colorado School of Mines. “Instead, since these have been continuously leaking, that’s why this stretch of the stream has been continuously orange and continuously contaminated.”
That’s right. The water has been orange for a while.
From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
Springs Utilities told LawnStarter that one reason rates are higher in Colorado Springs stems from the fact the city is not located on any major waterway, meaning the city has to import water from elsewhere. That includes a transmountain pipeline, and those don’t come cheap. The other is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, recently completed.
Here’s a listing provided in the blog of highest to lowest rates in Colorado:
Colorado Springs Utilities: $469.73
City of Aurora: $460.92
City of Greeley: $376.80
City of Fort Collins: $347.76
City and County of Broomfield: $292.20
City of Aspen: $285.00
City of Boulder: $277.20
City of Westminster: $270.24
City of Arvada: $246.78
Denver Water: $245.88
City of Thornton: $242.04
Board of Water Works of Pueblo: $220.80
Centennial Water District: $183.00
Water rates here will take another leap if a rate increase is approved next month by City Council.