Grand County Commissioners announce benefits from pact with Denver Water — Sky-Hi Daily News #ColoradoRiver

April 23, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release from the Grand County Commissioners via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The Grand County Board of County Commissioners has announced a major economic win for the county. The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which went into effect Sept. 26, 2013, is already paying off – literally – in the county. The agreement between Denver Water and Grand County, as well as other West Slope governments, water providers and ski areas, was reached after years of negotiations.

Earlier this year, Denver Water began to meet dozens of obligations outlined in the agreement. In January, Denver Water made a payment of $1.95 million to Grand County for two water supply projects:

• The Jim Creek Bypass and Pipeline, which Winter Park Water and Sanitation District is already designing, will help protect water quality at its water treatment plant in low-flow periods, and provide system flexibility. In addition, the project will be constructed following a competitive bid process, which will be an economic boost for the county. Because Denver Water is funding the Jim Creek Bypass and Pipeline project, Winter Park Water and Sanitation District will not need to raise service fees to pay for it.

• The Fraser River Pump Station, Pipeline and Discovery Park Pond project, which pays for much-needed improvements that will help stabilize the business of Winter Park Resort and other businesses in the upper Fraser Valley. The project will enhance Winter Park ski area’s snowmaking capability, allowing the resort to open more ski areas earlier in the season, which will drive early-season income to local businesses, as well as provide additional jobs for local residents. In addition, water previously provided by Denver Water only in the winter to the ski area, Winter Park Water and Sanitation District, Grand County Water and Sanitation District, and the Towns of Fraser and Granby, will now be available on a year-round basis. The pond also will provide a source of water for wildfire suppression.

“More than five years of negotiations with Denver Water have paid off,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “It was important to us to make sure Grand County’s future was secure, and we believe the economic value we’re receiving from the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement achieves that.”

The agreement ushers in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water and West Slope entities to create a spirit of cooperation instead of litigation over water resources.

“The relationship forged through this agreement was bearing fruit for Grand County even before the agreement was officially in place,” said Newberry.

Commissioner Newberry pointed to the recent drought as an example of this cooperation. “In 2012, Denver Water implemented a critical component of the agreement in Grand County to provide more water for county streams than would have been available without the agreement. Instead of the historic practice of significantly reducing the bypass flows at its diversion points during droughts, Denver Water gave approximately 1,500 acre-feet of water back to the Fraser River when they legally could have diverted it to Denver.”

Another project, which created a settling pond on the east side of U.S. Highway 40 near the entrance of the Mary Jane ski area, was also completed and has been operated by Denver Water since before the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was official. The pond improves water quality in Fraser Basin by trapping sand applied to Berthoud Pass by CDOT before it is carried down the river. The project was completed in 2011, and 680 tons of sediment was removed in 2013.

“The removal of sediment not only improves water quality, which assists the wastewater plants, but over time it will help restore the trout fishing habitat that President Eisenhower travelled to the Fraser River to enjoy,” said Newberry. “It’s these types of collaborative projects that will serve Grand County well into the future.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


“…the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts” — Allen Best #ColoradoRiver

April 20, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Another independent journalist covering water issues is Allen Best purveyor of The Mountain Town News. Here’s an analysis of the recent agreement between Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, and Grand County for operating the Colorado River Cooperative agreement. Here’s an excerpt:

Located at the headwaters of the Colorado River, the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts…

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water.

“Instead of platitudes or politics or parochialism, you need to do it by sitting down and working together and dealing with the issues,” he adds…

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take.

Based on the firm yield of the water and Denver’s rate for outside-city raw water to customers, this commitment is valued at $55 million.

Denver will make this water available for release into the creeks and rivers, to keep water temperatures colder and hence more hospitable to insects and fish. The water can also be used for flushing, to mimic what happens naturally during spring runoff, scouring river bottoms, to clear out the silt that clogs the spaces between rocks where mayflies and other insects live – and upon which fish feed…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

The agreement represents a new wave of thinking about impacts of water diversions. The older way of thinking was demonstrated in the Colorado Big-Thompson project. Financed by the federal government, it gave the Western Slope a one-time package, Green Mountain Reservoir, between Kremmling and Silverthorne, to serve Western Slope needs, particularly the farmers near Grand Junction who need water for late-summer fruits and produce. The agreement did not cover a more recent problem seemingly caused by the diversion, algae that obscure the clarity of Grand Lake.

The most recent of of the new agreements since the 1990s provides more living, breathing elasticity. The foundation for the new agreement was announced in 2011 but not finalized until recently. Called the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, it sharply restricts Denver’s ability to develop new water sources on the Western Slope and also calls for Denver to provide both water and money to address problems in the Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park areas.

Then, in 2012, came agreements addressing the ambitions by five cities along the northern Front Range to increase the take of spring flows at Windy Gap, similar to what Denver wants to do at the Moffat Tunnel.

The Windy Gap settlement introduced adaptive management, an idea gaining favor in management of rivers of the West for several decades. The essential idea of Learning by Doing, the program embraced for both Windy Gap and the Moffat projects, is that it’s impossible to know exactly what to do in advance…

“In the past, you’d build a project, do the required mitigation and move on. That’s no longer the case. Denver Water is committed to a new way of doing business – one that approaches water management in a way that is collaborative and as beneficial to West Slope interests as possible. The partnership we’ve created through Learning by Doing is permanent. Our commitment is t o work with Grand County, Trout Unlimited and all the partners in Learning by Doing in an ongoing manner permanently into the future.”

More Denver Water coverage here.


“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” — Ken Neubecker #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 11, 2014
Blue River

Blue River

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

The Blue and the Snake are in trouble. These two Summit County rivers are part of the Upper Colorado River Basin, which was named the second most endangered river in the country Wednesday by American Rivers, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit focused on river advocacy.

“If you want to have healthy rivers and a recreational economy and agriculture on the West Slope, there really is nothing left to take,” said Ken Neubecker, associate director of the organization’s Colorado River project…

The nonprofit’s biggest fear is a new diversion, Neubecker said, because taking a lot of water out of the Colorado anywhere would have serious repercussions.

American Rivers and other conservation organizations say the Colorado Water Conservation Board, charged with creating the state water plan, should make sure it prioritizes river restoration and protection, increases water efficiency and conservation in cities and towns, improves agricultural practices and avoids new transmountain diversions.

Rivers on the Western Slope are already drained and damaged, Neubecker said. He called it wrong to divert more water instead of focusing on alternative methods to meet the gap between water supply and demand.

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Right now, he said, details on a new diversion project have been vague, but Front Range proposals have considered developing the Yampa, Flaming Gorge and Gunnison and taking more water out of the Blue, Eagle, Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers…

The Colorado River and its headwaters are home to some endangered fish species. They support wildlife, agriculture and multi-billion dollar tourism industries.

And they provide some or all of the drinking water for the resort areas of Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park and Crested Butte and most of the urban Front Range.

To meet its customers’ water needs, Denver Water is focused on Gross Reservoir enlargements as well as conservation and forest health efforts, said CEO Jim Lochhead Thursday.

Colorado’s largest water provider has no current plans to construct a new transmountain diversion, he said, but the state as a whole should consider that option.

A new diversion is “probably inevitable at some point,” he said. “We want to do that in partnership with the West Slope.”

And after signing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement last year, the utility has to.

The agreement does not allow future water development without the permission of all parties, including Western Slope representatives. Lochhead said, it “establishes a framework where we are really working together as partners instead of the old framework of East Slope versus West Slope.”

But the push is not coming from Denver Water.

“They’re really not the ones that are after a new diversion,” Neubecker said. “They got what they want.”

Pressure for more water from new or existing transmountain diversions comes mainly from north and south of Denver, the Arkansas and South Platte basins and especially Douglas County, he said. Those areas should look at conservation efforts more seriously, he said, and “pay attention to land use policies that basically encourage wasteful water use.”[...]

“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” instead of engineering conduits for delivering water, Neubecker said, and “understand that we may think that growth should be infinite, but the resources like water that support the growth are not.”

From the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent (Mike McKibbin):

There is no more unclaimed water in the Colorado River Basin, so if the state’s population nearly doubles by 2050, as some have projected, the consequences for everyone along the river – including Rifle – could be dire. That was the message Louis Meyer, a civil engineer, president and CEO of SGM in Glenwood Springs, told City Council as he detailed the ongoing Colorado Water Plan process at an April 2 workshop…

Of the counties in the Colorado River basin, he noted, Garfield is projected to have the most growth, around 274 percent, or 119,900 people, by 2030.

“The Front Range is expected to have serious water shortages by 2020, unless they find more water,” he said. “They can’t take any more from agriculture on the Front Range, so they want a new supply from the Colorado River basin.”

“We have a target on our back,” Meyer continued. “But we have no more water to give.”

If every entity on the Front Range implemented some strict conservation measures, such as banning all new lawns and perhaps the removal of some existing lawns, Meyer said, the water gap could possibly be eliminated in coming years.

“But if we put that in the [water] plan, we need to do the same thing in our basin,” he added.

All storage water in Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs is allocated, along with nearly every other reservoir in the state, Meyer said.

Water quality issues are already becoming acute, Meyer said, because there is less water in the Colorado River.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


More snow same adventure – Denver Water crews measure snowpack

April 4, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Tracking snowpack is a vital part of managing Denver Water’s water supply. But, with sample sites in remote locations throughout our watersheds, this is no easy task.

Take a journey with Jay Adams, from Denver Water’s Communications and Marketing Department, as he joins Denver Water crews to take on this adventurous mission.

Per Olsson, Jones Pass caretaker; Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim Holinka, assistant district foreman on the Arrow snow course near Winter Park.

Per Olsson, Jones Pass caretaker; Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim Holinka, assistant district foreman on the Arrow snow course near Winter Park.

What a difference a year makes in snowpack levels

By Jay Adams

It’s a trek not many people take, but one that provides critical information to more than 1 million people. The journey begins just below the Continental Divide in a Trooper Snow Cat. The ride leads up the side of a mountain, past a group of snowmobilers and two wandering moose. Onboard the Snow Cat heading into the forest are Denver Water employees Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim…

View original 467 more words


Denver Water: Water rules begin May 1

April 3, 2014

Recently executed agreement designed to increase river health in the Upper #ColoradoRiver and Fraser River

March 26, 2014
Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Grand County is that part of the snow-rich Western Slope most proximate to the farms and cities of the Front Range. It juts like a thumb eastward, the most easterly point of the Pacific drainage in North America.

As such, it became a target, early and often, of transmountain diversions. The first major diversion across the Continental Divide was completed in 1890 and the last, located at Windy Gap, where the Fraser River flows into the Colorado, in 1985. Several others, more audacious in scale, came between.

Taken together, these great engineering achievements annually draw 60 percent or more of the native flows of this headwater region eastward, over and through the Continental Divide. The water delivered to cities between Denver and Fort Collins have made them among the most vibrant in the country, and the water that flows to farms as far east as Julesberg, hundreds of miles away, among the nation’s most productive.

But this achievement has had a hidden cost that became more apparent in recent years. Combined with the frequent drought since 2000, the depletions have left the Colorado River shallow and warm as it flows through Middle Park. It is, according to environmental advocates, a river on the edge of ecological collapse, unable to support sculpin, trout, and other fish…

Now come new efforts, the most recent announced earlier this month, to bring the Colorado River and its tributaries back from this brink.

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water…

David Taussig, a native of Grand County and now the county’s water attorney, working from the 16th Street firm of White & Jankowski in downtown Denver, also sees the agreement as a model. “Nobody knows what (the agreements) will look like, but there are ways to develop things that benefit the Western Slope,” he says.

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

Under terms of this agreement, however, Denver Water is required to spend $10 million in direct costs in Grand County.

A major concern on the Fraser River is higher temperatures caused by more shallow flows, harmful or even deadly to fish. The money would go to such things as temperature-monitoring stations, to track how warm the Fraser is getting in summer months.

In places, creeks and the Fraser River will be rechanneled. A river with 75 percent of its flows diminished over a year’s cycle has less need for width. Instead, it needs a narrower course, to allow more depth and hence the colder water needed for aquatic life. Such work was already started several years ago on a segment near the Safeway store in Fraser.

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

Mely Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited, says the new deal builds on both the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap settlements. They mesh together and, downstream from Windy Gap, should have great benefit.

The weakness is that in the Fraser Valley, there is little existing baseline data. “We don’t have a very good grasp on either what we have lost or what we may lose in the future,” she says. “We know there have been declines, but don’t have nearly as much information (as below Windy Gap). So the effort will be to develop a strong baseline and get a strong understanding of what is going on up there.”

At the end of the day it is a compromise, and Whiting admits that not all environmentalists are thrilled.

“On my side of the equation, when I talk to people in the conservation community, some people want language that nails Denver to the ground, so that they have no wiggle room. They want things very predictable,” she says.

“This Learning by Doing agreement is not extremely predictable,” she added. “We have some basic parameters. There are three ways we are going to measure, to monitor to make sure the values of the streams aren’t going down.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Breakthrough water agreement benefits cities and rivers

March 11, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Water management is never easy. And in Colorado, where the resource is scarce, everyone’s interest is valuable, and needs are often widely divergent.

Last year, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited came together to pen a guest editorial for The Denver Post, Together, we can meet Colorado River challenges, acknowledging the fact that there are differences over how to best use water to meet our diverse needs. But, more important, the editorial highlighted the fact that smart water planning and cooperation are the only way to meet the future water needs of all interests along the Colorado River.

Less than a year later, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited have come together again, this time with Grand County, to reveal an agreement that balances municipal needs and environmental health. And, just like the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this partnership demonstrates the benefits of working together to protect our…

View original 790 more words


Sides agree to innovative Fraser River deal to help slake Denver Water thirst — Colorado Independent #ColoradoRiver

March 6, 2014

eisenhowerfishing

From the Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

Ranchers, anglers and big-city water bosses raised a white flag in Colorado’s long-running water wars this week by setting aside bullying and threats of lawsuits and permit appeals. Instead, Grand County and Trout Unlimited have agreed to let Denver Water siphon another 18,000 acre feet from the headwaters of the Colorado River — but only under a strict checklist of requirements designed to ensure the Fraser River recovers from decades of depletion.

The deal announced Tuesday could make the Fraser the most-watched river in Colorado – and maybe in the West. It sets out an innovative, science-based plan that seeks to balance increasing urban needs for water with an imperative to restore crucial habitat for river trout…

Denver Water – Colorado’s biggest and thirstiest water provider — currently diverts more than half the Fraser River’s flow to keep toilets flushing, dishwashers running and sprinklers spouting along the Front Range. The dispute started in 2003 when the utility applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the permit it needs to divert more water from the river — as much as three-quarters of its average annual flow — to keep up with growth in the Denver metro area…

This week’s pact seeks to honor Denver Water’s longstanding river rights while ensuring the Fraser will be protected no matter how much more water is diverted for urban use. The restoration plan will use real-time data to track critical temperature increases in key streams caused either by Denver Water’s seasonal diversions or the long-term effects of climate change. When temperatures spike, additional flows will be released to cool the water when needed. In good water years, the deal will give Denver up to 18,000 acre feet of additional water, which will mostly be tapped during the peak spring runoff season. The timing of the diversions is a key part of the utility’s promise to improve the Fraser.

“We’re not going to be diverting water all the time. We won’t divert water in critically dry years, and we’ll only divert water during spring runoff. At other times of year, we’ll put water back into the river and improve conditions,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO and manager.

The agreement also will require shifts in the timing of the water harvest. High flows are needed in the spring to help flush sediments that gunk up habitat for trout and aquatic bugs…

The Army Corps of Engineers’ final environmental study is due in late April, with a formal decision on the proposed diversion project expected in early 2015.

This week’s pact minimizes the likelihood of a permit appeal or a time-consuming lawsuit by conservationists. That’s important for Denver Water, which is eager to dig its shovels into the ground as soon as possible. Some of the extremely dry years in the early 2000s — especially 2002 — already have put the water giant’s delivery system to the test.

The deal also gives Grand County some assurances that the Fraser will remain a vibrant part of its outdoor recreation economy. Anglers from throughout the state and country visit Grand County to wet their lines in a river that was favored by President Dwight Eisenhower.

The additional water will help Denver Water balance its supplies. Currently, the utility gets about 80 percent of its water through the southern portion of its collection system, from the Blue River in Summit County via the Roberts Tunnel and a chain of reservoirs along the South Platte River. Lochhead says increased diversions from the Fraser River will make urban water supplies less vulnerable to extreme events such as forest fires, which are expected more frequently because of drought and climate change. The ability to pump more water out of the Fraser when needed would give Denver a much-needed back-up plan in case of another massive blaze like the 2002 Hayman Fire in a key watershed…

West Slope water managers acknowledge Denver Water’s legal rights. But they question whether any new trans-divide diversions are needed, claiming that Front Range communities could easily meet existing and future needs with more efficient use of the water the utility already is diverting over the Continental Divide. Under any plan, they say, drawing more water from any Colorado River tributary will have ripple effects felt far downstream, from endangered Colorado River fish near Grand Junction to lettuce growers in the salty deserts near the Mexican border.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Grand County reach agreement on river protections for Moffat Project #ColoradoRiver

March 5, 2014
Gross Dam

Gross Dam

From email from EarthJustice (McCrystie Adams):

As Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Collection System Project has undergone initial federal permitting review, numerous stakeholders on both sides of the Continental Divide have raised serious concerns about the scheme to bring more water from the Fraser River to the Front Range. Today, two entities announced an agreement with Denver Water that will lead to what is being termed a Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

McCrystie Adams, attorney in the Rocky Mountain Office of Earthjustice issued the following statement today:

“We look forward to thoroughly reviewing this private agreement to determine whether it fully addresses the impacts of the potentially river-killing Moffat expansion proposal. Any plan to mitigate additional diversions from this already heavily-stressed river system—or repair past damage—must be independently enforceable and fully funded before a decision to approve the project is made.

“The Fraser and the other streams targeted by this project are the headwaters of one of America’s great river systems, the Colorado, and are of importance far beyond Grand County. We and our conservation partners are committed to keeping these waters flowing. The Moffat permitting process is not complete, and we will continue to evaluate all alternatives to protect the long-term health and preservation of these streams.”

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Three major stakeholders involved in a project to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, as part of Denver Water’s proposed $250 million Moffat Collection System Project, have reached an agreement to protect the Fraser River and its trout population if the project is ultimately approved. Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County were party to the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, which was struck on Tuesday. The three parties have submitted it to state and federal agencies reviewing the project…

The Moffat project is designed to shore up Denver Water’s supply system on the north side of metro Denver, an area that came dangerously close to running out of water during the drought of 2002-2003. Denver Water first proposed enlarging Gross Reservoir, so it can hold more water from the Western Slope including the Fraser River, in 2003.

At the center of the agreement is a program to monitor the health of the stream — including water temperature, aquatic life and plant health, according to the announcement. If problems emerge, Denver Water would provide water, money and other resources to improve the condition of the river, according to the agreement.

“This plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water…

The management team will include representatives from the three parties to the agreement as well as from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited…

Lurline Curran, Grand County’s manager, said the county reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to try to get past previous disagreements about the impact of the Moffat Project.

“To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded,” Curran said.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

As long as I’ve been old enough to hold a fishing rod, maybe longer, I’ve heard there’s no substitute for experience. I suppose that’s why the new Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan announced Tuesday for the Fraser River’s Moffat Collection System Project seems to make so much sense at first glance.

The centerpiece of the package of river protections designed to keep the fragile Fraser River and its fish and wildlife populations healthy in the face of Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is a concept stakeholders refer to as “learning by doing.” In the working world, it might be considered on-the-job training, only with the enterprising twist of entering into uncharted waters, so to speak.

The notion behind learning by doing is managing the ecological impacts of diverting a significant slice of the Fraser to Front Range water users on a cooperative basis as problems arise. Should the project permit be issued, a management team that includes Denver Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District will enact a monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters such as stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health.

Rather than focusing efforts on finger pointing when the Fraser’s health suffers from water depletion, the plan is to focus available resources on addressing the actual issue at hand. That means water, money and other resources committed by Denver Water through project mitigation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and other agreements will be deployed to prevent declines and improve conditions as they are identified. Ideally, what’s learned from the experience will help keep the same problems from recurring again and again.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said in a statement released Tuesday. “Since the beginning of our planning for the Moffat Project, we set out to do the right thing for the environment, and we believe coming together with Trout Unlimited and Grand County on the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan demonstrates a monumental step in making the river better. It’s satisfying that after more than 10 years of study and discussion, Trout Unlimited and Grand County have stayed at the table with us in good faith.”

Calling the agreement “a victory for the river,” Trout Unlimited said the plan closes discussions over the proposed Moffat project designed to improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system by capturing remaining water rights in the upper Colorado basin. Denver Water, Grand County and TU have submitted the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan to federal and state agencies charged with permitting the Moffat Project and have requested that it be made part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Grand County reach agreement on river protections for Moffat Project #ColoradoRiver

March 4, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release via Denver Water, Grand County, and Colorado Trout Unlimited (Stacy Chesney/Lurline Curran/Mely Whiting):

Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County today announced agreement on a package of river protections designed to keep the Fraser River and its trout populations healthy.

The Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan brings to a close several years of discussions over the proposed Moffat Collection System Project and its potential impacts on the Fraser River. All sides hailed the stakeholder agreement as a breakthrough that balances municipal needs and environmental health.

Trout Unlimited called the agreement “a victory for the river.”

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited. “This pragmatic agreement underscores the value of a collaborative approach to water planning — one that recognizes the value of healthy rivers. It shows that, working together, we can meet our water needs while protecting our fisheries and outdoor quality of life.”

“In an effort to move past a disagreement on impacts from the Moffat Project, Grand County reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to propose additional environmental mitigations,” said Lurline Curran, Grand County manager. “To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded.”

“The Fraser is a river beloved by generations of anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts — it’s the lifeblood of our community,” said Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado River Headwaters chapter in Fraser and a longtime advocate for the river. “As an angler and Fraser Valley resident, I’m gratified that this agreement keeps our home waters healthy and flowing.”

The package includes environmental enhancements and protections to ensure the Fraser River will be better off with the Moffat Project than without it, said Denver Water. The Moffat Project will improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system, which serves 1.3 million people in the Denver-metro area.

The centerpiece of the agreement is Learning by Doing, a monitoring and adaptive management program overseen by a management team that includes Denver Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District. Upon the project permit being issued, the management team will implement an extensive monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters including stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health. Water, financial and other resources committed by Denver Water through project mitigation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and other agreements will be deployed to prevent declines and improve conditions where needed.

Learning by Doing is a unique and groundbreaking effort to manage an aquatic environment on a permanent, cooperative basis. Notably, the program will not seek a culprit for changes in the condition of the stream, but will provide a mechanism to identify issues of concern and focus available resources to address those issues. Mitigation measures to prevent impacts of the Moffat Project on stream temperature and aquatic habitat will also be implemented through Learning by Doing.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “Since the beginning of our planning for the Moffat Project, we set out to do the right thing for the environment, and we believe coming together with Trout Unlimited and Grand County on the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan demonstrates a monumental step in making the river better. It’s satisfying that after more than 10 years of study and discussion, Trout Unlimited and Grand County have stayed at the table with us in good faith.”

Denver Water, Grand County and Trout Unlimited have submitted the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan to federal and state agencies charged with permitting the Moffat Project and have requested that it be made part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

For more information about the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, see the full agreement here.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Love your water camp! :) H2O Outdoors

March 2, 2014

Glewood Springs: RICD application will draw many opposers #ColoradoRiver

February 24, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The city of Glenwood Springs is looking to build on the popularity of its whitewater attractions, both natural and man-made. In doing so, it may have to navigate potential obstacles including another popular local attraction, the Glenwood Hot Springs, not to mention the state’s largest water utility, Denver Water.

A new agreement between Denver Water and Western Slope entities doesn’t prevent the state’s largest water utility from opposing Glenwood Springs’ proposed new recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD, water right on the Colorado River. That’s because Glenwood is seeking more water under its proposal than Denver Water agreed to go along with under the new water deal.

Meanwhile, Glenwood also has revived the idea of a downtown whitewater park, which has revived the hot springs’ concerns about potential impacts on the springs’ aquifer.

City officials are hopeful of being able to deal with any concerns from either Denver Water or the hot springs, and building on the success of the park already constructed on the Colorado River near the Interstate 70 interchange on the western edge of town.

“My perception is it has been very successful,” said City Manager Jeff Hecksel.

The big wave that forms at the park during spring runoff draws whitewater enthusiasts from all over the country, he notes.

“It has its own following,” Hecksel said.

Whitewater boating is a major part of the city’s tourism industry, with several outfitters offering guided trips in Glenwood Canyon. The city has identified several proposed locations for a new whitewater park, including the downtown location just upstream of the Roaring Fork River, the Horseshoe Bend area just west of the No Name Tunnels of I-70, and at the No Name I-70 rest area east of Glenwood Springs.

“This is already a very actively used (river) corridor,” said Mark Hamilton, a water attorney representing the city. “I think additional whitewater features will just enhance that.”

The city’s current park has no associated water rights. Flow there is aided year-round because it’s downstream of the Roaring Fork River and benefits from the senior water right of the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon.

The city is requesting a base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second for the warmer months of the year. That’s consistent with the Shoshone right, and is an amount Denver Water specifically agreed not to oppose as part of the new water deal with the Western Slope.

That deal was announced in 2011 and took effect last fall after resolution of some final issues. It involves more than 30 Western Slope entities, and includes provisions including the Western Slope assenting to certain Denver Water projects involving Colorado River water, and Denver Water committing to develop any further such projects only with Western Slope approval, and also committing more than $25 million to Western Slope projects.

What complicates Glenwood Springs’ water application is that it also is seeking a higher flow of 2,500 cfs during 46 days coinciding with spring runoff, with flows of 4,000 cfs for five days within that period.

“I think some folks may see it as not contemplated by the cooperative agreement but it doesn’t run counter to the letter of the agreement,” said Peter Fleming, who as an attorney with the Colorado River Water Conservation District was involved in negotiating that agreement. Rather, he said, it simply means Denver Water can oppose the RICD filing. He said it just will come down to negotiations, which also will entail convincing the Colorado Water Conservation Board it’s a reasonable request and won’t interfere with things such as water compact requirements.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an enormous problem. I think there’s going to be some negotiations and some restrictions on the exercise of the RICD but there normally are,” he said.

Consultation process

Importantly, Fleming doesn’t consider Glenwood’s request a violation of the deal with Denver Water that could jeopardize terms such as the monetary commitment Denver Water has made to the Western Slope. That deal didn’t limit how much water the city could seek, but simply set a limit to the size of a diversion Denver Water would consent to without being able to object in water court.

“I don’t think it imperils the cooperative agreement at all,” he said.

Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson confirmed that view Friday.

“The filing of the RICD is not a violation of the (agreement). Because the filing does not meet the provisions in the (agreement), Denver Water is not required to support it as filed,” he said.

As part of the agreement, the city agreed to consult with Denver Water regarding its application, “and through our discussions, they are aware that we will file a statement of opposition,” Thompson said.

But he said the utility is committed to working with the city on the issue.

Opposition statements aren’t uncommon in water cases, and aren’t necessarily intended to outright prevent approval of a water right. Rather, they can represent an attempt by an entity to be able to have a say as an application is considered in court.

Said Thompson, “This RICD is not uncommon, as these filings often involve multiple parties who object, and then these issues are resolved during the court process.”

The river district itself has decided to file an opposition statement.

“From the river district’s perspective we look at the RICD both with a concern to make sure they don’t imperil water usage in the river district but also as a legitimate use,” Fleming said. “We want to make sure the Western Slope recreational economy is supported so it’s sort of a tug and pull there.”

Hamilton said the city engaged in discussions with Denver Water for the water rights filing and those conversations continue.

“This was not an intent to surprise anyone,” he said.

He said the total claims are intended not to exceed half the volume of water typically available in that part of the river.

“Presumably that leaves quite a bit of additional water in the river that could be appropriated for other purposes,” he said.

He said most if not all of Denver’s water rights would be senior to the rights being sought.

“If Denver already has water rights, they’re unaffected,” he said.

Hot Springs’ aquifers

Communities are increasingly seeking such rights in order to create whitewater parks as added recreational and tourism amenities. Carbondale recently was granted such a right and Pitkin County is seeking one. Grand County is seeking Bureau of Land Management approval related to a proposed park on the upper Colorado River in Gore Canyon, after obtaining water rights for it.

Glenwood’s efforts over the years have been a bit more complicated by the Glenwood Hot Springs’ interests. Proponents wanted to build the first park downtown but were thwarted by the concerns raised by the springs, the city’s central tourism attraction. Kjell Mitchell, the attraction’s president and chief executive officer, said the concern is that a park could cause river-bottom scouring that could puncture shallow aquifers and affect the springs. Another concern is that a park could contribute to flooding and harm the springs. He believes the first park site turned out to be a great location for the city, and hopes it will look to the possible locations being considered farther east rather than downtown.

“I hope if the city wants to do something that they would hopefully see the big picture and it would be a win-win situation,” he said.

The pool sent a letter to the city outlining its concerns last year. Asked about the potential of the issue ending up in court if the city pursues the downtown location, Mitchell said, “I hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

Hamilton and Hecksel said the proposed location is downstream of the hot springs.

Said Hecksel, “I think it’s a matter of perception. I don’t think anybody’s going to dismiss what the concerns of the pool are, but (the proposed location) is farther downstream.”

He said the city continues to discuss the matter with the pool.

“The city acknowledges their concerns,” he said.

More whitewater coverage here.


Glenwood Springs proposed RICD application is drawing the attention of other #ColoradoRiver users

February 17, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From the Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The West Divide Water Conservancy District of Rifle filed a “statement of opposition” with District Court, Water Division No. 5 on Jan. 27.

West Divide said it is “the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application” to Glenwood Springs.

Other such filings are expected from Denver Water, the Colorado River District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

A “statement of opposition” is typically formulaic and opaque. The filer’s true intent can be hard to discern. It may be genuine opposition, curiosity, or an easy way to monitor a case.

In most cases, parties eventually agree to limits on the proposed water right, which are ultimately reflected in a decree from the water court.

“It’s a long process,” attorney Mark Hamilton of Holland and Hart in Aspen told the Glenwood Springs City Council on Dec. 19. “It can be a slow process. There’s a lot of opportunities for issues to be raised and resolved.”

On Dec. 31, Glenwood Springs applied to secure a steady flow of water in its proposed whitewater parks. It is seeking a base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs), from April 1 to Sept. 30. It is also claiming the right to 2,500 cfs of water for 46 days between April 30 and July 23.

And it wants the right to 4,000 cfs of water for five days of big-water boating during peak flows between May 11 and July 6.

The rights would be dependent upon rock structures being anchored in the river to create play waves at No Name, Horseshoe Bend and on the stretch of river between the Grand Avenue Bridge and Two Rivers Park, just below downtown Glenwood.

Given the size of the water rights being requested, and because they are on the heavily managed Colorado River, Glenwood’s application is likely to draw interest…

Glenwood’s “non-consumptive” rights would be legally tied to the eventual building of six rock structures in the river, creating two play waves in each of the three parks.

The water would stay in the river, but would run over boulders secured in the riverbed to form waves at high, medium and low flows…

The whitewater park at No Name, about two miles upriver from downtown Glenwood, would use the existing parking lot and restrooms at the CDOT rest stop on Interstate 70. The structures would be just upriver of the rest stop and Glenwood Canyon Resort.

Horseshoe Bend is about a mile above Glenwood, where the existing bike path crosses over the highway and runs by a picnic shelter on BLM land, in a narrow and deep part of Glenwood Canyon.

The third park would be on a wide stretch of river below the Grand Avenue Bridge, but above the confluence of the Colorado and the Roaring Fork rivers, where a pedestrian bridge crosses the Colorado at Two Rivers Park.

The three new parks would be upriver of the existing “Glenwood Wave” in the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, in West Glenwood…

The River District board voted in January to file a statement in the case, citing protection of its water rights and interstate water agreements.

It also wants to maintain the recently approved Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which speaks to managing the upper Colorado River…

A January memo from Peter Fleming, the general counsel of the River District, said Denver Water “might assert that the claimed flow rates do not follow the strict language of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.”

As such, Fleming said, Denver Water “likely will oppose” Glenwood’s application.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


USACE: Moffat Collection System final EIS to be released on April 25 #ColoradoRiver

February 11, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, has announced April 25, 2014 for the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. At this time the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Final EIS and public comments, will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision on whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County, Colo. The Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal in light of environmental and other Federal laws.

A year ago, the Corps had tentatively predicted that the Final EIS would be released in February 2014, however, due to further agency coordination, and a request from Denver Water to work with stakeholders to further refine a mitigation plan to present in the EIS, the schedule was extended.

Background:

Through the Moffat Collection System Project, Denver Water proposes to meet its water supply obligations and provide a more reliable supply infrastructure, while advancing its environmental stewardship. The project intends to enlarge the existing 41,811-acre foot Gross Reservoir to 113,811 AF, which equates to an expanded water surface area from 418 acres to 842 acres. Using existing collection infrastructure, water from the Fraser River, Williams Fork River, Blue River and South Platte River would be diverted and delivered to Denver’s existing water treatment system during average and wet years.

In June 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to coordinate federal agencies to work together more effectively and expeditiously to release a Final EIS. Cooperating agencies involved in the EIS include the Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Grand County.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, please visit our Web site at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Main breaks 101 – Raising our infrastructure GPA

February 5, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

A meain break at Sheridan Boulevard and Fifth Avenue in July 2013 stopped traffic. Denver Water spent more than $2 million on main breaks and leaks last year.

A main break at Sheridan Boulevard and Fifth Avenue in July 2013 stopped traffic.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 grade for America’s drinking water infrastructure was a D, which is no surprise considering there are 240,000 water main breaks each year in the U.S.

With a significant portion of our system installed right after World War II, Denver Water is no stranger to main breaks and leaks. Not only does this mean disruption to our customers, it also means we’re losing our most precious resource – water.

But, we’re working hard to limit these issues and help raise the GPA of the nation’s water infrastructure.

Check out the curriculum for Main Breaks 101:

Home Room – The basics.

Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of pipe – enough to stretch from L.A. to New York. The treated water distribution pipes in our system vary in…

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Denver Water CEO earns prestigious Aspinall Award

January 31, 2014
Jim Lochhead -- photo via Westword (Alan Prendergast)

Jim Lochhead — photo via Westword (Alan Prendergast)

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

The Colorado Water Congress awarded Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager, the 2014 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award.

The Aspinall Award is given for a career of service and contribution to the water community. It is awarded to a person who has dedicated a significant part of his or her career to the advancement of the state and its programs that define the process of protecting, developing and preserving the state’s water resources.

A true statesman, Lochhead has navigated his 30-year career in the water industry by developing trust and confidence with interests throughout Colorado and the West. This characteristic ensured his leadership in the recent accomplishment of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement which changes the way diverse interest groups cohesively manage, protect and preserve water in Colorado. Described by many as a genuine and sincere person, Lochhead has deep experience and expertise in Colorado water issues and the political process. In addition to championing regional cooperation in the water industry, Lochhead now oversees the supply of water to the 1.3 million people Denver Water serves.

Lochhead was nominated and selected for the award by the previous Aspinall Award winners and a group of Colorado Water Congress officers. Eric Wilkinson, 2011 Aspinall Award recipient, said: “Jim is very deserving of the Aspinall ‘Water Leader of the Year’ Award as he epitomizes the true intent of the award. He is a recognized and respected leader in the water community, not only in Colorado but throughout the Colorado River Basin and the West. Colorado is indebted to Jim for his exemplary service and innumerable contributions to the Colorado Water community.”

About Jim Lochhead

Jim Lochhead was appointed Denver Water’s CEO/manager in 2010. He serves on the boards of Association of Municipal Water Agencies, Water Research Foundation, Western Urban Water Coalition, Water Utility Climate Alliance, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Denver Economic Development Council. He is on the Advisory Board of The Dividing the Waters Program at the National Judicial College. Prior to joining Denver Water, Lochhead was a shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP. He served as executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources from 1994 to 1998.

About the Aspinall Award

CWC presents the prestigious Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award annually to an individual Coloradan who has long demonstrated courage, dedication, knowledge and strong leadership in the development, protection and preservation of Colorado water- those attributes possessed by Wayne N. Aspinall. The late Aspinall, a lawyer and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, remains one of the most influential water leaders in Colorado history.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Denver Water: Ashland Reservoir — Treated Water Tank Replacement

January 18, 2014

Groundbreaking agreement to benefit Colorado and the environment is official

January 7, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

A groundbreaking agreement is now effective, ushering in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water and West Slope water providers, local governments and several ski areas.

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was fully approved Sept. 26, 2013, with signatures from all 18 partners complete. The overall goal of the agreement is to protect watersheds in the Colorado River Basin while allowing Denver Water to develop future water supplies.

The agreement is the result of more than five years of negotiations and creates a spirit of cooperation – instead of litigation – over water resources.

From L to R: Penfield Tate III, Denver Board of Water Commissioners; Grand County Commissioner James Newberry; and Gov. John Hickenlooper share a light moment during the CRCA signing between Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. in May 2012. From L to R: Penfield Tate III, Denver Board of Water Commissioners, Grand County Commissioner James Newberry, Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Summit County Manager Gary Martinez share a light moment during the CRCA signing between Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. in May…

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Year of uncertainty

December 31, 2013

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

This graph shows the wide range of impacts seen from drought and precipitation this year. As Dec. 23, 2013, reservoir storage is at 94.5 percent full.

This graph shows the wide range of impacts seen from drought and precipitation this year.

For Denver Water, 2013 was the year of climate uncertainty layered with weather extremes.

Beginning with severe drought and culminating with floods of a “biblical proportion,” there was extensive coverage of the roller coaster ride we endured as a water resource manager in 2013. So, we looked back to find the quotes from news outlets that best highlight our water year.

January & February:A slow start

Reservoirs that store Denver Water’s supply are less than two-thirds full — well below the 80 percent historic median and even below the levels in 2002, when the state was in the midst of a historic, multi-year drought. –Denver Post, Feb. 13

March:First move

… area water providers are positioning themselves to restrict lawn watering to twice a week and call upon residents to be stingy…

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Mile High Water Talk blog: Your Denver Water Video

December 26, 2013

Here’s the link to the blog post.


‘Denver-West Slope water agreement finally final’ — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ColoradoRiver

December 4, 2013
Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Denver can take a little more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to increase the reliability of its system, but won’t develop any new transmountain diversions without West Slope agreement and will help repair damage from past diversions.

Those are some of the key provisions in the Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 42 West Slope water providers and local governments from the Grand Valley to Grand County.

The Colorado Cooperative Agreement covers a whole suite of issues related to Denver’s diversion of water from the Fraser and Blue River drainages, tributaries to the Colorado River. In October, with little fanfare, this historic agreement received its final signatures and was fully executed. It took five years of mediation and nearly two years of ironing out the details with state and federal agencies, against a backdrop of decades of litigation, to get to this point.

According to material from the Colorado River District’s latest quarterly meeting, the agreement, “is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.” This project is expected to divert, on average, approximately 18,000 acre feet/year of water beyond the average of 58,000 acre feet/year it already diverts, which amounts to about 60% of the natural flow in the Fraser River at Winter Park.

Under the agreement, the West Slope parties agreed not to oppose the increased Moffat Collection System diversions, and Denver Water agreed not to expand its service area and not to develop new water projects on the West Slope without the agreement of the resident counties and the Colorado River District. The agreement also includes dozens of other provisions designed to limit water demands in Denver and address water quality and flow conditions in the Colorado River and its tributaries. Here’s a sampling:

Denver will contribute both water releases and several million dollars for a “learning by doing” project to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County. The project will be managed by representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and other water users.

Denver will not exercise its rights to reduce bypass flows from Dillon Reservoir and its collection system in Grand County during droughts unless it has banned residential lawn watering in its service area.

Diversions and reservoirs operated by both Denver Water and West Slope parties will be operated as if the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon were calling for its (very senior) water right, even at times when the plant is down. This is important for recreational and environmental flows in the river, as well as for junior water users downstream from plant.

Denver Water will pay $1.5 million for water supply, water quality or water infrastructure projects benefiting the Grand Valley, and $500,000 to offset additional costs for water treatment in Garfield County when the Shoshone call is relaxed due to drought conditions.

A similar agreement is under development between West Slope entities and Northern Water, which currently diverts about 220,000 acre feet/year of water from the Upper Colorado River to the Front Range through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. Like the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement trades West Slope non-opposition to increased transmountain diversions for mitigations to address the impacts of both past and future stream depletions.

Both the Colorado Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement have been hailed as models of cooperation. Meanwhile, East Slope – West Slope tensions continue to mount over how the Colorado Water Plan, currently under development, should address the possibility of additional diversions of water from the West Slope to meet growing urban demands on the Front Range. These agreements demonstrate that such tensions can be overcome, but also that it could take more time than allowed by the 2015 deadline Gov. Hickenlooper has set for completion of the Colorado Water Plan.

Full details on the Colorado Cooperative Agreement can be found on the River District’s website, under “features” at http://www.crwcd.org/. More information on the Colorado Water Plan can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com/.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


‘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.


River of Words

November 29, 2013

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

River of Words is a poetry and art competition for students grades K–12 throughout Colorado. The theme for the contest is watersheds and the environment, and the competition is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express what they discover in poetry and visual art.

Denver Water has sponsored the River of Words competition for three years. In a forward for the 2011 Student Literary Awards Anthology, Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead wrote: “… getting students excited about water is no easy task, and it takes a collaborative effort from the entire water community. Our partnership with River of Words allows Denver Water’s Youth Education program to branch out from the sciences, where our program traditionally has had its largest footprint, and bring a water education focus into literacy and the arts.”

Congratulations to Grace Bailey for earning recognition as a national finalist in the 2013 River of Words competition for her painting "Canyon Moonlight." Grace is a fifth-grader from Greeley.  Congratulations to Grace Bailey for earning recognition…

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The #ColoradoRiver Cooperative Agreement is now fully executed

November 21, 2013
Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Map

Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Map via the Colorado River District

From the Colorado River District:

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) is now fully executed with final approval coming from irrigators and water suppliers in the Grand Valley, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors.

The CRCA creates a long-term partnership between Denver Water and 42 entities on the West Slope. The agreement is a framework for numerous actions by the parties to benefit water supply, water quality, recreation and the environment on both sides of the Continental Divide.

It is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. While that project is still being permitted, the CRCA represents an enhancement of beneficial actions beyond mitigation yet to be spelled out in the record of decision.

Negotiations on the CRCA concluded in early 2011 and the engaged parties began their approvals. The Grand Valley entities, however, waited until they were satisfied that federal and state reviews of Green Mountain Reservoir and Shoshone Hydro Plant aspects in the agreement were finished and the agreement could be implemented as envisioned.

The CRCA also means the West Slope will not oppose permitting of the Moffat Project. [ed. emphasis mine]

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) begins a long-term partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope. The agreement is a framework for numerous actions by the parties to benefit water supply, water quality, recreation, and the environment on both sides of the Continental Divide.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver Water’s system is at 96% of capacity after the very wet September

October 24, 2013
Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

From the Summit Daily News (Joe Moylan):

On Tuesday, Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water, met with the Summit Board of County Commissioners during a workshop in Frisco. Lochhead provided the commissioners with an update on Denver Water’s service system following September’s historic flooding on the Front Range.

Although Lochhead said the system worked “perfectly” in the sense that service to customers was not interrupted and no dams were breached during the flood, Denver Water sustained $15 million to $20 million in damage to roads, exposed conduits and one of its gravel pits located near the South Platte River.

Despite the damage, and Denver Water’s commitment to assist its partner communities in recovering from flood damage, Lochhead said there is a silver lining to take away from the event. According to the most recent reports, Denver Water’s reserves, which consist of 15 fully or partially owned reservoirs across more than 4,000 square miles of watershed in eight counties, is at 96 percent capacity.

Update: Stacy Chesney sent a correction via email:

The story states: “Gross Reservoir near Boulder, for example, increased in capacity by 26 acre-feet as a result of the flooding, Lochhead said.” As a result of the storms, Gross Reservoir gained 7,600 acre-feet of water and went up in elevation by 19.6 feet. This equates to an increase in storage of about 26 percent.

Gross Reservoir near Boulder, for example, increased in capacity by 26 acre-feet as a result of the flooding, Lochhead said. Gross Reservoir’s capacity is 41,811 acre-feet, according to Denver Water’s website.

Lake Dillon, Denver Water’s largest reservoir at 257,304 acre-feet, also is reporting some of its highest seasonal levels in history, Lochhead said.

But the increased water capacity presents a handful of short-term challenges, Lochhead said, including spring water management should the High Country receive dense snowpack this winter. All of its water comes from mountain snowmelt, according to the Denver Water website.

More important, however, is the fact that the recent increase in capacity does little to ease future water shortage concerns as Denver, the Front Range and the rest of Colorado continue to grow in population…

Lochhead’s idea is fairly simple — encourage upward, rather than outward growth along the Front Range and the challenges surrounding water conservation will begin to remedy themselves.

For example, a single-family home with a garden in Denver uses the same amount of water as a four-unit building constructed on a similar-sized lot, he said. However, much of the growth on the Front Range is sprawling away from urban centers; meeting growing water needs is only exacerbated by the current trend of purchasing or building single-family homes on quarter-acre lots.

It’s a type of growth that is unsustainable not only in terms of water use, Lochhead said, but also in terms of providing services, such as transportation and energy delivery, because property tax revenue cannot meet the needs that come with a sprawling population.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Denver Water: The October edition of Water News is hot off the presses

October 2, 2013

Winterizing irrigation system via KC Irrigation Specialists

Winterizing irrigation system via KC Irrigation Specialists


Click here to read the publication.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Denver Water sets course for 2014

September 29, 2013
Denver Water plans to rehabilitate Antero Dam in 2014

Denver Water plans to rehabilitate Antero Dam in 2014

From Denver Water:

Like utilities across the nation, Denver Water faces the challenge of staying on top of maintenance for its aging system — some of which was built more than 100 years ago — to ensure area residents continue to receive high-quality water and reliable service year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a budget and rate changes to fund essential repairs and upgrades in 2014.

The 2014 budget is $371 million, which will fund a number of multi-year projects, such as replacing aging pipes and failing underground storage tanks, upgrading water treatment facilities to maintain water quality and meet new regulatory requirements, and rehabilitating Antero Dam. The budget is funded by water rates, bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and fees for new service (tap fees).

Effective January 2014, the budget calls for a rate increase of $1.29 per month on average for Denver residential customers and full-service suburban residential customers using 115,000 gallons annually (the average annual consumption for Denver Water’s service area). The amounts will vary depending upon customer water usage and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water. Customers in Denver tend to use less than 115,000 gallons per year; suburban customers tend to use more.

“We continue to prepare for Colorado’s increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather cycles, which require us to do all we can to make sure our system is even more resilient,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “In response to the dry conditions earlier this year, we prepared financially by reducing our 2013 operating expenses, deferring projects and tapping into our cash reserves to help reduce our costs and balance our finances.”

“We adjust our budget and corresponding water rates each fall for the following year after we examine the necessary projects needed to maintain and upgrade our system.”

Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 19 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants.

“Denver Water’s collection system covers more than 4,000 square miles, and we operate facilities in 13 counties in Colorado,” said Lochhead. “It takes an extensive network of pipes, pump stations, treatment plants, people and more to make sure our customers can turn on the tap and enjoy fresh, clean, safe water every day. We must continue to invest in that system to ensure a secure water supply for the future.”

Under the 2014 budget, rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city would remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs would still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

The water department is a public agency funded by water rates and new tap fees, not taxes. Water rates are designed to recover the costs of providing water service — including maintenance of distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants — and also encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. Most of Denver Water’s annual costs are fixed and do not vary with the amount of water sold.


Dillon Reservoir: Happy fiftieth birthday #ColoradoRiver

September 8, 2013

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Here’s the announcement from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Summit County residents and visitors are invited to the Dillon Reservoir 50th Anniversary celebration this weekend. This free event will feature Dillon Reservoir’s high-quality recreation activities, including pontoon boat tours, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, as well as a preview of the 2014 air and water show, a free performance by the band Eyes Wide Open, balloon sculptures and tasty treats from local vendors.

The event is sponsored by the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee, an interagency committee comprised of Denver Water, Summit County government, Town of Dillon, Town of Frisco and the U.S. Forest Service.

Dillon Reservoir was completed in 1963 and is Denver Water’s largest reservoir. With 3,300 acres of surface and 27 miles of shoreline, it also is an important recreational amenity, with two marinas and countless activities for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Here’s an guest commentary about the reservoir written by Allen Best that is running in The Denver Post:

Recreational activities on Sunday will be the lion’s share of activities on Sunday when the 50th anniversary of the completion of Dillon Reservoir is marked. That’s proper, in that locals long ago took to calling it “Lake Dillon,” emphasizing its role as a tourism amenity rather than as a vital storage vessel for metropolitan Denver.

But if history were to be properly commemorated, there should be a shouting match as well.

As recent books by both George Sibley and Patty Limerick make clear, there was no small amount of arguing about the water to store behind the dam.

Denver representatives began studying Summit County as a future source for water in 1907. Several other loosely sketched proposals were assembled for tunnels under the Continental Divide to export water. Instead of pursing them, Denver made use of the Moffat Tunnel, which opened for railroad traffic in 1928. After modifying the pioneer bore, Denver in 1936 used it to deliver water from the Fraser Valley and, a few years later, the Williams Fork Valley. The latter is located just north of today’s Eisenhower Tunnel. That water gave Denver and its suburbs the ability to sustain rapid growth after World War II.

But the drought of the mid-1950s demanded additional supply. Denver set out to develop its water rights in Summit County.

Summit County after World War II was “receding into the wilderness,” in the words of the late Ed Quillen, who remembered visiting Breckenridge in the 1950s. Arapahoe Basin started skiing operations in 1946, but Breckenridge didn’t come until 1961, and Keystone and Copper much later yet.

The Western Slope, however, remained wary of water heists. That first significant protest came in the 1930s, when northern Colorado farmers proposed the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. The project, built between 1938 and 1957, was later described by historian David Lavender as a “massive violation of geography.” He referred to the staggering scope of the diversion of waters naturally headed west, but instead steered through a tunnel under Rocky Mountain National Park to the Boulder, Greeley and Fort Collins area.

But in the congressional horse-trading before federal authorization, the Western Slope did get a major benefit: construction by the federal government of Green Mountain Reservoir. This impoundment on the Blue River hold water for late-summer use on farms and orchards in the Grand Junction area and, more recently, for ski area snowmaking.

The Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District commissioned Sibley to write a history of the district’s 75th anniversary. In researching his 2012 book, “Water Wranglers,” Sibley arrived at a low opinion what was then called the Denver Water Board. “There was not a sense of rational to what Denver did in those years,” says Sibley, mirroring criticism from the Grand Junction Sentinel and other Western Slope opinion leaders of the time.

Central to Denver’s efforts was Glenn Saunders, who refused to accept the senior of the Green Mountain water rights of 1935. Denver could do no better at Dillon than a 1948 decree. It angered Saunders so much, Sibley says, that “he could not be rational about it.”

Denver’s investment at Dillon was instead salvaged by another of its lawyers, Harold Roberts. The 23.3-mile tunnel that delivers water from Dillon to the North Fork of the South Platte River near Grant, 40 miles southwest of Denver, carries Roberts’ name. As for Saunders, very likely Denver’s most forceful and colorful water figure of the 20th century, his name is absent from maps.

In her book, “A Ditch in Time,” which was commissioned by Denver Water, Limerick devotes a full chapter to Saunders, finding him a “fluent speaker of the language of 19th century westward expansion.” In this language, Denver had a right to carve up available natural resources, and in the context of water, had no need to consult the Western Slope.

Denver Water, under the late Chips Barry and now continued by Jim Lochhead, a long-time resident of the Western Slope, have taken a very different tack, seeking collaboration instead of defiance. This attitude is evident in the city’s willingness for lengthy negotiation outside the courtrooms. Lochhead, speaking at a Colorado Oil & Gas Association conference, advised drilling companies to adopt a similar process of up-front community collaboration.

Will the result be any different? Vulnerabilities of the existing water supply in places like Arvada, where I live, became evident in the 2002 drought. Denver, as the water provider for 1.3 million in the metropolitan area, is seeking to haul yet more water from the Fraser Valley. But the trout fishermen I know in Fraser and Granby say there’s just not much water left to take, and warmer, longer summers just may make the problem worse.

More Denver Water 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.


Denver Water: Antero Dam rehabilitation project

August 19, 2013

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

A project to bring Antero Dam in line with current engineering standards will begin Monday, Aug. 19. The $14 million undertaking will ensure the safety and functionality of the dam for another 100 years.

Denver Water, in coordination with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Office of the State Engineer, lowered Antero Reservoir by 2 feet in May 2011 as a safety precaution to reduce water pressure and seepage within the dam. The reservoir has been operating at a height of 16–17 feet since that time. Antero Dam was built in 1909 by Canfield and Shields of Greeley, and purchased by Denver Water in 1924. The dam has experienced substantial seepage since it was built and as a result, has been operating under reservoir storage restrictions by the state since the early 1900s to ensure public safety.

The rehabilitation project will be done in phases. The first phase, which begins Aug. 19, is scheduled for completion by late November 2013. During this phase, Denver Water’s contractor, Geo-Solutions, Inc., will build a sand trench to filter the normal seepage from the dam to help ensure the safety of the foundation.

Denver Water will keep the popular reservoir open to recreation, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to manage the fishery during the project. The construction will take place on the east side of the dam, which will not be accessible to the public. There will be an increase in truck traffic along Highway 9 and Highway 24 at various times during phase one as sand is brought in to complete the filter trench. Trucks will enter the site through an access road on the south side of the dam.

The subsequent phases of the project are embankment grading from May 2014 through November 2014, and spillway and valve improvements May 2015 through November 2015.

When all three phases are complete, the water levels at Antero will return to and be maintained at a level of 18 feet, which is expected to occur after spring runoff in April 2016.

Wildlife questions regarding fishing at Antero can be directed to Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 303-291-7227.

More Denver Water coverage here and here.


The July issue of Denver Water’s Water News is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

July 2, 2013

dilloncolorado.jpg

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

…Dillon Reservoir, the largest in Denver Water’s system, is celebrating 50 years as one of Denver Water’s most important water storage sites.

Water leaders began tossing around the idea for the project in the early 1900s when it became apparent that Denver could not subsist on South Platte River water alone. After years of geologic studies, engineering reports and legal wrangling, Denver Water began making formal plans to build the project. Lawyers worked to buy the rest of the town, offering to help people move structures or rebuild on a site east of the reservoir.

Denver’s $77.6 million Blue River Diversion Project was a massive plan to divert water from the West Slope to the East Slope. It included building the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel — which conveys water from Dillon Reservoir, 23.3 miles to the South Platte River — as well as buying land, securing water rights and building Dillon Dam.

Originally, Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners planned to build a small dam and diversion structures to send water to the tunnel. But the Board rethought those plans, opting instead to build what became Denver Water’s largest reservoir.

More Denver Water coverage here.


There’s a lot of beach at Dillon Reservoir #COdrought

June 30, 2013

dilloncolorado.jpg

Here’s an in-depth look the economics around Dillon Reservoir from Nathan Heffel writing for KUNC. Denver sells the water to its customers, Frisco depends on wet water in the reservoir for 30% of its tourism. Here’s an excerpt:

After back to back drought years, Dillon Reservoir is about nine to ten feet below average for this time of year. That’s where the interests of Denver Water and the town of Frisco play out.

Dillon is both the largest reservoir in the Denver Water system and a major economic driver for Frisco. During the summer, the marina provides a substantial boost to Frisco’s economy, accounting for a third of the town’s tourism.

A stylized sailboat adorns each street sign in downtown Frisco. It’s a relationship that’s part of their identity; a sail boat is etched on the town logo.

The issue? Frisco doesn’t own any of the water they rely on so much. It belongs to Denver Water and the on-going demands of Front Range water users.

More Blue River Watershed 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.


Drought news: Colorado is still drought country #COdrought

June 20, 2013

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seasonaldroughtoutlookcpcjune20toseptember302013

Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current US Drought Monitor map and the current drought forecast from the Climate Prediction Center.

Sadly, wildfire is directly associated with drought. From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

Santa Fe’s water department is one of several urban utilities – including those in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Flagstaff, Arizona – that are putting ratepayer dollars to work in the forests. The U.S. Forest Service, for its part, helps the utilities with the technical aspects of forest restoration and some of the physical work while using most of the money in its budget to focus on other high-risk forests in the state…

Recent forest fires, including the High Park fire outside of Fort Collins, Colorado last year, have water utilities on edge. Yet the most destructive blaze for drinking water infrastructure happened more than a decade ago near Denver.

The 2002 Hayman fire, still the largest in Colorado’s history, burned 55,800 hectares (138,000 acres) southwest of the city. Subsequent rainstorms swamped Strontia Springs reservoir with enough sediment – 765,000 cubic meters – to fill Denver’s basketball arena five times. Combined with the damage from a 1996 fire in the same area, Denver Water, the public utility, spent $US 26 million dredging and restoring two of its reservoirs.

In 2010, Denver Water entered into a five-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service with the goal of reducing the risk of catastrophic fire. The two agencies will each spend $US 16.5 million on forest restoration, with Denver’s share coming from ratepayers.

This type of investment is called a payment for ecosystem services, a financial model that protects the natural processes that benefit people. Forests filter water, and their soil helps to slow down the surge of runoff after a storm, calming potential floods. Fires eliminate these benefits for some time. Erosion, poor water quality and higher flood risks persist long after the flames have been snuffed out.

Earth Economics, a research group, has charted at least 17 instances in the U.S. in which money from city or utility budgets is being put toward watershed management, most in areas other than wildfire risk.

Spending money on fire prevention is tricky, said Rowan Schmidt, an analyst at Earth Economics, because there is no rule of thumb for how much investment in a watershed will pay off.

Here’s a video about sustaining your lawn during drought, from Colorado Springs Utilities:

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

After imposing watering restrictions in April, it appears the public is doing its part to hold water usage down. Of course, there are higher charges for water if you exceed certain levels of usage, so that discourages over-watering.

Click through for the usage graph from Colorado Springs Utilities.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Western Colorado and eastern Utah have warmed in the last century, and it appears that precipitation in the region has also increased, according to a new analysis of historic climate data compiled by Grand Junction-based National Weather Service forecaster Joe Ramey.

General long-term trends include cooling from the 1940s through the 1960s, towards warmer and wetter conditions since the 1970s, on par with many other parts of the country and the world.

Specifically, maximum temperatures have risen 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit and minimum temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit during during the study period going back to 1911, when several towns and cities in the region started to maintain detailed climate data.

According to an abstract of Ramey’s study, posted on the Grand Junction NWS website, there are eleven sites within eastern Utah and western Colorado that have mostly unbroken climate records back to 1911. In eastern Utah these sites include Vernal, Moab, Blanding, and Bluff. Western Colorado sites are Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Montrose, Telluride, and Silverton. This study is an analysis of the trends in those data.


Denver Water blog: The trees can talk #COdrought

June 11, 2013

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From the Denver Water Mile High Water Talk blog:

Reconstructing 400 years’ worth of streamflow data require a simple tool: tree rings.

For the past 10 years, Denver Water has worked with experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the University of Colorado to develop a model that details when our watersheds have been dry, wet and average since the early 1600s.

To do that, scientists study trees. During dry years, trees don’t grow much, and a narrow ring forms tight to the one that emerged the year before. During wet years, when trees go through a growth spurt, trunks develop a wide growth ring.

Ponderosa pine, pinyon pine and Douglas fir trees are more sensitive to moisture than other trees, making them a reliable record of past climate cycles. Scientists at the university take core samples from those trees (samples from the South Platte River watershed date back 400 years; samples from the Colorado River watershed date to the 1400s). Then planners compare tree ring data with 100 years’ worth of recorded streamflow gage measurements. When those two data sets are paired together in a graph, the points match almost spot-on – meaning the tree ring data correlate to past streamflow. And, because tree ring information extends back hundreds of years – much longer than Denver Water’s observed records – it helps planners analyze what would happen to our water supply if any of the pre-1900 droughts reoccurred. “This tells us what has happened in the past, but it doesn’t tell us what might happen in the future with climate change,” said Steve Schmitzer, manager of Water Resource Analysis. “It helps document variability, though. With anything in science, the more good data you have, the better.”[...]

Denver Water’s documented records show that the worst drought in our watersheds occurred in the mid-1950s, with a close second in the early 2000s. But tree rings point to a different period – the late-1840s. That’s a fact Denver Water has been able to confirm with a fair amount of certainty by studying government records from the 1840s. At that time, the government sent a host of expeditions led by Army engineers across the Great Plains. Military expeditions are often a reliable source because of their meticulous record-keeping, Schmitzer said. Their records of wet years and dry years correlated to the tree ring data scientists tracked for Denver Water.


Denver Water: The June 2013 issue of WaterNews is hot off the press #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

June 10, 2013

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

Spring snowstorms along the Front Range and in our mountain watersheds helped a lot with our dire water supply situation. But this is the second year in a row of below-average snowpack and drier- than-normal conditions in our watersheds. Denver Water’s reservoirs haven’t been full since July 2011, and our current projections show that reservoirs will still be below normal.

We never know what future weather is going to be like, so it’s always important to manage water supplies carefully. The snowpack in Denver Water’s watersheds ended up below the average peak. At this time, Denver Water and several other local water providers still expect to have the Stage 2 mandatory drought restrictions in place to save as much water as possible this summer. Area water utilities will know more about their water supply situations in July after the runoff.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Denver Water is rehabilitating Ashland Reservoir

June 4, 2013

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Here’s the release from Denver Water:

Denver Water plans to improve the safety and reliability of its Ashland Reservoir site by building two new underground water storage tanks. The design for the site is being developed and construction is scheduled to begin in early 2013. Neighbors will notice more activity at the site as Denver Water staff members and contractors visit the site as part of the design process.

Western Summit has been hired by Denver Water as the construction manager for the project. As part of a phased project, Western Summit will demolish one of the two existing tanks and build a new tank in its place. Once that tank is in service, the second tank will be demolished and another tank built in its place. The two tanks cannot be demolished at the same time because the water stored at the site is needed for customers and for fire protection. The entire project is scheduled to run through 2017. The contractor for the project will be required to follow work hours, as set forth by the City of Wheat Ridge.

Large portions of the berms on the west and east sides of the site will be kept in place to reduce noise from demolition and construction. Part of the south berm will be removed initially for access to the site off of 29th Avenue. Additional sections of the south berm may be removed for use as a storage area for the project.

Soil removed from the Ashland site will be hauled to 20th and Quail Street for storage.

Once completed, the site will appear different from the existing site. The new tanks will be circular and smaller than they are now. The new tanks will have a smaller footprint, which will create a larger landscaped area on the south side of the property. The existing chain link fence will be removed and will be replaced by a black, 8-foot-high ornamental steel fence.

History of the site

The Ashland site date back to the 1890s. At that time, open air reservoirs with earthen bottoms were located at the site.

In the 1910s and early 1920s, concrete floors and wood roofs were added to the reservoirs.

In the mid 1960s and early 1970s, the wood roof was replaced with a precast concrete roofing system.

Despite routine maintenance and significant repairs, the existing tanks have experienced leaks, and some of the precast roof sections have cracked. The tanks at this site have reached beyond the end of their useful life and continued repair to the existing structure is impractical.

Additionally, as improvements have been made to Denver Water’s delivery system, it has been determined the existing 41 million gallons of storage at the site can be reduced to 20 million gallons.

When Ashland was constructed, it was one of a handful of storage sites for treated water. Denver Water now has many treated water storage tanks in its delivery system.

From The Denver Post (Emilie Rusch):

The Ashland Reservoir in Wheat Ridge is getting a $37 million upgrade over the next three years. Contractors for Denver Water began demolition earlier this month of the reservoir’s west underground storage tank. Once a new west tank is back in service, the east tank also will be torn out and replaced.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Drought news: Denver Water’s rate payers get a one month reprieve from drought surcharges #COdrought

May 23, 2013

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From the Denver Water Blog:

If you’ve been following our weekly posts, you’ve seen our snowpack and precipitation graphs jump upward after the April and May snowfall. This is great news for our water supply, which had been abysmal since July 2011.

As you probably know by now, the snowpack above the diversion points in Denver Water’s watersheds ended up below the average peak at 91 percent in the Colorado River watershed and 92 percent in the South Platte River watershed. We’ve also stressed the importance of May and June weather as it will impact how much mountain snow will make its way into our reservoirs as water. The wetter the better!

So what’s new? Today at its meeting, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners voted to delay drought pricing by one month. Why? Depending on how much water makes its way to our reservoirs, we may be in a position to change our drought response from Stage 2 to Stage 1, which would remove drought pricing entirely. But, we won’t make that decision until we have a better sense of our reservoir situation and summer conditions after runoff is over in late June or early July.

The temporary drought pricing was scheduled to appear on bills beginning in June to encourage customers to use even less water and help reduce revenue loss to maintain our treatment and distribution system. We’ve seen customers use even less water, thanks to their savvy water-saving habits and letting Mother Nature take care of watering this spring. And, we believe that by delaying the pricing, the benefit to customers outweighs the revenue we may lose in June. The last thing we want to do is put drought pricing in place, just to remove it if we change direction.

While it’s too soon to move to Stage 1 drought restrictions, we will continue to closely monitor conditions and remain flexible in our response.

From The Denver Post (Nic Turiciano):

Denver Water has some good news for customers worried about the cost of keeping their lawns green: The Denver Water Board of Commissioners voted at their meeting Wednesday to delay drought pricing by one month.

Stage 2 drought pricing, which raises rates for watering and aims to encourage less usage, was supposed to go into effect June 1. Denver Water users remain under Stage 2 drought rules, which dictate that customers water their lawns no more than two times per week and adhere to a strict schedule.

Denver Water may be able to eliminate all drought pricing and watering restrictions for the 2013 summer depending on precipitation during the month of June, according to spokeswoman Stacy Chesney.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Warm and dry weather may be about to take hold again for the time being as severe and extreme drought conditions keep their grip on much of Colorado, according to a drought report issued this week from the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University.

Northern Colorado is the only bright spot in the report. Eastern Larimer, western Weld and nearly all of Denver, Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Jefferson counties are merely “abnormally dry.”

Western Larimer County is considered to be in a moderate drought.

The quickly-melting mountain snowpack in the South Platte River Basin, which includes the Poudre River, is 125 percent of normal for this time of year, the best in the state, according to U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service data.

Most of the snowpack in southwest Colorado has already melted, contributing to ongoing severe drought conditions in the San Juan Mountains and much of the Western Slope.

Extreme and exceptional drought conditions continue to plague southeast Colorado.

The National Weather Service is calling for the drought to all but disappear between Denver and Fort Collins while improving in northeast Colorado and persisting through most of the rest of the state.


Denver Water: The May 2013 ‘WaterNews’ is hot off the press

May 10, 2013

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Click here to read the news from Denver Water.

More Denver Water 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.


Snowpack/Drought news: Denver Water is breathing easier these days, they plan to keep Antero Reservoir open #COdrought

April 25, 2013

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Thanks to a snowy April, Denver Water will no longer need to close Antero Reservoir in order to move the water and store it in Cheesman and Eleven Mile reservoirs during the ongoing drought.

“Managing water supplies through a drought is an ever-changing process,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “While we are still in drought and need our customers to save water, the recent snow has helped our supply situation. Keeping Antero open will be a benefit to Park County and those who love to fish there. If we drained the reservoir, it would take about three years to refill.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages the fishery and says effective immediately, the regular bag and possession limit — two trout per angler — at Antero will be reinstated.

Antero Reservoir will be open for recreational use from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Hand-launched vessels will be allowed, but no trailered boats will be permitted until details about aquatic nuisance species inspections can be determined.

The reservoir was last taken out of service to assist with water management during the drought that began in 2002.

From email from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Jennifer Churchill):

Due to Denver Water’s decision not to drain Antero this year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reinstating the bag and possession limit to two trout per angler immediately.

For questions regarding Antero operations, contact Denver Water at 303-628-6117

For more information on fishing hot spots in Colorado, see the new Colorado Fishing Atlas at:

http://ndismaps.nrel.colostate.edu/fishingatlas/

Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado’s wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information go to cpw.state.co.us

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

With a rebounding snowpack, Denver Water officials said this week they won’t drain Antero Reservoir, in Park County, as previously planned.

More Denver Water coverage here.


‘In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later’ — Eric Kuhn #codrought #coriver

April 2, 2013

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Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs).

Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.

The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

“This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

“Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Drought news: Denver Water approves mandatory watering restrictions #codrought

March 27, 2013

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

March snows have not done enough to improve the current drought conditions. Most of Colorado is in the second year of a severe drought and above-average temperatures, which has led to low snowpack and low reservoir levels across the state. As a result, at its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring a Stage 2 drought, which means customers will have two assigned watering days a week beginning April 1.

“The last time we declared a Stage 2 drought was in 2002,” said Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “We are facing a more serious drought now than we faced then. Our goal this summer is to insure the availability of high-quality water to our citizens, given current conditions and an unknowable end to the drought cycle, protecting not only the quality of life of our community but also the long-term security of our city’s system.”

Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water said: “Because of the dry conditions, our reservoirs haven’t been full since July 2011. We would need about 7 feet of additional snow in the mountains by late April to get us close to where we should be. Therefore, we need everyone’s help to save water indoors and outdoors this year. Together, we need to save 50,000 acre-feet of water, or 16 billion gallons, by next spring. We’re asking every person to think before turning on the tap.”

Mandatory watering restrictions begin April 1, meaning Denver Water customers may only water two days a week and must follow this schedule:

  • Single-family residential properties with addresses ending in even numbers: Sunday, Thursday
  • Single-family residential properties with addresses ending in odd numbers: Saturday, Wednesday
  • All other properties (multi-family, HOAs, commercial, industrial, government): Tuesday, Friday
  • In addition, customers must follow the standard annual watering rules:

  • Do not water lawns between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
  • Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
  • Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
  • Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.
  • The utility asks customers to be conscientious about water use this spring. While April is a good time to set up and examine irrigation systems, they don’t need to be used yet. Instead, postpone turning on sprinklers and automatic systems and hand-water sloped areas of the lawn or sections that are receiving full sunlight if they are dry. April is typically a cool month with some precipitation, so it may not be necessary to water lawns two days a week, which will help save water.

    Snowpack in the South Platte and Colorado River basins from which Denver Water receives water are 59 percent of average and 73 percent of average, respectively. That snow is what serves as Denver’s water supply.

    As part of the Stage 2 drought declaration, the board also adopted a temporary drought pricing structure to encourage customers to use even less water and help reduce revenue loss to ensure Denver Water’s vast water collection, treatment and distribution system stays operable and well-maintained. Customers will see the pricing on bills on or after June 1 of this year. The drought pricing will remain in effect until the mandatory restrictions are lifted. The utility plans to cut operating expenses, defer projects and tap cash reserves to help balance finances through the drought.

    As always, customers’ bills will vary depending on how much water they use. An average summer bill for a single family residential customer who doesn’t use less water would increase about $6 a month. Most residential customers who significantly reduce their water use will see a reduction in their bill — even with drought pricing — in comparison to normal usage at 2013 rates.

    “Because our primary goal is to ensure water is available for health and safety needs, the first 6,000 gallons of monthly water use will not be subject to drought pricing,” said Lochhead.

    Average monthly indoor use of water is 6,000 gallons. Approximately 70 percent of single family residential customers use 18,000 gallons per month or less during the peak summer months.

    As it does every year, the utility will enforce its rules with a team of employees — this year named the “drought patrol.”

    “The purpose of our drought patrol is as much about educating customers as it is about enforcing Denver Water’s rules,” said Lochhead. “As we have in previous years, our monitors will have face-to-face interactions with customers to discuss our restrictions.”

    Customers who receive repeated watering notices will be subject to Stage 2 drought fines, which start at $250 for a single-family residential customer who has previously received a written warning.

    Citizens who see water leaks or broken sprinklers in Denver’s parks should call 3-1-1. To report water waste elsewhere, call Denver Water at 303-893-2444.

    Find watering tips and more drought information.

    More Denver Water coverage here.


    Avon: Denver Water’s Bill Bates to discuss the relationship between water users on the Front Range and the Western Slope, March 11

    March 10, 2013

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    From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

    The Watershed Council would like to invite you to join us for the fourth and final H2Know High Country Speaker Series!

    We will welcome Bill Bates of Denver Water to discuss the relationship between water users on the Front Range and the Western Slope. Mr. Bates currently oversees the protection and development of water rights associated with Denver Water’s collection system. Prior to this, Bill supervised the water supply operations and reporting for the Denver Water collection system.

    This High Country Speaker Series / Water Wise Wednesday is presented by the Eagle River Watershed Council, Walking Mountains Science Center and the Eagle Valley Library District…

    Monday
    March 11th
    5:30-7:00 pm
    Walking Mountains Science Center
    Avon, CO

    More education coverage here.


    USACE: Moffat Project Final EIS to move toward completion

    March 4, 2013

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    Here’s the release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Margaret Oldham):

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, has announced a tentative date for the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. With federal and state agency and the applicant, Denver Water’s concurrence, the Corps anticipates that the projected Final EIS will be released in February 2014. At that time, the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the Corps.

    The Final EIS and public comments will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision on whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County, Colo. The Corps’ regulatory program is authorized by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to regulate certain waterways-related activities. As the lead regulatory agency for the Moffat Project EIS, the Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal to ensure compliance with environmental and other federal laws.

    “We are confident that our latest schedule gives us a path forward toward an expeditious conclusion to the federal permit evaluation process,” said Omaha District Commander Col. Joel R. Cross. “Everyone involved with the project is committed to working together to fulfill the requirements of a Final EIS, which will bring us closer to making a final decision on Denver Water’s project.”

    Background:

    The state of Colorado is proactively seeking solutions for meeting its future water needs while ensuring the health of its rivers and streams. Through the Moffat Collection System Project, Denver Water proposes to meet its water supply obligations and provide a more reliable supply infrastructure, while advancing its environmental stewardship. The project intends to enlarge the existing 41,811-acre foot Gross Reservoir to 113,811 AF, which equates to an expanded water surface area from 418 acres to 818 acres. Using existing collection infrastructure, water from the Fraser River, Williams Fork River, Blue River and South Platte River would be diverted and delivered to Denver’s existing water treatment system during average and wet years.

    In June 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to coordinate federal agencies to bring an expeditious conclusion to the federal permitting process for the project. The Corps, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Grand County have worked together to meet Federal requirements for the Final EIS while satisfying state and local concerns.

    To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, please visit our Web site at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

    Or, email us at: cenwo-web-regulatory-co@usace.army.milto be added to our email distribution list.

    Here’s a statement from Jim Lockhead (Denver Water) about the Corps release:

    “We are pleased to see the state and federal agencies come together to commit to a sound timeline for the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project next February.

    We’re in the second year of a severe drought. If the Moffat Project were in place today, we would have been able to store more water during the high flow runoff two years ago that we could now use. In a dry year like this one, we would not be diverting additional water under this project.

    Moreover, under the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, we would actually be giving water back to the environment in this dry year.

    As a result, Denver Water’s Moffat Project would be a win-win for this state: it would make possible our ability to benefit the environment in dry years like this one, and it would bring additional water for our metro area, which we desperately need in this drought.”

    Here’s a statement from Colorado Trout Unlimited (David Nickum):

    “We’re pleased that the Army Corps of Engineers is taking more time to evaluate the impacts of the Moffat expansion project on the Fraser River, a great trout river cherished by generations of Coloradans and crucial to the economy of Grand County.

    The draft EIS was badly flawed, in that it failed to adequately address project impacts on the river. It’s more important to do this permit right than to do it fast. We urge the Corps to take these additional months to correct those deficiencies and ensure that the Fraser receives adequate protection.

    Denver Water’s 2011 Cooperative Agreement with West Slope water users was a great step forward in addressing current impacts on the Fraser caused by diversions -but as TU, Grand County officials and others noted at the time, the agreement did not address the future impacts of the Moffat expansion on the Fraser. That’s why it’s critical that the EIS thoroughly documents the expected project impacts so that appropriate protections can be designed.

    From day one, we’ve pointed to several protections that need to be included with this project: preventing elevated stream temperatures, providing adequate flushing flows, and using monitoring and adaptive management to deal with future uncertainty about the project’s impacts and the river’s health.

    Without these additional protections, the Fraser River could be diverted to death. Denver residents and Denver Water customers want healthy rivers-and they’re looking to Denver Water and federal agencies to protect this magnificent resource.”

    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    “We had projected a date of January 2013 … It was not intended to be a firm date, but it got presented as a firm date,” said Tim Carey, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory office.

    “I would not say this is a delay … We’re really trying to make certain that we have adequately studied and addressed the impacts,” Carey said, adding that the new release date is also tentative at this point.

    Once the final environmental impact statement is released, there will be another opportunity for public comment before the Corps decides whether, and under what conditions, to permit a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, in Boulder County.

    More Moffat Collection System Project 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.


    Denver Water: Harriman Dam Project complete

    February 16, 2013

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    Here’s the release from Denver Water:

    Harriman Lake Park, located on the southwest corner of South Kipling Parkway and West Quincy Avenue in Littleton, Colo., will reopen to the public Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. The area has been closed since December 2011 for Denver Water to rebuild the 138-year-old Harriman Dam, bringing it up to current regulatory standards and restoring its full storage capacity.

    The new dam will restore the water level approximately 3 feet higher, increasing the surface area of the restored reservoir from its former size of about 55 acres to about 66 acres. The reservoir will be refilled gradually after the Office of the State Engineer completes its inspection process.

    This project allows Denver Water to meet the irrigation needs of multiple Harriman water users without adding demands to its potable water supplies or developing new sources of water. Denver Water uses the reservoir to deliver irrigation water to Fort Logan National Cemetery, Jeffco Public Schools, Pinehurst Country Club and other nearby areas.

    Denver Water owns the reservoir, dam and land within the park, while Foothills Park & Recreation District manages the recreation at Harriman through an agreement with Denver Water.

    Construction on Harriman Dam has been completed, and now Foothills Park & Recreation District is replacing recreational amenities before the park officially reopens Feb. 15. Fishing will not be allowed until the reservoir is restocked and vegetation is established along the banks.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Fraser River: Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is focus of short film from Trout Unlimited #coriver

    February 3, 2013

    From The Denver Post Spot Blog (Lynn Bartels):

    “It’s a lighthearted effort to highlight a serious problem: diversions are killing the Fraser River,” David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said in a news release.

    “Trout and other aquatic life need cold, clean water to survive,” said Nickum. “But at present, Denver Water is sucking many tributaries to the Fraser completely dry through its Moffat Tunnel Collection System. We’re in danger of destroying a priceless state resource and major recreation area for Front Range residents. Coloradans need to tell Denver Water: don’t kill the river.”[...]

    “Denver residents care about our mountain resources — as customers, we’re asking Denver Water to be a good steward of these resources,” said Becky Long of Conservation Colorado…

    “Denver Water understands the importance of a healthy river,” said spokeswoman Stacy Chesney. “We understand that water supply projects do have impacts, but not only will we offset those impacts through required mitigation, but also we will go above and beyond to make the river better.”

    Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (David Nickum):

    Denver Water already sucks 60% of the annual flows from the Fraser River, and they now want to take more: another 15%. Sign the Defend the Colorado petition today and tell Denver that before they take more water, they need to protect the Fraser River. Tell Denver Water: Don’t Suck the Fraser River Dry!

    If you see a lost-looking trout walking the streets of downtown Denver in coming weeks, don’t be alarmed. He’s just looking for some water. Any water.

    He urgently needs your help.

    We recently filmed this trout’s sad dilemma. Left high and dry in the Fraser Valley, where Denver Water is sucking the life out of the Fraser River and its tributaries, our refugee trout hitchhiked to Denver to try to find out who moved his water and where he can get a few drops.

    Check out the short video– it’s a lighthearted effort to highlight a serious problem: Denver Water is diverting the Fraser River to death…

    You might not know that much of Denver’s water comes from across the Continental Divide, in Grand County, where the Moffat pipeline each year drains 60 percent of the Fraser River’s annual flows, leaving dozens of tributaries sucked completely dry. Denver Water’s proposed expansion of that pipeline would take another 15 percent of flows, leaving an already damaged river on life support.

    It’s not just trout and wildlife at risk—our mountain towns and state tourism economy are also threatened. If you love to fish, ski, raft, hike, camp or otherwise recreate in the mountains, this hits you where you live.

    We simply can’t keep sucking the lifeblood out of the Fraser and expect it to remain a living river.

    If Denver Water is to move forward with the Moffat expansion, they must take steps to ensure it is done in a way that won’t destroy the Fraser River. For months, a coalition of conservation organizations, landowners, and recreation businesses have been calling on Denver Water to take a few responsible, cost-effective steps to protect the Fraser:

  • ensure healthy “flushing” flows in the river to clean out silt and algae.
  • avoid taking water during high water temperatures, when trout and aquatic life are vulnerable.
  • monitor the river’s health and take action as needed to prevent further declines.
  • We’ve presented these concerns to Denver Water, but so far they’ve been unwilling to work with us to adopt this common-sense package of protections.

    This is where you come in. Denver Water will listen to their customers. We need Denver-area residents—and anyone who cares about Colorado’s rivers and wild places—to tell Denver Water that you want them to “finish the job” of protecting the Fraser River.

    Please—go right now to the Defend the Colorado webpage to sign a petition asking Denver Water board members to protect the Fraser. We know they will respond to public pressure—but that means you need to take a few minutes and sign the petition. It will make a difference for the Fraser River and for our homeless trout, but only if you act now.

    Denver Water won’t act if they think Coloradans don’t know enough or care enough to demand a higher level of river stewardship.

    So do something good for our rivers today. Sign the petition and tell Denver Water: don’t suck—protect the Fraser River.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Slow, steady progress seen #coriver

    January 12, 2013

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    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Negotiations to finalize a sweeping in-state water agreement for the Colorado River Basin continue to drag on, but holdout Western Slope entities have conditionally approved it pending resolution of outstanding issues.

    The proposed deal was announced in April 2011 and involves Denver Water and more than 30 Western Slope entities. In September, Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs, expressed hope that it would be finalized by the end of October. But final approval continues to await the conclusion of negotiations on two major issues ­­­— the senior water right for Xcel Energy’s Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon and future administration of Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling.

    Conditional approvals to the overall deal have been given by the river district and all Grand Valley entities involved with the it.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


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