A beautiful snow — Denver’s biggest of the winter #codrought

February 24, 2013

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From The Denver Post (Tom McGhee/Ryan Parker):

The storm has dumped up to 6 inches of snow in the Denver area and is expected to add another 4 inches through the evening, according to Jim Kalina, a National Weather Service meteorologist Boulder.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A storm rolling across the state Saturday night delivered the goods, with every ski area in Colorado reporting new snow Sunday morning. Totals (24 hour) ranged from 11 inches at Monarch to six inches and Wolf Creek and Steamboat, at opposite ends of the state. Most resorts in between also reported about a half a foot of new snow Sunday morning.

The parched Front Range and plains also got relief, with heavy snow especially across northeastern Colorado. Just a few days ago, parts of the plains were under a red flag fire warning. The National Weather Service blizzard warning for the area east of Denver remains in effect through 11 p.m. Sunday evening.


Avon — ‘Powell to Powell: Portraits of the Upper Colorado River’ by Zak Podmore, February 27 #coriver

February 24, 2013

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From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

Join us next Wednesday as we partner with Walking Mountains and Avon Public Library to bring a Water Wise Wednesday/High Country Speaker Series event featuring Zak Podmore of Down the Colorado. Zak Podmore has kayaked the length of the Colorado River, first in 2011 when he and his partner journeyed from the source of the Green River in Wyoming to the Gulf of California in Mexico, and again in 2012 from the source of the Colorado River to Lake Powell. Podmore will share stories and videos from his most recent trip, highlighting the particular water use interests of recreation, agriculture, and oil and gas…

Wednesday
February 27th
5:30-7:00 pm
Avon Public Library
Avon, CO


CSU — ‘Coping with Extremes: the 1st Annual Western Water History Symposium’ — March 1

February 24, 2013

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From Your Colorado Water Blog:

Join Colorado State University’s Public Lands History Center and the Water Resources Archives at CSU Libraries for Coping with Extremes: the 1st Annual Western Water History Symposium on Friday, March 1 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm at Colorado State University’s Morgan Library Event Hall. The event is FREE and open to the public.

This year’s water symposium features four prominent historians of the US West: Patty Limerick, Louis Warren, Jay Taylor, and Donald C. Jackson.


SB13-075: Promote Water Conservation Of Designated Ground Water

February 24, 2013

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Click here to read the bill SB13-075: Promote Water Conservation Of Designated Ground Water (Brophy/Sonneberg):

Here’s a report from Tony Rayl writing for The Yuma Pioneer. Here’s an excerpt:

On Wednesday, February 13th, Senate Bill 75 passed the Colorado Senate. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Greg Brophy (R-Wray), would prevent any government organization from changing the amount of water a permit holder can draw from an aquifer based on conservation measures. This practice, Senator Brophy argues, encourages overconsumption.

“Something happened in the water permitting process that created an incentive to use the maximum amount of water that you possibly can on your farm,” Brophy stated. “What this bill is trying to do is remove the incentive to waste water and instead incentivize conservation.” To keep groundwater aquifers from being depleted, the state regulates how much water a permit holder can draw from an aquifer. The amount an individual is allowed to draw is based on how much water they have needed to water their crops in the past.

“When users try to conserve water, the state sees their water usage drop and sometimes lessens the amount of water they can use from then on,” argued Senator Brophy. “This encourages irrigators to waste water to avoid having their allowable water consumption amount permanently reduced.”

The bill would protect permitted consumptive use — in designated groundwater basins — as the floor for a permit in perpetuity and would prevent the reduction of pumping rates or annual volumetrics based on consumptive use after implementation of conservation measures.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Say hello to StopStormWaterUtility.com

February 24, 2013

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From the Brighton Standard Blade:

The outcry from residents over the new stormwater fee in Adams County has prompted another public meeting. A group, dubbed Adams County Stormwater Utility Citizens in Opposition, is set to meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, at Werth Manor Event Center, 8301 Rosemary Dr., in Commerce City. Gary Mikes and attorney Sean Gallagher will present information on a litigation plan to stop the implementation of the county’s new stormwater utility. For more information, contact Gary Mikes at 303-475-0413 or http://www.garymikes.com or visit http://www.stopstormwaterutility.com.

We’ll see if they are as successful and Douglas Bruce and his cronies in Colorado Springs were when voters passed a poorly-worded Issue 300. Anti-tax zealots have severely impacted the city’s ability to deal with stormwater issues, including placing a burden of millions of dollars on the Colorado Springs Utilities enterprise fund budget.

Meanwhile, Adams County is working to correct billing errors in the system. Here’s a report from Yesnia Robles writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Adams County commissioners approved the stormwater fee last fall, telling residents that new federal mandates and the inability to fund stormwater mitigation from the general fund led them to pass on the tab to residents of the unincorporated county. Not doing so put them at risk for costly federal fines for not complying with the regulations, officials told residents at a handful of community meetings. The fee took effect Jan. 1.

Now the county has hired an outside consultant and is working with temporary staff to review 27,000 bills sent to residents. The county estimates it will spend about $100,000 to correct the errors before April 30, when payments are due.

Of the 6,600 parcels reviewed to date, 2,298 have been adjusted — about a 34 percent error rate. “We knew there was going to be some calculations that would have to be adjusted, but, in part, the photography we used made things more difficult,” said deputy county administrator Todd Leopold. “It was more than we anticipated.”

Residents are assessed based on how much of their property doesn’t allow stormwater to soak into soil. The county estimated that a single-family home would be assessed an average of $62.64 per year. Some residents, however, reported bills as high as $900. Adams County used photography it already had and contracted another vendor to analyze the photos. But, Leopold said, the pictures weren’t detailed enough to differentiate between impervious surfaces — such as roofs or concrete, which repel water — and hard surfaces — such as cracked asphalt or hard dirt, which allow water to soak in.

More stormwater coverage here.


Colorado Farm Show presentations frame current climate conditions #codrought

February 24, 2013

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Candace Krebs):

Climate change is an inevitable and sometimes uncomfortable topic for popular weather experts hitting the speaking circuit at this year’s winter meetings…

The notion of climate change is generating frequent headlines these days. The U.S. Department of Agriculture fed into the ongoing speculation recently by issuing a widely circulated report on future climate projections with suggestions for adaptation strategies. The department is also accepting public comments on a new adaptation plan, announced as part of President Obama’s sustainability initiative for the federal government, which includes goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing green power generation and fuel use.

Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken said at his annual weather report presented during the Colorado Farm Show that he’s tended to downplay the prospect of manmade global warming since talk of it first started back in the 1980s. Back then, he recalled one farmer telling him gradually warmer temperatures were less of a concern than dramatic fluctuations. Flash forward to early 2013 and Doesken admits he has become more worried about the potential consequences of a warming climate and more uncertain about how easily farmers could adapt. “In 2012, the temperatures were pretty extreme,” he said. Notable heat waves struck in March and again in June. Only one year in history could rival it — 1934.

“If the computer models are anywhere close to right, 2012 will be an average year in just a few decades,” he added. “We don’t know what precipitation will do, but when we do have dry years, if the temperature is like this, we’ll have a lot of adapting to do.”[...]

Brian Bledsoe, KKTV chief meteorologist and private weather consultant from Colorado Springs who has appeared on some of the same panels with Doesken recently, remains skeptical of climate change theory though he prefers to avoid the subject because of how polarizing it has become. I simply can’t wrap my mind around the fact that the CO2 in the atmosphere is going to supersede all the stuff I’ve shown you today,” he said following a lengthy presentation on ocean temperature cycles and other long term trends at the High Plains No-Till Conference in Burlington. “The CO2 probably contributes something, but it is not a driver, in my opinion.”

In fact, on a global basis, the earth actually entered a cooling phase in 2000 as the sun began emitting less energy, he said. That mirrors a solar cycle that happened in the early 1800s. “We cooled as a planet,” said Bledsoe, who refers to himself as a weather historian. “We’re trending that way again.”
He also pointed to predictions made back in the 1950s that Florida would be underwater today.


Snowpack/drought news: Yampa/White river basins need above avg snowfall for the next 60 days to hit avg peak #codrought

February 24, 2013

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Yampa/White Basin High/Low graph from Friday. Here’s a report from Tom Ross writing for Steamboat Today. Here’s an excerpt:

…the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs would need to see above-average snowfall for the next 60 days to build up the snowpack needed to fill streams and rivers during the coming spring runoff.

Time is growing short if the snowpack — water content in the standing snow — surrounding Steamboat is to its historic norm by the end of the season, Mage Hultstrand, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver, said Thursday. She said February and March typically combine to provide 36 percent of annual snowpack, with April contributing another 3 percent. With current snowpack in the combined Yampa/White River basin standing at 47 percent of the annual peak, mountains in the area would have to see 53 percent of the annual snowpack accumulate between now and the second week in April to reach the average.

“The average peak there is on April 11,” Hultstrand said. “To get there in the next two months would take well above-average snowfall for February and March.” Hultstrand is the agency’s assistant snow survey supervisor…

The NRCS reported Feb. 1 that despite heavy snowfall in late January, Colorado’s snowpack was at 72 percent of normal for the date and 10 percent lower than where it stood at the same time in the drought winter of 2011-12. The combined Yampa/White river basin, which includes most of Routt County, is doing a little better, according to the NRCS, at 77 percent of average and 115 percent of last year’s levels. Another encouraging sign is that reservoir storage across the twin basin currently stands at 103 percent of average for the date. Focusing on specific locations in the Yampa River Basin, the snow measuring station at 9,400 feet on the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass was showing 11 inches of water contained in 43 inches of snow Thursday, or 75 percent of average for the date. Those 11 inches of water also represent 42 percent of peak snowpack (water content); Rabbit Ears typically peaks at 26.1 inches of moisture April 28.

At the Tower site at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass, there currently is 69 inches of snow on the ground containing 19.2 inches of moisture. The water content at the Tower site, which typically holds some of the most robust snowpack in the state, is just 66 percent of the average of 29.1 inches for the date and 37 percent of the seasonal peak. The Tower site peaks, on average, at 51.4 inches of water May 9. As a reference point, in early May 2011, the Tower site, after 27 days of snowfall in April, measured 200 inches of standing snow containing an all-time Colorado record of 72.6 inches of snow-water equivalent.

Click here to check out the Water Center at CMU’s Facebook page for snowpack.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

“The conditions for Colorado are very poor,” said Mike Strobel, director of the National Water and Climate Center under the Natural Resources Conservation Service, based in Portland, Ore. Strobel said in an interview following his presentation that Colorado was at 72 percent of its normal snow pack as of Feb. 1, and at 69 percent of its average reservoir storage on that same date. Several basins in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico are at less than 50 percent of their normal snow pack.

“The conditions are very poor” in Colorado, Strobel said. “The far southwest part of the state is looking better than the rest of the state. But on the Front Range areas, and near Denver, you’re looking at well below normal snow pack, and it’s not boding well for the streamflow forecast at this point.”[...]

Forecast maps showed that warmer-than-normal temperatures are anticipated over much of the country for the next three months, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. At the same time, much of the Western U.S. — as well as the Southeast — are expected to suffer below-normal precipitation.

The U.S. Drought Monitor now shows portions of eastern Colorado already in a state of “exceptional” drought, with the balance of the state rated as experiencing “extreme” or “severe” drought. Only the far southwestern corner of the state is rated as in a state of only “moderate” drought.


HB13-1130: ‘Bill would hurt rural Colorado’ — State Rep. Clarice Navarro #codrought

February 24, 2013

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Here’s a column from State Representative Clarice Navarro urging the legislature to reject expanded authority for the State Engineer, under HB13-1130: Reapprove Interruptible Water Supply Agreements. From the column:

Colorado Water Law is a unique, complex series of statutes, court cases and decreed water rights. This framework of laws is designed to protect people who do not live next to the river, but have a real need to use the water that flows from snowmelt in the spring and summer months.

Some of my colleagues in the state Legislature are seeking to change this system in favor of benefiting large cities such as Aurora and Denver at the expense of rural Colorado.

House Bill 1130 seeks to extend the operation of interruptible water supply agreements in Colorado. Because of the arid nature of our state, the Legislature entrusts the Colorado water courts to oversee the decreed water rights in order to ensure that people with junior water rights are treated equitably with those who have senior water rights.

This bill gives the Colorado water engineer the ability to grant interruptible supply agreements in three-year increments outside of court oversight for up to 30 years. Only after the state engineer has made a determination can someone appeal to water court. This simply entrusts the state engineer with more authority, and it will lead to rural Coloradans losing the water to large, metropolitan areas of the state.

Southern Colorado cannot stand for this. There are better ways for the Legislature to allow, in times of drought, the ability to divert water out of priority. The current network of laws, in my opinion, adequately addresses all surface water rights. I hope that my fellow legislators are able to work together and defeat HB 1130. This is bad legislation for Southern Colorado.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Pueblo: Action 22 conference, March 13, to focus on energy development and water issues

February 24, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain:

The future of water and energy in Southern Colorado will be the focus of an Action 22 conference next month. “Managing water and energy resources will be critical to Colorado’s future. How we manage these valuable assets over the next 10 to 20 years will have lasting impacts well into the 21st century,” said Cathy Garcia, Action 22 executive director. “The first step in wise resource management is to understand technical, financial and legal issues that govern Colorado’s policy decisions.”

The Water and Energy Conference, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 13 at the Pueblo Convention Center, will feature 15 speakers who will discuss state water issues, including hydraulic fracturing regulations and techniques.

John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s water adviser, will deliver the luncheon keynote address. Other top state water officials also will be on hand.

There will be a review of Fountain Creek watershed protection efforts in the aftermath of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. Fracking presentations will be in the morning, while the statewide water topics are featured in the afternoon.

Action 22 is an association representing governments, individuals and other interests throughout a 22-county area of Southern Colorado.

Cost is $70 per person ($60 for members of Action 22). Lunch-only registration to hear John Stulp is halfpriced. A detailed agenda and registration is available at Action22.org or by calling Garcia at 1-888-799-1799.


Arkansas Valley: Winter water storage may set record low #codrought

February 24, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

With less than a month left, the winter water storage program rivals 2002-03 as the worst year on record since 1978. Storage in the program was at 56 percent of average for mid-February. Winter water storage allows nine large canals and two smaller ditches downstream of Pueblo Dam to store water from their Arkansas River water rights from Nov. 15 through March 15 for use during the irrigation season. Water is stored in Lake Pueblo, John Martin Reservoir and reservoirs owned by some of the ditch companies.

This year, throughout the entire system, storage totals 53,858 acre-feet, compared with 85,899 acre-feet last year, and a 20-year average of 94,877 acre-feet. Last year’s total on March 15 was 125,000 acrefeet, among the driest years on record. The lowest years on record were 2002-03, with 74,775 acre-feet, and 2003-04, with 81,439 acre-feet. In general, the years since 2000 have been significantly lower than the wetter 1980s and 1990s.

Storage at that level is a drop in the bucket for ditch systems that are several miles long. For perspective, in a more normal precipitation year, large ditches like the Bessemer, High Line, Catlin and Amity could expect deliveries of 60,000-100,000 acre-feet at the headgate during the entire irrigation season. The largest ditch, the Fort Lyon Canal, typically would receive 200,000-250,000 acre-feet to cover its 113-mile length. In terms of winter water, Fort Lyon gets about 26.5 percent; High Line and Catlin, about 15 percent each; Bessemer and Amity, about 10 percent each. Other ditches in the winter water program are Oxford, Las Animas Consolidated, Riverside, West Pueblo, Colorado Canal and Holbrook.

Stream flows gained little following storms that moved through the area last week, according to U.S. Geological Survey and state river gauges.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Pueblo: Public landscaping used 9 percent of metered water at no charge or half-price #codrought

February 24, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Public landscaping consumed about 9 percent of metered water by the Pueblo Board of Water Works in 2012. The water is provided by the water board at no charge or half-price, and its use increased at a greater rate than the use by paid accounts. Often, public landscape watering occurs during daylight hours when homeowners are encouraged to refrain from turning on the sprinklers

“Our conversations about this have been ongoing, and it’s frustrating. We really don’t have a hammer,” said Paul Fanning, spokesman for the water board. “I’m going to be pressing harder this season about why we need to be concerned.”

About 850 million gallons of water were used to water landscaping in city parks, schools, public buildings, rights of way and on the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, according to a report by the water board last week.

A total of 9.3 billion gallons were used in Pueblo’s metered water system, an increase for the third straight year as drought deepened in Southern Colorado. However, the use for public areas increased about 7.8 percent from 2011, while the total use in Pueblo was up only about 5.3 percent. The value of the no-charge or half-price water, if it were used in paid accounts, would be about $1.8 million. The total revenue from metered accounts last year was $22.4 million.

The water board will devote more of its advertising budget to conservation messages this year, but is not yet planning mandatory restrictions, Fanning said. “We’ll be emphasizing drought preparedness,” he said. “We’re definitely encouraging all of our customers to water less often and more deeply. The outlook doesn’t look good, and one could argue it’s an opportunity to use water more efficiently.”


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