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

July 16, 2014


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jim Pokrandt):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Pokrandt is Colorado Basin Roundtable Chair.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


South Platte and Metro roundtables #COWaterPlan update

June 30, 2014
Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

The Colorado Water Plan draws upon a decade of work by the state’s eight basin roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). It also incorporates information from the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which predicted the state will have a gap between water supply and demand of about 500,000 acre feet of water by 2050, with the largest gap projected for the South Platte River Basin.

During the past year, the basin roundtables and the CWCB have held dozens of town meetings on the water plan, seeking input from citizens and organizations interested in the state’s water future. Those meetings wrapped up in April, and then the basin roundtable members went to work to develop their basin implementation plans (BIPS), that will be submitted to the CWCB at the end of July. Those plans will be incorporated into the draft Colorado Water Plan, which is due to the Governor at the end of the year. The plan is to be finalized by December, 2015.

In addition to the basin implementation plans, the state water plan will include a “framework” document that outlines the issues to be addressed. The CWCB has already released eight draft chapters of this framework document this year, with four coming out in the last month. The most recent drafts covered water quality, conservation and re-use, and alternative agriculture to urban transfers. The drafts will be updated based on input from the BIPs.

The draft on agricultural transfers focused on alternative agricultural transfer methods (ATMS) and current efforts to develop more creative solutions to “buy and dry.” The draft noted several ATMs are already in place and more are on the way. These include deficit irrigation, water co-ops, water banks, water conservation easements; and flexible water markets, which was proposed in the 2014 legislative session but failed to clear the Senate. Another ATM, farrowing-leasing, which would allow for farrowing of irrigated farmland with temporary leasing of water to municipalities, is being studied under legislation passed in 2013.

More than 1,000 emails and documents have come in to the CWCB, addressing the draft chapters. Almost half of the responses came from stakeholders in the South Platte River and Metro Denver districts.

Most of the comments received by the CWCB have come either through emails to cowaterplan@state.co.us or through a webform on the water plan website, coloradowaterplan.com. CWCB staff responded to all of the comments, even those that might not be financially or technically feasible. One such comment said the state should cover its reservoirs with a thin membrane “similar to bubble wrap” to slow evaporation. Another suggested that the state halt all housing development along the Front Range.

A handful of comments addressed agricultural use, including responses that encourage more efficient irrigation systems and pointing out that agriculture is far and away the biggest user of water. But one commenter suggested a new form of “buy and dry.” Kristen Martinez of Metropolitan State University of Denver said the city of Denver could pay for businesses and residents to xeriscape their lawns, similar to a plan implemented by the city of Las Vegas. She also recommended the city of Denver invest in more efficient irrigation systems for farmers, as a trade-off for buying up agricultural water rights.

“…agriculture stands as the biggest water user, but farmers should not be the only ones to feel the pain of supply and demand,” Martinez wrote. “Most Denverites don’t give heed to the serious task of stewarding their water — not as a farmer must. Why aren’t local industries or municipal users being asked to sacrifice their lifestyle or adjust their operations?…can Colorado’s water plan please ask urban users to take ownership of their consumption, in addition to solving it by diverting farm water?”

Sean Cronin, director of the St. Vrain & Left Hand Water Conservancy District, chairs the South Platte River Basin roundtable, and pointed out that the South Platte and Metro Denver basin are collaborating on a joint BIP.

Cronin noted that although they are submitting a joint BIP, the two districts are quite diverse and one size will not fit all. “Water is very local!” he said recently. Feedback in the town meetings has been very different throughout the two districts. In Sterling, for example, he said the focus was on agriculture. In Longmont, people spoke about groundwater because of the well issues in the area. Denver’s focus was more on municipal conservation and recreational/environmental concerns.

So how will the two roundtables come up with one BIP, given the divergent views? Cronin said that they knew going into the process it would be difficult to address all of the different interests and cultures surrounding water. “It’s incredibly challenging to par it down to one solution that will make everyone happy,” he said. Cronin believes the draft BIP will instead reflect the diverse interests of the basin districts…

A recent presentation on the BIP by the roundtable to Colorado Counties Inc. laid out the plan’s major premise: “You can’t have conservation without storage, and you can’t have storage without conservation.” Even with the “Identified Projects and Processes” already in discussion (which came out of the 2010 SWSI), the gap in the South Platte would at best be reduced to about 100,000 acre feet of water, and many of those solutions are years, and maybe decades, away.

And that raised red flags for environmental groups, with one warning Coloradans that the BIP will further endanger the rivers of the South Platte basin…

Cronin encourages people to continue to submit comments through the South Platte Basin Roundtable website (http://cwcb.state.co.us/water-management/basin-roundtables). Public comments also will be accepted on draft versions of the plan through September, 2015, and can be submitted through the Colorado Water Plan website noted earlier.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Castle Rock hopes to get 75% of water supply from renewable sources by 2050

June 2, 2014

castlerock
From The Denver Post (Clayton Woullard):

After one year of operation, the Plum Creek Water Purification Facility has exceeded Castle Rock’s expectations in terms of efficiency as it plays an important role in the town’s long-term renewable water projects. The $22.6-million-dollar plant went online in April 2013, specifically to treat more ground water, as well as renewable surface water from Plum Creek. The facility is part of an effort by Castle Rock to have 75 percent of its water come from renewable sources by 2050, when the town projects it will be built out at 100,000 people. The town’s population is at about 53,000 now.

Other parts of the project are a renewable water agreement through the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership (WISE) with Denver Water and Aurora Water, as well as storage of 8,000 acre feet of water in Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Parker. Castle Rock Utilities Director Mark Marlowe said the plant’s operating costs, along with the WISE partnerships, are coming in under budget.

“If we don’t do these things, we continue to be reliant on our deep water supplies,” Marlowe said.

That’s something the town and other Douglas County jurisdictions can’t afford, because well water continues to be depleted.

The WISE partnership agreement is almost complete, Marlowe said and will eventually bring about 7,225 acre feet of renewable water and 1,000 acre feet in the short term to Castle Rock. Marlowe said two contingencies must be finished by next year to get WISE water flowing: the $4 million purchase of a pipeline that will get water from Denver and Aurora to Castle Rock; and a new pipeline the town will need to allow it to begin receiving renewable water.

Marlowe said the water supply from WISE is interruptible, unlike the supply coming through the treatment facility.

The Plum Creek Purification Facility captures water from East and West Plum Creek and lawn irrigation return flows. The plant treats more than 4 million gallons of water per day but has the capability to treat up to 12 million gallons when it is eventually expanded. The plant has the capacity to bring the town 35 percent renewable water; now it’s between 12 and 20 percent renewable, depending on demand.

“It is exciting for our community that we get to use this resource,” said Karen McGrath, spokeswoman for the town.

Because the plant also treats surface water, it has different processes, including a series of racks or tubes of thousands of very thin, vertical membranes that filter the water and require regular maintenance and cleaning. Marlowe said surface water requires more treatment than ground water and necessitated the facility.

Most of the plant’s processes run automatically, so the plant only requires about two workers at any time. The system is set up with alarms and auto-correcting mechanisms.

Level 4 plant operator Ken Timm said it’s the most advanced water treatment plant he’s worked at.

“The only challenge is if something breaks,” Timm said, “and how fast can we get it repaired and what caused it.”

More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.


Northwest Pipe Co. is major supplier for the Southern Delivery System #ColoradoRiver

May 23, 2014
Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Denver Post (Aldo Svaldi):

Orders at the Northwest Pipe Co. plant in Denver were drying up in 2010 when bid requests started coming for a massive water project linking the Pueblo Reservoir and Colorado Springs called the Southern Delivery System.

“The start of the SDS project couldn’t have come at a better time,” Northwest’s vice president of sales Eric Stokes said.

At a cost of $841 million, the water project is the largest the region has seen in decades. Starting in 2016, it will pipe water held in the Pueblo Reservoir to consumers in Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain.

“This is our water security for many years to come, 50 years into the future,” said John Fredell, program director of the water services division for SDS.

Northwest Pipe’s Denver plant won almost all the contracts to supply 50 miles of steel pipe, and the company celebrated the completion of the last piece Thursday afternoon. Northwest produced 7,000 pieces of the pipeline, each averaging 50 feet in length and 66 inches in diameter. The orders allowed Northwest’s employment in Denver to grow from 116 full-time workers to more than 231 at the peak of manufacturing.

Of about $500 million spent so far on the project, $359 million has gone to 333 Colorado businesses, including more than 75 based in metro Denver, Fredell said.

Northwest Pipe alone received about $110 million, including $23 million spent on payroll. Given that the next closest competitor was in California, Stokes said Northwest had a distinct advantage.

“Proximity was part of it,” Fredell said.

Back in 1997, Northwest Pipe, which is based in Vancouver, Wash., acquired Thompson Pipe & Steel Co., a manufacturer with Denver roots going back to the late 1800s. For decades, Thompson built pipes in the Curtis Park area that continue to help move water across much of the state. Thompson moved its plant to a 45-acre facility at 6030 Washington St., where workers continued to convert steel coil arriving by rail car into water pipes shipped out on trucks.

Once formed, the pipes are pumped full of water and pressure-tested to ensure there are no leaks. They are moved into a cavernous ⅛ – mile-long warehouse where they are rotated rapidly while concrete is poured inside to make a lining designed to last for decades. In a third building, the pipes are primed, painted and prepared for shipping.

“It is nice to know you have finished on time,” said Jason Cheng, a welder from Westminster who joined Northwest in October to work on the SDS order.

Cheng and other workers lined up to sign the last piece of pipe, undeterred as the rain poured down Thursday afternoon. Their signatures, in white ink, quickly smeared down the bright-blue pipe.

“We want the water on the inside of the pipe, not the outside,” one person commented.

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Northwest Pipe, (Nasdaq: NWPX) is based in Vancouver, Washington. Its Denver manufacturing plant had a $110 million contract to build the project’s 50 miles of pipeline to carry the water. It was the biggest contract for materials under the project.

Northwest Pipe started making its 50-foot sections of pipe for the project, each section 66 inches in diameter, in 2011.
And the last pieces are now coming off the manufacturing line and awaiting a truck for transport to the project site.

“This is one of the largest programs that we’ve seen,” said John Moore, manager of Northwest Pipe’s manufacturing plant at 6030 N. Washington St. in north Denver.

During peak production, as many as 25 trucks a day left Northwest Pipe’s manufacturing facility.
Being in Denver meant trucking costs were less and Northwest Pipe could submit a more competitive bid for the project, Moore said.

And the project meant jobs for Northwest Pipe, which ramped up to 231 people during peak production, from a low of 116 people prior to work on the project, said John Moore, the plant manager. The company currently has 131 people on staff.
Northwest Pipe, which supplies pipes to carry water and waste water, has delivered pipes to other big water providers, including Denver Water and Aurora.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

May 12, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


“…we have a lot of communities on a diminishing aquifer” — Eric Hecox

May 11, 2014

rueter-hessplans

From The Denver Post (Steve Raabe):

The shimmering surface of Rueter-Hess reservoir seems out of place in arid Douglas County, where almost all of the water resources are in aquifers a quarter-mile under ground.

Yet the $195 million body of water, southwest of Parker, is poised to play a crucial role in providing water to one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S.

As recently as a few years ago, developers were content to tap the seemingly abundant Denver Basin aquifer to serve the thousands of new homes built each year along the southern edge of metro Denver.

But a problem arose. As homebuilding in Douglas County exploded, the groundwater that once seemed abundant turned out to be finite. Land developers and utilities found that the more wells they drilled into the aquifer, the more grudgingly it surrendered water.

“Now we have a lot of communities on a diminishing aquifer,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a consortium of 14 water suppliers that serve 300,000 residents.

As water pressure in the Denver Basin steadily declines, developers and water utilities that rely on the aquifer are being forced to drill more wells and pump harder from existing wells.

Enter Rueter-Hess. The massive storage facility — 50 percent larger in surface area than Cherry Creek reservoir — aims to help developers wean themselves from groundwater by shifting to other sources.

The reservoir anchors a multifaceted water plan for the south metro area that includes the purchase of costly but replenishable surface water, reuse of wastewater and a greater emphasis on conservation.

Douglas County, long a magnet for builders enticed by easy access to Denver Basin aquifers, is taking the water issue seriously.

A new proposal floated by the county government would give developers density bonuses — up to 20 percent more buildout — for communities that reduce typical water consumption and commit to using renewable sources for at least half of their water.

“In the past, the county had not taken an active role in water supplies because groundwater was sufficient,” said Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella. “But we understand that we cannot continue to be solely reliant on our aquifers. What we’re doing today will help us plan for the next 25 years.”

Parker Water and Sanitation District launched construction of Rueter-Hess in 2006 and began gradually filling the reservoir in 2011, fed by excess surface and alluvial well flows in Cherry Creek.

Partners in the project include Castle Rock, Stonegate and the Castle Pines North metropolitan district. Parker Water and Sanitation district manager Ron Redd said he expects more water utilities to sign on for storage as they begin acquiring rights to surface water.

The chief source of new supplies will be the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, or WISE, in which Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet a year to 10 south-metro water suppliers beginning in 2016. Most of them are expected to purchase storage for the new water in Rueter-Hess. An acre-foot is generally believed to be enough to serve the needs of two families of four for a year

Parker Water and Sanitation also is exploring ways to develop recreational uses at the dam — including hiking, camping, fishing and nonmotorized boating — through an intergovernmental agreement with other Douglas County entities.

Even three years after opening, the reservoir’s stored water has reached just 13 percent of its 75,000-acre-foot capacity. Yet Rueter-Hess is the most visible icon in Douglas County’s search for water solutions.

At stake is the ability to provide water for a county that in the 1990s and early 2000s perennially ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation. The number of homes in Douglas County has soared from 7,789 in 1980 to more than 110,000 today, an astounding increase of more than 1,300 percent.

The building boom slowed after the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009. Growth rates that had reached as high as 10 percent to 15 percent a year during the 1990s ratcheted down to about 1 percent to 2 percent.

But as the economy has begun recovering, Douglas County is once again “seeing high levels of demand” for new residential development, said assistant director of planning services Steve Koster.

One of the biggest Douglas County projects in decades is Sterling Ranch, a proposed community of 12,000 homes south of Chatfield State Park.

The 3,400-acre ranch sits on the outer fringes of the Denver Basin aquifer, making it a poor candidate for reliance on the basin’s groundwater.

As a result, the project developer will employ a mixed-bag of water resources, including an aggressive conservation and efficiency plan; surface-water purchases from the WISE program; well water from rights owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz; and a precedent-setting rainwater-collection program.

Sterling Ranch managing director Harold Smethills described the Rueter-Hess concept as “brilliant,” even though his development has not yet purchased any of the reservoir’s capacity.

“You just can’t have enough storage,” he said.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here. More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.


Pure Cycle Corporation Announces Second Fiscal Quarter 2014 Financial Results

April 14, 2014

waterfromtap

Here’s the release from Pure Cycle Water:

Pure Cycle Corporation (NASDAQ Capital Market: PCYO) today reported financial results for the six months ended February 28, 2014. Basic and diluted loss per share decreased 38% from a loss of $.08 per share in last year to $.05 per share this year.

“During the second quarter we continued to see our business grow and develop driving long- term shareholder value” commented Mark Harding, President of Pure Cycle Corporation. “We are very excited to have record water sales and deliveries and are continuing to add value to our Company through monetizing our valuable water assets.”[...]

Revenues increased approximately 51% during the our six months ended February 28, 2014 compared to our six months ended February 28, 2013 primarily as a result of increased water sales used for fracking.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Noble Energy looks to the Denver Basin Aquifer System for non-tributary groundwater for operations

January 29, 2014
Denver Basin Aquifers confining unit sands and springs via the USGS

Denver Basin Aquifers confining unit sands and springs via the USGS

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Many water needs in the region have been met by buying supplies from farmers and ranchers, but a Noble Energy manager said Tuesday the oil and gas industry could and should stop being a part of that problem, and explained what his company is doing to get water. The large energy developer is looking to use deep groundwater wells — drawing “non-tributary water” — to meets its needs down the road, said Ken Knox, senior adviser and water resources manager for Noble, during his presentation at the Colorado Farm Show in Greeley.

Farmers and others who pump groundwater typically draw water that’s less than 100 feet below the Earth’s surface — water that’s considered to be “tributary,” because it’s connected to the watershed on the surface and over time flows underground into nearby rivers and streams, where it’s used by farmers, cities and others. Wanting to avoid water that’s needed by other users, Knox said Noble is looking to have in place about a handful of deep, non-tributary groundwater wells that draw from about 800 to 1,600 feet below the Earth’s surface. Digging wells that deep is considered too expensive for farmers, Knox and others said Tuesday, and the quality of water at that depth is typically unusable for municipal or agricultural uses.

One of Noble’s deep groundwater wells is already in place, and the company is currently going through water court to get another four operating in the region down the road, Knox said. Along with digging deeper for water, Knox explained that Noble across the board is “strategically looking” to develop water supplies that don’t put them in competition with agriculture or cities.

Oil and gas development, according to the Colorado Division of Natural Resources, only used about 0.11 percent of the state’s water in 2012 — very little compared to agriculture, which uses about 85 percent of the state’s supplies. But in places like Weld County — where about 80 percent of the state’s oil and gas production is taking place, and where about 25 percent of the state’s agriculture production is going on, and where the population has doubled since 1990 and is expected to continue growing — finding ways for an economy-boosting energy industry to not interfere with the water demands of farmers, ranchers and cities is critical.

The growing water demands of the region is coupled with the fact that the cheapest way to build water supplies is to purchase them from farmers and ranchers who are leaving the land and willing to sell. Those factors leave the South Platte Basin, which covers most of northeast Colorado, potentially having as many as 267,000 acres of irrigated farmland dry up by 2050, according to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative Study, released by the state in 2010.

With that in mind, the Colorado Farm Show offered its “Water Resources Panel: Agriculture, Urban and Oil and Development Interactions.”

Joining Knox on the panel were John Stulp, who is special policy adviser on water to Gov. John Hickenlooper; Dave Nettles, division engineer with the Water Resources Division office in Greeley; and Jim Hall, resources manager for the city of Greeley. The panel was moderated by Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University.

Knox also spoke Tuesday of Noble’s and other energy companies’ efforts to recycle the water they use in drilling for oil and gas — a hydraulic fracturing process, or “fracking,” that involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into rock formations, about 7,000 feet into the ground, to free oil and natural gas. The average horizontal well uses about 2.8 million gallons of water. Some water initially flows out of the well, but another percentage flows back over time. Knox stressed it is cheaper for companies to dispose of that returned water and buy fresh water for drilling purposes than it is to build facilities that treat used water. But, seeing the need to make the most of water supplies in the region, Noble is willing to invest in water-recycling facilities and other water-efficiency endeavors.

Hall noted that the city of Greeley, which leases water to both ag users and oil and gas users, has seen a decrease in the amount of water it leases for energy development. With improved technology and improved drilling techniques, also decreasing is the amount of land oil and gas development is using, and the number of water trucks on rural roads.

Knox said oil and gas companies — once requiring about 8 acres for one well site — can now put four to eight wells on just 3 acres, meaning the impact on farm and ranch land is less than it once was. By becoming more water efficient, he said Noble has decreased its water truck loads by 1.65 million annually, and reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 264,000 tons.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


The winter 2014 ‘In the pipeline’ newsletter from United Water is hot off the presses

January 26, 2014

United Water's operations north of I-70

United Water’s operations north of I-70


Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Officials from United Water and Sanitation District joined state and local government dignitaries and leaders of area water districts on October 18 to dedicate Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority’s (ACWWA) Chambers Reservoir and celebrate ACWWA taking initial renewable water deliveries from its ACWWA Flow Project.

United played a key role in development of both the Chambers Reservoir and the ACWWA Flow Project, building the reservoir for ACWWA and acquiring the 4,400 acre-feet of renewable water that is the keystone of the ACWWA Flow Project.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


CSU, Noble Energy and DNR partner on groundwater monitoring project in the Wattenberg field

December 6, 2013
Groundwater monitoring well

Groundwater monitoring well

From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

Like the crime scene investigators on television, researchers in northern Colorado will be taking an intense look at water wells throughout the oil patch in a demonstration study in the coming months to determine changes in the water over time. Conducted through Colorado State University in partnership with Noble Energy, the Colorado Water Watch demonstration project will soon begin water table monitoring in test wells at roughly 10 Noble production sites in a real-time look at how the water changes.

“It was conceived not so much as a research project but as a tool to provide information to the public,” said project lead researcher Ken Carlson, an associate professor Civil and Environmental Engineering at CSU. “The oil and gas industry is taking the initiative here to provide some visibility.” Read the rest of this entry »


‘Groundwater will be a part of the state water plan’ John Stulp #COWaterPlan

December 5, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Call it a wet-headed stepchild. Colorado has puzzled for years about how to account for its underground water resources, with about the same impact as water sloshing in the bottom of a precariously carried bucket. A state water plan will attempt to incorporate groundwater management, including possible aquifer storage, even though the relationship between surface water and well water is not fully understood.

“Groundwater will be a part of the state water plan,” John Stulp, the governor’s water adviser, told about 80 attendees of a groundwater conference this week. “There are a number of studies and plans that will go forward as the state water plan is developed.”

The conference, organized by the American Groundwater Trust, was designed to address policy as a follow-up to more technical reports generated from a 2012 conference.

While Colorado water rights stretch back to the mid-1800s, groundwater in the state was of little concern until more high-capacity wells were drilled in the 1950s and 1960s. It wasn’t until 1969 that well use was incorporated into the elaborate web of prior appropriation water right, explained Steve Sims, a water lawyer who once defended the state’s water rights in the attorney general’s office. But since then, a tug-of-war between the General Assembly and water courts has muddied how groundwater is treated. Non-tributary wells are regulated by a separate commission.

“What we got was a hodgepodge of rules,” Sims said. “It’s been driven by real estate developers.”

Key court cases eroded the jurisdiction of water courts themselves as well as the power of the state engineer to regulate wells, he said. The Empire Lodge case triggered a legislative fix to substitute water supply plans in 2002. The 2009 Vance case changed the way the state accounts for water produced by oil and gas drilling.

Geography also plays a part. Alluvial well regulations differ in all of the state’s major river basins, as well as in non-tributary basins. There is little scientific understanding of the relationship of groundwater levels to surface flows, other than the common wisdom that surface irrigation or flooding increase the levels, while pumping and drought decrease them. But the timing of return flows, availability of underground storage sites and long-term effects of pumping are still unknown.

“It’s not a precise science,” said Reagan Waskom of the Colorado Water Institute, which is completing a study of the South Platte basin mandated by the state Legislature in 2012. “If you had a valve and could put water back into the river when you need it, it would be great.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

December 3, 2013
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

Introduction
The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

December 3, 2013
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

“We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

“The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

“There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

“It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

“This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

“Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Highlands Ranch water rates to go up in 2014

November 30, 2013
Highlands Ranch

Highlands Ranch

From the Highlands Ranch News (Ryan Boldrey):

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

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

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

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

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

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

More infrastructure coverage here.


Pall Aria™ Water System Part of the Solution for Providing Renewable Water Supply to Castle Rock, Colo.

October 16, 2013

The Pall Aria(TM) water treatment system is part of a process that is enabling the town of Castle Rock, Colo. to transition from non-renewable water sources up to a 35-percent renewable supply.

The Pall Aria(TM) water treatment system is part of a process that is enabling the town of Castle Rock, Colo. to transition from non-renewable water sources up to a 35-percent renewable supply.

Here’s the release from Pall Corporation:

The installation of a new water treatment system at the Plum Creek Water Purification facility in Castle Rock, Colo. is enabling the town to treat and deliver renewable surface water to residents and businesses for the first time. As part of the facility, which opened in June 2013, the Pall Aria system is a key component in a unique seven-step treatment process the Colorado town is using to treat renewable surface water from alluvial wells near East Plum Creek that are under the influence of surface water.

“The Pall Aria water treatment system is part of a process that is enabling the town to transition from non-renewable water sources up to a 35-percent renewable supply,” said Walt Schwarz, P.E., Town of Castle Rock Utilities project manager. “The opening of the plant represents an important step toward our goal of 75-percent renewable water. The Pall system gives us the flexibility we need to accelerate our efforts as we pursue our long-term water goals.”

With the opening of this new facility, the town is not only moving closer to realizing its stated renewable water goal, but is also expected to save on total water purification costs.

Featuring a treatment capacity of up to 4 million gallons per day (MGD), the Pall Aria system is currently treating approximately 2.7 MGD. The treatment facility, including the Pall system, is expandable to 12 MGD, which will help enable the town to meet future demand.

“The Plum Creek Water Purification Facility is an example of the forward-thinking utility companies that have deployed our technologies and helped establish Pall as the leader in drinking water treatment solutions,” said Mitch Summerfield, general manager, Pall Process Systems. “We are honored to help treat the renewable water supply for present and future residents of Castle Rock.”

After the membrane filtration system was delivered and installed, Pall technicians provided start-up assistance and training for the town’s plant operators. Pretreatment includes aeration, flocculation/sedimentation, and green sand filtration, and is designed to remove iron, manganese, and organic matter prior to membrane filtration. Membrane filtration provides a barrier to suspended particles as well as organisms such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium that are associated with surface water. To learn more about Pall Aria water treatment systems, please visit: http://www.pall.com/water.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Several El Paso County water suppliers are interested in Southern Delivery System deliveries

September 25, 2013
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/USBR

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even before a drop of water flows through Southern Delivery System, other El Paso County communities are making plans to hook up to the pipeline.

Donala Water & Sanitation District, which serves 2,600 people north of Colorado Springs plans to begin an environmental impact statement process with Bureau of Reclamation within the next two weeks in order to obtain a long-term storage contract in Lake Pueblo.

Cherokee Metro District, serving about 18,000 people in a community surrounded by Colorado Springs, wants to hook up to SDS in the future.

Those communities will be held to the same environmental commitments, including federal environmental review and stormwater management, under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Donala purchased a ranch south of Leadville for its water rights in 2009, but will need SDS to deliver about 280 acrefeet annually — about 25 percent of its needs. “We have been talking to the city for years,” said Kip Peterson, manager of the Donala District. Donala already has a temporary contract in place to use Colorado Springs water delivery systems to deliver water from the ranch.

Stormwater controls are problematic, because 95 percent of the land in Donala already has been developed, but the district is looking at how to amend its plan to address stormwater, Peterson said.

Like Donala, Cherokee has a contract to buy water from or have its water delivered by Colorado Springs Utilities. Cherokee has a two-year lease from the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Cherokee gets most of its water from wells, but needs additional sources to round out its supply. “Unlike Donala, we don’t yet own any water we could store in Lake Pueblo,” said Sean Chambers, Cherokee manager.

But Cherokee is interested in using SDS for the long-term. Like Colorado Springs, it has some water and wastewater lines that cross Sand Creek, a tributary of Fountain Creek. Those would be held to the same level of scrutiny as Colorado Springs lines.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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

August 20, 2013

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From the Denver Business Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

More WISE Partnership coverage here.


AWRA Colorado Section summer field trip recap: What happens when you dig a 40 foot hole in the ground?

August 18, 2013

 

Coffee and bagels at Denver Water just before heading to Pueblo Dam

Every now and again you sign up for the right water tour. The American Water Resources Colorado Section tour of the Southern Delivery System — which is slated to move Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to serve several Arkansas Valley communities — turned out great.

First off, we visited the valve house for the project at the base of Pueblo Dam.

Valve house north outlet works Pueblo Dam, August 2013

Folks from Colorado Springs Utilities and USBR detailed much of the design and proposed operational facts about the outlet works. The release to the Arkansas River was engineered for 1120 CFS. One of our hosts smiled as he said, “You can feel a vibration when it’s open.”

Valve test north outlet works Pueblo Dam via MWH Global

We also visited the site where CSU is building a new treatment plant out by the Colorado Springs airport. That’s where the MWH Global project manager explained that they had spent most of the week pumping stormwater out of the 40 foot hole that they dug in the wind blown sand soil at the site. It seems that one of those monsoon storms dumped an inch or so of precipitation in 30 minutes. They had accomplished pouring one section of the slab base for the plant that day.

New CSU water treatment plant site, August 2013

Converstion on the bus between stops ranged from the cultural differences between white europeans and the native american tribes to the announcement earlier in the day from Reclamation of a 24 month operating plan for Lake Powell that would reduce deliveries downriver to Lake Mead.

We heard about Castle Rock’s plans to move to 75% renewable supplies from their director, Mark Marlowe.  They’re hoping to eventually only use their wells  to get through a drought.

We also heard some roadside geology from one of the folks at the Colorado Geological Survey. He explained a bit about the Denver Basin Aquifer System and hydraulic fracturing in the Niobrara.

More Southern Delivery System Coverage here and here.


The latest United Water newsletter is hot off the presses

August 1, 2013

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Click here to read the newsletter.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Fountain Creek: Mayor Bach takes position that Pueblo County’s 1041 permit is non-specific with respect to projects

July 31, 2013

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

After Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King sent a June 6 letter to Pueblo County misstating the facts about Colorado Springs Utilities’ permit to build the Southern Delivery System (“Storm brewing,” News, July 17), they corrected the record with a new letter sent July 19.

In the June 6 version, the city said a Stormwater Enterprise projects list was submitted “as part of” the 1041 construction permit process for the water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. There was no such project list or dollar figure submitted by the city as part of the 1041 permit itself, records show, meaning the city made no concrete pledges to spend a certain amount of money on stormwater or to do certain projects.

Rather, the permit, issued in April 2009, simply requires the city to ensure that Fountain Creek peak flows that result from new development served by the water pipeline are no greater than prior peak flows.

Although City Attorney Chris Melcher said in a statement to the Indy on July 15 that the June 6 letter “was accurate,” Bach and King wrote a new letter on July 19 “to clarify any potential misunderstanding of our letter of June 6, 2013.”

This letter also said that while there were “conversations” about stormwater projects, “it is clear that the 1041 Permit itself does not require or adopt any specific list of capital projects that must be implemented … [n]or does the 1041 Permit require a specific dollar amount to be allocated.”

The July 19 letter prompted Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace to tell the Pueblo Chieftain he was “furious” and “confused.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Geothermal system at the state capitol is coming online

July 18, 2013

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From The Denver Post (Howard Pankratz):

The new geothermal heating and cooling system at the Colorado state Capitol, consisting of water pumped from two wells drilled into the Arapahoe Aquifer more than 850 feet underground, is being brought on line this week and should bring hefty savings on utility bills for the Capitol, officials said Wednesday…

The open-loop geothermal system will save an estimated $100,000 in heating and cooling costs in the first year. The savings should escalate each following year by 3 percent…

Gov. John Hickenlooper said the project will make the Colorado Capitol “the first LEED-certified capitol building in the country.” Hickenlooper listed a handful of reasons for the new system. “Several things — one, it (the Capitol) needs it, and there is a high return on the investment and resources,” he said. “Two, it is symbolic. Third, in terms of branding, the next time we are going out for Ardent Mills or another company to move here, it becomes part of that attraction to get people to move here.”

More geothermal coverage here and here.


Denver Basin Aquifer System: Well contamination a concern for officials in the wake of the Black Forest Fire

July 13, 2013

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From KOAA (Maddie Garrett):

A new concern is surfacing in the wake of the Black Forest Fire. The El Paso County Health Department is surveying about 500 water wells for possible contamination. While some wells are unscathed by the fire, others are destroyed and left open on the surface. But all water wells reach down into the same aquifer that the people of Black Forest depend on.

“These wells are like a straw that goes into the aquifer. We want that straw capped because whatever is on the surface here, gets into the well, that could cause contamination. So it’s a risk when those wells are open,” said Health Department Director, Tom Gonzales.

The damaged wells are open to ash, dirt debris and rain water. That’s why the Health Department wants to get all of the exposed wells covered up. They are providing people with thick plastic and zip ties to temporarily protect the open wells until the homeowner can get them capped.

More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here and here.


Douglas County: Sterling Ranch scores enough water to start turning dirt on part of the project

July 10, 2013

sterlingranch.jpg

From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

The Douglas County Planning Commission and the county commissioners originally approved Sterling Ranch several years ago but it has since been challenged, first by a community group in court then by a judge who blocked it August. Citing state law, the judge argued that Sterling Ranch had not lined up enough water and needed to prove it had enough water secured though build-out.

But a change to a state law in the legislature this year gave developers the leeway to phase-in water requirements whenever a certain stage of a project is up for approval by a government entity — at least that’s the way supporters see it.

It was not clear whether the community organization would fight it again this time. John Ebel asked the three-member commission how it could “ignore law, ignore the court, ignore promises made.”

Harold Smethills, managing director of Sterling Ranch, said developers hope to break ground on the project late this year or early next year. “Of course we’re very excited,” Smethills said. “This has been almost six years of public hearings.”
The county commissioners must still approve the development plans for each phase of the project but Wednesday’s ruling sets the project in motion, Smethills said.

From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

About 80 people attended the special hearing in Castle Rock, with all 14 speakers urging the board not to approve it. Opponents say the project would negatively impact the quality of life, while supporters say the area is primed for growth.

Sterling Ranch would be home to about 31,000 people in 12,050 homes on 3,400 acres south of Chatfield State Park and east of Roxborough State Park. It would include 1,200 acres of residential neighborhoods, 1,200 acres of parks and open space, and 500 acres of commercial and retail properties.

According to a fiscal analysis done for Sterling Ranch, the project would have an economic impact of more than $435 million annually.

More Sterling Ranch coverage here.


Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities has spent $58 million in Pueblo County so far

July 1, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

About $58 million of the $337.8 million spent on Southern Delivery System so far has gone to contractors in Pueblo County, according to the latest accounting of the project. Now estimated to cost about $940 million, SDS would build a 50-mile raw water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County. There are three pump stations along the way and a new water treatment plant in northeast Colorado Springs. The project benefits Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

Allison Moser, a Colorado Springs Utilities engineer, gave the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District an update on SDS Friday.

So far, 38 of the 50 miles of underground pipeline — most of it 66 inches in diameter — have been placed. The North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam has been completed and construction work on the Juniper Pump Station below the dam will begin this fall. The treatment plant in Colorado Springs is under construction, and contracts have been awarded for all three pump stations.

Most of the money for the project has been spent within Colorado, with $165 million in El Paso County, $800,000 in Fremont County and $48 million in the rest of the state. Another $66 million has been spent outside the state, mostly for specialized equipment not manufactured in Colorado, Moser said.

The Fountain Creek district has authority of some parts of SDS that cross the flood plain in El Paso County. That will change, however, because of new 1041 regulation in El Paso County that give county commissioners authority over all utility projects under a 1974 law. The major portion of Fountain Creek affected by SDS is the underground crossing of the pipeline several miles south of Fountain, which would be about 40 feet below the surface. That portion has been redesigned to avoid any disturbance of wetlands, Moser said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Parker signs on to the WISE project for future supplies

June 27, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Parker coverage here and here.


USGS: Deficit in Nation’s Aquifers Accelerating

May 21, 2013

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Here’s the release from the USGS (Jon Campbell/Leonard Konikow):

A new U.S. Geological Survey study documents that the Nation’s aquifers are being drawn down at an accelerating rate.

Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008) comprehensively evaluates long-term cumulative depletion volumes in 40 separate aquifers (distinct underground water storage areas) in the United States, bringing together reliable information from previous references and from new analyses.

“Groundwater is one of the Nation’s most important natural resources. It provides drinking water in both rural and urban communities. It supports irrigation and industry, sustains the flow of streams and rivers, and maintains ecosystems,” said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director. “Because groundwater systems typically respond slowly to human actions, a long-term perspective is vital to manage this valuable resource in sustainable ways.”

To outline the scale of groundwater depletion across the country, here are two startling facts drawn from the study’s wealth of statistics. First, from 1900 to 2008, the Nation’s aquifers, the natural stocks of water found under the land, decreased (were depleted) by more than twice the volume of water found in Lake Erie. Second, groundwater depletion in the U.S. in the years 2000-2008 can explain more than 2 percent of the observed global sea-level rise during that period.

Since 1950, the use of groundwater resources for agricultural, industrial, and municipal purposes has greatly expanded in the United States. When groundwater is withdrawn from subsurface storage faster than it is recharged by precipitation or other water sources, the result is groundwater depletion. The depletion of groundwater has many negative consequences, including land subsidence, reduced well yields, and diminished spring and stream flows.

While the rate of groundwater depletion across the country has increased markedly since about 1950, the maximum rates have occurred during the most recent period of the study (2000–2008), when the depletion rate averaged almost 25 cubic kilometers per year. For comparison, 9.2 cubic kilometers per year is the historical average calculated over the 1900–2008 timespan of the study.

One of the best known and most investigated aquifers in the U.S. is the High Plains (or Ogallala) aquifer. It underlies more than 170,000 square miles of the Nation’s midsection and represents the principal source of water for irrigation and drinking in this major agricultural area. Substantial pumping of the High Plains aquifer for irrigation since the 1940s has resulted in large water-table declines that exceed 160 feet in places.

The study shows that, since 2000, depletion of the High Plains aquifer appears to be continuing at a high rate. The depletion during the last 8 years of record (2001–2008, inclusive) is about 32 percent of the cumulative depletion in this aquifer during the entire 20th century. The annual rate of depletion during this recent period averaged about 10.2 cubic kilometers, roughly 2 percent of the volume of water in Lake Erie.

More USGS coverage here.


‘A stunning landscape is saved after a decade-long war over its water’ — Nature Conservancy Magazine

May 16, 2013

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Here’s an in-depth look at how water served as the catalyst to unite San Luis Valley residents in opposition to plans to ship water to the Denver Metro area back in the 1980s and 1990s, from Nature Conservancy Magazine (Frederick Reimers). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

In the early light of a spring morning in 1989 a fellow barged into the Crestone, Colorado, bakery where Christine Canaly worked, hungry for breakfast. The man, it turned out, was vice president of a company that planned to spend $150 million to drill 100 wells and pipe water from the rural San Luis Valley to the Denver suburbs, more than 100 miles away. Those suburbs, he said, would pay top dollar for the water, and the project would be a financial bonanza for everyone in the San Luis Valley…

…[Rancher Greg Gosar] had been chewing over a conversation that he’d had a year earlier. The principal owner of the sprawling, 97,000-acre Baca Ranch, a Canadian oilman named Maurice Strong, had been applying for extensive water rights in the valley. Gosar had asked Strong what he planned to do with the water. “Maurice told me, ‘We’re going to put in some potatoes, and we’re gonna plant quinoa,’” he recalls.

But Gosar didn’t quite believe it. And now, talking with [Christine Canaly], all the pieces began to fit together. Strong was the head of the same company that Canaly’s hungry visitor worked for. And if the massive water-export plan went through, there was a very good chance that the project would suck the valley’s farms and streams dry. Gosar was angry.

“Let’s go get these guys,” he told Canaly.

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That was all she needed to hear. Within a few weeks, she and Gosar had formed a group called Citizens for San Luis Valley Water. Then, by happenstance, she met David Robbins, an attorney for the district that supplies water to local farmers.

“He’s this imposing, brilliant guy with a huge handlebar mustache,” says Canaly. “He told me they were already planning a lawsuit to stop the project. I asked him how he felt about citizens’ groups. He looked at me and said, ‘I love citizens’ groups.’”

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.


Expanded groundwater testing for Wattenburg field puts Dems on a collision course with Governor Hickenlooper #COleg

May 2, 2013

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From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Colorado Democrats are closer to an intraparty clash over oil and gas drilling after a House vote to forward a water-testing bill opposed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The House gave preliminary approval Tuesday evening to a bill to require more water testing in the state’s most active oil and gas drilling field, the Greater Wattenburg Area in northern Colorado. The field currently has lighter water-testing requirements than other areas of the state. The rules are set by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.
Hickenlooper has informed legislators he opposes the bill. The governor believes current water testing guidelines are adequate.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


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

April 29, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More WISE coverage here.


Douglas County Water Authority video: Mini-Makeover – Water Smart Tips – 1

April 3, 2013


Greenland Ranch non-tributary Denver Basin groundwater is a potential source for developers

April 3, 2013

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From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (John Hazlehurst):

When Philip Anschutz acquired The Broadmoor in 2011, he also acquired other significant assets owned by Oklahoma Publishing Co., including adjudicated water rights to non-tributary water beneath 7,640 acres of the Greenland Ranch in Douglas County, just north of Monument Hill off Interstate 25.

The ranch, one of the largest tracts of undeveloped land between Denver and Colorado Springs, has had a tangled history. First settled 150 years ago, it remained the property of the Higby family until 1980, when it was sold to a partnership that included Treasury Secretary William “Bill” Simon, Oklahoma businessman Ed Gaylord and Colorado Springs developer Bruce Shepard.

The partnership’s development plans fizzled, as did plans to develop the property’s subsurface water resources. In 2000, the entire 21,000-acre ranch was purchased by the Conservation Fund in a complex partnership with Great Outdoors Colorado, Douglas County, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado State Parks, and Denver billionaire John Malone. The property is protected by a conservation easement, which forbids surface development in perpetuity.

But on the portion of Greenland Ranch formerly owned by Gaylord, water rights were severed from surface rights. A confidential memo offering the rights for sale prior to Anschutz’ acquisition describes the process:

“As part of the sale of the Greenland Ranch in 2000, Sun Resources Inc., a subsidiary of The Oklahoma Publishing Company, reserved the right to all non-tributary groundwater beneath 7,640 acres of the Ranch. The water right entitles the owner to withdraw 1 percent of the total amount per year (14,562 acre-feet) for 100 years. The right is decreed as non-tributary and, therefore is not subject to surface water priorities. In addition, (Sun) has completed significant legal work, as well as preliminary engineering, technical and market analysis. These work products and reports will be transferred with the water right. The right has accompanying surface land easements for well field, treatment facilities, and pipeline infrastructure development that will also be conveyed in the sale. As a result, no further legal proceedings are necessary to develop and sell the water.”

The 14,562 acre-feet would be roughly equivalent to 20 percent of Colorado Springs’ current annual needs…

Last fall, Sun Resources, now an Anschutz-owned company charged with developing the water rights, drilled two deep test wells on the Greenland Ranch property to confirm 1995 estimates of available water. One well, tapping the Arapahoe aquifer, was drilled to a depth of 2,040 feet, and flowed at a rate of 650 gallons per minute during a 72-hour test. The other targeted the Denver aquifer at 1,490 feet and flowed at 350 GPM. These results tended to confirm the 1995 estimates, said Sun CEO Gary Pierson. “We’ve completed those test wells,” said Pierson, “and now we’re in some very intense discussions with interested parties.”[...]

Full development of the water rights would be expensive. Dozens of production wells would have to be drilled throughout the property, power delivered to wellheads, and pump stations and pipelines built to transport the water to potential users…

Should communities rely upon non-renewable resources such as Greenland Ranch groundwater? Colorado Springs Utilities executive Gary Bostrom doesn’t think so.

“That depends on how it might integrate into an existing supply mix,” said Bostrom, who heads the CSU water resources department. “We have well fields, but the value (of non-renewables) is as a supplemental source. That may be attractive to some districts.”[...]

Despite being a non-renewable source, Greenland Ranch water may be attractive to potential users. Making a deal with Anschutz is not like making a deal with an ordinary promoter — you know Anschutz can deliver. His ability to fund a $100 million project is not dependent upon commitments from skittish lenders, or upon the solvency of unrelated parties to any deal.

The water is also of high quality, according to a 2009 independent analysis. It’s low in dissolved solids and uncontaminated by industrial pollutants. That quality likely will remain unchanged, since there will be no surface development either on or adjacent to the property…

Greenland Ranch water, decreed as non-tributary, therefore is not subject to surface water priorities, or any restrictions on its use. In its sweeping 1995 decree, the Water Court couldn’t have been more explicit. “19. Appropriation Doctrine Inapplicable. The rights to groundwater determined herein are not subject to and shall not be administered in accordance with the prior appropriation doctrine or any priority of appropriation. C.R.S. 37-92-305 (11).” The Water Court retains jurisdiction over any eventual Greenland water plan and, based on analysis of drilling results, may adjust the annual withdrawal rate. Pierson appears to believe any adjustment will be upward, mentioning a figure of 17,500 acre-feet annually. CSU’s Bostrom cites 10,000 acre-feet as more likely.

More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here and here.


The price tag for Sterling’s deep injection wells for RO brine escalates from $80,000 to $2.3 million

March 29, 2013

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From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (David Martinez):

[Sterling Public Works Director Jim Allen] told the council that Public Works was working on a number of water and sewage issues around the city – most of them directly or indirectly related to construction of the new water treatment plant.

The one that stands out: Deep injection wells used to pump the treated wastewater from the reverse osmosis filtration, estimated to cost $80,000 at the start of the project, will now cost about $2.3 million, according to a March 10 estimate. About $1.3 million of that cost would go toward the construction of one of the two pumps, which is located above the railroad tracks north of the plant…

The wells themselves, buried about 7,000 feet underground, have already been constructed. They were included in one of three bid packages for the project – the other two being a pipeline project and the water treatment plant itself, which is in the final construction stages.

Allen told the council the increased cost comes from the pumping equipment needed, as well as some stainless steel piping needed for the aboveground operation. The pipes might need to handle 2,200 to 2,600 pounds of pressure per square inch, which Allen said is a “monumental number.”[...]

Allen told the Journal-Advocate the $2.4 million also isn’t set in stone; he, Kiolbasa and others will be working with the estimates for a more solid cost…

In related projects concerning the plant, Public Works is continuing to redrill and rehabilitate the city’s raw water wells. The effort is part of a plan to have enough raw water to actually put through to the water treatment plant.

In February the council heard that the plant planned on having the ability to pump more than 7,900 gallons of water per minute, but that it could only pump about 5,500 gallons at that point because of degraded wells.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Developers of the proposed Sterling Ranch have lined up 4,200 acre-feet of Denver Basin groundwater

March 27, 2013

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From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

Officials from Sterling Ranch LLC submitted supplemental information to its zone change application showing the company has an option to purchase 4,200 acre-feet of water a year from the Hier ranching family of Castle Rock, Harold Smethills, president and CEO, confirmed Monday. The developers had to provide the proof in order to move forward with the development after a district judge ruled in August 2012 that the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners overstepped its authority when approving the zone change in 2011…

The water is non-tributary ground water that the Hier family owns the rights to, records filed with Douglas County show. “We had always planned to do it,” Smethills said of the agreement. “But the judge’s ruling forced us to move forward much more quickly than we had anticipated. … We figured ‘appeals take time, so let’s just move forward’.”[...]

Developers had previously purchased the rights to up to 186 million gallons of water annually from Aurora Water for the planned subdivision just before King’s ruling came down. After a 45-day comment period, the new information will go before the county’s planning commission and then the Board of County Commissioners, according to a county spokeswoman.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here. More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.


Colorado River Basin: Recent study by the Bureau of Reclamation highlights future supply problems #coriver

March 4, 2013

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Here’s a guest column running in The Denver Post, written by Allen Best, that gives an overview of the current state of the Colorado River. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Tow icebergs from Alaska? Pilfer from a tributary of the Yellowstone River in Wyoming? Or, even sneak water from the Snake, boring a 6-mile tunnel from a reservoir near Jackson Hole to the Green River? While it’s sure to make Idaho’s spud farmers cranky, it would help Tucson, Los Angeles and that parched paradigm of calculated risk, Las Vegas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and everybody else with a megaphone has carefully branded these ideas as improbable or worse. Only slightly more credible is the idea of a pipeline from the Mississippi River. It could originate near Memphis, traverse 1,040 miles and, if reaching Castle Rock, rise 6,000 feet in elevation. Pumping would require a steady 800 megawatts of electricity, or a little more than what the Comanche 3 power plant in Pueblo produces.

In theory, this 600,000-acre feet of muddy Mississippi would replace diversions from the Colorado River headwaters between Grand Lake and Aspen. Those diversions range between 450,000 and 600,000 acre-feet annually. That would leave the creeks and rivers to the whims of gravity and geography, at least until arriving at Las Vegas and other places with growing thirst.
Cheap water? Not exactly: It would cost $2,400 per acre-foot for this Memphis-flavored sludge, assuming the idea isn’t grounded by protests from barge and riverboat operators. (Sometimes they, too, say they need more water.)

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Centennial Water and Sanitation is drilling two more Denver Basin Groundwater wells ahead of summer #codrought

March 2, 2013

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From the Highlands Ranch Herald (Ryan Boldrey):

In the midst of the worst drought since 2002, Centennial Water and Sanitation District is tapping its 1.7 billion acre-feet supply of groundwater underneath Highlands Ranch to prepare for summer.

“We use it when we have to,” said John Hendrick, general manager for Centennial. “The groundwater program is kind of our Fort Knox, our trump card up our sleeves. Our reserves are big enough that we could use 17,000 acre-feet a year for 100 years.”

To access the groundwater, the district will begin a somewhat lengthy 24/7 drilling process in two locations within the community in early March. The drill sites are located on Salford Lane, north of Gateway Drive and east of Broadway, and near Paintbrush Park, just north of Valleybrook Road and southwest of McArthur Ranch Road.

“It will be disruptive,” Hendrick said. “We could stretch it out for three, four or five months if we limited the time we were working on it, but the cost would escalate significantly. So, we’re going to get in there, get it done and get out of your hair.”[...]

Once complete, the well sites will undergo additional construction work involving the installation of underground piping as well as pumping equipment in the wells. The sites will then be landscaped to make them blend in with the surrounding properties.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


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

February 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force: ‘I felt we set the groundwork to move forward’ — Reed Dils

February 15, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado still needs to look at projects to bring in new water supplies despite a state water board’s decision last month to put the Flaming Gorge pipeline task force on ice. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable, the main proponent of the task force, still supports dialogue with other state roundtables on the subject and getting the statewide Interbasin Compact Committee to tackle the issue head­-on.

“It’s time we start looking at issues,” said Jeris Danielson, who represents the roundtable on the IBCC. The IBCC has adopted a “four­legged stool” that includes new supply along with identified projects, conservation and agricultural transfers.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board in January voted to suspend funding for the task force, saying the committee was duplicating work assigned to the IBCC. The group began its work in 2011 to determine issues surrounding two proposals to build water pipelines from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range.

“All of us thought the task force made good progress and had some good discussions on tough issues,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the CWCB. “Their thoughts will be folded into other work the CWCB is doing to move forward new­supply discussions.”

“I think the most important thing we did was establish a list of attributes for what constitutes a good project,” said Betty Konarski, a member of the task force.

“I felt we set the groundwork to move forward,” said Reed Dils, a task force member and former CWCB representative. “If we’re ever going to see another large project in the state, it will take the cooperation of all the roundtables.”

Roundtable Chairman Gary Barber, who also sat on the task force, said the group identified an immediate gap in agricultural water needs, and a municipal gap by 2020. It made no recommendation on whether or not to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

Danielson and Jay Winner, the other basin representative on the IBCC, vowed to press the IBCC to more action at its meeting in March.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


The CWCB plans to roll Flaming Gorge Pipeline analysis in with other IBCC reviews for transmountain diversions #coriver

February 4, 2013

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Here’s an article from last week that deals with the demise of the Flaming Gorge Task Force. It ran in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and was written by Gary Harmon.

From The River Blog (Jessie Thomas-Blate):

Last year, American Rivers listed the Green River as #2 on our annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®, due to the potential impact of this pipeline on the river, the recreation economy, and the water supply for the lower Colorado River Basin…

Recently, a coalition of 700 business owners called Protect the Flows commissioned a poll that found 84% of West Slope residents and 52% of metro Denver-area residents oppose building additional water pipelines across the mountains. In fact, 76% of Colorado residents think that the solution lies in using water in smarter and more efficient ways, with less waste…

The Green River is a paddler’s paradise. In May 2012, Steve Markle with O.A.R.S. told us why paddlers love the Green River so much. Then in August, Matt Rice, our Director of Colorado Conservation, told us about his trip fishing the Green, and the big trout, beautiful scenery, and solitude he found there. Finally, Scott Willoughby with the Denver Post gives a description of the river that makes you jealous if you don’t have easy access to this trout oasis (even if you aren’t an avid fisherman!).

It is no wonder so many people care about preserving adequate water flows in the Green River. It not only provides essential water and cash flow for West Slope towns, but also a great adventure for the citizens of Colorado and beyond.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


CWCB halts funding for phase two of Flaming Gorge Task Force

January 31, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A decision by the Colorado Water Conservation Board not to fund the second phase of a Flaming Gorge pipeline task force does not affect either project that wants to bring water into the state. The CWCB Tuesday turned down a $100,000 extension of the committee, saying its efforts duplicate the role of the Interbasin Compact Committee. Alan Hamel, of the Arkansas River basin, was the only member of the CWCB who voted in favor of continuing to fund the task force.

“I was surprised,” said Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, and a member of the task force. “The state still needs to proceed with water planning, but did not approve our approach for moving forward.”

The task force was formed to identify questions that would face any statewide water project, and from the start said it would not endorse or eliminate either of two proposals to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

“This decision sends a clear message that the IBCC needs to step up and do something about new water supply,” said Jay Winner, one of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable’s IBCC representatives.

Environmental groups this week tried to depict the decision as a defeat for Aaron Million’s proposal to build a 500­ mile pipeline from the Green River to Colorado’s Front Range. However, Million claimed last week that the neutral decision by the task force was a win for him. He is working on engineering needed to resume federal consideration of the project.

The Colorado-­Wyoming Coalition also is pursuing its version of a Flaming Gorge pipeline, but is still waiting on Bureau of Reclamation studies to determine if it will move forward, said Eric Hecox of the South Metro Water Supply District.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

The developer of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline denied Wednesday that the state’s decision to end funding for a group looking at the project would set it back…

Tuesday’s decision to halt funding represented a “critical wound” to the project, Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates said in a statement. Environmentalists oppose the project because they contend it would diminish Green River flows…

Jennifer Gimbel, director of the water board, said the environmentalists’ comments were “misleading.”

The decision “doesn’t reflect the board’s position on the pipeline,” she said. “It doesn’t endorse it; it she said. “It doesn’t endorse it; it doesn’t deny it.”[...]

The task force was formed to study issues surrounding the project, not to decide whether the project should move forward. After completing a report on the pipeline, the task force requested $100,000 to study “new supply projects in general” at Tuesday’s water board meeting, Gimbel said.

However, the Interbasin Compact Committee already is studying potential water supply projects, she said…

Aaron Million, principal of Wyco Power and Water Inc., called environmentalists’ characterization of the decision “grossly inaccurate.” The company has proposed building the pipeline to bring water from Wyoming to the Front Range, including Fort Collins.

“One of the reasons I think the environmental community’s been so vocal is that this project has a lot of merit to it,” said Million, who contends the project would add to Poudre River volume.

From The Salt Lake Tribune (Brett Prettyman):

Charlie Card, northeastern Utah coordinator for Trout Unlimited, says the news from Colorado is good, but he has heard similar news before and knows not to let his guard down when it comes to water in the West.

“Million said about a year ago that in two years he would be ready to submit another proposal and there is another group out of Parker, Colorado, that has asked the Bureau of Reclamation specifically to give them the actual number of acre-feet of water that is available,” Card said. “The report from Colorado is nice, but the threat is far from over.”

Numerous recreational and financial impacts from proposed pipelines pumping water out of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which sits on the Utah/Wyoming border, or the Green River above it have been revealed by Trout Unlimited and other concerned groups.

Among them:

• Wide fluctuations of water levels at Flaming Gorge would create ideal conditions for noxious weeds along the shore, affecting waterfowl, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage grouse and other species. Open shorelines may become inaccessible for recreation.

• Diminished flows on the Green River below the dam will affect species of concern like the northern river otter, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, Lewis’ woodpecker, southern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo.

• A reduction of flows into the reservoir will inhibit recommended flow levels out of the dam. The recommendations were agreed upon by multiple agencies to benefit endangered fish (razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and bonytail) in the Green River.

• The main sport fish of Flaming Gorge — kokanee salmon, lake trout and smallmouth bass — are already facing a number of challenges in a delicately balanced ecosystem that has been rocked by the recent appearance of illegally introduced burbot. Lower and fluctuating water levels will only add to the challenges.

• Access to the lake via existing boat ramps would likely not be possible if water as proposed in the Million project were removed from the reservoir. That impacts all businesses that rely on the reservoir including those on the shores of Flaming Gorge and including other towns and cities like Dutch John, Manila, Green River, Wyo., and Rock Springs.

Similar facts are presented on the ourdamwater.org/ website of Sportsmen for the Green.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The state’s most powerful water organization will spend no more money to study ways of piping water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, a move heralded by environmental organizations but one that might not squelch the idea. The Colorado Water Conservation Board turned away a request that it continue to fund a study of how to pursue large water projects, such as a proposed pipeline to the Front Range from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming.

The board’s decision was greeted as a victory by Protect the Flows, an organization of recreation, agricultural and other interests that depend on the Colorado River. “This decision tells Coloradans that (Gov. John Hickenlooper) and the water board know how much we value our superb recreation opportunities and the huge economy in Colorado generated by outdoor enthusiasts and tourism,” Protect the Flows spokeswoman Molly Mugglestone said.

Water board members noted that such projects would be more appropriately studied by the Interbasin Compact Committee, a 27-member committee established to address statewide water issues.

The proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline has been rejected on several levels and by federal agencies. It was criticized by government agencies, including Mesa County and Grand Junction, which cited unanswered questions about the effects of the project.

The Interbasin Compact Committee “has a new water-supply committee and this seems to belong to them,” said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I think that’s an important dialogue to have and it’s one we’ve been involved with all along.”

The water board’s decision amounted to an endorsement of the need for conservation over development, Protect the Flows said.

Abandoning talk of water-development projects is a non-starter, Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen said. “Given the drought situation,” Petersen said, “at some level it would seem we would have to talk about storage.”

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


CWCB: ‘Zombie Pipeline’ Takes Critical Wound in Vote — Jason Bane

January 30, 2013

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From email from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) today voted overwhelmingly to end funding for the ‘Flaming Gorge Task Force,’ which had been considering future large-scale water diversion projects such as the ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline.’ The decision is in line with public opinion; a recent Colorado water poll found that four-in-five Colorado voters favor focusing on water conservation efforts rather than water diversions.

In response to today’s decision, Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates, issued the following statement:

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been called the ‘zombie pipeline’ from years of lumbering around trying to latch onto anything that might keep it alive. Today’s CWCB vote sends a strong message that it’s time to move on to other water demand solutions. No amount of discussion is going to make the pipeline less expensive or more realistic, and we applaud the CWCB for recognizing the need to move forward.”

The ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) is a proposal to pump 81 million gallons of water a year across more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—all at a projected cost of $9 billion dollars (according to CWCB calculations). Western Resource Advocates has consistently opposed the idea as unreasonable and unnecessary.

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

The task force funding drew criticism from conservation groups, who said the money would be better spent studying realistic conservation and reuse options for water. By some state estimates, the pipeline could have cost as much as $9 billion. The CWCB denied a request for $100,000 of state water money for continued study…

We applaud Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board for their decision to turn down spending additional money to examine new water diversions as a solution to meet Colorado’s water challenges, said Protect Our Flows director Molly Mugglestone. “It’s the right decision for what Coloradans want as reflected overwhelmingly in a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by Protect the Flows.

The poll showed that more than 80 percent of Colorado voters would tell state officials to spend their time and resources focusing on conservation efforts, rather than water diversions; a majority of voters across political and geographic lines oppose building additional pipelines; and almost all express strong regard for Colorado rivers and a desire to protect them.

[Aaron Million] has said the pipeline could actually help protect flows in over-used sections of the Colorado, especially in years like this, with abundant moisture in Wyoming, but well below average snowpack in Colorado.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


Sun Resources is pitching 17,500 acre-feet per year of Denver Basin Aquifer water to El Paso and Douglas customers

January 27, 2013

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Two test wells drilled deep beneath Douglas County-owned open space, between Denver and Colorado Springs, found abundant water and good pressure, consistent with 1995 estimates by the state engineer. Permanent facilities — including pump stations — are being installed so that the aquifers can be tapped. Project leaders at Sun Resources Inc. said they could pump up to 17,500 acre-feet a year and are talking with municipal and private parties in Douglas and El Paso counties — but haven’t signed contracts.

Pumping more from aquifers “should not be ignored as a partial solution to a lot of people’s problems,” said Gary Pierson, president of Sun Resources, a company owned by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz. “Water is becoming a problem in Colorado, Kansas, Texas, California, Nevada and across the country. People need to be sensible and have well-thought-out plans.”

Along the Front Range, proposed new housing developments increasingly face water constraints as local governments push developers to show they’ve lined up enough water to sustain residents at maximum build-out — in line with a recent court ruling. And leaders warn that underground water levels in recent years have fallen by as much as 30 feet a year.

“We’ve got to get out of aquifers. That’s not a sustainable source of water. We’ve got to move to renewable sources,” Douglas County Commissioner Jack Hilbert said. “If I had my preference, I’d love the water to stay under Greenland Ranch. But it is a private-property right,” he said…

The amount of water under the county’s Greenland Ranch open space was estimated 18 years ago using a formula. A state water court decreed that there are 3.8 million acre-feet available. Applying the state law that says pumping must not deplete aquifers sooner than 100 years, the decree said about 38,000 acre-feet a year could be pumped. Sun doesn’t own rights to all that estimated quantity.

The decree also says state officials retain jurisdiction to reassess the amount of water based on hard data once wells are drilled. State officials will do that “when the time is right,” deputy state engineer Kevin Rein said. “Just with two wells, spaced very close together at one side of the land,” he said, “we’re not really able to use those to extrapolate” how much is there.

More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force: ‘I guess neutral is a big win for us’ — Aaron Million

January 25, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More state discussions are needed on how to develop Colorado’s share of Colorado River water, a task force that met for more than a year on the Flaming Gorge water project reported Wednesday. The task force did not recommend either building or denying the Flaming Gorge pipeline idea, and wasn’t expected to. Instead, it worked to create a framework that would bring competing interests to the table to evaluate any project proposing development of a new supply from the Colorado River. Its conclusions will be submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which funded the task force. “I guess neutral is a big win for us,” said Aaron Million, who was one of two sponsors of a Flaming Gorge pipeline who met with the task force last year.

More engineering work is being completed so that the Flaming Gorge project can be resubmitted to a federal agency for environmental evaluation. Million said it would be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which rejected an application last year, saying more information was needed. If FERC does not accept the new proposal, either the Army Corps of Engineers or Bureau of Land Management would be approached.

The task force recommended the CWCB and Interbasin Compact Committee, an umbrella organization that represents the interests of basin roundtables and the state, develop a way to evaluate if a project meets certain criteria. The top priorities are developing Colorado’s share of the water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact and protecting the state from a call on the river that could diminish Colorado’s water supply.

The group recommended forming a committee that would continue to discuss issues relating to water and is asking the CWCB for up to $100,000 for phase 2 of the study. The first phase was funded at $72,000 in September 2011, over the objections of environmental groups who tried to kill any consideration of a Flaming Gorge plan.

More coverage from the Associated Press via the Laramie Boomerang. Here’s an excerpt:

In a report to be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Basin Roundtable Exploration Committee said questions that should be addressed include not only financing and how Colorado can maximize its entitlements to Colorado River water without overdeveloping the river, but also alternatives to new water supply projects.

The committee said state leaders and each of the basin roundtables in Colorado should participate in the conversation, which it called a “key threshold step” needed to move beyond the status quo in developing significant new water supply solutions. The roundtables represent each major river basin in the state, plus the Denver area.

The report, released Wednesday, described an urgent need for action, citing the gap between the demand for water on the populated Front Range and the supply.

“The municipal gap on the Front Range is immediate, the dry-up of agriculture is real and certain, and the environmental and economic concerns are serious and numerous,” the report said.

The report also listed several characteristics of “good” water supply projects. For instance, they should have funding and minimize the need for new infrastructure, and they shouldn’t reduce supplies to existing water users, the report said.

Colorado’s river basin roundtables agreed to form the committee after entrepreneur Aaron Million announced a $3 billion pipeline proposal to carry Flaming Gorge Reservoir water to Colorado, and a separate coalition of water providers said it was exploring its own plan. The committee didn’t set out to endorse any proposal but wanted to answer questions about cost, feasibility, water rights and legalities, along with the environmental, socioeconomics, agricultural and recreational impacts of any Flaming Gorge project, among other issues.

Million has yet to gain permits for his project. He said Thursday his team is doing more engineering work after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year dismissed his permit application over a lack of specifics.

More coverage from the Wyoming Business Journal (MJ Clark):

The committee is aware of protests by environmentalists and issues raised by their own constituency.

“Rather than focusing on a Flaming Gorge project, the committee is exploring what the attributes would be of any successful new transmountain diversion,” the group wrote. “And foremost to that discussion is dealing with the uncertainties of water availability under the Colorado River Compact.”

Noting that the staff could not reach an agreement of whether or not to endorse the project, the group concluded that, “At this point, we don’t see the benefit of having the Flaming Gorge Committee continue … unless the board directs otherwise, this will be the direction staff takes.”

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force’s phase one report is hot off the press

January 24, 2013

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Click here to view the report and appendices A through F. Click here for appendices G through I. Thanks to Heather Bergman for sending them along in email. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Recommendations

In the course of its work, the Committee has come to more fully understand and appreciate the gravity and risks of the status quo and the need to develop new supply1 solutions that balance the current and future consumptive and nonconsumptive needs of both slopes and all basins. The municipal gap on the Front Range is immediate, the dry-up of agriculture is real and certain, and the environmental and economic concerns are serious and numerous. In the process of becoming informed about and discussing the benefits and costs of a specific new supply project focused around Flaming Gorge, the Committee has identified a key threshold step that must happen in order to move beyond the status quo in developing any significant new supply solution: an immediate and focused conversation with each roundtable and state leaders at the table must begin, aimed at developing an agreement or agreements around how water supply needs around the state can be met. Our conclusion and consensus is that the conversation needs to be transparent and inclusive in order to arrive at consensus agreements that can lead to meaningful statewide-level water supply solutions. The immediate need for this robust, focused, transparent, and balanced conversation is at the heart of each of our recommendations.

The Committee has developed a consensus flow chart that identifies threshold steps and a process framework for moving forward with major new supply allocation from the Colorado River. The flow chart and the process it outlines suggests a pathway to achieving statewide consensus for a new supply project, based on roundtables defining the scope of a project, the IBCC and CWCB providing insight and approval, and project proponents or participants designing a project based on statewide consensus about the criteria of what characteristics and components are needed to be included into the design, implementation, and operation of a water project for that project to be considered a “good” project for Colorado. The flow chart is based on several assumptions:

  • The goal is to minimize the risk of a Compact call.
  • An M&I gap exists and needs to be filled. Some of the water needed to fill that gap may come from the Colorado River. That portion of the gap that is not satisfied by identified projects or processes, conservation, or new supply will likely come from the change of agricultural water to municipal and industrial use.
  • The current legal framework will apply.
  • All roundtables are affected by a new supply project.
  • This process would be voluntary. An inability to complete the process (all STOP signs in the complete framework) means that proponents revert to “business-as-usual” for building a new project.
  • More coverage from KUGR News:

    A task force studying issues related to proposals to divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado says state leaders first need to agree on how Colorado’s water needs can be met. In a report to be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Basin Roundtable Exploration Committee says questions that should be addressed include how Colorado can maximize its entitlements to Colorado River water without overdeveloping the river and who would finance a new water supply project. It also lists characteristics of “good” water supply projects, which it says shouldn’t reduce supplies to existing water users, for one. The report, released Wednesday, says there is an immediate gap between the Front Range demand for water and the supply and mentions “risks of the status quo.”

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


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

    January 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Douglas County appeals Sterling Ranch ruling that has stalled development

    December 24, 2012

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    From the Douglas County News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

    The county aims to place the issue of water availability before the appeals court, which has not previously tested the applicable statute, said Lance Ingalls, county attorney.

    The statute in question requires developers to prove the water supply for a rezoning before the start of new construction. Sterling Ranch in May 2011 gained the county’s approval to rezone and develop 3,500 acres in the Chatfield Valley, with a plan for 12,000 homes.

    With passage of the rezoning, the county granted the request from developer Harold Smethhills to prove his water adequacy at each plat or phase of development. District Judge Paul King reversed the county’s approval in August, following a challenge by the Chatfield Community Association.

    “While land use and development is a matter of local concern, the adequacy of water for new developments is a matter of statewide concern,” King ruled. “(L)ocal government shall not approve an application for a development unless it determines that the applicant has established that the proposed water supply for the development is adequate.”

    From The Denver Post:

    Those in the home-building industry said the outcome could affect projects on semi-arid land where there isn’t a lot of water. For years, suburban building has gotten the go-ahead without requiring that developers have sufficient water in place in advance.

    More water law coverage here.


    Centennial pumping costs are driving a rate increase

    December 20, 2012

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    From the Highlands Ranch Herald (Ryan Boldrey):

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

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

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

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Silverthorne: Next meeting of the Flaming Gorge Task Force December 18 #CORiver

    December 18, 2012

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    Here’s the agenda.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    ‘Oil and gas have contaminated groundwater in 17 percent of the 2,078 spills…over the past five years’ — The Denver Post

    December 10, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Most of the spills are happening less than 30 feet underground — not in the deep well bores that carry drilling fluids into rock. State regulators say oil and gas crews typically are working on storage tanks or pipelines when they discover that petroleum material, which can contain cancer-causing benzene, has seeped into soil and reached groundwater. Companies respond with vacuum trucks or by excavating tainted soil. Contamination of groundwater — along with air emissions, truck traffic and changed landscapes — has spurred public concerns about drilling along Colorado’s Front Range. There are 49,236 active wells statewide, up 31 percent since 2008, with 17,844 in Weld County.

    Starting Monday, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulators struggling to maintain a consistent set of state rules governing the industry will begin grappling with the groundwater issue. The COGCC is weighing proposed changes to state rules that would require companies to conduct before-and-after testing of groundwater around wells to provide baseline data that could be used to hold companies accountable for pollution…

    The state government’s efforts to toughen rules around groundwater — such as establishing bigger setbacks around occupied buildings, including churches and schools — are aimed partly at defusing regulatory conflicts between the state and local governments. The COGCC is charged with both promoting and regulating the oil- and-gas industry.

    But Boulder County and other local governments have begun to pass health and safety regulations of their own. Longmont adopted tougher city rules that prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to file a lawsuit challenging local authority. Hickenlooper has warned that a mishmash of varied local rules could drive companies to other states. Longmont residents then voted to ban all drilling inside the city — igniting ban campaigns elsewhere. Hickenlooper on Thursday said the state will not sue over the ban but will support private companies that choose to do so.

    Current proposals for baseline testing of groundwater give companies too much freedom to cherry-pick wells they would use to draw samples, said Gary Wockner, director of Clean Water Action, which is pushing for new local rules in several locations. “The groundwater sampling would need to be scientifically designed to confirm whether there’s been damage to groundwater — whether deep in the aquifers or at the surface,” Wockner said. “The state needs to clamp down … and protect the public from cancer-causing fracking chemicals.”

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.


    Missouri River Reuse Project: ‘I pooh-poohed this kind of stuff back in the 1960s’ — Chuck Howe

    December 10, 2012

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    From The New York Times (Felicity Barringer):

    The federal government has come up with dozens of ways to enhance the diminishing flow of the Colorado River, which has long struggled to keep seven states and roughly 25 million people hydrated…

    …also in the mix, and expected to remain in the final draft of the report [ed. Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study], is a more extreme and contentious approach. It calls for building a pipeline from the Missouri River to Denver, nearly 600 miles to the west. Water would be doled out as needed along the route in Kansas, with the rest ultimately stored in reservoirs in the Denver area…

    The fact that the Missouri River pipeline idea made the final draft, water experts say, shows how serious the problem has become for the states of the Colorado River basin. “I pooh-poohed this kind of stuff back in the 1960s,” said Chuck Howe, a water policy expert and emeritus professor of economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “But it’s no longer totally unrealistic. Currently, one can say ‘It’s worth a careful look.’ ”

    The pipeline would provide the Colorado River basin [ed. Denver, Kansas, etc., are not in the Colorado River Basin] with 600,000 acre-feet of water annually, which could serve roughly a million single-family homes. But the loss of so much water from the Missouri and Mississippi River systems, which require flows high enough to sustain large vessel navigation, would most likely face strong political opposition…

    Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, said that during the course of the study, the analysis done on climate change and historical data led the agency “to an acknowledged gap” between future demand and future supply as early as the middle of this century.

    That is when they put out a call for broader thinking to solve the water problem. “When we did have that wake-up call, we threw open the doors and said, ‘Bring it on,’ ” she said. “Nothing is too silly.”[...]

    It is unclear how much such a pipeline project would cost, though estimates run into the billions of dollars. That does not include the cost of the new electric power that would be needed (along with the construction of new generating capacity) to pump the water uphill from Leavenworth, Kan., to the front range reservoirs serving Denver, about a mile above sea level, according to Sharlene Leurig, an expert on water-project financing at Ceres, a nonprofit group based in Boston that works with investors to promote sustainability.

    If the Denver area had this new source of water to draw on, it could reduce the supplies that come from the Colorado River basin on the other side of the Continental Divide.

    But [Burke W. Griggs] and some federal officials said that the approval of such a huge water project remained highly unlikely.

    Ms. Leurig noted that local taxpayers and utility customers would be shouldering most of the expense of such a venture through their tax and water bills, which would make conservation a more palatable alternative.

    More Missouri River Reuse Project coverage here.


    Missouri River Reuse Project from Reclamation would water the Front Range and help the Ogallala aquifer

    December 6, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A pipeline from the Missouri River to Colorado’s Front Range has the potential to bring water to two states — and into the Arkansas River basin — but has not been on the table in Colorado water discussions.

    The Missouri River reuse option is being considered as one of about 100 proposals that would relieve pressure on diversion of water from the Colorado River basin. The Bureau of Reclamation began the study in 2009 to assess future supply and demand along the Colorado River and a final report should be coming out this month. Pueblo and other Front Range communities import water from the Colorado River basin each year, so new supplies could reduce that demand. The reuse would provide water to depleted aquifers across Kansas through diversion of up to 600,000 acre­feet annually from the Missouri River near Leavenworth, Kan. A description of the project on file with Reclamation indicates some of the water could reach the Arkansas River basin, north of Colorado Springs. It’s unclear from the documents available if the proposal has a sponsor.

    The project would cost billions of dollars and likely face political hurdles. Although water would have to be pumped 600 miles and 5,000 feet uphill from Leavenworth in order to reach Denver, Reclamation rates the project as “technically feasible.”

    Although specific plans to move water from Flaming Gorge and the Mississippi River, as well as more general options from the Missouri River, have been debated, the Kansas­Colorado plan has eluded discussion within Colorado.

    “No, we have not talked about it,” said Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. Barber also represents the roundtable on the Flaming Gorge Task Force, which has not reviewed the idea.

    “We’ve gotten monthly reports on the Colorado River basin study,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “There has not been any discussion of this particular proposal.”

    More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    Bureau of Reclamation officials on Tuesday said the “Missouri River Reuse Project” will be evaluated for feasibility following the release in coming weeks of a federal government study on water supply for the West.
    “The state of Colorado has not taken a formal position on the pipeline or any of the options,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said…

    The Missouri diversion described in Bureau of Reclamation documents would require a pipeline across Kansas, with water used to fill surface reservoirs and recharge depleted aquifers along the way to metro Denver.
    It would convey 600,000 acre-feet of water a year depending on Midwestern needs. An acre-foot has been regarded as enough water to sustain two families of four for a year.

    “Water would likely be stored in Front Range reservoirs such as Rueter-Hess, Carter, Barr and Chatfield,” a project summary said. “Colorado may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.”

    Some water could also be directed to the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin through pipelines and tunnels when there is great need to relieve drought in the basin, the summary continued…

    The options for importing water reflect widening worries about future shortages. The Colorado River Basin, which spans Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, is the source of water for 30 million people. The government’s three-year Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study has found that within 50 years, the annual water deficit will reach 3.5 million acre-feet.

    Bureau of Reclamation officials said their primary purpose was to define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand. They asked stakeholders and agencies across the seven basin states to submit ideas to prevent shortages. States have agreed to consider a Missouri River diversion. Other ideas are destined for an appendix.

    Here’s the pitch from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

    The Missouri River Reuse option is a diversion of up to 600,000 AFY of water from the Missouri River for reuse within the Missouri River Basin of Kansas and Colorado. Water would be diverted from the Missouri River only when flows to support navigation and municipal water diversions along the river from Leavenworth, Kansas to Saint Louis, Missouri, are not impaired.

  • 1. Within Kansas, the water would be used to fill surface reservoirs and recharge depleted aquifers in the upper and lower Republican River Basins, Solomon River Basin, and Smoky-Hill/Saline River Basin as determined from assessment of need and feasibility by the Kansas State Water Office in cooperation with the Kansas Division of Water Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, and the States of Colorado and Nebraska. In particular, the water would be used for irrigation and municipal, commercial, and industrial use and to recharge the Ogallala aquifer in western Kansas. Each of these basins (including the Ogallala aquifer in northwest Kansas) is tributary to the Missouri River. The Ogallala aquifer discharges into the Republican River in northeast Colorado and northwest Kansas. Kansas may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.
  • 2. Along the Front Range of Colorado, the water (totaling 500 cfs or more as Colorado determines)
    would be used for municipal, commercial, and industrial use with return flows allocated for agricultural irrigation use within the South Platte River Basin (a tributary of the Missouri River). Some water could be used to recharge the bedrock aquifers of the Denver Basin. In eastern Colorado, some water could be used for irrigation and municipal use and to recharge the Ogallala aquifer. Water would likely be stored in Front Range reservoir such as Rueter-Hess, Carter, Barr, and Chatfield and in designated alluvial storage along the South Platte River. Colorado may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.

  • 3. Some water may be available for use outside the Missouri River Basin, particularly that portion of the water in the Missouri River which is non-native (originating as transmountain diversions from the
    Colorado and Arkansas Rivers in Colorado and nontributary Denver Basin ground-water withdrawals). Some of this water could be directed to the Arkansas River in western and central Kansas and in eastern Colorado beginning near Colorado Springs. Some water could also be directed to the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin through pipelines and tunnels when there is great need to relieve drought in the basin provided the navigation and municipal supply flows in the Missouri River are plentiful and other water needs of western Kansas and eastern Colorado are being reasonably satisfied.
  • The location of the Missouri River diversion point is in Leavenworth County, Kansas near the City of Leavenworth. The water would be treated and disinfected at a large treatment plant to be designed and constructed, as necessary, for subsequent conveyance and use. End-user treatment, such as water softening for municipal, commercial, and industrial use, is anticipated.

    Conveyance of water across Kansas and eastern Colorado would be through single or parallel largediameter pipelines located more or less adjacent to I-70. Infrastructure would include a series of highcapacity pumping stations (to be located, sized, and designed). The water conveyance infrastructure (pipeline and pumping stations) would be owned and operated by the Kansas Water Office in cooperation with the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Kansas Division of Water Resources, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and various public and private stakeholders. The diversion rights would owned by a Kansas entity

    The Missouri River Reuse Project is technically feasible as evidenced by other large diversion projects in the western United States including, but not limited to: (a) the numerous transmountain diversion projects in Colorado that bring tens of thousands of acre-feet of Colorado River and Arkansas River water to the Front Range through numerous tunnels; (b) the Colorado River Aqueduct that brings water from the Colorado River at Parker Dam to Southern California; (c) the Los Angeles Aqueduct that brings water from Owens Valley to Los Angeles; (d) the Central Arizona (canal) Project that brings Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson, and (e) the State Water Project of California that provides irrigation water to farms in the San Joaquin Valley, and is a major source of supply for cities in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties and other parts of southern California. Many of these projects involve the Bureau of Reclamation, Corps of Engineers, and numerous state water resources agencies.

    A similar serious project has been proposed that would divert surface water from the Mississippi River and pump it west into the Colorado River Basin. Another large project has been proposed that would divert about 300,000 of acre-feet of surface water from the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming, pump the water across southern Wyoming along I-80 to Cheyenne and then south into the Denver Basin. Moreover, private energy and pipeline companies have constructed thousands of miles of interstate pipelines that pump vast quantities of natural gas and petroleum products across the United States.

    Legal, engineering and construction costs need to be determined for numerous possible options. Construction costs will likely be in the billions of dollars and would be borne by the various end users — water providers and irrigators in Kansas and Colorado with some participation by the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. Operating costs must be affordable for irrigators and municipal users for the project to be feasible. In exporting water out-of-state to Colorado, Kansas could charge and collect a reasonable severance tax, as well as the State Water Plan fee.

    The historic 2007 multi-state agreement among the seven Colorado River Basin States governing the future management of the Colorado River provides for the introduction and recovery of non-Colorado River system water and non-Colorado River system water exchanges. The Front Range of Colorado uses about 345,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water each year and releases that water into the South Platte River Basin, which is tributary to the Missouri River. According to the 2004 Colorado Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) report, the South Platte River Basin will need an additional 409,700 acre-feet of water by 2030 due largely to forecasted population increase. Bringing Missouri River reuse water to the Front Range provides an opportunity for Colorado to exchange all or a portion of this water for other water in the Colorado River Basin originating in the State of Colorado (such as from the Yampa, White, and Green Rivers) to the Lower Basin states. This exchange of water would engage the States of California, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico in helping to pay for the project. The federal government would also have a financial interest in the project because of the Colorado River treaty with Mexico.

    The Missouri River Reuse Project could have major interstate impacts on regional and local water supply. Congressional and state legislative approvals will likely be needed with an accompanying environmental impact statement under NEPA. A 404 permit will be needed from the Corps of Engineers including numerous state approvals. Water rights for the diversion will have to be obtained from the Kansas Department of Water Resources and will be held by a Kansas entity.

    Even though the water will be used in Kansas and Colorado, the reuse project will likely have profound and unprecedented positive impacts on the Colorado, Republican, and South Platte River compacts affecting Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and the Colorado River treaty with Mexico. The reuse project could also positively impact the North Platte and Arkansas River compacts involving Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The State of Missouri will need solid assurance that the flows in the Missouri River will always be sufficient to support navigation and municipal water diversions in the state. A benefit to the states of Missouri and Kansas and Kansas City area water providers is the possible reduced risk of damage from flooding and river degradation.

    The project has numerous options that can be considered in terms of design, construction, operations, and costs. Each of these options needs to be fully explored, which will take time and money. The possible source(s) of funding need to be determined and evaluated. The project is large and will need to engage the cooperation (buy-in) and participation by numerous states and their respective water resources agencies and water providers, the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and various Missouri River stakeholders. Other federal agency cooperation will be needed from the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Department of Commerce, US Energy Department, US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Considerable risk and uncertainty exists when seeking approval and consensus from such a cadre of stakeholders.

    Historic flows in the Missouri River demonstrate that the river it a reliable source of supply for navigation, irrigation, and municipal supply. Flows vary annually and seasonally. The main stem of the Missouri River is managed by the Corps of Engineers pursuant to an annual operating plan that is focused on flood control, navigation, municipal water supply, recreation, and habitat for fish and wildlife. The historic Missouri River flood of 2011 caused significant river-bottom degradation from Atchison, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri, breached numerous federal and private levees, and considerable damage to public and private property. A large diversion from the Missouri River would provide another means for the Corps of Engineers to control flooding of the Missouri River in the Kansas City reach. During periods of low flow, projected river diversions would be reduced or suspended. Subsequent water stored in reservoirs west of the diversion point could be released as needed to ensure adequate supplies of water for municipal use, such as along the Kansas River.

    The amount of electrical energy required for operations would be substantial and needs to be determined based on consideration of reasonable design alternatives. Power supply to the pumping stations would be provided by a combination of existing and expanded coal-fired power plants and wind energy as determined most appropriate and feasible by objective engineering and economic analyses.

    Additional water for Kansas and Colorado reservoirs will positively support reservoir recreation activities. The reuse project would likely have a positive affect on the riparian habitat of the lower South Platte River basin, particularly for whooping cranes and other waterfowl in northeast Colorado and southwest Nebraska. Potential impacts on endangered and protected fish and waterfowl along the Missouri River would need to be determined.

    Project alternative studies, engineering, design, construction, legal support, and operations would be a significant economic benefit to the States of Kansas and Colorado in terms of employment and population growth. A large diversion works, treatment plant, and pumping station would likely employ hundreds of skilled workers and engineers in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Pipeline and booster pumping stations would likewise employ hundreds of skilled workers across Kansas and eastern Colorado. Severance tax revenue for state of Kansas from the export of water to Colorado would also be significant. The economic benefit could be similar to the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to the United States or nearly any of the aqueduct projects in California. The project could also yield substantial volumes of new water to the Lower Colorado River Basin states under the Colorado River Compact.

    More Missouri River Reuse Project coverage here.


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