New [federal] legislation would address abandoned mine pollution in Southwest #Colorado: Conservation groups, nonprofits and local governments could finally join remediation efforts — The #Durango Herald

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

From The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon):

The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday would allow “Good Samaritan” groups to assist in the cleanup of abandoned mines by limiting their legal and financial liability for mine pollution. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., co-sponsored the bill, which would drastically expand the capacity for communities to address toxic mine waste from hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines in the U.S…

The bill establishes a pilot program of 15 sites in which Good Samaritans – anyone from state mine reclamation agencies to local conservation groups – receive permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to carry out cleanups at abandoned mine sites.

The legislation has a seven-year sunset and is meant to test a more constructive approach to limiting the pollution from the hundreds of thousands of mines that don’t qualify for the EPA’s Superfund status.

For years, conservation groups and local governments have argued that the Clean Water Act, though critical for protecting water, limits their involvement in mine cleanups.

The Clean Water Act characterizes the pollution from abandoned mines in two different ways. One is “nonpoint source,” which means there is no single identifiable source actively emitting pollution. Solid waste rock at an abandoned mine would qualify as a nonpoint source because it releases toxic materials only when rain and snow wear down the rock.

Nonprofits and other Good Samaritans have been able to clean up nonpoint source abandoned mine pollution since at least 2007 after the EPA issued a policy that protected these groups from any liability for the pollution.

The Clean Water Act also identifies “point source” pollution, which is actively emitted by a single source such as a pipe. Under the Clean Water Act, any entity that wants to clean up the infrastructure of an abandoned mine that discharges pollution, such as a tunnel, must assume liability for that pollution permanently.

To comply with the Clean Water Act, these entities would have to undertake costly efforts to ensure that any water released by the mines during their work meets stringent standards.

This issue of liability prevented state agencies, local governments and conservation organizations from cleaning up tens of thousands of abandoned mine sites that spew toxic chemicals.

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

USACE: #MissouriRiver power output below average in 2021 — The Associated Press #drought

Map of the Missouri River drainage basin in the US and Canada. made using USGS and Natural Earth data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

From The Associated Press (James MacPherson):

Electric power generation from the Missouri River’s six upstream dams fell below average in 2021, forcing the federal agency that sells the power to buy electricity on the open market to fulfill contracts — a cost that may ultimately be passed on to ratepayers in a half-dozen states.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages dams and reservoirs along the 2,341-mile river. Mike Swenson, a Corps engineer in Omaha, Nebraska, said Thursday that energy production from the dams in the Dakotas, Montana and Nebraska was below average because water was kept in reservoirs to make up for drought conditions.

Energy production totaled 8.6 billion kilowatts of electricity in 2021, down from 10.1 billion kilowatts in 2020. A billion kilowatt-hours of power is enough to supply about 86,000 homes for a year.

The dams have generated an average of about 9.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since 1967, including a high of 14.6 billion kilowatts in 1997. During the driest years this century, power plant output dwindled below 5 billion kilowatt-hours in 2007 and 2008, the Corps said.

The agency bought $18 million of electricity on the open market in fiscal 2021 that ended Sept. 30, data show.

The cost to individual ratepayers likely would be minimal, Meiman said.

Purchasing power to fulfill contracts is not unusual. The Western Area Power Administration has spent $1.5 billion since 2000 to fulfill contracts due to shallow river levels caused by drought, Meiman said.

Oahe Dam near Pierre, South Dakota, which holds Lake Oahe, and Garrison Dam, which creates Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, are typically the biggest power producers in the Missouri River system.

Swenson said Oahe Dam generated 2.4 billion kilowatt-hours last year, down from the long-term average of 2.7 kilowatt-hours. Garrison Dam generated 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year, down from long-term average of 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours, he said.

The Corps is charged with finding a balance between upstream states, which want water held in reservoirs to support fish reproduction and recreation, and downstream states, which want more water released from the dams, mainly to support barge traffic…

The water storage level of the six upstream reservoirs is about 48 million acre-feet at present, or about 15% below the ideal level, Swenson said.

#ColoradoRiver System 5-Year Probabilistic Projections — USBR #COriver #aridification

From Reclamation:


Five-year projections of future conditions, currently through 2026, in the Colorado River system are typically updated every January, April, and August, while probabilistic results for the 2-year period are updated every month. The “mid- to long-term projections” are generated using a combination of Colorado River Mid-term Modeling System (CRMMS) for the current year’s projections along with the Colorado River Simulation System (CRSS) for projections in year 2 and beyond.

The most recent 5-year projections of future Colorado River system conditions were produced in January of 2022 using the following assumptions:

  • Initial Conditions: CRSS was initialized in January 2023 with the January 2022 CRMMS-ESP projected end-of-year reservoir conditions.
  • Hydrology: Index sequential method applied to the 1988-2019 historical record, i.e., Stress Test hydrology; a total of 960 future projections (i.e., traces) in the Stress Test hydrology (30 set of initial conditions from the January 2022 CRMMS-ESP x 32 hydrologic inflow sequences).
  • Water Demand: Upper Basin demands per the 2016 UCRC depletion demand schedules; Lower Basin demands developed in coordination with the Lower Basin States and Mexico.
  • Policy: 2007 Interim Guidelines, Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, and Minute 323 are modeled reflecting Colorado River policies.
  • Additional details are available in 5-Year Projections Modeling Approach. All modeling assumptions and projections are subject to varying degrees of uncertainty. Please refer to this discussion of uncertainty for more information.


    5-year probabilistic results presented in the tables below are reported as the percentage of projected Lake Powell and Lake Mead operations that fall below critically low elevations or are within each operational tier in the next five years.

    The following two figures show a combination of historical and projected reservoir elevations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, respectively.

    Projections of Lake Powell (top) and Lake Mead (bottom) end-of-December reservoir elevations. The colored region, or cloud, for the hydrology scenario represents the minimum, 10th percentile, 90th percentile, and maximum of the projected reservoir elevations. Solid lines represent historical elevations (black), and median projected elevations for the scenario (yellow). Horizontal gray lines represent important elevations for operations.

    For additional information or questions, please contact us via email at:

    To be notified when updated projections are available, please email with “Add Me” as the subject.

    #ColoradoSprings Utilities plans to share #water with Eastern Plains farmers — KRCC

    Agricultural water sharing via Colorado Springs Utilities:

    Sharing water with farmers in our native Arkansas River Basin is one of the ways we are meeting our water needs for the future. This innovative program provides water for Colorado Springs customers while protecting rural communities and the agricultural economy in our region.

    Agricultural water sharing is an Alternative Transfer Mechansim, or ATM, and it’s one way we are diversifying our water supply portfolio. Our sustainable water plan – the Integrated Water Resource Plan (IWRP) – outlines our future needs over a 50-years planning horizon, including the need to add 15,000-25,000 acre-feet of water supply through agricultural water sharing and other ATMs.

    Agricultural Irrigation Pivot. Photo credit: Colorado Springs Utilities

    In the past, water transfers between agriculture and municipalities primarily involved purchasing farms and transferring the associated water rights to the city. Today, balancing municipal needs with farmers’ needs involves a partnership to share the water. These partnerships range from storage cooperation to the development of perpetual 3-in-10-year lease/fallowing programs. Sometimes water becomes available when the farmer transitions to more efficient irrigation methods and needs less water to produce the same amount of crops. The farmer’s productivity per acre is preserved, while the city receives the unused water.

    In essence, water sharing agreements help us and farmers manage water supplies while keeping water in agriculture and sustaining economic growth in the Arkansas Basin region.

    We continue to build on the successes of our first water sharing agreements, started in 2015. In 2018. we established the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association (LAWMA) project, which provides water for Colorado Springs municipal use in five of every 10 years, while farmers in the Las Animas and Lamar areas take additional water during the other five years. We also supported LAWMA’s development of storage to help them manage the program and their supplies.

    Agricultural Irrigation Ditch. Photo credit: Colorado Springs Utilities

    Why does water sharing work?

  • It emphasizes collaboration rather than competition for water. Both partners benefit.
  • It provides multiple ways to create stability for municipal supplies and agriculture.
  • It reduces large scale transfers and permanent removal of water from agriculture.
  • When working with an augmentation entity, water sharing supports the use of more efficient irrgation technology resulting in more efficient use of water.
  • Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

    From KRCC (Shanna Lewis):

    Two Bent County farmers will shift away from flood irrigation to more efficient agricultural sprinklers that circle around a center pivot. Colorado Springs will acquire the rights to use the water saved by this change…

    The total cost for this acquisition is about $2 million. Additionally, the farmers will rotationally fallow their fields three years out of every ten and Colorado Springs Utilities will lease that water.

    In all, it’s a small amount of water, but Benyamin said it’s the first of a series of similar deals the utility is working on as it diversifies its water supply portfolio.

    Growing Front Range municipalities have, in the past, purchased water rights using what’s known as “buy and dry,” meaning that land in rural areas was often left barren and unfarmable.

    Councilmember Wayne Williams, who chairs the utilities board, said that “buy and dry” has far-reaching negative effects on rural communities that results in a declining population in Colorado’s Eastern Plains…

    Colorado Springs City Council approved the agreement [February 1, 2022]. Next, the city will complete the purchase and submit the permanent water transfer request to the state.

    That process can take years to go through water court, but Colorado Springs Utilities staff said there’s an administrative approval process to allow the water to be immediately available for municipal use.