DeBeque (Kobe) pipeline project will supply oil and gas operations and irrigators #ColoradoRiver

October 31, 2014


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A water project that had its beginnings three decades back in connection with possible oil shale development has been revived and repurposed for another kind of energy production involving shale rock.

The pipeline project in the De Beque area also will provide additional benefits including serving up irrigation water to meet the region’s needs and reducing truck traffic related to getting water to and from energy development operations.

The $8 million project is being paid for by Black Hills Exploration & Production and is part of a large infrastructure project that will aid in the company’s efforts to use horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to produce from the Mancos shale formation. But the water intake facility on the Colorado River and a short portion of a 24-inch-diameter water pipeline now being extended date back to the 1980s.

Getty Oil built the intake for an oil shale project that never came to fruition, said Dave Merritt, a board member of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which leased the water rights to Getty. The river district continues to hold those rights today.

“It shows the importance of holding on to water rights,” said Merritt, who has been involved with the project since 1985, having had a longtime career for the river district as an engineer.

“It wasn’t until a few years ago that we were able to come up with an agreement to fully implement this project,” he said.

The 1980s saw an end to the region’s last oil shale boom, as companies couldn’t economically mine and heat the vast reserves of kerogen in northwest Colorado’s Green River shale formation to produce oil.

Instead, energy developers largely turned their attention locally to using hydraulic fracturing to produce gas from wells drilled into the Williams Fork sandstone. And now Black Hills and other companies are using fracking and horizontal drilling to explore and produce gas and liquids from the deeper Mancos and Niobrara shales, just as companies have pursued projects to drill and frack in shale across the country.

The De Beque pipeline project, also known as the Kobe project, will help supply the water Black Hills needs for its Mancos fracking via the 24-inch pipeline that will feed water pumped from the Colorado River to eight, 500-barrel tanks at a terminal northwest of De Beque. But only about 5 cubic feet per second of water will go for industrial uses. Fifteen cfs will be used for irrigation, including by the town of De Beque, which will be able to access it via a ditch.

The town has water rights that are senior to a number of ranchers in the area, so providing more water to the town should reduce the need for calls on water that otherwise would go to others.

“This last summer I was pretty well cut off for most of the time,” said Marty Holt, a rancher up Roan Creek.

Holt serves on the board of the Bluestone Water Conservancy District, which is working jointly with the river district on a project that is getting done at no cost to taxpayers due to Black Hills’ involvement.

“Water for energy development is extremely valuable,” Merritt explained. “They’re much more willing to pay for it.”

The larger infrastructure project also involves installation of a 12-inch-diameter gas pipeline that uses the same corridor as the water pipeline and extends farther west to places Black Hills is drilling. In addition, Black Hills will be repurposing an 8-inch-diameter gas pipeline in the corridor for use in transporting produced water from drilling operations. The company will be operating a facility that will let it recycle water from wells and use it to fracture other wells.

That facility will be operated adjacent to a recently constructed Summit Midstream gas processing plant that is supporting drilling in the area and is capable of handling 20 million cubic feet of gas a day. It’s a cryogenic plant that cools the gas to allow liquids to be stripped from it and sold separately. The new 12-inch gas line will tie into that plant.

In a brief statement Black Hills issued in a request for comment on the project, it said work on the pipeline infrastructure began in late July and is expected to be completed by year’s end. It also pointed to various approvals it had to obtain, including from the Bureau of Land Management and Mesa and Garfield counties. The pipeline corridor also crosses private property, much of it owned by Chevron.

The $8 million part of the project pertains only to work associated with installing and putting into operation the plastic water line that also will meet irrigation needs. While the overall project cost hasn’t been made public, it has involved as many as 300 workers during peak periods, said Brock Degeyter, general counsel for Summit Midstream, which is the project’s general contractor.

Due to rugged terrain and the challenges of locating multiple pipelines in a single, narrow right of way, crews have used horizontal boring rather than open trenches to install many pipeline segments. Ray Tenney, deputy chief engineer for the river district, said as many as nine boring crews have been on site, and pipes haves been pulled through bores as long as 1,180 feet.

Degeyter said such techniques aren’t unusual in mountainous areas.

But he added, “We do think it’s a great example of really state-of-the-art construction techniques, for sure.”

He called the project “a coordinated effort.”

“A couple different parties are getting some significant things done that will ultimately help, I think, consumers — consumers of water, gas, etc. — all at the same time, which is obviously a good, efficient use of resources,” Degeyter said.

“I think it is going to wind up being a very successful and efficient project for us,” he said.

The project also could serve other energy companies besides Black Hills, and it is being hailed as a means of reducing truck traffic through the De Beque area, partly through the movement of water via pipeline to the terminal northwest of town. The tanks at the terminal could provide contract deliveries for trucks serving energy development.

Black Hills’ use of the new produced water line also will cut down on traffic. Mesa County Commissioner John Justman, who also serves on the river district board, notes that reducing truck traffic was a big selling point when Black Hills’ water recycling plant went through Mesa County’s permitting process.

He added that in a time of drought, “recycling the water and reusing it is another big deal.”


We’re damming up biggest rivers on Earth. Why that is a bad idea. — American Rivers

October 30, 2014


WISE One Step Closer to Delivering Water

October 30, 2014
WISE System Map September 11, 2014

WISE System Map September 11, 2014

Here’s the release from the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Denver Water, and the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District (Russ Rizzo/Stacy Chesney/Andy Cohen):

WISE One Step Closer to Delivering Water

  • Purchase of East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District pipeline by South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water finalized
  • Water delivery to begin in 2016 following additional infrastructure build-out
  • Partnership represents new era in regional cooperation and water efficiency
  • The southern suburbs of Denver took a significant step forward in shifting to a water system that makes use of renewable water supply on Oct. 21 when members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water purchased the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District’s Western Waterline. The pipeline purchase is a significant milestone in WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency), a partnership between 10 of the South Metro members, Denver Water and Aurora Water to share water supply and infrastructure.

    Using Aurora’s Prairie Waters system, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide water through the Western pipeline to participating South Metro members on a permanent basis. WISE will also provide a new emergency supply for Denver Water, and offset costs and stabilize water rates for Aurora.

    “The purchase of ECCV’s pipeline makes WISE and the sharing of water supplies possible,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “This is a significant milestone for the WISE Partnership and moves communities throughout the South Metro area one step closer to a secure and sustainable water future,” he said.

    The 20-mile east-west pipeline along E-470 and C-470 has capacity to deliver 38 million gallons of water a day to Douglas and Arapahoe counties.

    “Our sale of this pipeline is mutually beneficial for all the parties involved,” said O. Karl Kasch, president of the ECCV board. “Under the purchase and sale agreement, ECCV will still have the capacity we need in the pipeline, while also supporting a regional solution to one of the most important water challenges facing the Denver metro region. We have always viewed the Western Waterline as an infrastructure asset from which the entire South Metro community can benefit, and that’s what will be accomplished.”

    Under the agreement, Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to South-Metro water suppliers beginning in 2016 with the option to increase to 10,000 acre-feet in future years.

    “We’re thrilled to be moving forward with the WISE Partnership,” said Dave Little, director of planning for Denver Water. “This agreement will create more system flexibility and increase the reliability of our water supply system, leading to a more secure water future for communities throughout the region.”

    WISE water is expected to begin flowing through the ECCV pipeline in 2016, once the remaining infrastructure, such as system interconnects, are complete.

    For additional details on the WISE project and updates, visit http://www.southmetrowater.org/storage-WISE.html.

    More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post:

    Denver and south metro suburbs have taken a $34 million step toward water-sharing to wean the suburbs off dwindling underground aquifers.

    The South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water announced Wednesday they bought a 20-mile pipeline — built for $44 million in 2004 by the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District — to carry excess Denver and Aurora water to 10 suburbs including Castle Rock, Centennial and Parker.

    This east-west pipeline is seen as the spine of a new distribution system to move an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to suburbs that, in some cases, remain totally dependent on the finite Denver Basin aquifer.

    “This allows them to change the way they are using the aquifer,” said Eric Hecox, director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which represents the suburbs. “It won’t get them off the aquifer completely. It will allow them to use it as a backup supply.”

    Denver Basin aquifer system

    Denver Basin aquifer system

    Colorado has let developers tap aquifers to serve multiplying new homes, but pumping the underground water is becoming more difficult and costly with water tables falling in some areas by 1 to 3 feet a year.

    About two dozen utilities between Denver and Colorado Springs together pump more than 30,000 acre-feet of water a year from about 440 municipal wells, according to water suppliers.

    This Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project, if it works as envisioned, would take advantage of water already used by Denver and Aurora, cleaning it fully in Aurora’s state-of-the-art water treatment plant.

    More pipeline connections must be built, but buying the ECCV pipeline is a major step, Hecox said.

    South Metro paid 85 percent of the $34 million. Denver Water paid $4.7 million.

    The pipeline runs under the 470 beltway and can carry up to 38 million gallons a day. ECCV can keep moving up to 8 million gallons a day to its southeast metro customers.

    “Without that pipeline, we cannot deliver the water,” Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said. “Now we can start moving forward toward delivering water.”

    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which represents more than a dozen water utilities in the southern edges of the metro area, on Oct. 21 agreed to pay $34 million to buy the pipeline from the East Cherry Creek Valley district. The South Metro water districts is an 85 percent owner of the pipeline and Denver Water paid $4,725,000 for its 15 percent ownership, Bennett said.

    “We found a way between Denver, the South Metro districts and East Cherry Creek to share the capacity of the pipeline, so it will now be used to deliver water to the south metro entities,” said Dave Bennett, a water resource project manager with Denver Water.

    Denver Water, which serves more than 1 million customers in Denver and some surrounding suburbs, also will be able to use the pipeline to capture water and reuse it in its systems, Bennett said.

    “Instead of going out and building a new, duplicate pipeline, we found a way to share that existing infrastructure,” Bennett said.

    The pipeline is crucial to the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) partnership, which includes 10 southern water districts, Denver Water and Aurora Water. Under the WISE agreements, treated water that’s been used once by Denver and Aurora and added to the South Platte River will be recaptured at a spot along the river north of Denver. Then, via Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Water pipeline, the water will be shipped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. After it’s treated at the plant, the Western Waterline pipeline will be crucial for moving the treated water to the southern suburbs.

    “The purchase of ECCV’s pipeline makes WISE and the sharing of water supplies possible,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “This is a significant milestone for the WISE Partnership and moves communities throughout the South Metro area one step closer to a secure and sustainable water future.”

    Under the WISE agreement, Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to south-metro water suppliers beginning in 2016 with the option to increase to 10,000 acre-feet in future years. One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons, enough to support 2½ families of four for a year.

    Karl Kasch, president of the East Cherry Creek Valley board of directors, said the sale of the district’s pipeline was beneficial for all parties. The district retained ownership of 8 million gallons per day worth of capacity on the pipeline, which can carry 38 million gallons of water per day.

    “Under the purchase and sale agreement, ECCV [the district] will still have the capacity we need in the pipeline, while also supporting a regional solution to one of the most important water challenges facing the Denver metro region,” Kasch said.

    “We have always viewed the Western Waterline as an infrastructure asset from which the entire South Metro community can benefit, and that’s what will be accomplished,” he said.

    More work needs to be done to connect the pipeline to Aurora’s water treatment plant, connect it to Denver Water’s system, and connect the southern water districts to the pipeline, but that’s expected to be done in the next few years, Bennett said.

    More WISE Project coverage here.


    Durango faces possible $55 million in wastewater plant upgrades

    October 22, 2014
    Wastewater Treatment Process

    Wastewater Treatment Process

    From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

    In addition to the staggering estimate, the construction must be completed by December 2017 to meet state regulations for higher water quality.

    Currently, the plant is releasing more nitrogen and phosphorous into the Animas River than the new regulations allow.

    If the plant does not meet the new rules, it could be placed under a consent order by the state and will not be allowed to build any more sewer taps. This would halt any city growth. It could also equate to a $25,000 daily fine, said Utilities Director Steve Salka.

    The regulations were approved in 2012 because high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous causes algae to bloom faster than ecosystems can handle. Too much algae deprives fish and other aquatic life of oxygen, said Meghan Trubee, community relations liaison for the Colorado Water Quality Control Division.

    “We’re affecting the base of the food cycle in the wild,” said John Sandhaus, wastewater treatment plant superintendent for the city of Durango.

    To remove what is effectively too much fertilizer, the sewer plant will need greater capacity and new technology, he said.

    The upgrades should make the plant quieter and reduce the sickening smell that occasionally wafts across Santa Rita Park.

    “If this plant is built the way we suggest it be built, you won’t even know it’s here,” Salka said.

    Designs include 11 new structures, including a new administration building that may be built near the park to distance the public from the process, Salka said.

    The capacity of the plant also will be increased from 3 millions gallons of water per day to 4 million, so it would be prepared for growth.

    The new structures will add more equipment to almost every step of the treatment process.

    When raw sewage enters the plant, it flows into a headworks building where the current flow-measurement device is too small to handle peak times. It also violates state standards because it cannot be cleaned or calibrated because it is underneath the concrete floor, Sandhaus said.

    Once inorganic matter is removed, the waste flows into stilling basins, called primary clarifiers. Here, solid waste is separated from the liquid waste. These would not be replaced, but they would be covered with domes to filter the air.

    The water then flows into an aeration basin where micro-organisms digest the waste in the water.

    “We call ourselves bug farmers,” Sandhaus joked, while looking out across the dark-brown bubbling basins.

    Four new aeration basins must be built with about five times the capacity of the existing basins, Sandhaus said.

    Management also plans to replace the blowers that pump air into the basins from direct current to alternating current for efficiency, Salka said.

    Solids are then removed from the water again in secondary basins, and the plant will need two more of these basins.

    The water is then sterilized with ultraviolet light. A secondary sterilizer will be part of the upgrades because the plant is violating state regulations without one.

    Sludge is processed separately from water in a digester. Much as the name suggests, here micro-organisms feed on the waste. The upgrades call for another digester that will prevent the stench currently caused by cleaning and maintenance.

    Under the plan, processed waste will be dried in another new building. Here, human waste will be turned into dry pellets that can be sold as fertilizer.

    Currently, the plant produces four to five tanker truck loads a day of mostly water mixed with 2.5 percent processed human waste. The plant pays $250,000 a year to truck this waste away.

    The preliminary designs also call for a station where restaurants could send grease instead of pouring it down a drain. This can be used to increase the production of methane and produce more electricity.

    All of these improvements would be scheduled, so that the plant can continue processing waste during construction. April 2016 is the earliest that construction may start.

    More wastewater coverage here.


    Alamosa water rates to increase

    October 21, 2014
    Alamosa railroad depot circa 1912

    Alamosa railroad depot circa 1912

    From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    It’s good news, but not as good as originally reported. Contrary to an earlier misperception, water rates in the City of Alamosa will increase next year just not above what the city council had scheduled to do several years ago.

    Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks clarified that although the city will not have to go above the increases the council had set a few years ago, there will be rate increases next year.

    She said in 2011 the city council passed an ordinance setting rate increases for five years. With additional costs to replace filters in the water treatment plant this year, city staff were concerned they might have to increase fees above the 2011-approved levels for 2015, but the staff were able to incorporate the additional costs for the filters into the budget without increasing water fees above the levels set out in the 2011 ordinance.

    The city faces additional water system challenges in the future, such as the possibility of stricter arsenic regulations, and the staff will closely monitor those developments regarding their potential budget impacts.

    City water customers are charged a monthly service charge plus a monthly volume charge according to their metered use. According to the ordinance the council approved in 2011:

  • In 2012 the volume charge per 1,000 gallons was $1.22 up to 8,000 gallons; $1.54 from 8,001-50 ,000 gallons; $1.97 from 50,001-100 ,000 gallons ; and $2.56 per thousand gallons in excess of 100,000 gallons.
  • In 2013 the volume charge per 1,000 gallons increased to $1.26 up to 8,000 gallons; $1.59 from 8,001-50 ,000 gallons; $2.04 from 50,001-100 ,000; and $2.64 per thousand gallons in excess of 100,000 gallons.
  • In 2014 the ordinance increased the water fees to $1.30 per 1,000 gallons up to 8,000 gallons; $1.64 from 8,001-50 ,000 gallons; $2.11 from 50,001-100 ,000 gallons; and $2.72 per thousand gallons in excess of 100,000 gallons. Next year, 2015, the ordinance set the following rates, which reflect a slight increase over the 2014 water fees: $1.35 per 1,000 gallons up to 8,000 gallons; $1.70 from 8,001-50 ,000 gallons; $2.19 from 50,001-100 ,000; and $2.80 per thousand gallons in excess of 100,000 gallons.
  • The ordinance the council passed in 2011 extends through 2016, increasing the above rates from 2015 to 2016 by 6 cents, 7 cents, 9 cents and 10 cents, respectively.

    The public hearing for the city’s 2015 budget is scheduled this Wednesday, Oct. 15, during the 7 p.m. city council meeting at city hall, 300 Hunt Ave., Alamosa. To view the budget online go to www. cityofalamosa.org and click the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting.

    More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.


    It’s Time to Put Water First | Heather Himmelberger | TEDxABQ

    October 17, 2014


    San Juan River Basin: Dry Gulch Project update

    October 17, 2014
    San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

    San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

    from The Pagosa Springs Sun (Renita Freeman):

    In the regularly scheduled meeting of the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) on Oct.14, board chairman Rod Proffitt discussed the progress and tour of the Dry Gulch Water Storage Facility (Dry Gulch Project), concerns of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and the appraisal value of the Running Iron Ranch.

    In a letter of intent dated Sept. 10 between SJWCD and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD), each party agreed to work toward finalizing a satisfactory agreement that both relieves PAWSD of its financial obligations to the Dry Gulch Project and acknowledges efforts by SJWCD to develop the Dry Gulch Project on a more practicable basis with a broader group of interested partners.

    The letter of intent stated that an exchange of PAWSD equity in the ranch to the CWCB for substantial debt relief is to both parties’ mutual advantage.

    The letter of intent also states that if the principal outstanding on the loan cannot be reduced by the amount equal to the appraisal value of the ranch or $4.6 million, whichever is more, PAWSD may seek other means to reduce its debt to the CWCB. The letter of intent further states that the annual interest rate may be reduced to no more than 1.75 percent and a full term for payment of 30 years.

    SJWCD agreed to provide an appraisal of the ranch to the CWCB, which would establish the fair market value of the 660-acre ranch, shared water rights directly and indirectly related to the Dry Gulch Project, and long-term debt obligations to the CWCB incurred in the purchase of the ranch…

    Proffitt went on to explain that the problems with comparables done on similar ranches which sold for more was the fact they had more buildings and structures in place, as well as more riverfront on the properties than those of the ranch that was appraised.

    Proffitt told the board he had completed a tour of the Dry Gulch Project with CWCB Commissioner James Eklund, Jeff Robbins, legal council for PAWSD, and Kent Holsinger, legal council for SJWCD.

    Eklund was impressed with the site, Proffitt explained…

    Proffitt told the SJWCD board Tuesday evening that steps should be taken in order to satisfy the CWCB concerns that the board stayed focused on the Dry Gulch Project and did not wane.

    “Due diligence is needed to keep the Dry Gulch Project moving forward. Hopefully, the courts will see we are exercising due diligence,” he said.

    In an email, CWCB Deputy Director of Resource Management Tim Feehan stated other items CWCB would like to see as part of an agreement going forward: “SJWCD would retain an equitable interest in the Dry Gulch Project and its fee interest in the property. SJWCD would be able to move forward with land exchanges to further the Project.”

    Other items for consideration mentioned in the email were that SJWCD would be provided with adequate funding to move the project forward and would take the lead in discussions with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and other potential partners in the project.

    The email went on to state that the CWCB would like to see SJWCD considered as manager/coordinator for the project once it is built and it also needs closure to be on the loan/grant agreement. The correspondence also pointed out a new operating agreement needs to include a forgiveness provision on the loan side of the existing agreement.

    More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here.


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