How to tackle brown spots

July 28, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Do you find yourself battling brown spots in your yard all summer long? If so, you’re not alone. Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado says brown spots and weeds are the two most common lawn problems. And more often than not, the underlying cause of both is a faulty sprinkler system.

So, what can you do? ALCC offers the following advice:

Brown spots are really the lawn’s call for help. The grass is stressed and you think it needs more water.

While you may be tempted to turn up the sprinkler system so it waters longer, that won’t solve the problem if the water isn’t getting to that brown spot to begin with.

Many brown spots stem from issues with the sprinkler heads. Here are three common problems with quick fixes to get your system back in order:

Irrigation audit, September 2013 Denver Water conservation technicians Jenelle Rhodes and Rick Alvarado demonstrate how to properly align a…

View original 709 more words


San Luis Valley: Counties oppose endangered species listing for Rio Grande cutthroat

July 28, 2014
Rio Grande cutthroat trout   via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Rio Grande cutthroat trout via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

With a recommendation due by the end of the month whether or not to list Rio Grande cutthroat trout as endangered, local officials are ramping up efforts to prove this species does not need to be listed. The SLV County Commissioners Association, encompassing the six counties in the San Luis Valley, earlier this year joined four other nearby counties in a memorandum of understanding asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to list the RG cutthroat as endangered. On Monday the Valley commissioners, joined by Hinsdale County Commissioner Cindy Dozier and Hinsdale County Attorney Michael O’Loughlin , reaffirmed their desire to do all they can to show Fish and Wildlife the species does not need to be listed because it is already amply protected in this region.

Hinsdale County has taken the fiscal lead on coordinating this effort, enlisting the help of O’Loughlin and consultant Tom Spezze to draft the memorandum of understanding as well as a conservation agreement plan. Dozier told the SLV county officials on Monday the share of each of the 10 participating counties would be about $4,000, if the counties divided up the costs for O’Loughlin’s and Spezze’s work equally. That would cover the work that has been completed to this point (approximately $24,000, about $20,000 for Spezze’s efforts and the remainder for O’Loughlin’s ) plus the work that will be performed from now through January. Dozier said Spezze is offering his time at a reduced rate.

“Both of them have been watching their hours carefully ,” she said.

Dozier said if the costs were split according to occupied habitat for the species, some counties would bear a much greater share than others, and since there will undoubtedly be other species the counties will have to work together on in the future, it would probably be best to just split up the costs equally among them. She said her county officials see this as a wise investment compared to the economic harm this listing could cause the county.

Alamosa County Commissioner Michael Yohn said he saw this type of effort as ongoing since there are many other species that could be potentially listed in the future.

The county commissioners said they would discuss the funding again at their next association meeting in September. The association will hear regional budget requests on September 29. The Valley commissioner association voted on Monday to continue using Hinsdale County as the fiscal agent for this project.

Dozier thanked the counties for signing the memorandum of understanding (MOU.) She said Las Animas County signed a letter of support but not the memorandum of understanding. Other counties involved are San Juan and Archuleta Counties.

“We are all in this boat together,” Dozier said. “It’s important we work together.”

She said each county has a vested interest in whether the RG cutthroat trout are listed or not, so it is vital the counties let their collective voice be heard at the state and ultimately the federal level.

The listing of a species can affect an area that never even had the species, she added. For example, Hinsdale County is included in the Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat even though that species never existed in the county or within 18 miles of it.

O’Loughlin explained the next step after the MOU is a conservation agreement “showing the Fish and Wildlife Service we are doing what we can as local counties to help conserve the species.”

It is a similar process to the one Gunnison County went through on the sage grouse, he said. The conservation agreement brings the local counties to the table to have a voice on the RG cutthroat trout discussion .

O’Loughlin said the next range-wide conservation team meeting is in January and he hoped the counties represented by this conservation plan would be able to participate in that meeting.

Spezze said the recommendation is due the end of this month whether to propose listing RG cutthroat trout as endangered or whether to continue its status as not warranted for listing. Spezze added that whether or not the species is proposed for listing, the 10-county group is still ahead of the curve in developing a conservation strategy.

“It gives us a seat at the table.”

Spezze explained there are two ways to be involved, as a signatory to the conservation effort, which would obligate the group financially , or as a participating entity. Trout Unlimited, for example, is a participating entity but not a signatory.

A participating entity would be showing political support but would not be obligated directly and financially. Saguache County Commissioner Jason Anderson said some folks are discouraged by the efforts against the Gunnison sage-grouse listing that seem to be futile in light of the federal government’s unyielding hand to do whatever it wants, regardless of local input.

“I am hearing a lot of people say we are not going to do anything”until they see what happens with the sage-grouse .”

Spezze said the decision on whether to list the Gunnison sage-grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act is expected by the end of November. In May the D.C. District Court granted a six-month extension to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make the final decision.

O’Loughlin said whatever the decision is, there will likely be legal action afterwards . He said it could be years before the outcome is reached.

Dozier said Gunnison County has told the government if it lists the Gunnison sage-grouse, the county will file a lawsuit.

“Will the states succeed against the feds in a lawsuit ? We don’t know,” she said.

“What do we do in the meantime?” O’Loughlin asked. “I look at it and say we should probably do something.”

He said he believed it would be better to be proactive with the RG cutthroat trout.

Dozier added what the counties are doing now is laying the groundwork for whatever may occur in the future with this species. O’Loughlin said, “I don’t want to give Fish & Wildlife any reason to say you didn’t do anything.”

He added, “My job is to ensure we have done everything we can to be as solid as we can to get the outcome we want, which is an unwarranted decision for each of these species.”

Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen said, “I believe it will end up in court, so everything we have done will show them we have made efforts.”

Rio Grande County Commissioner Pam Bricker said, “I do think we need to move forward and be proactive.”

Saguache County Commissioner Linda Joseph said conservation efforts need to continue, regardless of the Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision. Dozier said O’Loughlin will revise and strengthen the conservation agreement within the next week and send it out to the counties again for their county attorneys’ review and subsequent approval during public meetings.

She also asked for the association’s approval of the conservation agreement once it is finalized.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.


Boulder County: Check out this video about our collaborative Comprehensive Creek Planning Initiative

July 28, 2014

Rain or shine, Colorado State University’s Campus Weather Station celebrated July 28

July 28, 2014
The Fort Collins Weather Station on the Colorado State University campus northwest of Lory Student Center and the Transit Center

The Fort Collins Weather Station on the Colorado State University campus northwest of Lory Student Center and the Transit Center

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Kate Hawthorne Jeracki):

The important scientific contributions of the Colorado State University Campus Weather Station to the City of Fort Collins, the State of Colorado and the nation over the past 125 years will be celebrated on the 17th anniversary of the Spring Creek Flood that devastated campus and the Fort Collins community.
Weather experts will gather at Weather Station on the CSU campus for the presentation of a historic plaque, self-guided tours of the weather station, and a community open house on Monday, July 28, 3-6 p.m. with remarks at 3:30 p.m..

Event is free and open to the public.

“The Weather Station is an historical part of the University,” said State Climatologist Nolan Doesken. “Data collection began near the site of the former ‘Old Main’ in the 1870s. Daily climate records since Jan. 1, 1889, are complete and available in a variety of digital and hardcopy forms, making this one of Colorado‘s oldest weather stations and an incredible scientific resource.”
The Campus Weather Station is next to the CSU Transit Center just northwest of the Lory Student Center, off Plum Street. In case of inclement weather, the event will take place in the atrium of the Suzanne and Walter Scott Jr. Bioengineering Building, northwest of the Weather Station on the corner of Loomis and Laurel streets.

Experts on hand

Among the experts on hand will be Doesken; James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Nezette Rydel, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Boulder; and Jim Wirshborn, longtime weather reporter and CSU weather observer. Mike Nelson, meteorologist with Channel 7 News in Denver, will be the master of ceremonies.

CSU Atmospheric Science graduate students will be available to provide explanations of the various parts of the station.

The commemoration is hosted by the CSU College of Engineering, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado Climate Center and the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station.

Outreach at Colorado State University

Outreach is among the pillars upon which Colorado State University was founded upon and is an effort that continues today through interaction with our Colorado communities and around the globe. CSU’s Commitment to Community is a reflection of the University’s promise of service and engagement to Colorado citizens, executed by providing resources, participating in events, and building community partnerships.


New study from @UCIrvine finds groundwater loss greater threat to western US than understood #ColoradoRiver

July 28, 2014
Groundwater movement via the USGS

Groundwater movement via the USGS

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

While water levels at lakes Mead and Powell have visibly slipped in the current drought, another source, groundwater, is disappearing even more rapidly, according to a satellite study of the Colorado River Basin.

A University of California, Irvine, study posted on the website of the American Geophysical Union said that the three-quarters of the water lost in the basin was drawn from groundwater and noted that the extent of groundwater loss “may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.”

But for some water produced far below the surface in drilling for natural gas and oil, there is no groundwater production on the West Slope, said Jim Pokrandt, who chairs the Colorado River Basin Roundtable.

Other water production from the ground taps return flows making their way to creeks and rivers, Pokrandt said.

What is at issue in the loss of groundwater is the unregulated tapping of groundwater in California, said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

California groundwater “is completely unregulated,” Treese said. “So when drought hits, they turn on the pumps.”

Researchers said they were surprised by the extent to which groundwater appeared to be affected.

“We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” said Stephanie Castle, lead author of the study. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”

The Colorado River, which serves some 40 million people, supplies water to the Colorado Front Range, as well as the populous cities of California, Arizona and Nevada.

Those lower basin states appear to be on their own, for the moment, said Larry Clever, general manager of the Ute Water Conservancy District.

The upper basin of the Colorado is ahead of its requirement to deliver 75 million acre feet of water to the lower basin over 10 years, “so I don’t think they can come back on us” for more water, Clever said.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there is water in the river to be diverted to the Front Range, Clever said.

“The key issue in this thing is that Powell is going down and there is no water to send to the East Slope.”

Lake Powell’s levels are low enough that water managers are concerned that the lake might be unable to generate electricity, a significant factor in deciding how the river will be managed.

The research was led by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists, who used satellite data to gauge changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin that are related to changes in water on and below the surface.

In the period from December 2004 to November 2013, the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of fresh water.

About 41 million acre feet of the loss came from groundwater.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Grand Valley: It’s Our Food, Forests, and Water: A Climate Change Discussion August 4 #ColoradoRiver

July 28, 2014
Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch

Grand Valley Irrigation Ditch

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

A climate change panel discussion set for Aug. 4 at Mesa County Central Library features local experts who will chew over the impact of climate change on the Grand Valley.

The two-hour talk begins at 5:30 p.m.

The panel, titled “It’s Our Food, Forests, and Water: A Climate Change Discussion,” will cover topics such as geology, water and agriculture, library spokesman Bob Kretschman said.

Panelists include:

■ Jay Scheevel, a geologist;

■ Gigi A. Richard, faculty director of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University;

■ Jerry Nelson, agricultural economist and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign;

■ Chris Jauhola, who worked on wildlife and forest health issues for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Scheevel will explain carbon, its uses and impacts. He is the founder and president of Scheevel Geo Technologies, a consulting company that works with Matrix Oil Corp., which is based in Santa Barbara, California.

Richard will look at the implications of climate change on Colorado’s water resources. She teaches several relevant courses at CMU, including “Natural Hazards and Environmental Geology.”

Jauhola will focus on climate change and forest health.

The event, sponsored by Conservation Colorado, Mesa County Libraries and the John McConnell Math and Science Center, is free and open to the public.


The Largest Latino-Themed Environmental Festival to be Held in Colorado this Fall — Latino Post

July 28, 2014

anewshadeofgreenamericaslatinecofestival
From The Latin Post (Nicole Akoukou Thompson):

Non-whites, including Latinos, are disproportionately affected by water and air pollution. Patterns of environmental injustice have shown that toxic waste sites, landfills, congested highways and similar hazards are in close proximity to low-income communities and communities of color, producing health risks.

The largest Latino-themed environmental festival, “A New Shade of Green,” will be held in Colorado this fall to address those concerns; attendees will discuss counter measures and environmental protection, an important issue that’s important to the U.S. Hispanic community.

Twenty-one percent of Colorado’s population is Latino. By 2021, Latinos will constitute more than 50 percent of Colorado’s high school students, 32 percent of Denver County’s population and 24 percent of the under-18 population in Boulder, according to the Hemispheric Conservation Latino Network. Future generations of Latinos will ikely suffer health risks if the trend of positioning pollution close to minority dwellings isn’t corrected.

Colorado is the perfect state to host the event, as the many residents of the state have raised concerns over climate change, fracking and water shortages. Air pollution, landfills, and urban highways are also concerns for the state’s citizens.

“Latinos are increasingly concerned with creating and living sustainable lives and reconnecting with their cultural origins which were, and are, intrinsically green, nature driven, and traditionally marked by recycling and upcycling,” said Boulder resident and festival founder Irene Vilar in a press release. “There is a need to empower and validate the green cultural heritage of Latinos and recast the green national conversation that frames Latinos as the solution and not the problem.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council has has presented research that shows 9 of 10 Hispanic voters believe that funds should go toward renewable, clean energy sources rather than fossil fuels. Also, 86 percent of Latinos support the Obama administration’s decision to limit carbon pollution.

History has shown that urban highways were routed through minority communities because they were easier to uproot than middle-class white neighborhoods. Middle-class whites were also able to better access their homes with ease without having to stop in unsavory neighborhoods. That exposure to pollutants from highway fumes and other pollutants has been linked to heart attacks, higher risks of asthma and developmental disabilities.

The second annual Americas Latino Eco Festival (ALEF) will take place in Denver and Boulder, Sept. 11-15. The event will be produced by Americas for Conservation + the Arts (AFC+A), and presented by The Sierra Club and The Dairy Center of the Arts. Also, HCLN, which was launched by ALEF, will facilitate networking opportunities and conversation to address environmental advocacy and forge an international collation of Latino conservation leaders.

Educator, activist and actor Edward James Olmos and
environmental global leader Jean-Michel Cousteau will have a role at the environmental event. In addition, 50 organizations and 50 crucial leaders that include scientists, artists, grassroots mentors, celebrities and community and public policy leaders will offer solutions and increase awareness in diverse communities.

There will also be 50 presenters, 20 films, 10 art exhibits, and seven artists there to present to workshops. The festival will additionally showcase performances and activists for every age, race, interest and economic background. And the endeavor will help to reconnect and acquaint Latinos with their agricultural past and “green” legacy.

“A New Shade of Green” will bring forth a newfound environmental awareness and it will unlock a dialogue on environment, health, education, culture and small business entrepreneurship, to bring healthy environments to low-income individuals, minorities and America.

For more information on Americas Latino Eco Festival visit http://www.americasforconservation.org, http://www.americaslatinofestival.org, or connect on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

More education coverage here.


Fountain Creek: The Lower Ark and Fountain Creek districts are looking for common ground

July 28, 2014
Fountain Creek

Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The olive branch appears to be bobbing like a log caught in the flow of Fountain Creek on a rainy day. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Friday agreed to revive its nearly submerged intergovernmental agreement committee with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities after weeks of feuding.

The Lower Ark district has threatened legal action over what it considers to be misspent funds by the Fountain Creek district. Meanwhile, the Fountain Creek district is making the case that all of its actions have been done by the book.

The controversy revolves around $450,000 in expenditures that the Lower Ark says should have been entirely within the corridor, defined in state legislation as the flood plain between Fountain and Pueblo.

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district, pointed out Friday that the corridor is defined as the area between Colorado Springs and Pueblo as indicated in the master plan developed by the Lower Ark district and Utilities. Projects funded by the district are, in fact, in the master corridor plan, he said. Small showed photos of progress on the projects, which aim at bank stabilization and erosion control.

Contentious issues should be resolved as the district moves forward, said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

A meeting on July 18 among Hart, Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya (who also chairs the Fountain Creek board), Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner and Mark Shea of Utilities began to heal the wounds, Hart said.

“We recognize how crucial the Lower Ark is to this district,” Hart said. “If the Lower Ark or anyone else has concerns, we need to take those seriously.”

Montoya said if there are problems with the way money is being spent, they should be brought up as decisions are being made, rather than after the fact in threatening legal letters.

“Raise the issue right away, rather than sit and get PO’d about it,” she said.

At one point in the meeting there was friction between Small and Melissa Esquibel, a member of the Lower Ark board who also sits on the Fountain Creek board.

Hart tried to smooth the waters, saying that the IGA committee should continue to meet and clear up the past issues. He also asked the Fountain Creek district board to look into forming a committee to begin looking at how to spend the $50 million that will be coming to the district after Southern Delivery System goes online in 2016.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County’s representatives on a district formed to improve Fountain Creek appear to differ on the need for a dam.

County Commissioner Terry Hart said the district needs to urgently answer questions about water rights and other issues associated with controlling flood water on Fountain Creek.

Meanwhile, Jane Rhodes, who owns property on Fountain Creek and was chosen to represent landowners, questioned whether a dam should or could be built at a meeting Friday.

“We don’t need a dam on the river,” Rhodes said. “Where would you put it anyway?”

Hart took a different view, however.

“We can’t slow down. We have a mission and a need,” he said.

The central issue has become water rights vs. property damage.

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable bowed to the opinion of downstream farmers that any dam on Fountain Creek would harm junior water rights. Later, Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte offered the opinion that the water from page 1A rights question must be answered before any flood control projects are built on Fountain Creek. On Friday, Hart said there could be ways that junior rights could benefit from storage on Fountain Creek, a prospect that Witte also outlined. But ditch companies are unwilling to discuss those possibilities, Hart said.

“It’s emotional for them, so they don’t even want to talk about it,” Hart said.

The issue could threaten any project that attempts to capture floodwaters, said Scott Hobson, Pueblo’s assistant city manager for community investment. He pointed to the difficulty Pueblo had in satisfying the state’s conditions for its 15-acre flood water detention demonstration project near the North Side Walmart.

“Who’s going to pay for the litigation that comes with these projects?” he asked after the meeting.

The Fountain Creek district is continuing to work with Colorado Springs Utilities to find other funding sources for its proposed study of dams.

“I get tired of coming up with an idea, then getting it shot down as weeks and months go by,” Hart said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A stormwater task force is stepping up efforts in El Paso County to put a measure on the November ballot that would create a regional stormwater authority.

“They’re gearing up for a full-fledged regional campaign,” Executive Director Larry Small told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Friday.

That includes public meetings, billboards and other methods to promote a stormwater fee for Colorado Springs and other communities in El Paso County.

The task force is proposing a fee structure based on square footage of impervious surface — roofs, driveways and sidewalks — that would cost the average homeowner about $10 monthly. That would raise about $48 million annually to address a $700 million backlog in stormwater projects throughout the region. The proposal would create a 13-member board made up of elected officials and provide services proportionate to population.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach disagrees with the plan, favoring an approach that takes care of the city’s problems only.

The creation of a stormwater authority would help reduce stormwater runoff — flows from cloudbursts or snowmelt — into Fountain Creek.

As a condition of its 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System with Pueblo County, Colorado Springs indicated it would continue to control stormwater at the same level as in early 2009, and would make certain that future development would not increase Fountain Creek flows. However, Colorado Springs City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise in 2009, touching off a controversy over commitment to controlling floods on Fountain Creek.

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.


How Rivers Shaped the Shape of Colorado

July 28, 2014

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

Back in November, you may have seen the Buzzfeed post where Brits were asked to label the United States, with hilarious results.  My favorite map (the second one) identified Colorado as “Squaresies.”

Looking at the outline of Squaresies, you might think that rivers didn’t play a big role in the development of the state.  Unlike the many Eastern states that have at least one border defined by a river, Colorado’s boundaries are defined by degrees of latitude and longitude, established as Americans settled and carved up new Western territories.

But those straight borders belie the importance of rivers in shaping Colorado.  Rivers have defined much of Colorado’s history.  When American explorers first ventured into Colorado, they followed rivers.  When Americans moved into the area, they settled near the rivers.  Anyone who wanted to survive in Colorado had to live near a reliable water supply.  But then Coloradans broke away…

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West’s water worries rise as Lake Mead falls — USA Today #ColoradoRiver

July 27, 2014
Receding Lake Mead (2010)

Receding Lake Mead (2010)

From USA Today (William M. Welch):

“I hate to see it,” [Allen Keeten] the 58-year-old truck driver from Kenesaw, Neb., says, peering over the side of the massive concrete dam on the Colorado River. “Nowadays you’ve got to be careful when you are out on a boat because of all the exposed ground.”

Like a giant measuring stick in the desert, the dropping water level of Lake Mead, the nation’s largest man-made reservoir, provides a vivid representation of the drought that is gripping the Southwest and much of the West…

Only a fraction of the river’s flow makes it to Mexico as millions of acre-feet leave the Colorado River system through pipes and aqueducts for use by farms, businesses and homes of the southwestern United States — the water rights apportioned by decades of court cases, contracts and legislation.

Now that measuring stick is drier than ever. Federal water managers say Lake Mead is just 39% full. The water level fell in July to its lowest level since 1937, when water began backing up to form Lake Mead after the dam was completed…

As the water recedes, left behind is a broad white stripe of mineral deposits on the lake’s shoreline, as visible as a dirty bathtub ring. New islands poke through the lake’s lowered surface, and buoys stand amid desert scrub.

Entire coves and miles of lake fingers have dried up, forcing boat landings and marinas to close or relocate. Marina operators who want to stay in business have had to move their floating docks — and the fuel, electricity, water and sewer lines that serve them — in a costly chase to stay on the water…

Lake Powell is down, too, though not as badly at 52% of capacity. The entire Colorado River system of four impoundments, ending with Lake Havasu in Arizona, has just over half the water it is capable of holding this summer.

Still, federal water managers are optimistic that they can avoid reducing agreed-upon amounts of water to all who depend on it, at least until next year. Beyond that, much depends on how long drought continues…

Water from the Colorado River makes up about a quarter of all water that flows from Southern California taps, and water from the Sierras makes up about 30%, with the remainder coming from local sources, groundwater and reclaimed water…

An especially wet winter would help. A big snowpack in 2011 raised Lake Mead nearly 50 feet in one season.

“We need several above-average years to replenish the storage,” Bunk says.

But the trends are worrisome. While California is in the third year of drought, Bunk says Colorado River data suggests this is the 15th year of a broader regional drought, interrupted by an occasional wet year.

Scientists studying tree rings for clues to past water seasons calculate that the period since 2000 is one of the driest in centuries. Bunk says the evidence shows the past 15-year period ranks in the driest 1% of the past 1,200 years.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Tour highlights Smart Ditch, hydro-power and organic farming — Glenwood Springs Post Independent

July 27, 2014

smartditchtrapezoidalditchliner

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Amy Hadden Marsh):

[Mike Kishimoto], a civil engineer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which cosponsored the tour, told over two dozen participants that Smart Ditch is basically a corrugated plastic liner that stops leaks and allows water to flow through a ditch unimpeded by plants, rocks, sediment and other debris. He said this particular segment, part of a county road project south of Silt, captures tail water from sprinkler irrigation and brings it back to the fields.

“You can’t get tail water to go into a pipe,” he explained. “So this is a perfect use for Smart Ditch.”

The Smart Ditch demo was part of a five-hour tour, which began with a stop at the 3,200-acre Porter Ranch, along Alkali Creek south of New Castle, and ended at Eagle Springs Organic Farm south of Rifle.

Kishimoto and other district staff and board members joined the tour to point out various projects and answer questions about the district’s mission, services and history…

Colorado State Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), was a tour participant, along with Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. Rankin took particular interest in a small-scale, hydro-power generator at the Porter Ranch, which produces six kilowatts of electricity. Water comes from Alkali Creek through a 7,000-foot pipe.

A small, metal wheel acts as a turbine. As the water turns the wheel, electricity is generated, which powers Terry and Mary Porter’s home and a nearby cabin. Excess electricity is sold to Holy Cross Energy. The water is reused for irrigation.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service designed the irrigation system with the hydro-power generator in mind, aid Scot Knutson, an engineer with the agency. Funding for the project came from the conservation service and the federal Environmental Quality Incentive Program, which pays incentives for conservation practices.

“There are approximately 100 small-scale hydro-power projects statewide and a dozen in [House District 57],” said Rankin.

He also praised U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s Hydro-power and Rural Jobs Act, which went into effect last summer.

“Tipton simplified Congressional approval for small-scale hydro-power,” he said. “In my view, it’s a great, untapped source for renewable energy.”

Eagle Springs Organic farm, the final stop of the tour, generates its own power from a solar array that offsets all electricity used on the 1,600-acre farm.

Owner Ken Sack led guests through a two-acre complex of production rooms, coolers and greenhouses, including a tropical grow room, replete with banana, fig and citrus trees, and a fish farm. Sack, whose wife and children are vegan, raises Highland Angus beef, sheep, goats, poultry and pigs on the property, along with vegetables, herbs, flowers and hay. All food products are sold at the farm’s store or served at the café and steak house in Rifle.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Community leaders rally for water solutions on #ColoradoRiver Day — Conservation Colorado

July 27, 2014

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

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


Here’s the release from Conservation Colorado (Chris Arend):

Colorado Students, local elected leaders, Denver Water officials, water educators and conservationists, rallied for Colorado River Day to highlight Colorado’s progress on water conservation and reuse and work left to protect communities and meet future water needs.

The West is facing increasing water challenges and the future of Denver, our businesses, agriculture and the West depend on the health of the Colorado River. Colorado is currently drafting a statewide Water Plan to manage our water future. The Denver Colorado River Day rally had diverse leaders calling attention to local, common sense solutions that should be expanded and included in our community’s approach to managing and providing water.

Below are highlighted quotes from the rally:

“I love joining my friends and making a difference for the Colorado River,” said Lizabeth. “Whenever we do outreach or take adventures it makes me want to do more. It feels good to know I am helping my community and protecting things that are important to me. It is cool to know one day I could have kids that will benefit from the work we are doing.”

- Lizbeth Sandoval Serrano, 9th Grade Student, Escuela, describing rafting down the Colorado through youth program.

“The Latino community has a long legacy of being stewards of our natural resources, including water. The caucus will continue to work on a policy level to protect the Colorado River and other rivers across the state. We understand we must do all we can for our people today and future generations tomorrow.”

- Joe Salazar, State Representative and Latino Water Caucus member

“Half of Denver’s water supply comes from the Colorado River, so we have a direct interest in the health of the entire Colorado River system. As part of our approach to creating a healthier system, Denver Water is committed to encouraging and maintaining a culture of conservation — through aggressive programs and campaigns — which thus far has led to Denver area citizens using 21 percent less water than they were before 2002, despite an increased population.”

- Angela Bricmont, Denver Water’s Director of Finance

“When we talk about needing diverse voices and stakeholders, that includes all members of society. Water flows into every aspect of our life, and educating all community members about water conservation and stewardship is the key to creating the water future we need.”

- Tom Cech, Director of One World One Water

“Under existing water policies, demands on our water outstrip the supply. But we can be part of the solution. We can use less, conserve more. So to celebrate Colorado River Day, we urge residents to tell our water leaders we need common sense solutions that conserve water so our communities and businesses thrive. We learned today there is a lot being done to conserve water in Denver, but we need to do more.”

- Theresa Conley, Water Advocate, Conservation Colorado

More education coverage here.


Jamestown has re-established running water to about 40 percent of homes in town — Boulder Daily Camera

July 27, 2014

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Alex Burness):

Jamestown has re-established running water to about 40 percent of homes in town, a major step for a community that may still be years away from restoring normalcy after September’s flood.

As of July 7, Mayor Tara Schoedinger confirmed, 48 out of the town’s 115 homes have water service, though residents are being told to boil first until quality tests confirm potability.

The foothills town of 275 suffered immeasurable losses — one resident was killed, half of all roads were either washed away or badly damaged, and the town square and fire station need to be rebuilt from scratch.

Schoedinger said fixing the water system took precedent on the flood recovery wish list.

“The water system is our first priority because that’s what’s going to bring people home,” she said. “We want people to be able to bring their families back home and get settled before school starts.”

Flooding stripped away 50 percent of the town’s water distribution system, plus the entire underground infrastructure at its water treatment plant, and those who stuck it out in Jamestown went nearly 10 months without running water.

Those who stayed relied on above-ground water filtration systems, for which about $60,000 was raised through donations from the local Rotary Club, Salvation Army and Red Cross.

While the donations covered the cost of installation — about $1,700 per system — residents have had to pay out of pocket for $150 refills.

As for drinking water, the Red Cross has sent a truckload of Eldorado Natural Spring bottles up to Jamestown once every two weeks.

Schoedinger said the entire town will likely have running water by some point next month. She hopes it’ll draw back the 50 percent of residents who still haven’t returned.

“Everybody who can come home will come home,” she said. “But people who don’t have systems or town water can’t live in their homes.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


“We are going to have to be sure [Colorado] protects #RioGrande compact apportioned water” — David Robbins

July 27, 2014
Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

WildEarth Guardians have not backed off from seeking more water from Colorado to keep fish afloat in New Mexico. This week the environmental group wrote to U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor asking the department to become more actively involved in management of the Rio Grande to protect endangered species like the silvery minnow and provide water for wild and scenic river and recreational uses as well as bolstering bosque and wildlife refuge areas in New Mexico. The group specifically asked, for example, that the department “engage” the states of Colorado and New Mexico “in order to find a way to ensure the Rio Grande receives its fair share of water.”

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) is watching the WildEarth actions closely since they could ultimately affect water use in Colorado. The group maintains that downstream states are already receiving their “fair share of water” through Rio Grande Compact requirements that have been in place for decades.

RGWCD Attorney David Robbins told the water district’s board of WildEarth’s latest move this week and said although the environmental group acknowledges the compact, it does not agree with it.

“There is no panacea that will right the wrongs of the past century on behalf of the Rio Grande,” said Jen Pelz, Wild Rivers program director at WildEarth Guardians . “The fate of the river, however, depends on the willingness and leadership of state and federal agencies to create a water right that belongs to the Rio Grande ” The wild west approach to managing water in the Rio Grande Basin cannot continue without further serious consequences for flows in the river. Interior is in a unique position to implement and navigate new strategies and to reform the archaic system of water management under which it currently operates.”

WildEarth in its letter to the Department of Interior recommended: 1) expanding “the scope of the solutions” by engaging the states of Colorado and New Mexico in order to find a way to ensure the Rio Grande receives its fair share of water, 2) providing funding so the Bureau of Land Management can determine the flows necessary in the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River to preserve recreational , scenic and other values of the designated reach in central New Mexico, and 3) investigating and planning to remove or modify the dams and reservoirs that segment the Rio Grande to reconnect isolated habitat.

Robbins said the water district needs to keep track of this situation.

“We are going to have to pay more attention. We are going to have to be more involved. We are going to have to be sure the state of Colorado protects compact apportioned waters for beneficial use within Colorado.”

Robbins said it was ironic that within a few days of Gary Boyce’s video presentation on the internet proposing to take San Luis Valley Water north WildEarth Guardians sent a letter to the Department of Interior proposing to send more water south.

“We are going to end up having to deal with a proposal to take water north for the metro area, Front Range and demands that federal agencies take an active role trying to force more water out of the Valley going south,” Robbins said.

He said there have been efforts by people in New Mexico to buy senior water rights in Colorado to try to send more water downstream, but the compact that governs how much water goes downstream is between states, not individuals. If someone were to buy water rights in Colorado and retire them in hopes of sending more water downstream, it would just mean that the next water right in line would get to use the water, and it would not affect the total volume sent to downstream states.

RGWCD Board Member Cory Off said it is interesting the WildEarth group wants to improve the bosque in New Mexico but does not seem to care about Colorado’s scenic areas. Robbins said the cooperation the Valley and Colorado have experienced in protecting riparian areas in this state does not exist in the same manner in New Mexico, but Colorado should not have to “disassemble what’s good in Colorado because they would like to see that happen in New Mexico.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

For more than four decades, Colorado has followed the letter of the law that dictates how flows on the Rio Grande are divvied up with downstream neighbors New Mexico and Texas.

But a New Mexico environmental group concerned with the survival of an endangered fish says that is not enough. WildEarth Guardians told Colorado officials in January it intended to sue the state over its management of the Rio Grande, claiming that the miserly flows that cross the state line in May and June of dry years were not enough to preserve the Rio Grande silvery minnow. Last week, the group wrote to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which has the responsibility of preserving the fish and also plays a large role in managing the river in New Mexico, asking that it exert more influence over Colorado.

“We just see the federal government playing some role in making the conversation more broad,” said Jen Pelz, an attorney for the guardians who specializes in water issues.

Pelz said she has not gotten a formal response from the state regarding the January notice.

But David Robbins, an attorney for the Alamosa-based Rio Grande Water Conservation District, was clear in his review of the letter to the Interior with the district’s board.

“It’s wrong and it deserves to be resisted strenuously,” he said.

Water users in the valley have lived up to the compact’s obligations and aren’t required to go beyond it, he said.

“We don’t have to let the water go downstream,” Robbins said. “We’re entitled to use it in our state and we always want to remember that.”

Colorado has complied with the 1939 Rio Grande Compact for more than four decades after settling a lawsuit brought by New Mexico and Texas. Following the 1968 settlement, Colorado’s state engineer initiated the practice of curtailing surface water rights — even those that predate the compact — to ensure that enough water made it downstream to satisfy compact requirements.

The delivery requirements vary from year to year, depending on the size of Colorado’s water supply. When the Rio Grande has a wet year, more water must be sent downstream. In dry years, water users in the San Luis Valley keep a bigger share.

But there are no requirements that dictate what time of year the water has to be delivered. When the irrigation season begins April 1 in the valley, irrigators divert water for nearly 600,000 acres of potatoes, barley, alfalfa and pasture. Moreover, what the plants don’t soak up in late spring and early summer, often percolates down to the unconfined aquifer, which many water users then tap to finish their crops after the stream flows have dwindled.

But for Pelz, the compact, with its emphasis on the role of the states, is not enough to solve the river’s problems.

“No one really looks at it as a whole river,” she said.

The timing of Colorado’s diversions are a problem, WildEarth Guardians argued, because in dry years the compact allows Colorado water users to take nearly all of the river’s flows. The group’s letter to interior officials noted that on May 18 of last year, the Rio Grande reached its peak flow and Colorado was diverting 98 percent of the river before it crossed the state line. That leaves an insufficient amount of water left over when the minnow enters breeding season in May and reduces the chances of the fish’s survival, the group said.

And the dry years in which this scenario occurs are likely to become the norm as climate change advances, the group said in the letter.

Pelz estimated that shutting down irrigators for three days would produce the flows needed to clean out sediment and produce the habitat needed for the minnow.

“It doesn’t take shutting down the San Luis Valley for two weeks,” she said.

But Robbins pointed to a host of problems in New Mexico that could be solved before asking Colorado to send additional water downstream.

For example, New Mexico has five dams that hinder the minnow and Colorado has nothing to do with their operations.

Moreover, Robbins said that as early as 1916, the minnow was effectively healthy despite the fact that Colorado already had reached its peak use along the Rio Grande.

And the conservation district has undertaken its own plan to preserve habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher, a federally endangered species that also is of concern to WildEarth Guardians.

The demands from the south for more water out of the valley also come just as valley rancher Gary Boyce has developed a new proposal to export water to the Front Range.

The timing of the two developments was not lost on Robbins.

“If everybody in the room and all of your neighbors are starting to feel a little bit pulled asunder or under threat of being drawn and quartered, you’re probably awake and your senses are working,” he said.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.


Telluride: Pandora raw water and treated water project is moving along nicely

July 27, 2014
Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

The Pandora water treatment project at the east end of the valley is on schedule and should be complete by this fall, ending more than three years of construction.

The project, which fired up in 2011, has been in the works for more than 20 years, and it will pipe water from Upper Bridal Veil Basin to a new treatment facility at the east end of the box canyon. And while there have been many hurdles, including engineering challenges and budgetary issues, the project should be complete by October and stay within the town’s 2014 budget, according to Telluride Public Works Director Paul Ruud.

“We keep making progress on the building and the water plant itself,” Rudd said. “The building is almost completed. We’re just outfitting the internals. There are aspects of the project that are done. We’ve tied in both the raw waterline coming in from Bridal Veil [Falls] and the treated line that’s going towards town, into the plant.”

Ruud said crews are also working on a physical water diversion out of Bridal Veil Creek as well as a number of other components involved with the diversion. If things go as planned, the plant will go online in early October.

“We haven’t really had any issues,” Ruud said. “We did have fairly substantial soil stabilization right at the treatment plant. That ended up being quite a substantial undertaking. But as of right now we are within the approved budget for this year and we expect the project will be completed with our existing budget.”

The facility will also contain a micro-hydro component that is expected to be operational when the plant goes live, which will boost the town’s generation of renewable energy. But the main purpose of the plant is to boost the town’s water capacity. Telluride’s current system, which relies primarily on the Mill Creek Water Plant, has been strained by high demand and other issues in recent years.

Rudd said construction has been making good progress this summer. With the good weather there have been a lot of people in the area going up to Bridal Veil Falls. But disturbances from construction are nearing an end.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.


Environment: USGS study shows neonicotinoid pesticide pollution common in Midwest streams

July 27, 2014

Coyote Gulch:

Donate to Bob’s crowd funded father-son journalism project here.

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

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Bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides widespread in Midwest streams, USGS study finds. bberwyn photo.

Concentrations in some streams are high enough to kill aquatic organisms

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey studying streams in the Midwest have found levels of neonicotinoid insecticides at up to 20 times the concentrations deemed toxic to aquatic organisms. The systemic pesticides have raised concerns because they’ve been linked with honey bee declines.

Traces of the chemicals were widespread in streams throughout the region — not surprising in the heart of the country’s agricultural belt. In all, nine rivers and streams, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, were included in the study. The rivers studied drain most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states have the highest use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Nation, and the chemicals were found in all nine rivers…

View original 452 more words


“When you’re at a spring, all your senses are awake” — Cynthia Valle #ColoradoRiver

July 26, 2014


CWCB: Colorado Watershed Symposium Succeeds At Preparing Coalitions to Move Forward on Stream Recovery

July 26, 2014

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Kevin Houck):

More than 150 community leaders last week resolved to work together in strong coalitions to focus on rebuilding streams and watersheds damaged by last fall’s flooding.

The Colorado Watershed Symposium, a daylong event July 18 in Loveland with the theme “Working with Watersheds: It’s More Than Just the River”, included presentations on disaster-relief funding, watershed master-planning, and intergovernmental agreements. Most importantly, representatives from nine watershed coalitions met and developed joint plans for the “next steps” in restoring their watersheds.

The symposium was sponsored by the Colorado Recovery Office, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Molly Urbina, Colorado’s Chief Recovery Officer, told participants: “Each of you have taken a collaborative approach to watershed planning, even though it may be easier to plan alone. If nothing else, this past year has taught us just how interdependent we are. Every action in the watershed impacts another point in that watershed, up or down stream. We are in this together.”

The nine watershed coalitions in attendance echoed Urbina’s call for continued collaboration. Representatives from each coalition shared best practices from their public outreach programs and emphasized the need to continue involving private stakeholders in the recovery process.

“Creek restoration cannot happen in a vacuum. It must be accomplished along with efforts to restore public and private infrastructure and floodplain management.” said Julie McKay, director of the Boulder, Left Hand, and St. Vrain coalitions. “It’s really great to be able to compare experiences and approaches of all the coalitions across the Front Range.”

“When you win the hearts and minds, you win the river,” said Gordan Gilstrap, of the Little Thompson Coalition. Dave Skuodas of the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District echoed Gilstrap’s sentiments. “Even though we have the power to dictate, we choose to facilitate. We want people down in the stream using it and recreating in it. We want people to take ownership in the creek.”

Carol Ekarius, director of the highly successful Coalition of the Upper South Platte, delivered the day’s keynote address, emphasizing the need for coalitions to consider a broad array of potential issues when they create master plans. “The flood doesn’t start in the corridor; the flood starts in the shed,” said Ekarius. “I tell people we’re a watershed collaborative, forest collaborative, and emergency response collaborative. It allows us to do all kinds of work.”

Each of the nine coalitions split into breakout sessions to coordinate next steps. In their informal discussions, many expressed interest in becoming formal non-profit organizations. They also agreed that Colorado’s watersheds are interconnected and that any successful recovery effort has to take into account both the upstream and downstream portions of the river.

“I was pleased at how the various coalitions came together and focused on how they can move forward,” said Chris Sturm of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “This is very important, because the coalitions will be very well positioned for disaster relief funding as it becomes available.”

Representatives from the Big Thompson, Boulder Creek, Coal Creek, Fall River and Fish Creek, Left Hand, Little Thompson, St. Vrain, Upper Fountain and Cheyenne Creek, and South Platte all reported different challenges and expressed interest in continued coordination on recovery issues.

All stakeholders recognized the difficulties of the recovery process and emphasized the need for effective long-term recovery planning. The Symposium is part of a larger series of events that work toward achieving coordinated and efficient recovery planning. For those interested in attending the next event, the 2014 Sustaining

Colorado Watersheds Conference will be held in Avon on October 7-9 at the Westin Riverfront Resort.

The flooding affected 24 counties. It triggered nine small dam failures, damaged or destroyed nearly 225 water-diversion structures, damaged an estimated 32,000 acres of croplands and swept away $540,000 in state-owned stream-gauge equipment. During the floods, many northern Colorado waterways experienced 100-year or 500-year events.


Before there was plumbing there was a pancake-powered donkey — The Fairplay Flume #ColoradoRiver

July 26, 2014
Brighty the pancake-loving donkey:  Bobby McKee rides his trusty partner, Brighty, while fetching water for residents at the Wylie Way camp in the Grand Canyon in 1918. (Photo courtesy of Marth Krueger)

Brighty the pancake-loving donkey: Bobby McKee rides his trusty partner, Brighty, while fetching water for residents at the Wylie Way camp in the Grand Canyon in 1918. (Photo courtesy of Marth Krueger)

From The Fairplay Flume:

In honor of Park County’s upcoming famous festival, Burro Days, Pine resident Martha McKee Krueger shared a story with The Flume about her father, and a donkey.

In 1917, Krueger’s father, Robert “Bobby” McKee, with his parents, founded the first tourist lodge on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at Bright Angel Point called the Wylie Way.

Burros held a very important job at this lodge. They were responsible for carrying water. In the summer of 1918, Bobby found Brighty; not only a hearty work donkey, but also a friend.

Every morning, Brighty would show up at the back of the kitchen ready for work, and of course, pancakes. Following breakfast, Bobby and his burro would ride down to a spring about half a mile west of Wylie Way, dropping 200 feet in elevation. At the spring, Bobby would fill two five-gallon buckets, and load them up in Brighty’s canvas bags, and head back up. Though, within the next two summers, Brighty’s load increased to two ten-gallon Ford gas tanks. When they were full, they weighed just under two hundred pounds.

It is unknown how many years Brighty was of service to Bobby and the Wylie Way camp but in “The McKee Family Collection,” a book of memoirs by Bobby in 1989, it is written that every spring someone would encourage Brighty to come up from the canyon and was there when the McKees arrived.

“He simply came with the territory,” wrote the author.

Bobby and his incredible burro would make four to seven trips a day. Through all this, Brighty carried on, always looking forward to a pancake reward at the end of each load.


CWCB: July 2014 Drought Update #COdrought

July 26, 2014

From the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

Despite the warm temperatures of the past week, temperatures for the summer, and the water year as a whole, have been very close to average. Mild temperatures have helped to moderate impacts from a very dry June statewide, where only 29% of normal precipitation fell and some portions of the state (Southwest) saw only 9% of normal precipitation for the month. By comparison, July has been quite wet (92% of average to-date) and has resulted in large improvements to drought designations along the eastern plains, including southeastern Colorado where they have been dealing with extreme and exceptional drought conditions for nearly 4 years. Weak El Nino conditions have developed but are unlikely to result in short term significant moisture. Water providers indicated that storage levels remain strong, with many reservoirs near or at capacity.

  • Currently, 40% of the state is in some level of drought classification according to the US drought monitor. 13% is characterized as “abnormally dry” or D0, while an additional 11% is experiencing D1, moderate drought conditions. 12% is classified as severe, 3% as extreme and less than 1% of the state remains in exceptional drought (D4). These conditions are an improvement over last month.
  • Year-to-date precipitation at mountain SNOTEL sites is 101% of average, with the northern half of the state seeing more moisture than the southern half.
  • Current streamflow forecasts statewide range from greater than 150% of average in the South Platte and Colorado to a low of 36% of average in parts of the Rio Grande basin. The northern portion of the state has forecasts that are near to above normal, while the southern portion of the state has forecasts below normal.
  • Reservoir Storage statewide is at 94% of average at the end of June 2014. The lowest reservoir storage statewide is in the Upper Rio Grande & Arkansas basins, with 58% and 66% of average storage, respectively. The Yampa/White and the South Platte have the highest storage level at 115% and 113% of average.
  • The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) for the state, which takes into account both reservoir storage and streamflow forecasts, is near normal across much of the state, with an “abundant” index in the northern basins of the South Platte, North Platte, and Colorado. The lowest values in the state are in the Southwest and indicate moderate to severe drought.
  • El-Nino ENSO conditions continue, but remain weak. The next few months are not likely to see major changes in that condition, but above average moisture is more likely by fall.
  • The short term forecast projects continued warm conditions west of the divide with cooler temperatures east of the continental divide over the next 14 days; coupled with above average probability of moisture in the southern half of the state.
  • August is typically the month with the most monsoon activity in Colorado, and a strong monsoon may help to further alleviate drought conditions.

  • Feds sued over #RioGrande flow for minnow, bird — Albuquerque Journal

    July 26, 2014


    From the Albuquerque Journal (Mike Bush/John Fleck):

    Citing “two decades of broken promises by federal and state water managers,” a Santa Fe-based environmental group filed a federal lawsuit against two government agencies Thursday alleging they failed “to secure dynamic and perennial flows for the Rio Grande” needed to protect the silvery minnow and Southwestern willow flycatcher.

    Water managers of one agency say they have made major changes in how they operate, while another said it has spent at least $50 million over the past decade to protect the fish.

    In its suit, WildEarth Guardians accuses the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of failing to adopt “even the most modest changes in management on behalf of the Rio Grande.”

    WildEarth Guardians has its eye on the two endangered species the silvery minnow and a small bird, the Southwestern willow flycatcher.

    “The primary objective of this litigation is to secure the congressionally mandated protections of the (Endangered Species Act) to protect and conserve the silvery minnow and the willow flycatcher,” it says.

    Neither of the defendant agencies would comment on the complaint Thursday, although the Corps of Engineers said it may issue a statement next week after a review of the document.

    Here’s the release from Wild Earth Guardians:

    WildEarth Guardians filed suit today [July 24, 2014] in federal court citing two decades of broken promises by federal and state water managers to secure dynamic and perennial flows for the Rio Grande. The group believes that these agencies’ failure to exercise the full range of their authority to protect the river and its imperiled species not only violates the Endangered Species Act, but also makes it impossible to restore a functioning Rio Grande ecosystem.

    “The Rio Grande is central to the history, culture and beauty of New Mexico,” said Jen Pelz the Wild Rivers Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. “The river has sustained the valley for centuries, and we have a moral obligation to hold water managers and users accountable to ensure that the river does not vanish.”

    The group’s lawsuit details the failures by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement even the most modest changes in management on behalf of the Rio Grande. A 2003 management plan attempted to return some balance to the Rio Grande in central New Mexico by requiring certain flows and physical infrastructure changes—reconnecting the river from fragmentation by dams—for the benefit of the species. The federal and state agencies, however, failed to honor their commitments to the detriment of the endangered species.

    “The plan of the past decade did not go far enough to protect and maintain a living river,” added Pelz. “This lawsuit seeks to provide the shake up necessary to realign our collective values and secure new commitments from all water managers to ensure that the river has a right to its own water and it is a sustainable, dynamic ecosystem.”

    The lack of oversight and accountability in the Rio Grande also adds to the decrease of flows in the river. As just one example, the “Water Bank” operated by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District—which distributes water throughout the District to land without water rights—requires authorization by the State and federal government. However, even though both entities have expressed notable concerns about the validity of the Water Bank and requested proof of beneficial use of the District’s water rights prior to any such approval, the District operates the Water Bank each year without any oversight or authorization.

    “It’s a bank without a charter. Not even the worst Wall Street bankers could have established a system so lacking in accountability and supervision,” said Pelz. “Stealing water like this from our river and our future is reckless and cannot continue.”

    Steve Sugarman and in-house lawyer, Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, represent the organization in the litigation. This lawsuit is the latest action in WildEarth Guardians’ campaign to protect and restore the Rio Grande, America’s third longest and one of its most iconic rivers.

    More endangered/threatened species coverage here.


    This year’s snowpack has been good for the rafting business

    July 26, 2014
    Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph June 26, 2014 via the NRCS

    Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph June 26, 2014 via the NRCS

    From The Mountain Mail (Allison Dyer Bluemel):

    Due to higher waters and a better overall economy, local rafting outfitters report the 2014 season has been a fruitful one. Overall, the feeling is that business is up anywhere from 15 to 20 percent from last year, said John Kreski, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area rationing and agreement coordinator.

    “It’s been going gangbusters. It’s been busy, busy,” Independent Whitewater owner Mike Whittington said.

    This time last year, 15,585 commercial rafts floated the Arkansas within the AHRA management area, according to the 2013 season summary.

    Overall, 2013 saw 36,508 commercial rafts, 4,320 kayaks and 186,268 paying clients on the Arkansas, according to the summary.

    This year, outfitters such as Independent Whitewater, Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center and Wilderness Aware Rafting have been seeing an increase in inquiries and traffic on the river.

    Wilderness Aware has seen an 8-percent increase from last year, but is still down in numbers from its record years, owner Joe Griener said.

    The increase for companies is due to more water from winter snowpack and an increase in tourism to the area, he said.

    “There’s a lot more water in the ditch. The increase in water also means a decrease in fire risk, which definitely helps tourism,” RMOC owner Brandon Slate said.
    While RMOC has seen “exponentially more rafting,” it canceled inflatable kayaking trips and reduced the size of stand-up paddleboard outings earlier in the year due to safety concerns, Slate said.

    “Safety is No. 1, but it can make it harder to profit when we run lower ratios,” he said.

    Whittington and Griener said their most popular section was Browns Canyon this year.
    “Browns Canyon is the longest half-day trip. It offers good, solid Class III rapids,” Whittington said.

    American Adventure Expeditions owner and operator Mike Kissack said the company’s most popular trips this year were Browns Canyon and Royal Gorge half-day trips.

    Wilderness Aware has had a banner year for multi-day trips on sections of the river starting north of Buena Vista all the way down to Cañon City as well, Griener said.
    The popularity of the river is due to the variety of whitewater and the lengthier season, Whittington said.

    “All is great on the river, but the best thing is the variety. We have 100 miles of Class II to Class V rapids to raft,” Slate said.

    The difference in rapid difficulty throughout the river means there is something for every type of person looking to float the Arkansas, Griener said.

    “There’s no measure as to how much variety we have. It is what it is on other rivers, but on this one there’s 100-plus miles of river and stuff that’s also good for kids,” he said.

    Additionally, the Arkansas’ longer season means tourists are drawn from across the state after other rivers’ seasons end.

    “The word is out that we’re still rafting,” Slate said.

    Griener said the “Front Range is creeping closer,” and visitors from the area are realizing outfitters in the Arkansas River Valley “offer one more thing to do while they’re in the area.”

    “I believe the main reason that people come to the Arkansas River is because of the perfect mix of world-class whitewater and breathtaking Colorado scenery,” Kissack said.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Brett Walton: Want a thesaurus of gloom? Ask a California water manager what 2015 is like if there’s another dry winter #ColoradoRiver

    July 26, 2014
    California Drought Monitor July 22, 2014

    California Drought Monitor July 22, 2014


    In Colorado rainwater harvesting is complicated

    July 26, 2014

    stormoverthelagaritahills

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Don’t run out and buy a rain barrel. Even if you’re lucky enough to catch a downpour, it is illegal to collect rainwater from rooftops in Colorado in most cases.

    The Pueblo Chieftain ran an article in its Real Estate section Friday that suggested rain barrels could be used to meet water needs. That may be true in other parts of the United States, but collecting water in rain barrels in Colorado is allowed only under certain circumstances.

    Two bills passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in 2009 allow for rainwater collection:

    SB80 allows residential well owners to collect water from the roof of primary homes only, if no other water supply is available from a city or water district. The collection has to be part of the well permit for the property.

    HB1129 provided for developers to build in rainwater collection if the development is approved as one of 10 statewide pilot projects.

    Otherwise, rainwater collection is illegal.

    The Colorado Division of Water Resources considers rainwater to be part of the property of the people of the state as defined by the Colorado Constitution.

    “As a result, in much of the state, it is illegal to divert rainwater falling on your property expressly for a certain use unless you have a very old water right or during occasional periods when there is a surplus of water in the river system,” the division states on its website.

    “This is especially true in the urban, suburban and rural areas along the Front Range.

    “This system of water allocation plays an important role in protecting the owners of senior water rights that are entitled to appropriate the full amount of their decreed water right, particularly when there is not enough to satisfy them and parties whose water right is junior to them.”

    More water law coverage here.


    Op-Ed: Happy Birthday, Colorado River – long may you live!

    July 26, 2014

    Coyote Gulch:

    Contribute to Bob’s father-son climate reporting project here.

    Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

    kn

    No room for mistakes in the Colorado River Basin.

    Conservation has to be the centerpiece of local, state and regional water planning efforts

    By Bob Berwyn

    FRISCO — When Congress 93 years ago formally renamed the Grand River as the Colorado, it probably didn’t have any inkling about what the mightiest river in the West would be subjected too early in the 21st century.

    Now far removed from that era of hopeful development, the river is over-exploited from beginning to end. Headwater streams are diverted to water acres of bluegrass lawns in Denver, and mountain resorts mindlessly draw down tributaries for snowmaking during the low-flow season, just when trout most need the water.

    Just this week, scientists said they’ve documented an astounding rate of water loss in the basin from groundwater pumping alone, which may turn out to be a worse problem than we think, groundwater development is state-regulated, therefore…

    View original 738 more words


    EPA: #ditchthemyth that our proposed rule to protect clean water increases ditch-regulation. In fact, they’re decreased.

    July 25, 2014

    Colorado Springs City Council endorses regional stormwater plan — The Colorado Springs Gazette

    July 25, 2014

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

    The council voted Tuesday on a resolution, which was merely a public statement of endorsement. It now is up to the El Paso County Commissioners to put the stormwater issue on the November ballot. Commissioners will be asked by the stormwater task force to finalize the ballot language by Aug. 28.

    The City Council still must consider, and will vote on, an intergovernmental agreement, which spells out the details of how an authority would operate. The proposed authority is modeled after the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority.

    PPRTA, which was created in 2004 by voters in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls. PPRTA collects 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements. Voters approved a list of projects when they approved the creation of the PPRTA.

    The Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority includes Centennial, Arapahoe County, and three water districts. The authority sets and collects fees, has a staff and oversees the projects for the region.

    Under the Pikes Peak stormwater task force proposal, voters will be asked to approve a stormwater fee based on their property’s impervious surface. The fee could be collected for 20 years. Organizers of the proposal say a typical Colorado Springs residential property owner would pay $9.14 a month, based on the average lot size with about 2,000 to 3,000 impervious surface.

    Voters also would see a list of proposed flood control projects as part of the ballot question and a breakdown of what percentage of the collected funds would go toward new construction, maintenance and operations.

    Task force leaders are hopeful that El Paso County, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Fountain will join the authority and work on regional flood control projects together.

    More stormwater coverage here.


    “Buy and dry no silver bullet” — Environmental Defense Fund #ColoradoRiver

    July 25, 2014
    Crop circles -- irrigated agriculture

    Crop circles — irrigated agriculture

    From the Environmental Defense Fund (Aaron Citron):

    On Colorado River Day, it’s worth considering how we can write the next chapter in the water story of the American West.

    With the recent news that Lake Mead is at its lowest level in history, it’s impossible to ignore the trajectory of America’s hardest-working river. In the Colorado River Basin, we are already using more water annually than is being supplied by snowpack and other precipitation. The Bureau of Reclamation and others predict that this gap in water supply and demand will increase to nearly 4 million acre-feet by 2060, with significant shortages possible as early as 2017.

    It has become clear that, over time, our water uses are going to have to change. In thinking about where – in what sectors – this change should take place, we must also consider the environmental, cultural and economic services that each sector provides.

    “Buy and dry” is no silver bullet

    In the discussions about how to deal with the growing gap between water supply and demand, the default solution too often involves permanently taking water out of agricultural irrigation and transferring it to meet the needs of a growing urban population.

    Agriculture uses approximately 80 percent of Colorado River water to irrigate nearly 4 million acres, providing 15 percent of America’s crop output and 13 percent of our livestock production. It is a significant contributor to rural economies and provides a number of environmental, cultural and ecosystem services benefits.

    It’s true that all water-using sectors will have to be part of the solution, but the “buy and dry” of farms and ranches around the West has left a litany of problems: remaining irrigators can no longer afford to operate their ditches, farm supply businesses are seeing dramatically reduced revenues, farmworkers are left unemployed, and in some cases, river reaches and wetlands once dependent on return flows are being left to dry.

    As water scarcity increases the interest in buying water from farms and ranches, we will need to find ways to address these economic and environmental impacts.

    Designing solutions for rivers, people and the economy
    There are a number of ways to improve the health of our working rivers while also making water sharing profitable for agricultural water users.

    Continued investment in improving agricultural efficiency and infrastructure is an important first step to improve both agricultural and environmental sustainability.

    Water banks and markets that pay irrigators a fair price – taking long-term agricultural productivity, regional economics and environmental impacts into consideration – need to be part of a portfolio of solutions to address the significant issues of water shortages exacerbated by drought and climate change.

    A portfolio approach

    Even though most of the water in the Colorado River Basin and the West is used in agricultural production, there are significant opportunities to conserve water in other sectors.

    Urban water use is one sector where demands are projected to increase significantly. If the cities that use Colorado River water want to grow, the first place they should look for water is in their existing supply. After all, urban water conservation is a proven strategy: the Los Angeles region added more than 3 million residents since 1990 without increasing its total water use.

    Cities can and must make a significant contribution to the supply-demand gap at lower cost and with fewer impacts to our rural western economies and environmental values.

    The Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Supply and Demand Basin Study identified 1 million acre-feet of water-savings potential from municipal and industrial conservation programs and an additional 1.15 million acre-feet from municipal and industrial water reuse programs. Cost-effective conservation savings can be achieved through a number of programs and incentives, including improved water rate structures, conversion to high efficiency appliances, improvements in urban irrigation systems, and other public education and incentive programs.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


    “I have been proud to work for years to ensure the [support for] the Arkansas Valley Conduit” — Sen. Mark Udall

    July 25, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A draft federal energy and water funding bill includes an additional $90 million for projects such as the Arkansas Valley Conduit, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, said Thursday. The Senate appropriations committee approved the bill, which contains a provision supported by both senators that explicitly makes data collection and design work eligible for funding through these accounts. It will help ensure the Arkansas Valley Conduit is eligible for these funds and sends a clear signal to the Bureau of Reclamation that the conduit is a priority project.

    The board of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, conduit sponsor, was dismayed earlier this year when it learned only $500,000 was budgeted for the conduit next year. It is hoping to get at least $3 million for continuing data and design tasks that will lead to construction of the $400 million conduit.

    The conduit is the final piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, authorized in 1962. When complete, the 130-mile pipeline will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.

    “For more than five decades, folks in Southeastern Colorado have been waiting for the federal government to fulfill its promise to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    That’s far too long for these communities to wait for a reliable source of clean drinking water,” Bennet said.

    “I have been proud to work for years to ensure the federal government supports the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This funding brings the people of Southeastern Colorado one step closer to having a clean, safe and reliable source of water,” Udall said.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit funding here and here.


    EPA: Waters that have never been protected remain outside the scope of the Clean Water Act

    July 24, 2014

    Drought news

    July 24, 2014

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

    Summary
    Early in the period, a strong cold front brought unseasonably cool air (and dozens of daily record or near-record minimums and low maximums) to the eastern two-thirds of the Nation while also triggering numerous showers and thunderstorms across the southern and central Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, Southeast, mid-Atlantic, and coastal New England. Lows dropped into the forties as far south as Kansas, and 7-day temperatures averaged more than 12oF below normal in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Another cold front late in the week dropped heavy rain on northern sections of North Dakota and Minnesota. In contrast, a ridge of high pressure over the West kept the weather hot and mostly dry. Weekly temperatures averaged 4 to 8oF above normal in the Northwest and Great Basin, with highs reaching triple-digits in many locations. Numerous large active wild fires were reported in the Far West, particularly in Washington and Oregon. Wetter weather was reported in both Hawaii and Puerto Rico, but the heaviest rains fell on areas without D0 or D1…

    Pacific Northwest
    A second consecutive week of hot (temperatures averaged 4 to 8oF above normal, triple-digit highs) and mostly dry weather greatly increased moisture demand across the region. Numerous large active wild fires, many triggered by lightning strikes from dry thunderstorms, were reported in the West. As of July 23, Oregon had 13 active large wildfires totaling more than 578,000 acres, while Washington had 5 large active fires affecting almost 300,000 acres, according to NIFC. Although July precipitation is normally low, the combination of hot weather and no rain has exacerbated conditions, resulting in the expansion of D0 along the Washington coast, just east of the Washington Cascades, across north-central Idaho, and into parts of western and central Montana based upon 30- and 60-day shortages. In the latter state, recent heat, spotty rains, and windy conditions have quickly decreased moisture conditions from June into July. In southeastern Oregon, light rain (0.1-0.4 inches) on day 7 of the period in Malheur and Harney counties helped wet one of the largest fires (Buzzard Complex), but dry and hot weather in southwestern ( Jackson County) and central Oregon (Deschutes, Crook, and Grant counties) expanded D3 and D2, respectively. In Idaho, irrigation water was shut off this week for Magic Reservoir and Salmon Falls water users, while Little Wood Reservoir irrigators will be out of water soon – earlier than last year. Owyhee Reservoir is nearly empty, and ran out of available water much earlier than last year…

    Southern and Central Plains
    Widespread moderate to heavy showers and thunderstorms, plus unseasonably cool air, highlighted a very beneficial and welcome weather week for much of the region. Southeastward tracking thunderstorms dropped swaths of ample rain (>2 inches) on southwestern Kansas, central and southeastern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, eastern Texas, and most of Louisiana. Additional heavy rains fell on southeastern Colorado, the Texas Panhandle, along the Red River Valley, and on central and southwestern Texas. Even after a dry 7-day period in much of Texas last week, 60-day precipitation is generally at or above normal in most of the state, along with Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and eastern Colorado. The issue, however, is to balance the short-term wetness with the long-term (multi-year) drought which has impacted hydrological interests. Taking this into consideration, 1-category improvements were made in most areas where this week’s rainfall exceeded 2 inches. A 2-category improvement (D1 to nothing) was made in extreme southeastern Texas (Jefferson County) were 8-10 inches fell. A few areas were slightly degraded as the rains missed the extreme southern Texas coast and parts of the west Texas. The July 20 NASS/USDA state summaries mentioned that pastures were greening up across much of Texas and Oklahoma with the recent rains and lower temperatures, and most crops benefited from the moisture and lack of excessive heat. 28-day average USGS stream flows were spotty in Texas, but most sites in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas were in the normal (25-75th percentile) category, including several stations in northern Texas in the above to much-above normal categories…

    Southwest and Great Basin
    Somewhat similar to the southern Plains, abundant moisture triggered scattered moderate to heavy showers and thunderstorms in parts of New Mexico and southeastern Colorado, but totals quickly dropped to zero in western sections (e.g. most of Arizona, Utah, western Colorado, southeastern California). And like the southern Plains, the balancing of short-term wetness and long-term drought tempered the potential improvements in New Mexico and southeastern Colorado. Nevertheless, where decent rains (more than an inch) fell this week and Water Year-to-date surpluses existed, a 1-category improvement was made, namely in central New Mexico (north to south) – D3 to D2, and in southeastern Colorado. D3 was slightly expanded to reflect similar conditions at various time scales in north-central New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. In northeastern Utah, hot and dry conditions justified a general 1-category downgrade to reflect poor soil and vegetative health models. Monsoonal moisture made it north and west into the central Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe area, producing showers and thunderstorms that dropped 0.3-1 inches, locally to 3 inches, but these totals weren’t even close to making a dent in the long-term drought. In California, the June 30 reservoir update (based upon 154 intrastate reservoirs) had storage at 60% of average – better than this time in 1977 where storage was at a record low of 41%. Storage totaled 17.25 million acre feet (maf), and a typical seasonal withdrawal is 8.24 maf. The last two years (2012 and 2013), withdrawal has topped 11 maf. Due to early melting of this year’s meager snowpack, withdrawal through June 30 was already at 2.1 maf (versus average withdrawal through June 30 of less than 0.6 maf)…

    Looking Ahead
    During July 24-28, wet weather is forecast for the eastern third of the Nation, Pacific Northwest, and parts of the northern and south-central Plains. Later in the period, some monsoonal moisture is expected to trek northward into Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado and trigger scattered light to moderate showers. Little or no precipitation for the 5-day period is expected in California and the Great Basin, north-central Rockies, southern Plains, and central Great Plains. Temperatures should average below normal across the northern tier of States and above normal across the southern third of the U.S., with the greatest positive departures in the Southwest.

    For the ensuing 5-day period, July 29-August 2, the odds favor above median precipitation from the eastern Great Basin and Arizona southeastward along the Gulf Coast and northeastward along the southern and middle Atlantic Coast. Sub-median precipitation is likely in the Pacific Northwest, and from the northern Plains and upper Midwest southeastward into the Tennessee Valley. Western Alaska is expected to observe below median rainfall, with the opposite forecast in the southeastern Panhandle. An expected strong ridge of high pressure over the Far West and a deep trough over the eastern U.S. will favor strong chances of above-median temperatures in the West and below-median readings in the eastern half of the U.S.


    New study from @UCIrvine finds groundwater loss greater threat to western US than understood #ColoradoRiver

    July 24, 2014

    Here’s the release:

    A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

    This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.

    The research team used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater. That’s almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) — was from groundwater.

    “We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study’s lead author. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”

    Water above ground in the basin’s rivers and lakes is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and its losses are documented. Pumping from underground aquifers is regulated by individual states and is often not well documented.

    “There’s only one way to put together a very large-area study like this, and that is with satellites,” said senior author Jay Famiglietti, senior water cycle scientist at JPL on leave from UC Irvine, where he is an Earth system science professor. “There’s just not enough information available from well data to put together a consistent, basin-wide picture.”

    Famiglietti said GRACE is like having a giant scale in the sky. Within a given region, the change in mass due to rising or falling water reserves influences the strength of the local gravitational attraction. By periodically measuring gravity regionally, GRACE reveals how much a region’s water storage changes over time.

    The Colorado River is the only major river in the southwest part of the United States. Its basin supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states, and irrigates roughly four million acres of farmland.

    “The Colorado River Basin is the water lifeline of the western United States,” said Famiglietti. “With Lake Mead at its lowest level ever, we wanted to explore whether the basin, like most other regions around the world, was relying on groundwater to make up for the limited surface-water supply. We found a surprisingly high and long-term reliance on groundwater to bridge the gap between supply and demand.”

    Famiglietti noted that the rapid depletion rate will compound the problem of short supply by leading to further declines in streamflow in the Colorado River.

    “Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico,” Famiglietti said.

    The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which posted the manuscript online July 24. Co-authors included other scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. The research was funded by NASA and the University of California.

    For more information on NASA’s GRACE satellite mission, see: http://www.nasa.gov/grace and http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace

    More groundwater coverage here.


    SDS construction reaches Colorado Springs ahead of schedule and under budget — The Colorado Springs Gazette

    July 24, 2014
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Emily Donovan):

    Huge pipes being tunneled underground near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue is the first big sign after almost two decades of work to increase the water available to the Colorado Springs area by a third…

    Pipeline construction at the busy intersection is ahead of schedule, expected to be complete in September rather than November, said SDS spokesperson Janet Rummel…

    A $125 million facility that will be able to process 50 million gallons of water a day, the treatment plant on the east side of Colorado Springs is halfway constructed, also ahead of schedule. Construction began in March 2013 and will be finished in fall of 2015. The plant is expected to put out drinking water in April 2016…

    SDS construction is estimated to cost $847 million – $147 million less than the original estimation in 2009.

    Rummel said money was saved by asking engineers to make designs that would be cost-effective without damaging drinking water quality, like keeping every part of the water treatment plant under the same roof instead of separate buildings.

    This means SDS will cause less of a utilities rate increase for CSU customers than originally expected in 2009…

    “This is the future of Colorado Springs,” said Jay Hardison, CSU water treatment plant project manager.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    River restoration projects mostly fine despite runoff — The Leadville Herald Democrat

    July 24, 2014

    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey


    From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Danny Ramey):

    Heavy spring runoff did not have a major impact on several river restoration projects in the Arkansas River basin.

    Members of the Lake County Open Space Initiative toured the three different projects on Thursday, July 10. Each of three projects used a different method to help preserve or restore the river.

    Last year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked to maintain and build habitat along the Arkansas River near Hayden Meadows. Logs and sod mats were used in the project to help stabilize the river banks while still allowing the river some space to move.

    “That’s a natural thing rivers want to build,” Greg Policky, biologist for parks and wildlife, said. The goal of the project was to ensure that there is adequate habitat for each life stage of trout, Policky said.

    During the spring, the Hayden Meadows area saw higher than average flows. Normally, flows measure around 300 to 400 cubic feet per second on that stretch of river. This spring flows reached up to 900/cfs, Policky said. Despite the heavy flow, most of the structures parks and wildlife put in held. However, there were a few problem areas. In one spot, the river ripped out the log supports and created a channel.

    “It didn’t quite like everything we did,” Policky said.

    The runoff also caused some erosion of the river banks in the 4-mile project area. Crews will be coming in near the end of July to maintenance the project. They will also extend the project another mile down the river.

    Meanwhile, river restoration further up on the Arkansas River and the Lake Fork saw very little disturbance from the runoff.

    Restoration work along that section of the river was done mostly with rocks to lower the chance of something coming loose and washing downstream.

    “I put something in that I’m confident that I won’t move,” Greg Brunjak, who worked on the project, said.

    Willows and logs were also used in parts of the project to stabilize the banks.
    That particular project was performed mostly on private land along the Lake Fork. One of the project’s goals was to help eliminate erosion along the banks of the river and help maintain livestock habitat in the area.

    The structures can withstand up-flows of about 800/cfs, Brunjak said. That portion of the Lake Fork saw flows of around 200 and 250/cfs this winter, which were still higher then normal.

    “We’ve got a pretty good flow we haven’t seen for awhile,” Brunjak said.

    The Union Creek Project, located on a tributary off of the Arkansas River, saw minimal impact from the runoff as well. One of the main goals of the project was to stabilize a portion of the Old Stage Road. Union Creek had been cutting into the hill and destabilizing the road. The project was performed by Colorado Mountain College. Soil lifts and willows were used to help stabilize the bank of the creek below the road.
    The one issue from the runoff came from a log structure built to help get water to some of the willows used in the project, Jake Mohrmann, assistant project manager of the CMC Natural Resource Management department, said. The structure ended up being too tight and was plugged by debris from the runoff, which caused the area behind the structure to dry up slightly. When crews unplugged the structure it caused a lot of sediment to flow through, Mohrmann said. The structure then plugged up again a few weeks later.

    “We will need to remove it and find another way to get water to the willows,” Mohrmann said.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Lower Dolores study details native fish needs — The Dolores Star

    July 24, 2014

    From The Dolores Star (Jim Mimiaga):

    A conceptual plan for aiding native fish on the Lower Dolores River was approved by the Dolores Water Conservancy District in June. The District has been negotiating with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the BLM, Forest Service, and conservation groups on ways to improve native fish habitat below McPhee Dam. The result is the Lower Dolores River Implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation Plan, focusing on three native fish: the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker, and roundtail chub.

    “The plan provides a more coordinated approach for improving native fish habitat, with a focus on additional monitoring,” said Amber Clark, with the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance.

    After McPhee Dam was built, small spills, as well as non-spill years from 2001-2004, began reducing the quality and amount of habitat required to meet the needs of native fish. Spring releases from the dam are later in the season, which has reduced the chance for spawning and survival of native fish.

    “Protecting the native fish species locally is important because the healthier they are, the less likely they will be seen by the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife) agency as requiring protective status under the Endangered Species Act,” said Ken Curtis, an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District. “Working to help these species keeps control of our river at a local level.”

    The implementation plan presents known and preferred habitat conditions and lifecycles of native fish within six separate stretches of the river below McPhee dam, four of which are a focus of conservation: Dove Creek Pump Station to Pyramid (Reach 3), Pyramid to Big Gypsum Valley (Reach 4), Slickrock Canyon (Reach 5), and Bedrock to San Miguel confluence (Reach 6) Reach 3 (nine miles)

    Roundtail Chub are most abundant in Reach 3 and have a relatively stable population there. Mature roundtail are smaller than in other Western Slope rivers, indicating they are adapting to low flows. Fish counts at the Dove Creek area counted 140 roundtail chub, the highest in 13 years.

    Bluehead and flannelmouth suckers are present, but in low abundance. In 2013, eight bluehead and one flannelmouth were counted. Habitat is good for bluehead, a more cold tolerant fish.

    Reach 4 (38 miles)

    Disappointment enters the Dolores in this stretch, flushing sediment into the main channel.

    All three native species are found in this stretch as well as problematic non-natives including the black bullhead and smallmouth bass, a voracious predator.

    Studies show that populations shift toward non-native species during prolonged low-flow periods. In 2004, native species made up less than 50 percent of the fish caught. After a prolonged spill in 2005, 84 percent of the fish sampled were flannelmouth sucker or roundtail chubs. Because of silt buildup from Disappointment Creek, improving flows here would especially help native fish beat out non-natives.

    In August 2013, flooding showed that Reach 4 below Disappointment caused unnatural silting, causing a significant fish kill.

    A lack of water limits critical dilution effects, and there is an unnatural buildup of silt because of infrequent flushing flows. “During a flash flood event on Disappointment, the surge of debris-filled water flows into the Dolores River, but there is no water to help dilute the surge of silt-laden water,” said Jim White, a CPW fish biologist.

    Monitoring native species at Big Gypsum will remain a priority as it appears that the population may be sensitive to low flow.

    Flows are a big factor. In 2005, when there was a managed spill, biologists found 150 flannelmouth per hectare at the Big Gypsum site. While in 2004 when there was no spill, flannelmouth were counted at five fish per hectare.

    In April 2013, a PIT-tag array was installed across the river just above the Disappointment Creek confluence. Fish are implanted with grain-size microchips and can be detected when they move. Only a few fish have been tagged in the lower Dolores, but more implants are planned. Data shows native fish move up and down the river. The cost of the PIT-tag array is about $75,000.

    Slickrock Canyon (32 miles)

    All three native fish species are found,but in low abundance. This canyon is difficult to survey, and can usually be floated if there is a spill from McPhee reservoir. The last survey was in 2007, but more are needed to determine if the stretch has rearing habitats for native fish. A relatively large number of small native fish was found near the mouth of Coyote Wash, suggesting tributaries play an important role for young fish.

    Bedrock to the San Miguel River confluence (12 miles)

    There are a lot of unknowns. It is highly affected by natural salt loading through the Paradox Valley. The salinity is a barrier for fish between the Dolores River below the San Miguel and Slickrock Canyon. A salinity injection well is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation here to mitigate the problem. Researchers want to ascertain the levels of salinity. A second PIT-tag array is considered near Bedrock to help figure out how fish move .

    Spill management

    Mimicking a natural hydrograph for native fish is one goal of the implementation plan.

    McPhee stores most of the Dolores River spring runoff, and exports much of the storage to the Montezuma Valley of the San Juan River Basin. The result is a lack of spring flushing flows in the Lower Dolores to move sediment and create natural habitat.

    When inflow into the reservoir exceeds capacity, the spill benefits boaters and the downstream fishery. However, a prolonged drought has limited spill years. The reservoir holds a fishery pool of 29,824 acre-feet allocated downstream throughout the year by CPW. Spill water doesn’t count against the fishery pool, but it is subject to shortages in dry years.

    The report suggests ways to optimize the fish pool and spills for the benefit of native fish.

    Thermal regime management sends water downstream earlier, in March and April rather than in May, to keep water cooler and delay the fish spawn until after the whitewater season.

    Biologists have documented that when spill water is released in May, the low flows on the lower Dolores have heated up, cueing fish to spawn early.

    “The fry and eggs are washed away in the whitewater, a hit on survival,” White said.

    A model indicates that flow volumes of 125-200 cfs on May 1 may be necessary to keep water below 15C at the Dove Creek Pumps. More water downstream may keep water cool enough to delay spawning. A gauge at James Ranch will monitor conditions.

    Flushing flows range from 400-800 cfs are important to prepare spawning areas and improve oxygenated flow around eggs.

    Habitat flows ranging from 2,000 cfs to 3,400 cfs are necessary for resetting channel geometry, scouring pools, creating channels for fish nurseries. The Bureau of Reclamation urges increasing the fish pool to 36,500 acre-feet a year. A fund of $400,000 is earmarked for buying additional water, but none has been acquired using these funds.

    “There has always been a desire for more water for the downstream fishery,” says Curtis, of DWCD. “Before there is a blanket grab for additional water, there needs to be a specific focus on how it will help, and those questions are being pursued.”

    The goal of the Implementation Plan is to maintain, protect, and enhance the native fish populations in the Dolores River.

    The area is susceptible to being overrun by small mouth bass and affords opportunity for their suppression by removing caught fish.

    Managed spills scour the river bottom, and move sediment in ways that benefit native fish and their young.

    Blueheads are rarely detected in this stretch.

    Biologists see the problem as two-fold:

    The Snaggletooth Rapid is in this stretch, making fish sampling a challenge, but regular fish monitoring is encouraged in the report.

    More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.


    EPA: Our proposal to protect clean water preserves all exclusions and exemptions for agriculture

    July 24, 2014

    More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


    Edwards: Eagle River Watershed Council screening of DamNation July 30

    July 24, 2014
    Official poster

    Official poster

    We are excited to host a screening of Patagonia’s new, award-winning environmental documentary, DamNation, at the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards! “This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life & health of our rivers.”[...]

    Doors open Wednesday, July 30th at 6:15 pm, screening starts at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $3 in advance, $5 at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (970) 827-5406.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here.


    “…the way things are structured right now, a traditional El Niño will struggle to form” — @BrianBledsoe

    July 24, 2014

    sstanomalyjuly2014viaweather5280

    From Weather6280.com (Brian Bledsoe):

    As you can see, a warmer than normal pool of water is located off the west coast of South America in areas referred to as Niño Regions 1+2. Farther west across the Pacific the water is actually a bit cooler than normal until you get to the western Pacific Ocean. In order for the El Niño to develop in a traditional fashion, the water must cool in the western Pacific Ocean allowing the Southern Oscillation Index to drop and the subsequent oceanic and atmospheric coupling to take place. Sounds like a lot of geek speak…but the way things are structured right now, a traditional El Niño will struggle to form. Recently the SOI has started to drop a bit, but has a long way to go to where it indicates a true El Niño.


    East West Divide Apparent At Colorado Water Meeting #COWaterPlan

    July 23, 2014

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office


    From KUNC (Stephanie Paige Ogburn):

    Water managers are taking the next steps in formulating a statewide water plan, following a meeting where representatives from Colorado’s eight water basins met and presented drafts of their individual plans.

    There have been longstanding tensions between the state’s Western side and the Front Range over water transfers, and those differences came through in some of the presentations.

    “We are already a major donor of water to the Front Range of Colorado,” said Jim Pokrandt, a representative from the Colorado River District, which manages water for six counties in that basin on the Western Slope.

    Sean Cronin, executive director of the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, represents the South Platte and Metro interests in the state water plan discussions. In his presentation, Cronin pointed out the Front Range will likely need additional sources of water from the Colorado River.

    “The South Platte Basin is in favor of further development of Colorado’s [Colorado River] entitlement,” Cronin said.

    The difference between Pokrandt’s western perspective and Cronin’s eastern one has been in existence for decades, say water experts…

    The Western Slope’s Pokrandt said that while he appreciates existing conservation efforts from certain entities like Denver Water, Aurora, and Colorado Springs, the Front Range could do a lot more overall to use its water more efficiently.

    “That’s going to include addressing your urban conservation, how we landscape, appliances and things that we have in our house. And Colorado hasn’t totally embraced that,” he said.

    From the metropolitan side, Cronin said he saw the South Platte as a “model throughout the state” from a conservation standpoint.

    “We agree, we feel there can be more done in the way of conservation. Where it starts to get controversial is to what degree.”

    Cronin said the Metro/South Platte roundtable favored the preservation of local control over water, shying away from any measures that might force municipalities to use water in certain ways.

    Another big focus for the South Platte is keeping water in agriculture, rather than doing what is called “buy and dry,” allowing farmland to go dry while the water is used in cities.

    On the flip side, the desire to keep water in agriculture in the state’s eastern side is part of what drives the need for more transfers from the west, noted Pokrandt.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Steamboat Springs: 1st Yampa River cleanup day of season is Monday

    July 23, 2014

    Big Thompson Canyon: 1976 flood remembrance service set July 31 #BigThompson

    July 23, 2014

    bigthompsonflood073176
    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    The 38th remembrance service for the flood of 1976 will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 31 at the memorial site at the Volunteer Fire Department, 1461 W. U.S. 34, one mile below from Drake.

    The service will feature music, three scholarship awards and a speaker who worked for search and rescue in the flood, who had to rescue himself and survive the most recent flood.

    There will be a dedication of the bronze memorial, sculpted by George Walbye, which will be placed at the site in memory of Evelyn Starner and Patty Goodwine, who were killed in the September 2013 flood.

    For details, call Barb at 667-6465.

    Here’s an Allen Best column from The Denver Post that ran last fall after the flooding in the Front Range canyons:

    The recent rainfall along the Front Range was phenomenal, by some estimates a 1,000-year event in terms of duration, volume and area. But the flooding?

    Not so much, at least as measured by an obelisk along Boulder Creek in downtown Boulder.

    Human memories about weather are unreliable. During many years living in Vail, how often did I hear that the latest powder storm was absolutely the best ever? Plenty. Flooding is like that, too, but maybe in reverse.

    The turquoise obelisk in Boulder provides a better measure against long-term memory loss. Located near the Broadway bridge, it provides benchmarks for flood levels. The water this year lapped against the 50-year marker. Above it are others: 100 years, 500 years and, much higher yet, Big Thompson, a reference to the giant flood in that canyon between Loveland and Estes Park in 1976.

    I was at the Big Thompson disaster. I was living in Fort Collins then and was among scores of young men (sorry, women, those were different times) with strong backs who could be summoned in case of forest fires. My only fire was at an old sawmill site in the foothills. The joke was that one of us had set the fire because we were so desperate for minimum-wage work.

    Then came July 31. It was hot that night in Fort Collins. It hadn’t rained a drop.

    I was living above Gene’s Tavern, just two blocks from the Larimer County Courthouse. When the call came, I was at the sheriff’s office almost immediately. It was 9 p.m.

    Being among the first at the command center at the Dam Store west of Loveland, near the mouth of Big Thompson Canyon, I was assigned to a pickup dispatched to look for people in the water near the turnoff to Masonville. Already, the river was out of its banks. From the darkness emerged a figure, dripping and confused. “I went fishing at Horsetooth (Reservoir) and was driving home and then there was all this water,” he sputtered. He was befuddled. So were we.

    Our leader decided we’d best get out of there. From what I saw the next morning, that was an excellent decision. Water later covered the road there, too. I spent the night at the Dam Store as the water rose. Helicopters were dispatched, but there was little that could be done. Our lights revealed picnic baskets, beach balls and propane bottles bobbing in the dark, roiling water that raced past us, but never any hands summoning help.

    In the morning, we found those hands. The bodies were stripped of clothing and covered with mud. The first I saw was of a woman who we guessed was 18, not much younger than I was then. This thin margin between life and death was startling in my young eyes.

    Eventually, 144 people were declared victims of the flooding that night (although one turned up alive in 2008 in Oklahoma).

    Estes Park got some rain, but not all that much. The larger story was partway down the canyon, in the Glen Haven and Glen Comfort areas, where the thunderstorm hovered. In just a few hours, it dropped 10 to 14 inches of water.

    Downstream in the canyon, just above the Narrows, some people were unaware that anything was amiss until they went outside their houses and saw the water rising in their yards. It hadn’t even rained there. One cabin I saw a few days later was stripped of doors and windows but stood on its foundations, a mound of mud 5 or 6 feet high in the interior. I seem to recall a dog barking as we approached, protecting that small part of the familiar in a world gone mad.

    At the old hydroelectric plant where my family had once enjoyed Sunday picnics, the brick building had vanished. Only the turbines and concrete foundation remained. In a nearby tree, amid the branches maybe 10 or 15 feet off the ground, hung a lifeless body.

    The river that night carried 32,000 cubic feet per second of water at the mouth of the canyon, near where I was stationed. It happened almost instantaneously — and then it was gone. It was a flash flood.

    This year, the flows peaked at 10,000 cfs, but were more sustained and, according to reports, the damage inexplicably greater in portions of the canyon. There were horrors, too, but this year there was time for warnings.

    After the 1976 flood, rain gauges were sprinkled in the foothills of the Front Range, up to 7,500 feet in elevation, where most heavy summer rains occur. That telemetrically transmitted information alerts police chiefs and sheriffs to flooding potential. That warning system may have saved lives this year.

    Where does volume of this flood fit into the context of flooding in the last 150 years? That answer will have to wait. Many rain gauges were swept away, so peak flows will have to be calculated during field visits by U.S. Geological Survey personnel. That will take several weeks.

    One more banner of comparison was 1965, when rivers and creeks from Castle Rock to Lamar to Fort Morgan flooded.

    The flood that swept through Littleton and Denver created a mess, but led to the rethinking of the South Platte River as an asset rather than industrial afterthought.

    East of Denver and Colorado Springs, the same storms transformed Bijou Creek from a lifeless expanse of sand into an angry, snarling mass of water. At Fort Morgan, after entering the South Platte River, it nearly submerged the arches of the Rainbow Bridge. This year’s flooding, according to several eyewitness accounts, didn’t even come close.

    We’ve had other floods, too. Even in the midst of the Dust Bowl, there were giant floods in eastern Colorado, both on the South Platte and in the Republican River.

    My guess is that this flood will be the most damaging ever in Colorado history. Part of this is due to how broad the inundation was, from Colorado Springs to Wyoming. Population growth is also part of the story. Colorado now has 5.2 million people, almost double that of 1970, most of us crowded between Castle Rock and Wellington, a good many in the foothills, those areas so vulnerable to fires but also flooding.

    This flood once again points to the importance of land-use planning. Where you put sewer plants does matter. You can’t anticipate every natural disaster, but floods have an element of predictability.

    Boulder has had big floods before, most notably in 1894. It also had the direct lesson of Big Thompson and the local influence of Gilbert White, who died in 2006. “Floods are ‘acts of God,’ but flood losses are largely acts of man,” he had said. Boulder has muddy feet, but the consequences would have been much worse had the city not taken his advice and removed structures from along the creek to the west and resized bridges to accommodate more water. The obelisk is in his honor.

    John Pitlick, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado, says the flood this year peaked at about the 50-year marker on the obelisk.

    In one of his classes, he also noted that rainfall and flooding aren’t one and the same. “It is possible from a statistical analysis to be a 1,000-year rain, but you don’t necessarily have a 1,000-year flood.”

    In other words, context matters entirely. Had the water fallen in a shorter time, such as it did in the Big Thompson in 1976, Boulder’s story almost assuredly would have been different. “We might have seen a catastrophe,” he says.

    That leaves us in something of a no-man’s land, as Pitlick puts it.

    This year’s floods were a big deal but, aside from individual losses, not catastrophic to Colorado. What lessons do you draw for future flood planning? That’s the question for communities along the Front Range in months ahead.

    More Big Thompson River watershed coverage here.


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

    July 23, 2014
    Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 thru July 20, 2014

    Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 thru July 20, 2014

    Click here to read the current assessment from NIDIS (hosted by the Colorado Climate Center).


    Greeley gets USACE permit for pipeline

    July 23, 2014

    pipeline

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    After a 7-year process and multiple studies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit that would allow Greeley to build a 6-mile section of pipeline known as the Northern Segment.

    The city plans to run the pipeline under the Poudre River and through open fields on private property south of the river.

    Greeley officials plan to work with affected property owners during the coming months to get easements for the pipeline, said Eric Reckentine, deputy director of water resources for Greeley Water and Sewer.

    Construction is expected to begin in late fall and last about a year and a half. The segment is expected to cost about $25 million.

    But the fight over the pipeline is not over and could end up in court.

    Rose Brinks, who lives off Overland Trail near the river and Lions Park, stated in an email to the Coloradoan that she will not allow her family’s historic farm to be “torn up for such a pipeline.”

    Greeley could use eminent domain to get the rights of way it needs to build the project.

    “We would prefer to negotiate with property owners,” Reckentine said.

    Brinks and other affected property owners have contended for years that the project should be built along another route, such as under Larimer County Road 54G.

    But Greeley officials say their preferred route would disrupt fewer properties and would not require the removal of homes. It also would not force monthslong construction closures on LaPorte’s main street.

    As part of the process of getting the permit, Greeley had to do extensive studies on the environmental impact of the project and its potential effects on historic sites, such as a section of the old Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad line on Brinks’ property.

    Greeley plans to bore underground to get the pipeline through sensitive areas, Reckentine said…

    The 30-mile pipeline project would run from Greeley’s water treatment plant near Bellvue to Gold Hill Reservoir west of the city. Two-thirds of the pipeline is complete and operating. The segment that runs through Fort Collins ends at Shields Street.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sherrie Peif):

    After seven years of fights and headaches, Greeley officials can finally celebrate. The Army Corps of Engineers gave approval for the final 6-mile segment of the Bellvue Pipeline from the Fort Collins/LaPorte/Bellvue area.

    The final addition, which runs from Shields Street in Fort Collins to the Bellvue Treatment Plant at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, will complete the $80 million, 30-mile pipeline. It will have the capacity to deliver an additional 50 million gallons of water per day to Greeley, enough to satisfy the projected need of Greeley’s water customers for the next 50 years.

    The city hit roadblocks every direction it turned with landowners worried about the impact on wildlife and historical structures, as well as noise and fumes and the other effects of construction.

    Then, concern over the Preble jumping mouse habitat got in the way. Greeley was required to study the mouse habitat and any impacts under the State and National Historic Preservation Acts before the permit verification was issued.

    There are still four property owners trying to hold up the process, said Eric Reckentine, deputy director of water resources for Greeley, but the city has the go-ahead for construction, which is expected to begin in the fall.

    It will run under the originally proposed 28 different properties. The city could take any remaining land through eminent domain laws if it needs to.

    “We’re still working through some issues with those landowners,” Reckentine said.

    He did not know how much the city has spent in legal fees on the project.

    Officials say the route is the least destructive. An alternative would have traveled under Main Street in LaPorte and under that town’s two schools. When completed, this will be only the second extension of water pipeline the city has done in 100 years.

    The city, which since the 1950s has had two existing 27-inch pipelines through the town, has two-thirds of the 60-inch line built and some portions already in operation.

    The line parallels about 65 percent of the city’s existing lines, but it will move through a portion of historically registered property along Overland Trail at the southern edge of LaPorte. Retired water director Jon Monson said in 2011 that the structures would be completely avoided by tunneling beneath them, roughly 18-20 feet for about 1,700 feet.

    The city still needs some additional permits to increase the water capacity, but Reckentine said he was confident they would not be a problem.

    “This is an important project for Greeley,” Reckentine said. “We are just glad we can begin construction.”

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    EPA: Our proposal to protect clean water won’t affect state water laws, including those on water supply and use

    July 23, 2014

    Fountain Creek: “It seems to me at some point there will be a balance between water rights and property rights” — Steve Witte

    July 23, 2014
    Fountain Creek flood debris May 2014 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek flood debris May 2014 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Would a dam on Fountain Creek make a difference in a situation such as last week’s drainage along the Arkansas River?

    “It is something we need to talk about,” Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte said Monday, looking back at a wild ride of a week on the river. “It’s a discussion that needs to take place. It seems to me at some point there will be a balance between water rights and property rights.”

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable earlier this month turned away a grant request from the Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District to study the practical effects of building a dam or system of detention ponds on Fountain Creek.

    Chief among objections: the damage to junior water rights. By changing the peak flow on Fountain Creek floods — delaying the time it takes water to reach points downstream — junior water rights might not come into priority.

    On the other hand, the peak flows that came crashing off the prairie into already full canals caused three of them to blow out after storms early last week.

    “We already have an example, Pueblo Dam, of how we can reduce flood damage,” Witte said. “On the South Platte, they already are using upstream, out-of-priority storage. They use the water where it exists and determines who gets it later.”

    Answering the basic question of whether those types of programs might work on Fountain Creek — the largest single tributary to the Arkansas River in Colorado — needs to be explored. Otherwise the only option to catch floodwater below Lake Pueblo is John Martin Reservoir, Witte said.

    “I hope they’ll come back with a revised request,” he said.

    One of the problems with last week’s storms is that much of the water was flowing in from unmeasured creeks and gullies. There are no gauges on Chico Creek or Kramer Creek, both a few miles east of Pueblo. Chico Creek boosts flows past the Avondale gauge, but no one can be sure just how much is being contributed to the river. The break in the Colorado Canal was caused by heavy flows on Kramer Creek near Nepesta.

    “We were just flying blind,” said Witte, who witnessed the flooding at Nepesta.

    The water from several tributaries hit the Arkansas River at the same time, creating “waves” that peaked quickly and then subsided. Some falsely high readings caused unnecessary worries downstream, where no major flooding occurred.

    While the system of satellite river gauges has grown in the past 25 years, and provide easy access to information on the Internet, some malfunctioned during last week’s storms. Division of Water Resources staff scrambled to find out what was happening.

    “I think we’ve improved, but there is still an element of human judgment,” Witte said. “We need to have people on the ground to verify if our gauges are accurate.”

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Snowmass: Colorado Water Congress summer meeting “Rallying Our Water Community” August 20-22

    July 23, 2014
    Westin Snowmass Resort

    Westin Snowmass Resort

    From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

    Excitement continues to build for our 2014 Summer Conference and Membership Meeting. It will be held at the Westin Snowmass Resort, August 20-22. Our theme this year is “Rallying Our Water Community.” To register please visit: Conference Registration.

    We will know in a couple of weeks if enough signatures have been gathered to place Initiative 89, Local Government Regulation of the Environment, on the 2014 Ballot. Whether it does or not, the water community will need to develop a greater public presence on these issues. Our conference is designed to help develop your advocacy skills and knowledge base.

    We want to ensure we are focused on our member’s priorities when the Water Congress Board sets our priorities this fall. Summer Conference activities are designed to give you the opportunity to provide direct input to our leadership. We hope that you will take this chance to engage with us.

    Our exciting program will again include a session with the Water Resources Review Committee. Additional honored guests include both Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House Third District, and Attorney General. Don’t miss this chance to catch up with colleagues and meet new community members during our POND networking activities.

    Highlights of our unique program sessions include:

    Strategies for Finding Your Voice
    Do you have adequate tools to advocate on behalf of Colorado’s water community? Practice conveying your message with other attendees and workshop leaders.

    Senator Udall, Congressman Gardner, Congressman Tipton, and Former State Senator Tapia
    We are pleased to host candidates for some of our top political offices as they address issues of keen importance to Colorado’s water community.

    Costs of Doing the Right Thing
    As we plan for our water allocation in the future, we rarely examine the full social and economic costs, including burdens on individual ratepayers. This panel will examine those costs, along with a brief overview of other economic challenges currently faced by Colorado water providers.

    Mono Lake
    For 100 years, the L.A. Aqueduct has been the source of legend and controversy. Today, drought imperils much of California’s water supply. How is Los Angeles handling the drought within the confines of a Public Trust Doctrine?

    Mitigation for Transbasin Diversion
    Past Aspinall Water Leaders will discuss historic transbasin water projects and their mitigation. What can we learn from the past?

    We are looking forward to seeing you in Snowmass, August 20-22. Additional conference information and registration can be found at: Conference Information.

    More education coverage here.


    Big Thompson River restoration meeting set July 31 — Loveland Reporter-Herald

    July 23, 2014
    Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 -- photo via Northern Water

    Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    A Big Thompson River master planning meeting will be held at 6-8 p.m. Thursday, July 31, at the Thompson School District Administration Building, 800 S. Taft Ave.

    The third in a series of meetings held to look at options for river restoration after last September’s flood, the session will present preliminary recommendations for restoration of the river and design plans.

    Stakeholders will get the chance to offer feedback.

    For details, call 420-7346 or visit http://bigthompsonriver.org.


    The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch files pilot rotational fallowing application with the CWCB

    July 23, 2014
    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch is planning a pilot program next year under a 2013 state law encouraging water sharing programs as an alternative to permanent dry-up of farm ground. The plan, filed with the Colorado Water Conservation Board last week, would lease up to 500 acre-feet (163 million gallons) annually from the Catlin Canal to Fowler, Fountain and Security. About 1,128 acres would be dried up on a rotational basis to deliver the water.

    “What we’re trying to do is see if a lease-fallowing program is viable,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We’re trying to keep the water in the Arkansas basin. That’s what it’s all about.”

    The application is the first to be filed under HB1248, passed last year by the state Legislature, which allows the CWCB to look at 10 test projects throughout the state. The projects are supervised by the state water board, with input from the state engineer. It may finally launch Super Ditch pilot projects that have stalled because of drought and second thoughts by farmers.

    The Super Ditch submitted a substitute water supply plan with the state Division of Water Resources in 2012 for a lease-fallowing pilot project with Fountain and Security that failed because there was not enough water to move. The state restrictions that were placed on the project, fueled by objections from other water users, made moving any water in that dry year futile, Winner explained.

    Last year, the Super Ditch was prepared to move some High Line Canal water to Fowler, but the deal was stopped when farmers pulled out. Fowler leased 125 acre-feet of water for $25,000 from the Pueblo Board of Water Works instead.

    Under the plan outlined in the application, Fowler would lease up to 250 acre-feet, while Fountain and Security would lease up to 125 acre-feet each annually.

    State law provides that the plan can be operated for 10 years.

    “I think we’ll try it for a year or two, just to see if lease-fallowing is feasible,” Winner said. “We have to see if we can move water to Lake Pueblo. One of the drawbacks of HB1248 is that it only allows for municipal leasing, but if this works, there’s the possibility for industrial or agricultural leases as well.”

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


    Climate: Has global warming slowed down?

    July 23, 2014

    Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

    Study shows natural variability still a factor in climate change

    op

    op

    Staff Report

    FRISCO — A cool phase of natural climate variability may have canceled out the heat-trapping effects of greenhouse gases the past 15 years, which would explain the so-called global warming slowdown, according to McGill University physicist Shaun Lovejoy.

    In a paper published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, Lovejoy concluded after a statistical analysis of average global temperatures between 1998 and 2013 thatslowdown in global warming during this period is consistent with natural variations in temperature.

    In a paper published this month in Geophysical Research Letters, Lovejoy concludes that a natural cooling fluctuation during this period largely masked the warming effects of a continued increase in man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    View original 375 more words


    First-Ever Campus Water Conservation Plan at MSU Denver

    July 23, 2014

    Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

    Students from the MSU Denver ENV 290B Water Conservation Management Class created a campus-wide water management plant

    Students from the MSU Denver ENV 290B Water Conservation Management Class created a campus-wide water management plant

    MSU Denver students, along with advice from Denver Water and the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship (OWOW), created the first-ever comprehensive campus water management plan. The plan was the result from the ENV 290B Water Conservation Planning summer course. The students spent 8 hours a day, for two weeks, researching and creating the plan for the new applied-learning course. The final plan was unveiled to Mark Cassalia from Denver Water’s Conservation department, Nona Shipman and Tom Cech from OWOW, and Jon Bortles, the campus Sustainably Director. The plan received rave reviews and will be used to make much needed water conserving changes to the current campus water management plan.

    The plan included data and mapping for outdoor water usage, indoor water usage, a drought response plan…

    View original 378 more words


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