A showdown over how transmountain diversions are calculated is brewing in the Colorado Supreme Court — Chris Woodka

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A showdown over how transmountain diversions are calculated is brewing in the Colorado Supreme Court.

At issue is last year’s ruling on a change of use case filed by Aurora in water court in Pueblo.

Division 2 Water Judge Larry C. Schwartz ruled that Aurora is entitled to export an average of 2,416 acre-feet (787 million gallons) annually, even though Aurora waited more than 20 years to change the use of the water from agriculture to municipal.

Aurora shares Busk-Ivanhoe with the Pueblo Board of Water Works on the system that formerly was operated by the High Line Canal. It brings water into Busk Creek above Turquoise Lake from Ivanhoe Lake through the Carleton Tunnel, which once was a train passage and later an automobile route across the Continental Divide.

Pueblo Water has a 1993 decree changing its water rights from its 1971 purchase of its half of Busk-Ivanhoe. Aurora purchased the other half from High Line shareholders beginning in 1986, but did not file for a change of use until 2009.

Western Slope groups and the state Division of Water Resources are arguing that Aurora’s claim to water should be reduced by 27 percent because the city misused the water after purchasing its share of the Busk-Ivanhoe system.

They claim that Schwartz should have counted the 22-year period as zeros when calculating the historic use of water from the Busk-Ivanhoe system. Schwartz determined that the years where the water was used improperly should not count in the calculation, but said the amount of Aurora’s diversion should be recalculated separately from the amount awarded to Pueblo in 1993.

Aurora’s share is slightly less than Pueblo Water’s (2,634 acre-feet average annually) as a result.

Supporting Schwartz’s decision are the state’s largest municipal water providers, including Denver Water, Colorado Springs, Pueblo Water, Northern Water and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, all of which bring water across the Continental Divide.

They argue that water courts serve to prevent injury to other water users, not penalize inappropriate historic uses.

“It’s not very likely to have a direct impact on any of our existing rights,” said Alan Ward, Pueblo Water’s resource manager. “We appreciate the court did not see a need to be punitive. That could be an issue with other water rights in the future.”

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also supports Schwartz’s position because of its own pending change case on the Larkspur Ditch, which it purchased from the Catlin Canal and uses to bring water over from the Gunnison River basin.

Schwartz ruled in favor of Aurora in the case (09CW142) in May, and it was appealed by multiple Western Slope groups in October. Reply briefs in the case are due March 21, after which the court could hear oral arguments.

More water law coverage here

The Colorado River District, et al. appeal May 2014 Aurora Busk-Ivanhoe diversion water court decision

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

A water court case in Pueblo over the size of water rights from the upper Fryingpan River delivered through the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel to the East Slope has now blossomed into a Colorado Supreme Court case full of powerful interests opposing each other across the Continental Divide.

A bevy of West Slope entities, including Pitkin, Eagle and Grand counties, the Colorado River District and the Grand Valley Water Users, Association are arguing against a May 2014 water court decision that gave Aurora the right to use 2,416 acre-feet of water from the Fryingpan for municipal purposes in Aurora instead of for irrigation purposes in the Arkansas River valley.

The new decree gives Aurora the right to divert up to 144,960 acre-feet of water over a 60-year period.

The other West Slope entities in the case are the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, the Ute Water Conservancy District and the Basalt Water Conservancy District.

On other side, a list of the most powerful water entities on the East Slope have filed legal briefs supporting Aurora’s positions, including Denver Water, Colorado Springs, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, the Northern Water Conservancy District and the Southeastern Water Conservancy District.

Pitkin County is specifically arguing that the water court judge should have counted Aurora’s 22 years of undecreed use of the water for municipal purposes — between 1987 and 2009 — when determining the historic lawful use of the water right, and thus, the size of the right’s “transferable yield” from irrigation to municipal use.

Instead, the judge set 1928 to 1986 as the representative sampling of years and excluded the 22 years of Aurora’s admittedly undecreed use.

Expert testimony in the case indicated that if Aurora’s years of undecreed, or “zero,” use were averaged in, the size of the transferable water right would be reduced by 27 percent — which is what Pitkin County believes should happen.

“When water rights have been used unlawfully for more than a quarter of their period of record, a pattern of use derived solely from the other three-quarters of the period of record will not most accurately represent the historical use of the rights at issue,” attorneys for Pitkin County told the Supreme Court.

The Colorado state water engineer and division engineers in water divisions 1, 2 and 5 are also arguing alongside Pitkin County that the judge should have included the 22 years of “zero” use in a representative sampling of years.

“This court should remand the case with instructions to determine the average annual historical use between 1928 and 2009, including zeros for years when Aurora diverted water through the Ivanhoe Tunnel solely for undecreed uses,” attorneys for the state and division engineers wrote.

The various East Slope entities are arguing in the case that the judge did the right thing by not counting Aurora’s 22 years of undecreed municipal use.

“The water court’s quantification of the Busk-Ivanhoe rights followed all of the rules for a change case — it was based on a representative period of lawful decreed use, it was not based upon undecreed use, and it employed several other factors endorsed by this court to determine a representative period,” Aurora’s attorney’s wrote. “The water court correctly determined it need not go any further, rejecting the appellants’ novel legal theory and finding it unnecessary to prevent injury.”

UNDECREED STORAGE

Meanwhile, other West Slope entities, including the River District and Eagle County, are arguing that Judge Larry C. Schwartz erred in his opinion regarding the right to store water on the East Slope without a specific decree to do so.

“The water court misinterpreted the law and erroneously looked beyond the record in the original adjudication to conclude that no storage decree was necessary and then included water stored and water traded to others within the amount of the changed right,” attorneys for the West Slope entities wrote.

But the East Slope entities support the judge’s conclusion regarding storage.

“The water court correctly interpreted prior case law and ruled East Slope storage was within the ‘wide latitude’ accorded importers of transmountain water provided such storage did not result in an expansion of the Busk-Ivanhoe water rights,” attorneys for Aurora wrote.

Attorneys for Denver Water also told the court that “it does not matter whether a decree specifically identifies storage in the basin of use of the imported foreign water” because “once imported, the foreign water can be stored wherever.”

Built between the early 1920s and 1936, the Busk-Ivanhoe water system now diverts about 5,000 acre-feet of water a year from Ivanhoe, Pan, Lyle and Hidden Lake creeks, all tributaries of the upper Fryingpan River.

The system gathers water from the high country creeks and stores it briefly in Ivanhoe Reservoir, which sits at 10,900 feet. It then sends the water through a 1.3 mile-long tunnel under the Continental Divide to Busk Creek and on into Turquoise Reservoir near Leadville.

From there, the water can either end up in the lower Arkansas River basin, or via pumps, end up in the South Platte River basin, where Aurora is located, just east of Denver.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works owns half of the Busk-Ivanhoe water rights, which have a primary 1928 decree date. In 1990, Pueblo received a decree to use its half of the water for municipal purposes, and that decision is not at issue in this case.

Aurora bought 95 percent of its half of the Busk-Ivanhoe water rights in 1986, and by 2001 had purchased 100 percent of the right, paying at least $11.25 million, according to testimony in the case.

INTO WATER COURT

Aurora came in from the cold in 2009 and applied in water court to change its half of the Busk-Ivanhoe water to municipal uses.

And it also applied for specific water storage rights, including in a new reservoir to be built on the flanks of Mount Elbert called Box Creek Reservoir.

After a five-day trial in Div. 2 Water Court in Pueblo in July 2013, which resulted in 1,075 pages of transcripts and 6,286 pages of exhibits, Schwartz ruled in May 2014 in Aurora’s favor.

West Slope entities filed appeals in October with the Colorado Supreme Court, which directly hears appeals from the state’s water courts.

Opening briefs in the case were filed by West Slope entities in December, and a round of “answer briefs” and “friend of the court” briefs were filed last week by various entities.

The West Slope entities now have until March 21 to file reply briefs in the case.

Once the case is set, oral arguments will be heard before the Supreme Court justices in Denver.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is covering rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Aurora diversion decision faces appeal — The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A decision earlier this year that sets limits on how much water Aurora can divert through the Busk-Ivanhoe system is being appealed by Western Slope groups.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District last week agreed to enter the case as well because it could affect its diversions through the Larkspur Ditch.

Division 2 water judge Larry Schwartz approved a decree that would allow Aurora to divert an average 2,416 acre-feet annually.

Pitkin County, the Colorado River District and Grand Valley Water Users appealed the decision based on the calculation of historic use of the four high-mountain creeks which are part of the Busk-Ivanhoe system.

Aurora shares Busk-Ivanhoe with the Pueblo Board of Water Works on the system that formerly was operated by the High Line Canal through the Carleton Tunnel, which once was a train and automobile route across the Continental Divide. It delivers water into Turquoise Lake near Leadville. The tunnel has collapsed in several spots, but water can still make its way through.

Pueblo Water has a 1993 decree changing its water rights from its 1971 purchase of its half of Busk-Ivanhoe. Aurora purchased the other half in 1986.

Lower Ark water attorney Peter Nichols said the change case on the Larkspur Ditch is stayed in water court because of issues similar to Busk-Ivanhoe case.

“The district has filed an amicus brief in the Busk-Ivanhoe case because the decision contains an issue similar to the change on Larkspur,” Nichols told the board.

The Lower Ark purchased most of the Larkspur Diversion from the Gunnison River from the Catlin Canal Co.

Water court cases are appealed directly to the Colorado Supreme Court.

More Busk-Ivanhoe coverage here.

The Lower Ark District is scoring Colorado Canal shares to keep the water in the Arkansas Valley

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is purchasing Colorado Canal water rights from the Ordway Feedyard.

“We’re purchasing the shares within the next 30 days to make sure the water stays in the Arkansas Valley,” said Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager. “It’s about a $4 million package.”

The Colorado Canal once irrigated 50,000 acres in Crowley County, but has largely fallen into the hands of Colorado Springs and Aurora through purchases made in the 1980s.

Earlier, in the 1970s, canal shareholders began selling off shares of Twin Lakes to Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Later Aurora and Pueblo West also bought big blocks of Twin Lakes shares.

The Lower Ark purchase from Ordway Feedyard includes 276 shares paired with Lake Henry storage, and 282 shares paired with Lake Meredith storage.

The feedlot has other sources of water to meet its own needs, most significantly a 15-year lease signed in 2012 with the Pueblo Board of Water Works to supply 700 acre-feet of augmentation water annually for a pipeline completed last year.

In another matter, the Lower Ark board last week accepted two conservation easements on the High Line Canal for Jason and Jennifer Stites. The easements are for a total of 224 acres with 18 shares of High Line water, for a cost of about $360,000. The easements were split for estate planning purposes, according to Lower Ark Conservation Manager Bill Hancock.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Water reuse: “It’s not a question of ‘Can we do it?’ We can do it” — John Rehring #COWaterPlan

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant
Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado water providers facing a shortfall…are turning to a long-ignored resource: wastewater.

They’re calculating that, if even the worst sewage could be cleaned to the point it is safe to drink — filtered through super-fine membranes or constructed wetlands, treated with chemicals, zapped with ultraviolet rays — then the state’s dwindling aquifers and rivers could be saved.

Colorado officials at work on the first statewide water plan to sustain population and industrial growth recognize reuse as an option.

“We need to go as far and as fast as we can on water-reuse projects,” Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund said.

But there’s no statewide strategy to do this.

Other drought-prone states, led by Texas, are moving ahead on wastewater conversion to augment drinking-water supplies.

Several obstacles remain: huge costs of cleaning, legal obligations in Colorado to deliver water downstream, disposal of contaminants purged from wastewater, and safety.

Local water plans recently submitted by leaders in five of Colorado’s eight river basins all call for reuse, along with conservation and possibly capturing more snowmelt, to address the projected 2050 shortfall.

Front Range utilities will “push the practical limit” in reusing water, according to the plan for the South Platte River Basin, which includes metro Denver. The Arkansas River Basin plan relies on reuse “to the maximum potential.”

Western Slope authorities in the Gunnison, Yampa and Colorado river basins contend Front Range residents must reuse all available wastewater as a precondition before state officials consider new trans-mountain projects.

The emerging Colorado Water Plan, to be unveiled Dec. 10, remains a general guide, lacking details such as how much water is available. Nor does this 358-page draft plan specify how much of Colorado’s shortfall can be met by reuse.

Water industry leaders urge an aggressive approach. Colorado officials should determine how much water legally can be reused and analyze how this could boost supplies, WateReuse Association director Melissa Meeker said in a letter to the CWCB. Colorado’s strategy “should be crafted to encourage innovation and creativity in planning reuse projects.”

Cleaning up wastewater to the point it can be reused as drinking water long has been technically feasible. Water already is recycled widely in the sense that cities discharge effluent into rivers that becomes the water supply for downriver communities.

Cleaning systems

In 1968, utility operators in Windhoek, Namibia, a desert nation in Africa, began cleaning wastewater and pumping it into a drinking-water system serving 250,000 people.

Denver Water engineers in the 1980s pioneered a multiple-filter cleaning system at a federally funded demonstration plant. From 1985 to 1991, Denver Water used wastewater to produce 1 million gallons a day of drinking water, which proved to be as clean as drinking water delivered today.

Delegations of engineers from Europe and the Soviet Union visited.

“There was a sense we were ahead,” said Myron Nealey, a Denver Water engineer who worked on the project.

But utility leaders scrapped it, partly out of fear that customers would object to drinking water that a few hours earlier might have been flushed from a toilet. They also were struggling to dispose of thousands of gallons a day of purged contaminants — a super-concentrated salty mix that must be injected into deep wells or buried in landfills. [ed. emphasis mine]

So Denver Water has focused instead on recycling wastewater solely for irrigation, power-plant cooling towers and other nonpotable use. An expanding citywide network of separate pipelines distributes this treated wastewater — 30 million gallons a day.

“Reuse is definitely a way to maximize the use of the water we have,” said Jim Lochhead, manager of Denver Water and former natural resources director for the state.

“We’re in the exploration stage of trying to analyze what are the options for various types of reuse,” Lochhead said. “What’s the most effective? What’s the least costly? What’s the most secure?”

Meanwhile, drought and population growth in Texas have spurred construction of water-cleaning plants at Wichita Falls and Big Spring. Engineers have installed water-quality monitoring and testing systems sensitive enough to track the widening array of pathogens, suspended particles and hard-to-remove speciality chemicals found in wastewater.

A Texas state water plan calls for increasing reuse of wastewater eightfold by 2060. The New Mexico town of Cloudcroft is shifting to reuse as a solution to water scarcity. And California cities hurt by and vulnerable to drought, including San Diego, are considering wastewater conversion for drinking water.

Costs can be huge, depending on the level of treatment. Water industry leaders estimate fully converted wastewater costs at least $10,000 per acre-foot (325,851 gallons).

By comparison, increased conservation, or using less water, is seen as the cheapest path to making more water available to prevent shortages. The most costly solution is building new dams, reservoirs and pipelines that siphon more water from rivers.

Colorado also faces legal constraints. The first-come-first-serve system of allocating water rights obligates residents who rely on diverted water from rivers to return that water, partially cleaned, to the rivers to satisfy rights of downriver residents and farmers.

However, much of the Colorado River Basin water diverted through trans-mountain pipelines has been deemed available for reuse. Western Resource Advocates experts estimate more than 280,000 acre-feet may be available. In addition, water pumped from underground aquifers — the savings account that south Denver suburbs have been tapping for decades — is available for reuse.

Indirect reuse

While nobody in Colorado has embarked on direct reuse of treated wastewater, Aurora and other cities have begun a form of indirect reuse that involves filtering partially treated wastewater through river banks. This water then is treated again at Aurora’s state-of-the-art plant. Cleaned wastewater then is blended with water from rivers to augment municipal supplies.

The most delicate challenge has been dealing with safety — making sure engineered water-cleaning systems are good enough to replace nature’s slow-but-sure settling and filtration.

While industry marketers focus on semantics to try to make people feel more comfortable — rejecting phrases such as “toilet to tap” to describe reuse — engineers are honing the systems.

They envision early-detection and shut-off mechanisms that quickly could stop contaminants left in water from reaching people. They aim for filtration and other advanced treatment sufficient to remove the multiplying new contaminants found in urban wastewater. Cleaning water increasingly entails removal of plastic beads used in personal-care products; mutating viruses; resistent bacteria; synthetic chemicals such as herbicides; ibuprofen; birth control; anti-depressants; and caffeine.

“That’s the whole job of treatment and monitoring, to remove pathogens and other contaminants to where it is safe to drink,” said John Rehring of Carollo Engineers, a Denver-based expert on water reuse.

“It’s not a question of ‘Can we do it?’ We can do it,” he said. “And because of growing affordability and public acceptance, we’re starting to see it implemented.”

Western Slope appeals ruling
 on water usage — Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Aurora should be penalized for storing and using West Slope water without having the appropriate water rights, several West Slope water agencies contend in a case before the Colorado Supreme Court.

The West Slope agencies, including the Grand Valley Water Users’ Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Ute Water Conservancy District, appealed a ruling in which a Pueblo water court upheld the transmountain diversion of 2,416 acre feet of water from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River to Aurora via an irrigation diversion.

The Western Slope agencies don’t object to the diversion per se, but contend that Aurora should not benefit from using what was billed as irrigation water by using the water for municipal purposes.

The distinction is important because water that diverted across the Continental Divide is considered to be a 100-percent consumptive use. That’s because there is no return flow back to the West Slope.

Aurora sought a change of use for the water in 2009, but had been diverting it since 1987. The irrigation decree also didn’t allow storage of the water.

West Slope agencies said Aurora’s years of municipal use that were inconsistent with the irrigation decree should be included as zeroes in the calculation of the average historical consumptive use. That would reduce the amount of water that Aurora could divert through the Busk-Ivanhoe system, which has a 1928 water right for irrigation in the lower Arkansas River valley.

The Grand Valley water agencies are appealing the ruling from the water court in Pueblo that upheld Aurora’s storage of the water in East Slope reservoirs, and others, including the Colorado River Water Conservation District, also are asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the way the court calculated the amount of water that could be diverted for Aurora’s municipal use.

“We are not opposing the change, just the calculation,” river district spokesman Chris Treese said. “We feel that if the court ignores this sort of negligence of the change-of-use laws, that it would encourage similar extra-legal uses of water whether it involves transmountain water or in-basin uses.”

A hearing has yet to be scheduled in the case.

More water law coverage here.

Pitkin County: The Colorado River District, et al., to appeal recent water court decree for Busk-Ivanhoe Ditch

From The Aspen Times (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Pitkin County, the Colorado River District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association have each filed an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court over a recent Water Court decree setting the size of a diversion from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River. The decree gives Busk-Ivanhoe Inc., an entity owned by the city of Aurora, the right to divert an average of 2,416 acre-feet of water a year from four high-mountain creeks for use within Aurora’s water-service area east of Denver.

But the appellants want the high court to review how Water Court Judge Larry C. Schwartz calculated the historical use of the 1928 water right and then used the answer to define the size and scope of Aurora’s new right. At issue is whether the period from 1987 to 2009, when Aurora was admittedly using water from the Busk-Ivanhoe system for municipal purposes without a decree to do so, should be included in a representative study period of use.

The original 1928 decree for the Busk-Ivanhoe water right only allowed the water to be used for irrigation in the lower Arkansas River Valley.

Pitkin County Attorney John Ely said if the 22 years of undecreed use at issue is factored in, Aurora’s new right might be half the size of the one approved by the judge.

The state engineer and three division engineers, who enforce water-right decrees, also have appealed the judge’s decision.

“The engineers believe that ‘undecreed’ use is equivalent to no decreed use, and that a calculation of average annual historical use must include the 22-year period during which there was no decreed use,” the appeal from the state engineer states.

But the judge sees it differently.

“In the circumstances of this case, including the years after 1986 in the study period but attributing zero diversions to all such years is not necessary to protect junior water rights from injury,” Schwartz wrote.

Aurora, which began buying Busk-Ivanhoe irrigation water in 1987, filed documents with the Water Court in 2009 to change the use of its water from irrigation to municipal uses.

In July 2013, a five-day trial was held in Pueblo. Schwartz issued a substantial ruling on May 27. On Aug. 15, he issued a decree defining the water right.

In early October, the four appeals were filed with the Supreme Court, which directly hears appeals from Water Court. Opening legal briefs are expected by mid-February.

High-mountain water

Busk-Ivanhoe Inc. owns half of the roughly 5,000 acre-feet diverted by the Busk-Ivanhoe system each year. The other half is owned by the Pueblo Board of Water Works and is not at issue in the case.

Busk-Ivanhoe has the right to divert 100 cubic feet per second of water from Hidden Lake Creek, 50 cfs from both Pan Creek and Lyle creeks and 35 cfs from Ivanhoe Creek. A 21-foot-tall dam on Ivanhoe Creek forms Ivanhoe Reservoir, and a 30-inch pipe carries water for 1.3 miles under the Continental Divide near Hagerman Pass. Water exits the pipe, runs down Busk Creek to Turquoise and Twin Lakes reservoirs and then is moved to Aurora.

The new decree would allow Aurora to divert as much as 144,960 acre-feet of water over a 60-year period, at an annual average of 2,416 acre-feet.

Joining the Colorado River District in its appeal is the Basalt Water Conservancy District and Eagle County, and joining the Grand Valley Water Users Association is the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Ute Water Conservancy District.

Those entities also question the judge’s decisions regarding the storage of Busk-Ivanhoe water on the Front Range, which has been done for decades without a decreed right.

Schwartz said even though the original decree was silent on the subject of storage, it was always the “intent” of the water developer to store the water on the Front Range.

He also found that storing the Busk-Ivanhoe water without a decreed right after it had been moved under the Continental Divide “did not cause an injurious expansion or alteration of stream conditions” in the Colorado River Basin.

The appellants disagree.

“We feel the Water Court’s rulings were erroneous and would set a dangerous precedent of holding transmountain diverted water rights to different requirements as in-basin rights when it comes to decree and decree-change calculations,” said Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu. “There should not be separate rules for transmountain diversions.”

Greg Baker, manager of public relations for Aurora Water, said Aurora officials couldn’t discuss the litigation.

Aspen Journalism is an independent, nonprofit news organization collaborating with The Aspen Times on coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

More water law coverage here.

Denver, South Metro purchase pipeline to move finished water to customers (WISE Project)

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A pipeline that will tie metro areas together has been purchased by Denver and the South Metro Water Supply Authority. The purchase will delay other efforts by metro water providers to take water from other parts of the state by allowing water suppliers to be used more effectively.

The 20-mile long East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District’s western pipeline was purchased for $34 million, connecting Denver’s supply line to Aurora’s Prairie Waters Project. South Metro will pay 85 percent and Denver 15 percent. The ECCV pipeline originally was built to move water from a well field to the west to the community located between Denver and Aurora. It was built with excess capacity and will be modified to serve several other districts along its route.

The move will allow districts in the South Metro group to receive water from Prairie Waters and give Denver and Aurora a source of emergency supply.

Those districts are largely dependent upon Denver Basin groundwater, but need surface supplies in order to sustain underground resources. By cooperating with neighbors, they are able to reduce the costs of new supplies.

Denver, Aurora and 10 members of South Metro entered the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership in order to share water resources. Other projects have included reallocation of Chatfield Reservoir water, opening of Rueter-Hess Reservoir at Parker and other projects by individual members.

“With those successes, we’re taking another look at our long-term plan,” said Eric Hecox, general manager of the South Metro District.

That could be good news for the Arkansas River basin, which was targeted among future sources of water supply in South Metro’s 2007 water plan. Since then, conservation efforts have reduced demand. In addition, growth slowed during the recession, giving the water providers a little breathing room, Hecox said.

“With WISE moving ahead, it complements other water supply efforts. It doesn’t meet all of our needs, but moves things forward,” Hecox said. In the next few months, the Colorado­Wyoming Coalition, led by South Metro, will be completing an analysis of whether to launch a feasibility study for the Flaming Gorge pipeline, which would deliver water from Wyoming to cities within that state as well as Colorado’s Front Range.

One of the South Metro’s members is the Rangeview district east of Aurora, backed by Pure Cycle, a company which has proposed piping water from shares it owns on the Fort Lyon Canal near La Junta to the northern cities.

The groups also will be looking at coordinating its plan with the upcoming state water plan.

“Many of the options in the state water plan are the same options we’re looking at,” Hecox said.

More WISE Project coverage here.

WISE One Step Closer to Delivering Water

WISE System Map September 11, 2014
WISE System Map September 11, 2014

Here’s the release from the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Denver Water, and the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District (Russ Rizzo/Stacy Chesney/Andy Cohen):

WISE One Step Closer to Delivering Water

  • Purchase of East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District pipeline by South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water finalized
  • Water delivery to begin in 2016 following additional infrastructure build-out
  • Partnership represents new era in regional cooperation and water efficiency
  • The southern suburbs of Denver took a significant step forward in shifting to a water system that makes use of renewable water supply on Oct. 21 when members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water purchased the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District’s Western Waterline. The pipeline purchase is a significant milestone in WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency), a partnership between 10 of the South Metro members, Denver Water and Aurora Water to share water supply and infrastructure.

    Using Aurora’s Prairie Waters system, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide water through the Western pipeline to participating South Metro members on a permanent basis. WISE will also provide a new emergency supply for Denver Water, and offset costs and stabilize water rates for Aurora.

    “The purchase of ECCV’s pipeline makes WISE and the sharing of water supplies possible,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “This is a significant milestone for the WISE Partnership and moves communities throughout the South Metro area one step closer to a secure and sustainable water future,” he said.

    The 20-mile east-west pipeline along E-470 and C-470 has capacity to deliver 38 million gallons of water a day to Douglas and Arapahoe counties.

    “Our sale of this pipeline is mutually beneficial for all the parties involved,” said O. Karl Kasch, president of the ECCV board. “Under the purchase and sale agreement, ECCV will still have the capacity we need in the pipeline, while also supporting a regional solution to one of the most important water challenges facing the Denver metro region. We have always viewed the Western Waterline as an infrastructure asset from which the entire South Metro community can benefit, and that’s what will be accomplished.”

    Under the agreement, Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to South-Metro water suppliers beginning in 2016 with the option to increase to 10,000 acre-feet in future years.

    “We’re thrilled to be moving forward with the WISE Partnership,” said Dave Little, director of planning for Denver Water. “This agreement will create more system flexibility and increase the reliability of our water supply system, leading to a more secure water future for communities throughout the region.”

    WISE water is expected to begin flowing through the ECCV pipeline in 2016, once the remaining infrastructure, such as system interconnects, are complete.

    For additional details on the WISE project and updates, visit http://www.southmetrowater.org/storage-WISE.html.

    More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post:

    Denver and south metro suburbs have taken a $34 million step toward water-sharing to wean the suburbs off dwindling underground aquifers.

    The South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water announced Wednesday they bought a 20-mile pipeline — built for $44 million in 2004 by the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District — to carry excess Denver and Aurora water to 10 suburbs including Castle Rock, Centennial and Parker.

    This east-west pipeline is seen as the spine of a new distribution system to move an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to suburbs that, in some cases, remain totally dependent on the finite Denver Basin aquifer.

    “This allows them to change the way they are using the aquifer,” said Eric Hecox, director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which represents the suburbs. “It won’t get them off the aquifer completely. It will allow them to use it as a backup supply.”

    Denver Basin aquifer system
    Denver Basin aquifer system

    Colorado has let developers tap aquifers to serve multiplying new homes, but pumping the underground water is becoming more difficult and costly with water tables falling in some areas by 1 to 3 feet a year.

    About two dozen utilities between Denver and Colorado Springs together pump more than 30,000 acre-feet of water a year from about 440 municipal wells, according to water suppliers.

    This Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project, if it works as envisioned, would take advantage of water already used by Denver and Aurora, cleaning it fully in Aurora’s state-of-the-art water treatment plant.

    More pipeline connections must be built, but buying the ECCV pipeline is a major step, Hecox said.

    South Metro paid 85 percent of the $34 million. Denver Water paid $4.7 million.

    The pipeline runs under the 470 beltway and can carry up to 38 million gallons a day. ECCV can keep moving up to 8 million gallons a day to its southeast metro customers.

    “Without that pipeline, we cannot deliver the water,” Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said. “Now we can start moving forward toward delivering water.”

    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which represents more than a dozen water utilities in the southern edges of the metro area, on Oct. 21 agreed to pay $34 million to buy the pipeline from the East Cherry Creek Valley district. The South Metro water districts is an 85 percent owner of the pipeline and Denver Water paid $4,725,000 for its 15 percent ownership, Bennett said.

    “We found a way between Denver, the South Metro districts and East Cherry Creek to share the capacity of the pipeline, so it will now be used to deliver water to the south metro entities,” said Dave Bennett, a water resource project manager with Denver Water.

    Denver Water, which serves more than 1 million customers in Denver and some surrounding suburbs, also will be able to use the pipeline to capture water and reuse it in its systems, Bennett said.

    “Instead of going out and building a new, duplicate pipeline, we found a way to share that existing infrastructure,” Bennett said.

    The pipeline is crucial to the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) partnership, which includes 10 southern water districts, Denver Water and Aurora Water. Under the WISE agreements, treated water that’s been used once by Denver and Aurora and added to the South Platte River will be recaptured at a spot along the river north of Denver. Then, via Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Water pipeline, the water will be shipped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. After it’s treated at the plant, the Western Waterline pipeline will be crucial for moving the treated water to the southern suburbs.

    “The purchase of ECCV’s pipeline makes WISE and the sharing of water supplies possible,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “This is a significant milestone for the WISE Partnership and moves communities throughout the South Metro area one step closer to a secure and sustainable water future.”

    Under the WISE agreement, Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to south-metro water suppliers beginning in 2016 with the option to increase to 10,000 acre-feet in future years. One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons, enough to support 2½ families of four for a year.

    Karl Kasch, president of the East Cherry Creek Valley board of directors, said the sale of the district’s pipeline was beneficial for all parties. The district retained ownership of 8 million gallons per day worth of capacity on the pipeline, which can carry 38 million gallons of water per day.

    “Under the purchase and sale agreement, ECCV [the district] will still have the capacity we need in the pipeline, while also supporting a regional solution to one of the most important water challenges facing the Denver metro region,” Kasch said.

    “We have always viewed the Western Waterline as an infrastructure asset from which the entire South Metro community can benefit, and that’s what will be accomplished,” he said.

    More work needs to be done to connect the pipeline to Aurora’s water treatment plant, connect it to Denver Water’s system, and connect the southern water districts to the pipeline, but that’s expected to be done in the next few years, Bennett said.

    More WISE Project coverage here.

    Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co, Aspen and the #ColoradoRiver District reach deal

    From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The city of Aspen and Front Range water interests have reached a compromise 20 years in the making that allows more water to be sent east when the spring runoff is plentiful, in exchange for bolstering flows when the Roaring Fork River is running low in the fall. The deal is between the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which operates transbasin diversion tunnels underneath Independence Pass, and the city of Aspen and the Colorado River District, which works to protect water rights on the Western Slope.

    The deal, which has its roots in a 1994 water court application from Twin Lakes that sought to increase diversions during the runoff in high-snowpack years. It will leave 40 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir when Twin Lakes exercises its rights under the 1994 proposal. That water will be stored in the 500-acre-foot reservoir and released into the Roaring Fork for about three weeks in late summer, when seasonal flows are at their lowest. The water must be called for and released in the same year it was stored.

    Grizzly Reservoir, located about 8 miles up Lincoln Creek Road near the Continental Divide, is a component of the transbasin-diversion system. A tunnel underneath the reservoir channels water underneath the mountain to the south fork of Lake Creek in the Arkansas River basin, on the other side of the pass.

    Additionally, under the deal, the River District will have the right to store 200 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir and can call for up to 150 acre feet of that water in a year. Importantly, that 200 acre-feet can be stored long-term in the reservoir until it is called for by the River District, which manages water rights across the Western Slope.

    Another 600 acre-feet will be provided to the River District for seasonal storage in Twin Lakes Reservoir, also on the east side of Independence Pass. The district will then trade and exchange that water with various entities, which could lead to more water staying on the Western Slope that would otherwise be diverted through other transbasin tunnels.

    Twin Lakes diverts an average of 46,000 acre-feet a year from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and sends it to Colorado Springs and other Front Range cities. The city of Colorado Springs owns 55 percent of the shares in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., entities in Pueblo own 23 percent, entities in Pueblo West own 12 percent, and Aurora owns 5 percent.

    Aspen and the River District intend to cooperatively use the stored water in Grizzly Reservoir to boost late-summer flows in the Roaring Fork as it winds through Aspen proper.

    Water already flowing
    The stretch of the Roaring Fork River below the Salvation Ditch on Stillwater Drive typically runs below environmentally sound flows each year for about eight weeks, according to city officials. And given that this spring saw a high run-off, the three parties to the agreement managed some water this year as if the deal was already signed.

    “At the close of the current water year (which ended the last day of September), Twin Lakes started making releases of some of the water stored for the River District, followed by release of the 40 acre-feet, as directed by Aspen and the River District,” Phil Overeynder, a special projects engineer for the city, wrote in an Oct. 3 memo to city council. “These releases had the effect of increasing flows in the Roaring Fork through the Aspen reach by approximately 20 percent and will last for approximately a three-week period at the end of the lowest flow conditions of the year.”

    Overeynder added that “both Aspen and the River District believe that this agreement, while not perfect, is of real and meaningful benefit to the Roaring Fork.”

    Aspen City Council approved the agreement on its consent calendar during a regular council meeting on Monday. The agreement is on the River District’s Tuesday meeting agenda, and Twin Lakes approved it last month.

    The deal still needs to be accepted by Pitkin County and the Salvation Ditch Co. in order to satisfy all of the details of the water court’s 2001 approval of the 1994 water rights application.

    Junior and senior rights
    In addition to its junior 1994 water right, Twin Lakes also holds a senior 1936 water right that allows it to divert up to 68,000 acre-feet in a single year and up to 570,000 acre-feet in a 10-year period.

    Originally, the water diverted by Twin Lakes was used to grow sugar beets to make sugar, but it is now primarily used to meet the needs of people living on the Front Range.

    The 1936 water right still has some lingering restrictions in high-water years, according to Kevin Lusk, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities who serves as the president of the board of the private Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. Under its 1936 right, when there is plenty of water in the Arkansas River and the Twin Lakes Reservoir is full, Twin Lakes is not allowed to divert water, even though it is physically there to divert, Lusk explained. So in 1994 it filed in water court for a new water right without the same restrictions so it could divert more water to the east. It was dubbed the “Twin Junior,” water right.

    The city of Aspen and the River District objected in court to the “Twin Junior” and the agreement approved Monday is a long-delayed outcome of the case.

    Aspen claimed that if Twin Lakes diverted more water in big-water years, the Roaring Fork wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of the high water, including flooding the Stillwater section and replenishing groundwater supplies. That process, the city argued, helps the river in dry times.

    “We don’t necessarily agree with the theory behind it,” Lusk said of the city’s claim, but added that Twin Lakes agreed to the deal as part of settlement negotiations.

    And since 2014 turned out to be a high-water year, Twin Lakes exercised its right to divert water under its 1994 Twin Junior right, and worked cooperatively with Aspen and the River District to release 40-acre feet of “mitigation water” as described in the pending deal.

    The new agreement between the city, Twin Lakes and the River District is in addition to another working arrangement between Twin Lakes and Aspen related to the Fryingpan-Arkansas diversion project, which diverts water from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River.

    That agreement provides 3,000 acre-feet of water each year to be released by Twin Lakes into the main stem of the Roaring Fork beneath a dam near Lost Man Campground, normally at a rate of 3 to 4 cubic feet per second.

    More Twin Lakes coverage here.

    Douglas County joins WISE project

    douglascounty

    From the Parker Chronicle (Mike DiFerdinando):

    The Douglas County commissioners took an important step in helping secure the county’s water future at their regular meeting on Aug. 26.

    By joining in on the South Metro Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) Authority’s agreement with Denver Water and Aurora Water, the county will be the recipient of 2,775 acre-feet of water per year for a 10-year period, starting in 2016…

    The South Metro WISE Authority is made up of 10 water providers that are all part of the larger South Metro Water Supply Authority. Nine of those water providers — Centennial, Cottonwood, Dominion, Inverness, Meridian, Parker, Pinery, Stonegate Village and Castle Rock — are located in Douglas County. The 10th, Rangeview Metropolitan District, is located in Aurora.

    “This region has been working hard for a very long time to bring renewable water supplies into the area,” SMWSA Executive Director Eric Hecox said. “We have a legacy of developing non-renewable groundwater and the effort for many years has been to transition our current population off of groundwater as well as to provide water for future economic development, and I think this project achieves that.”

    The WISE project began in 2008 as a way for members to identify processes, cost, distribution, timing, storage and legal issues relating to distributing treated reusable water return flows from Denver and Aurora for use by SMWSA water users.

    The group tasked with utilizing this water is the South Metro WISE Authority. The primary purpose of the authority is to reduce members’ dependence on non-renewable Denver Basin wells and provide reliable long-term water supply for residents.

    “While we often refer to the Denver Basin aquifers in a negative way, they do provide an extremely important drought reserve,” Douglas County Water Resource Planner Tim Murrell said. “By reducing Denver Basin well pumping to a secondary source rather than a sole supply, the basin can continue to be a valuable asset in times of drought.”

    In 2013, Aurora, Denver and the South Metro WISE Authority finalized the water delivery agreement. As part of the deal, 100,000 acre-feet of water will go to the authority’s providers over a 10-year period.

    At the time of the agreement, the authority members were only able to agree on 7,225 acre-feet per year. This left 2,775 acre-feet per year that would be lost if not claimed. Douglas County has been working with the authority members over the last year to reserve the 2,775 acre-feet per year supply for the county.

    The WISE members are funding new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations, beginning in 2016. Water purchased by the county, as well as by some of the other providers, will be stored at the Rueter-Hess Reservoir south of Parker.

    The county will pay a $97,125 annual reservation fee through 2020; 2,000 acre-feet of water per year will be available for use and purchase by WISE members, and 775 acre-feet will be available for use and purchase by non-members.

    More WISE project coverage here.

    “It was a complete defeat for the Western Slope” — Pitkin County Attorney John Ely

    Busk-Ivanhoe system diversions
    Busk-Ivanhoe system diversions

    From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Pitkin County and the Colorado River District are planning to appeal a judge’s ruling that gives the city of Aurora the right to use water from the upper Fryingpan River basin for municipal purposes, without a penalty for 23 years of “unlawful” water use.

    “It was a complete defeat for the Western Slope,” Pitkin County Attorney John Ely said of the order issued on May 27 by Larry C. Schwartz, a state water court judge in Pueblo.

    As it stands today, the court’s ruling means Aurora can retain the 1928 priority date on its full right to divert 2,400 acre-feet a year through the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel for municipal instead of irrigation purposes. Over 60 years, Aurora can divert 144,960 acre-feet under the right.

    Pitkin County and other Western Slope entities wanted the court to reduce the scope of Aurora’s water right, as the Front Range city has been using the water from the Busk-Ivanhoe system for municipal purposes, without a decree, since 1987.

    The “West Slope Opposers,” as the court called them, also argued that the court should consider that Aurora was also storing water on the East Slope without an explicit right to do so, which they felt constituted an “expansion” of its water rights.

    The board of the River District agreed on July 15 to appeal the judge’s ruling, while the Pitkin County commissioners agreed shortly after the May ruling. Ely said he understands the Colorado State Engineer’s Office also plans to appeal.

    Pitkin County has spent $247,500 on the Busk-Ivanhoe water case so far, and using money from the county’s Healthy Rivers and Streams fund to pay for outside water attorneys.

    Other parties from the Western Slope in the case are Eagle County, Basalt Water Conservancy District, Grand Valley Water Users Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Ute Water Conservancy District. Trout Unlimited is also a party to the case, which is 09CW142 in Water Division 2.

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Transbasin water

    Since 1928, about 5,000 acre-feet of water a year has been diverted from Ivanhoe, Lyle, Hidden Lake and Pan creeks, headwater streams of the Fryingpan River.

    The water is sent from Ivanhoe Reservoir to Busk Creek through a pipe in the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel, first built as a railroad tunnel in the late 1880s. From Busk Creek, the water flows to Turquoise Reservoir and the Arkansas River, and eventually reaches Aurora and Pueblo.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works owns the right to half of the water diverted through Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel, and in 1993 it changed the use of its water right from irrigation to municipal.

    In 1987, Aurora bought the other half of Busk-Ivanhoe water and started using its half of the water for municipal purposes. But it didn’t come in for a change-of-use decree from water court until 2009.

    Aurora’s 2009 application received 35 statements of opposition and as is common in water court, opponents were winnowed down to a core group. Many cases are settled before trial, but this case went to a five-day trial in July 2013.

    Judge Schwartz’s subsequent ruling in May established the parameters of how a new decree for Aurora’s water should read, and the draft decree is now being prepared, Ely said. Once the proposed decree is filed with the court, it will trigger the appeal period in the case. Appeals in water court cases go directly to the Colorado Supreme Court.

    Greg Baker, the manager of public relations for Aurora Water, was contacted early Friday afternoon for comment. He said officials were in various meetings throughout the day, and they couldn’t be reached by deadline.

    Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel entrance
    Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel entrance

    “Zero” years

    Ely said Pitkin County is primarily concerned about the judge’s decision not to take into account the 23 years that Aurora used water for undecreed purposes, i.e.,, municipal instead of irrigation.

    Ely said it is a “fundamental” part of Colorado water law that non-use diminishes the scope of your water right when you go to change it, and it appears Aurora is getting “special treatment” because the water right is a transmountain diversion.

    He said that when determining the “historic consumptive use” of a water right — which is what can legally be changed to another use — it is common practice for the court to reduce the scope of a water right by averaging in any years of “zero” or non-use. And undecreed uses typically count as “zero” years.

    “But what the court said in this case said was, ‘We’re just not going to look at those years’ of zero use,” Ely said.

    Judge Schwartz decided that the period from 1928 to 1986 — before Aurora started using the water — was the best “representative period” to use to determine how much water Aurora had been putting to proper use.

    “The representative study period to be utilized should be based on a period of time that properly measures actual decreed beneficial use, and that excludes undecreed uses,” Schwartz concluded.

    “The use of zeros during the years of undecreed use would permanently punish (Aurora) for the undecreed use after 1987,” Schwartz also wrote. “This court does not view a change application case as a means to permanently punish a water user for undecreed use.”

    In regard to the issue of undecreed storage, the judge looked at the history of the water right, and found that while the original decree from 1928 may have been silent on the subject of East Slope storage, it was always part of the plan by the water developers to store water in a reservoir on the East Slope.

    “West Slope Opposers assert that the storage of the Busk-Ivanhoe water in the Arkansas River Basin is an ‘expansion’ of use,” Schwartz wrote. “Storage of the Busk-Ivanhoe water in the Arkansas River Basin is not an expansion. Said storage has always been a part of the water right.”

    Ely said the Colorado River District is more concerned about the storage issue than Pitkin County is. However, the county does feel the judge’s overall response to Aurora’s request to change its water right was faulty.

    “We knew they were going to be able to change their use, it was just a question of how much,” Ely said. “And it was a question if the Front Range would be held to the same standard as everybody else, in terms of using their water consistent with a decree, or if they get some kind of special treatment for being a transbasin diversion. The judge, and his order, found that they should get some kind of special treatment, and we think that runs contrary to the law.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on the coverage of land and water in Pitkin County. More at http://www.aspen
journalism.org.

    More water law coverage here.

    Arkansas River: Aurora’s planned Box Creek Reservoir stirs questions from Mt. Elbert Water Association members

    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red
    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red

    From The Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

    Members of the Mt. Elbert Water Association had many questions for representatives of the Aurora Water Department Saturday regarding the proposed Box Creek Reservoir. Because of the timing of the processes for planning and then constructing the reservoir, not many answers were available. However the association members now know that they will be informed of what is happening through email, and there will be a representative of Aurora Water at subsequent annual meetings.

    The association held its annual meeting at the Lake County Public Library Saturday morning with 56 in attendance.

    Representing Aurora Water were Gerry Knapp, Aurora resources program manager, and Kathy Kitzmann, senior water resources engineer.

    An early question concerned the Box Creek well that supplies water to the association. Concerns were expressed that the reservoir might impact the well in some way.

    “We have no intent of adversely affecting your well,” Knapp responded. “We couldn’t build the project if we did.”

    In response to later questions about possible decreased river flow and its impact on rafting, he pointed out that any negative impact to river flow as a result of the reservoir cannot occur.

    “What comes in must go out,” he said.

    The pool at the reservoir also would have to be kept at 20 percent except in cases of extreme drought.

    Knapp said that Aurora would be following the National Environmental Policy Act process as set forth by the federal government regarding environmental issues. He made it clear that Aurora is not working with the federal government on the project.
    Other questions centered on the types of recreational activities that would be permitted once the reservoir is built.

    A separate study on appropriate recreation will be done, and Knapp anticipates broad public input. The county commissioners will be responsible for managing recreation on the reservoir although they could turn management over to another entity. Possible recreation could include fishing, boating, camping and more. Some concerns were expressed over ATVs and noise levels.

    Other concerns related to construction activities and dust. The construction period is estimated to be two years. Negative impacts on property values were mentioned by one resident.

    Kitzmann said one issue they’re dealing with is wetland restoration. Aurora has purchased a parcel of land from a private owner that will be restored as wetland to be used as a credit for wetland that would be used in the project.

    No decision has been made on what will happen to the old buildings that exist on the Hallenbeck Ranch where the reservoir will be built. Knapp said some talks are under way with Colorado Mountain College, owner of the Hayden Ranch, about possibly moving some of the buildings there, but no decisions have been made.

    There would be no road over the top of the reservoir dam and, according to Knapp, there are no plans to close the road leading to Pan-Ark subdivision, whose residents are served by the Mount Elbert Water Association.

    “We may have to move it a little bit,” he said.

    The permitting process could begin in one to three years, and is a 10-year-long process, Knapp said. Although there initially was hope that the process would move faster, 2030 was the date given at the meeting for possible completion.

    The Hallenbeck Ranch property was purchased by Lake County in 1998. The county granted Aurora an option to purchase the main portion of the ranch property in January 2001, retaining all water and ditch rights associated with the ranch. The purchase-option agreement stipulates that Aurora will design, construct and operate the reservoir project and manage the surrounding land in combination with the Lake County Open Space Initiative partners.

    Lake County will be able to use 20 percent of Aurora’s operational capacity for storage of its own water.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation
    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    Here’s part one of an in-depth look at the Southern Delivery System from John Hazlehurst writing for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Contending that the denial [of Homestake II] had been arbitrary and capricious, the two cities [Aurora and Colorado Springs] appealed the decision to the courts. In a comprehensive description of the city’s water system and possible future sources of supply given to City Council in 1991, CSU managers said that “extensive litigation is expected to continue.”

    Denied by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court, the cities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

    City officials were stunned. They couldn’t believe that a coalition of Western Slope “enviros” and ski towns had prevented them from developing water to which the city had an undisputed right. They had believed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 decision to scuttle Denver’s proposed Two Forks Dam near Deckers on the South Platte River was an outlier, not a sign of things to come…

    Slow to recognize that mountain communities now had the power to kill their water development plans, Utilities officials looked at another alternative. Instead of taking water directly from the wilderness area, the city proposed to build a dam on the mainstem of the Arkansas at Elephant Rock, a few miles upstream of Buena Vista.

    A grassroots rebellion against the project was soon evident, as hand-lettered signs appeared along U.S. Highway 24, which parallels the Arkansas. The signs carried a simple message: “Don’t Let Colorado Springs Dam this River!”

    It soon became clear that Chaffee County commissioners would not issue a construction permit for any such project, dooming it before the first planning documents were created…

    If trans-mountain diversions or dams on the Arkansas were no longer feasible, that left a single alternative for developing the city’s water rights. CSU would have to let its water flow down to Pueblo Reservoir, construct a diversion structure on the dam, and pump it uphill to Colorado Springs.

    It would be, water managers believed, the easiest project to build and permit.

    “It was just a pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom, who has worked 35 years for Utilities. “What could go wrong?”[…]

    “We didn’t really understand the importance of partnering with and involving the public in decision-making,” said [Gary Bostrom], “until the Southern Water Project.”[…]

    The plan for the Southern Delivery System was presented to City Council in 1992. Among the material submitted to councilmembers was a comprehensive description of the city’s existing water system. Water managers made sure Council was aware of the importance of the task before them.

    “The massive scope of this project,” CSU staff noted, “requires a very long lead time to allow for complexities of numerous permitting processes, land acquisition, litigation, design, financing and construction.”

    Of all the variables, CSU managers and elected officials gave the least weight to those that may have been the most significant…

    “We weren’t worried about hydrology,” said Bostrom. “The years between 1980 and 2000 were some of the wettest years on record. The water was there for the taking. Shortages on the Colorado weren’t part of the discussion.

    “We knew about the Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 (which allocated Colorado River water between Mexico and the upper and lower basin states), but it wasn’t something we worried about.”

    Then as now, 70 percent of the city’s water supply came from the Colorado River. SDS would tap the city’s rights on the Arkansas, diversifying the portfolio.

    “We have to plan for growth,” said Bostrom. “That’s what history tells us. We know that it will be expensive, but the cost of not building a system well in advance of need would be much greater. People complained about the cost of the Blue River (trans-mountain diversion) project in the 1950s, but we wouldn’t have a city without it — we wouldn’t have the Air Force Academy.”

    But even as the project moved slowly forward, the comfortable assumptions of a wet, prosperous future began to unravel.

    “Exactly 15 years ago today (April 29, 1999),” said Bostrom, “we were in the middle of a flood — remember? We didn’t know it, but that was the day the drought began.”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Aurora Water embarks on expansion of Prairie Waters

    prairiewaterstreatment

    From The Denver Post (Megan Mitchell):

    Aurora Water has begun construction to expand the city’s Prairie Waters Project for the first time since the natural water filtration and collection system opened in 2010. Projects nixed from the original construction plan kept the $659 million project about $100 million below its initial budget. Now, those projects are being called back up to make sure Prairie Waters stays on track for exponential growth over the next 40 years.

    “The expansion part of the project has been planned from the very beginning,” said Marshall Brown, executive director for Aurora Water. “This year, we’re at a place where we can prioritize the growth and look toward the future of system capacity.”
    Crews have begun digging six new collection wells in between the existing 17 wells that collect water from a basin near the South Platte River in Weld County, downstream from the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District’s plant. From there, the water is piped through wells 44 miles south to treatment and storage facilities in Aurora for residential use.

    Along the way, the water is pulled through 100 feet of gravel and sand. This 30-day, natural process helps pull large contaminants out of the water.

    Two new filter beds will also be installed at the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir this year. At the Binney facility, water is treated with chemicals and ultraviolet lights to make it potable.

    The cost of the expansion projects is $2.9 million, said Greg Baker, spokesperson for Aurora Water. He said water tap fees will not be affected by the new wells and filters this year.

    “We plan our capital projects (which are predominantly paid for by development or tap fees) well in advance,” Baker said. “We plan for these expenses so that our rates don’t roller coaster based on immediate projects.”

    Right now, Prairie Waters is spread over 250 acres in Weld County and is only built out to about 20 percent of its total potential capacity. Baker said the system currently provides 10 million gallons of water per day. At full build-out, Prairie Waters will able to provide 50 million gallons of water per day.

    The project itself was conceived in response to extreme drought conditions in 2003.

    “Ideally, we would like to have two years’ worth of supply stored in the system at all times,” Brown said. “Aurora’s system varies between one and two years’ worth of storage now.”

    The long-term vision for the project involves well development all the way down the South Platte River to Fort Lupton, as well as adding more physical storage components. Aurora Water has already started to acquire additional property for capacity expansion in the future.

    Baker added: “As Aurora’s population grows, we will expand into the system to support that growth.”

    More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

    Arkansas Basin RT Gary Barber steps down as chair #COWaterPlan

    Basin roundtable boundaries
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Gary Barber, who has chaired the Arkansas Basin Roundtable since 2007, is stepping down in order to concentrate on finishing the group’s contribution to a state water plan.

    “I’ve always tried to do what’s best for the roundtable and for the basin,” Barber said.

    Barber has been working on the Arkansas Basin plan that will be part of the state water plan, which comes out in draft form later this year. As chairman, Barber prepared many of the documents that will be used in the plan, but he is now a paid consultant.

    “I needed to devote all of my time to the plan,” Barber said.

    Vice chairman Betty Karnoski, a Monument real estate broker, will act as chairman of the roundtable.

    Barber has been a central fixture in Arkansas Basin water issues for more than a decade.

    As an agent for the El Paso County Water Authority, he contributed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s understanding of the Arkansas Valley’s municipal water gap in the 2004 Statewide Water Supply Initiative. He was a frequent critic of the Southern Delivery System, saying it did not have a wide enough regional focus, and an advocate for groundwater storage in El Paso County. Barber became a charter member of the roundtable in 2005, helping to organize the group from the beginning. He served as secretary until Alan Hamel stepped down as chairman in 2007.

    In 2008, while working for El Paso County water interests, he made offers to buy farms for their water on the Bessemer Ditch, triggering a successful counteroffer by the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    In 2009, he helped to write state legislation that formed the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District after three years of meeting with the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Within a year, he was chosen as its first executive director.

    In 2011, he went to work for Two Rivers Water Co., which has bought Pueblo County farms, and tried to expand its scope to include municipal consulting in El Paso County.

    Last year, he joined WestWater Research, a Western U.S. water marketing firm, and secured a roundtable contract. He retained his position as chairman of the roundtable after an open discussion of whether the contract represented a conflict of interest.

    Despite, or maybe because of, his forays into valley water activities, Barber commanded respect from other roundtable members because of his ability to sort through differences.

    He nearly always ends discussions of complicated water issues with the statement: “We have consensus by the absence of dissension.”

    He often interjects humor into those conversations as well. For instance, referring to Aurora’s water buys in the Arkansas Valley, he once said: “Aurora is the brother-in-law you wish your sister had never married. But he does the dishes at Thanksgiving, so you learn to live with him.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

    Glenwood Springs RICD application draws 13 statements of opposition #ColoradoRiver

    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism
    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

    One of the 13 formal “statements of opposition” filed in the case as of Thursday comes from another of Glenwood Springs’ major recreational attractions, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

    The Hot Springs, in a Feb. 27 water court filing, renewed its long-standing concerns that any whitewater park features constructed in and along the river near the springs’ aquifer could potentially harm the springs.

    “Operation of the [proposed] Two Rivers Whitewater Park facilities may inundate and damage portions of the Colorado River riverbed and adjacent river banks,” which could in turn damage the Hot Springs Pool facilities, according to the filing by Hot Springs attorney Scott Balcomb.

    At issue would be a proposed location for a potential new whitewater park at the east end of Two Rivers Park, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River. It’s one of three possible locations identified in the city of Glenwood Springs’ request filed late last year for a recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD. The others are near the No Name rest area on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, and in the Horseshoe Bend section of the river just east of town, by the No Name Tunnels…

    The city now hopes to build on the economic success of the whitewater sports boom by building a second play park. To accomplish that, however, it will have to negotiate with the various entities that have filed as opposers to make sure their concerns are satisfied. That could take several years, said Mark Hamilton, a water attorney who is representing the city of Glenwood Springs in ushering the case through Colorado’s water court.

    “For a case like this, that’s not unexpected,” he said of the number of entities that have taken the formal step of opposing the city’s RICD request.

    Just because an entity files a statement of opposition doesn’t necessarily mean that they will ultimately object to the request, Hamilton explained. It just means that they want to be party to the negotiations so that any current or future concerns are heard as the plans take shape, he said.

    Hamilton said he believes the proposed Two Rivers Park location would be far enough downstream from the hot springs that it should not be a concern.

    “Obviously, everybody acknowledges that the Hot Springs Pool is and will continue to be an important part of Glenwood Springs’ economy, and their concerns are something that will have to be a part of this discussion,” Hamilton said…

    Other heavy hitters that have filed to be part of the discussions include the Denver Water Board, the state’s largest water utility which owns significant water rights on the Colorado River, plus the city of Colorado Springs, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and several upstream and downstream water users.

    Denver Water would not have been able to oppose the request by Glenwood Springs under the recent new Colorado River Cooperative Agreement it signed with Western Slope water interests, except that the request is for more water during certain times of the year than Denver had agreed to in that deal, Hamilton also said.

    The city’s request seeks a “shoulder season” base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second during the month of April each year and again from July 24 through Sept. 30. That is less than the 1,280 cfs Denver Water agreed it would not object to. However, Glenwood also requests a maximum flow rate not to exceed 4,000 cfs for up to five days between May 11 and July 6 each year, and 2,500 cfs for as many as 46 days between April 30 and May 10 and July 7-23.

    The extra amount during those times could impair Denver Water’s ability to divert water under the separate Shoshone relaxation agreement, according to the utility’s statement of opposition filed Feb. 28. Further, the request could also affect Denver Water’s ability to implement its agreement with Grand County for municipal, snowmaking and environmental purposes, the utility claims.

    Grand County, which recently had its own RICD request OK’d, filed a formal statement of support for the Glenwood Springs request.

    “Grand County has been actively involved in efforts to preserve, protect, restore, and improve streams in the headwaters of the Colorado River and its tributaries and resolve various controversies with Denver Water,” the county stated in support of Glenwood’s application. “The [RICD] that this application seeks is consistent with Grand County’s efforts.”

    Hamilton said the case has been assigned to a water referee in Glenwood Springs to oversee the initial negotiations. There will also be an administrative hearing before the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which will make a recommendation on the request.

    He noted that the Grand County case is nearing completion after about 3-1/2 years, while a similar request recently granted to the town of Carbondale for a RICD on the Roaring Fork River took multiple years to process as well.

    From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Three of the objectors are municipal water providers on the Front Range — Denver Water, Aurora Water, and Colorado Springs Utilities. They depend on water from the Colorado River basin and are concerned about new recreational water rights limiting their future water management options.

    Three entities — the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the BLM and the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool — are concerned about the proposed locations of the whitewater parks.

    The Colorado River District, which represents 15 counties on the Western Slope, is generally supportive of Glenwood’s application, according to the district’s attorney Peter Fleming, but like the Front Range entities, it also has concerns about limiting the amount of water available for future junior water rights upstream of the proposed whitewater parks.

    The West Divide Water Conservancy District, based in Rifle, simply told the court it “is the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application.”

    Another four entities say they just want to monitor the case: the town of Gypsum; the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District in Palisade; the Ute Water Conservancy District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association, both in Grand Junction.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) also filed a statement, as it routinely does for applications of a new “recreational in-channel diversion right,” or RICD. The state agency is charged with reviewing such proposals and sending findings to water court.

    And Grand County has filed a document perhaps unique to water court — a “statement in opposition in support of application.” This means Grand County supports Glenwood’s applications, but wants to be involved in the case via the filing of a required statement of opposition…

    Technically, there were 13 statements of opposition filed in the case. The three Grand Valley water users, however, filed a joint application, so there are a total of 15 objecting entities. And Aurora and Colorado Springs, in addition to each filing a statement, also filed together as the Homestake Steering Committee. The two cities are partners in the Homestake Reservoir on the headwaters of the Eagle River, which flows into the Colorado River at Dotsero, which is located above the three proposed whitewater parks…

    He said he expected that Denver Water would file an objection, as Glenwood has asked for the rights to more than 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water. That rate of flow is the same as the senior water right held by Xcel Energy for the Shoshone hydro plant, which also is above the three proposed whitewater parks…

    And that’s the amount of water for a Glenwood whitewater park that Denver Water said it could support in the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which was signed by Denver Water and 17 other entities.

    “One of the provisions for support was that the recreational in-channel diversion wouldn’t exceed 1,250 cfs at the Dotsero gage,” said Travis Thompson, a media coordinator with Denver Water. “This is the amount of water needed to mimic the senior Shoshone call.”[…]

    Hamilton, Glenwood’s water attorney, said the requested water rights sought above 1,250 cfs are “purely based on kayakers and boaters saying it sure would be great to have that much flow.”

    He said he’s in discussions with Denver Water about Glenwood’s application and will soon be talking with all the objectors in the case…

    And the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool is concerned that wave-creating structures built in the river near the hot springs pool could harm the underground aquifer that supplies hot water to the pool. Kjell Mitchell, the president and CEO of the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, said engineering studies have shown the boundary of the underground aquifer extends from above the pool to below Two Rivers Park. The city has proposed that one of its whitewater parks be built just above Two Rivers Park.

    “The primary issue of our concern is the potential scouring of the river which could create a hole in the bottom of the river and damage the aquifer,” Mitchell said.

    More whitewater coverage here.

    Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: ‘The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects’ — Rick Parsons

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A comprehensive study of Arkansas River water use that will aid the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch in temporary water transfers is nearing completion. “The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects and quantify the amount of water to be exchanged,” Rick Parsons, an engineering consultant, told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District on Wednesday. The district has helped Super Ditch since its formation in 2008 as a way to allow farmers to lease water without selling their underlying water rights, preventing the dry-up of farmland. The district and Super Ditch are working on a pilot program with Fowler this year.

    The Super Ditch has contemplated several strategies for moving water, including filing an exchange decree in water court, using existing substitute water supply plans and creating pilot projects under last year’s HB1248. The problem has been getting water users to agree to how those exchanges will avoid damaging other water rights.

    Since 2011, Parsons has been compiling information about how water is used in the Arkansas River basin, looking at river operations from 1980-2013. His model should be complete in May. The Super Ditch needs a model that will be generally accepted by other water users, Parsons said. Parsons has met with the state, Colorado Springs Utilities, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works to glean information. He also has worked with ditch companies to obtain additional data.

    The major obstacles at this point are reconciling data from different sources and understanding reservoir operations. Some Lake Pueblo operations related to Southern Delivery System are not clear because of proprietary information held by Colorado Springs Utilities, Parsons said. Reservoirs on the Colorado, Holbrook and Fort Lyon systems are operated by private companies.

    “There are a million numbers in this model, and a million in the state database. Some of them are wrong,” Parsons said. “If this is used in a court document, it will be challenged to the nth degree. It has to be as transparent as possible.”

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

    Highlands Ranch water rates to go up in 2014

    Highlands Ranch
    Highlands Ranch

    From the Highlands Ranch News (Ryan Boldrey):

    Following spikes of 2 percent in 2012 and 3.8 percent in 2013, Highlands Ranch residents are expected to see rates go up 6.8 percent this coming year. This year’s proposed increase is due to the district’s involvement with both the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE) and Chatfield Reallocation Project, said Bruce Lesback, CWSD director of finance and administration…

    “We held off as long as we could before increasing rates to this level for our customers, but it appears both projects are now going forward,” Lesback said.

    For CWSD, the two projects are a major step toward cementing a long-term water supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water.

    “We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” CWSD General Manager John Hendrick told Colorado Community Media earlier this year. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources.

    “We’ve got ample groundwater for droughts, but in wet years we’ll now be able to take in more than we need to and top off our reservoirs with surface water.”[…]

    A public hearing was held Nov. 25 on the proposed CWSD budget. The board of directors will vote to adopt the 2014 budget at its Dec. 16 meeting.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Six cities eyeing gravel pit storage east of Pueblo at Stonewall Springs

    Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain
    Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Developing reservoirs east of Pueblo remains an important component of a 2004 agreement to protect Arkansas River flows through the city. So far, the participants in the six-party intergovernmental agreement have relied on stop-gap measures to recover water, but recently there has been more activity that could lead to long-term changes.

    The situation was reviewed last week by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is a minor player in the effort, but shares some of the planning costs.

    Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works are the major players, and they have each had a role in the recovery of yield program. Fountain and the Southeastern district have smaller parts.

    “This is an important regional effort to understand the allocation costs,” said Gary Bostrom, water chief for Colorado Springs Utilities, and a Southeastern board member.

    The Pueblo water board took the lead in locating a reservoir site in 2005, trying to lease the Stonewall Springs site near the Pueblo Chemical Depot. When the cost proved too high, it was bought by private developers who proceeded with reservoir plans and a gravel mining operation.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife has an agreement to purchase a reservoir being developed by Stonewall Springs LLC, and it could be a candidate for municipal storage, said Bob Hamilton, Southeastern’s engineering director. Cities could participate by contributing water or money.

    A nearby reservoir plan by Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. on Southwest Farms appears less likely. Alan Hamel, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said Two Rivers’ loan application for the project will be “de-authorized” in November.

    Both sets of reservoirs would be filled and emptied by gravity flows on the Excelsior Ditch.

    A third plan is being tested by Colorado Springs that involves pumping between gravel pits just east of the Pueblo wastewater treatment plant.

    Up until now, Colorado Springs and Aurora have bypassed the most water, recapturing some of it in a reservoir on the Holbrook Canal north of La Junta under an agreement brokered by Aurora.

    More insfrastructure coverage here.

    H2O Outdoors

    Mile High Water Talk

    By David Miller, school programs director for Keystone Science School. He has a passion for water education and getting students to experience the outdoors.

    When H2O Outdoors began four years ago, I never imagined we would have the partners and diversity of students that are in the program today. By being open to any high school student in Colorado, the program brings in a wide variety of perspectives that contribute to the overarching process of learning from each other, collaborating in a fictional decision-making process, and helping students learn the ways adults in the water field must work together to solve complex water problems throughout the state.

     

    History

    H2O Outdoors began with an idea and evolved into an award-winning program. The partnership between Keystone Science School and the Colorado River District started with the mission to engage high school students with the study of water management and where water…

    View original post 622 more words

    Aurora: City Council moves to drop tap fees

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    From the Aurora Sentinel (Aaron Cole):

    The Aurora City Council on Monday gave initial approval to a measure that would lower tap fees, or the cost to connect new homes to the city’s water system, for most builders in the city. Water officials said the new rates reflect a recalculated formula that anticipates each home’s demand on the system for the next 20 years based on data they’ve analyzed. An average new home in Aurora could cost nearly $8,000 less to connect if the measure passes Sept. 30.

    Pieter Van Ry, manager of water engineering for the city’s water department, told the city council that the new formula would result in lower fees for most homebuilders. Currently new homebuilders pay $24,460 for a single-family detached home, regardless of size, to connect to the city’s water system. The new rate, if approved in September that would take effect Nov. 16, would be $16,428 for a 3- or 4-bathroom, single-family home on an 8,000 sq.-ft. lot. That fee would be further reduced by $1,000 if the home’s front yard is xeriscaped.

    “The new rates equitably assess a fee based on their projected usage,” Van Ry said. “Every user under this proposal is responsible to pay for their own demand.”

    In addition to single-family detached homes, Van Ry said the tap fees would be reduced for most commercial, single-family attached and multifamily homes as well. Mixed-use developments and industrial developments could see tap fee increases based on their usage. Parks and irrigated open spaces for HOAs could see an increase in tap fees for those areas, depending on the type of landscaping.

    Van Ry and other city officials said the proposed decrease in tap fees would not affect the city’s water rates.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Reuse: The WISE Partnership gets approval from the Denver Water Board

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    From the Denver Business Journal:

    Denver Water last week approved the WISE partnership agreement that clears the way for the utility to delivery treated water to the area’s southern suburbs.

    Approval of WISE, which stands for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, formalizes the regional cooperative water project. The agreement calls for the permanent delivery of 72,250 acre-feet of treated water from Denver and Aurora to members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA).

    SMWSA was formed in 2004 from the banding together of smaller water utilities in south Denver.
    With the agreement now in place, some of the water that currently flows down the South Platte River and out of the state would be recaptured by Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Waters Pipeline and pumped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. There, the water would be treated and piped to the southern suburbs.

    The water delivery will begin in 2016. Members of the SMWSA must have infrastructure in place to move the water from the purification facility. The cost of the water and infrastructure for its delivery is estimated at $250 million over the next 10 years. Each member will independently determine how to finance their share of the project.

    The participating members of SMWSA are the town of Castle Rock, Dominion Water & Sanitation District, Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, Cottonwood Water & Sanitation District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Rangeview Metropolitan District, Parker Water & Sanitation District, Meridian Metropolitan District and Inverness Water & Sanitation District.

    More WISE Partnership coverage here.

    Arkansas River Basin update on Colorado River Basin imports this season #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

    transmountaindiversionscoloradostateengineer2011.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Imports of water from the Colorado River basin are providing a substantial amount of water to the Arkansas River basin during the drought. Almost 98,000 acre-feet of water have been imported through the three largest transmountain tunnels — Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes and Homestake — and more than 7,000 acre-feet through smaller tunnels and ditches. In all, the diversions added 105,500 acre-feet to the Arkansas River system this year. That amounts to about 144 cubic feet per second of river flows all day long, every day of the year in the Arkansas River. That’s a lot, considering that the flow near Salida is only around 600 cfs in the middle of summer. It’s been around 100 cfs through Pueblo most of the year, and was languishing at 270 cfs at Avondale last week.

    To put it in other terms, it’s nearly four times as much water as Pueblo runs through its treated water system in a year, and about the average amount used by the Catlin Canal. According to preliminary figures from the Colorado Division of Water Resources:

    The Fry-Ark Project brought over more than 46,300 acre-feet this year. It provides supplemental water to cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin.

    Twin Lakes, mostly owned by Colorado Springs, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and Pueblo West, brought in 34,000 acre-feet this year.

    Homestake, which delivers water to Colorado Springs and Aurora, brought in more than 17,600 acre-feet.

    Busk-Ivanhoe, a tunnel owned by Pueblo and Aurora, added 3,792 acre-feet.

    Columbine Ditch, near Fremont Pass and owned by Aurora and Climax, added 1,459 acre-feet.

    Pueblo’s Wurtz and Ewing Ditches contributed another 2,273 acre-feet.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

    Parker signs on to the WISE project for future supplies

    parkerrhodeislandhotel1908bestofparker.jpg

    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Parker Water joins nine other members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority that have signed on to WISE, or the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement. The June 13 approval by the PWSD board of directors adds another source of water for the area’s long-term needs, said district manager Ron Redd.

    Parker Water pulls much of its water supply from the Denver Basin Aquifer, but it also captures an average of 5,000 acre-feet annually off Cherry Creek. The WISE agreement will have Parker piping 12,000 acre-feet of recycled water from Aurora and Denver every 10 years for an indefinite period of time.

    Water rates will likely go up 1 percent to 2 percent incrementally because of WISE, although any increases will not occur until a thorough rate analysis is conducted, Redd said. The results of the analysis will be released in mid-2014.

    The PWSD will start receiving the first trickles of water in 2016 and get full delivery of 1,200 acre-feet starting in 2021. The district hopes to use an existing pipeline along the E-470 corridor to transport the water and is in the process of negotiating with the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If an agreement is not reached, the district would have to build its own infrastructure at a steep cost…

    The supply coming from Denver and Aurora is water that has been used and treated. The district will again reclaim the water, meaning the average of 1,200 acre-feet coming in each year will actually measure close to 2,400 acre-feet, Redd said, adding there is a possibility that Parker Water might purchase more WISE water in the future…

    Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which the PWSD built for storage, contains around 6,000 acre-feet. By the time the new water treatment plant off Hess Road opens in 2015, the reservoir will contain 15,000 to 20,000 acre-feet. It has the capacity for 72,000 acre-feet.

    More Parker coverage here and here.

    Aurora History Museum presentation: ‘Irrigating Aurora – The Importance of Water to Settling the West’ June 15

    highlinecanaldenver.jpg

    Here’s the release from the City of Aurora:

    Water played a significant role in the settling of Colorado. Farming and water go hand in hand and have been important to each other throughout Colorado’s history. The Aurora History Museum wants to show you just how water has shaped the state where we live.

    Come to DeLaney Farm, 170 S. Chambers, on Saturday, June 15, starting at 10 a.m., and enjoy a walking tour around this historic site. Learn about how Aurora’s food supply has used water in the past and how it will continue to use water in the future.

    The tour is free and open to the public, for ages 8 and up. Bring drinking water, a hat, light jacket, sunscreen, sturdy walking shoes and your curiosity.

    For more information, call Jim Bertolini, Historic Preservation Coordinator at 303-739-6661.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Aurora faces consumptive use challenge in water court for diverting unchanged agricultural shares

    buskivanhoesystemdiversionmap.jpg

    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

    The Colorado River Water Conservation District, better known as the Colorado River District, contends that the city of Aurora has taken water improperly since acquiring a 50 percent interest in the Busk-Ivanhoe system water rights. The city accumulated shares between 1987 and 2001.

    The Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River District placed a call on junior, upstream water rights this year that challenged Aurora’s water use. The river district has the ability to call junior water rights when Ruedi Reservoir isn’t expect to fill, according to John Currier, chief engineer with the Colorado River District.

    “Honestly, it was to fire a shot across the bow of Aurora,” Currier said last week during the annual State of the River meeting, which brings water managers and conservation groups from the Roaring Fork River Basin together to discuss issues.

    The Colorado River District contends that the water Aurora diverts from the Upper Fryingpan Basin is decreed in water court for agricultural uses. Aurora is using it for municipal purposes, which are unpermitted, the river district claims.

    Aurora, through Busk-Ivanhoe Inc., responded with an application in state water court to change the use of the water. Numerous parties have joined one side or another in the case. The Pitkin and Eagle county commissioners have sided with the Colorado River District. They and other parties are known collectively as “Western Slope opposers” to Aurora’s attempt to change water uses.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora could see limits placed on one of its water diversions from the Western Slope in a change of use case moving through Division 2 water court.

    Aurora’s use of water from the Busk-Ivanhoe system for the past 25 years is being challenged by the state Division of Water Resources and Colorado River groups, who maintain that Aurora used the water for municipal purposes under an agricultural decree. If Aurora loses on that claim, it would erase the credit for putting the water to beneficial use since 1987. The claim is part of its 2009 application to permanently change the use of Busk-Ivanhoe water to include municipal purposes. It amounts to about 2,500 acre-feet annually, which is just a fraction of the water that Aurora annually takes from other basins to meet the needs of more than 325,000 people.

    While trial is scheduled for July 23 in Pueblo, Aurora already has lost a skirmish in the battle.

    In April, Division 2 Water Judge Larry Schwartz ruled that Aurora cannot piggyback its claims of use on an earlier decree by the Pueblo Board of Water Works for the Busk-Ivanhoe system. The Pueblo water board purchased half of the Busk-Ivanhoe system from the High Line Canal Co. in 1971, and in 1993 was issued a decree that quantified the diversions and consumptive use over a 60-year period. Pueblo operates its portion of the ditch under 60-year volumetric limits as a result, and declines water in some years to avoid exceeding its limit.

    Aurora bought the other half of the ditch in 1987, and sought a blanket ruling that would enforce the same conditions. Schwartz rejected that argument, saying that the Pueblo ruling did not include the whole ditch. Aurora’s consumptive use and an analysis of non-decreed use of water still can be determined at trial, he said.

    The state, the Colorado River District and other Western Slope interests are arguing that Aurora should get no credit for its municipal use of water under the existing agricultural decree.

    Gerry Knapp, Aurora’s manager for Colorado River and Arkansas River operations, declined to discuss the city’s legal strategy prior to the trial.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Upper Ark District board meeting recap: All district reservoirs are full, except DeWeese (89%) — Jord Gertson #COdrought

    upperarkansasvalley.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Recent weather patterns in the Upper Arkansas River Valley precipitated discussion of snowpack and water supplies during the Thursday meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. District hydrologist Jord Gertson reported that all district reservoirs are full, except for DeWeese Reservoir in Custer County, which is at 89 percent of capacity.

    Gertson presented Natural Resources Conservation Service data compiled May 1 that show Upper Arkansas River Basin snowpack at 93 percent of average and 287 percent of 2012 snowpack levels. Gertson said Snowpack Telemetry sites at Fremont Pass and Brumley show the snow water equivalent at 101 percent and 109 percent of median, respectively. The Fremont Pass SNOTEL site also reports precipitation at 106 percent of average for the current water year, which began Oct. 1. Gertson also showed snowpack charts indicating measurements at upper basin SNOTEL sites are “way better than last year,” including sites at Porphyry Creek, Independence Pass and St. Elmo.

    District directors also reported good news about the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project, which is expected to import 47,000 acre-feet of water from the Western Slope this year, compared to 14,000 acre-feet in 2012. Diversions of Fry-Ark Project water into the Arkansas Basin average approximately 52,000 acre-feet of water per year. In 2011, the project imported 98,000 acre-feet of Western Slope water, the second highest amount in the project’s 50-year history of operations.

    In other business, directors heard a legislative report from consultant Ken Baker. Baker’s report mainly focused on House Bill 1130, which, he said, targets Arkansas Basin water and is expected to be signed by the governor.

    Baker said HB 1130 would create a “selective application” of a 130-year-old Colorado water law. The bill would create the potential for 30 years of interruptible-supply agreements that are currently limited to a maximum of 10 years. The state engineer would have authority to approve these agreements, changing the use of the water and bypassing Water Court proceedings that are currently required to change the use of a water right. Baker said the bill mainly benefits Aurora, allowing the city to take Arkansas Basin water without having to pursue a change-of-use case in Water Court.

    To gain the votes needed to pass the bill, Baker said a special exclusion was added that exempts Western Slope water.

    In other business, Upper Ark directors:

  • Approved a modification to a Nestlé Waters North America augmentation agreement for 200 acre-feet of Fry-Ark Project water per year for 35 years.
  • Agreed to stipulate out of Poncha Springs case 09CW138, subject to favorable review of the stipulations by district engineer Ivan Walter.
  • Approved an agreement with law firm Wilderson, Lock and Hill to provide legal counsel for a flat fee of $2,000 per month.
  • Received an update on an integrated water agreement with Buena Vista.
  • Approved a cooperative water agreement with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
  • Learned that the gate wheel at O’Haver Lake has been replaced after the old one was damaged by a vehicle.
  • Received an update on the Trout Creek Ditch exchange case, 08CW106, which is scheduled to go to trial June 11 if the Department of Corrections, division engineer and Colorado Water Conservation Board do not agree to proposed stipulations.
  • From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors heard a report about the potential for underground water storage in Chaffee County during their Thursday meeting. Tammy Ivahnenko and Ken Watts with the U.S. Geological Survey said areas identified for further study include aquifers near Salida, Nathrop, Johnson Village, Buena Vista and north of Buena Vista.

    Watts said the locations were identified based on slope (less than 3 percent), soil texture at a depth of 5 feet (loam, sandy loam or gravel preferred) and surface geology (alluvial or gravel deposits).

    Another important factor, Watts said, is the “stream-accretion response time factor,” which provides an indication of how long water will stay in an aquifer before draining into a stream.

    Ivahnenko described “water budgets” she developed for Cottonwood, Chalk and Browns creeks and the South Arkansas River.
    The water budgets include irrigated acres, consumptive use by crops and amount of water diverted for irrigation, and help determine how much water may be available for storage at a given time.

    Watts said he conducted “slug tests” at 29 wells to determine hydraulic properties in the aquifers, including conductivity and permeability. He also reported on findings from Colorado State University monitoring wells. Hourly readings from the monitoring wells documented seasonal changes in water level and temperature, showing seasonal changes in groundwater levels and surface-water infiltration.

    Some wells showed significant influence from surface irrigation while others indicated a more stable, natural water level.
    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officials are developing plans to increase water storage capacity in the Upper Arkansas River basin. An important component of those plans is underground storage in alluvial aquifers, which would eliminate evaporative water losses and provide augmentation water through natural recharge to surface waters.

    Conservancy district officials said they will rely on USGS findings to help determine possible locations for underground water storage projects.

    More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.

    2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-1130 (Reapprove Interruptible Water Supply Agreements) is on its way to Governor Hickenlooper #COleg

    arkbasinditchsystem.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora prevailed in the final days of the state Legislature after a conference committee largely unraveled a Senate committee’s changes to a water transfer bill. A bill that would give the state engineer up to 30 years authority over water transfers was approved by the House Wednesday on the last day of the Colorado legislative session. The Senate approved the bill Tuesday. It now goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature.

    “In general, it’s not too far from where we started,” said Gerry Knapp, who oversees Arkansas Valley and Colorado River operations for Aurora. House Bill 1130, backed by Aurora, was heavily amended in the Senate agriculture committee in April, but most of those changes were undone in conference committee Monday.

    The bill makes changes in the interruptible water supply law, which allows cities to lease water from farms for three years in any 10-year period. The amended version of the bill allows two renewals by the state engineer, with certain conditions, although it expands the water court appeal period for renewals to four months.

    More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

    Parker Water and Sanitation District board is evaluating joining with Aurora and Denver in the WISE project

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    The Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors will hear a presentation later this month from new manager Ron Redd, who will recommend that the district enter into WISE, the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Pinery Water and Wastewater, the Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, committed to WISE by signing intergovernmental agreements in late March. The agreements will bring nearly 7,000 acre-feet of recycled water to the south metro area…

    The Parker Water and Sanitation District board asked Redd to examine the possibility of buying 500, 1,000 or 1,500 acre-feet through the WISE project. He was expecting to receive the results of a cost analysis on April 5 to determine the possible financial impacts. Any rate hikes on customers would likely be implemented incrementally and equate to about 2.5 percent to 3 percent per year, Redd said, cautioning that those figures are preliminary. The cost of WISE water increases annually over an eight-year period.

    It would be relatively easy, Redd said, to move the reclaimed WISE water from Aurora to Parker if the district can come to an agreement to use a pipeline along E-470 owned by East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If the board gives approval, the intergovernmental agreement would be signed by late May…

    Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which contains 5,700 acre-feet of water and was built to store 70,000 acre-feet, will be paid off by the time the Parker Water and Sanitation District takes on more debt to build pipelines to transport the water that will be needed for the future.

    Meanwhile, Centennial has inked an IGA with the WISE Partnership. Here’s a report from Ryan Boldrey writing for the Highlands Ranch Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

    Centennial Water and Sanitation District was one of six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority to sign an IGA this past week committing to more renewable water by way of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership. Through the agreement, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide roughly 7,000 acre-feet of fully treated water annually to participating SMWSA members and deliver it in phases, starting in 2016. As part of the IGA, the participating South Metro WISE entities have agreed to fund new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations. “A region-wide water solution makes more sense than having each water entity fending for themselves to source, treat and deliver renewable water to customers,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of SMWSA. “We’re excited about the progress we’re making through WISE towards transitioning the region from nonrenewable groundwater to renewable water.”

    Hecox said that the agreement helps provide SMWSA with about a third of the necessary water that participating entities will need long-term. From here, work will continue on the Chatfield Reallocation Project as well as of other options and alternatives to bring more water to the region…

    For Centennial Water specifically, it’s another step toward cementing a long-term supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water. “We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” said Centennial Water and Sanitation District General Manager John Hendrick. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources…

    Other SMWSA members committing to the project at this time are Cottonwood Water, Meridian Metropolitan District, Pinery Water, Rangeview Metropolitan District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District. Hecox said he expects Dominion, Inverness, Castle Rock and Parker water districts to sign the IGA by the end of April. SMWSA members not expected to take part in the IGA include: Castle Pines Metro, Castle Pines North, East Cherry Creek Valley, and Arapahoe.

    More WISE coverage here.

    Castle Rock still wants WISE Partnership water but there are worries about rates

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    From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

    Castle Rock’s utilities department on Feb. 19 updated councilmembers on the Water and Supply Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement for the purchase of water from Denver and Aurora. The agreement is a partnership with 10 members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Castle Rock in January selected WISE as one of two solutions for its long-term water supply. WISE has been on the map since February 2008, when the WISE partnership signed an intergovernmental agreement with Denver Water and Aurora Water.

    Since the town began its analysis, rate increases from Denver and Aurora prompted Castle Rock to order another rates and fees feasibility study. The rate structure in the WISE agreement is one of the greater considerations, said Heather Beasley, water resources manager. Since 2011, the WISE delivery rate has increased about 20 cents per thousand gallons, Beasley said. Aurora also added a temporary surcharge between 17 and 51 cents per thousand gallons, Beasley reported. “It sounds small, but we could be talking (potentially) millions in increase for our residents,” said Mayor Paul Donahue. “We are concerned about being able to control that rate.”[…]

    Other factors impacting WISE are negotiations among Western Slope providers, who must sign off to allow Denver and Aurora to sell the water to the WISE partners; targeting the pipeline infrastructure to get the water from Aurora to the south metro service area; and meeting the terms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit amendment requirements to store the water in Rueter-Hess.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

    Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: ‘It puts the risk for delivery on the cities’ — John Schweizer

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Farmers want a higher price if a lease with Aurora goes through this year. The boards of the High Line and Catlin canals met with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Thursday evening and agreed to a base price of $1,070 per acre for leasing water. The price could increase if the yield of water is greater. “It puts the risk for delivery on the cities,” Super Ditch President John Schweizer said of the pricing strategy. In traditional water deals, the price has been been set per acre-­foot.

    Aurora, under a 2010 agreement with the Super Ditch, offered $500 per acre­foot to lease up to 10,000 acrefeet of water this year. Its storage has dropped below 60 percent, which triggers the city’s ability to lease more water from the Arkansas River basin under its 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts.

    But commodity prices for hay and corn — the primary crops grown in the Arkansas Valley — have increased since 2010. In addition, a prolonged drought has reduced water supply for the farmers.

    To provide water, farmers must dry up crop land. “When you’re drying up the land, the yield depends on the type of water year,” Schweizer said. Because of differences in water rights, the yield per acre varies from ditch to ditch as well. The base price reflects crop values, but if the water yield per acre increases, so will the lease price, Schweizer said.

    The Super Ditch board has agreed to cap land fallowing at 30­-35 percent per farm. “That keeps it evenly distributed,” Schweizer said. “When we get into the leasing mode, it will help keep the land in the valley in production.”

    If the Aurora lease goes through, the Super Ditch hopes to have a substitute water supply plan in place by May. A pilot program to lease water in 2012 failed because of delays in getting a state­-approved plan in place prior to the irrigation season.

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here.

    New Roxborough Water and Sanitation District water treatment could cost $23 million

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    From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

    The Roxborough water treatment plant, at more than 50 years old, has lasted beyond the end of its useful life and, according to the district board, it’s not a matter of whether disaster will strike, it’s a matter of when. The district is waiting to hear from its customers who must decide how to pay for a new facility, estimated to cost as much as $23 million.

    The new plant will replace the one purchased in 1972 from Aurora Water, according to the district. The existing plant was built in 1958 and refurbished at the time of the purchase. It has outlasted its expected 30-year lifespan by about 20 years, according to the district board…

    Completion of a new facility will cap a long-term water plan that ensures delivery of water to Roxborough residents for the next 100 years, he said.

    Moore was instrumental in reaching a 2010 deal with Aurora Water to get water to Roxborough residents in what Moore calls the most comprehensive, sustainable water plan in Douglas County. In the deal, Roxborough signed a 99-year lease with Aurora to buy into the Aurora system for $22.3 million, securing water to serve Roxborough’s build-out population of 3,800 units. The deal does not allow Roxborough to sell water outside of its boundaries, which means the Roxborough plant will not be designed to serve residents in surrounding neighborhoods, including the proposed Sterling Ranch development, Moore said…

    The district announced its plans in 2012 and in December sent a questionnaire to customers asking them to select one of three payment options for financing the new plant. Among the options are a $20 monthly hike in water rates, beginning in March or April, which would allow the board to move forward with design and financing in the first quarter of 2013; a $10 fee, which would double to $20 by 2014 and delay the start of construction by about 12 months; or a $5 fee that would increase every six months to a $20 fee by 2014, which would delay start of construction by about 18 months.

    The district has about $5 million in capital reserves to contribute to the plant and is aiming for a 30-year note to pay the balance, Moore said.

    Moore has been fielding residents’ questions, many of which revolve around the district’s policy to limit outdoor watering during the summer to twice a week. The board has yet to vote on watering restrictions, Moore said. The new plant will have a 4 million-gallon-per-day treatment capacity, double that of the existing plant.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Aurora hopes to lease 10,000 acre-feet of water in 2013 via the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company #CODrought

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two Rocky Ford­ area ditch company boards agreed Tuesday to work with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to lease water to Aurora next year. The boards of the High Line and Catlin canals cleared the way for the leases, which will be made through the Super Ditch.

    “It’s a voluntary program, and shareholders can either agree to participate or not to participate,” said John Schweizer, president of both the Catlin Canal and Super Ditch boards. “How many choose to participate determines how much each person will get.”

    Aurora has offered to buy up to 10,000 acre-­feet of water from the Super Ditch next year because its reservoir storage is below 60 percent of available capacity. That is a trigger for leasing in drought­ recovery years under the 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Aurora initially offered $500 per acre­-foot, but that figure is under negotiation, Schweizer said. “The boards agreed that wouldn’t work at all,” Schweizer said.

    Super Ditch attorney Peter Nichols will negotiate the rate with Aurora.

    The $500 per acre-­foot figure was part of an agreement reached in 2010 with the Super Ditch and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Since then, the price of corn and hay — the major crops grown here — in the Arkansas Valley has nearly tripled during the drought.

    “That was a different time,” Schweizer said.

    Either an interruptible supply plan or substitute water supply plan would have to be filed with the Division of Water Resources for the lease to occur. That would require engineering and legal resources to meet a possible challenge from other water users in the valley. Schweizer said those costs also will be negotiated with Aurora.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Drought news: Aurora is shopping for short-term water leases, storage at 53% of capacity #CODrought

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora wants to lease additional water from the Arkansas River basin in 2013 and is prepared to spend $5 million. The city’s storage has been drawn down to 53 percent of capacity, triggering a situation where it can lease water under the terms of a 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Aurora Water sent a letter to the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch last month offering to lease 10,000 acre­-feet of water for $500 per acre-­foot, or $5 million total. The terms are part of an agreement Aurora made with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in 2010. That may not be enough, said Super Ditch President John Schweizer. If commodity prices stay high, farmers would be able to get about $1,200 per acre for corn and $1,500 per acre for alfalfa, minus costs for cultivating, planting, irrigation and harvesting. “We’ve got to see if there are farmers interested in doing it,” Schweizer said. “If the price per acre is right, I think you could see some interest.”

    Schweizer expects opposition to the transfer. This year, a Super Ditch pilot program met unprecedented resistance from other water users after it was submitted to the state engineer. “A lot depends on the severity of the drought and how people in cities might be affected,” he said.

    While the Super Ditch conceptually includes seven large irrigation ditch systems east of Pueblo, farms on the High Line and Catlin canals could fill the Aurora order, Schweizer said. Both canal companies already have had annual meetings, so the leases would be filled through negotiations with the boards of each canal and interested shareholders. Bylaws on both canals have been changed to allow for temporary water transfers, and the High Line Canal leased water to Aurora and Colorado Springs in 2004-­05.

    Aurora is waiting to hear if the Super Ditch can fill the order and does not have a backup plan, said Greg Baker, Aurora Water spokesman.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Agreements with three conservancy districts determine whether Aurora can lease additional water from the Arkansas River basin.

    Aurora purchased nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, part of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and several ranches in Lake County in the 1980s and 1990s to meet water needs of the city of 300,000 east of Denver. In 2004-­05, it leased water from the High Line Canal, which irrigates farms in the Rocky Ford area, as the city recovered from the 2002 drought.

    Next year, Aurora is bracing for another drought recovery to bolster its storage levels.

    Under 2003 agreements with the Southeastern district and the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Aurora may lease additional water when its storage levels drop below 60 percent of total capacity on March 15. It can lease water for up to three out of 10 years under those circumstances.

    Aurora has drawn down Homestake Reservoir, which it shares with Colorado Springs, for dam repairs. Aurora stores water in 10 other reservoirs. Including Homestake, Aurora is at 53 percent capacity, but even without Homestake factored in, capacity already is at just 61 percent. Last month, the Aurora City Council authorized its water utility to begin looking for leases. “We’re looking at the agreement to determine if we have any issues with the leases,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

    Under its 2010 agreement with the Lower Ark District, Aurora is obligated to work with the Super Ditch before looking elsewhere for water in the Arkansas Valley. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “The Super Ditch will build collaboration and cooperation among the ditch companies.”

    Aurora also has an agreement with the High Line Canal board for future leases. Arkansas Valley water is exchanged upstream to Twin Lakes, where it moves to Aurora through the Otero Pumping Station and Homestake pipeline.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    The SECWD pulls applications for increased storage in Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two water court applications, filed in 2000, claiming storage rights in Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake are being pulled because federal legislation has stalled. “Because we don’t have the federal legislation on (dam) enlargement, we wouldn’t be able to meet the can­andwill provisions of state law,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    The district filed for the storage rights after its Preferred Storage Options Plan was completed. The plan identified enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake as the best ways to increase storage in the Arkansas River basin. But after 12 years, PSOP looks increasingly unlikely.

    The district sought federal legislation to study enlargement of the reservoirs, which were built as part of the Fryingpan­Arkansas Project, but hit its first snag when it opposed Aurora’s inclusion in storage plans. A revised version of PSOP included Aurora, which made certain concessions to the Southeastern district in 2003. New agreements were reached with the city of Pueblo in 2004 that would have allowed PSOP to progress.

    Ken Salazar, D­Colo., attempted to broker a settlement among 11 entities that would have allowed PSOP to progress in 2007, but those efforts failed when the Lower Ark sued the Bureau of Reclamation over its storage contract with Aurora.

    Since then, Aurora has dropped its insistence to be included in the legislation.

    Meanwhile, the “reoperations” of Lake Pueblo — another part of PSOP that defines how nonproject water is stored — have moved ahead through long­term excess capacity contracts for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and the Southern Delivery System. The Bureau of Reclamation also is considering a master contract sponsored by the Southeastern district. Southeastern continues to fund studies related to reservoir enlargement, with $132,000 included in next year’s proposed budget, to be adopted in December.

    More Preferred Storage Option Plan coverage here and here.

    Aurora: Anadarko scores 1,500 acre-feet of fully reusable effluent for oil and gas operations

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    From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

    “We’ve always looked at where our supplies are, where our projected demand is going to be, and where we have windows of opportunity. Where we think we have additional supply, we’ll go ahead and lease it,” Stibrich said.

    The Anadarko leasing deal was especially high profile because the city agreed to lease water to the company for hydraulic fracturing purposes — a contentious issue that some Aurora residents have vehemently opposed.

    But leasing deals have existed long before then, Stibrich said. Those include a 7,000 acre-foot lease to the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, a 4,340 acre-foot lease to Rocky Mountain Energy Company, now owned by Xcel Energy, and leases that are currently being negotiated for the WISE project that will eventually grant water to 11 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties in times when Aurora has additional water…

    As of now, Aurora’s water supply is in good shape. The city stores water in 16 reservoirs — of which they own five: Quincy, Aurora, Rampart, Spinney Mountain and Jefferson Lake. The rest of the reservoirs are shared with other cities, for example, Homestake Reservoir stores water for Aurora and Colorado Springs. The reservoirs have a total water storage capacity of 156,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, or enough water to serve two typical households per year. The amount of storage capacity the city has is three times more than the city’s actual need.

    The city uses about 50,000 acre feet annually, and the reservoirs were about 85 percent full in May.

    The city is continually looking at more opportunities for water storage. Between 2012 and 2014 the city will be working on land easements and begin pre-permitting activities for the development of the Box Creek Reservoir, which they hope will be online and storing water by 2030…

    Under the Anadarko water lease, Anadarko is planning to pay Aurora Water to use 1,500 acre feet of “effluent” water per year over five years. The company will be paying four times the market rate for the city’s effluent water, or water that has already been used and treated that would otherwise flow downstream and out of the state. That equals to about $1,200 per acre foot, whereas the market rate is about $350 per acre foot. Anadarko will pay Aurora about $9.5 million over five years for the water.

    Back on August 15 an Aurora City Council committee made sure that the city didn’t lease potable water to Anadarko. Here’s a report from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. Here’s an excerpt:

    City council members had the discussion after the city received two requests from parties interested in the possibility of acquiring drinkable, or potable, water for oil and gas drilling purposes.

    The people interested were not named in city documents or at the Infrastructure and Operations Policy Committee meeting, but committee members said potable water shouldn’t be sold to any entity.

    The requests involved using water from city fire hydrants to fill water tankers for use at oil drilling sites, potentially both inside and outside Aurora city limits. The city’s water officials recommended to members of the policy committee that they deny their requests and any future requests for potable water and keep with the city’s current policy against using fire hydrants for any purpose other than fire suppression and system maintenance.

    Councilman Brad Pierce said he didn’t think that was an appropriate use of the city’s water…

    The discussion comes about a month after council members agreed to lease 1,500 acre feet of “effluent” or used water to Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for $9.5 million over five years. Effluent water is water that has already been used and treated that would otherwise flow downstream and out of the state. The water is sanitary but not potable or made available for public use.

    More Aurora coveage here and here.

    The Sterling Ranch development signs up for WISE Project infrastructure and water supplies

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    From the Castle Rock News (Rhonda Moore):

    Sterling Ranch managing director Harold Smethills announced a deal with Aurora Water that will deliver 88 million gallons of water already owned by the development’s provider, Dominion Water. The deal paves the way for Sterling Ranch to begin the plat process with Douglas County as the development moves forward, Smethills said.

    At the same time, Sterling Ranch signed a second deal with Aurora Water in a 15-year lease for 186 million gallons of water as a sub-agreement of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement, said Greg Baker, manager of Aurora Water public relations…

    Sterling Ranch aims to begin its development process before year’s end and hopes to enter the market as quickly as possible, Smethills said. He hopes to debut Sterling Ranch, a planned development approved for more than 12,000 homes over its 20-year planned build-out, with as many as 2,000 homes in its early phases. “This gets us in the market years before we could have built our infrastructure because the demand is here now,” Smethills said.

    More Sterling Ranch coverage here.

    Pueblo Dam: Key infrastructure for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    …despite the prominent presence of fun at Lake Pueblo, its primary purpose is to store water for the farms and cities of the Arkansas River basin, as well as provide flood protection.

    Built as terminal storage for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Lake Pueblo has taken on other uses over the years. Because it is not always full, excess-capacity contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation allow others to use it. The most controversial contracts have been awarded to Aurora, which uses the Fry-Ark Project to take water out of the Arkansas River basin — a purpose not included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Act. The Southeastern Colorado and Lower Arkansas Valley water conservancy districts waged protests against that practice, but settled differences through additional payments and conditions placed on Aurora.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The winter water storage program began voluntarily in 1975, after the completion of Pueblo Dam, but had been a part of project planning since the 1930s.

    “We had dirt ditches and deep canals that would fill with weeds and snow. You would spend days cleaning them out, and they’d fill again when you got your next run,” [John Schweizer] said, recalling freezing winter days.

    “As far as I’m concerned, the Pueblo Reservoir was the greatest improvement to the valley. It has been a real boon to agriculture.”

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

    50th anniversary celebration of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo

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    The project got its start with a visit to Pueblo from President Kennedy back in 1962. Here’s the first installment from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article, Woodka is a terrific writer. Here’s an excerpt:

    But on that day [August 17, 1962], work began to address the problem. Kennedy came to Pueblo to celebrate the signing of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Act the previous day. Local water leaders will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fry-Ark Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo…

    The Twin Lakes Tunnel was constructed by the Colorado Canal Co. during the Great Depression, while the old Carlton railroad tunnel was used by the High Line Canal Co. to bring in water. In addition, Colorado Springs and Aurora were already building the Homestake Project, which would be intertwined with the Fry-Ark Project as both were built.

    But the government project, a scaled-down version of an earlier, larger plan to bring water from the Gunnison River basin, represented a larger cooperative effort between farmers and municipal leaders in nine counties.

    Since the first water was brought over in 1972, about 2.1 million acre-feet of water has been brought into the Arkansas River basin for irrigation and municipal use. The project also generates electric power at the Mount Elbert Power Plant.

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    Woodka details some of the early water history along the Arkansas River mainstem in this report running in today’s Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Water Development Association of Southeastern Colorado was incorporated in 1946. Pueblo business leaders worked with valley water interests to investigate a Gunnison-Arkansas Project. By 1953, the project was scaled back to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, and the first hearings began in Congress.

    During the congressional hearings in subsequent years, the project evolved from one primarily serving agriculture to one that included municipal, hydroelectric power, flood control and recreation as well.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District formed in 1958.

    The U.S. House passed the Fry-Ark Act on June 13, 1962; the U.S. Senate, Aug. 6, 1962. President John F. Kennedy signed it into law on Aug. 16, 1962.

    Here’s a short look at Jay Winner, current general manager of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Back in the 1960s, his father Ralph Winner was the construction superintendent for Ruedi Reservoir, the first part of the Fry-Ark Project to be constructed and his family lived on the job site. His father came back in the late 1970s to supervise construction of one of the last parts of the collection system to be built, the Carter-Norman siphon. The siphon draws water across a steep canyon.

    For three summers, Winner, then a college student, worked on the latter project. “It was the most fun I ever had,” he laughed. “I got to play with dynamite.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A retired outfitter, [Reed Dils] is now a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board member and a former representative from the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Initially, the flows got worse,” Dils said. “They (the Southeastern district and the Bureau of Reclamation) had chosen to run water in the winter…

    “It became apparent to everyone there was another way to run the river,” Dils said. “Why the Fry-Ark act was passed, recreation mainly meant flatwater recreation. Over time, they learned there are other types of recreation.”

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District invite the public to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Pueblo State Park on Sat., Aug. 18. The event is located at Lake Pueblo State Park Visitor’s Center from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m.

    Reclamation, the District and Colorado State Parks and Wildlife are offering free pontoon boat tours around Pueblo Reservoir and free tours of the fish hatchery located below Pueblo Dam. There will also be historical displays and several guest speakers.

    Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose trans-basin water diversion and delivery project serving southeastern Colorado.

    The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project provides:

    – Water for more than 720,000 people
    – Irrigation for 265,000 acres
    – The largest hydro-electric power plant in the state
    – World renowned recreation opportunities from the Fryingpan River to the Arkansas River.

    For more information the 50th Anniversary Celebration – and to see a teaser of the upcoming film! – visit our website at www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

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    Meanwhile, Alan Hamel is retiring from the Pueblo Board of Water Works this month:

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Little did I know how important the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project would be as I was watching the president’s car traveling down Abriendo Avenue that day,” Hamel said. “Look at all that it has done for our basin and what it will do in the future.”

    Hamel became executive director of the water board in 1982, and was president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency that oversees the Fry-Ark Project, from 2002-04. He is currently serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

    Western Slope interests are, ‘better off at the table than on the menu’ — Bill Trampe

    Here’s a profile of Rancher and water wonk, Bill Trampe, written by Jennifer Bock running in the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

    Although water is probably more essential to his livelihood than many of us in the Gunnison Basin, Trampe admits that his philosophy on keeping water in the Gunnison Basin has changed over the years.

    When Arapahoe County proposed the Union Park project, Trampe recalls that the local sentiment was “not one drop” and no one dared stray from that strict line in the sand.

    Today, Trampe thinks that Western Slope interests are “better off at the table than on the menu” when it comes to talking to the Front Range and others about West Slope water. Trampe’s philosophy is tied to real life experience: He has spent the last seven years negotiating with the Front Range to develop the Colorado River Water Cooperative Agreement.

    Perhaps characteristic of a rancher’s outlook, Trampe is both hopeful and frustrated when it comes to resolving Colorado’s water disputes.

    He believes, as many do, that big, transmountain water projects simply won’t be able to provide enough firm yield to satisfy Front Range interests. In statewide water planning discussions, Trampe has been a proponent of addressing this problem through risk management — the idea that the state must have a comprehensive way to evaluate and guard against the potential consequences of failing to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states as it considers new diversions out of the Colorado River Basin.

    More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.

    Aurora City Council approves $9.5 million water lease for oil and gas production and exploration

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    From The Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

    The deal, which some Aurora residents heavily criticized at the meeting, was approved on a vote of 8 to 3 with council members Debi Hunter Holen, Renie Peterson and Molly Markert opposed.

    About 35 residents from Aurora and surrounding cities attended the meeting to condemn Aurora council members for selling water to the company, and many of them spoke at the meeting. Four people spoke in support of the deal.

    Several people who disapproved of the agreement between the city and Anadarko have also spoken against hydraulic fracturing within city limits. Before council members voted, they said they were concerned about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, and thought the city’s water should be kept for its residents in times of need.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    Aurora: Potential water lease to Anadarko could target utility debt load

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    From The Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

    Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is expected to purchase $9.5 million worth of “used” water from Aurora for its oil and gas drilling operations across the state, pending Aurora City Council approval July 9.

    Members of council’s Management and Finance committee said the revenues should be used to partially pay off debt from the construction of Prairie Waters, a $650 million project that was completed in 2010 to ensure the city’s residents had enough water during droughts. The city borrowed more than $540 million and raised water rates to pay for the project.

    A second option would have been to use the revenue to reimburse taxpayers for helping to foot the bill to construct the project. But committee members decided that reimbursement wouldn’t amount to much anyway. According to Jason Batchelor, the city’s finance director, the credit to the average residential rate payer would be about 95 cents a month.

    Councilman Bob LeGare said it makes better financial sense to put the money toward the Prairie Waters project. “Everyone understands paying down your (debt) early,” he said.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Aurora plans to sell 1,500 acre-feet worth $9.5 million for oil and gas exploration and production

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    The former town of Fletcher is in the news again — this time for a deal with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Here’s a report from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

    Anadarko Petroleum Corp. will purchase $9.5 million worth of “used” water from Aurora for its oil and gas drilling operations across the state, pending Aurora City Council approval July 9. The Houston-based company would pay Aurora Water over five years to use 1,500 acre feet of “effluent” water per year, according to city officials…

    Members of the city council’s Management and Finance Committee will meet Wednesday to decide how the city should use the $9.5 million generated from the sale of the water. One idea, according to city documents ahead of the meeting, is to use revenue to partially pay off debt from Prairie Waters, a $650 million project that was completed in 2010 to ensure the city’s residents had enough water during droughts. The city borrowed more than $540 million and raised water rates to pay for the project.

    It’s no surprise that The Pueblo Chieftain and water reporter Chris Woodka are assessing the potential effects of the deal, given Aurora’s popularity in the Arkansas River basin. Here’s an excerpt:

    Aurora Water wants council to approve a five-year lease of 1,500 acre-feet for $1.8 million annually to Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in an effort to reduce utility rates. Water would be sewer return flows into the South Platte River…

    The water is surplus to return flows Aurora is now able to reuse through its Prairie Waters Project, said spokesman Greg Baker.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    ‘Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water’ — Alan Hamel

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “We have to protect the water we have, as well as provide water for endangered species,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water, particularly for use in power generation.” Last month, the Pueblo water board and other members of the Front Range Water Council weighed in on the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for oil shale and tar sands…

    The Front Range Water Council includes the major organizations that import water from the Colorado River: Denver Water, the Northern and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and the Pueblo water board. Collectively, they provide water to 4 million people, 82 percent of the population in Colorado.

    More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.

    Denver, Aurora along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are cooperating to maintain a rainbow trout spawning reach below Eleven Mile Reservoir

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    From the Aurora Sentinel (Brandon Johannson):

    …because of an agreement between the two water departments, state wildlife officials say the future of the rainbow trout population in that stretch of the South Platte — one of only two natural rainbow fisheries on the river — is much brighter than it was a few years ago.

    Under the agreement between Parks and Wildlife, Aurora Water and Denver Water, the three agencies are working together to make sure stream flows in the Platte remain constant during the critical spring spawning season.
    Regulating the flows in the canyon required Aurora’s and Denver’s help because flows there are largely determined by the water departments’ decisions upstream. Denver Water owns Eleven Mile Reservoir, which flows into the Platte, and Aurora owns Spinney Mountain Reservoir, which feeds Eleven Mile. Because it is a designated “drought reservoir,” the output from Eleven Mile into the Platte is based on what Aurora dumps from Spinney. If Aurora dumps too much, the Platte moves too fast and the young trout are rushed downstream just as they emerge from the egg. If the water level drops too quickly, fertilized eggs could be exposed and dry up on the banks…

    With a pile of numbers in hand, Spohn approached Aurora and Denver and asked them to maintain a steady flow during some crucial times. If the river could stay at about 75 cubic feet per second, it would be ideal for spawning, he said. But job No. 1 for Aurora Water and Denver Water is making sure when someone turns on their tap or their sprinkler, a steady stream comes pouring out — regardless of what that means for trout in the canyon. Sometimes that means more than 75 CFS, often as much as 200 CFS. “We can’t operate to the detriment of the citizens of Aurora,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, water resources manager for Aurora Water…

    And while Spohn’s focus is on improving the trout fishery in Eleven Mile Canyon, he knows that’s not Aurora’s chief concern. “Wildlife understands that Aurora’s job is to provide water to their customers in the city,” he said. That’s where Denver Water comes in. When Aurora slows the flow from Spinney — often to levels well below what the city needs — Denver Water steps in and loans Aurora some water from Strontia Springs Reservoir. As soon as flows can be bumped up again, Aurora pays back Denver with water from other storage.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.

    Aurora: Peter D. Binney water treatment plant receives national award

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    From the Aurora Sentinel:

    Aurora’s Peter Binney Water Purification Facility received the Marvin B. Black Excellence in Partnering Award last month for representing exemplary partnership and collaboration in construction projects like the Prairie Waters Project. The national honor was awarded by The Associated General Contractors of America.

    More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

    Aaron Million: ‘This project would divert less than 5 percent annually out of the massive Flaming Gorge Reservoir’

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    Here’s a guest column about the Flaming Gorge pipeline written by Aaron Million running in the Northern Colorado Business Report. Here’s an excerpt:

    The argument that no further Upper Basin water projects be developed, which is a position some have taken, by default and in the simplest terms means California, Nevada and Arizona all benefit to the detriment of this region. Colorado faces a massive water supply shortfall, projected to be between 500,000 to 700,000 acre-feet over the next 20 years. New water and new storage, one of Gov. Hickenlooper’s keystone policy objectives and a long-standing objective for Colorado, can basically be accomplished with a pipe connection. This project would divert less than 5 percent annually out of the massive Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is 25 times larger than Horsetooth Reservoir…

    …the Flaming Gorge Project has several advantages for a new water supply. The Green River system itself, starting just south of Jackson Hole, has a different snowpack regime, which mitigates risk compared to relying on water from a single source or watershed. Also, global warming models predict the Green’s more northerly region to be wetter than average, while the Colorado River main-stem drainage, the historical focus of Front Range water needs, is predicted to be dryer than average. And the Green River is as large as the Colorado River main-stem, with comparatively little consumptive use and very few diversions.

    Without question, the river has major environmental and recreational benefits that require protection…

    So why does that matter for this region? It matters because an overall systems analysis on the Green River following implementation of the ROD indicates substantial surplus flows after meeting all the environmental needs of the river. Those surpluses, estimated at several hundred-thousand acre feet in a river system that flows over 1.5 million acre-feet annually, could be used to bring in a new water supply for the South Platte and Arkansas basins, generate new alternative energy, produce hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits, and provide re-use of waters for agriculture to keep the region strong and vibrant.

    So the real question is this: If a large river system can be fully protected, and at the same time some of the potential surpluses from that same system alleviate major supply issues elsewhere, isn’t that an environmentally sound and reasonable water supply approach? The question remains unanswered until a rigorous and thorough environmental impact evaluation is completed…

    I believe this we need to take this project through its paces. If it is environmentally sound, it should be permitted and built. If not, then stick a fork in it. The truth of a full scientific and environmental evaluation may be hard for some in the environmental community to swallow, but the consequences of not allowing that evaluation to occur remain: A continued bulls-eye on the Poudre, reverse-osmosis plants on the South Platte because of poor water quality, more future dry-up of the agricultural base in this state, and continued pressure on the western high country of our nearby mountain peaks.

    The Flaming Gorge pipeline will be the topic of discussion March 14 at the Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Here’s the release via The Chaffee County Times:

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

    Aurora offers $502,500 in incentives to Niagara Bottling in move to help create jobs

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    Aurora is a friend to the bottled water industry. Readers may remember the city leasing augmentation water to Nestlé Waters North America up in Chaffee County. The city has offered incentives to California-based Niagara Water to locate a bottling plant in the city anticipating the creation of 36 jobs. Here’s a report from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

    Aurora City Council members at their council meeting Monday approved the incentive package on a vote of 9 to 1 with Councilwoman Renie Peterson opposing the deal. The proposed 10-year agreement would provide California-based Niagara Bottling with waivers and rebates of city taxes up to $502,500. The agreement also contains a provision for the company to repay a portion of the incentive if the number of jobs is not maintained throughout the agreement, according to the documents. The company is set to construct a 177,000 square foot facility at Prologis Park 70 near E-470 and I-70 and create 36 full-time jobs while investing about $10 million for land and building improvements and $20 million in capital equipment.

    Peterson said before the formal vote that all of Aurora’s water should be kept for its residents, not sold to a private company. “I would not be for having a water bottling company come into Aurora even if it was not incentivized,” she said. “To allow it to come with an incentive is really against what my people that I represent would expect of me.” She also reprimanded her fellow council members for their unwillingness to share information about the incentive deal with the public or the media until it came to council for a formal vote…

    Niagara is set to use about 300,000 gallons of Aurora’s water per day, six days per week, which totals to about 290 acre-feet of water per year, according to Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker. Aurora produces about 77,000 acre-feet of water on average annually, he said. That means the company will use less than one percent of Aurora’s total water production. Councilman Bob Roth said it’s important to be cognizant of that fact. “It sounds like a lot, but I want to keep in mind that it’s three-tenths of one percent of our average normal yield,” he said.

    Niagara would pay market rate for the water, said Mayor Steve Hogan. “Aurora cannot continue to have residential customers bear the full weight of paying water bills,” Hogan said in an email. “We must have a balanced package of residential users, tap fees payers, industrial users, and other users. If we don’t, residential users will be totally abused by rate increases. This company will fall nicely into the category of industrial users.”

    More coverage from Melanie Asmar writing for Westword. From the article:

    Aurora’s city council has agreed to offer waivers and rebates of city taxes up to $502,500 to the California-based Niagara Bottling, according to the Aurora Sentinel. The company hopes to construct a plant at ProLogis Park that would create up to 36 jobs, the Sentinel reports. Niagara would use about 300,000 gallons of water a day, which city officials say is less than one percent of Aurora’s total water production.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Colorado Springs Utilities’ Steve Berry: ‘In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered’

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    Last week, the day before the Statewide Roundtable Summit, Western Resource Advocates, et. al., released a report titled, “Meeting Future Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin.” Colorado Springs and Pueblo are taking a hard look at the report, according to this article from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. “Colorado Springs Utilities was asked to peer review the draft version, and made extensive and substantial comments on it. In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered, and many of our suggested changes or corrections were not made,” said Steve Berry, spokesman for Utilities. The largest amounts of water, and presumably the largest conservation and reuse savings, come from Colorado Springs.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works is also reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager…

    The environmental groups say a combination of projects already on the books — conservation, reuse and temporary ag-urban transfers — could provide as much as 140,000 acre-feet, more than enough to meet the needs. Those numbers are being examined by urban water planners, who say the savings might not be attainable. “In general, we were unable to verify or recreate most of the numbers cited in their report, and their estimates for conservation and reuse are significantly greater than what our water conservation experts have calculated as realistic,” Berry said…

    When asked how conservation savings would be applied to new supplies, a practice cities find risky, Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, said they could be put into “savings accounts” for future use. When asked where the water would be stored, he cited the T-Cross reservoir site on Williams Creek in El Paso County that is part of the Southern Delivery System plan…

    Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the group supports [the Southern Delivery System]. Because the project already is under way, the groups look at SDS as a key way to fill the gap. The report also supports programs like Super Ditch as ways to temporarily transfer agricultural water to cities without permanently drying up farmland.

    Meanwhile, here’s a look at a report from the Northwest Council of Governments, “Water and Its Relationship to the Economies of the Headwaters Counties,” from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

    The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report.

    “This report makes an important contribution to the on-going dialogue about adverse economic impacts associated with losing water by focusing attention on Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties,” said Jean Coley Townsend, the author of the report. “This has never been done before. The report provides an important counterbalance to earlier studies that show economic impacts of losing water from the Eastern Plains.”

    Balancing the supply and demand of water could be the State’s most pressing issue. The report does not take issue with Front Range municipal or Eastern Plains agricultural water users — all parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view — but is meant as a thorough review of water as an economic driver of headwaters economic development.

    The report provides a balance to the existing solid body of work that measures the potential economic effects of less water on the Front Range and the Eastern Plains and the loss of agriculture in those parts of the state.

    “If we … are going to solve our Statewide water supply shortage challenges there must first be statewide mutual respect and true understanding of each other’s water supply challenges,” said Zach Margolis, Town of Silverthorne Utility Manager. “The report is a remarkable compilation of the West Slope’s water obligations and limitations as well as the statewide economic value of water in the headwater counties of Colorado.”

    More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.