The latest newsletter from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is hot off the press #COriver

December 20, 2012

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Click here to read the newsletter.

More education coverage here.


‘Now, with this basin-wide, cooperative effort, we can get a glimpse of the bigger picture’ — Ted Kowalski

December 20, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study” underscores the need for basin states and the federal government to explore ways to conserve, manage and create water to meet shortages estimated to affect as many as 76.5 million people by 2060.

Representatives from seven Colorado River basin states and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation took part in the joint project, which “did not result in a decision as to how future imbalances should or will be addressed,” the executive summary of the study states, “but provides a common technical foundation that frames the range of potential imbalances that may be faced in the future and the range of solutions.”

“We’ve already been addressing these issues on a Colorado-wide scale,” said Ted Kowalski of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, in statements responding to the study’s release. “Now, with this basin-wide, cooperative effort, we can get a glimpse of the bigger picture and begin to work toward planning for the future, with a well-informed idea of where we’re headed.”[...]

Apportioned water in the Colorado River system exceeds the long-term historical natural flow of about 16.4 million acre feet, and demand for consumptive use is projected to range between 18.1 and 20.4 million acre-feet in 50 years. Projected increases in demand coupled with projections of reduced supply due to climate change created the backdrop of the study. Droughts lasting five or more years may occur 50 percent of the time over the next 50 years. Meanwhile, population in the study area is expected to increase…

But, according to [Eric Kuhn], the study also points to serious problems for the upper basin. Under the climate change scenario depicted, without additional action, the upper basin may experience a future deficit of its compact obligation as often as one in five years by 2040.

“The upper basin is currently unprepared for this possibility,” Kuhn said in statements. “To address an uncertain future, upper basin users will need to develop new risk-management strategies, including improved aggressive conservation, optimal use of storage and water-banking.”

Kuhn further cautions upper basin planners: “The reality may be that new development simply threatens existing water supplies, or that new development may only be available during increasingly rare wet cycles.”

“The Bureau study should not be seen as a green light for unrealistic, expensive and environmentally destructive projects that move water out of their basins of origin,” said Trout Unlimited’s Dave Glenn, who grew up near the Green River in Utah. “TU and other groups have highlighted a range of cheap, pragmatic options — including conservation, reuse and water sharing — that will meet water needs without sacrificing our rivers and outdoor heritage.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Snowpack news: Monarch Mountain nets five and a half inches of new snow #CODrought #COwx

December 20, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

According to the NWS, the storm dropped 1 to 3 inches of snow [on Pueblo County] and even more in drifts…

In other areas of Southern Colorado: Penrose was the hardest hit in Fremont County receiving between 5 to 7 inches of snow Wednesday. In Canon City, snow fell throughout the day adding up to about 2 inches. In Custer County, snow depths ranged from 8 inches in Westcliffe and Silver Cliff to up to 18 inches in the San Isabel and other high country areas of the county. Monarch Mountain reported 5 1⁄2 inches of new snow Wednesday…

The snowstorm buried the eastern San Juan Mountains as Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 19 inches of new snow. Lesser amounts — 2 inches in Alamosa and 4 inches in Crestone — fell on the San Luis Valley floor.

From The Denver Post (Ryan Parker):

State climatologist Nolan Doesken said there will most likely be snow on the ground when Santa takes to the air. “There is continued favorable storm-tracking through the country until the end of December,” Doesken said.

“There’s another storm n sight (for Colorado) before Christmas.”

While snowpack in the state’s major watersheds is still below average, Doesken said this storm has been a major boost. As of Wednesday, the South Platte River basin was at 69 percent of average, Nolan said.

“That doesn’t sound great, but it’s up considerably from 10 days ago, when it was at 55 percent of average,” he said.

The Yampa and White river basins are at 80 percent of average, up from 50 percent 10 days ago, Doesken said.

From The Fort Morgan Times (John la Porte):

…about 2 inches of snow were recorded in Fort Morgan at the weather station at Riverview Cemetery.


Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin #CODrought

December 20, 2012

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary from this week’s webinar via the Colorado Climate Center. Here’s the link to all of the presentations and summaries.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Dam update: 190 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

December 20, 2012

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Update: From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, we adjusted releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River again.

The reason for the change was three-fold: increases in downstream contractor demand, increase in inflow, and increases in the amount required to compensate for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project diversions upstream on the Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir.

As a result, this afternoon we bumped releases up by 40 cfs. Flows in the Lower Blue are now around 190 cfs.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick message to let you know that the Shoshone Power Plant came back on-line today [December 19]. As a result, we bumped up our releases to about 150 cfs today around noon.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


Brighton water and storm drainage rates are going up

December 20, 2012

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From the Brighton City Blade (Crystal Nelson):

According to the ordinance, the monthly fixed-rate fee for water would increase $2.50 a month to $12.36, and the user fee would increase 16 cents per 1,000 gallons. The monthly fixed-rate fee for sewer would increase $1.10 a month to $8.15, and the user fee would also increase 16 cents per 1,000 gallons.

Utilities Director Jim Landeck said, this would mean an estimated increase of approximately $6.92 per month for a family of four who uses an average of 12,000 gallons of water and sewer a month, and an estimated increase of $7.74 for a family with three teens that uses about 15,000 gallons of water and sewer a month. Seniors who use around 3,000 gallons of water and sewer per month could expect an increase of approximately $4.32.

“Much like every other commodity that’s sold, whether its groceries or gasoline or anything else, the cost of service — the cost of delivery of that product — is going up,” Landeck said. “Water uses a lot of energy, water uses a lot of equipment to treat and pump, water uses a lot of engineering and legal fees for acquiring water rights; converting that water for municipal use, all that adds to the cost of service.”

The city’s storm drainage fee will also increase five cents per month per household to $1.84, which Landeck said is still the lowest rate in the metropolitan area.

More infrastructure coverage here.


The CWCB is seeking seeking proposals for its Alternative Agricultural Water Transfers Method Grant Program

December 20, 2012

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From The Greeley Tribune:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is seeking proposals for its Alternative Agricultural Water Transfers Method Grant Program.

The program is focused on advancing alternatives to the permanent transfer of agricultural irrigation water rights to municipal and industrial purposes. According to CWCB officials, it’s expected that this grant cycle will fund projects that build upon work performed in past funding cycles and encourage more “on-the-ground” projects ­— pilot/demonstration projects, facilitating agreements between municipal water providers and irrigators, etc.

Grant applications must be received by April 15.

More CWCB coverage here.


Centennial pumping costs are driving a rate increase

December 20, 2012

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From the Highlands Ranch Herald (Ryan Boldrey):

Following a 2 percent spike in 2012, rates will go up another 3.8 percent in 2013, climbing from $2.65 to $2.75 per 1,000 gallons for up to 100 percent of the allotted budget per user in Highlands Ranch.
Wastewater per 1,000 gallons over 3,000 will also go up 10 cents beginning Jan. 1, from $2.55 to $2.65, and there will be a 30-cent increase on the bimonthly minimum wastewater fee from $20.65 to $20.95. Bimonthly water service availability fees will remain at $25 for the coming year.

According to Bruce Lesback, director of finance and administration with the district, the electrical costs associated with an increased use of groundwater, increase in wages and rising costs of benefits are all behind the rate increases. “The rates are based on our costs to operate,” he said. “As long as we are not growing significantly with the number of customers and volume of water, you are going to have rate increases every year, there is just no way around it. … It’s always been our philosophy to minimize any increases. We look at every type of alternative we can to reduce expenditures, but expenditures are what they are in the utility business.”

To offset some of the electrical costs caused by the increase in groundwater usage, the district is using $500,000 from its financial assurance fund to keep customers from having to foot the entire bill. The financial assurance fund is largely generated by overage fees from those who have gone over their water budget.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Windsor’s new tiered water rate system goes into effect on January 15

December 20, 2012

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From the Windsor Beacon:

Water rates are changing for Windsor residential customers effective Jan. 15. The rate restructuring was approved Oct. 8 by the town board and is a result of higher costs being imposed by suppliers on the town of Windsor. The town is moving to a three-tiered system, with a 3.5 percent increase in fees for residential users without a dual water system.

The town’s current water system for single-system residential users features a base fee of $14.81 a month, with a $3.30 charge per 1,000 gallons a month until the users reach the first-tier threshold of 15,700 gallons a month. The second tier’s charge is $4.93 a month per 1,000 gallons.

The new tier rate structure would increase the first-tier usage, raising it to 16,000 gallons a month before the second tier would begin. The new tier, at 2011 prices, would begin at 22,501 gallons a month at a cost of $7.35 per 1,000 gallons.

The new rates will be shown on the bill received by residents in February.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Ute Water District to raise water rates to firm up raw water supplies

December 20, 2012

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The largest water provider in the Grand Valley will join the other large providers in bumping rates in 2013, but Ute Water Conservancy District is devoting the revenue to buying water. Ute, which serves a population of 80,000 people with water stored on Grand Mesa, will raise its base rate from $15 to $17 for 3,000 gallons. Customers who use more water will see a 10-cent increase in each of the usage tiers. The additional revenue will be devoted to preparing the district for a forecast in which the population more than doubles to 197,000 people by 2045.

Ute will use the new revenue to buy water from Ruedi Reservoir, which feeds the Fryingpan River. The purchase of 12,000 acre feet of water annually from Ruedi, which is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, will do double duty, both to help Ute prepare for population growth and to shore up supplies in the event of another drought next year, Ute spokesman Joe Burtard said. The purchase, which is the largest single water purchase ever by the 56-year-old district, will cost roughly $15.5 million and go a little more than halfway toward preparing the district to supply 197,000 people, Burtard said.

Ute expects to need 21,400 acre feet of additional supply by 2045. The Ruedi purchase leaves 9,400 acre feet remaining to be acquired and Ute hopes to close that gap by enlarging reservoirs on Grand Mesa, Burtard said.
Ute Water is working to enlarge existing Monument Reservoir No. 1 by 4,700 acre feet and Hunter Reservoir by 1,300 acre feet, Burtard said.

The district has yet to decide what other measures it will take to obtain the remaining 3,000 acre feet of water, Burtard said. An acre-foot of water is the volume needed to cover one acre one foot deep and is frequently considered to be equal to the water usage of one suburban household per year, though conservation measures can reduce residential use to a quarter of an acre foot per year.

Recreation and endangered fish also will benefit from the purchase, as additional water will flow out of Ruedi above Basalt, down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork and then into the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs, Burtard said.

Ute Water has a Colorado River pump station which can be used in an emergency and will have to be enlarged for regular use, Burtard said.

Ute will pay $850,000 to the Bureau of Reclamation for each of the next two years and will pay the remainder of the purchase with cash and financing, Burtard said.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District also is purchasing Ruedi water from the Bureau of Reclamation. The River District is buying 4,500 acre feet of water.

Purchases by Ute and the River District, as well as others, ensure that water from Ruedi, which was built with federal money, won’t revert to federal ownership, River District spokesman Chris Treese said. 2019 is the end of the 40-year repayment for Ruedi, which was built with federal funding as compensatory Western Slope storage for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. If arrangements weren’t made in time, the federal government could choose what would happen to the water stored behind Ruedi for which there was no purchase contract, Treese said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


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