The latest newsletter from the Middle Colorado Watershed Council is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

August 18, 2014

Typical water well

Typical water well


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

Mark your calendars for a Drinking Water Well hands-on workshop on September 3rd from 5:30 to 7:00 PM hosted by the Middle Colorado Watershed Council. This evening event is designed to assist private land owners in insuring their wells are operable and clean. The workshop will cover:

  • Where does your water come from?
  • Basic well construction and components
  • Land use impacts on domestic well water quality and quantity
  • Naturally occurring contaminants
  • Treatment issues related to domestic wells and water quality
  • Well head protection and well-owner operation and maintenance tips
  • How to sample your well water, what to sample for, and where to find a laboratory.
  • More groundwater coverage here.


    Denver Water: The pour has started! New 256′ diameter roof being poured at Ashland Reservoir

    August 18, 2014

    Water Lines: Dire water predicament spurs cooperation, compromise — Grand Junction Free Press #ColoradoRiver

    August 12, 2014
    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

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

    After a winter of happy news about the generous snowpack in Colorado’s mountains, summer brought reminders that our regional water situation is dire – or, at least, poised on the edge of direness.

    Just as the ink was drying on mid-July headlines announcing that Lake Mead had dropped to its lowest level since filling 80 years ago, a new study found that groundwater loss in the Colorado River Basin has been even more dramatic. The study used satellite data to track changes in the amount of water in the basin from 2004 to 2013, and found that 75 percent of the nearly 53 million acre feet lost during that period was from groundwater depletions.

    While it is easy to measure how much water is in reservoirs, it is much less clear how much groundwater remains in the region’s aquifers. Western Colorado doesn’t rely much on groundwater, but other states in the basin do.

    Then, in early August, researchers at CU-Boulder released an updated report on Climate Change in Colorado. The report notes that higher temperatures are likely to put further pressure on the state’s water supplies, even if we get a bit more rain and snow, because plants will need more and more will evaporate.

    An historic 14-year drought plus increasing demands are pushing the Colorado River system ever closer to the point where it could no longer be able to provide the services people rely on. And groundwater appears to be disappearing too fast to be much of a safety net.

    The City of Las Vegas, Central Arizona farmers and power generation at Glen Canyon Dam are among the first in line to take a hit if water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead continue to drop.

    However, disaster is not inevitable. The multi-state, bi-national agreement to send water back to the Colorado River Delta last spring, for the first time in 30 years, demonstrates that those who manage the river are capable of improbable feats.

    Many of the same minds that negotiated the deal that provided water for the delta are working intensely to find ways to keep Mead and Powell functioning and to keep the region’s cities, farms and environment intact. There seems to be both a growing sense of urgency and an increasingly cooperative spirit to these efforts.

    Not long ago, when I heard Colorado officials and water managers discuss the overuse of water in the Colorado River Basin, they made it clear that this was mostly a problem for California, Arizona and Nevada — and that Colorado was still intent on developing its full legal share. That tune hasn’t exactly changed, but more cooperative efforts have moved into the foreground.

    Most recently, the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority announced that they will team up with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide $11 million for pilot conservation projects to boost levels in Powell and Mead.

    Cooperation is crossing constituencies as well as Upper – Lower basin divisions. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel recently reported that Denver Water, the Colorado River District, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited are working together to explore ways to use some of that $11 million to test “temporary, voluntary and fully compensated” conservation strategies.

    Even within Colorado, some of the conflict between West Slopers and Front Rangers over additional transmountain diversions could be softening. A recent “conceptual agreement” released by Colorado’s Inter-basin Compact Committee, which includes representatives from all the state’s river basins, outlines how additional Colorado River water could be sent East “under the right circumstances.” Central to the draft agreement is the recognition by East Slope entities that a new transmountain diversion may not be able to deliver water every year and must be used along with non-West Slope sources of water.

    These shifts in tone seem to indicate a coming-to-terms with the fact that Colorado River Basin water supplies are limited, and that everyone who relies on them has a stake in finding ways for all to live within those limits. What remains to be seen is whether we can adapt quickly enough to keep ahead of crisis. Don’t stop praying for snow just yet.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


    Many eyes are on Lake Powell and the power pool #ColoradoRiver

    August 12, 2014
    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo USBR

    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

    Here’s a look at the Lake Powell power pool and the cascading effects if the reservoir drops below the level necessary to continue to deliver power to the southwestern US, from Allen Best writing in The Denver Post:

    Colorado water leaders used a curious approach last week in announcing a new water conservation program involving the Colorado River. They talked about electricity and the effect of spiking prices on corn farmers in eastern Colorado, ski area operators on the Western Slope, and cities along the Front Range.

    The scenario? A Lake Powell receding to what is called a minimum power pool, leaving too little water to generate electricity. Glen Canyon Dam, which creates the reservoir, is responsible for 81 percent of the power produced by a series of giant dams on the Colorado River and its tributaries, including those on the Gunnison River. This electricity is distributed by the Western Area Power Administration to 5.8 million people in Colorado, Arizona and other states.

    Should this power supply be interrupted, WAPA would make good on its contracts with local utilities by buying power in the spot market, such as from gas-fired power plants. But extended drought on the Colorado would certainly increase prices to reflect the higher costs of replacement by other sources.

    Hydropower is far cheaper than renewables but also fossil fuels. Rural electrical cooperatives get nearly half the production, followed closely by municipalities, including Colorado Springs, Delta and Sterling, plus Longmont, Loveland, Estes Park and Fort Collins.

    Right now, WAPA is selling the energy from Glen Canyon and the other dams at $12.19 per megawatt-hour with a separate charge for transmission. Just how much prices would increase in event of prolonged interruption is speculative. The same agency, however is shoring up August deliveries with purchases of power from other sources at $55 per megawatt-hour, according to Jeffrey W. Ackerman, the Montrose-based manager of WAPA’s Colorado River Supply Project’s Energy Management Office.

    This illustrates the bone-on-bone relationship between energy production and water during time of drought.

    Yet the broader story about the Colorado River is about a narrowing razor’s edge between supply and demand. There’s no crisis, but water officials are planning for one. A healthy snowpack in Colorado last winter helped, but did not solve problems. The basin as a whole was still below average, as it has been 11 of the last 14 years.

    “As leaders, we simply cannot wait for a crisis to happen before we come together to figure out how to address it,” said Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water. “That would be irresponsible.”

    Denver Water and providers in Arizona, Nevada and California, plus the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, are pooling $11 million to launch a demand-management program. Utilities such as Xcel Energy have similar programs, offering to pay customers willing to suspend use of air conditioners for a couple hours on hot summer afternoons.

    In this case, $2.5 million is being allocated to fund programs that would yield reduced demands in Colorado and other states upstream of Lake Powell. The obvious idea is fallowing of crops, such as a hay meadow, with the irrigator to be reimbursed. But Lochhead stresses that it’s a blank chalkboard. The intent is to solicit ideas and then “demonstrate effective demand-management techniques.”

    “It’s not something we expect to do. It’s not something we want to do, but if the drought continues, we want to be ready,” says John McClow, Colorado’s representative on the Upper Colorado River Commission.

    The bulk of the $11 million will be allocated to demand-management programs in the lower-basin states.

    Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment, sees the agreement as representative of broad shift in states sharing water from the Colorado River. “In the past, they could get together to build things such as dams. Now, they are teaming up to save water,” he says. “That’s a paradigm shift.”

    An effort involving The Nature Conservancy and water agencies based in Durango and Glenwood Springs has been underway for five years. That parallel effort, however, is driven by a different trigger: the prospect of a compact curtailment or “call.” The 1922 Colorado River Compact requires Colorado and the other upper-basin states — Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico — to deliver an average 75 million acre-feet over any given 10-year period.

    Upper basin states at this point have a cushion of 15 million acre-feet, or two years’ supply. Yet abundant snowfall last year in Colorado only slightly filled Lake Powell. One relatively good year does not compensate for several bad ones.

    Always hovering in the background is the prospect of even worse. Tree rings from across the River Basin provide clear evidence of longer, more intense droughts 800 to 900 years ago. An additional layer is the prospect of higher temperatures caused by global warming.

    Chris Treese, external affairs director for the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, acknowledges a growing sense of urgency. “We could be back in a near-crisis or crisis situation in as little two or three years,” he says. And for water planners, who typically try to think decades ahead, that’s a current event, he adds. [ed. emphasis mine]

    How likely is this dead pool? U.S. Bureau of Reclamation modelers in April found a 4 percent chance of a minimum power pool in 2018 and a 6 percent in 2019. The models are based on recorded hydrology of the last 105 years.

    What if Powell does decline and electricity cannot be generated? It depends upon how long the shortage lasts. A longer outage would affect electrical consumers from Arizona to Nebraska. “We’re struggling to quantify the impact,” says Andrew Colismo, government affairs manager for Colorado Springs Utility.

    Tri-State is the single largest consumer, purchasing 28 percent of all power produced in 2012 from the dams. It sells this power to 44 member co-operatives in a four-state region, including those who sell to irrigators in eastern Colorado.

    Irrigation is a huge consumer of cheap power. In northeastern Colorado, Holyoke-based Highline Electric meets demand that ranges from a low of 25 megawatts to a high of 190 megawatts, the latter occurring when irrigation pumps are drawing water from the Ogallala aquifer to spread across 123-acre circles of corn, beans and other crops. Some large irrigators pay hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in electrical costs, says general manager Mark Farnsworth.

    The irony is that if a drought occurs accompanied by heat, as is usually the case, irrigators will probably pump more water and air conditioners will work even harder. Power demands will rise as water levels drop.

    Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey says existing rate structures anticipate both droughts and heavy precipitation.

    Lochhead and others also point to other ripples from interrupted power sales. Revenues from hydroelectric sales, which were $198 million last year, are used for a great many programs: selenium control in the Delta-Montrose area, work to maintain ecosystem integrity downstream from Glen Canyon and ongoing efforts to preserve four endangered fish species in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

    On Wednesday, Lochhead met with an interim legislative water committee at the Colorado Capitol to report about the new agreement. The testimony all day had been about potential measures to expand water conservation as Colorado tries to figure out how to accommodate a population expected to double from today’s 5.3 million residents to 10 million people by mid-century without drying up rivers and farms.

    Denver Water already serves 1.3 million, but gets about half of its water from the Western Slope. “We have a vested interest” in the Colorado River, Lochhead told legislators.

    One outstanding question is whether Denver and other water providers on the High Plains should try to be able to get additional water from new or expanded transmountain diversions.

    With this story from Lake Powell, the take-home message is don’t count on it.

    Allen Best writes frequently for The Post about water and energy and also publishes an online news magazine, found at http://mountaintownnews.net.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Pueblo county firms net $65 million in orders during construction

    August 7, 2014
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The estimated construction cost of the Southern Delivery System, a water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, has been lowered to $841 million, about $145 million less than earlier estimates.

    “It’s our responsibility to manage project costs as closely as possible to protect the investment being made by the SDS partner communities,” said Janet Rummel, spokeswoman for Colorado Springs Utilities.

    The timing of SDS construction saved money primarily because of lower interest rates and lower pricing for materials and services, she said.

    “Competitive bidding has allowed more than 100 Pueblo County-based businesses to benefit from $65 million in SDS spending so far,” Rummel said.

    Although most of the benefit from SDS goes to Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain also are SDS partners.

    The pipeline has a capacity of 96 million gallons per day, with 78 mgd going to El Paso County.

    Pueblo West will increase its capacity by 18 mgd through a connection to the newly constructed north outlet works.

    Its current connection at the south outlet delivers 12 mgd — just above the metro district’s peak-day delivery. The outlet is shared by the Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Fountain Valley Authority. It also will be the hookup for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    Pueblo West has paid $6.5 million for construction of its SDS connection, and estimates it will have paid a net price of $6.7 million — when all bills and refunds are totaled — by 2017.

    The money came from reserves, said Jack Johnston, metro district manager.

    “We have cash-funded the project out of reserves that were collected primarily during the growth years,” Johnston said. “They were fees that were set aside to help build the reserves to do capital projects.”

    Pueblo West got some of the SDS savings, but just for the construction nearest the dam, where its 36-inch-diameter connection splits off from the 66-inch-diameter line that runs 50 miles north.

    “Whatever savings were realized in building the north outlet works were passed on to us,” Johnston said.

    Pueblo West had been negotiating an agreement to turn on SDS ahead of schedule, since its spur from the dam will be ready for use ahead of the rest of the project.

    However, the board last month delayed action on a draft agreement that could allow early turn-on of SDS. If no agreement is reached, the startup would be whenever Colorado Springs gets the go-ahead from Pueblo County to turn on SDS, expected in 2016.

    Colorado Springs must meet Pueblo County’s 1041 permit conditions in order to start SDS.

    Those conditions include $50 million in payments, plus interest, to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District; $15 million for road rehabilitation in Pueblo West; and $2.2 million for Fountain Creek dredging in Pueblo. All of those payments are included in the $841 million construction cost.

    Colorado Springs also will pay $75 million for wastewater system improvements by 2024 within the city under the 1041 permit, but that cost is not included in the estimate.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


    “Summit County has a huge stake in this with Denver Water” — Jim Lochhead #ColoradoRiver

    August 4, 2014

    From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

    The Colorado River System Conservation program is an effort to address a long-term imbalance on the Colorado River caused by years of drought and water demands that exceed supply.

    Denver Water, Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority each contributed $2 million and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation pitched in $3 million to create an $11 million fund for Colorado River water conservation pilot projects.

    The projects will demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures for reducing water demand in agricultural, municipal, industrial and other areas. [ed. emphasis mine]

    “Summit County has a huge stake in this with Denver Water,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO.

    The county is a headwaters community for the Colorado River, and Lochhead said Summit shares a common interest with the utility in water conservation and in meeting collective obligations to the people and ecosystems down river.

    One of the biggest causes for concern, he said, is the dangerously low water level at Lake Powell…

    That has a host of consequences for communities up river from the lake, including increased energy bills due to less productive hydroelectric power plants, reduced agricultural output, diminished snowmaking capabilities at ski resorts, water quality issues and loss of funding for protections under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.

    Plus, he said, “we might have to be cut off from our water supply in order to meet our obligations to the lower basin.”

    Summit County especially would see the effects in Dillon Reservoir, which Denver Water constructed in 1963 to supply its customers in the Denver metro area.

    “Dillon could be literally drained in that scenario,” he said…

    “This situation is becoming increasingly critical. We are already dealing with unprecedented pressure on the southern California region’s water system,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This innovative program is aimed at expanding conservation efforts from a local level to a collaborative system-wide program.”[...]

    “I applaud the far sighted municipal water providers for beginning to address the imbalance in supply and demand on the Colorado River that could seriously affect the economy and the people who rely upon the river,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor in a press release. “There is still much work to be done, and the Interior Department is committed to supporting the efforts of the Colorado River Basin states and other stakeholders as partners in improving water management and operations, particularly during this historic drought.”

    The program’s pilot projects will include residential and industrial water conservation programs and in the agricultural sector, something called “temporary compensated borrowing,” which Lochhead said would pay farmers not to irrigate or to irrigate less than they were.

    The pilot projects are in the planning stages but should start next year, he said, and the two-year program will fund them into 2016. Successful ideas could then be expanded or extended.

    To ensure that local concerns are addressed and that there is equity and fairness among all parties, the Bureau of Reclamation will manage the conservation actions in the Lower Colorado River Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada in a manner consistent with past programs. In the Upper Basin, the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming and the Upper Colorado River Commission will have a direct role in program efforts.

    Denver Water plans to do a broad outreach program and partner with agricultural and environmental groups, Lochhead said.

    “I think it’s important that we engage all of those groups in this effort,” he said. “We just set up the funds. Now we got to figure out how to make it work.”

    More Blue River watershed coverage here.


    “It was a complete defeat for the Western Slope” — Pitkin County Attorney John Ely

    August 3, 2014

    Busk-Ivanhoe system diversions

    Busk-Ivanhoe system diversions


    From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Pitkin County and the Colorado River District are planning to appeal a judge’s ruling that gives the city of Aurora the right to use water from the upper Fryingpan River basin for municipal purposes, without a penalty for 23 years of “unlawful” water use.

    “It was a complete defeat for the Western Slope,” Pitkin County Attorney John Ely said of the order issued on May 27 by Larry C. Schwartz, a state water court judge in Pueblo.

    As it stands today, the court’s ruling means Aurora can retain the 1928 priority date on its full right to divert 2,400 acre-feet a year through the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel for municipal instead of irrigation purposes. Over 60 years, Aurora can divert 144,960 acre-feet under the right.

    Pitkin County and other Western Slope entities wanted the court to reduce the scope of Aurora’s water right, as the Front Range city has been using the water from the Busk-Ivanhoe system for municipal purposes, without a decree, since 1987.

    The “West Slope Opposers,” as the court called them, also argued that the court should consider that Aurora was also storing water on the East Slope without an explicit right to do so, which they felt constituted an “expansion” of its water rights.

    The board of the River District agreed on July 15 to appeal the judge’s ruling, while the Pitkin County commissioners agreed shortly after the May ruling. Ely said he understands the Colorado State Engineer’s Office also plans to appeal.

    Pitkin County has spent $247,500 on the Busk-Ivanhoe water case so far, and using money from the county’s Healthy Rivers and Streams fund to pay for outside water attorneys.

    Other parties from the Western Slope in the case are Eagle County, Basalt Water Conservancy District, Grand Valley Water Users Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Ute Water Conservancy District. Trout Unlimited is also a party to the case, which is 09CW142 in Water Division 2.

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Transbasin water

    Since 1928, about 5,000 acre-feet of water a year has been diverted from Ivanhoe, Lyle, Hidden Lake and Pan creeks, headwater streams of the Fryingpan River.

    The water is sent from Ivanhoe Reservoir to Busk Creek through a pipe in the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel, first built as a railroad tunnel in the late 1880s. From Busk Creek, the water flows to Turquoise Reservoir and the Arkansas River, and eventually reaches Aurora and Pueblo.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works owns the right to half of the water diverted through Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel, and in 1993 it changed the use of its water right from irrigation to municipal.

    In 1987, Aurora bought the other half of Busk-Ivanhoe water and started using its half of the water for municipal purposes. But it didn’t come in for a change-of-use decree from water court until 2009.

    Aurora’s 2009 application received 35 statements of opposition and as is common in water court, opponents were winnowed down to a core group. Many cases are settled before trial, but this case went to a five-day trial in July 2013.

    Judge Schwartz’s subsequent ruling in May established the parameters of how a new decree for Aurora’s water should read, and the draft decree is now being prepared, Ely said. Once the proposed decree is filed with the court, it will trigger the appeal period in the case. Appeals in water court cases go directly to the Colorado Supreme Court.

    Greg Baker, the manager of public relations for Aurora Water, was contacted early Friday afternoon for comment. He said officials were in various meetings throughout the day, and they couldn’t be reached by deadline.

    Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel entrance

    Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel entrance

    “Zero” years

    Ely said Pitkin County is primarily concerned about the judge’s decision not to take into account the 23 years that Aurora used water for undecreed purposes, i.e.,, municipal instead of irrigation.

    Ely said it is a “fundamental” part of Colorado water law that non-use diminishes the scope of your water right when you go to change it, and it appears Aurora is getting “special treatment” because the water right is a transmountain diversion.

    He said that when determining the “historic consumptive use” of a water right — which is what can legally be changed to another use — it is common practice for the court to reduce the scope of a water right by averaging in any years of “zero” or non-use. And undecreed uses typically count as “zero” years.

    “But what the court said in this case said was, ‘We’re just not going to look at those years’ of zero use,” Ely said.

    Judge Schwartz decided that the period from 1928 to 1986 — before Aurora started using the water — was the best “representative period” to use to determine how much water Aurora had been putting to proper use.

    “The representative study period to be utilized should be based on a period of time that properly measures actual decreed beneficial use, and that excludes undecreed uses,” Schwartz concluded.

    “The use of zeros during the years of undecreed use would permanently punish (Aurora) for the undecreed use after 1987,” Schwartz also wrote. “This court does not view a change application case as a means to permanently punish a water user for undecreed use.”

    In regard to the issue of undecreed storage, the judge looked at the history of the water right, and found that while the original decree from 1928 may have been silent on the subject of East Slope storage, it was always part of the plan by the water developers to store water in a reservoir on the East Slope.

    “West Slope Opposers assert that the storage of the Busk-Ivanhoe water in the Arkansas River Basin is an ‘expansion’ of use,” Schwartz wrote. “Storage of the Busk-Ivanhoe water in the Arkansas River Basin is not an expansion. Said storage has always been a part of the water right.”

    Ely said the Colorado River District is more concerned about the storage issue than Pitkin County is. However, the county does feel the judge’s overall response to Aurora’s request to change its water right was faulty.

    “We knew they were going to be able to change their use, it was just a question of how much,” Ely said. “And it was a question if the Front Range would be held to the same standard as everybody else, in terms of using their water consistent with a decree, or if they get some kind of special treatment for being a transbasin diversion. The judge, and his order, found that they should get some kind of special treatment, and we think that runs contrary to the law.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on the coverage of land and water in Pitkin County. More at http://www.aspen
journalism.org.

    More water law coverage here.


    “Want an expert overview on the #COWaterPlan?” — @ConservationCO/@wradv #ColoradoRiver

    August 2, 2014

    US Department of the Interior and Western municipal water suppliers reach landmark collaborative agreement #ColoradoRiver

    August 1, 2014


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

    In support of the Colorado River basin states drought contingency planning to address a long-term imbalance on the Colorado River caused by years of drought conditions, municipal water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado and the federal government signed a landmark water conservation agreement this week called the Colorado River System Conservation program.

    Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority are partnering with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to contribute $11 million to fund pilot Colorado River water conservation projects. The projects will demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures for reducing water demand in a variety of areas, including agricultural, municipal and industrial uses.

    For more than a decade, a severe drought — one of the worst in the last 1,200 years — has gripped the Colorado River, causing the world’s most extensive storage reservoir system to come closer and closer to critically low water levels. The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use, and the combined metropolitan areas served by the Colorado River represent the world’s 12th largest economy, generating more than $1.7 trillion in Gross Metropolitan Product per year along with agricultural economic benefits of just under $5 billion annually.

    “This is a critically important first step, and I applaud the far sighted municipal water providers for beginning to address the imbalance in supply and demand on the Colorado River that could seriously affect the economy and the people who rely upon the river,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor. “There is still much work to be done, and the Interior Department is committed to supporting the efforts of the Colorado River Basin States and other stakeholders as partners in improving water management and operations, particularly during this historic drought.”

    “This situation is becoming increasingly critical. We are already dealing with unprecedented pressure on the southern California region’s water system,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This innovative program is aimed at expanding conservation efforts from a local level to a collaborative system-wide program.”

    Without collaborative action now, water supplies, hydropower production, water quality, agricultural output and recreation and environmental resources are all at risk, in both the upper and lower basins.

    “This agreement represents a unique approach to save water and protect the Colorado River system from the impacts of the on-going drought and the current imbalance between supplies and demands in the Basin,” said Central Arizona Project Board President Pam Pickard. “It is an important milestone in interstate collaboration, with CAP working with partners in California, Nevada, Colorado and the federal government to improve the health of the Colorado River.”

    All water conserved under this program will stay in the river, helping to boost the declining reservoir levels and benefiting the health of the entire river system.

    “Half of Denver’s water supply comes from the Colorado River, so we have a direct interest in the health of the entire system,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO. “This is a proactive contingency plan for drought years to help secure our water supply future with a balanced, economic and environmental approach. This is clearly the right thing to do for our customers, our future water supply and the basin.”

    The Colorado River System Conservation program will provide funding for pilot conservation programs in 2015 and 2016. Successful programs can be expanded or extended to provide even greater protection for the Colorado River system.

    “The time has come for our states to work together to develop contingency strategies to manage the Colorado River under extreme drought conditions that threaten the levels of Lakes Mead and Powell,” said John Entsminger, general manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “As Lake Mead continues to drop toward critical levels, we must simultaneously begin to take collective action now and plan additional future measures.”

    In order to ensure that local concerns are addressed, and that there is equity and fairness among all parties, in the Lower Colorado River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation will manage the conservation actions in Arizona, California and Nevada in a manner consistent with past programs, while in the Upper Basin, the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and the Upper Colorado River Commission will have a direct role in program efforts.

    From InkStain (John Fleck):

    The program has been simmering for months (see here, here and here for previous public discussions), but this evening’s announcement marks the final signing of the deal by federal officials. The program is a partnership of the basin’s four largest municipal water agencies – the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water and the Southern Nevada Water Authority – and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…

    This is a small but very significant step forward. Previous conservation efforts were funded by an individual water agency, with water conserved banked in reservoir storage for later use by that agency. In this program, the water conserved will simply become “system water” for the benefit of all.

    Significantly, the announcement says pilot programs will be conducted in 2015 and 2016. (I had been hearing water managers talk about the possibility of getting something underway this year, but it looks like July 31 is too late for that.)

    Also, there’s some nuance here about who will built the institutional widgets to carry this out. In the Lower Basin, it will be the Bureau. In the Upper Basin, it will be some sort of state-managed effort that I don’t fully understand. There’s apparently been a lot of sensitivity on the question of who’s driving this bus in the Upper Basin.

    US Drought Monitor July 29, 2014

    US Drought Monitor July 29, 2014

    From the Associated Press via ABC News:

    The Interior Department said Thursday that local water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado will take part in the deal.

    It aims to create several small pilot programs in 2015 and 2016 that would provide incentives and compensation for conservation by cities, farmers and industry, according to a statement announcing the agreement. The programs that work best can then be expanded, extended, or both.

    The move was called very necessary, though only a beginning with the severe shortfall threatening to challenge the region’s long-term water supply…

    The project’s partners include the Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Southern Nevada Water Authority and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    #SouthPlatte River: The Town of Julesburg, Sedgwick County and State of Colorado hope move the river back to it’s original channel

    July 31, 2014
    Julesberg Colorado via dankalal.net

    Julesberg Colorado via dankalal.net

    From the Julesberg Advocate (Devin Wilber):

    Years ago, the South Platte River ran down the center of four channels running by Julesburg. Over time, the moving of water in the channels built a dam and transferred the water to the channel furthest south. This divergence has caused major problems over the years, and flooding in the past two years has only made those problems worse. The Town of Julesburg, Sedgwick County and State of Colorado are now taking steps to fix those problems and move the river back to it’s original channel.

    Town Manager Allen Coyne said that it’s not going to be an easy fix to solve all of the problems in the river. Over 40-50 feet of riverbank has been eroded on the south channel since the flooding in September 2013. One 6 inch water line has been broken, and other damage has been done to fiber optic conduits.

    The State Workers are also renovating the bases of the bridge, because the foundation is showing because all of the water erosion.

    Town Manager Allen Coyne said that about two weeks ago a waste water line had broken. Allen said that the Town is using a temporary waste water line while the other one is being replaced, so there is no waste in the river. Coyne would continue to say that they will fix some older problems, like the 6 inch conduit that has been broken for a couple of years. You may have seen this pipe sticking out of the water on the east side of the bridge. The 6-inch cast iron water line that was installed in 1969 was broken in the September 2013 flood.

    All interstate businesses continue to have service with a permanent 10-inch water line. While surveying the damage from the floods, the crews found a few 4-inch fiber optic conduits had broken. The optic lines themselves are fine, but the conduits holding them are cracked. These lines are said to belong to PC Telecom and RNHN (which connects over 20 rural hospitals together).

    The Town is looking for help from the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for money to help fund the project. The Town is working with Concrete and Utilities Specialist, Alan Keir, who put in the last water line in 2005 and whose dad put in the 1969 water line. The Town has also applied to the Army Corps of for a permit to perform the repairs.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    Oil, gas commission approves injection well near Platteville despite protest — The Greeley Tribune

    July 29, 2014
    Deep injection well

    Deep injection well

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

    Platteville rancher Roy Wardell was asking questions long before an earthquake shook the ground around Greeley. The oil and gas wastewater injection well proposed near his ranch would be the sixth in the immediate proximity to his small operation. It only made sense that adding another high pressure well in a line of other high pressure wells would tempt fate. Then came May 31. An earthquake rattled Greeley for a second or two, and his fears were confirmed.

    “This is a concentration of wells that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Weld County,” Wardell told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Greeley on Monday. “My concern is you cannot confidently say there’s not a seismic risk. It flies in the face of logic.”

    He was asking that an injection well near his ranch proposed by High Plains Disposal be denied, given its proximity to other injection wells. Injection wells have been linked to earthquakes across the country. The majority of them operate for years without incident, while a few others don’t.

    Oil and gas well wastewater is injected into deep underground wells into porous formations. Seismic activity occurs when water slips through geologic structures, allowing movement. The process of injection is considered more environmentally friendly than the process a decade ago of dumping used well water into pools at the well site.

    All injection wells in Colorado undergo testing for a variety of concerns, including seismic activity. At present, there are 28 injection wells in the county, with another 20 in the permitting process.

    The operator of the Greeley well, out by the Greeley-Weld County airport, is under investigation for potential violations after researchers, in a 20-day period in which NGL was required to stop injecting water, isolated the well as the cause of the earthquake and about a dozen smaller ones since. That well is 18 miles north of the proposed well near Wardell’s ranch.

    In a hearing before the COGCC, state officials and representatives of High Plains Disposal discussed their plans to ensure safety, including placing seismic monitoring equipment at the well to act as an early-warning system of any induced activity. They said the Greeley well had different circumstances than the one High Plains had proposed, including drilling into a different formation.

    Commission members stated while the concern is there, they felt comfortable with approving the well.

    “If I were a landowner, I’d have the same concerns that there is a possibility for seismic activity,” said Commissioner Bill Hawkins. “All the technical testimony given today indicates it is not likely, and there really isn’t any reason we can see other than the fact that a well 20 miles away had seismic activity. Certainly seismic activity is of concern to the public and a large part of the county, and it’s a concern to the commission. If there is any activity we would definitely stop, (it is) injections.”

    Commissioner Mike King agreed, stating that if there is any seismic activity associated with the well, they would respond just as they did with the Greeley well, and shut off injections immediately.

    “Things change,” said King, also the director of the state Department of Natural Resources. “We found out in other wells there were some factors that weren’t as clear … (and it) caused us to take a 20-day timeout, to see what we missed, what things needed to change. … I’m comfortable, although in the last month, I’ve become less comfortable in general. I’m OK with being a little more on edge until we get more information.”

    Wardell knew he was fighting a losing battle.

    “I feel heard,” he said after the meeting.

    More oil and gas coverage here.


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

    July 27, 2014

    smartditchtrapezoidalditchliner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


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

    July 27, 2014
    Bridal Veil Falls

    Bridal Veil Falls

    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.


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

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

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit funding here and here.


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

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

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Emily Donovan):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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

    July 24, 2014

    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey


    From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Danny Ramey):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    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.


    Greeley gets USACE permit for pipeline

    July 23, 2014

    pipeline

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sherrie Peif):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More infrastructure coverage here.


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

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

    Fountain Creek flood debris May 2014 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Grand Junction: Some history of the Kannah Creek diversion #COWaterPlan

    July 22, 2014
    Grand Junction back in the day with the Grand Mesa in background

    Grand Junction back in the day with the Grand Mesa in background

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Greg Trainor):

    From the incorporation of the town of Grand Junction in 1882 until 1911, the prospect of a firm water supply for Grand Junction citizens was in doubt. For almost 30 years, numerous recall elections, battles between the town and private water purveyors, and municipal expeditions to find mountain “water at any price” took up most of the official business of Grand Junction aldermen.

    See-sawing back and forth between municipal ownership of the town water system and franchises to private companies to operate the system, the source of the town water supply also see-sawed between locations on the Colorado River at Fifth Street and the Gunnison River near the Redlands Water and Power Company Diversion. In Spring, supply was up, but so was sediment and mud. In late summer and fall, flow was down and ability to keep pipes full of water for fire protection suffered.

    In 1894 the citizens voted 88 percent to build and operate a municipal water system but it took 13 years for the town to finally file for a water right in Kannah Creek, 20 miles to the southeast. The town was desperate: Could they afford a municipal system, who would buy bonds to pay for a system, where were there year-round supplies of water?

    After having looked at mountain water supplies on Pinon Mesa near Glade Park, Kruzen Springs above Palisade, Whitewater Creek (later acquired by the City in 1989), the city settled on Kannah Creek. Ironically with the help of engineers from the Denver Union Water Company (later to become the Denver Water Department), the city filed a petition in eminent domain in Mesa County District Court for the first 7.81 cubic feet per second of flow from Kannah Creek.

    As owners of all of the direct flow water rights on Kannah Creek, ranchers and farmers in Kannah Creek were not long in joining together in their opposition to the city’s actions. Their water was in the cross hairs of the city. An action in eminent domain is not the same as a filing for a water right in Water Court. In the latter case, a filing is made for water and proof is presented to the court that shows the water being put to beneficial use. The Water Court then establishes a priority date for use of the water, insuring that no other water user with a more senior water right is damaged. On the contrary, the city’s action in condemnation allowed the city to act under its powers of eminent domain and secure (“take”) water for the use of its citizens, provided, however, that the city make full compensation or satisfaction for all damages incurred by the taking.

    In 1911, four years later, a jury awarded $182,940 to all parties from whom the city had acquired the water. The District Court also decreed that the city to be the owner of “a first, superior and paramount right to a continuous flow of 7.81 cfs over and above all other water rights claimed in Kannah Creek.” The city had the water, now it needed a way to get the water from Kannah Creek to Reservoir Hill above the city cemeteries, near Fifth Street. After years of offerings, Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (Pueblo steel mills), purchased the water bonds which allowed Grand Junction to build a state-of-the-art wood stave water line from Kannah Creek to the water plant.

    To this day, the city’s pre-1922, “paramount” water right is the backbone of the city’s water supply system. Since 1911, the city has continued to acquire additional water rights and ranch properties to insure that mountain water is available to its citizens.

    These actions between 1907 and 1911 colored all relationships between the City of Grand Junction and the landowners in Kannah Creek. Storage of Kannah Creek water, easements and rights of way, water for livestock, treated water for safe drinking, reservoir ownership and maintenance, and administration of the Grand Mesa “Pool” were continuous issues that festered during the entire 20th century. Yes, the landowners in Kannah Creek have long memories.

    Today, the efforts to affect a State Water Plan include ideas to share water between agriculture and municipal users. It is unlikely that municipal condemnation would be the first idea implemented, but rather a series of purchase options, water banking, water rentals, or payments for fallowing would be considered. However, when circumstances cause a municipal water provider to feel it has exhausted all methods to secure a safe and reliable water supply, condemnation remains as a tool that, at the direction of a water policy board, could be employed to acquire water “at any price.”

    Note: Material for this article comes from “City of Grand Junction v. Kannah Creek Water Users Association, No. 27047, Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc. December 20, 1976.

    Greg Trainor is the recently retired Public Works and Utility Director for the City of Grand Junction. He is currently the Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and acting President of the Southwest Chapter of the River Management Society.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Northern Water: The first C-BT Project water was released from Horsetooth Reservoir into the Poudre River on this day 63 yrs ago #ColoradoRiver

    July 21, 2014

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    Horsetooth Reservoir gets its water from a network of Western Slope reservoirs fed by mountain snowmelt. Water is usually pumped up from Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Reservoir, where gravity eventually pulls it down through the 13-mile Adams Tunnel and into a couple of more reservoirs before it reaches Horsetooth.

    Back in 1951, hundreds of people came to the reservoir to mark the event — it was a long-awaited milestone for farmers and cities along the Front Range, who had survived decades of drought.

    The shuttling of Western Slope water into Horsetooth and the Poudre River is a system that Northern Colorado has been reliant on for decades. In Northern Colorado, the plea for more water started in the Great Depression, when a devastating drought plagued the western and central United States.

    The federal government agreed to come to the aid of Colorado’s farmers and in the late 1930s began building the Colorado-Big Thompson project. Today, the C-BT project supplies Fort Collins with 65 percent of its water.

    I was 4 months and 16 days old at time. I don’t remember the event. More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    The Lower Ark District alleges misallocation of Fountain Creek funds

    July 20, 2014
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A feud between two water districts over how Fountain Creek grant money is being spent deepened this week. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Monday mailed letters to state and federal agencies claiming that the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District “illegally spent or committed” funds that were used as matching funds for grants.

    Fountain Creek District Director Larry Small denied there is any wrongdoing.

    “We have a record of all decisions and those making these charges were a part of the decision,” Small said. “Maybe they need their memories refreshed.”

    Lower Ark board members said the money from their district and Colorado Springs Utilities, more than $450,000, is supposed to be used in the Fountain Creek corridor — defined in statute as the area in the flood plain south of Fountain and north of Pueblo.

    Additionally, any money applied under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit toward Colorado Springs’ $50 million obligation for flood control must benefit Pueblo.

    But grants for fire mitigation studies on Upper Fountain Creek and for trails in the Colorado Springs area have been pressed by the Fountain Creek district without proper consultation, the Lower Ark board said.

    “It continues to anger me that these people in El Paso County continue to believe that the state line ends at southern El Paso County,” said Anthony Nunez, a former Pueblo County commissioner who represents Pueblo County on the Lower Ark board.

    On Wednesday, he and other board members were fuming that Small had canceled a meeting in Rocky Ford to discuss the issues.

    Small had notified the Lower Ark and other participants in the district by email that the July 25 meeting would be in Fountain, rather than Rocky Ford as planned at last month’s meeting.

    The state statute does not allow meetings outside Fountain Creek district boundaries, which includes Pueblo and El Paso counties, Small explained.

    That infuriated Nunez, who complained that the Upper Fountain grant includes Woodland Park, which is in Teller County.

    Contacted after the meeting, Small said Woodland Park is paying its own way in that grant, and agreed with the Lower Ark board that no Fountain Creek district money can be spent outside its boundaries.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here.


    Northern Water opts for gradual rate increase — Fort Collins Coloradoan

    July 18, 2014
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will increase the cost of its water step-by-step over 2016 and 2017, which will mean 28 percent cost increase per year for cities like Fort Collins.

    The district’s board came to a decision about the rate increases on July 11, after months of considering the best way to hike prices to balance out the district’s budget. The board initially considered a more than 40 percent increase in 2016, but decided to compromise with cities and other water users concerned that such drastic increases would harm their finances.

    Fort Collins Utilities, which now gets the bulk of its water from the district, says that in the short term customers’ utility rates will not be affected…

    For 2015, allotment prices for cities were set at $30.50 per acre foot, up from $28. While that cost will only increase for cities over the next few years, irrigators will face a 61 percent increase in allotment costs in 2016 and 2017.

    Fort Collins Utilities directly owns 18,855 units in addition to about 14,000 units it leases from the North Poudre Irrigation Co. But, in terms of actual use for 2014, the city has used 14,900 acre feet of water since Nov. 1, when the water year begins.

    After the High Park Fire, Utilities became even more reliant on C-BT water since the Poudre River, the city’s other water source, was filled with fire and flood debris. This year, the city gets about 65 percent of its water from Northern Water, and 35 percent from the Poudre.

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

    Costs are expected to increase every year until 2018, when municipal and industrial C-BT users will be charged $53.10 per unit and agricultural users will be charged $30.20 per unit. That represents a nearly 90 percent increase for municipalities and 202 percent increase for agricultural users.

    The city of Loveland owns 12,118 units of C-BT water, 5,112 of which are fixed at a rate of $1.50 per unit that will not change.

    The increase for Loveland’s remaining 7,006 open-rate units will cost the city about $176,000 more by 2018. Loveland Water and Power staff will budget for the increase in the coming years, senior water resources engineer Larry Howard said.

    “It’s real money, but it’s not something that’s devastating to the utility or something,” Howard said.

    Next year, rates are set to increase by 9 percent. That’s a manageable increase that will not require rate increases for Loveland Water and Power customers, Howard said.

    Whether customers will see an impact from the increase in future years is not known.

    “When we do our cost of service study next year, the cost increase will be taken into account, along with any other changes in our costs,” Utility Accounting Manager Jim Lees said.

    The city of Loveland’s primary two sources of water are the Green Ridge Glade Reservoir and water diverted directly from the Big Thompson River at the Big Dam.

    “We generally rely on those each year and then start filling in with C-BT and Windy Gap water,” Howard said. “It depends on the year and how much we need.”

    Depending on conditions year to year, the city rents C-BT water to farmers, so Howard said that could help to absorb the cost of the rate increases over the next few years.

    Brian Werner, Northern Water’s public information officer, said that the increases are the result of a comprehensive study that started last year.

    “The cost of doing business is going up,” Werner said. “Our management has charged us with looking at where we can control costs.”

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    Fort Morgan kicks in another $45,000 for the Northern Integrated Supply Project

    July 17, 2014
    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    Fort Morgan City Council members unanimously approved an extra $45,000 for the Northern Integrated Supply Project at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

    Many of the necessary reports and studies for the water project are nearly done, but that effort cost more than anticipated, said Brent Nation, water resources and utilities director for the city.

    Fort Morgan had paid the project $90,000 earlier this year, which is essentially the dues for the project, but the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District asked for an adjustment to the dues to pay for the studies that have been done recently, he said.

    The city of Fort Morgan has a 9 percent share of the project, which will come to about 3,600 acre feet of water the city could tap when the NISP reservoirs are completed, Nation said…

    Altogether, NISP is expected to cost $500 million, Nation said, and Fort Morgan’s share would cost $40 million.

    Once the supplemental draft environmental impact statement is done, which could be soon, NISP will begin thinking about starting construction, said Fort Morgan City Manager Jeff Wells…

    Once the environmental impact report is published, there will be a period of public review and public meetings, Nation said.

    There are those who are opposed to the project, and they will come out to say so, he said. However, this will also be an opportunity for supporters to say why they want NISP.

    Nation said it is encouraging to be at this point in the project after 10 years of work.

    Wells said Fort Morgan has spent about $1.2 million on the project over the past 10 years…

    McAlister noted that there are a number of municipalities on the plains that have serious water supply problems, and Fort Morgan must do something or it could have similar problems.

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


    Georgetown: Meter replacement project nearly complete

    July 16, 2014

    Georgetown Colorado

    Georgetown Colorado


    From the Clear Creek Courant (Beth Potter):

    Georgetown is about to complete its water-meter replacement program, and rather than asking homeowners to foot the $550 installation bill, the town took out a loan and got a grant to cover the cost. The town is replacing 660 meters because they were not accurately recording how much water homeowners were using. The town board discussed the issue for two years, trying to determine the best way to foot the cost.

    The town received a $170,000 grant in 2013 from the state Department of Local Affairs and has taken out a loan for $211,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to pay the rest of the cost. The loan is for 30 years at 4.1 percent interest, according to town administrator Tom Hale.

    Residents will repay the debt through increases to their water bills, though Hale is unsure how much the increase will be. The $211,000 loan is part of a larger amount the town has borrowed to pay for renovations to the Georgetown Lake dam. He expects water rates to reflect the entire loan repayment in 2016.

    Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson said having residents pay for the new water meters through small increases in their water bills would be “an easier pill to swallow” for most people.

    The town hired a company from Utah to replace the meters, which will allow a meter reader to drive down the street to collect meter data.

    The primary purpose of replacing the meters, Abrahamson said, is to improve their accuracy and help the town better assess how much water residents actually use.
    More than 87 percent of Georgetown’s 597 water users needed new meters. The radio-read meters cost $400, and installation costs $150. The remaining 75 were installed within the last couple of years and don’t need to be replaced.
    Based on readings from the new meters, the town may determine whether it can lower water rates.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    On this day in 1922, construction began at Grand Coulee Dam as the first shovel of dirt was turned

    July 16, 2014

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

    July 16, 2014


    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jim Pokrandt):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jim Pokrandt is Colorado Basin Roundtable Chair.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

    July 16, 2014
    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

    Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs will be taking a more regional approach and looking at risk factors as it develops its 50-year water plan. That’s a shift from the 1996 water resources plan that focused solely on supply and led to Southern Delivery System, said Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities.

    “We are seriously evaluating the timing of future SDS components,” Gracely told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday.

    Utilities is updating the plan that will determine its actions in water development after SDS comes online in 2016. The plan will look at watershed health, fire vulnerability and climate change, as well as social values and tradeoffs. It also will incorporate traditional factors like water supply, demand and quality.

    “Because of changes in technology and software, we can run thousands of scenarios through our models,” Gracely said.

    Another key difference is that Colorado Springs Utilities is not planning on building another $1 billion pipeline as a result of this plan, but more carefully evaluating its options after SDS.

    “It’s a completely blank page,” Gracely said. “But it will have no effect on SDS phase I.”

    The first phase is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, served by three pump stations and a treatment plant. The second phase of SDS includes the construction of two reservoirs on Williams Creek southeast of Colorado Springs.

    Water board members Tom Autobee and Kevin McCarthy questioned Gracely on what conservation measures Colorado Springs envisions in order to cut demand. Reduced water use after the 2002 drought has been complemented by a tiered rate structure that makes expanded water use more costly, he explained. Colorado Springs also has dropped minimum landscaping requirements that at one time would have encouraged greater water use.

    “What is your telescope telling you about West Slope imports?” McCarthy asked.

    “Warmer weather is what we’re expecting,” Gracely replied. “Half the (climate) models are showing it will be wetter, and half drier, but they all say it will be warmer.”

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    Arkansas River: Aurora’s planned Box Creek Reservoir stirs questions from Mt. Elbert Water Association members

    July 16, 2014
    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red

    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red

    From The Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

    Members of the Mt. Elbert Water Association had many questions for representatives of the Aurora Water Department Saturday regarding the proposed Box Creek Reservoir. Because of the timing of the processes for planning and then constructing the reservoir, not many answers were available. However the association members now know that they will be informed of what is happening through email, and there will be a representative of Aurora Water at subsequent annual meetings.

    The association held its annual meeting at the Lake County Public Library Saturday morning with 56 in attendance.

    Representing Aurora Water were Gerry Knapp, Aurora resources program manager, and Kathy Kitzmann, senior water resources engineer.

    An early question concerned the Box Creek well that supplies water to the association. Concerns were expressed that the reservoir might impact the well in some way.

    “We have no intent of adversely affecting your well,” Knapp responded. “We couldn’t build the project if we did.”

    In response to later questions about possible decreased river flow and its impact on rafting, he pointed out that any negative impact to river flow as a result of the reservoir cannot occur.

    “What comes in must go out,” he said.

    The pool at the reservoir also would have to be kept at 20 percent except in cases of extreme drought.

    Knapp said that Aurora would be following the National Environmental Policy Act process as set forth by the federal government regarding environmental issues. He made it clear that Aurora is not working with the federal government on the project.
    Other questions centered on the types of recreational activities that would be permitted once the reservoir is built.

    A separate study on appropriate recreation will be done, and Knapp anticipates broad public input. The county commissioners will be responsible for managing recreation on the reservoir although they could turn management over to another entity. Possible recreation could include fishing, boating, camping and more. Some concerns were expressed over ATVs and noise levels.

    Other concerns related to construction activities and dust. The construction period is estimated to be two years. Negative impacts on property values were mentioned by one resident.

    Kitzmann said one issue they’re dealing with is wetland restoration. Aurora has purchased a parcel of land from a private owner that will be restored as wetland to be used as a credit for wetland that would be used in the project.

    No decision has been made on what will happen to the old buildings that exist on the Hallenbeck Ranch where the reservoir will be built. Knapp said some talks are under way with Colorado Mountain College, owner of the Hayden Ranch, about possibly moving some of the buildings there, but no decisions have been made.

    There would be no road over the top of the reservoir dam and, according to Knapp, there are no plans to close the road leading to Pan-Ark subdivision, whose residents are served by the Mount Elbert Water Association.

    “We may have to move it a little bit,” he said.

    The permitting process could begin in one to three years, and is a 10-year-long process, Knapp said. Although there initially was hope that the process would move faster, 2030 was the date given at the meeting for possible completion.

    The Hallenbeck Ranch property was purchased by Lake County in 1998. The county granted Aurora an option to purchase the main portion of the ranch property in January 2001, retaining all water and ditch rights associated with the ranch. The purchase-option agreement stipulates that Aurora will design, construct and operate the reservoir project and manage the surrounding land in combination with the Lake County Open Space Initiative partners.

    Lake County will be able to use 20 percent of Aurora’s operational capacity for storage of its own water.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Northern Water board approves rate increase #ColoradoRiver

    July 15, 2014
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    A number of share holders in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — the largest water-supply project in northern Colorado — will see assessment costs sharply increase during the next few years, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board recently decided.

    Although the numbers aren’t set in stone and are subject to change, the board on Friday approved a general outline that over time increases open-assessment fees for municipal and industrial water users from $28 this year to $53.10 by 2018, and increases those fees for agricultural users from $10 this year to $30.20 per unit by 2018.

    The increases won’t apply to those who own fixed-assessment C-BT shares. Those who bought shares before 1959 and still own those shares still pay a fixed assessment of $1.50 per unit. The majority of the city of Greeley’s C-BT shares, for example, are fixed-assessment shares, and won’t be impacted by the changes, according to Brian Werner, public information officer with Northern Water.

    The recently approved uptick for open assessments was made to keep up with the always-increasing expenses at Northern Water, Werner said, noting that the uptick in wildfire-mitigation efforts, water-quality measures and overall regulation, among other expenses, are making it more and more pricey to deliver water from the C-BT’s high-mountain reservoirs to its users across northern Colorado.

    “It’s just another example of how water is getting more and more expensive. There’s no getting around it,” Werner said, noting that, despite Northern Water continuing its efforts to reduce operating costs, the increase in open assessments was needed.

    Increases in water costs are nothing new for users in the state, particularly in northern Colorado, where rapid population growth along the Front Range, large ag use and increased oil-and-gas production have sharply increased demand for water.

    And as supplies have tightened, prices have skyrocketed.

    In January 2013, the price of a water unit in the C-BT Project was about $9,500. Now it’s well over $20,000 per unit.

    But while costs are increasing, Northern water officials stress that, in the global picture, C-BT users are still getting a good deal on good water.

    Werner noted that 1,000 gallons of water is still being delivered to C-BT share holders “for pennies.”

    The C-BT Project collects and delivers on average more than 200,000 acre feet of water each year (about 65 billion gallons). Most of this water is the result of melting snow in the upper Colorado River basin west of the Continental Divide. The project transports the water to the East Slope via a 13.1-mile tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park.

    C-BT water flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land and 860,000 people in portions of eight counties within Northern Water boundaries, according to Northern Water data.

    More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Where our water comes from — Fort Collins Coloradoan

    July 14, 2014

    Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012

    Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012


    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    With Colorado’s water year at its mid-July end and many Northern Colorado reservoirs still flush with the bounty of a plentiful water year, water woes of years past have turned into discussions of how the state will store water in the future.

    In the coming months, the Army Corps of Engineers will release an updated study on the Northern Water Conservancy District’s proposal to expand its water storage capacity near Fort Collins. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build Glade Reservoir northwest of the city, bringing a new reservoir larger than Horsetooth Reservoir to the area.

    Before the release of the study reignites the battle over the potential environmental impacts of expanding Northern Colorado’s water storage capacity, we look at where Fort Collins gets the water that provides the basis for everything from the natural resources residents enjoy to the craft beer they drink…

    Before the High Park Fire, which burned more than 87,000 acres of the Poudre watershed, Fort Collins Utilities split its water sources between the project and the river. But the Poudre’s water has since become filled with fire and flood debris, which prompted a total shutdown of river water for Fort Collins customers.

    Time and the September 2013 floods have cleaned out the river, but the city is still mostly reliant on the C-BT project for more than 60 percent of its water each year.

    Fundamentally, snowmelt fills the many reservoirs in the C-BT project. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which helps manage the project, delivers a certain amount of water to cities like Fort Collins as well as farmers and irrigators — all of whom own hundreds or thousands of acre-feet of the project’s water…

    Here’s a look at where our water comes from.

    THE WESTERN SLOPE

    The water that feeds Colorado — and a vast swath of the nation — begins its downward flow from the Continental Divide high in the Rocky Mountains. In order to harness water that otherwise would flow to the Pacific Ocean, water managers created a vast network of reservoirs, tunnels and canals to reroute Western Slope water to Colorado’s more populous Front Range.

    LAKE GRANBY

    For Fort Collins, and much of the northern Front Range, this is where it all begins. Snowmelt fills this Western Slope reservoir, and the water from it is pumped to Shadow Mountain Reservoir. From there, it’s literally all downhill — gravity pushes water through five reservoirs until it gets to Horsetooth Reservoir, southwest of Fort Collins. This year, due to above-average snowpack, Lake Granby soon will spill over its banks. It can hold up to 540,000 acre-feet of water.

    HORSETOOTH RESERVOIR

    Horsetooth was built along with the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and is a fraction of the size of Lake Granby — it holds about 156,000 acre-feet of water. This is where Fort Collins will get most of its C-BT water, which has traveled through the 13-mile Adams Tunnel, under U.S. Highway 34, and through several reservoirs. Fort Collins Utilities has its only operational water treatment plant at Horsetooth. In 2014, Fort Collins gets about 65 percent of its water from the C-BT project.

    THE CACHE LA POUDRE RIVER

    The Poudre River typically provides Fort Collins with 50 percent of its water. But after the High Park Fire polluted the river, Fort Collins has been forced to shut down its Poudre River sources, sometimes for months. The upper part of the river is considered “wild and scenic” — a federal designation. It is also one of the few remaining dam-free rivers in Colorado. In 2014, Fort Collins gets about 35 percent of its water from the Poudre.

    CARTER LAKE

    Carter Lake is one of many reservoirs that make up the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Some of Fort Collins’ water can come from this reservoir, but not frequently. Other reservoirs in the system include Grand Lake, Mary’s Lake, Lake Estes and Flatiron Reservoir, to name just a few.

    FORT COLLINS

    Treated water coming into Fort Collins comes from a plant near Horsetooth Reservoir. Since Nov. 1, the city has used about 9,700 acre-feet of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and about 5,200 acre-feet from the Poudre River. Before the High Park Fire, the city typically split its water use between the two sources but has since had to use more C-BT water.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Lamar: New water line should deliver higher quality water

    July 14, 2014

    pipeline

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Lamar has completed a new water line that will allow it to deliver cleaner water to customers.

    “We’re meeting our water quality goals by using our southern wells,” Josh Cichocki, Lamar water superintendent, told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable on Wednesday. “Not only did the project help us with water quality, but it helped with efficiency as well.”

    The roundtable approved a $200,000 state grant last year that went toward the $2 million project. Other sources of funding were a $785,000 loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and a $985,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs.

    The project installed 6.5 miles of pipeline in a portion of the well field where pipes had become badly corroded. Completed during a drought, there were no major construction issues, Cichocki said.

    “Our biggest obstacles were wind and tumbleweeds,” he laughed.

    He explained that the southern wells used in the Lamar water system have the lowest measurement of total dissolved solids. That means the water does not require as much treatment to bring up to drinking water quality standards.

    Lamar has gained between 180-250 acre-feet (58.6 million-81.4 million gallons) per year because of the improvements.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Say hello to @Northern_Water #ColoradoRiver

    July 12, 2014

    Meanwhile, Northern is looking at big rate increases to coverage operations. Here’s a report from Steve Lynn writing for the Northern Colorado Business Report. Here’s an excerpt:

    Under current projections, rates for Colorado-Big Thompson Project water could rise from $28 to more than $100 per unit for municipal users and from $10 to $80 per unit for agricultural users by 2023, according to documents from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

    The extra money is needed because Northern Water’s expenses have outpaced its revenue in three of the last four years. Property taxes, which have remained flat since the recession, make up more than half of Northern Water’s revenue, while water-rate revenue accounts for about 20 percent of its funding.

    The agency has coped, up until now, by drawing from cash reserves to fund its operations. Reserve funds are partly intended to help stabilize revenue but are not a sustainable funding approach in the long term, according to Northern Water.

    The agency’s board is expected to decide on short-term rate hikes through 2018 this month. These potential hikes to $52.70 for municipal users and $32.20 for irrigation users would represent the largest dollar increase in Northern Water’s history, although the district has seen similar, double-digit percentage increases in the past.

    “In the early 1980s, there were several years with double-digit increases, similar to what we are looking at now,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said.

    The rate hikes are essential to maintain infrastructure, according to Northern Water, and experts believe they will lead to additional water conservation. But the higher prices will put pressure on farmers…

    Northern’s customers receive water under two types of contracts: fixed and open rate. The new rate hikes apply to those customers who buy open-rate water. In June, Northern Water board members raised the open-rate assessment 9 percent for next year. The 2015 rate for cities will increase to $30.50 per unit while the agricultural rate will rise to $10.90 per unit. Fixed-rate assessments based on decades-old contracts will remain $1.50 per acre foot.

    Roughly two-thirds of Northern’s water is delivered via open-rate contracts, while one-third is governed by fixed-rate agreements…

    Northern Water isn’t the only water district that has had to raise water rates. The Greeley-based Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, which supplies water to areas of Weld, Adams and Morgan counties, also has passed rate-assessment increases in recent years and plans to meet this month to consider additional rate hikes.

    “Our organization is looking at future (operations and maintenance costs) and how do we keep our finances up,” Central Water Executive Director Randy Ray said. “You’ve got regular operations costs like labor, electricity and gasoline for vehicles. Then you also have deferred maintenance.”

    The rate increases come as the nation faces challenges from deteriorating water infrastructure, which will cost more than $1 trillion over the next 25 years to fix in order to maintain current water service levels, according to a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Customers will pick up the tab mostly through higher water bills.

    Similarly, users of Colorado-Big Thompson Project water will pay higher water bills as a result of the increased rate assessments. Increased revenue from the assessments will help fund Northern Water’s operations and maintenance budget, which accounts for almost half of the water district’s expenses. Northern Water says it needs to make major upgrades to water delivery infrastructure, much of which was built more than 60 years ago.

    Tom Cech, director of One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said higher expenses and a rising population have pressured water supplies, leading to elevated costs. He noted, however, that investments in water infrastructure are critical to maintaining water delivery systems.

    “Look at all the investments that water providers did 100 years ago in our water system: new reservoirs, delivery systems and so forth,” he said. “That’s just the process of keeping up with the costs and population growth.”

    The Northern Board did pass an increase. Here’s a report from Steve Lynn writing for the Norther Colorado Business Report. Here’s an excerpt:

    The board of directors for Colorado’s largest water wholesaler Friday passed a historic water-rate hike in terms of dollars, representing a 202 percent increase for agricultural users and 90 percent for municipal users from 2014 through 2018.

    Customers of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District receive water units under two types of contracts: open rate and fixed. By 2018, the open-rate assessment for a unit of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project will cost $30.20 for agricultural users, up from $10 this year, and $53.10, up from $28, for municipal users.

    Fixed-rate assessments based on decades-old contracts will remain $1.50 per acre foot.

    Board members unanimously approved a steep rate hike for the open-rate assessments, though Colorado-Big Thompson Project water users had requested a smoother transition of increases over time. The rate hike through 2018 represented the largest dollar increase in the public water district’s 77-year history, though the water district’s board members has passed similar percentage increases in the past.

    The steeper rate hikes will help Northern Water more quickly achieve a balanced budget, said Jerry Gibbens, project manager and water resources engineer for Northern Water. The water district’s expenses have outpaced its revenue in three of the last four years, but Northern Water expects to reach a balanced budget by fiscal 2017 through the rate hikes.

    Based on decades-old contracts, the fixed-rate assessments remained the same, a point of contention among some water users who pay the higher open-rate assessments and contend that Northern Water should raise the fixed-rate assessments.

    Northern Water’s board agreed to look into how it could adjust the fixed rates in the future, but the agency has indicated that it may not be able to do so because they are set “contractually in-perpetuity.”

    In June, the board decided to raise 2015 open-rate assessments to $30.50 per unit while the agricultural rate will rise to $10.90 per unit.

    Under current projections, rates for Colorado-Big Thompson Project water could increase to more than $100 per unit for municipal users and to $80 per unit for agricultural users by 2023, according to Northern Water documents.

    Board members did not decide on increases after 2018, but they plan to set rates annually as well as make projections of rate adjustments two fiscal years in advance.

    More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Lake Mead: “The last time the lake was this low, the town of St. Thomas still had a post office” — Las Vegas Review-Journal #ColoradoRiver

    July 11, 2014

    From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean @RefriedBrean):

    Lake Mead sank to a record this week, its surface nudging downward a few tenths of an inch late Wednesday night to 1,081.82 feet above sea level.

    The last time the lake was this low, the town of St. Thomas still had a post office. In late spring of 1937, water from the once-wild Colorado River was still rising steadily behind the new Hoover Dam, inundating empty desert as it pushed toward Moapa Valley. By June of the following year, St. Thomas would be under water, but Mother Nature and human thirst couldn’t keep it there.

    In 1983, when the lake was as full as it’s ever been, the ruins of the town were under about 80 feet of water. Today, you can’t even see the lake from St. Thomas.

    The past 15 years have been especially hard on the nation’s largest man-made reservoir. Lake Mead has seen its surface drop by more than 130 feet amid stubborn drought in the mountains that feed the Colorado River. The unusually dry conditions have exacerbated a fundamental math problem for the river, which now sustains 30 million people and several billion dollars worth of farm production across the West but has been over-appropriated since before Hoover Dam was built…

    Wednesday’s record is unlikely to last. Forecasters expect Lake Mead to hit another new low today, then break that mark Saturday, and so on for the next several weeks.

    The streak of all-time lows should end by late August, when current projections from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation call for the reservoir to tick up slightly. Then it should inch down again, bottoming out sometime in November before starting back up as downstream water users cut their orders heading into winter.

    Bureau officials acknowledged this week’s milestone but said it won’t impact operations at Hoover Dam.

    “We will meet our water orders this year, and we are not projecting a shortage condition in 2015,” said Terry Fulp, the Boulder City-based director for the Bureau’s Lower Colorado Region. “We continue to closely monitor the projections of declining lake levels and are working with stakeholders throughout the Lower Basin to keep as much water in Lake Mead as we can through various storage and conservation efforts.”[...]

    Lake Powell, meanwhile, is expected to start next year 21 feet higher than it was at the beginning of 2014. Right now, the reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border is swelling by almost a foot a day as the last of the mountain snow melts into the Colorado River and its tributaries.

    Forecasters are predicting another big drop at Lake Mead next spring, as the lake stair-steps its way down to elevation 1,069, and below. By June 2016, the reservoir could hit 1,064, just 14 feet away from shutting down one of two intake pipes the Southern Nevada Water Authority uses to deliver 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s water supply.

    With that in mind, the wholesale water agency is rushing to complete a new intake that will reach deeper into the lake. The $817 million project has seen its schedule slip by more than 2 years, but is on track to finish next summer.

    “We feel confident the third intake will be complete before we lose Intake Number One,” said authority spokesman Bronson Mack…

    Lake Mead’s decline has been a major headache for the National Park Service.

    For every two-foot drop in the water level, the shoreline can recede 60 feet or more. Already the shrinking reservoir has left some boat ramps high and dry, and has pushed marinas into deeper water or closed them altogether.

    A decade ago, Lake Mead was home to nine boat launch ramps and six marinas. Six ramps and three marinas remain open today…

    While access to the lake has grown more difficult in recent years, she said, there is still more than 125 square miles of open water and roughly 400 miles of shoreline to explore.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


    Fountain Creek: “Is there a way to balance the needs of flood control and water rights?” — Larry Small

    July 11, 2014
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Overshadowing the need to look at the technical details of a study for a dam or detention ponds on Fountain Creek is how it would be funded. As of this week, the study has been battered about with all the care of an uprooted tree bobbing in the water. Other water issues may be getting snagged on it.

    In May, Colorado Springs City Council stonewalled funding the study.

    This week, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable couldn’t get past the issue of water rights and shrugged off consideration of a state grant for $135,000 that would have been part of a $220,000, 2-year study to look at the consequences of a dam and the feasibility of building it.

    Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, was frustrated after the meeting. Small walked the roundtable through the years of studies that led up to the conclusion that the best way to protect Pueblo from stormwater runoff in Colorado Springs — much of it made worse by development in the last 40 years — is to stop the water upstream of Pueblo.

    “Is there a way to balance the needs of flood control and water rights or do we just throw up our hands?” Small said at one point during the meeting. “It may not be possible, but we need to find out.”

    After the meeting, he was clearly frustrated.

    “This is such a small part of the overall costs,” he said, slapping his hand against a folder of supporting information for the study.

    During the meeting, several roundtable members made the point that junior agricultural water rights could be harmed during a flood.

    The Fountain Creek district has attempted to deal with that in the past, including a comprehensive workshop on the topic, attended by some farmers, in December 2011.

    Some saw value in looking at the water rights question just to determine if the rest of the study could proceed.

    “This at least gets the conversation on the table,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

    In the end, the water rights question became a deal stopper.

    There also are side issues that play into the question, such as a simmering feud between the Fountain Creek and Lower Ark districts about how matching money for grants has been applied under an intergovernmental agreement among the districts and Colorado Springs.

    “I would encourage the IGA partners to come together soon and resolve their differences,” said Alan Hamel, the basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Hamel was one of the few roundtable members who spoke in favor of the grant.

    “I think this is a wakeup call for the Fountain Creek district,” Winner said. “You don’t just sit up in Fountain and pretend to rule the world. The district needs to realize it’s in the water business.”

    More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project: “This a premier state park, and it’s going to have the heart knocked right out of it” — Polly Reetz

    July 10, 2014
    Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE

    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

    From The Denver Post (Joe Vaccarelli):

    The Army Corps of Engineers has approved an expansion of Chatfield Reservoir that will also bring some infrastructure improvements to the park, but patrons shouldn’t expect to see work done any time soon. According to Army Corps of Engineers project manager Gwyn Jarrett, it could be three to four years before work is underway and two to three years after that before it’s complete.

    The project was approved in late May and has been in discussion since the mid-1990s. The expansion will add 20,600 acre feet of water capacity — which could raise water levels in the reservoir by 12 feet — for joint use, flood control and water conservation. The $183 million project will help supply water providers in the metro area and across the Front Range as population and demand increases.

    “This project will meet a portion of the expected demand in Colorado,” Jarrett said. “It’s not going to solve the problem, but it will help with the growing population.”

    Once construction does start, most of the work will be done in the off-season, but people can expect that certain portions of the park could be closed at times. Part of the construction will include improving some of the amenities at the park such as new recreation buildings, picnic tables, beach areas and bathhouses.

    “A lot of amenities date back to the mid-to-late 1970s when the project was constructed,” Jarrett said.

    Chatfield State Park manager Scott Roush said the park doesn’t have to do much to get ready for the construction, but his staff will be involved with the design process when that kicks off, possibly this fall.

    Part of that discussion will include the marina, which may have to move because of the rising water levels.

    Public feedback had not been all positive, as some organizations feel that this project will damage some environmental aspects of the park.

    The plan will flood more than 500 acres of the park and inundate some cottonwood trees near the reservoir, destroying habitat for several species of birds.

    “We initially thought at first that (the project) was fairly benign, but we didn’t know that it will do massive environmental damage on one of the largest parks in the metro area,” said Polly Reetz, conservation chairperson for the Audubon Society of Greater Denver.

    Reetz had other problems with the plan, saying that increasing the capacity of the reservoir doesn’t guarantee more water. She was also displeased that the state passed legislation to permit loans to water providers in order to pay for the project.

    Roush said that while they will lose some trees, some would be relocated to other parts of the park.

    “There’s been a lot of feedback about the cottonwood trees. We’re going to lose some trees; they will come back eventually,” he said.

    But Reetz said there is no guarantee that the trees will come back and she was surprised the corps went with the proposal, saying it was the most harmful environmentally.

    “It’s a really bad deal for the public,” Reetz said. “This a premier state park, and it’s going to have the heart knocked right out of it.”

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.


    “I cannot imagine storage on Fountain Creek unless John Martin Reservoir were full” — said Jeris Danielson

    July 10, 2014
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A study that could lead to building a flood-control dam on Fountain Creek stalled Wednesday over the question of how it might affect water rights. Determining if water rights could be protected would be the first task in the study, Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Director Larry Small explained to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

    “The prime objective is to evaluate whether water rights could be protected if a dam is built,” Small said. “There would be regular meetings with water rights holders to resolve the conflicts.”

    That didn’t sit well with several members of the roundtable, who argued that junior water rights could be harmed if floodwater were held.

    “I cannot imagine storage on Fountain Creek unless John Martin Reservoir were full,” said Jeris Danielson, a former state engineer who now heads the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District. “It could mean a great deal of water lost to junior water rights holders, and I have a problem with the roundtable providing something that could damage the Arkansas River Compact.”

    Otero County farmers John Schweizer and Vernon John Proctor both made the point that the Fountain Creek district does not have water rights to hold back any water.

    Several other members of the board suggested that no part of the Fountain Creek study should go forward until the water rights question is answered.

    Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said the farmers were ignoring the potential danger to agriculture from a flood on Fountain Creek.

    “I support this grant application,” Hamel said. “You just have to look at all the ditch headgates that were lost in Northern Colorado last fall.”

    The roundtable moves projects ahead only if there is consensus, so the application was denied. A revised application still could be considered.

    The study would build on a U.S. Geological Survey study that determined either a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs would be the best protection for Pueblo of a 100-year flood on Fountain Creek. The USGS study, however, did not identify where a dam would be built or determine other factors such as engineering obstacles or water rights. The Fountain Creek district is trying to answer those questions prior to the arrival of $50 million in funding from Colorado Springs. That money, dedicated to flood control projects that benefit Pueblo, is a condition of the Pueblo County 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

    The $220,000 study promoted at the roundtable included financial backing from Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Fountain, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Pueblo West and Security. It also had letters of support from city councils and county commissioners in El Paso and Pueblo counties.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Event to honor builders of Ridgway dam and reservoir

    July 8, 2014

    Ridgway Reservoir during winter

    Ridgway Reservoir during winter


    Here’s the release from CPW:

    This year marks the 25th anniversary of the construction of the Ridgway dam and the establishment of Ridgway State Park. A special event to recognize those who worked on the construction project is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 8 at the park.

    Did you work on the project? Or do you know someone who did? This includes former or current employees of the Bureau of Reclamation or other government agencies, construction workers, and municipal and county officials who assisted with the project. If so, please send your contact information via e-mail to: rhonda.palmer@state.co.us, or call her at 970-626-5822, ext. 11. You’ll be contacted about the event.

    Planning for the Dallas Creek Project, as it is called formally by the BOR, began shortly after the end of World War II. Construction eventually started in 1978 and the reservoir filled completely for the first time in 1990. The dam stores water for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses for the Uncompahgre Valley in western Colorado.

    One of Colorado’s premier recreational facilities, Ridgway State Park offers camping, hiking, bicycling, boating, fishing and swimming. More than 300,000 people visit the park every year.

    For more information about Ridgway and all of Colorado State Parks, see: http://cpw.state.co.us.

    More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.


    Rifle: Bids for new water treatment plant blow budget

    July 8, 2014
    The water treatment process

    The water treatment process

    From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

    Rather than wait up to another year and risk even higher costs, Rifle City Council unanimously rejected two bids on a new $25 million water treatment plant and decided to proceed under a “sole source” approach.

    At a special June 25 meeting, the council also approved nearly $150,000 in project expenses, an application for a $2 million state grant to help purchase filters and equipment for the plant and the return of a $600,000 grant that was to help build a new main waterline connection to South Rifle.

    The action came after two bids for the project came in $8 million to $11 million higher than the city engineer’s estimate and the funds available to build the plant. Alder Construction, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, submitted a base bid of $33.1 million and PCL Construction, located in Phoenix, Ariz., with an office in Glenwood Springs, submitted a base bid of approximately $36.5 million.

    The city received a $25 million low-interest loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, to help pay for the plant. Two years ago, Rifle voters approved a 3/4 cent sales tax increase to help repay the loan.

    Mayor Randy Winkler said the city had underestimated the cost of the new plant.

    “All building costs seem to have gone up greatly just in the last year,” he said. “So we were forced to really take a hard look at this project.”

    The project was originally designed to include improvements to the city’s raw water pump station, a new 24-inch raw water pipeline to the new 40,000-square-foot plant, a radio tower at the existing Graham Mesa water plant for remote data transmission of information about the city’s water system to the pump station and then by cable to the new plant, and connections to water transmission and main lines.

    City officials have said the Graham Mesa plant is aging, undersized to serve projected population growth and unable to meet possible tougher federal water quality standards in the future. Construction work was expected to last up to two years.

    More Rifle coverage here.


    Take a look at spin-cast lining technology for water pipe repair

    July 8, 2014

    A former colleague of mine, Terry Baus, is showing off technology for lining pipe. Here’s his pitch:

    The YouTube video that follows shows a pipe lining demonstration performed by TW Summit Corporation at the May 29, 2014 American Water Works Association Rocky Mountain Section Water Distribution Committee Workshop hosted by the City of Westminster. The spin-cast lining technology provides a permanent, structural, non-toxic, hydrophilic (can be applied to a wet surface), fast-drying, trenchless solution for reconstructing, rehabilitating and renewing potable and no-potable water conveyance systems. The lining will provide “a new pipe”, prevent exfiltration and infiltration and take the “next step” in addressing a technology void providing another much needed tool for repairing Colorado’s and the nation’s aging and leaking water infrastructure. To coin a phrase: a picture, in this case a YouTube video, is worth a thousand words. Please watch and assess for yourself how this technology may further assist us all in sealing and providing for permanent structural repairs in Colorado’s water infrastructure systems.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Pueblo: Rates are a complex question

    July 8, 2014
    Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

    Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Other cities in the West ration water, use block rates to discourage water waste and even pay property owners to rip out sod. Pueblo does none of those things, and a couple of people who attended last week’s state water plan meeting at Pueblo Community College wondered why.

    “It’s driven by economics,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “Using less water drives up rates. That puts more of a burden on poorer customers. It’s a complex question.”

    For years, the Pueblo water board has seen a decrease in water use that began after the city put outdoor watering restrictions in place following the 2002 drought. A 2007 study found customer attitudes had fundamentally changed. Instead of dragging hoses to water the lawn in the hottest part of the day, more Puebloans chose to set up automated sprinkler systems to run in the morning or evening. The water board also promotes Wise Water Use online and in its outreach programs. At the same time, Pueblo has kept its water rates the lowest on Colorado’s Front Range.

    One woman wanted to know why homeowners are penalized for not watering their lawns. There is a difference between xeriscaping and simply letting the weeds take over, Book said. Again, it’s the poor who suffer because redoing a landscape with drought tolerant plants and reducing the square footage of bluegrass can cost thousands of dollars. Many lawns in Pueblo have been lost because of the choice to cut back on the water bill, he said.

    At one point in the meeting, Book said Pueblo has a water supply for 220,000- 225,000 people — but the water board has learned that severe drought can stress even that supply. In most years, the water board has extra water to lease, mostly to farmers. Recently, the water board increased its rate on longterm contracts as a way to generate more revenue in order to keep rates low. By contrast, growth in El Paso County to the north will put pressure on other water resources in the Arkansas River basin, and water comes at a higher price.

    While Pueblo’s supply seems ample for now, the water board already has taken steps to provide water for future generations by buying water rights on the Bessemer Ditch. For now, the water is being leased back to farmers at a low cost. This decision was questioned by farmer Doug Wiley, who came to the meeting and suggested fallowing urban landscapes in times of drought to provide more water to farms.

    Both Wiley and Book agreed, however, that the quality of water in Pueblo is better than the Lower Arkansas Valley and so the water resources in this area should be preserved. Dissolved salts, selenium, radionuclides and minerals increase along the Arkansas River as it flows to Kansas.

    “The quality of water is the issue as you move down the Arkansas Valley,” Book said.

    More conservation coverage here.


    Norwood infrastructure upgrades should help with water quality

    July 7, 2014

    norwood

    From The Norwood Post (Regan Tuttle):

    The Town of Norwood continues to make headway in water quality and availability. This past February, Norwood completed a major upgrade to the water treatment plant.

    “We just completed a big project that we did last year. We’ve added a filter to the water treatment plant to help with water quality. That took about a year and was finished in February,” Public Works Director Tim Lippert said.

    Lippert has been in service to the Town of Norwood — in public works, Norwood Water Commission and Norwood Sanitation District — for 22 years.

    According to Lippert, the EPA, through the Colorado Department of Health, has tightened the standards for drinking water over the years. As a result, Norwood’s previous water treatment system was not in compliance.

    Through many grants and low-interest loans, and the hard work of town officials, the water treatment plant is now producing more and cleaner and water than ever before…

    The latest addition features a new clarifier system that converts raw water through a chemical and sand filter process to produce Norwood’s best drinking water yet…

    Last year, Norwood also completed repair on the Gardner Springs water right. During that process, Lippert and his crew discovered damage to the Norwood Pipeline.

    The Norwood Pipeline will now be rehabilitated through grant funding made possible by Southwest Water Conservancy in Durango.

    “We had done exploratory digging there to see why it wasn’t producing. The pipe was smashed, and we are now replacing 600 feet,” Lippert said.

    According to Lippert, the plastic irrigation pipes may not have been bedded properly. Over the years, the weight of the mud collapsed them.

    “We couldn’t get water through it,” Lippert said. “And silting happened also because of restrictions.”

    The Norwood Pipeline project will include a flume with control valves for the purpose of measuring water flow. Water from Norwood Pipeline can then be diverted into one of Norwood’s two reservoirs.

    “We can then measure flow and divert it where we want,” Lippert said.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Denver Water upgrading 50-year-old infrastructure at Dillon Dam

    July 2, 2014

    Morning Glory spillway via the USBR

    Morning Glory spillway via the USBR


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

    Beginning July 7, and ending in early 2015, Denver Water will be upgrading Dillon Dam’s outlet works facility, which houses the system that controls the flow of water from Dillon Reservoir into the Blue River. The facility’s gates are more than 50 years old and need maintenance due to normal wear and tear. The focus of the work is to restore the gates to near original condition.

    “We don’t expect this project to have much of an impact on traffic in the area, or on recreational users of the reservoir and the river,” said Jeff Archer, project engineer. “We’re working closely with county officials, as well as Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Fishing on the reservoir and the Blue River will remain available during the project.”

    A Denver Water contractor will carry out the work. The majority of the construction will take place inside the fenced-in area near the Morning Glory spillway toward the Frisco side of the dam road. During construction, the contractor will occasionally be moving heavy equipment — such as cranes, loaders, excavators and trucks — around the dam area. Daily construction traffic should not impact traffic around Dillon Reservoir; however, there may be limited traffic impacts when the contractor transports large equipment at the beginning and end of construction.

    In order to work on the gates, the contractor will reroute the normal flow of water around the construction in the outlet works using a bypass system that will redirect water into the Blue River while the gates are out of service. While construction activities are slated to begin in July, the bypass system likely will operate from August through December. The flows in the Blue River are expected to correspond with average flows for that time of year. In addition, a barge with a crane will be placed on the reservoir within the buoy lines near the spillway as part of the bypass system for a week in the fall. The barge will not interfere with normal activities on the reservoir.

    This $3.4 million project was previously announced in 2012, but was postponed due to drought conditions, which made the project not feasible because of the bypass system needed to carry out the work.

    More Denver Water coverage here.


    Strontia Springs Dam — under the spillway

    June 30, 2014

    Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

    Last week we explored the history of the High Line Canal, which begins at a diversion dam on the South Platte River 1.8 miles upstream from the mouth of Waterton Canyon. Roughly five more miles up the canyon is Strontia Springs Dam.

    And, as we learned in our trip to Cheesman Reservoir two weeks ago, several Denver Water reservoirs filled this spring during the runoff, including Strontia Springs Reservoir.

    Lance Cloyd, Denver Water’s Strontia Springs caretaker, provides an all-access tour of the area with behind-the-scenes vantage points capturing the beauty behind 800 cubic feet per second flowing out of the spillway.

    View original


    Conservation: Big water savings in Aspen — Mountain Town News #ColoradoRiver

    June 30, 2014

    Smuggler Mine back in the day via GregRulon.com

    Smuggler Mine back in the day via GregRulon.com


    From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    In 1974, Aspen’s future seemed clear enough. The town was growing briskly, the ski industry booming, and by the 1990s the town would need to make major investments to provide water for the future.

    With that in mind, town officials filed for storage rights on two upstream creeks, Castle and Maroon, where the municipality already had significant senior water rights. Had the town gone ahead with construction of those reservoirs, the cost today would be roughly $50 million.

    Instead, in about 1994, Mayor John Bennett and council members chose a different approach. They would emphasize water savings.

    Phil Overeynder, who was the city’s utility manager then, says he has calculated that today water rates would need to be quadrupled to pay for the reservoirs and other infrastructure.

    But there was another reason for Aspen to pursue conservation beginning in the 1990s. Overeynder said improved efficiency bolstered the argument that Eastern Slope water providers needed to make do with what they had before expanding diversions. In his eyes, Eastern Slope water providers still have not done everything they can. “Not to the extent it was promised 40 years ago,” he says.

    For Aspen, improving water efficiency has several components. The city couldn’t account for 55 percent of the water being sent to customers. There were leaks, lots of them. It was, says Overeynder, a third-world water system. But a lot of water was used to bleed pipes. Water mains were buried deep, but the service lines to individual houses were within the frost line. During winter, homeowners left their faucets running, to avoid freezing. It was city policy to overlook that use.

    Over time, these inefficient uses have been eliminated. The rate structure was revised to strongly recommend efficiency.

    From 450 gallons per capita daily in 1974, use peaked in 1993 at 516 gallons.

    Last year, it was 164 gallons per capita daily.

    Use still spikes in summer, but not as much. The water treatment plant expanded in the 1980s has surplus capacity.

    More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here.


    “Local entities can also derail projects more readily now than in the past” — Candace Krebs #COWaterPlan

    June 30, 2014

    organicdairycows

    From the Bent County Democrat (Candace Krebs):

    During the third annual Protein Producer Summit, a joint summer business meeting of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Livestock Association, four panelists shared a wish list of items they think could improve the state’s ability to fully capture and utilize its water resources…

    Last fall’s historic northern Colorado flood sent water surging downstream to Nebraska and Kansas, much of it technically Colorado’s water, although the state could neither capture it nor use it for credit toward meeting compact obligations.

    Developing storage to bank that water isn’t as straightforward as it was a generation ago. Conflicting definitions and rules between multiple state and federal agencies have made it increasingly costly and time-consuming to build new reservoirs or refurbish old ones.

    Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, has spent the last 14 years leading an effort to build two more reservoirs in Northern Colorado at a cost so far of at least $13 million. The Northern Integrated Supply Project has yet to move beyond the permitting stage. Wilkinson wants to see federal agencies grant permits on a parallel basis. He also said better communication is needed between federal agencies and between federal and state agencies.

    Chris Treese, manager of external affairs for the Colorado River District — the oldest in the state — recalled that in the early 1980s a special division of state government existed solely to facilitate coordination between state and federal agencies.

    “I think that was a real benefit,” he said. “I think that’s a role the state could assume again.”

    Local entities can also derail projects more readily now than in the past. Several groups are currently gathering signatures for a local control ballot initiative that Wilkinson said would be like “1041 on steroids,” referring to the act passed in 1974 that gives local land use interests more say in the development of large-scale water projects. The ballot initiative is primarily targeted at oil and gas development but would likely stall future water projects as well, he said…

    How to develop more water without overdeveloping is another issue. Joking that he hailed from the “wetter, better side of the mountains,” Treese said the recent compact calls along the Arkansas and Republican rivers had been a wake-up call for everyone. More water capture on the western slope would also lead to more demands on the system…

    Farming directly downstream from 3 million hungry (and thirsty) consumers is both a blessing and a curse, said Robert Sakata, a produce farmer from Brighton who is active on water issues. Sakata is the only ag producer to serve on the Denver metro water roundtable but he called it a valuable experience at a time when farming’s long-term sustainability is pitted against the growth of municipalities.

    Sakata said at one point he joked with Aurora officials that instead of buying his water, they should buy his farm and then hire him to farm it. That way the city could have locally grown produce with the option of growing less in dry years when the municipality needs more water. “I was only half-joking,” he said during the panel.

    Better water conservation by cities won’t address shortages without causing new problems, he added. “As cities become more efficient, there’s less water downstream,” he said.

    That puts pressure on water rights holders at the end of the line to sell now “while there’s still some value” in those rights, added Sakata, who is on the board of two ditch companies. His water rights only convey about a third of the water they once did.

    Currier said he wrestled with whether it was possible to stem the “buy and dry” scenario that permanently transfers water from farms to cities without infringing on private property rights.

    “Should we make it harder to sell ag water rights? Should there be incentives to keep water in agriculture?” he wondered aloud.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    South Platte and Metro roundtables #COWaterPlan update

    June 30, 2014
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    SDS: There is no Plan B — Colorado Springs Business Journal

    June 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 (John Hazlehurst):

    CSU’s ongoing billion-dollar bet is the Southern Delivery System. Scheduled to go online in 2016, SDS will convey water from Pueblo Reservoir via a 66-inch-diameter underground pipeline to Colorado Springs. It will expand the city’s raw water delivery capacity by an eventual 55 million gallons per day (MGD), a nearly 50-percent increase in system capacity…

    “What we’re hoping for is a record snowpack,” CSU Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier said in late March, “followed by a hot, dry summer.”

    Cherrier said it with a smile, but he had neatly summarized CSU’s dilemma. Water in the reservoirs must both be replenished and sold. The sell side of the equation is driven by fixed costs, including system maintenance and replacement, energy costs and continuing capital investment. But buyers don’t care about CSU’s problems; they prefer to water their lawns with free water from the skies.

    Per-capita water use has dropped sharply in the past 20 years, leading to corresponding reductions in the city’s long-term consumption estimates.

    “The Base (i.e. revenue) forecast is for an estimated service area population (city, suburban, Green Mountain Falls, military) of about 608,552 and about 106,000 AF/yr for demand,” wrote CSU spokesperson Janet Rummel in an email. “The ‘hot and dry’ scenario uses the same service area population and estimates about 120,000 AF/yr demand. This particular ‘hot and dry’ scenario equates to an 80 percent confidence interval and adds about 13 percent to annual demands.”

    That’s a precipitous drop from the high-side estimate of the 1996 water resources plan, which forecast a population in 2040 as high as 900,000 and water demand of 168,150 acre-feet. The base forecast, at 106,000 acre-feet annually, is only 1,800 acre-feet more than the community used in 2000, 40 years previously.

    Does that mean CSU’s water managers dropped $841 million into a new water delivery system that we may not need until 2016? Does this prove that the project, originally conceived to furnish water for the Banning-Lewis Ranch development, is now entirely unnecessary?

    Perhaps not…

    “SDS is not a short-term solution,” Rummel said in a 2010 email. “The time to build a major water project is not when you have run short of water … [we need] to better prepare our community for drought, climate change and water supply uncertainty on the Colorado River.”

    Many factors entered into the decision to build SDS. In 1996, there was no discussion of system redundancy, of having an additional water pipeline that could serve the city in case one of the existing conduits needed emergency repair. But 18 years later, the pipelines are that much more vulnerable to accident or malfunction.

    In 1996, population growth and per capita water use were expected to continue indefinitely at historic levels. But they didn’t. Commercial and industrial use declined, and price-sensitive residents used less water. Indoor use declined as well as outdoor, thanks to restricted-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets.

    SDS stayed on track. In the eyes of the water survivalists who conceived and created the project, the city’s rights on the Arkansas River had to be developed. They saw long, hot summers in the city and dry winters in the mountains. Opponents could make any arguments they liked, but these five words trumped them all.

    Use it or lose it.

    Undeveloped water rights are like $100 bills blowing down the street — someone will grab them and use them for their own benefit…

    “This will be our last pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom. “We will never be able to develop a new water delivery system. When SDS is finished, that’s it.”

    Bostrom’s peers in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles have reason to envy him. Colorado Springs has won the water wars. We’ve bought ourselves decades of time. Whether we save or squander this liquid bounty is up to us.

    In 2040, the city may have 30,000 to 50,000 acre-feet a year of unneeded delivery capacity. That cushion will allow for decades of population growth and for the introduction of sophisticated irrigation techniques that will preserve our green city and minimize water use.

    In years to come, members of the Colorado Springs City Council will decide how to preserve the city’s future. Will they heed Bostrom’s warning and encourage radical conservation? Will new developments be required to xeriscape, and preserve trees with drip irrigation devices?

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Reducing the Impact of Stormwater Challenges — Nancy Stoner

    June 29, 2014

    aspen
    From the Environmental Protection Agency (Nancy Stoner):

    Stormwater pollution is a dilemma all across the country – even in beautiful mountain towns like Aspen, Colorado. Pollutants such as oils, fertilizer, and sediment from the steep mountains that tower over the town, can be carried via stormwater and snowmelt and deposited into waterways like the Roaring Fork River. This has a huge impact on the ecosystem.

    Last month, I toured the Jennie Adair wetlands, a bio-engineered detention area designed to passively treat stormwater runoff in Aspen. I saw firsthand how the city is working to deal with its stormwater challenges. Before this project, stormwater did not drain to a water treatment facility. It used to flow directly into the Roaring Fork River and other water bodies within the city limits, having significant impacts on the water quality.

    To reduce this impact, Aspen designed a passive stormwater treatment facility that also serves as an attractive and natural looking feature in a beautiful park that is dedicated to the memory of John Denver. The innovative and beautiful design uses boulders and large rocks that were naturally present on site, to shape the channel that carries runoff from the roads and from a vault into the detention pond where sediment and other pollutants settle out. On the other side of the pond, the water comes out crystal clear and drains right into the Roaring Fork River.

    I was impressed by the use of green infrastructure to improve water quality and that they made such a beautiful public park out of it and did so voluntarily. This is a town that is dedicated to clean water. The people of Aspen should be proud.

    Green infrastructure, similar to what is being built in Aspen and many other cities across the country, can be a cost-effective approach for improving water quality and can help communities to stretch their infrastructure investments further. Green infrastructure reduces and treats the water at its source, often delaying the time it takes to clear the structure. Therefore green infrastructure often reduces flooding within the area the project is constructed.

    Since 2007, the EPA has supported the idea of green infrastructure to control storm events. The Agency has formulated strategic agendas, built community partnerships, and provided technical assistance to many communities seeking to implement green infrastructure practices.

    Aspen has shown us that with a little innovation we can reduce our impact on the environment while enhancing its beauty.

    More stormwater coverage here.


    Take a trip down the High Line Canal

    June 29, 2014

    Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

    The trail along the High Line Canal is a favorite urban getaway that meanders 66 miles across the Denver metro area. While the waterway (71-miles long) is owned and operated by Denver Water, this National Landmark Trail is maintained by municipal recreation agencies.

    The workers who built the High Line Canal more than a century ago didn’t envision that people would be using their ambitious irrigation project as a recreational outlet in the midst of a busy urban area. Take a trip back in time with Greenwood Village to learn how the canal transformed into the recreational amenity it is today.

    Beyond The Green – The High Line Canal Trail


    The Guide to the High Line Canal Trail, a full-color guide with mile-by-mile descriptions and a pull-out trail map, is a perfect companion for anyone looking to enjoy a slice of the outdoors in the middle of a city.

    View original 26 more words


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