#Snowpack news (February 14, 2022)

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map February 13, 2022 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 13, 2022 via the NRCS

2022 #COleg: SB22-126 Prioritize #Water Storage Projects South Platte Basin #SouthPlatteRiver

South Platte River Storage Study Area. Illustration shows water availability, in blue circles, compared with demand at various places along the South Platte River. The yellow area is the study area. (Illustration by Stantec).

Click the link to read the article on The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice). Here’s an excerpt:

The [SB22-126 Prioritize Water Storage Projects South Platte Basin: Concerning a requirement that the Colorado water conservation board prioritize water storage in the South Platte river basin in choosing projects to finance with money from the Colorado water conservation board construction fund.], sponsored by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, would require that water storage in the basin would be prioritized when the CWCB decides what projects to fund.

Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District based in Sterling, shared the bill with his board of directors during their regular meeting [February 8, 2022]. The board later voted to support the bill.

The bill specifically lists two intended purposes of the prioritization – to “(increase) the beneficial consumptive use of Colorado’s undeveloped waters to which Colorado is entitled under the South Platte River Compact,” and to “reduce reliance on transmountain diversions.”

According to the bill, the CWBC would create a construction fund into which any money appropriated by the General Assembly for water projects would be held. Interest on the investments from the fund would revert back into the fund, and unexpended funds would not be returned to the legislature at the end of the year.

In addition, when allocating money for water storage projects, CWBC would give projects in the South Platte Basin top priority.

#Nebraska #water groups endorse proposed $500M #Colorado canal — The Associated Press #SouthPlatteRiver

Nebraska Rivers Shown on the Map: Beaver Creek, Big Blue River, Calamus River, Dismal River, Elkhorn River, Frenchman Creek, Little Blue River, Lodgepole Creek, Logan Creek, Loup River, Medicine Creek, Middle Loup River, Missouri River, Niobrara River, North Fork Big Nemaha River, North Loup River, North Platte River, Platte River, Republican River, Shell Creek, South Loup River, South Platte River, White River and Wood River. Nebraska Lakes Shown on the Map: Harlan County Lake, Hugh Butler Lake, Lake McConaughy, Lewis and Clark Lake and Merritt Reservoir. Map credit: Geology.com

Click the link to read the article from The Associated Press (Grant Schulte):

Leaders from Nebraska’s irrigation and natural resources districts cast the plan as a crucial step to preserve as much of the state’s water supply as possible. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts identified it as a top priority, arguing that not moving forward would eventually cost Nebraska billions as farms, cities and other water users struggle with shortages…

Tom Riley, director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, said cutbacks on the river would force water regulators to release more water from Lake McConaughy, a major reservoir of the North Platte River, which converges with the South Platte River to form the Platte River.

Riley said the reduced flows would also affect power generation in the state, force farmers to retire productive farmland and hurt municipal water supplies within the river basin. Nebraska also relies on the river at some of its public power stations, including a coal-powered facility that uses water for cooling…

Elizabeth Elliott, director of Lincoln’s Transportation and Utilities agency, said Lincoln relies on the Platte River to supplement the water it draws from wells. She said water from the South Platte River provides about 7% of the city’s water…

The South Platte River Basin is shaded in yellow. Source: Tom Cech, One World One Water Center, Metropolitan State University of Denver.

John Winkler, general manager of the Omaha-based Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, said reducing the river flows would cut into the water supply in his area, which is a part the Platte River basin. Winkler said construction costs will rise quickly with inflation the longer the state waits to approve the project…

Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers, who introduced the bill on the governor’s behalf, said forging ahead with the canal could help Nebraska “put the strongest foot forward” in any negotiations. But he said the canal proposal wasn’t intended as a bargaining chip and argued the state ought to move forward with the project.

#Wellington Makes a Decision on #Water and #Wastewater Rates — The North Forty News

Looking west on Cleveland Avenue in Wellington. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47841975

Click the link to read the article on The North Forty News (Annie Lindgren):

Wellington residents and business owners will not be seeing an increase in water rates at this time. The Town has decided to maintain the current rates and tiers established in October of 2020 and January of 2021. They accomplished this through a General Fund transfer of $653,000 to the Water fund, through 2021 Water fund operational savings of $400,000, and through continuing to identify operational efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities. They also decided to use the available $2.6 million American Rescue Fund Act (ARPA) Tranche II funds towards the water fund…

Sewer base rates and usage rates have remained the same since 2016. That is $20.63 for up to 3,000 gallons and an additional $6.50 per thousand gallons over that. Starting in April of 2022, that base rate will go up to $31, with the additional usage rate of $10 per thousand gallons over 3,000 gallons. An example bill for an average resident using 4,000 gallons of water shows a change from $122.70 a month to $136.57 a month, including water, sewer, and storm fees.

The plan is for a stepped base and usage rate increase with a 5% annual increase to base and tier rates for the subsequent three years. In 2023 folks can expect another increase to $44 for the base rate and $13 for the amount per thousand gallons over 3,000. However, a utility rate study will happen before this Year 2 projection is finalized. This plan included a $390,000 General Fund transfer to the Sewer Fund, and there will be a shortfall in the Town fund balance reserve that will remedy with time and should be back above the red line in 2026.

Construction on the Wastewater plant will begin mid-2022. The goals for this project are that the capacity for the Wastewater treatment plant expansion must align with the Water Treatment Plant expansion, and the new Wastewater plant will meet the more stringent compliance standards. The project is set for completion in mid-2024 when the new plant should be ready for processing our sewage.

The next steps are for the Town is to engage in a comprehensive rate study happening in 2022. Water and Sewer usage rates, impact fees, and indirect costs will be evaluated. The goal is to ensure an equitable impact on residential and non-residential customers and plan annual reviews and updates into the future. In addition, the Town is continuing to support and promote the Hardship Utility Grant (HUG) and the Water Efficiency Program and is looking into other financial solutions…

The Rate study will look at regional trends and provide a holistic review of the water and wastewater rate needs and implications. It will answer the equity question of how to handle commercial vs. residential rates and share options on how best to proceed with future rate changes. It seems that the affordability of water and utilities is affecting Colorado in general, and it is a hot topic currently with the Colorado Municipal League. This discussion topic is far from over, so stay tuned for further details on the progression.

#Firestone will soon treat #water at its own facility — The #Greeley Tribune

The water treatment process

Click the link to read the article on The Greeley Tribune (Ken Amundson). Here’s the excerpt:

Beginning in April, Firestone will begin to produce treated water from its new water-treatment facility, dubbed the St. Vrain Water Treatment Plant.

The plant is one part of a multi-million dollar investment into diversifying the town’s water supply that includes the water plant, surface reservoirs, subsurface water in alluvial wells, conversion of irrigation water to municipal use and reuse of some water resources…

Firestone, like several growing communities along the northern Front Range, was largely dependent upon water from the Colorado-Big Thompson water project, which draws water from the Colorado River on the Western Slope and transports it to reservoirs and a network of supply lines in Northern Colorado…

All of Firestone’s water, prior to the opening of the new treatment plant, is treated at the Carter Lake Filter Plant, which is jointly operated by regional water districts. In Firestone’s case, the Central Weld County Water District is under contract to treat and deliver C-BT water for Firestone…

The investment has not been cheap. The town has spent $76 million so far.

It issued bonds to build the treatment plant and build a storage system. Those bonds will be repaid by tap fees, a storage and infrastructure fee, and the usual monthly water bill payments from residents…

Developers who own irrigation water now can dedicate it to the town in satisfaction of the town’s water requirements for new development. The treatment plant will process that native water and reduce the town’s reliance on C-BT, he said.

Insteading of drawing the water from the creek, the town will draw water from alluvial wells — wells that are replenished from surface water — and also inject water when available back into the wells for storage, Teneyck said. The alluvial wells are relatively shallow at about 35 feet and are located north of the historic coal mines in the Carbon Valley.

The town also is a partner in the Windy Gap Firming Project and the Northern Integrated Supply Project — NISP. A reservoir to hold Windy Gap water is under construction near Carter Lake. The NISP project will include two large reservoirs when it is built…

The treatment plant, which will be operated by the St. Vrain Water Authority, an entity jointly controlled by Firestone and the Little Thompson Water District, will initially treat 1.5 million gallons of water a day. Two expansions are planned, the first of which will expand capacity to 2.25 million gallons per day, and the second expansion will bring it to 5 million gallons per day by 2050. Firestone uses 2.23 million gallons of treated water per day today…

All of this is being paid for with fee schedules meant to recover the costs of growth. Developers will pay storage and infrastructure fees while homebuilders and commercial building contractors will pay tap fees that currently sit at $13,000 each for a residential tap.

South Platte River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

#Nebraska Governor announces $500 million plan to claim #water in #SouthPlatteRiver: Why this concerns the San Luis Valley — The #Crestone Eagle #RioGrande

Wet hay meadow on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge in July 2008. By Fred Bauder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11556466

Click the link to read the article on The Crestone Eagle (Lisa Cyriacks). Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado released a report in January that identified 282 new projects within the South Platte River Basin on their side of the border, at a total cost of $9.87 billion…

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, a Republican, said Colorado has been issuing water usage permits that would cut into Nebraska’s rightful share…

Douglas County Commissioners are currently considering a plan to supplement their water supply by bringing water from the San Luis Valley (SLV) to their county. Douglas County relies primarily on water from the Denver Basin. The South Platte serves as a principal source of water for the Colorado Front Range and the Eastern Plains.

Renewable Water Resources (RWR) is proposing to move 20,000 acre-feet of water annually from the San Luis Valley’s aquifer to Douglas County…

The unconfined aquifer, which provides irrigation water, has not recharged this winter as it typically does during the off-irrigation season.

Producers in Subdistrict 5 of the conservation district (western Saguache County) will likely face another irrigation season where groundwater wells are shut down…

Potential Water Delivery Routes. Since this water will be exported from the San Luis Valley, the water will be fully reusable. In addition to being a renewable water supply, this is an important component of the RWR water supply and delivery plan. Reuse allows first-use water to be used to extinction, which means that this water, after first use, can be reused multiple times. Graphic credit: Renewable Water Resources

The San Luis Creek runs through the middle of the wellfield and Rio Alto Creek through the southwestern side. Both these creeks supply the wetlands on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge created under the Great Sand Dunes National Park Act.

RGWCD plans to challenge RWR’s proposal in the Water Court. “We can’t see a path forward without injury or that would comply with rules and regulations as they exist today,” [Cleave] Simpson said.

Denver Basin Aquifer System graphic credit USGS.