Click here to read the report from the South Platte Regional Opportunites Work Group.
The South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group (SPROWG) Concept will provide water supplies to meet future municipal and agricultural water needs in the South Platte Basin. Several aspects of the SPROWG Concept were collaboratively researched in this feasibility study (Study) including identification of future water demands, strategies for incorporating environmental and recreational enhancements, needed infrastructure, water treatment strategies, potential costs, governance considerations, and communication needs.
Extensive outreach was conducted and included meetings with potential future SPROWG participants and stakeholders and a survey that was sent to over 100 municipal, agricultural, environment, and recreation water users and stakeholders. The results of the outreach informed the types of governance structures that could be viable for a future SPROWG organization, the configuration and delivery goals for SPROWG infrastructure, water treatment strategies needed to provide supplies of suitable water quality, and communication and outreach needs.
Communications and outreach are an important aspect to developing the SPROWG Concept and tailoring it to fit the broadest spectrum of water users and needs. A Communications and Outreach Plan was developed that includes goals, suggested stakeholders, recommended near-term activities, recommended activities to facilitate recruitment of participants, recommended key messages, and metrics to track the success of various types of communication. The Communications and Outreach Plan serves to:
Educate stakeholders and create awareness needed to refine the recommended governance, operational, and infrastructure concepts. Educate potential SPROWG Concept participants to facilitate recruitment. Educate ratepayers/taxpayers on the need for the SPROWG Concept and funding. Continue stakeholder engagement and transparency to build stakeholder support.
From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):
The South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group has released the findings of its year-long study to help bridge the water shortage gap in the South Platte River Basin.
SPROWG’s study evaluated four concept alternatives that would use a combination of off-channel water storage at multiple locations, infrastructure and water exchanges to develop additional water supplies from the South Platte River.
The study results were presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board Thursday in Denver.
Joe Frank, General Manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, who oversaw administration of the grant funds that paid for the study, said the purpose of the study was to find as many options as possible that would still be feasible…
The four water supply alternatives evaluated include multiple linked storage facilities capable of holding between 215,000 and 409,000 acre-feet of water at various locations between Denver and the Colorado Nebraska state line. The water would be transported via a pipeline or through “exchanges” or trading water from one location to another. The study’s alternatives are combinations of four water storage projects: Henderson Storage, Kersey Storage, Balzac Storage and Julesburg Storage. Each is named for the approximate location of the storage facility.
Alternative One includes Henderson, Kersey and Balzac; Alternative Two is the same three sites but with different capacities at each site. Alternatives Three and Four include all four sites but, again, each with different capacities. Alternatives Two, Three and Four also include a pipeline from the Balzac site to pump 30 cubic feet per second of water upstream to Denver.
The alternatives seek to efficiently use these sources of in-basin supply without relying on past practices of diverting additional water from the Western Slope or permanently drying up agricultural lands in the South Platte basin…
The SPROWG study, funded in large part by a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, built upon the work of others who had analyzed various strategies that would develop several types of South Platte water supplies to meet multiple benefits.
The conceptual cost estimates for the concepts ranged from $18,400 to $22,800 per acre-foot for raw water and $33,600 to $43,200 per acre-foot for treated water, which are in line with other large regional water projects. These costs included the anticipated water treatment strategies that were evaluated to make the water suitable for potable uses. While the most expensive to build, Alternative 4 had the lowest per acre foot cost of the alternatives because it has the highest yield.
From 9News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):
THE SAN LUIS RADAR PROBLEM
The closest National Weather Service (NWS) radar is in Pueblo County, more than 90 miles away. And the Wet Mountains and the Sangres block the radar beam.
The other radars are blocked by mountains as well, one in Denver, one in Albuquerque, and another on the Grand Mesa. So there is essentially no weather data available below 10,000 feet.
EVERY DROP COUNTS
There is a critical need to know how much new water will be available each year.
“Right here on the valley floor, it’s really one of the driest places in the state of Colorado,” said Simpson. “We get less than seven inches of precipitation all year, so we are very dependent on snowpack.”
Simpson said they are obligated by state compacts to allow a certain amount of water pass through the Colorado border every year along the Rio Grande and the Conejos Rivers.
“The diversions out of those river systems are what build and support our aquifer system here, and we depend on our aquifer system heavily,” said Simpson.
Simpson said the streamflow estimates could be off as much as 20-30% making it difficult to manage the rights to water during the summer.
About seven years ago, [Cleve] Simpson heard about improvements being made to software and computer modeling that estimate precipitation totals based on Doppler radar data.
“We said why don’t we see if we can adopt that to snowpack here,” said Simpson.
Now all they needed was access to Doppler radar.
“That year in 2013, there was a significant wildfire in the area called the West Fork Complex Fire. They had to bring in a radar to help forecast how the weather was changing that fire,” said Simpson.
After that fire, the Conejos Water Conservancy District decided to rent that radar, move it to Alamosa, and try an experiment to better estimate the amount of snow that fell in there basin.
It was a basic radar system that needed quite a bit of attention, but they were determined that some hard work would pay off in the future. Every time there was a storm coming in, they had have a person go out to the radar site to get it running.
“They usually had to wake someone up, usually someone from the local university,” said Simpson. “That person would have to go down to the airport, crank up the unit, and start capturing radar data.”
Simpson said they rented that radar for five years, and over that time they saw very accurate streamflow forecasts based on their new data.
Knowing that the radar data helped them better estimate how much water was available in the snowpack, the next step would be to get their own radar.
“It was a very exciting project to work on because all the players that came to the table wanted to be there, and everybody put in something,” said Gigi Dennis, the Alamosa County Administrator.
Dennis said various state agencies, counties, and water districts came together to get the project off the ground. A brand new Doppler radar was built on the San Luis Valley Regional Airport property in September last year.
“Once we got the all the funding in place, the rest of the project went relatively fast,” said Dennis.
This radar data won’t show up on your apps because it is not an NWS radar in the NEXRAD network, but the product is available on a website set up by those involved.</blockquote
From The Weather Channel (Jonathan Erdman):
At a Glance
Last March, a powerful storm known as a bomb cyclone erupted in the Plains. While it set low pressure records and produced blizzard conditions, it had one lasting impact. It triggered record flooding in Nebraska and other states. The flooding lasted for months in the Missouri Valley. It even destroyed a dam along the Nebraska – South Dakota border.
The storm intensified rapidly in the High Plains of eastern Colorado and western Kansas. By March 13, 2019, its pressure had plunged fast enough to be classified as a bomb cyclone and set all-time low-pressure records in four locations…
The Epic Flood
The bomb cyclone was the final element in a rare confluence of factors that triggered massive flooding in the nation’s midsection that lingered in some areas for months.
Rapid snowmelt was followed by heavy rain. This unleashed rapid runoff into rivers previously frozen from exceptional February and early-March cold.
The ice-choked Niobrara River in northern Nebraska burst through and destroyed Spencer Dam and sent a wave of water and massive ice slabs into nearby towns and fields.
In all, 42 locations from the Missouri Valley to Wisconsin set new record river levels in mid-March 2019…
This story didn’t end in March.
A wet spring, summer and fall kept stretches of the Missouri River flooded much of the rest of the year, months longer than the previous major flood in 2011.
It took until six days before Christmas for Nebraska to be free of any National Weather Service flood warnings, watches or advisories, a streak that began just after Groundhog Day.
In Nebraska alone the flood affected over 7,000 homes with damage estimated at $2.7 billion.
NOAA estimated total damage from this historic flood event at $10.8 billion, one of the nation’s costliest inland flood events on record.