EPA: Our proposal to protect clean water does not regulate puddles and water on driveways and playgrounds

July 22, 2014

From the Public News Service (Stephanie Carson):

Groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation and other “big ag” organizations are protesting proposed federal rules that would redefine which bodies of water are regulated under the Clean Water Act.

Among the exceptions to that protest are farmers represented by the Denver-based Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Bill Midcap, director of external affairs with the union, says he and his peers recognize the importance of maintaining the state’s limited water supply.

“We’ve broken ranks, but we think that education and clarity of these rules is something ag’s going to need,” says Midcap.

While opponents of the proposed regulations say they place a burden on the farm community, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union launched a campaign this month called “They Don’t Speak for Me,” intended to underline the fact not all farmers agree with the “big ag” lobby’s opposition to the water rules.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the proposed rule clarifications are needed to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act, and to ensure the ability of a new rule which would still offer exemptions for everyday agricultural activities. EPA representatives have been traveling around Colorado to help farmers understand the proposed regulations, and to demonstrate how the clarifications will enable farmers to continue irrigation of crops.

Julia McCarthy, environmental life scientist with the EPA, also notes the proposed regulations simply reinstate rules initially put into place in the 1970s.

“We want to make sure these headwater areas are providing a clean source of water for downstream communities and downstream irrigators so we don’t have issues with high pollution levels in the water that we’re using to water our crops,” says McCarthy.

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 to address water pollution, but Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 limited the Clean Water Act to waters deemed “navigable.” The EPA says this has created confusion when it comes to enforcement of water regulations.

Bill Midcap says he just wants to make sure farmers have a voice as the rules develop.

“Despite the opposition, these rules are going to move forward,” he says. “So, why not try to get real clarification of how the rules are being written, before they are written?” The EPA has extended their public comment period to Oct. 20.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


Durango: CLUB 20 Water Policy Committee Meeting — July 31

July 22, 2014
Durango

Durango

From email from Club 20 (Shawna Grieger):

Here [are] the most recent agendas for the upcoming CLUB 20 Water, Agriculture, Public Lands & Transportation and Energy Policy Meetings that will be held in Durango, Colorado.

Anyone is welcome to attend CLUB 20 policy meetings during the Winter and Summer meetings. However, you must be a CLUB 20 Member to vote during committee meetings and to receive e-updates and alerts per committee. Please let us know if you are planning on attending the Summer Policy Committee Meetings July 31 and August 1 in Durango or if you have any questions regarding CLUB 20 efforts and membership.


Grand Junction: Some history of the Kannah Creek diversion #COWaterPlan

July 22, 2014
Grand Junction back in the day with the Grand Mesa in background

Grand Junction back in the day with the Grand Mesa in background

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Greg Trainor):

From the incorporation of the town of Grand Junction in 1882 until 1911, the prospect of a firm water supply for Grand Junction citizens was in doubt. For almost 30 years, numerous recall elections, battles between the town and private water purveyors, and municipal expeditions to find mountain “water at any price” took up most of the official business of Grand Junction aldermen.

See-sawing back and forth between municipal ownership of the town water system and franchises to private companies to operate the system, the source of the town water supply also see-sawed between locations on the Colorado River at Fifth Street and the Gunnison River near the Redlands Water and Power Company Diversion. In Spring, supply was up, but so was sediment and mud. In late summer and fall, flow was down and ability to keep pipes full of water for fire protection suffered.

In 1894 the citizens voted 88 percent to build and operate a municipal water system but it took 13 years for the town to finally file for a water right in Kannah Creek, 20 miles to the southeast. The town was desperate: Could they afford a municipal system, who would buy bonds to pay for a system, where were there year-round supplies of water?

After having looked at mountain water supplies on Pinon Mesa near Glade Park, Kruzen Springs above Palisade, Whitewater Creek (later acquired by the City in 1989), the city settled on Kannah Creek. Ironically with the help of engineers from the Denver Union Water Company (later to become the Denver Water Department), the city filed a petition in eminent domain in Mesa County District Court for the first 7.81 cubic feet per second of flow from Kannah Creek.

As owners of all of the direct flow water rights on Kannah Creek, ranchers and farmers in Kannah Creek were not long in joining together in their opposition to the city’s actions. Their water was in the cross hairs of the city. An action in eminent domain is not the same as a filing for a water right in Water Court. In the latter case, a filing is made for water and proof is presented to the court that shows the water being put to beneficial use. The Water Court then establishes a priority date for use of the water, insuring that no other water user with a more senior water right is damaged. On the contrary, the city’s action in condemnation allowed the city to act under its powers of eminent domain and secure (“take”) water for the use of its citizens, provided, however, that the city make full compensation or satisfaction for all damages incurred by the taking.

In 1911, four years later, a jury awarded $182,940 to all parties from whom the city had acquired the water. The District Court also decreed that the city to be the owner of “a first, superior and paramount right to a continuous flow of 7.81 cfs over and above all other water rights claimed in Kannah Creek.” The city had the water, now it needed a way to get the water from Kannah Creek to Reservoir Hill above the city cemeteries, near Fifth Street. After years of offerings, Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (Pueblo steel mills), purchased the water bonds which allowed Grand Junction to build a state-of-the-art wood stave water line from Kannah Creek to the water plant.

To this day, the city’s pre-1922, “paramount” water right is the backbone of the city’s water supply system. Since 1911, the city has continued to acquire additional water rights and ranch properties to insure that mountain water is available to its citizens.

These actions between 1907 and 1911 colored all relationships between the City of Grand Junction and the landowners in Kannah Creek. Storage of Kannah Creek water, easements and rights of way, water for livestock, treated water for safe drinking, reservoir ownership and maintenance, and administration of the Grand Mesa “Pool” were continuous issues that festered during the entire 20th century. Yes, the landowners in Kannah Creek have long memories.

Today, the efforts to affect a State Water Plan include ideas to share water between agriculture and municipal users. It is unlikely that municipal condemnation would be the first idea implemented, but rather a series of purchase options, water banking, water rentals, or payments for fallowing would be considered. However, when circumstances cause a municipal water provider to feel it has exhausted all methods to secure a safe and reliable water supply, condemnation remains as a tool that, at the direction of a water policy board, could be employed to acquire water “at any price.”

Note: Material for this article comes from “City of Grand Junction v. Kannah Creek Water Users Association, No. 27047, Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc. December 20, 1976.

Greg Trainor is the recently retired Public Works and Utility Director for the City of Grand Junction. He is currently the Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and acting President of the Southwest Chapter of the River Management Society.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Drought news: It’s no picnic for direct irrigators this season #COdrought

July 22, 2014


From The Washington Post (Lydia DePillis):

At the appointed hour, [Chuck Pointon] turns the head gate at the Fort Lyon Canal, sending water sluicing through ditches bordering the fields. He tracks up and down the rows, adjusting pipes and valves to make sure the water is flowing just right. Almost as soon as he’s got it working, it’s another field’s turn, and he lifts the dams to send water in a different direction. That goes on through the night: If a piece of trash were to block a gate, they could lose thousands of gallons of water, which might leave whole rows of corn lacking the moisture they need to grow.

They call it “babysitting the water,” for its finicky nature and the sleep they lose over it. And in an age of automation, the Pointons have no machines to help. Without a sprinkler system — which the Pointons couldn’t afford to install, even if they could spare the extra land it takes up — they rely on gravity to spread it across the fields…

This drought is worse and longer-lasting than anyone here has ever seen — so punishing that it’s pushing people like the Pointons, whose families have survived on the land for decades, to the brink of giving up. Their farm is in an angry red splotch on the USDA’s drought map, indicating sustained, abnormal dryness – less rain fell in the 42 months before May of last year than in the stretch in the mid-1930s now called the Dust Bowl.

The lingering dryness, combined with the loss of access to the irrigation systems that used to make up for it, is one of the biggest forces dragging America’s rural areas further behind its dynamic cities: While the poverty rate stabilized for metropolitan areas in 2012, it kept growing on farms and in tiny towns, ticking up to 17.7 percent. Rural counties lost people overall — rather than just as a percentage of the U.S. population — for the first time ever from 2010 to 2012. With climate change shortening the wet times and prolonging the dry ones on into the future, it’s unclear that they’ll ever truly recover…

And it’s not just the weather. Over the years, the farms have also lost a war with fast-growing urban centers: There’s already much less water than there used to be trickling through the surrounding fields, since investors had bought up their water rights — which are normally attached to the land, entitling the owner to take a certain percentage of the water flowing through a river — and profited by flipping them to thirsty cities. Just down the road in Rocky Ford, melon farmers sold their shares to pay off debts in the early 2000s, for tens of thousands of dollars each, leaving the farms baking and dry. In her pessimistic moments, Anita worries about nearby cities damming Fowler Creek to make a reservoir, which could choke off her lifeline as well…

Anita and Chuck were once part of that younger generation that moved away from these ranchlands. They lived in Denver for seven years, where Anita worked as an accountant — but returned in 1990 to take over her family farm, which Anita finds more satisfying. Still, it’s not been like what she remembered growing up there as a girl. This year, the farm has weathered dust storms the likes of which nobody had seen before: high-velocity clouds of dirt and debris that coated everything in muck.

“The dirt flows in, and it’s on your walls, and in your car. You can’t do anything. You’re in the house,” Anita shudders. “It’s horrible.” Her grainy cellphone pictures just show farm equipment as smudges in a brown miasma.

The couple’s financial reserves are wearing thin. Last year, farms fed by the Fort Lyon Canal in the Arkansas Valley got less than half the volume of water they usually do and almost no rain, leaving the land bone-dry. The Pointons sold half the cattle off their land, and leaned on the insurance on their failed corn crop for income.

If the crops fail again this year, they’ll likely go further into debt. Chuck could go work at the fish hatchery, which he did during a bad spell in 2003, and Anita might focus harder on the joy she feels in watching calves grow up every spring, rather than whether she can afford to keep raising them.

“There’s a lot of things in play,” Anita said. “After you start laying it out, it’s like, why are we farming?”

“Because we don’t have enough money to move away,” says Chuck, from the living room, where he’s taking a break from irrigating with a tall glass of ice water.​


Colorado Water Officials Association (CWOA) conference October 1-3

July 21, 2014
Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs

From email from the Division of Water Resources (Laura Kalafas):

Hello, we are having our annual Colorado Water Officials Association (CWOA) conference October 1-3, 2014, in Steamboat Springs, CO. Please let me know if your company/organization is interested in being an event sponsor…We would be happy to list your company/organization in our conference program and other publications.

Click here for the agenda
Click here for more information
Click here for the registration form
Click here for the sponsorship form

More Colorado Division of Water Resources coverage here.


EPA proposed rule: Normal farming activities like planting crops and moving cattle do not require permits

July 21, 2014

Northern Water: The first C-BT Project water was released from Horsetooth Reservoir into the Poudre River on this day 63 yrs ago #ColoradoRiver

July 21, 2014

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Horsetooth Reservoir gets its water from a network of Western Slope reservoirs fed by mountain snowmelt. Water is usually pumped up from Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Reservoir, where gravity eventually pulls it down through the 13-mile Adams Tunnel and into a couple of more reservoirs before it reaches Horsetooth.

Back in 1951, hundreds of people came to the reservoir to mark the event — it was a long-awaited milestone for farmers and cities along the Front Range, who had survived decades of drought.

The shuttling of Western Slope water into Horsetooth and the Poudre River is a system that Northern Colorado has been reliant on for decades. In Northern Colorado, the plea for more water started in the Great Depression, when a devastating drought plagued the western and central United States.

The federal government agreed to come to the aid of Colorado’s farmers and in the late 1930s began building the Colorado-Big Thompson project. Today, the C-BT project supplies Fort Collins with 65 percent of its water.

I was 4 months and 16 days old at time. I don’t remember the event. More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Eagle River Valley: Eagle River Watershed Councils’s 5th annual RiverFest, August 9

July 21, 2014

eagleriverwatershedcouncilriverfest08092014
Click here for the announcement.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.


2014 Colorado November election: El Paso County voters to decide on stormwater enterprise? #COpolitics

July 21, 2014
Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Emily Donovan):

The Pikes Peak Stormwater Task Force is trying to explain its stormwater prevention proposal so the public will understand why they might be asked to pay $10 a month.

The task force, a citizen’s group of engineers, business leaders, community activists and elected city and county officials formed in 2012, has been hosting a series of public meetings to explain its proposal and ask for public opinion. A December poll commissioned by the Task force found that 95 percent of El Paso County residents think stormwater is a significant problem, but there isn’t the same consensus on who should pay to address the problem.

It’s a complicated topic, but the task force says its solution makes sense. Here are the key points the task force has covered in its public meetings:

How serious is the stormwater issue?

Right now, the Colorado Springs area’s stormwater infrastructure would flunk out of class. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Colorado Springs’s stormwater infrastructure a D-minus on its 2012 report card.

Stormwater runoff is rain and melted snow that flows over impervious surfaces – like parking lots, rooftops, driveways – and doesn’t get absorbed into the ground. It causes streets, bridges, houses and businesses to flood and damages water quality by washing debris down gutters and streets into storm drains.

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) has spent an estimated $100 million since 2000 rebuilding crumbling infrastructure near creeks that have been destroyed by runoff during floods, estimated Carol Baker, CSU stormwater engineer. Other utilities providers, businesses and homeowners also pay to repair stormwater damage.

People who live next to the banks of Fountain Creek have lost property as water levels raised, said Rachel Beck, the task force’s media contact. Water flows into the street, yards and driveways in neighborhoods that don’t have proper storm drains.

Colorado Springs is the only major city on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains that does not have a stormwater management program, Beck said.

What’s the task force’s solution?

The task force wants to construct protection against stormwater runoff in the Fountain Creek watershed and the city of Falcon. Its proposal would create a regional authority – a board of 13 people who are already elected officials – that would make sure those projects happen.

There would be seven representatives from Colorado Springs, mostly city council members and either the mayor or the mayor’s chosen representative, two representatives from the El Paso County Commissioners, representatives from Manitou Springs, Fountain and Monument, and a shared representative for Green Mountain Falls and Palmer Lake.

An independent engineering firm created the project list to prioritize the most-needed projects. The list is public, meaning elected officials would be held accountable for getting projects done on time.

How would the projects be paid for?

The board would charge a fee on property owners based on how much impervious surface is on a property. The money would be collected monthly for the next 20 years and cost about the same as in other Front Range communities. For the average homeowner, this would cost $10 a month, said Dave Munger, task force co-chair.

A fee rather than a tax must be imposed because governments and nonprofits are tax-exempt but contribute significant impervious surface that contribute to stormwater runoff.

All of the money collected from this fee would be designated for stormwater prevention and management. Nine percent of the fee collected would be saved in case of emergency and 1 percent would fund administration.

Other projects recognized as high priority for Colorado Springs, like streets, parks, public safety buildings or information technology, could not be funded using money collected from this proposed fee.

Is this fair?

The proposal includes a system of checks and balances to make sure no one city is favored over another.

Colorado Springs would have more people on the board than other cities, but that’s because the city has 70.7 percent of the affected citizens and 70 percent of impervious surfaces, Beck said. Regardless, Colorado Springs could not make decisions without collaborating with other representatives, Munger said.

To pass a vote, the council requires a supermajority. Two-thirds of the board members, including at least four representatives from Colorado Springs, a representative from the County Commissioners, and representatives from the small communities, have to agree for a vote to count.

Additionally, money collected in each community would fund the projects in that community over a five-year rolling average.

Financial benefits

Good stormwater infrastructure is good for the economy, Beck said. According to an analysis by University of Colorado at Colorado Springs economics professors, the proposed stormwater infrastructure construction would create 360 jobs with annual labor income of $16.3 million, add $21 million to the local economy and increase gross domestic product by $50.1 million, all in the first year.

Today, the task force’s necessary capital improvements would cost $706 million. If the proposed projects had been started 25 years ago, the cost would have been a third of that, according to the UCCS economics analysis.

“If we keep delaying this, the price tag is going to continue to go up,” Beck said.

Playing politics

The next step is politics. The task force plans to have a ballot question by the end of August and to ask the El Paso County Commissioners to refer the proposal to the Nov. 4 ballot. Only the cities that would participate in the program would vote on the measure.The Colorado Springs City Council will discuss the task force’s proposal at its Monday work session. The council will consider supporting the proposal, but the proposal would still need voter approval. Mayor Steve Bach opposes the regional plan in favor of one that only deals with Colorado Springs. Other cities in the county, such as Manitou Springs, have not decided whether or not they will support the task force. And with one final meeting on Wednesday to get their point out to the public, the Task Force is quickly running out of time to get the stormwater issue on the November ballot.

Colorado Springs would be the first area in the country that the general public has voted on a stormwater management program, Beck said. She said city councils have taken care of it everywhere else.


Public comment period open for Cotter Mill license

July 21, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Public comment is being accepted on the process of licensing the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill until decommissioning is complete. A total of six new documents are available for comment until Sept. 16. The documents outline the radioactive materials license changes that Cotter officials will operate under while cleaning up the mill site.

The mill has not processed uranium since 2006 and Cotter officials, along with state and federal health officials, are working toward a full cleanup of the site which has been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list since 1984. Although the state will not terminate the license until all decommissioning, remediation and reclamation activities are complete, provisions in the license need to change.

The site can no longer be used to produce yellowcake from uranium and only the Zirconium ore that already is on site will be allowed there. The cleanup of the site will address an impoundment that has been used to store tailings and the recently torn down mill buildings. Cotter officials have agreed to set aside a financial assurance of $17,837,983 to cover the cost of decommissioning activities. In addition, a longterm care fund will cover post-license termination activities. The $250,000 fund was created in 1978 and has grown to $1,018,243 through interest payments.

The documents pertaining to the license changes and a map of the Cotter Mill site can be viewed at http://recycle4colorado.ipower.com/Cotter/2014/14cotterdocs.htm. Comments should be sent to Warren Smith, community involvement manager for the state health department via email at warren.smith@state.co.us or mailed to Smith at Colorado Department of Public Health, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246-1530.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


COGCC requires changes at injection well after review finds potential linkage to seismic activity

July 20, 2014

Deep injection well

Deep injection well


From the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Todd Hartman):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has required operators of a wastewater injection site in Weld County to make changes to their well and adjust their disposal activities after determining actions at the location are potentially related to low-level seismic activity nearby.

On June 23, the COGCC directed NGL Water Solutions DJ LLC* to stop disposing wastewater into the well for a 20-day period while the agency worked with the operator and a team of University of Colorado researchers to determine whether deep injection at the site may be tied to recent seismic activity detected within the general vicinity. Following a 3.2 magnitude event on May 31, seismometers placed by CU recorded other small earthquakes, including one of magnitude 2.6 on June 23.

Since the shutdown, the COGCC has further analyzed data associated with the injection well, as well as seismic data recorded by a local network of instruments placed and maintained by CU geophysicists. While seismic activity in the area around the well continued during the shutdown period, it occurred at a lower energy level, according to the CU researchers.

Flow rate tests conducted by NGL indicated a high permeability zone near the bottom of the well that created a preferred pathway for injected wastewater. As a result of the findings, NGL, with approval and oversight from the COGCC, has plugged the basement of the well from a depth of 10,770 feet to 10,360 feet in order to seal off the preferential pathway and to increase the distance between the zone of injection and “basement” rock. These measures are expected to mitigate the potential for future seismic events.

Beginning Friday, July 18 the COGCC will allow NGL to resume limited injections, at lower pressures and lower volumes, under continued seismic monitoring, to ensure the facility is operating safely. Specifically, the operator will be permitted to inject at an initial maximum rate of 5,000 barrels per day with a maximum pressure of 1,512 psi. After 20 days, the maximum injection rate may be increased to 7,500 barrels a day at the same pressure.

Continued use of the injection well will be reviewed and may be halted if seismic events within a 2.5-mile radius of the well occur at or above a magnitude of 2.5 – the U.S. Geological Survey’s default threshold for displaying seismic events. CU geophysicists will continue to monitor the location, and the COGCC has required NGL to install a permanent seismometer near the well to allow for real-time monitoring. The company is also required to provide access to the monitor and all its data to the COGCC and any third parties authorized by the agency.

“We are proceeding with great care, and will be tracking activities at this site closely,” said Matt Lepore, director of the COGCC. “We’re moving slowly and deliberately as we determine the right course for this location.”

The COGCC is also reviewing a potential violation of the operator’s permitted injection volumes. The matter remains under investigation and any further information on possible enforcement would be contained in a Notice of Alleged Violation from the agency. Such a determination could result in financial penalties against the company.

The well, SWD C4A, is located east of the Greeley-Weld County Airport. It was permitted by COGCC in March 2013 and injection began in April of 2013.

More oil and gas coverage here.


The Lower Ark District alleges misallocation of Fountain Creek funds

July 20, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A feud between two water districts over how Fountain Creek grant money is being spent deepened this week. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Monday mailed letters to state and federal agencies claiming that the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District “illegally spent or committed” funds that were used as matching funds for grants.

Fountain Creek District Director Larry Small denied there is any wrongdoing.

“We have a record of all decisions and those making these charges were a part of the decision,” Small said. “Maybe they need their memories refreshed.”

Lower Ark board members said the money from their district and Colorado Springs Utilities, more than $450,000, is supposed to be used in the Fountain Creek corridor — defined in statute as the area in the flood plain south of Fountain and north of Pueblo.

Additionally, any money applied under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit toward Colorado Springs’ $50 million obligation for flood control must benefit Pueblo.

But grants for fire mitigation studies on Upper Fountain Creek and for trails in the Colorado Springs area have been pressed by the Fountain Creek district without proper consultation, the Lower Ark board said.

“It continues to anger me that these people in El Paso County continue to believe that the state line ends at southern El Paso County,” said Anthony Nunez, a former Pueblo County commissioner who represents Pueblo County on the Lower Ark board.

On Wednesday, he and other board members were fuming that Small had canceled a meeting in Rocky Ford to discuss the issues.

Small had notified the Lower Ark and other participants in the district by email that the July 25 meeting would be in Fountain, rather than Rocky Ford as planned at last month’s meeting.

The state statute does not allow meetings outside Fountain Creek district boundaries, which includes Pueblo and El Paso counties, Small explained.

That infuriated Nunez, who complained that the Upper Fountain grant includes Woodland Park, which is in Teller County.

Contacted after the meeting, Small said Woodland Park is paying its own way in that grant, and agreed with the Lower Ark board that no Fountain Creek district money can be spent outside its boundaries.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.


A look at Rio Grande Compact administration this season #RioGrande

July 20, 2014
Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

After years of drought, more water in the San Luis Valley’s rivers is a welcome change, but it comes with a price.

With higher stream levels comes a higher obligation that must be paid to downstream states. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten reminded Valley residents of that fact during his report on Tuesday to the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board.

When the forecasts increased for the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems, so did the curtailments on irrigators, he explained, because Colorado’s obligation to New Mexico and Texas also increased.

Cotten said the annual forecast for the Rio Grande has increased every month since May because more water is expected now than forecasters predicted this spring. The May forecast for the Rio Grande was 475,000 acre feet. In June the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) increased the projected annual index for the Rio Grande to 545,000 acre feet and this month bumped it up even higher to 590,000 acre feet.

“That’s up significantly from what we had projected earlier on in the season,” Cotten said. The obligation to downstream states from the Rio Grande is 158,400 acre feet from that new 590,000-acrefoot forecast. With the water that has already been delivered , estimated deliveries for this winter, and a contribution from the Closed Basin Project, the water resources division is projecting it must deliver about 22,000 acre feet during the remainder of the irrigation season. To reach that goal, the division is curtailing irrigators 25 percent, which is significantly higher than curtailments earlier in the irrigation season. Curtailments in April and May were 7-10 percent, with curtailments increasing to 15 percent in June, 21 percent by July 3 and 25 percent July 4th.

“That’s just because of the increased forecast amount and needing to deliver quite a bit more to the downstream states,” Cotten said.

“We are watching that pretty closely,” he added. “Depending on the monsoon season, if we do get a significant amount of rain and rain events, there’s a possibility we may have to go up a little higher than that.”

Curtailments on the Conejos River system are even higher. Since July 4, the curtailment on the Conejos has been 32 percent with only the #1 and #2 ditches in priority right now, according to Cotten . The curtailment on April 1 was 12 percent, decreasing to 6 percent by April 4 and 1 percent by May 7, but then increasing to 14 percent on June 7 and jumping to 27 percent by June 21.

“Curtailment of the ditches is indicative of raising the forecast every month,” he said. The projected annual index for the Conejos River system was 185,000 acre feet in May, 210,000 acre feet in June and is now estimated at 220,000 acre feet.

Of the 220,000 acre-foot annual flow , the Conejos River system owes 57,000 acre feet to New Mexico and Texas. To reach that goal, the Conejos will have to send about 8,000 acre feet downstream during the remainder of the irrigation season, according to Cotten.

Cotten shared the threemonth precipitation outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for August, September and October.

“For the first time in quite a few years we are in the above-average range,” he said. “It’s looking like we are going to have a pretty good monsoon season.”

Temperatures during that three-month period will be another court case where the fine could top that.

“We are watching the well meter usage and metering and making sure everybody has active and accurate meters on their wells,” he said.

In his report to the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board on Tuesday, District Engineer Allen Davey said both the unconfined and confined aquifers had shown some improvement recently, but the basin has a long ways to go to re-establish the kind of aquifer levels the state legislature mandated, reflecting the levels of the period from 1978-2000 .

The confined aquifer, or deeper aquifer, has improved this last year by an overall total of about 2.66 feet in the wells included in Davey’s study. He said if the weather returned to a wetter cycle, with improved run off, irrigators would not need to pump as much, and the aquifers would naturally improve.

He added, “If we have bigger water years and the pumping stays the same, the aquifer will recover, and if the pumping is reduced, the aquifer will recover more.”

Since 1976 the unconfined aquifer, or shallow aquifer, in an area representative of the area now covered by the first groundwater management sub-district has declined a total of more than one million acre feet. Davey said the study area showed some improvement this spring with the aquifer level increasing by 105,000 acre feet during June, for example. “equal chances” of being in the average range.

Cotten said his office has had to file four or five court cases in the last month or so against well owners who did not comply with the well use rules, specifically not turning in well usage numbers or not having valid well meters in place. Fines could range from a few hundred dollars in simple cases to thousands of dollars. One irrigator is looking at a fine of more than $8,0000, Cotten said, and his office is currently working on He reminded the group that the target level required by legislators is -200 ,000 to -400 ,000 acre feet for a fiveyear running average.

“Right now it’s about 500,000 acre feet below that -400 ,000,” he said.

He said it’s like gas in a vehicle’s tank, and the more the vehicle uses, the lower the gas level is.

“What we need to do in order to recover is reduce the amount of ‘driving’ we are doing ,” Davey said. “Well users need to ‘drive’ less, pump less water, irrigate less land.”

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.


Can we conserve our way out of our supply gap in the #ColoradoRiver Basin? #COWaterPlan

July 19, 2014

thehardestworkingriverinthewestcolooradoriver

Update: I heard from the Western Resource Advocates and American Rivers media guy, Gil Rudawsky. Scroll down to read the update.

Western Resource Advocates and American Rivers attempt to answer that question with a new report. Here’s their release:

On July 17 2014, Western Resource Advocates joined with American Rivers to release a new report that identifies conservation, reuse and other innovative solutions that could eliminate Western water shortages stemming from the over-taxed and stressed Colorado River. The report defines five cost-effective and clearly defined solutions that – if implemented at a larger scale across the basin – could meet the water needs of the West’s business, agricultural and growing population through 2060.

The Hardest Working River in the West: Common-Sense Solutions for a Reliable Water Future for the Colorado River Basin provides a comprehensive package of proven methods to conserve water.

  • Download the Executive Summary
  • Download the Full Report
  • See the full press release
  • The new report estimates that 4.4 million acre-feet of water could be saved and made available for other uses if these proven methods are implemented throughout the basin – more than enough water to meet projected growth in water needs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, for the next half-century.

    This report comes at a critical time for Western States with record droughts, depleted reservoirs hitting all-time lows, and a growing population increasing water demands.

    “Our report showcases the ‘All-Star’ water solutions – actions that are proven, cost-effective and ready to meet our current and future water needs,” said Bart Miller, Water Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “The fact is, there is a lot of concern about the Colorado River right now but these solutions will work and help everyone – from agriculture to growing cities –

    “There is a widening water gap creating 3.8 million acre-feet of additional water needed to meet the needs of the growing population of the West. This is an enormous amount which, if not carefully managed, could deplete the river and dramatically alter the landscape of the seven basin states,” said Matt Rice, Director of Colorado Basin Programs for American Rivers. “These solutions will ensure the river’s resources meet all future water needs for urban, rural, business and agricultural communities across all seven basin states, while still protecting the natural environment of the West.”

    The five critical steps for solving our current and future water shortages are:

  • Municipal conservation, saving 1.0 million acre-feet through such efforts as improved landscaping techniques, rebate programs that incentivize water-saving devices and standardized water audits
  • Municipal reuse, saving 1.2 million acre-feet through gray water treatment and re-use for irrigation, industrial uses and other purposes
  • Agricultural efficiency and water banking, saving 1.0 million acre-feet via voluntary, compensated improvements in irrigation efficiency and technology, crop shifting and other measures (while avoiding permanently taking agricultural lands out of production)
  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency, saving 160 thousand acre-feet using wind, solar PV, and geothermal energy solutions, and new water-efficient thermoelectric power plants
  • Innovative water opportunities, generating up to 1.1 million acre-feet through creative measures such as invasive plant removal, dust-on-snow mitigation and targeted inland desalinization.
  • I’ve got email into their media guy about the dust-on-snow savings in their plan. 400,000 acre-feet is a lot and I haven’t run across an estimate like that. I thought the only historical adjunct for dust mitigation was the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 and we certainly didn’t have accurate measurement of snowpack back then. We do know that the act lowered dust levels.

    Update: Gil Rudawsky got back to me with a paragraph from their report, I believe, it’s unclear from his email. At any rate the text reads, “By implementing measures to reduce the accumulation of dust on snow, lower evaporative losses are anticipated.”

    I told him that it’s a long way from “anticipated” to wet water. No one even knows if we can successfully implement dust-on-snow mitigation to the extent needed to back up their number. It’s just a little careless on their part.

    As an aside they also have a weather modification number in their totals. I have not been apprised of solid data from cloud-seeding efforts. That being said many large water providers set aside substantial funds each year for projects.

    I think everyone nowadays agrees that river health should be right up there when setting policy so I think that is one good takeaway from the report.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    The undefined transmountain diversion to be addressed by the Colorado Water plan would be unnecessary under conservation proposals that would keep more water in the Colorado River, two environmental organizations said.

    Five proposals listed by the organizations in “The Hardest Working River” could be of immediate and long-term benefit to the river, said Bart Miller of Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, which issued the report along with American Rivers, which releases an annual report listing endangered rivers.

    Conservation measures “absolutely” could offset the need for new storage in the river, said Matt Rice, director of Colorado conservation for American Rivers, in a conference call with reporters.

    “We’re having a hard enough time keeping waters in the reservoirs as it is” without a new one, Rice said.

    Augmenting Colorado’s water supply from outside sources also wouldn’t help, Rice said, dismissing the idea of new pipes and water projects to deliver water into the state.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board is moving ahead on the task of drafting a statewide water plan.

    Front Range water providers have floated the idea of a new transmountain diversion, but have offered no information as to where it might be located. One proposal calls for water to be diverted only during years with heavy runoff.

    Two dozen transmountain diversions now send as many as 600,000 acre feet of water to the east side of the Continental Divide.

    Colorado and the other upper Colorado River basin states are required to send at least 7.4 million acre feet of water per year to Arizona, Nevada and California. Five solutions that American Rivers and Western Resource Advocates are suggesting “would go a long ways toward meeting the needs in the future,” Miller said.

    Taken together, the proposals could keep 4.4 million acre feet in the river, Miller said.

    The proposals call for conservation and reuse of municipal water, with both more efficient fixtures and reduced irrigation of lawns and other outside uses; greater agricultural efficiency and water banking.

    Further, the proposal calls for more efficient water use by the energy industry and the use of rooftop solar and wind sources; and the removal of water-guzzling invasive plants such as tamarisk.

    Xeriscape landscape

    Xeriscape landscape

    From Colorado Public Radio (Ana Hanel):

    The goal is not to divert water from one area to another, said American Rivers’ Matt Rice.

    “We deliberately don’t address and don’t believe that the right approach is with new pipelines and new large-scale water projects, because they’re significantly more expensive,” Rice says.

    The report says millions of people’s drinking water is at risk over the next few decades if demand continues to outpace the Colorado River’s water supply.

    It’ll be important over the next few years for communities to continue to encourage water conservation, said Bart Miller of Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates.

    “We can look to having landscapes that use more native vegetation, that are smaller in size,” Miller says. “We can greatly decrease the amount of water that’s used outside, which is about half of the water use for most metropolitan areas.”

    Miller said it’ll be important to replicate successful conservation and water-reuse programs in cities throughout the southwest.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Pop quiz — perceptions of water use

    July 19, 2014

    Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

    By Lindsay Weber, Denver Water demand planner

    promolabel_blue_lookPop quiz: Why is it important to know how much water different activities use — like flushing a toilet or taking a shower?

    Answer: Because knowledge is power, and if you know how much water you are using, you can also figure out how much water you can save.

    So, are you up for the challenge? Below are questions about common household indoor uses of water. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or if you don’t think that they have a major impact on your daily water use, you’re not alone. A recent national study shows that Americans are likely to underestimate the amount of water used by various activities by a factor of two, and are likely to greatly underestimate activities that use a lot of water — such as filling a swimming pool.

    Take the challenge:

     Answers:

    1) B

    In 2011, Denver Water conducted a residential water use study and found that the toilets in our service area have a median volume of 2.4 gallons of water per flush. To save water, you can flush less, but you can also use Denver Water’s rebate program to offset the purchase of a WaterSense-labeled toilet that uses as little as 1.28 or even 1.0 gallons per flush. This is especially important if you have an old, water-guzzling toilet from before 1996 that can use three or more gallons per flush. In…

    View original 276 more words


    Eating the #ColoradoRiver shortage elephant, one bite at a time — John Fleck

    July 19, 2014
    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

    John Fleck lays out a strategy to reduce the long-term shortage on the Colorado. Here’s his report from Inkstain. Here’s an excerpt:

    This line from a paper a few years back by Edella Schlager and Tanya Heikkila may seem obvious, but in the context of current discussions over the future of Colorado River management, it bears repeating:

    A water allocation rule that allocates more water than is available in a river is not well matched to its setting.

    Yup. That in a nutshell is the problem highlighted by this oft-revisited Bureau of Reclamation slide demonstrating how the Lower Colorado River Basin’s water budget works. Everyone here is following the rules, living within their legal allocation, and Lake Mead keeps dropping because the Law of the River has allocated more water than is available in the river.

    This is the critical thing to understand as we see the beginnings of the new “Colorado River System Conservation Program” taking shape, which would create a framework to pay farmers to leave water in the river. It’s not enough to simply save water. The way we go about it must be embedded within, and take into account, the rules governing allocation and distributions of Colorado River water…

    The 1990-2003 experience suggests that the water conservation piece of this may be the easy part. As a nice new Western Resource Advocates white paper explains, we know how to conserve the water. The key piece here, and the reason the System Conservation Program is so interesting and important, is that we need to get the water allocation rules and river management policies right in order to cause those conservation savings to happen.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


    Northern Water opts for gradual rate increase — Fort Collins Coloradoan

    July 18, 2014
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will increase the cost of its water step-by-step over 2016 and 2017, which will mean 28 percent cost increase per year for cities like Fort Collins.

    The district’s board came to a decision about the rate increases on July 11, after months of considering the best way to hike prices to balance out the district’s budget. The board initially considered a more than 40 percent increase in 2016, but decided to compromise with cities and other water users concerned that such drastic increases would harm their finances.

    Fort Collins Utilities, which now gets the bulk of its water from the district, says that in the short term customers’ utility rates will not be affected…

    For 2015, allotment prices for cities were set at $30.50 per acre foot, up from $28. While that cost will only increase for cities over the next few years, irrigators will face a 61 percent increase in allotment costs in 2016 and 2017.

    Fort Collins Utilities directly owns 18,855 units in addition to about 14,000 units it leases from the North Poudre Irrigation Co. But, in terms of actual use for 2014, the city has used 14,900 acre feet of water since Nov. 1, when the water year begins.

    After the High Park Fire, Utilities became even more reliant on C-BT water since the Poudre River, the city’s other water source, was filled with fire and flood debris. This year, the city gets about 65 percent of its water from Northern Water, and 35 percent from the Poudre.

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

    Costs are expected to increase every year until 2018, when municipal and industrial C-BT users will be charged $53.10 per unit and agricultural users will be charged $30.20 per unit. That represents a nearly 90 percent increase for municipalities and 202 percent increase for agricultural users.

    The city of Loveland owns 12,118 units of C-BT water, 5,112 of which are fixed at a rate of $1.50 per unit that will not change.

    The increase for Loveland’s remaining 7,006 open-rate units will cost the city about $176,000 more by 2018. Loveland Water and Power staff will budget for the increase in the coming years, senior water resources engineer Larry Howard said.

    “It’s real money, but it’s not something that’s devastating to the utility or something,” Howard said.

    Next year, rates are set to increase by 9 percent. That’s a manageable increase that will not require rate increases for Loveland Water and Power customers, Howard said.

    Whether customers will see an impact from the increase in future years is not known.

    “When we do our cost of service study next year, the cost increase will be taken into account, along with any other changes in our costs,” Utility Accounting Manager Jim Lees said.

    The city of Loveland’s primary two sources of water are the Green Ridge Glade Reservoir and water diverted directly from the Big Thompson River at the Big Dam.

    “We generally rely on those each year and then start filling in with C-BT and Windy Gap water,” Howard said. “It depends on the year and how much we need.”

    Depending on conditions year to year, the city rents C-BT water to farmers, so Howard said that could help to absorb the cost of the rate increases over the next few years.

    Brian Werner, Northern Water’s public information officer, said that the increases are the result of a comprehensive study that started last year.

    “The cost of doing business is going up,” Werner said. “Our management has charged us with looking at where we can control costs.”

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    NOAA: Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

    July 18, 2014

    SOTC2013Cover

    Here’s the latest State of the Climate release from NOAA:

    In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

    Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlights, visuals, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

    “These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

    The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.

    Highlights:

  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.8 ppm in 2013, reaching a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 for the first time since measurements began at the site in 1958. This milestone follows observational sites in the Arctic that observed this CO2 threshold of 400 ppm in spring 2012.
  • Warm temperature trends continued near the Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Sea surface temperatures increased: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.
  • Sea level continued to rise: Global mean sea level continued to rise during 2013, on pace with a trend of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low: The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent reached record high for second year in a row; South Pole station set record high temperature: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.56 million square miles on October 1. This is 0.7 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.51 million square miles that occurred in 2012 and 8.6 percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986. Near the end of the year, the South Pole had its highest annual temperature since records began in 1957.
  • Tropical cyclones near average overall / Historic Super Typhoon: The number of tropical cyclones during 2013 was slightly above average, with a total of 94 storms, in comparison to the 1981-2010 average of 89. The North Atlantic Basin had its quietest season since 1994. However, in the Western North Pacific Basin, Super Typhoon Haiyan – the deadliest cyclone of 2013 – had the highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour.
  • State of the Climate in 2013 is the 24th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The journal makes the full report openly available online.

    “State of the Climate is vital to documenting the world’s climate,” said Dr. Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director. “AMS members in all parts of the world contribute to this NOAA-led effort to give the public a detailed scientific snapshot of what’s happening in our world and builds on prior reports we’ve published.”


    The Lower Ark District approves letter to the EPA about new rule as “water grab”

    July 18, 2014
    Groundwater movement via the USGS

    Groundwater movement via the USGS

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A district formed to protect water in the Lower Arkansas Valley plans to weigh in on proposed rules that some say amount to a federal water grab. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District voted Wednesday to send a formal comment to the Environmental Protection Agency on its proposed Waters of the United States, claiming that it goes too far in regulating wetlands and even groundwater connected to streams.

    The rules are an attempt to resolve conflicting U.S. Supreme Court decisions that center on the issue of “navigable waters.”

    “East of the Mississippi River, all waters may be navigable, but it doesn’t make sense for the arid West,” said Mark Pifher, the Arkansas River basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Quality Commission. Pifher, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive, typically attends Lower Ark meetings to update the Lower Ark on stormwater issues. He recently testified against the rule in Washington, D.C., on behalf of municipal and agricultural water interests.

    Leroy Mauch, the Prowers County director on the Lower Ark board, urged the board to jump into the federal fray.

    “We need to research this and send out a letter objecting to this,” Mauch said.

    Wayne Whittaker, the Otero County director, said the new policy sounds like continuation of years of federal attempts to insert control into state water issues.

    Most water groups in the West have taken a position that the rules are too intrusive. An exception is the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which claims the rules have sufficient exemptions that protect agriculture.

    Some in Congress are backing legislation that would simply not fund enforcement of the policy.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Activities on several fronts are aimed at improving surface sprinkler irrigation in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Several studies are aimed at reducing the obligation of farmers in group plans, known as Rule 10 plans, under state consumptive use rules designed to prevent expanded water use through increased farm efficiencies. Sprinklers have been the most effected by the rules, although drip irrigation, ditch lining and other methods are accounted for as well.

    On Wednesday, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District reviewed its projects that aim at the rules:

    A $70,000 state grant looking at the legal implications of using flood irrigation water rights decreed for the same ground as sprinklers as augmentation water. The district has suggested legislation to allow this, but it so far has not been introduced.

    A $175,000 proposed state grant to determine if tailwater measurements in state irrigation models are too high.

    A $120,000 study to determine if leakage from ponds that supply water to surface-fed sprinklers is too high.

    The goal is to reduce the obligation and find sustainable sources of replacement water, said General Manager Jay Winner.

    “These are parallel paths,” he told the board. “The day is coming when you won’t be able to buy water on the spot market.”

    More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


    Runoff news: 950 cfs in Black Canyon

    July 17, 2014
    Black Canyon via the National Park Service

    Black Canyon via the National Park Service

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    Flows at the Whitewater gage on the lower Gunnison River are right at the baseflow target of 1500 cfs and the forecasts show the river flows trending downward over the next several days. Therefore releases at Crystal will be increased by 100 cfs today, July 17th. This should result in flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon of around 950 cfs.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Despite all the rain last night, we have not seen any operational changes at Pueblo Dam. The rain was largely downstream of the reservoir. Pueblo is still around 60% full and operating normally.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Just a quick update on Granby spill releases.

    We had more rain on the East Slope last night. As a result, we once again shut down diversions through the Adams Tunnel. Without the tunnel pulling water from Granby Reservoir to the east, more water is now being released to the west at Granby Dam to the Colorado River.

    Granby releases bumped up to about 630 cfs. That release is a combination of what is going through the river gate and what is coming over the spillway. The river gate is releasing about 430 cfs; the remainder is coming over the spillway.

    Later this afternoon, the total release is expected to drop down to about 530 cfs. The plan is to maintain the 530 cfs release through the night into tomorrow.


    Drought news: Wetter May and June along with start of the monsoon allow for improvement in New Mexico and Colorado #COdrought

    July 17, 2014

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

    Summary

    During the past 7-days, a series of slow-moving cold fronts traversed the eastern two-thirds of the Nation, triggering numerous and widespread showers and thunderstorms. Areas that recorded over 2 inches of rain for the week included portions of the central Plains, Midwest, Tennessee Valley, lower Delta, the Appalachians, most of Florida, the coastal Carolinas, and the mid-Atlantic. A northward surge of monsoonal moisture into the Southwest brought welcome rainfall to portions of the Four Corners States and Nevada, including more than 2 inches in southern and eastern Arizona, western New Mexico, and eastern Colorado. Unfortunately, hot and dry weather enveloped much of the Far West, including California. In the Northwest, temperatures averaged 8 to 12oF above normal with highs in the 90’s and 100’s, and numerous wild fires were reported. In Puerto Rico, scattered showers fell across the northern and eastern sections of the island, but dry weather prevailed in the southwest as D0 developed there. Scattered showers on Hawaii were enough to maintain conditions.

    Southern and Central Plains

    Similar to the middle Missouri Valley (e.g. Nebraska), southeastward moving thunderstorms dumped heavy rain (>2 inches) on swaths of central Kansas into eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, providing improvement where the greatest rains fell. In central Kansas, D2 replaced D3 as both short and medium-term (to 6-months) surpluses existed. In Oklahoma, D3 and D2 were improved by 1-category in the northeast, D2 was chipped away in central sections, and D0 was eliminated in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. However, the southwestern section of Oklahoma observed dry and warm weather, justifying a small expansion of D2 there. In Texas, it was a relatively dry week, following a wet May and near-normal June. Accordingly, only small changes were made, with a slight reduction of D4 and D2 in the Panhandle, some trimming of the D0 along the western Gulf Coast, and slight downgrades in southwestern, south-central, and extreme south Texas. Although Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop was estimated to be the smallest since 1957 (51 million bushels) and its 17 bushels per acre yield matched 1967 (due to drought and freezes), summer row crops and pastures were rated much better, with the worst conditions in the west. Similarly, Texas crops were doing okay, with oats, cotton, and sorghum rated 28, 23, and 9% poor or very poor, respectively, and pastures and ranges at 22%, generally better off than the past several years.

    Southwest and Great Basin

    With much of California in either D3 or D4 and May-September normally dry, there is not much more room for further deterioration, at least during the dry season. With that said, however, further investigation of the long-term (36-month) deficits in southern California east of San Diego were similar to conditions to the north, along with overall impacts. Therefore, D3 was expanded east of San Diego to include the mountains, and to cities such as Riverside and San Bernardino. With June in the books, NCDC rankings for California for the July 2013-June 2014 period were the warmest and 3rd driest since 1895. The only drier July-June periods were in 1923-24 and 1976-77. This is the first time California experienced 3 consecutive years in the top 20 for dryness: 2011-12 ranked 20th, 2012-13 ranked 18th, and statewide precipitation has averaged 67% of normal during this 3-year period, and was just 56% of normal in 2013-14. Fortunately California’s reservoirs hold more water than they did in 1977 when the state experienced its 4th and 2nd driest years on record from July 1975-June 1977. However, a recent study estimated that this drought will cost California $2.2 billion in 2014, with a loss of over 17,000 agricultural jobs.

    In contrast, a robust start to the July southwest monsoon was seen in parts of the Southwest. More than 2 inches of rain fell on central and southeastern Arizona, much of western and central New Mexico, and most of southern and eastern Colorado. Totals were much lower (<0.5 inches) in southwestern Arizona, southeastern California, most of Nevada and Utah, western Colorado, and southeastern New Mexico. Since this was the first wet week in Arizona, only small improvements were made where the largest rains fell (southern sections). In New Mexico and Colorado, wetter weather back in May and June, plus this week’s rains, allowed for larger and more significant 1-category improvements as both short and medium-term (to 180-days) surpluses existed, albeit somewhat tempered in New Mexico and southeastern Colorado by 2- and 3-year deficits. Fortunately, over 2 inches of rain fell on D4 areas of eastern Crowley, northeastern Otero, and northwestern Bent counties, improving conditions to D3 there, while just to the south, similar totals upgraded conditions from D3 to D2 (southern sections of Otero and Bent and northern Las Animas). Eastern Colorado and adjacent western Kansas also saw a 1-category improvement with additional rains this week. Elsewhere, status-quo prevailed.

    Looking Ahead
    During July 17-21, moderate to heavy rains are expected from the central Rockies southeastward to the lower Delta, and then into the Southeast during Days 6-7. Florida should also see moderate rains. The largest amounts (3 to 6 inches) for the 5-day period are forecast for the Red River Valley and eastward into Arkansas. The West will be seasonably dry, and the southwest monsoon is predicted to be quiet, with only light totals (<0.5 inches) in eastern Arizona and New Mexico. The northern Rockies and Plains, plus the Midwest, should be mostly dry. Subnormal temperatures are forecast for the West Coast and eastern half of the Nation, with above-normal readings expected in the Rockies and northern Plains.

    For the ensuing 5-day period, July 22-26, the odds favor above-median precipitation in the eastern half of the U.S., Pacific Northwest, and northern Alaska, with below-median rainfall likely in the Great Basin, Rockies, High Plains, and south Texas. Temperatures are expected to average below normal in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, but likely to be above-median in the Southwest, Rockies, Plains, Great Lakes region, and New England.


    EPA: Proposed rule to protect clean water — exclusions and exemptions for agriculture will not change

    July 17, 2014

    Fort Morgan kicks in another $45,000 for the Northern Integrated Supply Project

    July 17, 2014
    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    Fort Morgan City Council members unanimously approved an extra $45,000 for the Northern Integrated Supply Project at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

    Many of the necessary reports and studies for the water project are nearly done, but that effort cost more than anticipated, said Brent Nation, water resources and utilities director for the city.

    Fort Morgan had paid the project $90,000 earlier this year, which is essentially the dues for the project, but the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District asked for an adjustment to the dues to pay for the studies that have been done recently, he said.

    The city of Fort Morgan has a 9 percent share of the project, which will come to about 3,600 acre feet of water the city could tap when the NISP reservoirs are completed, Nation said…

    Altogether, NISP is expected to cost $500 million, Nation said, and Fort Morgan’s share would cost $40 million.

    Once the supplemental draft environmental impact statement is done, which could be soon, NISP will begin thinking about starting construction, said Fort Morgan City Manager Jeff Wells…

    Once the environmental impact report is published, there will be a period of public review and public meetings, Nation said.

    There are those who are opposed to the project, and they will come out to say so, he said. However, this will also be an opportunity for supporters to say why they want NISP.

    Nation said it is encouraging to be at this point in the project after 10 years of work.

    Wells said Fort Morgan has spent about $1.2 million on the project over the past 10 years…

    McAlister noted that there are a number of municipalities on the plains that have serious water supply problems, and Fort Morgan must do something or it could have similar problems.

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


    We must make sure Weld County’s voice is heard in water planning effort — The Greeley Tribune #COWaterPlan

    July 17, 2014

    lowersouthplatteriver

    The Greeley Tribune editorial staff weighs in on the Colorado Water Plan:

    We know that readers’ eyes tend to gloss over when we write about water issues in northern Colorado. One almost needs to go through four years of law school, with an emphasis on water law, to truly understand the complicated system that provides water throughout our state.

    But we would strongly suggest that readers should pay attention to the South Platte Basin Roundtable, which is a group of water officials and experts who meet regularly to address water issues and plan for the water future of northeastern Colorado.

    We won’t blame you for being bored by the topic. But the truth is, the availability of water — or the lack thereof — probably will have more to do with the future of our region than any other issue.

    The South Platte water plan is part of a statewide effort, coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is piecing together the South Platte Roundtables plans with seven other roundtables around the state, to create a comprehensive water plan by the end of 2015.

    The South Platte Roundtable’s work outlines how agriculture, cities and industries can coexist in the future. The plan for northeastern Colorado is nearing completion, and probably will be released to the public by late July.

    Once the draft plan is released, the Colorado Conservation Board wants the public’s input. That should be our cue to pay attention and participate.

    The South Platte Basin includes six of the state’s 10 top ag-producing counties, including Weld County, which ranks ninth nationally for its value of production. Three of the other top 10 are also in northeast Colorado in the nearby Republican River Basin, which is impacted by South Platte basin functions.

    Also, eight of the 10 largest cities in Colorado are in the South Platte basin, including Denver and Aurora. That’s why the South Platte and Metro roundtables are combining their implementation plans.

    Because of that, and continued growth along the northern Front Range and in the metro Denver area, the South Platte basin faces the biggest expected water shortages in the state.

    “With each basin having its own interests and each facing its respective challenges, it’s going to be a Herculean effort … to bring all of these together without something getting lost,” said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud, which oversees the largest water-delivery system in northern Colorado and is working to put in place more water-storage projects. “Each basin has put in a lot of time and thought into their plans, and to see something get lost along the way going forward would be tough for any of us.”

    If you only pay attention to one water discussion this summer, make sure this is the one.

    We must make sure our eyes are clear and are voices are loud to help shape the future of Greeley, Weld County and northern Colorado in a real and direct way.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    USGS Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Water Resources Research Act

    July 17, 2014

    Roaring Fork watershed: Robert Woods was named the 2014 River Conservator Award at River Rendezvous last week

    July 16, 2014

    Georgetown: Meter replacement project nearly complete

    July 16, 2014

    Georgetown Colorado

    Georgetown Colorado


    From the Clear Creek Courant (Beth Potter):

    Georgetown is about to complete its water-meter replacement program, and rather than asking homeowners to foot the $550 installation bill, the town took out a loan and got a grant to cover the cost. The town is replacing 660 meters because they were not accurately recording how much water homeowners were using. The town board discussed the issue for two years, trying to determine the best way to foot the cost.

    The town received a $170,000 grant in 2013 from the state Department of Local Affairs and has taken out a loan for $211,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to pay the rest of the cost. The loan is for 30 years at 4.1 percent interest, according to town administrator Tom Hale.

    Residents will repay the debt through increases to their water bills, though Hale is unsure how much the increase will be. The $211,000 loan is part of a larger amount the town has borrowed to pay for renovations to the Georgetown Lake dam. He expects water rates to reflect the entire loan repayment in 2016.

    Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson said having residents pay for the new water meters through small increases in their water bills would be “an easier pill to swallow” for most people.

    The town hired a company from Utah to replace the meters, which will allow a meter reader to drive down the street to collect meter data.

    The primary purpose of replacing the meters, Abrahamson said, is to improve their accuracy and help the town better assess how much water residents actually use.
    More than 87 percent of Georgetown’s 597 water users needed new meters. The radio-read meters cost $400, and installation costs $150. The remaining 75 were installed within the last couple of years and don’t need to be replaced.
    Based on readings from the new meters, the town may determine whether it can lower water rates.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    On this day in 1922, construction began at Grand Coulee Dam as the first shovel of dirt was turned

    July 16, 2014

    Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

    July 16, 2014
    Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 to July 15, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

    Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 to July 15, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

    Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.


    Water Lines: Colorado needs a better water plan — Jim Pokrandt #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

    July 16, 2014


    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jim Pokrandt):

    It’s almost time for football training camps, so here’s a gridiron analogy for Colorado River water policy watchers: Western Colorado is defending two end zones. One is the Colorado River. The other is agriculture. The West Slope team has to make a big defensive play. If water planning errs on the side of overdeveloping the Colorado River, the river loses, the West Slope economy loses and West Slope agriculture could be on the way out.

    This is how the Colorado River Basin Roundtable is viewing its contribution to the Colorado Water Plan ordered up by Gov. John Hickenlooper. A draft plan will be submitted this December and a final plan in December 2015. The Roundtable is assessing local water supply needs and environmental concerns for inclusion into the plan and there is plenty of work to consider in the region. But the big play may very well be the keeping of powerful forces from scoring on our two goal lines.

    Here’s why: Colorado’s population is slated to double by 2050. Most of it will be on the Front Range, but our region is growing too. Mother Nature is not making any new water. We still depend on the same hydrological cycle that goes back to Day 1. So where is the “new” water going to come from? Right now, there seems to be two top targets, the Colorado River and agriculture (where 85 percent of state water use lies in irrigated fields). Colorado needs a better plan.

    The Colorado Basin Roundtable represents Mesa, Garfield, Summit, Eagle, Grand and Pitkin counties. This region already sends between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water annually across the Continental Divide through transmountain diversions (TMDs) to support the Front Range and the Arkansas River Basin.

    That water is 100 percent gone. There are no return flows, such as there are with West Slope water users. On top of that, this region could see another 140,000 acre feet go east. A number of Roundtable constituents have long-standing or prospective agreements with Front Range interests wrapped around smaller TMDs. Existing infrastructure can still take some more water. That’s the scorecard right now. We assert another big TMD threatens streamflows and thus the recreational and agricultural economies that define Western Colorado, not to mention the environment.

    In the bigger picture, the Colorado River Compact of 1922 requires Colorado to bypass about 70 percent of the river system to the state line to comply with legal limits on depletions so six other states can have their legal share of the water. Failure to do so, by overdeveloping the river, threatens compact curtailments and chaos nobody wants to see. For one thing, that kind of bad water planning could result in a rush to buy or condemn West Slope agricultural water rights.

    The Roundtable has heard these concerns loudly and clearly from its own members across the six counties as well as from citizens who have given voice to our section of the water plan, known as the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP). A draft of the BIP can be viewed and comments offered by going online to http://coloradobip.sgm‐inc.com/. It is under the “Resources” tab.

    Jim Pokrandt is Colorado Basin Roundtable Chair.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Colorado Water Congress webinar — today: The Story of SB-023 #COleg

    July 16, 2014
    Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

    Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

    From the Colorado Water Congress:

    SB14-023, Transfer Water Efficiency Savings to Instream Use, more commonly known as the “Ag Efficiency Bill” gained both controversy and publicity during the 2014 legislative session. On July 16th from 12:00 to 1:30 pm, the Colorado Water Congress will offer an informational webinar providing factual overview of the bill’s contents, intention, and process.

    The presentation will include an introduction from the bill sponsor, Senator Gail Schwartz, an overview of the bill from Kevin Rein, Deputy State Engineer, and a narration of the bill’s long journey with Bruce Whitehead of Southwestern Water Conservation District and Aaron Citron of the Environmental Defense Fund. This is a not-to-miss opportunity whether you want to learn the facts about SB14-023 or you just want to better understand how a bill becomes a law.

    Click here to register.


    Forest Service ‘Groundwater Directive’ prompts questions from Western Governors on state authority, science

    July 16, 2014
    Fen photo via the USFS

    Fen photo via the USFS

    From the Western Governors Association:

    Western Governors have expressed concern to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the United States Forest Service’s (USFS) recent Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management.

    Western states are the exclusive authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing groundwater resources, and they are responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries. That authority was recognized by Congress in the Desert Land Act of 1877 and reasserted in a 1935 Supreme Court ruling.

    Despite that background, the Proposed Directive only identifies states as “potentially affected parties” and asserts that the proposed actions would “not have substantial direct effects on the states.”

    An initial review of the Proposed Directive, however, leads Western Governors to believe that this measure could have significant implications for states and their groundwater resources. (Read our letter)

    As a result, the Governors are requesting that USFS seek “authentic partnership” with the states to help achieve policies that reflect both the legal division of power and the on-the-ground realities of the region. In addition, the letter from the Western Governors’ Association — signed by WGA Chairman and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Vice Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — also asks a number of questions, including:

  • Given the legislative and legal context, what is the legal basis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and USFS assertion of federal authority in the context of the Proposed Directive?
  • How will USFS ensure that the Proposed Directive will not infringe upon, abrogate, or in any way interfere with states’ exclusive authority to allocate and administer rights to the use of groundwater?
  • How will definitions be established, particularly regarding the definition of “groundwater-dependent ecosystems?” Will states be able to weigh in with information regarding the unique hydrology within certain areas?
  • To read all of the Western Governors’ questions, download our letter.

    More groundwater coverage here.


    CWCB: Basin implementation plan presentations will dominate today’s board meeting agenda #COWaterPlan

    July 16, 2014
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Plans that detail the needs of water users in each of the state’s eight river basins and the Denver metro area will be studied today by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The board, meeting in Rangely, will spend the entire day looking at the plans, beginning with the Arkansas River basin.

    The CWCB also will look at the Interbasin Compact Committee’s Conceptual Agreement.

    All of those reports feed into a state water plan that was ordered last year by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper has asked the CWCB to have a draft plan on the governor’s desk in December, whether he or Republican nominee Bob Beauprez is elected in November.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable held about 20 meetings during the last three months soliciting comments. It looks at how to meet the urban gap in the Arkansas River basin while preserving agricultural, recreational and environmental water interests.

    Most of the urban gap is driven by growth in El Paso County.

    More meetings on the state water plan also are planned by the Legislature’s Interim Water Resources Committee. It will have its public outreach meeting in Pueblo from 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 29 at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

    July 16, 2014
    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs will be taking a more regional approach and looking at risk factors as it develops its 50-year water plan. That’s a shift from the 1996 water resources plan that focused solely on supply and led to Southern Delivery System, said Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities.

    “We are seriously evaluating the timing of future SDS components,” Gracely told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday.

    Utilities is updating the plan that will determine its actions in water development after SDS comes online in 2016. The plan will look at watershed health, fire vulnerability and climate change, as well as social values and tradeoffs. It also will incorporate traditional factors like water supply, demand and quality.

    “Because of changes in technology and software, we can run thousands of scenarios through our models,” Gracely said.

    Another key difference is that Colorado Springs Utilities is not planning on building another $1 billion pipeline as a result of this plan, but more carefully evaluating its options after SDS.

    “It’s a completely blank page,” Gracely said. “But it will have no effect on SDS phase I.”

    The first phase is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, served by three pump stations and a treatment plant. The second phase of SDS includes the construction of two reservoirs on Williams Creek southeast of Colorado Springs.

    Water board members Tom Autobee and Kevin McCarthy questioned Gracely on what conservation measures Colorado Springs envisions in order to cut demand. Reduced water use after the 2002 drought has been complemented by a tiered rate structure that makes expanded water use more costly, he explained. Colorado Springs also has dropped minimum landscaping requirements that at one time would have encouraged greater water use.

    “What is your telescope telling you about West Slope imports?” McCarthy asked.

    “Warmer weather is what we’re expecting,” Gracely replied. “Half the (climate) models are showing it will be wetter, and half drier, but they all say it will be warmer.”

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


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

    July 16, 2014
    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.


    NOAA’s Climatic Data Center National Overview for June 2014 is hot off the presses

    July 15, 2014

    significantclimateeventsjune2014noaa
    Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:

    Climate Highlights — June

  • The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during June was 69.6°F, 1.1°F above the 20th century average, ranking as the 33rd warmest June in the 120-year period of record. The average maximum (daytime) June temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 81.8°F, 0.4°F above the 20th century average, while the average minimum (nighttime) June temperature was 57.4°F, 1.7°F above the 20th century average, tying as the 10th warmest June minimum temperature.
  • Above-average June temperatures were observed along the East Coast and into the Midwest. The Southwest was also warmer than average, where Arizona and California both had their 11th warmest June on record. No state had a top 10 warm June.
    Near-average June temperatures were observed from the central Gulf Coast, through the Central Plains, and into the Northwest. Below-average temperatures were observed in the Northern Rockies and parts of the Northern Plains. No state had a top 10 cool June.
  • Interestingly, in much of the Lower Mississippi Valley and mid-South, afternoon temperatures were below average, while nighttime temperatures were much above average. This likely reflects a relatively wet and cloudy summer month acting to moderate both afternoon and overnight temperatures.
  • The June national precipitation total was 3.62 inches, 0.69 inch above the 20th century average, marking the sixth wettest June on record, and the wettest since 1989.
  • A significant portion of the contiguous U.S. — parts of the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and the Great Plains — had above-average precipitation during June. Eight states had one of their 10 wettest Junes on record, with Minnesota being record wet for the month. The 7.75 inches of precipitation averaged across Minnesota was 3.64 inches above the 20th century average, marking the wettest month of any month for the state, surpassing July 1897 and June 1914 when 7.32 inches of precipitation was observed. In Canton, South Dakota, 19.65 inches of precipitation fell during June, setting a new record among all months for any location in the state, according to the South Dakota State Climatologist.
  • Below-average June precipitation was observed in the Southwest, across parts of the coastal Southeast, and southern New England. Arizona tied its third driest June on record, with 0.01 inch of precipitation, 0.28 inch below the 20th century average; only June 1916 and 1951 were drier.
  • Alaska was much wetter than average during June with a statewide precipitation total 53 percent above the 1971-2000 average, the second wettest June for the state. The wettest June occurred in 1980 when the monthly precipitation was 74 percent above average. Juneau and Fairbanks each had their wettest June on record, while Anchorage had its second wettest.
  • According to the July 1 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 34.0 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 3.3 percent compared to the beginning of June.
  • Beneficial rain improved drought conditions by one to three categories across parts of the Midwest and the Central and Southern Plains. Nebraska, which had its fourth wettest June, saw dramatic drought improvement.
  • Warm and dry conditions in parts of the West led to scattered locations experiencing worsening drought conditions. In California, the percent area of the state experiencing exceptional drought, the worst category, expanded to 36.5 percent, up over 11 percent since early June. In the East, abnormally dry conditions expanded in the Tennessee River Valley and southern New England.
    Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during June was 33 percent above average and the 25th highest in the 1895-2014 period of record.
  • There were more record cool high temperature records (676) than record warm high temperature records (391), but warm nighttime temperatures dominated with more record warm low temperatures (1257) than record cold low temperatures (344). When aggregated together, there were more than one and a half times as many record warm daily highs and lows (1648) as record cold daily highs and lows (1020).

  • Northern Water board approves rate increase #ColoradoRiver

    July 15, 2014
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    A number of share holders in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — the largest water-supply project in northern Colorado — will see assessment costs sharply increase during the next few years, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board recently decided.

    Although the numbers aren’t set in stone and are subject to change, the board on Friday approved a general outline that over time increases open-assessment fees for municipal and industrial water users from $28 this year to $53.10 by 2018, and increases those fees for agricultural users from $10 this year to $30.20 per unit by 2018.

    The increases won’t apply to those who own fixed-assessment C-BT shares. Those who bought shares before 1959 and still own those shares still pay a fixed assessment of $1.50 per unit. The majority of the city of Greeley’s C-BT shares, for example, are fixed-assessment shares, and won’t be impacted by the changes, according to Brian Werner, public information officer with Northern Water.

    The recently approved uptick for open assessments was made to keep up with the always-increasing expenses at Northern Water, Werner said, noting that the uptick in wildfire-mitigation efforts, water-quality measures and overall regulation, among other expenses, are making it more and more pricey to deliver water from the C-BT’s high-mountain reservoirs to its users across northern Colorado.

    “It’s just another example of how water is getting more and more expensive. There’s no getting around it,” Werner said, noting that, despite Northern Water continuing its efforts to reduce operating costs, the increase in open assessments was needed.

    Increases in water costs are nothing new for users in the state, particularly in northern Colorado, where rapid population growth along the Front Range, large ag use and increased oil-and-gas production have sharply increased demand for water.

    And as supplies have tightened, prices have skyrocketed.

    In January 2013, the price of a water unit in the C-BT Project was about $9,500. Now it’s well over $20,000 per unit.

    But while costs are increasing, Northern water officials stress that, in the global picture, C-BT users are still getting a good deal on good water.

    Werner noted that 1,000 gallons of water is still being delivered to C-BT share holders “for pennies.”

    The C-BT Project collects and delivers on average more than 200,000 acre feet of water each year (about 65 billion gallons). Most of this water is the result of melting snow in the upper Colorado River basin west of the Continental Divide. The project transports the water to the East Slope via a 13.1-mile tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park.

    C-BT water flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land and 860,000 people in portions of eight counties within Northern Water boundaries, according to Northern Water data.

    More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Garfield County Commissioners approve deep injection well

    July 15, 2014
    Deep injection well

    Deep injection well

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Garfield County commissioners on Monday approved an oil and gas wastewater injection well near Battlement Mesa after the company responded to concerns that it could trigger earthquakes.

    Duke Cooley, senior geologist at Ursa Resources, told commissioners there’s been no correlation between oil and gas injection wells and earthquakes in northwest Colorado’s Piceance Basin.

    The Battlement Concerned Citizens group and the Battlement Mesa Service Association, a homeowners group for the unincorporated community, had raised the seismic issue amid mounting concern about an apparent correlation between oil and gas injection wells and earthquakes in several states. Last month, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission suspended operation of an injection well in Weld County after a 3.4 magnitude earthquake struck in the Greeley area May 31, followed by smaller quake in June.

    “It was a wake-up call. It was the first seismic event there in 30 years,” Doug Saxton of Battlement Concerned Citizens told Garfield commissioners.

    He cited what he said is a lack of adequate earthquake monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey.

    “Nothing under 4.0 (magnitude) really gets their attention,” Saxton said.

    Monitoring sites

    He said the agency’s closest monitoring site is 75 miles from Greeley, and the nearest to Battlement Mesa is in the Paradox Valley. He called for the installation of monitoring equipment in the Battlement area and for Ursa to cease injection activity if a quake occurs.

    But Cooley said a local monitoring station isn’t necessary because Geological Survey equipment can detect quakes of less than 1 magnitude hundreds of miles away.

    Garfield County already has 60 approved injection wells, and injection has occurred in 26 of them since 2013, according to the county’s oil and gas liaison, Kirby Wynn. Saxton said Ursa’s would be the seventh within 10 miles of Battlement Mesa.

    Cooley said seismic activity occurs where there has been geological folding, which in the case of the Piceance Basin is around its margins.

    He also said quakes can occur when water is added that reduces friction along a fault plane where geological compression is occurring, in places like Greeley and Oklahoma. The Piceance Basin, by contrast, is now undergoing geological relaxation after previously having been “folded up,” he said.

    State oversight

    Garfield County has surface authority over injection wells but the state oil and gas commission regulates technical “downhole” aspects of the wells such as injection pressure. Lindy Gwinn of Grand Junction, who consults for the industry, told Garfield commissioners Monday, “I can assure you they turn them down when they are not technically correct and there is any risk.”

    She noted that the commission recently did just that in Mesa County. In 2012 it turned down a proposal for an injection well southeast of Grand Junction out of concern it could contaminate ground and surface water due to its shallow depth, and possibly induce earthquakes at the U.S. Department of Energy’s uranium mill tailings disposal site a few miles away.

    That well would have been less than 2,000 feet deep. Ursa’s would be more than a mile deep.

    In agreeing to approve the well, Garfield Commissioner Mike Samson said, “The COGCC, they kind of go over these injection wells with a fine-tooth comb. … I have faith in the COGCC and their very strict regulations that they have.”

    Commissioner Tom Jankovsky agreed, and said if seismic activity did occur in the area, the county would ask companies to cease all injections until the cause could be determined.

    He also encouraged Ursa to install pipelines to the injection well as soon as possible to reduce truck traffic. Ursa officials indicated they hope to do that soon, and that reduced traffic resulting from being able to inject wastewater rather than otherwise dispose of it would be one of the benefits of the well.

    Said Monique Speakman, who supports the proposal and lives on the property where the well will be operated, “It’s going to eliminate truck traffic, noise, dust levels.”

    Battlement Mesa resident Mary Haygood said she had been concerned about both the truck traffic and seismic aspects of the well, but told Ursa officials Monday, “You have allayed my fears somewhat by your explanation and I thank you for that.”

    Ursa already has spent $2 million to drill the well. It needed to do that to do testing required by the oil and gas commission before it can approve the well. The agency is continuing to review the proposal.

    More oil and gas coverage here.


    CPW: Cherry Creek State Park is proud to host Lake Appreciation Day 2014

    July 15, 2014

    lakeappreciationday2014cherrycreekstatepark

    More Cherry Creek watershed coverage here.


    The Last Drop: America’s Breadbasket Faces Dire Water Crisis — NBC News

    July 15, 2014
    Significant portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest bodies of water in the United States, are at risk of drying up if it continues to be drained at its current rate. Courtesy of MSU

    Significant portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest bodies of water in the United States, are at risk of drying up if it continues to be drained at its current rate. Courtesy of MSU

    From NBCNews.com (Brian Brown):

    The scope of this mounting crisis is difficult to overstate: The High Plains of Texas are swiftly running out of groundwater supplied by one of the world’s largest aquifers – the Ogallala. A study by Texas Tech University has predicted that if groundwater production goes unabated, vast portions of several counties in the southern High Plains will soon have little water left in the aquifer to be of any practical value.

    The Ogallala Aquifer spreads across eight states, from Texas to South Dakota, covering 111.8 million acres and 175,000 square miles. It’s the fountain of life not only for much of the Texas Panhandle, but also for the entire American Breadbasket of the Great Plains, a highly-sophisticated, amazingly-productive agricultural region that literally helps feed the world.

    This catastrophic depletion is primarily manmade. By the early eighties, automated center-pivot irrigation devices were in wide use – those familiar spidery-armed wings processing in a circle atop wheeled tripods. This super-sized sprinkler system allowed farmers to water crops more regularly and effectively, which both significantly increased crop yields and precipitously drained the Ogallala.

    Compounding the drawdown has been the nature of the Ogallala itself. Created 10 million years ago, this buried fossil water is–in many places—not recharged by precipitation or surface water. When it’s gone, it’s gone for centuries…

    “The depletion of the Ogallala is an internationally important crisis,” says Burke Griggs, Ph.D., consulting professor at the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University. “How individual states manage the depletion of that aquifer will obviously have international consequences.”[...]

    “We’re headed for a brick wall at 100 miles per hour,” says James Mahan, Bruce Spinhirne’s father-in-law and a plant physiologist at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service lab in Lubbock. “And, really, the effects of climate change are branches hitting the windshield along the way.”

    From NBCNews.com (Brian Brown):

    Last August, in a still-echoing blockbuster study, Dave Steward, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Kansas State University, informed the $15 billion Kansas agricultural economy that it was on a fast track to oblivion. The reason: The precipitous, calamitous withdrawal rates of the Ogallala Aquifer.

    The Ogallala is little known outside this part of the world, but it’s the primary source of irrigation not just for all of western Kansas, but the entire Great Plains. This gigantic, soaked subterranean sponge – fossil water created 10 million years ago – touches eight states, stretching from Texas all the way up to South Dakota, across 111.8 million acres and 175,000 square miles.

    The Ogallala supports a highly-sophisticated and amazingly-productive agricultural region critical to the world’s food supply. With the global population increasing, and as other vital aquifers suffer equally dramatic declines, scientists acknowledge that if the farmers here cannot meet ever-growing food demands, billions could starve.

    Steward’s study predicted that nearly 70 percent of the portion of the Ogallala beneath western Kansas will be gone in 50 years. He’s not the kind of person to shout these results; he speaks slowly and carefully. Yet, he has the evident intensity of one who’s serving a greater purpose. “We need to make sure our grandkids and our great grandkids have the capacity to feed themselves,” he says.

    Now the chief executive of the state, himself from a farming family, is using Steward’s report as a call to action.

    “One of the things we [have] to get over … is this tragedy of the commons problem with the Ogallala,” says Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican who at age 29 was the youngest agriculture secretary in state history. “It’s a big common body of water. It’s why the oceans get overfished … You have a common good and then nobody is responsible for it.”

    “That’s one of the key policy issues that you have to get around,” Brownback says in his roomy, towering office at the capitol in Topeka. “Everyone has to take care of this water.”

    In that spirit, a tiny legion of farmers and landowners in the northwest corner of Kansas, where the Rockies begin their rise, have just begun year two of what could be one of the most influential social experiments of this century.

    The group is only 125 in number but controls 63,000 acres of prime farmland in Sheridan County. Collectively, voluntarily, they have enacted a new, stringent five-year water conservation target, backed by the force of law and significant punishments.

    The Local Enhanced Management Act, or LEMA, is the first measure of its kind in the United States. Specifically, the farmers are limiting themselves to a total of 55 inches of irrigated water over five years – an average of 11 inches per year…

    “So now we have the high morality of the need to protect the ecosphere. But it’s legal to rip the tops off mountains. It’s legal to drill in the Arctic. It’s legal to drill in the Gulf. It’s legal to build pipelines. It’s legal to send carbon into the dumping ground called an atmosphere. So we’ve not yet reconciled the high moral with the legal.” [Wes Jackson]

    More Ogallala aquifer coverage here and here.


    Know the facts: Proposed rule to protect clean water — EPA

    July 15, 2014

    More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


    Colorado Water Congress: Initiative 75 withdrawn! #COpolitics

    July 15, 2014

    Click here to go to the CWC Colorado Water Stewardship Project web page.


    Climate change: “The fossil-fuel industry…has been able to delay effective action” — Bill McKibben

    July 15, 2014

    Inylchek Glacier Kyrgyzstan

    Inylchek Glacier Kyrgyzstan


    Here’s an essay about the risk of doing nothing about climate change from Allen Best writing for The Mountain Town News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    Bill McKibben, a writer and activist, has made the most cogent arguments. Two years ago, after crunching the numbers, he concluded that private companies own five times more carbon in the ground than the world can possibly absorb. “On current trajectories, the industry will burn it, and governments will make only small whimpering noises about changing the speed at which it happens,” he wrote in an essay titled “A Call to Arms” that was published in the June 8 issue of Rolling Stone.

    He identifies a clear problem. “The fossil-fuel industry, by virtue of being perhaps the richest enterprise in human history, has been able to delay effective action, almost to the point where it’s too late,” he wrote. [ed. emphasis mine]

    McKibben’s 350.org has been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, which would export Alberta’s bitumen to refineries along the Gulf Coast. It’s largely a symbolic fight, as Michael Levi points out in his book The Power Surge. The tar/oil sands would, if fully developed, elevate atmospheric concentrations of C02 by 60 ppm. At current rates of tar/oil sands mining, that would take 3,000 years, he says. Isolating the climate debate to Alberta’s bitumen, he says, is a mistake.

    But Keystone XL represents business as usual. We need accelerated change. The United States should follow the lead of British Columbia in levying a carbon tax. My impression of B.C.’s tax is that it not precisely the best model. We need a revenue-neutral tax, accelerating over time, giving the private sector clear market signals to instigate changes.

    Henry Paulson, the former treasury secretary in the Bush years, made this case in an 1,800-word essay in the New York Times on June 22. A few days later, a group that includes Paulson, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Stanford’s George Schultz, who is another former treasury secretary, and a number of other high-profile individuals — including billionaire Tom Steyer — released a report titled “The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.”

    More climate change coverage here and here.


    Energy Fuels sells the Piñon Ridge uranium plant site

    July 14, 2014
    Piñon Ridge uranium plant site

    Piñon Ridge uranium plant site

    From the Denver Business Journal (Caitlin Hendee):

    Energy Fuels, which previously had plans to build the nation’s first new uranium mill in 30 years, sold its Piñon Ridge license and several other assets in Western Colorado.

    The Toronto, Canada-based company (TSE: EFR) that has an office in Lakewood bought a large quantity of land in the western part of the state almost five years ago.
    Colorado in May gave the mill the required “radioactive materials handling” license, but company spokesperson Curtis Moore told the DBJ that Energy Fuels wouldn’t begin construction until “market conditions warrant.”

    The company would also need an “air permit” from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to begin the $150 million project.

    The mill has been an area of hot debate for environmental activists, who in March sued the U.S. Forest Service to stop the government from allowing the mill to be built near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

    Energy Fuels instead diverted plans to build it in Montrose County.

    But the company said it has entered into agreements to sell the license and the Piñon Ridge mill to a private investor group managed by Baobab Asset Management LLC and George Glasier.

    Glasier served as president from 2006 until March of 2010.

    The company said the sale also includes mining assets — such as the Sunday Complex, the Willhunt project, the Sage Mine, the Van 4 mine, the Farmer Girl project, the Dunn project and the San Rafael project — all located along the Colorado-Utah border.

    More nuclear coverage here and here.


    EPA’s efforts to clarify the Clean Water Act upsets some Colorado farmers — Colorado Public Radio

    July 14, 2014

    From Colorado Public Radio (Lesley McClurg):

    “It does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and is consistent with the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” the EPA says.

    Yet the proposal is under attack by some the agriculture industry. The National Milk Producers Federation and the American Farm Bureau say the proposal could threaten farming, ranching, homebuilding and energy production.

    Colorado Farm Bureau president Don Shawcroft worries that the changes could apply to small streams or ditches that cross his ranch in the San Luis Valley.

    “There are many places where that water is diverted into farmer lands from the Rio Grande in the San Luis Valley,” he says. “Because there’s that nexus — that connection — then it is subject to all of the rules in the Clean Water Act, including whether I can put a fence across that ditch; whether I can use herbicides or pesticides. Those are the types of pertinent implications that greatly concern us.”

    EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has been visiting farms throughout the country in an effort to further dialogue about the proposal. The EPA is taking comments on the proposed rule through October.

    More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


    Where our water comes from — Fort Collins Coloradoan

    July 14, 2014

    Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012

    Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012


    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    With Colorado’s water year at its mid-July end and many Northern Colorado reservoirs still flush with the bounty of a plentiful water year, water woes of years past have turned into discussions of how the state will store water in the future.

    In the coming months, the Army Corps of Engineers will release an updated study on the Northern Water Conservancy District’s proposal to expand its water storage capacity near Fort Collins. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build Glade Reservoir northwest of the city, bringing a new reservoir larger than Horsetooth Reservoir to the area.

    Before the release of the study reignites the battle over the potential environmental impacts of expanding Northern Colorado’s water storage capacity, we look at where Fort Collins gets the water that provides the basis for everything from the natural resources residents enjoy to the craft beer they drink…

    Before the High Park Fire, which burned more than 87,000 acres of the Poudre watershed, Fort Collins Utilities split its water sources between the project and the river. But the Poudre’s water has since become filled with fire and flood debris, which prompted a total shutdown of river water for Fort Collins customers.

    Time and the September 2013 floods have cleaned out the river, but the city is still mostly reliant on the C-BT project for more than 60 percent of its water each year.

    Fundamentally, snowmelt fills the many reservoirs in the C-BT project. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which helps manage the project, delivers a certain amount of water to cities like Fort Collins as well as farmers and irrigators — all of whom own hundreds or thousands of acre-feet of the project’s water…

    Here’s a look at where our water comes from.

    THE WESTERN SLOPE

    The water that feeds Colorado — and a vast swath of the nation — begins its downward flow from the Continental Divide high in the Rocky Mountains. In order to harness water that otherwise would flow to the Pacific Ocean, water managers created a vast network of reservoirs, tunnels and canals to reroute Western Slope water to Colorado’s more populous Front Range.

    LAKE GRANBY

    For Fort Collins, and much of the northern Front Range, this is where it all begins. Snowmelt fills this Western Slope reservoir, and the water from it is pumped to Shadow Mountain Reservoir. From there, it’s literally all downhill — gravity pushes water through five reservoirs until it gets to Horsetooth Reservoir, southwest of Fort Collins. This year, due to above-average snowpack, Lake Granby soon will spill over its banks. It can hold up to 540,000 acre-feet of water.

    HORSETOOTH RESERVOIR

    Horsetooth was built along with the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and is a fraction of the size of Lake Granby — it holds about 156,000 acre-feet of water. This is where Fort Collins will get most of its C-BT water, which has traveled through the 13-mile Adams Tunnel, under U.S. Highway 34, and through several reservoirs. Fort Collins Utilities has its only operational water treatment plant at Horsetooth. In 2014, Fort Collins gets about 65 percent of its water from the C-BT project.

    THE CACHE LA POUDRE RIVER

    The Poudre River typically provides Fort Collins with 50 percent of its water. But after the High Park Fire polluted the river, Fort Collins has been forced to shut down its Poudre River sources, sometimes for months. The upper part of the river is considered “wild and scenic” — a federal designation. It is also one of the few remaining dam-free rivers in Colorado. In 2014, Fort Collins gets about 35 percent of its water from the Poudre.

    CARTER LAKE

    Carter Lake is one of many reservoirs that make up the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Some of Fort Collins’ water can come from this reservoir, but not frequently. Other reservoirs in the system include Grand Lake, Mary’s Lake, Lake Estes and Flatiron Reservoir, to name just a few.

    FORT COLLINS

    Treated water coming into Fort Collins comes from a plant near Horsetooth Reservoir. Since Nov. 1, the city has used about 9,700 acre-feet of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and about 5,200 acre-feet from the Poudre River. Before the High Park Fire, the city typically split its water use between the two sources but has since had to use more C-BT water.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Colorado to get $58 milllion in more federal aid for #COflood recovery — The Denver Post

    July 14, 2014
    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

    From The Denver Post (Mark K. Matthews):

    Victims of the deadly floods that ravaged Colorado in September are in line for another $58.2 million in federal aid thanks to an upcoming grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The relief money, which the agency is expected to announce this week, will be available for a broad range of recovery efforts, from fixing homes to repairing local infrastructure.

    And it comes at a time when flood victims across north-central Colorado continue to struggle with the impact of a massive storm that killed at least 10 people and caused more than $3.3 billion in damages, according to disaster officials. An estimated 1,800 homes were destroyed by heavy rains and flooding. Ten months later, nearly 30 families remain in temporary housing, said Tom Schilling, a spokesman for the Colorado Recovery Office.

    “Colorado has pulled together in an incredible way,” Schilling said. “But there still remains a lot to be done to rebuild infrastructure, help families recover and help get economies back on track.”

    That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who jointly announced the new aid money with fellow Colorado Democrat Mark Udall.

    “We knew we’d have a long road to recovery, and we’re making tremendous progress,” said Bennet in a statement.

    The $58.2 million grant adds to the $262.1 million that HUD already has sent to Colorado for recovery efforts, as well as $450 million in federal transportation funding that the state received to deal with storm-caused closures to more than two dozen highways and interstates.

    “This latest allocation is welcome news for Colorado and underscores the critical role HUD has played and will continue to play in helping us to rebuild smarter and stronger,” Udall said.


    Lamar: New water line should deliver higher quality water

    July 14, 2014

    pipeline

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Lamar has completed a new water line that will allow it to deliver cleaner water to customers.

    “We’re meeting our water quality goals by using our southern wells,” Josh Cichocki, Lamar water superintendent, told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable on Wednesday. “Not only did the project help us with water quality, but it helped with efficiency as well.”

    The roundtable approved a $200,000 state grant last year that went toward the $2 million project. Other sources of funding were a $785,000 loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and a $985,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs.

    The project installed 6.5 miles of pipeline in a portion of the well field where pipes had become badly corroded. Completed during a drought, there were no major construction issues, Cichocki said.

    “Our biggest obstacles were wind and tumbleweeds,” he laughed.

    He explained that the southern wells used in the Lamar water system have the lowest measurement of total dissolved solids. That means the water does not require as much treatment to bring up to drinking water quality standards.

    Lamar has gained between 180-250 acre-feet (58.6 million-81.4 million gallons) per year because of the improvements.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Arkansas Basin Roundtable approves $175,000 for tailwater study

    July 14, 2014
    Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

    Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The state is being asked to help fund a study that looks at farmers’ contentions that estimates for return flows to the Arkansas River are inflated. A standard of 10 percent for tailwater — water that sheets off fields during irrigation before it can soak in — is used in mathematical models adopted during the 24-year Kansas v. Colorado U.S. Supreme Court case under the Arkansas River Compact. Those models also affect consumptive use rules that apply to surface water improvements such as sprinklers or drip irrigation.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable last week forwarded a $175,000 grant request to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to determine if that number is too high.

    “Farmers on the Fort Lyon did not believe 10 percent was really happening,” said Leah Martinsson, a lawyer working with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which is applying for the grant.

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    The ditch is more than 100 miles long and irrigates 94,000 acres and usually water short. That increases the likelihood that the estimate of tailwater runoff is too high, since much of the water never makes it back to the river, she explained. The higher the tailwater number, the greater the obligation from farmers to deliver water to the Arkansas River. So, reducing the figure in the group augmentation plans filed with the state would mean a reduction in the amount of replacement water.

    While the concern of Fort Lyon farmers is the model used in the consumptive use rules, it also could affect the hydrologic-institution model that guides Colorado’s obligation from wells.

    “If we are prepared with good technical data, we will go in and try to change the H-I model,” said Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer with the Division of Water Resources.

    It would not be the first attempt to change the model. The state also is funding an ongoing lysimeter study at Rocky Ford to determine if evapotransporation rates in the Arkansas Valley are higher than assumed in the model.

    Another study is looking at whether ponds that feed sprinklers leak more than the model assumes.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    The latest climate briefing from the Western Water Assessment is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

    July 12, 2014

    Upper Colorado River Basin June 2014 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center

    Upper Colorado River Basin June 2014 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center


    Click here to go to the Intermountain West Climate Dashboard website. Here’s an excerpt:

    Highlights

  • June was much drier than average across most of the region, with southern Utah and far southwestern Colorado seeing the driest conditions.
  • With the above-average spring-summer runoff in Wyoming and most of Colorado, reservoir storage there has strongly rebounded. Utah and southwestern Colorado saw below-average runoff, and reservoir storage continues to lag compared to average conditions.
  • The NOAA CPC monthly and seasonal outlooks are tilted towards wetter-than-average conditions for our region for the summer and early fall. The PSD ‘SWcast’ is less optimistic about the monsoon season than the CPC outlooks, showing a dry tilt for most of Utah and Colorado.
  • In the past month, the progression of atmospheric and oceanic conditions towards El Niño status has slowed, but an El Niño event is still expected to emerge by fall.

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