Edwards: Eagle River Watershed Council screening of DamNation July 30

July 24, 2014
Official poster

Official poster

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

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

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

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

July 21, 2014

Click here for the announcement.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

Water policy briefing Thursday at Donovan Pavilion in Vail, RSVP by July 8 #COWaterPlan

July 7, 2014

From email from the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

Business community invited to discuss water policy principles


Diane Johnson, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, 970-477-5457
Alison Wadey, Vail Chamber & Business Association, 970-477-0075

Join the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and the Vail Chamber & Business Association for a business briefing on the Colorado Water Plan from noon to 1:30 p.m., Thursday (7/10) at Donovan Pavilion in Vail. A complimentary lunch will be served.

Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered work to begin on the statewide water plan in May 2013; a draft is due to the Governor’s Office no later than Dec. 10, 2014, with the final plan complete by December 2015.

Business leaders have developed statewide business community water policy principles to be part of Colorado’s Water Plan and are seeking regional input to finalize the principles. Working through local business chambers, this statewide initiative seeks local feedback on the principles, which address the business and economic development needs of Colorado.

Thursday’s speakers include:

  • Tom Binnings of Summit Economics will discuss the economics of water from a statewide perspective.
  • Linn Brooks of Eagle River Water & Sanitation District will share local water operations and policy, and discuss needs in the Eagle and Colorado River basins.
  • James Eklund, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board – the state agency tasked with drafting the Colorado Water Plan.
  • Bryan Blakely of Accelerate Colorado and Mizraim Cordero of the Colorado Competitive Council will discuss the business community water policy principles.
  • To ensure enough food for attendees, please RSVP to the Vail Chamber & Business Association at info@vailchamber.org or 970-477-0075 by tomorrow (7/8).

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    Runoff/snowpack news: Good year to fill storage — if we had it to fill

    June 10, 2014
    Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

    Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

    From CBS Denver:

    Flooding along the Cache La Poudre River damaged nearly two dozen homes and businesses in Greeley last week, and according to officials at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Poudre River does not have any dams or reservoirs specifically for flood control. But there is an effort underway to change that.

    The Poudre River is full of melted snow — so much so right now that levels are well above average in Larimer and Weld counties, spilling over banks, and flooding homes and businesses.

    “We could fill a reservoir in a year like this,” Brian Werner with the Northern Colorado’s Water Conservancy District said.

    He points out farmers’ irrigation dams inside the Poudre Canyon, but says water cannot be diverted to those to prevent flooding. He says there is no reservoir along the river because the idea was unpopular in the past.

    “I think the general public is more aware when they see these flows and saying, ‘Boy, couldn’t we just store a little bit of that?’ Which is what this proposal does,” Werner said.

    Northern Water wants to build two reservoirs off stream that could store water during high flow times. Planners estimate the project would cost $500 million, including $40 million to re-route Highway 287 to make room for Glade Reservoir, and build a smaller one north of Greeley…

    But the federal approval process is moving slowly.

    “We’ve been working on this in some form for over 20 years, taking some of the flood flows here on the Poudre and storing it,” Werner said.

    They do expect to get some news on the status of studies being conducted on the project by the end of this year. It’s unlikely building would start before 2018.

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    Several of the reservoirs that feed Northern Colorado are full, or approaching overfull, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which helps manage the reservoirs. Carter Lake, southwest of Loveland, is full, and Lake Granby near Rocky Mountain National Park is about to overflow, Werner added.

    “We wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years a year ago,” Werner said Tuesday. Only a month ago, it was fifty-fifty if the reservoir would spill. “Now it looks like it will spill.”

    Horsetooth is just 2 feet shy of being full, the highest the reservoir has been in late May and early June in the past six years.

    The reservoir can hold enough to submerge 156,735 football fields in a foot of water. As of June 3, Horsetooth was holding 154,480 acre-feet of water, putting it around 98.5 percent full, said Zach Allen, a spokesman for Northern Water.

    But what happens if Horsetooth does get full? The answer, Werner said, is basically “nothing.”

    “We can control all the inflows to Horsetooth,” he said. Flatiron Reservoir and the Big Thompson River feed Horsetooth, and Northern Water controls all the outflows and inflows to the reservoir; Horsetooth’s water level can’t get higher than Northern Water wants it to, Werner said…

    Lake Granby, on the other hand, is fed with snowmelt straight from the mountains. It’s levels are uncontrollable, and it could spill over any day now, Werner said.

    “You can’t control what nature is going to do” with Granby, he added…

    Northern Water for years has pursued an expansion of its water storage capacity to take advantage of plentiful water years. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build a reservoir larger than Horsetooth northwest of Fort Collins. The proposal has drawn opposition from environmental groups and is in a yearslong federal review of its potential environmental impacts expected to be released late this year…

    Much of Northern Colorado’s snowpack, around 200 percent of normal levels after an early May snow, has yet to melt, which brings the potential for much more water to come down from the mountains in the coming weeks.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We have seen the water level at Green Mountain Reservoir rise to the spillway gates as snow melt runoff inflows continue to come into the reservoir. As a result, we were able to increase the release from the dam to the Lower Blue River by 300 cfs today [June 9], using the spillway.

    We are now releasing 1800 cfs to the Lower Blue.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The weekend went pretty smoothly for runoff here on the east slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thunderstorms boosted runoff to the Big Thompson River slightly with inflow into Lake Estes peaking early this morning around 721 cfs. But this is still a downward trend.

    As a result, outflow through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon dropped today down to about 125 cfs. As we move into the rest of the week, visitors to and residents of the canyon will continue to see nightly flows rise with snow runoff, enhanced some by rain runoff, just as they have seen for the past week.

    Deliveries to the canal that feeds Horsetooth Reservoir have brought Horsetooth back up to full. Its water level elevation has been fluctuating within the top foot of its storage between 5429 and 5430 feet. With it back up near 5430, we have curtailed the canal to Horsetooth and increased the return of Big Thompson River water to the canyon at the canyon mouth using the concrete chute. By 5 p.m. this evening the chute should be running around 300 cfs.

    The drop off in snowmelt runoff inflows will allow us to begin bringing some Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope water over again using the Alva B. Adams Tunnel. We anticipate the tunnel coming on mid-week and importing somewhere between 200-250 cfs.

    Once the tunnel comes back on, we will also turn the pump to Carter Lake back on, probably on Wednesday of this week. Carter’s water level elevation dropped slightly during runoff operations. It is around 95% full. Now that Horsetooth is basically full, Carter will receive the C-BT water. Turning the pump back on to Carter means residents around and visitors to the reservoir will see it fill for a second time this season.

    Pinewood Reservoir, between Lake Estes and Carter Lake, is seeing a more typical start to its summer season. It continues to draft and refill with power generation as it usually does this time of year. This is also true for Flatiron Reservoir, just below Carter Lake and the Flatiron Powerplant. Both are expected to continue operating this way through June.

    That is the plan we anticipate the East Slope of the C-BT to follow the rest of this week, June 9-13. We will post information if there is a major change; but as it stands now, I do not plan on sending an update again until next Monday. The state’s gage page is always available for those wishing to continue watching the water on a daily basis.

    From The Crested Butte News (Toni Todd):

    Word on the street this spring was that Blue Mesa Reservoir would be bursting at its banks this summer. Predictions were based on official and unofficial reports of above-normal river flows. However, a 2012 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has changed how local dams are operated in wet years, in deference to endangered fish species downstream. This new operational protocol will preclude the reservoir from filling this year.

    “The reservoir is now only scheduled to reach a maximum storage of around 80 percent capacity in 2014,” said Upper Gunnison River District manager Frank Kugel. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) began blasting water through Blue Mesa Dam last week, with simultaneous releases happening at Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs, a trifecta of water storage and management that makes up what’s known as the Aspinall Unit.

    The Record of Decision (ROD) states, “The EIS modifies the operations of the Aspinall Unit to provide sufficient releases of water at times, quantities, and duration necessary to avoid jeopardy to endangered fish species and adverse modification of their designated critical habitat while maintaining and continuing to meet authorized purposes of the Aspinall Unit.”

    Given this new norm of operations adapted by the bureau during wet years, will Blue Mesa ever fill again?

    “That’s a valid question, since the reservoir often does not fill in dry years due to lack of supply, and now with the Aspinall EIS, it will have trouble filling in wet years,” said Kugel.

    “We all signed onto this because we agreed it’s important to save these fish,” said Colorado Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Species coordinator Harry Crocket.

    According to the BOR’s website, an update written by hydraulic engineer Paul Davidson, unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa is 126 percent of normal this year, April through July. That’s 850,000 acre-feet of water entering the lake during the runoff months. “This sets the senior Black Canyon Water Right call for a one-day spring peak flow of 6,400 cfs, the Aspinall 2012 ROD target at a 10-day peak flow of 14,350 cfs… Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to meet both the water right and ROD recommendations,” said Davidson.

    The Colorado pike minnow, bonytail chub, humpback chub and razorback sucker are the fish that stand to benefit. The big flows are expected to improve the fishes’ critical habitat, at a time when the fish will be looking to spawn. Water will inundate otherwise shallow or dry riverbank areas, creating calm, sheltered spots for hatchlings, and heavy flows will wash the larvae into those areas.

    The Gunnison River, said Crocket, was “mostly omitted” from the EIS as critical habitat. However, he said, “Historically, it was home to at least a couple of these species.”

    “It’s a highly migratory fish,” Crocket said of the Colorado pike minnow. “It’s adapted to this big river system.”

    It’s a system irrefutably changed by humans. Critical habitat for the Colorado pike minnow includes 1,123.6 miles of river, to include stretches of the Green, Yampa and White rivers, from Rifle to Glen Canyon, and the Yampa River to its confluence with the Colorado River.

    “They [US Fish and Wildlife] did designate critical habitat [from the mouth of the Gunnison] to the Uncompahgre confluence [at Delta],” Crocket said.

    The Colorado pike minnow called the Gunnison River home through the 1960s. “After that,” said Crocket, “it blinked out. It’s not been possible for it to be re-colonized.” A new fish passage at the Redlands structure, two miles upriver from the Gunnison-Colorado River confluence at Grand Junction, allows fish to make their way around the barrier and upstream, marking the first time in more than 100 years for those downstream fish to gain passage to the Gunnison.

    Meanwhile, upstream, a form of collateral damage resulting from the big water releases at Blue Mesa worries Fish and Wildlife personnel. The number of fish sucked into and blown out through the dam is staggering. The technical term for this is entrainment.
    “Bigger water years mean more water through the dam, and more fish entrained,” said Gunnison area Colorado Fish and Wildlife aquatic biologist Dan Brauch. “Certainly, loss of kokanee with those releases is a concern.”

    From the Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

    Water levels and snowpack are 121 percent of normal, with as much as 40 percent yet to melt at some higher elevation areas, according to Snotel data…

    Snow water equivalent at the Fremont Pass Snotel site, the headwaters of the Eagle River, had 15.1 inches of snow water equivalent on Friday morning still to melt and run into the river. It hit 17 inches on March 18 and kept piling up until May 17 when it peaked at 25.6 inches. It usually doesn’t melt out until June 18, Johnson said.

    Streamflow on the Eagle River in Avon may have peaked on May 30, when the daily mean discharge was 4,110 cubic feet per second, which was 249 percent of median for that date. Thursday’s daily mean discharge was 3,650 cfs, 197 percent of normal for Wednesday.

    Gore Creek in Lionshead may have peaked June 4.

    “Having 20 to 40 percent of the total snowpack remaining in higher elevations in the Colorado Basin is good overall. It should help sustain streamflows through the month,” [Diane Johnson] said…

    Copper Mountain still has 4.1 inches of snow water equivalent. That would normally be melted out by now, Johnson said…

    Reservoir storage in the state is running 95 percent of normal and 62 percent of capacity. That, however, depends on where you are.

    The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

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

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Breckenridge: “We can’t just sit up here and say we have all the water, now we’ll use it” — Tim Gagen #ColoradoRiver

    May 9, 2014
    Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

    Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    The town council is considering legislation that would cap outdoor use at three days a week. It’s part of an effort to put a new emphasis on water conservation and efficiency, says Tim Gagen, the town manager.

    “We have to walk the talk,” says Gagen. “We can’t just sit up here and say we have all the water, now we’ll use it.”

    Breckenridge is not alone. Other mountains towns in Colorado are devoting more attention to water conservation and efficiency. A coalition in the Roaring Fork Valley is assembling plans for public outreach to elevate water efficiency. The Vail-based Eagle River Water and Sanitation District began crimping water use in 2003. Aspen’s water-efficiency measures go back even further, to the 1990s…

    Colorado’s Front Range cities, where 85 percent of state residents live, have become more efficient with existing supplies. But they have also expanded supplies in recent decades by buying farms in the South Platte and Arkansas River valleys for their water rights, and allowing the farms to then dry up. They have also purchased mountain ranches in such buy-and-dry transactions.

    Front Range water providers also want to retain the option of going to the Colorado River and its tributaries for one final, big diversion. Western Slope water leaders urge caution. But to have credibility, leaders in the mountain valleys realize they first must put their own houses in order.

    “The Western Slope needs to be goosed,” says Chris Treese, director of external affairs for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “Frankly, the Front Range has led most of the water-conservation efforts in Colorado to date.”[...]

    Gagen says that Breckenridge has been nibbling at water conservation efforts for several years. Leaking segments of existing pipes, which can cause loss of 8 to 15 percent of all the municipal water supply, are being replaced. Sprinklers in parks are being changed out in favor of more efficient devices. And the town is now looking at narrowing irrigation at its golf course to avoid watering of the roughs.

    Breckenridge, in its municipal operation, has also adopted more xeriscaping, using plants that don’t require irrigation, reducing irrigation of remaining turf, and, in some cases, installing artificial turf.

    Still on the agenda is elevating rates for high-consumption users. The average water bill in Breckenridge is just $35 every two months, not much more than dinner at one of the town’s higher-end restaurants. As such, most people probably pay little, if any attention, to the idea of conserving water in order to reduce their costs. They just write the check, says Gagen.

    While Breckenridge has broad goals of improved sustainability, Gagen says the plan to reduce outdoor lawn irrigation to three days a week was pushed by two council members who have been persuaded by books they’ve read: “Blue Revolution,” by Cynthia Barnett (2011), “Cadillac Desert,” by Marc Reisner (1986), and “Getting Green Done,” by Auden Schendler (2011)…

    Eagle River Water and Sanitation District has achieved a 20 percent per capita reduction in use, according to Diane Johnson, communications director. That’s in line with the reduction in water use since 2000 by Denver Water’s 1.3 million direct and indirect customers.

    However, Eagle River has not pushed indoor water savings. Because 95 percent of indoor water is treated and released into the Eagle River, explains Johnson, the impact is small on the valley’s creeks and rivers. This compares with just 15 to 40 percent of water returned to streams after outdoor irrigation. Given limited resources for messaging, the better return is to hammer home the message of reduced outdoor use.

    “What we really try to work with local people to understand is that their outdoor use affects how much water is in the rivers,” says Johnson. “If you are using water indoors, save yourself some money and be efficient, but most of that water comes back to the treatment plant and returns to the river.”[...]

    In adopting its regulations on outdoor lawn watering, Eagle River Water was motivated by the searing drought of 2002. But laws also provide incentives. When seeking permits for new or expanded reservoirs, county regulations ask about “efficient use” of existing resources. State and federal regulations approach it with different wording, but essentially the same intent. “Efficient use of resource is going to be a consideration in any of those permitting processes,” says Johnson.

    Eagle River Water has also adopted tiered rates, charging higher rates per 1,000 gallons as consumers step up consumption. But what do you do about those pockets of consumers for whom money is no deterrent?

    That’s an issue in the Vail Valley that water officials are starting to wrestle with. Aspen recognized years ago that price was no object to some homeowners—and charges nosebleed rates.

    Aspen’s municipal utility, which delivers both electricity and water, uses the income from high-use water customers to pay for front-end renewable energy programs and demand-side energy efficiency, says Phil Overeynder, the former utilities director and now the utilities engineer for special projects.

    Aspen in the early 1990s approached the forked paths of water use. But instead of continuing to build capacity for existing water demands, the city instead reined in use. Last year, Aspen used the same amount of water as it did in 1966, despite having three times as many residents. (See more detailed story).

    Now, an effort has been launched to frame a broad water efficiency strategy for the Roaring Fork Valley. The seed was planted in 2010 by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE, a non-profit founded in the mid-1990s. The effort has several motives—including energy.

    Formation of the group was at least partly influenced by the writings of Amory Lovins, a resident of the area, who for decades talked about “negawatts”—the idea that efficiency in energy was as good as new supply. The group he co-founded, Rocky Mountain Institute, further applied this idea of a soft path to water efficiency.

    CORE’s Jason Haber explains that saving water also saves energy in several ways. Developing water resources requires energy, but it also takes energy to pump water. Energy is also embedded in treatment of sewage, he points out. Typically, water and sewage are the largest components of any municipality’s energy budget…

    Whether Colorado truly has any water to develop on the Western Slope is debatable—and has been debated frequently in state-wide water forums. The Colorado River Water Conservation District has suggested that major new diversions would be risky, simply because of the lack of certainty of legally entitled water in future years. Colorado’s use of the river that bears its name is tightly capped by two inter-state water compacts and one international treaty.

    More conservation coverage here.

    The Eagle River Watershed Council “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses

    May 7, 2014
    Eagle River Basin

    Eagle River Basin

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

    May 14th, 5:30 p.m.
    The Dusty Boot in Eagle
    *grab your drinks & food and bring them into the presentation!*

    Come learn first-hand from Colorado Parks & Wildlife Aquatic Biologist Kendall Bakich about a variety of topics regarding the status and management of the Eagle and Upper Colorado River fisheries.

    “This is an important meeting and we hope to see a good turnout,” said Bakich. “We want to give the public an opportunity to hear how their local fisheries are doing directly from the people who manage them.”

    Bakich will present her most recent survey data regarding the variety of fishes and populations currently found in the Eagle and Upper Colorado Rivers.

    “Whether you are an avid angler, a guide, local restaurateur, hotel owner or you just want to hear about fish, this is a great opportunity to discuss our local fish communities,” added Bakich. “The fish in Eagle County are not only an incredibly important resource for the area, they are one of the most outstanding resources in Colorado.”

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

    The Southern Delivery System is on time and under budget, according to @CSUtilities

    April 29, 2014
    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

    From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

    Wayne Vanderschuere, general manager of the Colorado Springs Utilities water services division, said the Southern Delivery System will be completed on schedule and $150 million under the original budgeted amount.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Vail: ‘Restore the Gore’ campaign to kick off April 25

    April 17, 2014


    From the Vail Daily:

    An awareness campaign to help improve the health of Gore Creek is being introduced this spring with a focus on best practices for landscapers and gardeners. The “Restore the Gore” kick off takes place April 25 with a free Moe’s BBQ lunch and learn session from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at Donovan Pavilion. Landscape contractors, gardeners, commercial applicators and lodging managers, in particular, are encouraged to attend. Lunch service will begin at 11:45 a.m. with presentations taking place from noon to 12:45 p.m.

    Sponsored by the Town of Vail and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the program will include short presentations on the causes of Gore Creek’s decline and the everyday actions that can be implemented to help make a difference when it comes to water use, special irrigation permits, invasive plants and pesticides.

    In 2012 Gore Creek was added to the State of Colorado’s 303(d) List of Impaired Waters due to the decline in aquatic life. Scientists have determined the impact is due to degradation and loss of riparian buffer areas, impacts of urban runoff and pollutants associated with land use activities. A Water Quality Improvement Plan has since been adopted that includes an emphasis on community awareness as well as strategies for regulatory measures, site specific projects, best management practices and an ongoing monitoring program.

    In addition to the lunch and learn kick off, the town is distributing a handout on recommended pesticide practices for commercial landscapers and property owners. Additional information is available on the town’s website at http://www.vailgov.com/gorecreek.

    If you plan to attend the April 25 lunch and learn program, please RSVP to Kristen Bertuglia, town of Vail environmental sustainability coordinator, at 970-477-3455 or email kbertuglia@vailgov.com no later than 5 p.m. April 23.

    More Gore Creek watershed coverage here.

    The latest newsletter (The Current) from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses

    April 8, 2014
    Eagle River Basin

    Eagle River Basin

    Click here to read the newsletter.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here.

    Eagle Valley meeting on the #COWaterPlan, March 27

    March 24, 2014

    Click here for the pitch. Here’s an excerpt:

    Thursday, March 27th
    Eagle Valley “Town Hall” Meeting on the Colorado Water Plan
    6 to 8 pm @ Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon

    Did you know that Colorado is one of only a few states in the West operating without a formal water plan? As of May 2013, that is changing. Gov. Hickenlooper has asked to have a draft of the State’s Water Plan on his desk in December of 2014 with the final completed in December of 2015.

    For this process, Colorado has been divided into 9 river basins, each responsible for outlining their values, priorities, goals, and objectives moving forward. Here in the Eagle Valley, we fall into the Colorado River Basin and the draft of our Basin Implementation Plan is due in July. This process seeks much public input; now is the time for you to learn more about the Statewide Water Plan and give your feedback!

    Please join us for this very important evening of learning and sharing. We need your help to make sure the Colorado Water Plan reflects the needs and concerns of the Eagle Valley moving into the future.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    The March 2014 Eagle River Watershed Council newsletter (The Current) is hot off the presses

    March 12, 2014
    Eagle River Basin

    Eagle River Basin

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

    Watershed Wednesday: the Eagle River Blue Trails Program
    March 19th, 6 p.m.
    Eagle Public Library, Eagle, CO

    The Eagle River has been chosen by American Rivers to become a Blue Trail. In doing so, the Eagle River will be following in the footsteps of other projects around the nation. Just as hiking trails help people explore the land, “Blue Trails help people discover their rivers and provide communities with a host of benefits: protecting the environment; enhancing local economies; promoting healthy living; preserving history and community identity; and connect people and places.”

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

    The latest newsletter from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses

    February 7, 2014
    Eagle River Basin

    Eagle River Basin

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

    Watershed Wednesday: the Colorado Water Plan
    February 26th
    Avon Public Library, Avon, CO

    Did you know that 80% of our state’s water falls on the Western Slope but 80% of the population lives on the Eastern Slope? Did you know that Colorado is one of the few Western states that hasn’t yet prepared a State Water Plan? Under Gov. Hickenlooper’s direction, the state is now in the process of creating such a plan, one that aims to forge ‘a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need’ in all aspects of our active and productive lifestyles. (coloradowaterplan.com)

    Hannah Holm, Coordinator for the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University, will help bring us up to speed on this exciting & complex process. Diane Johnson of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District will focus on the local level and explain the Eagle River Basin Principles.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

    The current newsletter from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

    January 8, 2014

    The Eagle River Watershed Council: Snowmaking & Ski Area Water Rights ski tour, January 13

    December 26, 2013
    Copper Mountain snowmaking via ColoradoSki.com

    Copper Mountain snowmaking via ColoradoSki.com

    From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council

    Join us Monday, January 13th to see firsthand what snowmaking is all about!

    9 – 11:30 a.m. meet @ the base of Lionshead Gondola

    With the expert guidance of Dave Tucholke, Vail’s Snowmaking Manager, we will be strapping on our skis and touring Vail Mountain to learn more about snowmaking: the history, equipment and process behind the snow we have come to rely on each November. Tom Allender, Director of Mountain Planning for Vail & Beaver Creek, will share his knowledge of ski area water rights and explain the mountain’s “plumbing system” from source to snow.

    This will be a unique look at Vail’s snowmaking from atop your very own skis!


    Space is limited, so please RSVP to outreach@erwc.org to reserve your spot now!

    **We will be spending most of the morning on skis so we ask that only intermediate and expert skiers/boarders sign up**

    More education coverage here.

    Eagle River Watershed Council: Hydraulic Fracturing & Water an informational panel, Wednesday December 11th

    December 7, 2013
    Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

    Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

    Click here to read the announcement.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    The latest Eagle River Watershed Council newsletter is hot of the presses

    December 4, 2013
    Eagle River Basin

    Eagle River Basin

    Click here to read the newsletter.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and 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.

    ‘As the population of Colorado grows, so will the tension on water supplies and water quality’ — Kate Burchenal

    November 27, 2013
    Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado -- graphic/State Engineer

    Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado — graphic/State Engineer

    Here’s a guest column about the Colorado River Watch program, written by Kate Burchenal that is running in the Vail Daily:

    Did you know that Colorado is home to more than 700,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks? Think about that: 700,000 miles. Considering that the Earth’s circumference is approximately 25,000 miles, end to end; Colorado’s waterways could circle the globe 28 times. And if we want to take this comparison to outer space, then one could travel to the moon and back and still have more than 200,000 miles to spare! Ready for more staggering numbers? Colorado’s population recently surpassed the 5 million mark, 5.18 million actually, which equates to 7.4 people per river mile.

    Here in Eagle County, we love the waterways that meander through our towns and lives. Eagle County houses the entire 77 miles of the Eagle River from the headwaters on Tennessee Pass to its confluence with the Upper Colorado in Dotsero. We also play host to 55 miles of the Colorado River as it skirts through the northwestern part of the county. Fifty-five miles amounts to a mere 3.8 percent of the total length of the river, but we are nevertheless glad to have that access and proximity to the mighty Colorado.

    As the population of Colorado grows, so will the tension on water supplies and water quality due to potential for increased pollution. But there’s passion among our population. People are moving to Colorado in droves to gain access to our skiing, rafting, hiking, fly-fishing and clean-air-breathing! And most of us care deeply about our watersheds and show that dedication if given the chance. So, why not put that passion to work monitoring water quality on our rivers?

    Colorado River Watch

    Since 1989, Colorado River Watch has provided such an opportunity by “work(ing) with voluntary stewards to monitor water quality and other indicators of watershed health and utiliz(ing) this high-quality data to educate citizens and inform decision makers about the condition of Colorado’s waters.” It coordinates water sampling by volunteer groups from around the state: middle and high school classes, local governments, environmental organizations and concerned individuals.

    During the years, River Watch has collected data from more than 3,000 sites around Colorado on more than 300 of our local waterways. Each month, volunteers collect water samples from their stations to test for six main parameters: heavy metals, dissolved oxygen, pH, alkalinity, nutrient levels and hardness. Twice a year, volunteers add the collection of macroinvertebrate samples to understand the health and composition of the bug population.

    Every sample is processed and carefully chronicled by River Watch in its Fort Collins lab. This information is then used by the Water Quality Control Commission (the administrative agency responsible for developing state water quality policies) to set statewide standards for allowable levels of constituents in the water, particularly metals. That’s right, River Watch training and quality control standards are so stringent that information collected by average residents is utilized to set state standards!

    Here in the Eagle Valley, we have more than 12 stations in the hands of numerous River Watch partners: The Eagle River Watershed Council, the town of Vail, individuals and local classrooms. We want to get even more people out on the water taking part in this exciting program whether it is a class, a community group, an afterschool activity program or a family. It’s a great learning tool and a wonderful way for everyday people to have a hand in state water quality issues.

    Kate Burchenal is the education and outreach coordinator for the Eagle River Watershed Council. The Eagle River Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at 970-827-5406 or visit http://www.erwc.org.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

    The current newsletter from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses

    November 5, 2013

    Eagle River Basin

    Eagle River Basin

    Click here to read the newsletter.

    Eagle River Water and Sanitation District Awarded $1.372 Million Grant

    July 28, 2013


    Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

    Gov. John Hickenlooper announced on July 19 that 21 municipal wastewater and sanitation districts throughout Colorado will receive a total of $14.7 million in state grants to help with the planning, design and construction of facility improvements to meet new nutrient standards. The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District submitted three grant applications totaling $1,372,400; each one was fully funded.

    “Our staff was very involved with the state in developing these new regulations while simultaneously modeling the regulations’ impact to our capital investment program. This proactive approach allowed the district to strategically position itself to compete for the nutrient grant program funds,” said Board Chairman Rick Sackbauer. “These regulations are the right thing for the environment and these grant funds will reduce the overall cost of compliance to our ratepayers and taxpayers. We are grateful to the state for its contribution.”

    The state’s Water Quality Control Commission adopted new standards in September 2012 to help prevent harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from reaching state waters. The new regulation requires certain larger domestic wastewater treatment facilities to meet effluent limits for nutrients.

    “Coloradans in rural and urban areas will benefit from these new water standards that improve and protect our water,” Hickenlooper said. “This grant funding will help communities offset the costs of bringing their systems into compliance. In addition, the grants will help ensure safe and healthy water for wildlife, agriculture, recreation, and drinking water purposes.”

    Excessive nutrients harm water bodies by stimulating algae blooms that consume oxygen, kill aquatic organisms, and ultimately lead to smaller populations of game and fish. While nutrients are naturally occurring, other contributors include human sewage, emissions from power generators and automobiles, lawn fertilizers, and pet waste.

    “The district has long been a steward of our local streams. We are planning the required improvements holistically, across our three wastewater treatment facilities, to provide optimal treatment at a reasonable cost for the benefit of our natural environment,” said General Manager Linn Brooks.

    The Nutrient Grant Program will help wastewater facilities with the costs of planning for, designing, and implementing system improvements. Funding for the program was made available through HB13-1191 “Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant,” sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer and Ed Vigil and Sens. Gail Schwartz and Angela Giron. There are about 400 municipal wastewater systems in Colorado. The new nutrient standards apply to about 40 systems that have the greatest impact on the waters of the state.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.

    Eagle County: The 2013 Eagle River Watershed Plan is complete

    June 13, 2013


    Click here to read a copy of the report from Eagle County and the Eagle River Watershed Council. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Eagle River Watershed Plan was first adopted in 1996, and provides information, goals, strategies and action items related to water and land management practices in the Eagle River drainage basin. This 2013 document updates and replaces the 1996 plan in its entirety, and while it follows the general layout of that plan, it includes a great deal of new information, and a new chapter that discusses issues and opportunities associated with the Colorado River as it flows through the north western part of the county.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here.

    Eagle River Watershed Council Waterwise Thursday May 16: Are you wiser than a sixth grader?

    May 10, 2013


    From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

    Join us for a special Water Wise “Thursday” brought to you by the 6th Graders of Homestake Peak School of Expeditionary Learning. After an in-depth, multiple month study, these students are ready to teach you “the what, the so what, and the now what?” of the Eagle Mine Superfund Site.

    The event will take place Thursday, May 16th at 5:30 at the Walking Mountains Science Center. The students will begin with a living history museum where you can chat with figures of the past and then, they take you in depth into the history, science and future of the Eagle River. Beverages and appetizers will be provided.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

    Restoration: The Eagle River Watershed Council is planting willows along Red Dirt Creek May 17-18

    May 7, 2013


    From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

    We are beginning a second project along the East Fork of Red Dirt Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. The Watershed Council, along with a team of volunteers and help from the US Forest Service and Trout Unlimited, will plant willows and remove a dirt road that is adding sediment to the creek and harming the local cutthroat trout population.

    Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th we will be planting willows along the East Fork of Red Dirt Creek and we are looking for 10-15 volunteers. Call us at 970-827-5406 or email outreach@erwc.org to sign up for one or both days!

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

    Grand Mesa cloud-seeding program history and results #ColoradoRiver

    April 9, 2013


    From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

    For 50 years, humans have attempted to modify the weather for the purpose of increasing snowpack, to fill up reservoirs, reduce hail, and even prevent rain. The scientific practice of cloud seeding has been utilized on Grand Mesa since the 1990s. Two years ago, the Water Enhancement Authority stepped up its Grand Mesa program by doubling the number of cloud seeders to 16. “We’re trying to increase snowpack on the Mesa, to fill up the reservoirs,” said Mark Ritterbush, the Grand Junction water operations supervisor and secretary for the Water Enhancement Authority (WEA).

    The WEA is comprised of the City of Grand Junction, Powderhorn Ski Mountain Resort, Collbran, the Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District, and Overland Ditch and Reservoir Company. Funding for the cloud-seeding program comes from those entities, as well as Delta County, the Colorado River District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and lower Colorado River basin states.

    Meteorologists determine where to place the cloud-seeding machines on the Mesa. Oftentimes, they’re located on private property where landowners are paid rent to host the machines.

    In China, cloud seeders — many of them farmers — are paid to use anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to release pellets containing silver iodide into clouds, according to Wikipedia. Other areas disperse the precipitation-enhancing agents via airplanes.

    On the Grand Mesa, cloud-seeding machines consist of tanks on the ground filled with a silver-iodide solution containing chemicals such as acetone. The solution is sprayed across a propane-fueled flame, causing the particles to drift with the wind current up into the cloud. The condensation nuclei turn into ice crystals, ride along with the cloud and fall out as a snowflake. Silver iodide is used because its crystalline structure is almost identical to ice, Ritterbush said.

    “A meteorologist (John Thompson of Montrose) watches storms as they come in,” Ritterbush said. “He calls and tells (the landowners) when to turn it on. Rarely are all 16 cloud seeders running at the same time.”


    There is an ongoing debate regarding the effectiveness of cloud seeding versus letting nature take its course, Ritterbush said. Ten years ago, the National Academies of Science released a report saying, that after 30 years of research, there is no convincing proof of intentional weather modification efforts. “In nature, it’s hard to set up an experiment with a control,” Ritterbush said. “It’s a conundrum how to compare.”

    Yet, studies suggest cloud seeding can increase snowpack 5 to 15 percent, which makes the program’s annual cost of between $30,000 and $40,000 cost-effective when you factor in the extra water, Ritterbush said. The cost variable is due to weather conditions, how often seeding takes place, and the cost of silver, Ritterbush said. According to the World Meteorological Policy Statement, “a well-designed, well-executed program shows demonstrative results,” said Joe Busto, who runs the weather modification permitting program out of Denver for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    The Grand Mesa has been a forum to introduce new equipment and different seeding technologies, Busto said. The topography is ideal for setting up cloud-seeding machines at a high elevation, he said. “There’s a rich history of research on the Grand Mesa, during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s,” Busto added.

    Arlen Huggins, a semi-retired research scientist with the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., is familiar with the Grand Mesa project. Huggins said there is plenty of convincing evidence that modifying weather is effective for increasing precipitation. He mentioned prior Bureau of Reclamation studies, plus a recently completed five-year experiment in Australia. “There’s a lot of evidence related to snowfall enhancement,” Huggins said. “It makes it a viable option for increasing water supply.”

    The Water Enhancement Authority is in the process of collecting data comparing seeded areas versus non-seeded areas on the Mesa, Ritterbush said.


    So, what happens when silver-iodide particles hit the ground or land in lakes or rivers? While there has been no monitoring for silver in western Colorado’s environment, researchers in Australia have spent millions searching for traces of the mineral, Ritterbush said. In Australia, where lake beds and soils have been tested, they “just don’t find it near toxic levels,” Busto said.

    Huggins, who is considered a cloud-seeding expert, said he’s often asked about potential risks of silver toxicity in the environment. “It’s a minuscule amount of silver being released,” Huggins said. “The silver iodide amounts released are not harmful. (The particles) are not soluble in water. It cannot be taken up by aquatic species. It does not bio-accumulate.”

    There are approximately 106 cloud-seeding sites in Colorado, including Summit County, Gunnison, Telluride and the Dolores area, the West and Eastern San Juan mountains. Vail and Beaver Creek have the oldest program, having cloud-seeded for 38 years. Most permits are issued from November through March and sometimes into mid-April, Busto said. “We monitor snowpack, avalanche hazards, and suspend programs when needed,” he said.

    A 2010 statement from the American Meteorological Society states that “unintended consequences of cloud-seeding, such as changes in precipitation or other environmental impacts downwind of a target area have not been clearly demonstrated, but neither can they be ruled out. Continued effort is needed toward improved understanding of the risks and benefits of planned modification through well-designed and well-supported research programs.”

    More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.

    The next Eagle River Watershed Council ‘Waterwise Wednesday’ (April 3) features Nolan Doesken and a focus on drought #codrought

    March 31, 2013


    From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

    A Peek into Colorado’s Climate: Is Drought Passing, Permanent or Periodic?
    by State Climatologist Nolan Doesken

    Water Wise Wednesday
    Wednesday, April 3rd
    5:30-7:00 pm
    The Dusty Boot
    Eagle, CO

    Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken joins the Eagle River Watershed Council for our next Water Wise Wednesday to discuss the state of drought in Colorado. Doesken, who monitors current and long term climatic conditions in Colorado, will provide updates on the current snowpack, summer drought predictions and long term trends in the state.

    Nolan Doesken has been with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University since 1977, where he was appointed State Climatologist in 2006. He is currently the president of the American Association of State Climatologists.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and 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


    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…

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

    More education coverage here.

    Drought news: Aurora is shopping for short-term water leases, storage at 53% of capacity #CODrought

    December 14, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora wants to lease additional water from the Arkansas River basin in 2013 and is prepared to spend $5 million. The city’s storage has been drawn down to 53 percent of capacity, triggering a situation where it can lease water under the terms of a 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Aurora Water sent a letter to the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch last month offering to lease 10,000 acre­-feet of water for $500 per acre-­foot, or $5 million total. The terms are part of an agreement Aurora made with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in 2010. That may not be enough, said Super Ditch President John Schweizer. If commodity prices stay high, farmers would be able to get about $1,200 per acre for corn and $1,500 per acre for alfalfa, minus costs for cultivating, planting, irrigation and harvesting. “We’ve got to see if there are farmers interested in doing it,” Schweizer said. “If the price per acre is right, I think you could see some interest.”

    Schweizer expects opposition to the transfer. This year, a Super Ditch pilot program met unprecedented resistance from other water users after it was submitted to the state engineer. “A lot depends on the severity of the drought and how people in cities might be affected,” he said.

    While the Super Ditch conceptually includes seven large irrigation ditch systems east of Pueblo, farms on the High Line and Catlin canals could fill the Aurora order, Schweizer said. Both canal companies already have had annual meetings, so the leases would be filled through negotiations with the boards of each canal and interested shareholders. Bylaws on both canals have been changed to allow for temporary water transfers, and the High Line Canal leased water to Aurora and Colorado Springs in 2004-­05.

    Aurora is waiting to hear if the Super Ditch can fill the order and does not have a backup plan, said Greg Baker, Aurora Water spokesman.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Agreements with three conservancy districts determine whether Aurora can lease additional water from the Arkansas River basin.

    Aurora purchased nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, part of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and several ranches in Lake County in the 1980s and 1990s to meet water needs of the city of 300,000 east of Denver. In 2004-­05, it leased water from the High Line Canal, which irrigates farms in the Rocky Ford area, as the city recovered from the 2002 drought.

    Next year, Aurora is bracing for another drought recovery to bolster its storage levels.

    Under 2003 agreements with the Southeastern district and the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Aurora may lease additional water when its storage levels drop below 60 percent of total capacity on March 15. It can lease water for up to three out of 10 years under those circumstances.

    Aurora has drawn down Homestake Reservoir, which it shares with Colorado Springs, for dam repairs. Aurora stores water in 10 other reservoirs. Including Homestake, Aurora is at 53 percent capacity, but even without Homestake factored in, capacity already is at just 61 percent. Last month, the Aurora City Council authorized its water utility to begin looking for leases. “We’re looking at the agreement to determine if we have any issues with the leases,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

    Under its 2010 agreement with the Lower Ark District, Aurora is obligated to work with the Super Ditch before looking elsewhere for water in the Arkansas Valley. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “The Super Ditch will build collaboration and cooperation among the ditch companies.”

    Aurora also has an agreement with the High Line Canal board for future leases. Arkansas Valley water is exchanged upstream to Twin Lakes, where it moves to Aurora through the Otero Pumping Station and Homestake pipeline.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Crystal River: Momentum building for Wild and Scenic designation

    December 3, 2012


    Here’s an analysis of efforts to protect the Crystal River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for The Aspen Daily News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Thirty-nine miles of the Crystal River are already “eligible” for designation under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Now four organizations are building local support to determine if much of the river is also “suitable” for protection under the act.

    Passed in 1968, the act allows local and regional communities to develop a federally backed management plan designed to preserve and protect a free-flowing river such as the Crystal River, which runs from the back of the Maroon Bells to the lower Roaring Fork River through Crystal, Marble, Redstone and Carbondale.

    Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

    And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone.

    The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

    The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower…

    Chuck Wanner, a former Fort Collins city council member, said at the meetings that it took 10 years to get sections of the Cache La Poudre River on the Eastern Slope designated under Wild and Scenic.

    Today, that’s the only river in the state that carries the designation and no river in the vast Colorado River basin is officially Wild and Scenic.

    When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

    Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already.

    And then there is the fact that designation eliminates the possibility of federal funding for future water projects, which can dampen the enthusiasm of most cities, counties and water districts.

    Whatever the reasons for scarcity in Colorado, Pitkin County is ready to lead a Wild and Scenic process for the Crystal River.

    “I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”[...]

    While today only the Cache la Poudre River has stretches that are designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the BLM is preparing a suitability study on a number of area river stretches.

    A final EIS is expected to be released in early 2013 by the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office followed by a record of decision in 2014 for the following rivers and river sections:

    • Abrams Creek

    • Battlement Creek

    • Colorado River — State Bridge to Dotsero

    • Colorado River — Glenwood Canyon to approximately 1-mile east of No Name Creek

    • Deep Creek — From the BLM/Forest Service land boundary to the Deep Creek ditch diversion

    • Deep Creek — From the Deep Creek ditch diversion to the BLM/private land boundary

    • Eagle River

    • Egeria Creek

    • Hack Creek

    • Mitchell Creek

    • No Name Creek

    • Rock Creek

    • Thompson Creek

    • East Middle Fork Parachute Creek Complex

    • East Fork Parachute Creek Complex

    For more information on regarding Wild and Scenic suitability on these rivers, search for “Colorado River Valley Draft Resource Management Plan,” which will lead you to a BLM website that contains the draft EIS document.

    The BLM is also reviewing a number of stretches on major rivers in Colorado, either for eligibility or suitability, including:

    • Animas River

    • Dolores River

    • San Miguel River

    • Gunnison River

    • Colorado River

    • Blue River

    In all, according to Deanna Masteron, a public affairs specialist with the BLM in Lakewood, the BLM is currently analyzing more than 100 segments in Colorado through various land-use plans. The Forest Service also has the ability to analyze rivers for Wild and Scenic designation.

    More Wild and Scenic coverage here and here.

    Eagle: The town board is moving on adding more water treatment capacity

    November 19, 2012


    From the Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

    As Eagle stands poised to grow with the new Eagle River Station and Haymeadow developments, the community now needs additional water-treatment capacity to meet potential demand. Tuesday night, the Eagle Town Board began to answer that demand by approving a special-use permit for a new lower basin water-treatment plant. The new plant will be built immediately east — or upstream — from the town’s wastewater-treatment plant located near the confluence of Brush Creek and the Eagle River. Preliminary estimates indicate it will cost around $16 million. The new plant will have an initial capacity of 2.5 million gallons per day and is designed for expansion of up to 5 million gallons per day. It will include two buildings — one covering 32,300 square feet and one covering 1,452 square feet…

    During discussion of the plant proposal, Town Board member Joe Knabel asked about scheduling — specifically, the length of the planning period to get the facility up and operational. Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosoirowski said in all likelihood, the plant is on at least a 30-month schedule to address permitting, financing and 20 months of construction.

    Eagle Public Works Director Dusty Walls said that at present, during the summer, Eagle hits the 80 percent capacity mark for its water system, and that’s the point when the state wants towns to begin work on new treatment facilities. Mayor Yuri Kostick said that during the summer, town residents can use as much as 2.3 million gallons of water per day, but during the winter, the number is closer to 500,000.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

    Eagle County: Beavers are impacting Brush Creek mitigation ponds

    November 13, 2012


    From the Eagle Valley Enterprise via Vail Daily (Derek Franz):

    The storm ponds are the main concern, however. They are a filtration system for water going back into Brush Creek from the Eagle Ranch development. By flowing from one pond to the next, pollutants such as fertilizers and petroleum are strained from the water before it goes into the creek.

    “The beavers had raised the water level of the ponds a little more than a foot over the weekend,” Boyd said last week. “I noticed that some sticks and debris from the bottom of the pond were piled over the grate (where water drained from one pond to the next).” The beavers were damming the outlets of the last two ponds. The final pond is only separated from Brush Creek by a narrow berm.

    “At that rate, it wouldn’t be long before the pond water washed out the berm and went straight into the creek,” Boyd said.

    The final pond is very clean, but it wouldn’t be that way if the pond above it washed out, as well.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

    ‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

    October 10, 2012



    Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

    Water Wranglers
    The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
    A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

    The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

    Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

    The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

    To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

    More Colorado River District coverage here.

    The Colorado Springs Gazette is sifting through receipts from Colorado Springs Utilities’ water tours

    September 16, 2012


    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

    Other purchases included:

    • $140 for 100 zippered pencil cases

    • $47 for prizes for a water tour quiz

    • $286 to rent two fans to keep participants cool during a lunchtime barbeque at what Utilities calls an SDS warehouse

    Utilities defended the trip, saying the water tour gave participants an up-close look at the city’s water system that couldn’t be replicated with charts and graphs or in one day.

    “Colorado Springs is not like cities such as Denver or Pueblo, which have local, in-town major waterways. Our community’s vast, complex water system includes 25 reservoirs and dams, more than 200 miles of pipes, four major pump stations, and facilities and infrastructure in 11 counties,” Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier said in an email.

    “The water tour gives leaders and officials first-hand knowledge of the massive work, equipment, facilities and people it takes to deliver water to Colorado Springs, as well as the ongoing construction of the Southern Delivery System,” she said. “It would be difficult to give people this level of information and insight in such an important investment using another forum. And despite all the talk of pipes and wires, a business, even in utilities, is about building relationships.”

    The water tour started about 25 years ago, Lehermeier said.

    The most recent tour cost $20,200, not $25,000 as originally reported by Utilities.

    More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.

    Drought news: Eagle River Water and Sanitation is going to use Vali Resorts snow-making infrastructure to supplement streamflow in Gore Creek

    September 8, 2012


    From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

    In the agreement signed Aug. 23, the Water District can pump water out of the Eagle River, until Oct. 15, at Dowd Junction via Vail Mountain’s snowmaking pipeline and then through the resort’s on-mountain snowmaking system and into Mill Creek. In return, Vail Mountain will have access to as much as 100 acre-feet of water in Black Lakes, atop Vail Pass, for snowmaking through Dec. 31.

    The Water District wants to pump the water through Vail Mountain’s snowmaking system and into Mill Creek because it will help flows in Gore Creek, which is experiencing low streamflows that could negatively affect river health.

    Rick Sackbauer, chairman of the Water District’s board of directors, told the Vail Town Council Tuesday night the agreement is “historical.”[...]

    He said the movement of the water — which makes a loop by going through Vail’s snowmaking pipes from Dowd Junction to the Water District building in Lionshead, and then up through the resort’s on-mountain snowmaking system before entering Mill Creek near Manor Vail and eventually Gore Creek and on to the Eagle River — helps Gore Creek’s overall health.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

    Gypsum: LEDE Reservoir enlargement costs are up to just over $5 million

    August 19, 2012


    From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

    LEDE has a current capacity of 473 acre feet of water. The latest plans are to expand it to 947 acre feet. The expansion will submerge some small wetland areas that are around the reservoir at its present size and the town has plans to compensate for that loss by replacing the wetland areas with new ones. Those plans are mainly what need approval from the Corps of Engineers and it’s unclear if that will happen.

    “We might want to get some other plans in the works if it looks like they’re going to fight us on these,” said water attorney Ramsey Kropf. “Then again, they might fight us on anything we propose.”

    Costs were also bumped up in 2010 when the latest plans for the expansion were approved by Gypsum Town Council. Council members opted to expand the reservoir to 947 acre feet instead of 680 acre feet as originally planned. That budget presented the town with a $680,000 funding shortfall. However, the larger option was a much better value per acre foot.

    At that point, the project was estimated to cost about $4.5 million. Now that number is just over $5 million, leaving a difference of $536,000 to scratch up.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Restoration: Gilman mine mitigation helps clean up the Eagle River

    July 2, 2012


    From the Summit Daily News (Randy Wyrick):

    After many years of Eagle Mine cleanup — cleanup of contaminants such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc — the river is pretty healthy, [Melissa MacDonald] said.

    “It’s pretty good. It meets the existing standard for the river,” said MacDonald, executive director of the Eagle River Watershed Council. “We’d like a little higher standard, but currently they’re doing a good job.”

    “They” are CBS, the media company, formerly Viacom. They acquired the Eagle Mine in the mid-1980s as part of some other deal. What they acquired was a Superfund site, designating the Eagle Mine as one of the nation’s most polluted places.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

    Colorado River: The Eagle River Watershed Council is embarking on a study of the river through Eagle County #CORiver

    July 2, 2012


    From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

    The Eagle River Watershed Council is now beginning a project with the county and Colorado State University to fill in those blanks. “We were updating the Eagle River watershed plan and discovered there wasn’t much scientific data for Eagle County’s stretch of the Colorado River,” said Melissa Macdonald, ERWC’s executive director. “We are essentially doing an inventory of the river to get a baseline of data that will help us prioritize future projects there.”[...]

    ERWC is beginning its separate project to collect data on the Colorado River. “Ideally we would already have the baseline data before coming out with the new watershed plan but we’ll accommodate it somehow after the study comes out,” Simonton said. “The study might affirm what the plan recommends or it might trigger a future amendment to the plan. In any instance it will be very beneficial.”

    The timing of ERWC’s baseline study is also appropriate now that Eagle County Open Space is acquiring more public access points along a river corridor that was previously isolated by private property…

    ERWC has already received a $30,000 grant from the Colorado Basin Roundtable for the Colorado River study and applied for much more grant money at the Roundtable’s meeting in Glenwood Springs on Monday…

    Macdonald said RiverFest 2012 will be celebrating two of the county’s new public access points on the Colorado River with a ribbon-cutting on Aug. 11. The event doubles as a fund-raiser for ERWC, featuring guided float trips and dinner for $75 per person or just $40 for the dinner. For more information, visit http://erwc.org/index.php/about/events-and-volunteer-opportunities/events/riverfest-2012/ or call (970) 827-5406.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here and here.

    Drought news: ‘We’re going to operate our system in a way that’s protective of fish’ — Linn Brooks #CODrought

    July 2, 2012


    From the Vail Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

    If and when streamflows drop below certain levels, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District could be forced to enact strict water-use limits on top of ongoing conservation efforts, according to district general manager Linn Brooks…

    The community water system also includes the two Black Lakes reservoirs, near Vail Pass, as well as Homestake Reservoir and also has access to water in Wolford Mountain Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir. The water in the reservoirs is used primarily for augmentation, which means when the district removes water from Gore Creek and the Eagle River, it can replace that water from the reservoirs to compensate downstream users.

    This year, the Homestake Reservoir water is not available because the reservoir has been drained for repairs. That complicates the overall picture a bit, but in any case, that augmentation water, even though it’s destined for downstream users, can help sustain stream flows in Eagle County.

    For now, flows are tracking close to where they were during the 2002 drought, which at the time was characterized as a 500-year event by some water experts. Gore Creek flows are a little lower than in 2002, at about 20 to 30 percent of average for this time of year. High in the drainage, at a gage in the wilderness was reading only at 11 percent of normal…

    A somewhat normal monsoon season, with intermittent rains from mid-July to mid- or late August would likely sustain flows enough to stave off the most drastic conservation measures this year. But summer rains don’t compensate for a lack of winter snow. Snowpack is the key for sustaining base flows throughout the summer. “Thunderstorms can come in and drop a lot of moisture, but the ground can’t absorb all that water. It surges through the system and gives a short-lived benefit. A good rainstorm can give a week of propped up rainflows, she said…

    The district uses water from both Gore Creek and the Eagle River, as well as a handful of wells, and has the ability to shunt water in different directions through a web of pipes to meet the needs — and address potential shortages in different parts of the system…

    The district also monitors stream temperatures. If the climb to a point deemed dangerous to fish, that could also trigger operational changes. “We’re going to operate our system in a way that’s protective of fish,” she emphasized.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

    ‘Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water’ — Alan Hamel

    June 10, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “We have to protect the water we have, as well as provide water for endangered species,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water, particularly for use in power generation.” Last month, the Pueblo water board and other members of the Front Range Water Council weighed in on the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for oil shale and tar sands…

    The Front Range Water Council includes the major organizations that import water from the Colorado River: Denver Water, the Northern and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and the Pueblo water board. Collectively, they provide water to 4 million people, 82 percent of the population in Colorado.

    More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.

    Edwards: Eagle River Valley State of the River public meeting tomorrow

    May 29, 2012


    Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

    for water management in the Eagle River Valley – a place where life is sustained by the Eagle River and its tributaries.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System has declared a severe drought in Eagle County and an extreme drought in part of the Colorado River Basin. As of May 24, snowpack levels in the basin stood at 11 percent of average.

    The public can learn more about current drought conditions, water supply, and streamflow forecasts at the annual Eagle River Valley State of the River public meeting set for 5:30-8 p.m. May 30 at the Berry Creek Middle School auditorium in Edwards. The event is free and is hosted by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Colorado River District, and the Eagle River Watershed Council.

    The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a casual reception with light dinner snacks and soft drinks. The evening program begins at 6 p.m. with Mage Hultstrand from the Natural Resources Conservation Service presenting about this winter’s record low snowpack, current river conditions, and streamflow forecasts.

    John Mark Seelig with Lakota Guides, John Packer with Fly Fishing Outfitters, and Linn Brooks with Eagle River Water and Sanitation District will discuss plans to mitigate drought impacts locally from a rafting, fishing, and public water system provider perspective. Kendall Bakich with Colorado Parks and Wildlife will address the possibility of voluntary fishing closures being instituted locally.

    The meeting also will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Colorado River District, which was formed in 1937 to protect Western Colorado water against diversions across the mountains to the Front Range. Chris Treese will talk about the Colorado River District’s 75-year history, the statewide Water 2012 celebration, and update the public on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which was signed in February by Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Eagle Park Reservoir Company, and Eagle County.

    The program concludes with an update on Eagle River Valley waterways – Gore Creek, Eagle River, and the Colorado River. Brooks, Melissa Macdonald with Eagle River Watershed Council, and Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney will participate in a panel discussion about recent and planned initiatives that aim to improve water quality and stream health in the Eagle River Valley.

    For more information, contact Eagle River Water & Sanitation District at 970-477-5457 or the Eagle River Watershed Council at 970-827-5406.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

    Red Cliff is back in the water and wastewater business

    May 13, 2012


    From the Vail Daily:

    According to a release from the district, Red Cliff and the district mutually decided in mid-April to end the operations agreement and arranged for the contract to expire May 12. Red Cliff’s former and current Board of Trustees supported the decision.

    “In 2007, the district brought industry expertise and financial assistance to improve Red Cliff’s drinking water facility and treatment processes,” district director of operations Todd Fessenden said. “We helped bring the new wastewater treatment plant to fruition and upgraded other system components. We agree with Red Cliff that now is a good time to transition to a new operator to run the town’s systems.”

    The district provided technical expertise and support to Red Cliff while the town successfully secured funding for a new wastewater treatment plant, which was subsequently built and put into operation in October 2010. Some of the funding Red Cliff secured required upgrades to the town water distribution system, including installation of water meters at every residence and business in town. District staff completed that project between 2007 and 2009 and also coordinated a rehabilitation of Red Cliff’s drinking water facility in 2008.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

    Colorado Springs Utilities’ Steve Berry: ‘In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered’

    March 5, 2012


    Last week, the day before the Statewide Roundtable Summit, Western Resource Advocates, et. al., released a report titled, “Meeting Future Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin.” Colorado Springs and Pueblo are taking a hard look at the report, according to this article from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. “Colorado Springs Utilities was asked to peer review the draft version, and made extensive and substantial comments on it. In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered, and many of our suggested changes or corrections were not made,” said Steve Berry, spokesman for Utilities. The largest amounts of water, and presumably the largest conservation and reuse savings, come from Colorado Springs.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works is also reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager…

    The environmental groups say a combination of projects already on the books — conservation, reuse and temporary ag-urban transfers — could provide as much as 140,000 acre-feet, more than enough to meet the needs. Those numbers are being examined by urban water planners, who say the savings might not be attainable. “In general, we were unable to verify or recreate most of the numbers cited in their report, and their estimates for conservation and reuse are significantly greater than what our water conservation experts have calculated as realistic,” Berry said…

    When asked how conservation savings would be applied to new supplies, a practice cities find risky, Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, said they could be put into “savings accounts” for future use. When asked where the water would be stored, he cited the T-Cross reservoir site on Williams Creek in El Paso County that is part of the Southern Delivery System plan…

    Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the group supports [the Southern Delivery System]. Because the project already is under way, the groups look at SDS as a key way to fill the gap. The report also supports programs like Super Ditch as ways to temporarily transfer agricultural water to cities without permanently drying up farmland.

    Meanwhile, here’s a look at a report from the Northwest Council of Governments, “Water and Its Relationship to the Economies of the Headwaters Counties,” from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

    The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report.

    “This report makes an important contribution to the on-going dialogue about adverse economic impacts associated with losing water by focusing attention on Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties,” said Jean Coley Townsend, the author of the report. “This has never been done before. The report provides an important counterbalance to earlier studies that show economic impacts of losing water from the Eastern Plains.”

    Balancing the supply and demand of water could be the State’s most pressing issue. The report does not take issue with Front Range municipal or Eastern Plains agricultural water users — all parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view — but is meant as a thorough review of water as an economic driver of headwaters economic development.

    The report provides a balance to the existing solid body of work that measures the potential economic effects of less water on the Front Range and the Eastern Plains and the loss of agriculture in those parts of the state.

    “If we … are going to solve our Statewide water supply shortage challenges there must first be statewide mutual respect and true understanding of each other’s water supply challenges,” said Zach Margolis, Town of Silverthorne Utility Manager. “The report is a remarkable compilation of the West Slope’s water obligations and limitations as well as the statewide economic value of water in the headwater counties of Colorado.”

    More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

    Eagle River area water providers and Eagle County are the first groups to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    February 22, 2012


    From the Associated Press via CBS4Denver.com:

    Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Co. met Tuesday to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement…

    “With this Colorado River Cooperative Agreement I really think it completes the paper trail if you will; it completes a package where Denver is no longer a threat, Denver is now a partner,” Eric Kuhn with the Colorado River District said…

    The Eagle County water users are the first parties in the state to ratify the deal.

    Update: I’m now linking to a corrected story from the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz). Thanks to Diane Johnson from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District for the heads up. Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a photo of those present at the signing (photo credit Diane Johnson).

    More coverage from Derek Franz writing for the Eagle Valley Enterprise. Click through for the photo from the signing. Here’s an excerpt:

    Eagle County representatives became the first large group of 40 entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at Tuesday’s regular commissioner meeting. The agreement addresses numerous water issues from the Continental Divide to the Utah border…

    The agreement was mostly completed by April 2011, when Gov. John Hickenlooper announced, “This cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water. It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.” Almost a year later, with some final details in place, the document still needed to be signed. Eagle County decided to get the ball rolling…

    “Porzak said the Eagle River has never had any significant transmountain diversions when compared to Grand and Summit counties. Nearly 300,000 acre feet of water are diverted from Grand County and more than 100,000 from Summit County, he said. According to the Denver Water website, one acre-foot of water serves about 2 1/2 families of four for one year. The Eagle River only has about 20,000 acre feet diverted and it’s now likely to stay that way…

    “Now Denver would need consent from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company to expand its diversion from the Eagle River watershed,” Porzak said. In exchange, Eagle County will not oppose a future interconnect between Clinton Reservoir and Eagle Park Reservoir. Other details about the plan and how it pertains to other entities can be found at the websites of Denver Water and the Colorado River District (see info box).

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

    Tuesday: Two Eagle River area utilities and Eagle county will be the first entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    February 18, 2012


    Here’s the release from Eagle County (Diane Johnson/Kris Friel):

    Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company will gather at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Eagle County Building to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Five years in the making, the agreement between Denver Water and 41 Western Slope water providers, local governments and ski resort operators ensures statewide cooperation on Colorado River water issues and is the broadest in scope of its kind in state history.

    The signing in Eagle will be the first to take place in the state as the agreement makes its way from the Colorado River headwaters to the Utah state line. The draft document is available on the Colorado River District website at www.crwcd.org/page_336.

    Focused on cooperation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement brings traditional water foes together as partners for responsible water development benefiting both Denver Water and the Western Slope. According to its authors, it prevents future transmountain diversions from the Eagle River Basin, achieves better environmental health in the Colorado River Basin, promotes high-quality recreational use, and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river.

    The Eagle County entities were instrumental in both initiating and completing the complicated negotiations that ultimately created the agreement. “The cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper during the April 28, 2011 announcement of the agreement. “It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.”

    In addition to its benefits for Denver Water and the Western Slope, the agreement will trigger a major water-sharing and conservation arrangement between Denver Water and Aurora Water and water providers in the South Denver Metro Area.

    The agreement focuses on enhancing the environmental river health in much of the Colorado River Basin and its tributaries upstream of Grand Junction, and supporting many Western Slope communities and water providers to improve the quality and quantity of water through new municipal water projects and river management initiatives.

    Locally, benefits to the Eagle River Basin include provisions that preclude Denver Water and any entity served by Denver from developing any future water projects in the Eagle River Basin without the approval of the Eagle County entities. Additionally, a Shoshone outage protocol will ensure sufficient flows in the Colorado River through Eagle County during times when the Shoshone Power Plant may not be operational.

    Supporters agree that the historic agreement will lead to better management and protection of the Colorado River and its tributaries for years to come. Representatives of the Eagle County entities will be on hand to discuss the agreement in more detail at Tuesday’s meeting. The event will be broadcast live on ecotv18 as well as streamed live and archived for future viewing at http://www.ecotv18.com.

    From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Co. are scheduled to meet Tuesday to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement…

    The Eagle County entities are among parties that announced the agreement last year with Denver Water, but the parties still have to ratify it. The Eagle County entities would be the first to do so.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

    Vail: Eagle River Watershed Council’s Water Wise presentation tonight

    January 25, 2012


    From the Vail Daily:

    Allen Best, a former Vail-area journalist, will speak at the Eagle River Watershed Council’s Water Wise at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Route 6 Café in Eagle-Vail. His topic is “Deciphering the Science: One Journalist’s Take on Climate Change and Water in the West.”

    More education coverage here.

    Climax Mine to re-open this year, plans in place to protect water quality in reservoirs used for augmentation and supply

    January 15, 2012


    From the Vail Daily (Laura Glendenning):

    The Eagle Park Reservoir wasn’t always so beautiful, though — it was once a pond that collected highly acidic tailings from the nearby molybdenum mining and milling operation known as the Climax Mine. Molybdenum is a metal used as an addition to steels, irons and nonferrous alloys…

    A Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology report, “Mined Land Reclamation in Colorado,” cites a 1993 agreement between Vail Associates and the Climax Molybdenum Co. to complete a tailing-removal project and reclamation of the Oxide Pond to a fresh-water reservoir. Water attorney Glenn Porzak said Vail Associates later paid a total of $6 million for the cleanup, with another $6 million paid by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Those groups make up the Eagle Park Reservoir Co., formed in 1998. The reservoir is now the major in-basin water supply for augmentation water — basically water that is used to replenish stream water — for all of those water entities, Porzak said — “it’s the motherlode.”[...]

    Fast forward to 2012, and the Climax Mine, now owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, is reopening its molybdenum-mining operation, except this time around, the Eagle Park Reservoir is off limits as a tailings dumping site. The Eagle Park Reservoir Co., which includes board members from Vail Resorts and the local water authorities, came to an agreement with Climax outlining a water-quality-monitoring plan that was recently reviewed and approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety…

    [Eric Kinneberg, spokesman for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold] said the Climax Mine plans to start production this year, but he couldn’t release an exact date just yet. He said there will be more information on the scheduled start released with the Freeport-McMoRan fourth-quarter financial results announcement Thursday. Production from the Climax molybdenum mine is expected to ramp up to a rate of 20 million pounds per year during 2013, Kinneberg said, and depending on market conditions, may be increased to 30 million pounds per year. The company is currently in the process of hiring about 70 more employees, for a total of 350 employees, to work at the mine, he said.

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

    Colorado River Basin: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system?

    December 25, 2011


    Here’s a guest commentary written by Eric Kuhn, David Modeer and Fred Krupp running in The Denver Post. The trio are issuing a call to arms of sort, asking for input for the Colorado River Basin Study. Here’s an excerpt:

    Management of the Colorado River is a complex balancing act between the diverse interests of United States and Mexico, tribes, the seven basin states, individual water users, stakeholders, and communities. The challenges posed by new growth and climate change may dwarf anything we faced in the past. Instead of staring into the abyss, the water users, agencies, and stakeholder groups that make managing the Colorado River responsibly their business are working together, using the best science available to define the problem, and looking for solutions.

    We’re calling our inquiry the Colorado River Basin Study, and we want your help. As Colorado River management professionals, we have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but we know that we don’t have them all. We want ideas from the public, from you, but we need your input by February 1. You can submit your suggestions by completing the online form at: http://on.doi.gov/uvhkUi.

    The big question we need to answer is: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system? We don’t believe there’s a single silver bullet that will resolve all of our challenges. We want to continue to explore the benefits and costs of every possibility, from conservation to desalination to importing water from other regions.

    The West was built on innovation and hard work, and that spirit is still strong. Our landscapes and communities are unparalleled in their beauty, resilience, and character. The economic well-being of our rural and urban communities in the Colorado River basin is inextricably linked to Colorado River and its environmental health.

    That’s why we are asking for the public’s input to help us craft a study showing a path forward that supplies our communities with the water they need to thrive and protects the health of the Colorado River-and the ecosystems and economies it supports.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.

    Gypsum: Flint Eagle LLC hopes to test geothermal potential of the Rio Grande rift at airport site

    December 9, 2011


    From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

    Lee Robinson of Flint Eagle hopes to find water in the Rio Grande Rift that’s hot enough to use for heating or energy. The concept of going that deep is a relatively new one. Most geothermal resources that are used today are much closer to the earth’s surface.

    Since he first approached the town of Gypsum, the permitting has become more involved than initially predicted. Mineral and water rights had to be determined first, and now Robinson is working with the Department of Water Resources for permits that clarify and stipulate all the procedures that will be used for the well.

    “Right now it’s a paper process,” Robinson said. “It details how the operation will be conducted but there is nothing that is controversial. Our objective now is to test the volume, chemistry and temperature.” Robinson hopes to get a draft permit with the first quarter of 2012. If that happens, he would be drilling the exploratory well within a year.

    More geothermal coverage here and here.

    Dennis Gelvin retires from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Linn Brooks promoted to General Manager

    November 22, 2011


    Here’s the release about Dennis Gelvin’s retirement.

    From email from the district (Diane Johnson):

    The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District board promoted Linn Brooks to General Manager at their November 17 meeting. Brooks takes over immediately from 18-year GM, Dennis Gelvin, who is retiring.

    Board chairman Rick Sackbauer noted Brooks’ readiness for the position, in part due to Gelvin’s succession planning efforts. Brooks, a 12-year employee, has been the assistant general manager for four years.

    Brooks has worked closely with local governments on water and wastewater matters. “I’ve learned a lot about water management from Linn. She is a professional,” said Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who also serves on the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I can’t imagine a better leader for the district for the future.”

    Originally hired as the Staff Engineer, Brooks developed a proactive approach to upgrade and replace most of the water and sewer mains in Vail Village during Vail’s redevelopment and streetscape improvements. Later, as Technical Services Director, she initiated a comprehensive upgrade to the District’s information technology services. Once she became AGM, water and wastewater operations also came under her purview.

    “We will all benefit not only from her substantial expertise, but the institutional knowledge she brings to her new position,” said Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks (no relation). “Linn’s appointment as General Manager is an excellent fit for the ERWSD. We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber in this position.”

    Brooks has successfully navigated local and federal permitting processes to develop water system infrastructure and has been instrumental in raising awareness of non-point source pollution and its effects on the aquatic environment in Gore Creek and Eagle River. She brings stakeholders together, looking beyond just District interests, to address mutual issues such as water quality and wilderness legislation.

    Brooks looks forward to sustained challenges associated with a changing regulatory environment and providing high quality water and wastewater services during difficult economic conditions.

    “I’m grateful to the board for its confidence in me,” said Brooks, “Dennis Gelvin leaves an organization that is a model for how good government should work. We have a great team at the District that is positioned to continue that legacy.”

    More coverage from the Vail Daily:

    Brooks, a 12-year employee, has been the assistant general manager for four years.

    Brooks has worked closely with local governments on water and wastewater matters.

    “I’ve learned a lot about water management from Linn. She is a professional,” said Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who also serves on the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I can’t imagine a better leader for the district for the future.”

    More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

    Aurora, Denver and the South Metro Water Supply Authority embark on the WISE project to share facilities and reuse wastewater treatment plant effluent

    October 11, 2011


    Here’s the release from the partners.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.


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