The Town of Estes Park and Reclamation are holding a ‘Preparing for spring runoff’ meeting to discuss snowpack and possible flooding, May 2

April 23, 2011

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From the Estes Park News:

the Town of Estes Park invites residents and businesses to a public meeting on May 2 at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place in the Town Board Room of Estes Park’s Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Avenue. Staff from Larimer County and the Bureau of Reclamation will join the Town of Estes Park’s Police and Public Works Departments in providing helpful information to citizens about available resources and what to expect this year.

The “Preparing for spring runoff” meeting will include discussion from the Estes Park Police Department on emergency preparedness. The Town of Estes Park’s Public Works Department will provide information on the availability of sand bag materials, should the runoff create an urgent need for property owners along low-lying areas of the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers. Larimer County will discuss its role during runoff in unincorporated portions of the County. The Bureau of Reclamation will present what it is forecasting will be released from Olympus Dam down the Big Thompson River as well as what to expect at Marys Lake and Lake Estes reservoirs.

Meanwhile, the Elbert County News is reminding folks that there is a 30 day waiting for flood insurance coverage to start. From the article:

The Colorado Division of Insurance reminds people to take stock of their belongings and check their insurance policies before the water starts to rise in their neighborhood. Spring and summer are peak times for floods, and flood insurance has a 30 day waiting period before it takes effect, so the time to review your policy is now.

According to Kevin Houck, senior Engineer with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a number of major watersheds are showing signs of very high snowpack, including upper Colorado at 128 percent, South Platte at 123 percent, North Platte at 137 percent, Yampa/White at 130 percent and Gunnison at 115 percent. “These are very high numbers for major watersheds,” Houck said, adding that some smaller sub-watersheds within these can have even higher readings. “These high snowpack numbers will increase the risk of snowmelt flooding in these areas.” Houck stressed that it’s impossible to predict if and when there will be a flood, and even with the slightly higher-than-average snowpack numbers, it’s possible Colorado could have an uneventful spring as far as floods.


Snowpack news: Vail hits the 500 inch mark for snowfall this season

April 23, 2011

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From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

[Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot] said snowfall measured at the top of the mountain puts this year just outside of the top five best years as of Wednesday, but it’s not an apples to apples comparison to previous seasons because the timing of when the resorts starts measuring snow for the season has been different throughout the years. This season is the best snow year since the resort started measuring at Mid-Vail 10 years ago, he said.

Things are not looking good for irrigators in the San Luis Valley. Here’s a report from Matt Hildner writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

While not nearly as dry as 2002 or 2003 when drought blanketed the state, Cotten said this year’s season is shaping up to be like 2004 or 2006, which both were below average. Given that the valley’s streams and rivers are over appropriated, meaning there’s not enough water to fill all of the area’s water rights, some water users will go without this year. Cotten predicted there will be irrigation ditches on both the Conejos River and the Rio Grande that don’t get any water this year. Those two rivers, which are the valley’s largest, have their headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, where snowpack is currently 83 percent of average.

Irrigators on the eastern side of the valley likely will face an even tougher summer. Snowpack from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which feeds smaller creeks such as the Culebra, San Luis and Trinchera, is down to 31 percent of average…

There have been six dust storms that have blanketed the San Juan’s snowpack this year, Cotten said, but officials are still waiting to see how the rest of runoff proceeds.


National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center: The April 21 U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook is hot off the presses

April 22, 2011

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Here’s the link to the web page:

The La Niña present during the 2010-11 winter led to expansive drought development across the lower Mississippi Valley, southern Plains, and Southwest. During the past month, drought conditions have worsened rapidly across Oklahoma, Texas, and southern New Mexico. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), parts of Texas are designated in the exceptional drought (D4) category. Since the CPC monthly or seasonal outlooks favor enhanced odds for below median precipitation and above normal temperatures, persistence can be expected in eastern Colorado, the southern high Plains, the Southwest, and much of Texas/Louisiana. Development in parts of Arizona is related to low snow water content values and a relatively dry climatology. Prospects for improvement increase in eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas. Across the Southeast, drought reduction has occurred since the beginning of March. Some improvement is forecast across the interior Southeast, while odds increase for improvement across Florida due to a wet climatology beginning in late May. It should be noted that short-term worsening of drought conditions may occur in Florida prior to the onset of the wet season. Some improvement is forecast across the Hawaiian Islands. Outside of the drought areas depicted on the USDM (April 21), monthly/seasonal tools offer no strong signal for dryness. This lack of a dry signal coupled with antecedent wetness favors little or no expected development through the end of July.


Groundwater: The Colorado Geological Survey says that farm runoff and septic systems have degraded the water quality in the Upper Black Squirrel designated groundwater basin, public presentation Monday, April 25

April 22, 2011

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Here’s the executive summary from the report:

This report documents the work, findings, analysis, and recommendations of the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) in executing the scope of work commissioned by El Paso County, through the Groundwater Study Committee, established in reference to Resolution No. 09‐202. The subject of this report is the groundwater quality of the alluvial aquifer within the Upper Black Squirrel Creek (UBSC) basin (Figure 1.1). The Phase 1 study objectives are to characterize the current groundwater quality in the alluvial aquifer and determine whether there is a correlation between existing and future land uses and groundwater quality. The scope of work for Phase 1 was finalized in January 2010, and the County contracted with CGS to perform the work.

The current study is limited to evaluation of existing water quality data for groundwater in the alluvial aquifer system of the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Designated Groundwater basin (UBSC basin) of east‐central El Paso County, Colorado. As part of the study a literature review identified 34 relevant publications and an annotated bibliography was prepared. Previous published studies indicated that the groundwater was of good quality, but identified nitrate as a contaminant of concern. Water quality data was acquired from a variety of public sources (county, state, and federal) and study cooperators. The data represent 150 samples collected from 72 different wells between 1954 and 2009. Samples collected for water quality analysis within the study area have a limited spatial and temporal distribution. Approximately 80% of the data were collected in the 1980s and 1990s, and the great majority of wells are within three miles of the Ellicott Highway. One of the most important characteristics of this data is the lack of multiple samples from individual locations. The northern and western portions of the UBSC basin where rapid development has occurred and is expected to continue are not represented in the data.

Groundwater chemical analysis data for inorganic compounds, total dissolved solids (TDS), nitrate, metals, organic compounds, and radionuclides were evaluated to characterize the UBSC basin alluvial aquifer’s water quality. The groundwater sample data indicate that, where sampled, the water is generally acceptable with respect to drinking water standards; of moderate hardness; and free of pesticides, herbicides, and regulated organic contaminants. At certain times and locations, some water quality parameters were detected at concentrations in violation of primary and secondary drinking water standards including: arsenic, nitrate, pH, TDS, sulfate, and iron. Nitrate values greater than 5.0 mg/L are common in the basin, and suggest that the alluvial water quality has been influenced by sources of nutrient loading.

No clear relationship between land uses and groundwater quality was evident from the available data. Existing UBSC basin land uses evaluated include residential, agricultural, urban, commercial, industrial, military, and unregulated industrial waste disposal. Elevated nitrate concentrations are distributed over parcels associated with residential, dry land farming/grazing, and irrigated agriculture, suggesting localized sources rather than being impacted from categorical land use. Groundwater quality data are lacking in the northwest portion of the basin where the majority of the development is occurring. Consequently, information regarding nitrate concentrations in areas with higher density ISDSs is missing. Elevated TDS values are associated with both dryland farming/grazing land and rural residential land use. Potential contaminant sources associated with future land uses have been summarized in Table 5.1. Anticipated future land uses within the basin are a continuation and expansion of current land uses, primarily consisting of residential development in urban, rural residential and rural development densities with accompanying commercial development. Figure 5.2 summarizes activity nodes and transportation corridors where future development is expected to be concentrated.

Due to the spatial and temporal limitations of the compiled water quality data, this study was only partially successful in meeting the objectives established by the study committee. Unfortunately, there is no groundwater quality data available in the northwest portion of the basin, where urban land uses and ISDSs are concentrated and continued development is expected.

Decision makers in El Paso County attempting to assess the vulnerability of the groundwater resource currently lack a complete understanding of the hydrogeology of the aquifer system and the associated anthropogenic effects controlling the source, transport, and fate of potential contaminants. To address this gap, we recommend implementing a Phase 2 investigation focusing on refining our understanding of the groundwater flow system and acquiring the water quality data needed to support and scientifically defend land use planning decisions.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

The Colorado Geological Survey recently analyzed records of water quality samples from 1954 to 2009, a $53,000 project initiated by county commissioners to help guide land-use decisions in the basin. More than half of the water samples showed nitrate levels of 5 milligrams per liter or higher. That’s below the federal drinking water standard of 10, but the study’s author said it is still higher than it should be given the natural conditions, in the 2 to 3 milligrams per liter range.

“Five is just higher than one would expect in a native groundwater environment. It suggests there are some human influences on the increased concentrations,” said hydrogeologist Ralf Topper.

Nitrates are a by-product of fertilizer, which can get into the aquifer as runoff from farm fields and cattle pens. They can also come from the breakdown of human waste in septic systems…

Public meeting on groundwater study

El Paso County’s Groundwater Quality Study Committee will hold a public meeting 6-8 p.m. Monday in the Falcon High School cafeteria, 10255 Lambert Road in Falcon. Members will present information on the recently completed study of groundwater quality in the alluvial aquifer of the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Basin.

More groundwater coverage here and here.


Conservation: Denver Water releases summer watering rules

April 22, 2011

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

Denver Water’s summer water use rules begin May 1, but the utility encourages customers to pay attention to weather and lawn conditions before watering.

“Half of a household’s water use goes to outside watering,” said Melissa Essex Elliott, manager of conservation. “Most lawns don’t need as much water as you might think. Watering your lawn two days a week should be sufficient during May and into June.”

Denver Water’s watering rules, in effect until Oct. 1, are:

- No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
– Do not water more than three days per week (there are no assigned days for watering).
– Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
– Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
– Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
– Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.

The utility will continue to enforce its rules with a team of 12 Water Savers, including four on bikes.

“The Water Savers’ purpose is as much about educating customers as it is about enforcing Denver Water’s rules,” said Elliott. “We continue to have some monitors on bikes as a more approachable way to talk with our customers one-on-one about wise water use.”

If you see water waste in one of Denver’s parks, call 3-1-1. To report waste elsewhere, call Denver Water at 303-628-6343.

Colorado’s dry climate means everyone needs to take part to ensure adequate water supplies will be available well into the future. “A small step like adjusting your watering times based on the weather is a great way to become more efficient,” said Elliott. Denver Water’s long-term plan to secure water for the future includes encouraging water conservation as a permanent way of life for Denver residents.

Visit conservation for tips, rebates, irrigation calculators and many more tools for saving water outdoors, including suggested watering times.


Denver Water is going to draw down Antero Reservoir to evaluate damage to the dam from seepage

April 22, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

Denver Water, in coordination with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Office of the State Engineer, will lower Antero Reservoir by two feet beginning the first week of May. The gradual drawdown will take four to five weeks. Denver Water will keep the popular reservoir open to recreation, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife will continue to manage the fishery.

The drawdown is a safety precaution to reduce water pressure and seepage within the dam to ensure it doesn’t pose a safety risk to area visitors and residents. Antero Dam, built in 1909, has experienced excessive seepage since it was built and has been operating under reservoir storage restrictions by the state since the early 1900s to ensure public safety.

“The dam has exhibited seepage for a prolonged period,” said Mike Miller, Denver Water dam safety engineer. “Our accrued measurement data from within the dam indicate we need to conduct further studies to determine the extent of damage. Lowering the reservoir elevation as a safety precaution will reduce seepage impacts.”

Further engineering evaluations of the dam will determine the long-term plan for the facility. The duration of the study will depend on what Denver Water learns from the initial information.

Denver Water and the Colorado Division of Wildlife are working cooperatively to examine all of the possibilities to lessen the potential impacts to the fishery from the drawdown,” said Jeff Spohn, northeast region aquatic biologist. “Once Denver Water finishes its study, we will have a better understanding of future fish management at Antero.”

“We recognize the importance of Antero Reservoir to Park County’s economy and as a prime fishery for anglers, but need to drawdown the reservoir for public safety,” said Miller. “We will keep the county, DOW and reservoir users informed as the study progresses.”

Antero Dam was completed in 1909 by Canfield and Shields of Greeley, and its purchase was finalized by Denver Water in 1924. The reservoir was named Antero, derived from the Spanish word “first,” because it was the first reservoir on the South Platte, nearest to the river’s headwaters.

Wildlife concerns and questions regarding fishing at Antero can be directed to DOW at 303-291-7227. Questions regarding Antero operations, contact Denver Water at 303-628-6320.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Floyd Ciruli: ‘The feeling with the Colorado River is that if we don’t get it soon we’ll never get it — You’ll be visiting it at the Bellagio’

April 22, 2011

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Floyd Ciruli presented his polling information to a recent meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Ciruli has checked the pulse of opinion about water in both the South Platte and Arkansas River basins for years, and has consistently found the public does not want to dry up farms to meet urban water needs. “Water and farming have been a part of the valley for a really long time,” he told Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board at its monthly meeting. He talked about his family’s roots in Pueblo and the Lower Ark Valley as well…

“The [2002] drought got everyone thinking differently,” he said. Since then, the state as a whole has begun moving in a new direction to reverse the trend of buy-and-dry to meet urban needs. That was illustrated by last month’s Roundtable Summit in Denver…

While Coloradans universally believe the state needs to protect its entitlement of water under the Colorado River Project, people are divided on whether it should be held in reserve to serve the Western Slope or developed in a project like the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline, Ciruli said…

Ciruli said the Super Ditch has become a model in Colorado and other states — it was highlighted in a recent Western Governors report…

Super Ditch President John Schweizer asked whether more people will move to where the water is, which some have supported as an alternative to building expensive projects to pipe water into growing areas. “Pueblo is about the same size as when I was in high school,” Ciruli replied, adding that sizeable growth has mainly occurred in Pueblo West.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here. More South Platte River basin coverage here.


Tamarisk control: Federal, state and local officials complete clearing 3,000 acres in the Arkansas River valley near the Kansas border

April 22, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Some people ask why we’re starting at the bottom when it spreads downstream,” said Henry Schnabel, a Prowers County commissioner. “In our case, Holly would be inundated if there was a backup because the river channel is clogged.”[...]

Michael Daskam, of the Holly Natural Resources Conservation Service office, Wednesday gave the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board an overview on the progress of the Prowers County tamarisk project. The Lower Ark board voted to support the project with $30,000 in the coming year. Schnabel said not all of the funding may be necessary, because the program requires private landowners to sign up. The project has been more cost-effective than anticipated, costing a total of $264,690 to spray 3,172 acres by helicopter over the past two years, or $83.50 an acre, Daskam said…

The benefits include better water quality and quantity. The U.S. Geological Survey last year reported tamarisk water savings have not been proven, but did not rule out the possibility in a report released last year, Daskam said…

This year, the program will focus on spot spraying, catching areas that were not sprayed by helicopter, such as clumps of tamarisk growing under cottonwoods. A revegetation workshop is also planned to discuss the best ways for restoring native plants, Daskam said. Other partners in the project include the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Southeastern Colorado Resource Conservation and Development, State Land Board, Northeast Prowers Conservation District, Division of Wildlife and Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association. Kansas also is working on the problem just across the state line.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.


The Las Animas County Commissioners ask Governor Hickenlooper for drought designation

April 22, 2011

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Monster snowpack in the northern basins, southern basins not so much and D3 drought up and down the eastern plains. This water year is a study in contrasts. Here’s a report from Anthony A. Mestas writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

In a letter sent to Hickenlooper this week, the commissioners said the lower than normal precipitation along with high velocity winds have made for drought conditions that are severely impacting ranchers and farmers in the county. “The significantly reduced precipitation will decrease the growth of natural grasses thereby reducing grazing pastures and less water for irrigation causing a further decline in production of feed for cattle,” the letter states…

County Administrator Bill Cordova said the eastern portion of the county, where most of the ranching is, has been hurt the most by lack of precipitation. Cordova said if the governor declares a drought disaster, the issue will then go to state Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar. If Salazar is persuaded, then he would initiate a request for assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture for a federal drought disaster declaration for the county. “The USDA has the final say,” Cordova said.


The Colorado Water Conservation Board releases their ‘Snowmelt Flood Preparation Status Update’

April 22, 2011

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You can download the document here. Here’s the introduction:

The 2011 flood season in Colorado is fast approaching, and much attention has been focused on the quantity of snowpack within certain areas of the state. Although floods can occur any time of the year in Colorado, the height of flood season generally occurs from May 1st through September 30th. Preparations have already started to address the high snowpack existing in the Colorado’s high country.

Since January, the CWCB’s Watershed and Flood Protection Section has been monitoring snowpack throughout the state. GIS-based maps have been prepared showing the areal extent of the snowpack as well as percent of historical averages within the river basins. These maps are posted to the CWCB’s Flood Decision Support System (DSS) website and are updated regularly. Please visit http://flooddss.state.co.us/ to access those maps and a significant amount of other helpful information related to flooding in Colorado.

Tables have been prepared that summarize the areas of highest snowmelt flood potential. As of April 21st the watersheds of greatest concern are in the North Platte River Basin, the Yampa and White River Basins, the Colorado River Mainstem Basin, and the South Platte River Basin. As of that date, each of these entire river basins show snowpack greater than 129% of average, with individual readings as high as 223% at localized levels. Certain watersheds in the Gunnison River Basin and the Arkansas River Basin also exceed 130%, although these watersheds as a whole are displaying values closer to historical averages.

The Colorado Flood Task Force met in March of this year, with another meeting scheduled for May 11th. This meeting, chaired by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, assembles engineers, meteorologists, climate experts, federal agencies, state and local officials, emergency managers, and other interested parties to exchange data and discuss plans for the upcoming flood season. It is anticipated that much attention at this meeting will focus on what, if any, actions are needed to address the upcoming snowmelt season. Snowmelt flooding has been known to occur in Colorado any time from late April to early July, depending on weather conditions.

Outreach regarding the availability of flood insurance within communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program has been ongoing. Special note should be made to prospective policy holders of the 30-day waiting period before the insurance becomes effective.

A number of meetings and workshops have already been scheduled throughout the state, and more are being considered at the request of local communities. These workshops will focus on emergency preparedness and flood insurance. As this calendar is continually being updated, interested parties should contact the CWCB at 303-866-3441 for a current list of scheduled meetings.

Four attachments provide background information, current geographic areas of concern, actions being taken at all levels, and Colorado flood history.

More CWCB coverage here.


Grand County: Denver Water and several west slope organizations to announce a deal on upper Colorado transmountain diversion projects on April 28

April 21, 2011

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The negotiations have been under a nondisclosure agreement. Here’s the link to Allan Best’s analysis running in TheMountainNews.net. He writes:

No single part of this agreement stands out. This is not like a new dam or tunnel. Yet collectively, these elements of compromise may well represent the most important single water news since the veto of the Two Forks Dam in 1990.

Now, the various water agencies will have to sell the deal to their constituencies. Heartburn may be evident on both sides of the Continental Divide. Denver residents may very well question why, if Denver owns the water, it must “pay” Summit and Grand counties to use it.

And for the Western Slope, this does represent further export of water.

Some potential details:

- Key Western Slope organizations remove their opposition to Denver’s plan to draw more water from the close-in headwaters areas near Winter Park and in Summit County.
– The Western Slope also withdraws potential legal opposition to Denver’s plans to sell recycled water from its diversions to thirsty suburbs that now depend upon wells.
– The deal also requires Denver to step up conservation and reuse efforts.
– [The deal] specifies several tens of millions of dollars in grants to Western Slope water organizations
– [It will create] more flexible water-management regimes intended to achieve environmental goals and benefit recreational interests…

This settlement arguably represents a new template for Front Range-Western Slope relations, one that reflects a new balance of power in Colorado and also new sensibilities. This is in sharp contrast with attitudes and laws prior to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

More coverage from Mr. Best running in the Summit Daily News. From the article:

-The deal will also place limits on future diversions by both Denver and key suburbs.
– The agreement also obligates Denver to provide some of its existing water in Summit County for use by local jurisdictions
– The deal obligates Denver to keep Dillon Reservoir nearly full except in specified drought conditions.
– The agreement also requires Denver to provide cash for water projects in Summit and Grand counties.

I wonder where the Shoshone right sits in all of this?

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Snowpack news: Runoff flooding is a concern for northern Colorado officials

April 21, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

According to the Western Water Assessment, snowfall was significantly above the long-term norms in the northern Colorado mountains, the Wasatch Front in Utah and northern and western Wyoming, while little precipitation fell across central Wyoming, eastern and southern Utah and the plains of Colorado. Snowpack values in the three-state Intermountain West region (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming) stayed on the same trajectory as all winter, with most basins reporting above-average water content. Southern Colorado was the exception, where snowpack has been lagging near or below average for most of the fall and winter…

In Colorado, runoff in northern river basins like the Yampa and North Platte could be as high as 140 percent of average. Higher than average runoff is also expected in the Gunnison Basin, while the South Platte and Arkansas basins are expected to run near average.


NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

April 21, 2011

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Here are the notes from Tuesday’s webinar from the Colorado Climate Center.


Rio Grande Water Conservation District quarterly meeting recap: Closed Basin Project operation questioned

April 21, 2011

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Saying continued pumping of the project “is creating an enormous hardship on north Valley ranches,” [Moffat area rancher Peggy Godfrey] asked the water board to request of the Closed Basin operating committee and/or Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to modify the project. She referred to a section governing the project that allows it to be modified, curtailed or suspended to eliminate adverse effects.

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) board indicated it would not grant her request. “We will continue to operate this project within its boundaries and within the constraints put on it,” said RGWCD Board President George Whitten who also sits on the Closed Basin Project operating committee. Whitten, who ranches in the northern part of the Valley, told Godfrey although he appreciated her comments, “I respectfully disagree with your findings.”

RGWCD District Engineer Allen Davey, who also sits on the Closed Basin Project operating committee, said, “There is no clear evidence that the Closed Basin Project is causing depletion of the aquifer in the Moffat area.” He said the project was developed to capture salvage water that was being lost. He said pumping has been reduced from project wells when evidence showed they were violating statutory criteria.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.


Southern Delivery System: The Colorado Springs city council is looking at speeding up the project to take advantage of favorable contractor pricing

April 21, 2011

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Colorado Springs Utilities officials gave an update of SDS, along with several other utilities matters, to a Council that contains six new faces after the April 5 election: Angela Dougan, Lisa Czelatdko, Tim Leigh, Merv Bennett, Brandy Williams and Val Snider. During the presentation, the Council was told the city is getting good prices on SDS construction because of the gloomy state of the economy and intense contractor competition. That led Leigh to suggest that if it’s cheaper to build now, the city might think about pushing forward now, even if it means higher water rates for customers in the short run. In response, SDS program manager John Fredell told the Council that Utilities officials will “be ready to talk more detail in July about the project,” including, he said, “about accelerating” it.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Dolores River: Reclamation hopes for a 10 day boating season downstream of McPhee Reservoir this year, Dolores River Dialogue meeting April 28

April 21, 2011

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From The Durango Telegraph (Missy Votel):

“The spring wind and weather has been eating it up,” said Vern Harrell, Bureau of Reclamation liaison for the Dolores River Project, of the region’s snowpack. “This year we don’t even know if we’ll fill the reservoir.” The reservoir, which was a capacity of 229,000 acre-feet is expected to receive 225,000 acre-feet of runoff this spring. With the latest prediction, this would make for a 10-day spill of about 800 cfs in order to stretch the flows out as long as possible. However, when and if this happens is anybody’s educated guess. While the BuRec ideally shoots for Memorial Day Weekend, sudden temperature or precipitation spikes could influence it either way. “We’ll know more the week after the reservoir starts to fill, depending on weather and storm forecasts,” said Harrell. He said flows will most likely not be significant enough for commercial rafting companies to plan trips, but savvy local boaters at the ready could luck out with some careful monitoring of the BuRec’s web site at http://www.doloreswater.com. “That’s the best information out there,” said Harrell of the site, which is updated twice a week. In targeting Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-30, the spill will be held back until May 20, if possible. However, in 2009 McPhee filled early pushing up the release start date to May 11. Last year, cold weather caused the reservoir to fill slowly, holding back the spill until May 24…

A steering committee for the Dolores River Dialogue, a varied group of user interests which has been meeting since 2004, will be revealing two proposals to benefit the Dolores’ downstream fisheries next week. The flow from McPhee was originally conceived with the nonnative, cold-water trout sport fishery in mind, but the objective has since grown to include the warm-water fishery of native species such as suckers, chubs and pike minnows. There is also concern over the health of the river’s riparian zone as well as the geomorphology of the riverbed, including sediment build up and flow.

The steering committee’s first proposal looks at the use of “selective level outlet works,” which would basically allow water to be pulled from various elevations within the reservoir for release. “In the past, we have only pulled water from the bottom, because that’s the coldest water for the trout, but we can get better water quality for the native fish with warmer water higher up,” Harrell said.

The second proposal from the group calls for the Montezuma Irrigation Co. to lease 6,000 acre feet of water from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for downstream flows. The water would actually come from Groundhog Reservoir, north of Dolores, and flow through McPhee, which is overallocated as is. The lease would be for any three years out of a 10-year span, although the sequence of those three years remains to be seen. “We will have to develop that concept, but details still aren’t here yet,” Harrell said.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.


Snowpack news: Loveland Ski Area goes over 500 inches of snow for season

April 20, 2011

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Loveland Ski Area marked a total snowfall on the season of 500 inches Tuesday following the recent storm. It’s the third time in Loveland’s history to hit the 500” snow mark, according to a press release. The all-time record was 572 inches in 1995-1996 is the all-time record at Loveland Ski Area.


2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1286 (Clarify State Engineer Nontributary Rule Authority) passes state Senate

April 20, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

House Bill 1286 tells the courts to give deference to state water regulators, who adopted maps last year to show when gas and oil wells need to be given greater scrutiny to make sure they don’t injure the water rights of nearby landowners. Farmers and ranchers have sued the state over the rules, saying they are a giveaway to the gas industry. HB 1286 passed 35-0, and the bill is now on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Greeley: Annual Children’s Water Festival April 27

April 20, 2011

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From The Greeley Tribune:

The city of Greeley will host the 2011 Children’s Water Festival from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on April 27 at Island Grove Park…

The event, which was first established in 1991 by the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, is co-hosted by Greeley and the West Greeley Conservation District. This year’s theme is “World Water,” with presentations and exhibits that focus on local, regional and global water issues using language arts, math, science, social studies, visual arts and health to teach children that water is an essential, limited resource.

More education coverage here.


Crystal River: The Colorado River District approves abandonment of most of their undeveloped storage rights on the river

April 20, 2011

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The package of rights known as the West Divide Project were tied to a plan devised in the 1960s to build two large reservoirs in the Crystal River valley at Redstone and divert the stored water to the Divide Creek basin south of Silt. There, the water could have been used in Divide Creek and the Colorado River valley for irrigation or oil shale industry. The Osgood Reservoir would have flooded the village of Redstone, while the smaller Placita Reservoir upstream would have flooded the canyon just below the Marble turn and McClure’s Pass.

Although the River District will abandon the rights associated with building large reservoirs, it will retain other rights and shift their use to help the Crystal River basin with late season flows and create the potential for hydropower development.

The West Divide Project also included rights in the West Divide Creek basin. These water rights will be maintained to benefit the original West Divide service area, but use water supplies only from within the basin. The River District’s actions were made in concurrence with the West Divide Water Conservancy District board…

The original West Divide Project was approved by Congress in 1966 as part of the historic Colorado River Storage Project Act, which led to the construction of the Animas-LaPlata Project and Ridgway Reservoir. But the Bureau of Reclamation subsequently judged the West Divide project unfeasible on a cost-benefit basis, and it was never granted federal funds.

More Crystal River coverage here and here.


Restoration: Rio de la Vista (Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust) wins the Environmental Law Institute’s ‘National Wetlands Award for Conservation and Restoration’

April 20, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C., gave its National Wetlands Award for Conservation and Restoration to Rio de la Vista on Monday for her work in helping conserve more than 27,000 acres of wetlands. De la Vista has done a big portion of that work as a coordinator for the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, which since 1986 has protected more than 19,000 acres along the Rio Grande that include ranch land, wildlife habitat and senior surface water rights.

More restoration coverage here.


San Miguel River: Proposed minimum instream flows for certain reaches dividing residents

April 19, 2011

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From the Associated Press via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The proposal by the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado wildlife officials would affect a stretch of the river about three miles west of Nucla. The proposal includes a minimum stream flow of 325 cubic feet per second during the spring runoff period from April 15 to June 14. Some conservation groups and outfitters say the plan would improve habitat for three fish, including the roundtail chub. Montrose County commissioners and Farmers’ Water Development Co. have questioned whether there is enough water to fulfill the plan.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.


2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1300 — Conservation Easement Tax Credit Dispute Resolution

April 19, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Under HB1300, easement donors whose claims are being disputed by the Colorado Department of Revenue could forego hearings before the Department of Revenue and take their cases straight to court in a jurisdiction close to home. The bill includes a provision that would remove the surety bond requirement that is presently necessary to take a conservation easement case to court. The prohibitive sum of those bonds has been a barrier to challenging easements in dispute for some landowners in the past…

One aim of HB1300 would be resolution of easement challenges that are pending. To that end, it calls for suspending interest and penalties against donors who willingly participate in resolution of their cases through district court. The bill’s primary sponsors are Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, and Sens. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk. Its first hearing will be in the House Committee on Finance.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.


CWCB Water Availability Task Force: Monster snowpack across the northern basins, southern basins not so much

April 19, 2011

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Here’s the summary of the meeting from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Here’s the executive summary:

La Niña conditions are forecasted to weaken into June, which is expected to bring dry conditions for the eastern plains and southern Colorado, while recent average to above average moisture in north western Colorado may linger despite this overall set-up. The Yampa, Gunnison and Colorado basins snowpack remains well above average. Conversely, the southern portion of the state has seen a reduction in precipitation over the last few months, with the Southwest and Rio Grande Basins reporting below average snowpack. Streamflow in the northern half of the state is forecasted to be above average. The streamflow forecasts in the southern half of the state are average or below average, and recent dust on snow events in the Rio Grande may accelerate runoff. Statewide reservoir storage is above average statewide but some water providers have reported strong demand already. Recent April precipitation will not make up for a dry March but should curb the wildfire danger in the short term.

To download the presentations click here.

More CWCB coverage here.


CSU Colorado Water Center: The April/May issue of ‘Colorado Water’ is hot off the presses

April 19, 2011

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Here’s the link.


The Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s fourth annual Conservation Auction April 26

April 19, 2011

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From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Norma Engleberg):

“We do love to fly fish but for the last 25 years we have worked on numerous watershed conservation and restoration projects,” [Erik Heikkenen, president of the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited] said. “We’ve concentrated most of our work on the South Platte in Eleven Mile Canyon on the Trees for Trout project. We use trees taken from the Hayman Fire burn area and use them to stabilize the banks. Some of the timbers are placed in the stream bed to provide more trout habitat.”[...]

Coming up is the fourth annual Conservation Auction at 5:30 p.m. April 26 at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post. There will also be a series of monthly “Happy Hours” as local micro-breweries throughout the summer. A members-and-their-families-only fishing day is planned on June 4 at Rainbow Mountain Falls. “Anyone who becomes a member before that date can come out for the fishing and barbecue and the $150 rod fee will be waived,” Heikkenen said.

For more information about Cheyenne Mountain Chapter projects, visit http://www.cmctu.org.

More restoration coverage here.


USGS: A comparison of recharge rates in aquifers of the United States based on groundwater-age data

April 19, 2011

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Here’s the link to the publication. Here’s an excerpt:

An overview is presented of existing ground- water-age data and their implications for assessing rates and timescales of recharge in selected unconfined aquifer systems of the United States. Apparent age distributions in aquifers determined from chlorofluorocarbon, sulfur hexafluoride, tritium/helium-3, and radiocarbon measurements from 565 wells in 45 networks were used to calculate groundwater recharge rates. Timescales of recharge were defined by 1,873 distributed tritium measurements and 102 radiocarbon measurements from 27 well networks. Recharge rates ranged from<10 to 1,200mm/yr in selected aquifers on the basis of measured vertical age distributions and assuming exponential age gradients. On a regional basis, recharge rates based on tracers of young groundwater exhibited a significant inverse correlation with mean annual air temperature and a significant positive correlation with mean annual precipitation. Comparison of recharge derived from groundwater ages with recharge derived from stream base-flow evaluation showed similar overall patterns but substantial local differences. Results from this compilation demonstrate that age-based recharge estimates can provide useful insights into spatial and temporal variability in recharge at a national scale and factors controlling that variability. Local age-based recharge estimates provide empirical data and process information that are needed for testing and improving more spatially complete model-based methods.

More groundwater coverage here.


Colorado River District general meeting today and tomorrow

April 19, 2011

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You can get the details from the Colorado River District website.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Loveland: ‘Water, Jobs and the Economy Rally for NISP’ May 19

April 19, 2011

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From The Fort Morgan Times:

A “Water, Jobs and the Economy Rally for NISP” (the Northern Integrated Supply Project) is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 19, 2011at the Ranch Courtyard at Budweiser Event Center, 5290 Arena Circle, Loveland…The event is sponsored by NISP participants, Northern Colorado’s chambers of commerce, regional economic development organizations, business and agriculture organizations.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Vail: Water system upgrades underway

April 19, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:

Eagle River Water and Sanitation District will begin construction on April 18 on upgrades to the Vail public water system. The project includes installation of additional piping, remote water quality analyzers, and upgraded equipment at seven sites throughout Vail and is required to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Ground Water Rule regulations…

The Ground Water Rule applies to more than 147,000 public water systems throughout the United States that use ground water. The Environmental Protection Agency anticipated the Ground Water Rule would result in increased costs to public water systems and States. Implementation of the Ground Water Rule in the Vail public water system is funded via an existing monthly debt service rate. Construction at the various sites will continue through November.

More infrastructure coverage here.


The American Water Works Association will release their new publication ‘The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead’ on Earth Day

April 19, 2011

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From the American Water Works Association via Water Online:

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) announced today the publication of The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead. As sweeping and transformational changes are heading our way in the not-too-distant future, this ground-breaking book takes a serious look at how the world will soon value water, use water, and access water.

Using his extensive experience in the water industry, Maxwell presents likely scenarios for the broad trends that will have a significant impact upon future water challenges worldwide–population, economics, energy, climate, and pollution. He discusses how the actions of individuals, investors, water utilities, industries, and nations can actually change the future of water.

“The Future of Wateris sobering and exhilarating at the same time. It’s sobering as Maxwell and Yates detail just how water touches so many aspects of modern life, and how dire the situation might be if nothing changes. However, this book is also exhilarating in the fast-paced way it examines the future of water from our own kitchen sinks to massive dams in China.”—Bill Owens, former governor of Colorado.

More Colorado Water coverage here and here.


Snowpack/runoff news: Reclamation is drawing down Ruedi Reservoir

April 19, 2011

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If you click on the thumbnail graphic to the right you’ll see a good representation of this winter’s La Niña effects on Colorado’s snowpack. Monster snowpack north drier conditions south. Here’s a reportfrom Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation boosted its releases earlier than usual from Ruedi Reservoir in anticipation of the tub filling. The reclamation bureau wants to avoid a scenario like last year when the reservoir filled quickly in June and threatened to send water into the dam’s spillway…

The snowpack in the Upper Fryingpan Valley was 118 percent of average yesterday, with another snowstorm barreling down on the Colorado mountains. The upper snowpack is showing little sign of melting — the inflow to Ruedi was 105 cubic feet per second on Monday. During peak runoff in early June last year it surged to between 1,200 and 2,000 cfs…

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Colorado Basin River Forecast Center foresees an impressive runoff for the Roaring Fork drainage this year. Its April 1 forecast indicated there was a 50 percent chance the flow of the Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs will exceed 7,400 cfs and a 25 percent chance peak flow will exceed 8,400 cfs. The average flow is 6,150 cfs. Last year the river peaked at 8,710 cfs in Glenwood Springs on June 11. It was an unusual year: unseasonably warm temperatures in June melted out the high country snowpack in a hurry, creating an intense but brief peak…

About a quarter of the automated Snotel sites operated by the federal agency that measures snowpack logged record levels in the Upper Colorado River region, Kanzer noted. Heavy snowpack translates into ample runoff. The forecast is for reservoirs to receive 110 to 130 percent of average runoff, he said.


Energy policy — nuclear: Many eyes are on the proposed electrical generation plant in Pueblo County

April 18, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

But here’s the hitch, one that Banner freely concedes: There is no money, developer, committed transmission line or customer for the nuclear power plant. What Banner has is an option on the land and a plan, already approved by the county planning commission, to give him sweeping rezoning and development ability. “I don’t know if this is going to work,” Banner said. “It is a new approach. I’m just saying let’s give it a try.”[...]

“Politically this is a tough call because it is going to split the community right down the middle,” said Ross Vincent, chairman of the Sangre de Cristo Group of the Sierra Club…

Banner makes no promises. If the plan is approved, he said he’ll sound out the NRC and U.S. Department of Energy. “If they don’t like it,” Banner said, “I’m not going to pursue it.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — hydroelectric: Public Scoping Begins on Proposed Hydropower Project at Ridgway Dam

April 18, 2011

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it will hold a public scoping meeting to provide information and answer questions about a proposed hydropower project at Ridgway Dam in Ouray County, Colo. The project, proposed by the Tri-County Water Conservancy District, would generate electricity using the existing water releases from Ridgway Dam throughout the year.

Ridgway Dam is a feature of the Dallas Creek Project, which is a federal Reclamation project designed to provide irrigation and drinking water to Montrose, Delta, and Ouray counties in western Colorado.

The public meeting will be on April 26, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. at the 4H Event Center located at 22739 Highway 550 in Ridgway.

Reclamation is also seeking comments for preparation of a draft environmental assessment on the proposed project. Comments can include: questions or concerns you have with the proposal; significant issues to be addressed; and any information or data that could help in review of the proposal. Comments can be provided at the meeting or submitted by May 27, 2011 by email or mail to Steve McCall at smccall@usbr.gov or Bureau of Reclamation, 2764 Compass Drive, Suite 106, Grand Junction, CO 81506.

Meanwhile Orchard City is weighing their options with low head hydroelectric generation. Here’s a report from Hank Lohmeyer writing for the Delta County Independent. From the article:

Town administrator David Varley reported during a trustee work session last week that an engineer would begin assessing the project sometime soon…There is a lot of hope for low-head hydro generating projects now because of government grant money available for them.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here. More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit update: Reclamation plans to open the East Portal Road today

April 18, 2011

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Ted Dunn):

Reclamation’s Curecanti Field Office announced today that the East Portal Road located east of Montrose is open after being closed for the winter months. The road, beginning at the junction with State Highway 347, provides access to the Gunnison River within the Curecanti National Recreation Area, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Crystal Dam. The East Portal Road will remain open throughout the summer and fall until snow, ice, or rockslides make it unsafe for travel.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


The Colorado Supreme Court upholds water court decision that prevents the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District from diverting water from Morrison Creek

April 18, 2011

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From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

The district had been looking to firm up its water supply by finding an alternative source to the Yampa River and proposed diverting of water from Morrison Creek. This was met with opposition from the people who owned the land where the diversion equipment and infrastructure would be located. The water court sided with the opposed parties and “found the district’s existing water rights associated with Stagecoach Reservoir to be adequate to meet its reasonably foreseeable demand for water.” The district appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling.

[Steamboat Springs lawyer and Upper Yampa director Tom Sharp] is concerned that because of the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2-year-old lawsuit, the district could potentially have a hard time obtaining additional water rights to help fulfill water contracts it has with customers.

The original lawsuit, heard in water court by District Chief Judge Michael O’Hara, was brought by landowners in the south Yampa Valley and supported by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the state engineer for Water Division 6. “My clients are pleased the Supreme Court affirmed Judge O’Hara’s finding that the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District had no legitimate need for the water that is claimed in this case,” Denver lawyer Barney White said Friday…

The Supreme Court essentially ruled, Sharp said, that having a contract in place does not demonstrate the need for the water. Customers need to actually use the water and cannot speculate on the possibility of needing the water. The Craig power plant, for example, has an annual $300,000 contract for 7,000 acre-feet, but the water is not used, and there are no plans to use it.

Sharp also is concerned because the ruling implies that if the district needs to justify obtaining additional water rights, it must now know how customers plan to use water. “Because the applicant’s evidence of existing demands included contracts for stored water that had admittedly not yet been put to beneficial use and for which no specific plan for beneficial use was offered, and because the applicant failed to adequately demonstrate a reasonably anticipated future need based on projected population growth, its evidence was insufficient to establish that it had made the required first step to obtain a conditional water right,” the water court ruled.

More Yampa River basin coverage here and here.


Greeley: Leprino cheese factory turns dirt for new wastewater plant

April 18, 2011

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

Leprino has also begun construction of the core and shell building for the wastewater treatment plant at 1133 Ash Ave., by Glacier Construction, for a total valuation of $1.56 million. Nick Opper, Leprino’s Greeley plant manager, said the three-phase construction is “on time, and we’ve got a lot of people working on the site right now.”

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Windsor: Town board okays water rate 3.6 percent hike

April 18, 2011

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From Windsor Now! (Ellie Bean):

For now the board will stick with a two-tiered system, increasing rates by 3.6 percent across the board. They will still consider the three-tiered system for implementation in 2012, as well as looking into alternative options such as what it would take for Windsor to get its own treatment plant.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Arkansas River basin: Fort Lyon Canal water still on the land for the most part despite Pure Cycle purchase

April 18, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The long-term plan for the water is to move it north to new homes east of Denver, but with a weak housing market, no court authority or infrastructure is in place to move water and people still hungry to farm on the Fort Lyon, the water stays.

It’s a matter of time, as the owner still has plans to eventually move the water. “We don’t have any expectations about when the water will be moved,” said Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle Corp., the Thornton-based company that bought High Plains A&M’s assets on the Fort Lyon in 2006. High Plains purchased about 23 percent of the shares on the Fort Lyon Canal and in many cases the farms associated with them in 2001 for about $1,750 an acre — roughly $40 million. The company won a battle to take the water out of the canal, in rotation in 2003, but lost a Water Court case to change the water rights in 2004 and a state Supreme Court appeal in 2005. Pure Cycle stepped into the picture the next year, buying High Plains out in a $100 million deal. Initially, the company announced plans to build a $400 million pipeline to move the water to the Denver area to serve thousands of future homes. That plan is still in the picture, but Harding is not in any hurry to move the water…

The company’s official line remains moving the water to valuable real estate it owns or holds service rights in the Denver area. “This is a long-term investment for us,” Harding said. ”We will look at the opportunities over a long period of time.” For at least a few more years, at least, it appears the water will be staying with the land…

Pure Cycle leases the water back to farmers for about $70 an acre, with varying terms based on water availability. The 63 tenant farmers, in turn, have sales of about $3.5 million on 14,500 irrigated acres, irrigated by 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon. Tenants also receive any payments from government farm programs. Another 1,275 acres are leased as grass pasture…

About Pure Cycle

Pure Cycle is a Thornton-based water and wastewater service provider listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

- Last year, Pure Cycle purchased the 940-acre Sky Ranch property east of Denver in the Interstate 70 corridor. The largely undeveloped area is zoned for 4,400 homes and 1.35 million square feet of commercial and retail property. Previously, the company had a service agreement for the property. It also leased oil exploration rights to Anadarko on the property.

- The company has a long-term contract to provide water to portions of the Lowry Range, east of Aurora, that may be developed in the future. As a member of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Pure Cycle is working with Denver Water and Aurora in the WISE partnership that looks at ways to share urban water infrastructure.

- Pure Cycle holds the largest block of agricultural water rights in the Arkansas River basin, with 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon Canal, almost one-quarter of the ditch. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns half of the Amity Canal, which historically irrigated much less ground than the Fort Lyon.

- Besides its Arkansas Valley Water Rights, Pure Cycle has ground water, surface and storage rights in the South Platte River and Colorado River basins.

More Pure Cycle coverage here and here. More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


South Platte River basin: Greeley city council green-lights easement acquisition for pipeline route in LaPorte

April 17, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Last week, the Greeley City Council gave its water department permission to pursue construction and access easements for the pipeline along a disputed route from Shields Street west to the city’s water treatment plant in Bellvue. The council previously had given authorization for easements and the use of eminent domain, if necessary, to acquire them. But city officials wanted to revisit the issue given changes in plans for installing the pipeline and requirements for easements, said Jon Monson, water and sewer director for Greeley. The go-ahead from the council means Greeley officials soon will send offers to affected property owners and begin negotiations on temporary and permanent easements, he said.

But some property owners along the route and local residents say they will continue to fight the project, which they say would be overly disruptive to the land. “I’m not sure what we will do,” said Rose Brinks, whose property sits west of Overland Trail and south of the river. “We’re getting people from Bellvue involved and hopefully bringing some new energy to this over concerns about the environment and the impact this would have on wildlife habitat.”

The route around LaPorte is known as the Northern Segment of a 30-mile project that would carry water from the Bellvue plant to Greeley.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.


South Platte River basin: The manager of the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority counters allegations in recent Denver Post article

April 17, 2011

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Gary Atkin has penned a rebuttal to The Denver Post’s investigation of the ACWWA’s deal for South Platte water. From the article:

The contracts were discussed in ACWWA board meetings, which are open to the public, and the minutes are posted online. The “Water System Investment Fee” of $26.50 per month, first added to customer bills in 2010, was discussed in public meetings for months, and appears in the bond documents. ACWWA also had three open houses for citizens to discuss the project. The idea that this was sprung on customers is false.

The deal has all the elements to make it work: a sufficient quantity of long-term renewable water; the ability to collect and deliver treated, potable water to ACWWA; and the ability to negotiate a suitable price.

The transaction has all those elements, including water voluntarily sold by farmers being delivered to a well field near Brighton, being treated to drinking water standards and moved down a massive pipeline along E-470. The water will be integrated into ACWWA’s system.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.


El Paso County: Upper Black Squirrel alluvial aquifer study will be the subject of a public meeting April 25

April 17, 2011

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

The results of a study of water quality will be outlined at a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the Falcon High School Cafeteria/Commons area, 10255 Lambert Road. The main target of the study was the alluvial (shallow) aquifer of the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Basin, which spreads out over a vast area northeast and east of the city. General information and handouts on groundwater use and quality will be available at the meeting. A formal presentation will be made from 6 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a question-answer period.

More groundwater coverage here.


Snowpack news: Snowpack as a percent of average is declining in southern mountains

April 17, 2011

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From the Leadville Herald-Democrat:

The April 1 surveys show statewide snowpack is 113 percent of average, and is 28 percent above the state’s readings of one year ago. Although these statistics show a slight decline from last month, they continue the trend of above-average totals measured throughout the winter of 2011…

For those river basins with their source in the northern mountains, including the Colorado, Yampa, White and South Platte Rivers, this year’s April 1 snowpack is the highest since back in 1996. At 135 percent of average, the North Platte River Basin had the highest basinwide total in the state. These totals are the highest for April 1 since the computation of basinwide totals began in 1968.

Meanwhile, the latest readings show snowpack conditions across the southern mountains continued to decline for the third consecutive month. Percentages have now declined to the lowest readings of the year and are consistently below average in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins. In striking contrast to the snowpack readings across northern Colorado, some smaller tributary basins in the Rio Grande Basin have dropped to nearly 50 percent of average.


Conservation: The Mesa Land Trust adds 115 acres of orchard land to their ‘Fruitlands Forever Initiative’

April 17, 2011

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

“We feel for our children, and our children’s children, we really don’t want this valley to be totally without fruit farms,” Guy Parker said. “We feel the ability to grow food in western Colorado is too important to leave to chance, or the economy.”

The Parkers joined three other family farms in conserving 115 acres of peach and wine grape producing lands, as part of the Land Trust’s Fruitlands Forever Initiative, which seeks to conserve a critical mass of farmland sufficient to support fruit growing into the future. The families sold their development rights, but retain ownership and may continue to live on and farm the land. They can even sell the property, although it can never be subdivided or developed.

Sons of longtime farmer Harry Talbott agreed to conserve their 37-acre Riverview Vineyard which sits atop a Colorado River bluff, and which buffers the Tillie Bishop Wildlife Area. Talbott was one of the original founders in 1980 of the Mesa County Land Conservancy, whose name later changed to Mesa Land Trust. “We were first in the United States to conserve agricultural land,” Talbott said.

Meanwhile the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust has completed a conservation easement for the Soward Ranch near the headwaters. Here’s a report from Toni Steffens-Steward writing for The Mineral County Miner. From the article:

The first easement of 580 acres on the land was through the Wetland Preserve Program and set aside much of the “moving water” on the ranch. Then they started to look at a way to preserve at least some of the lakes. After a great deal of planning and negotiations, they now have 268 acres under a conservation easement with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust.

The project was made possible through funding through Great Outdoors Colorado, the Gates Family Foundation, The Brown Family Foundation and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and a donation from the Soward Ranch, LLC.

More conservation easements coverage here and here.


Energy policy — hydroelectric: Two Aspen city councillors as well as the mayor are looking for a more stringent environmental review for the proposed Castle Creek generation plant

April 17, 2011

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

At least two Aspen City Council members have voiced support for the municipal government to withdraw its application to the federal government for a conduit exemption on the proposed Castle/Maroon creek hydroplant. Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland is instead proposing the city seek a license for a “small hydro facility of 5 megawatts or less,” which is a separate designation offered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and would require a more stringent environmental review, Ireland said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


CWCB: Next board meeting May 17-18 in Durango

April 17, 2011

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the CWCB will be held on Tuesday May 17, 2011, commencing at 8:00 a.m. and continuing through Wednesday, March 18, 2011. This meeting will be held at Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Dr., Durango, CO 81310, in the Student Union Building, Ballroom (SUN 212).

More CWCB coverage here.


Energy policy — oil and gas: Hydraulic fracturing chemicals include 29 known or suspected carcinogens

April 17, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Democrats on the Committee On Energy & Commerce:

Today Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman, Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Edward J. Markey, and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette released a new report that summarizes the types, volumes, and chemical contents of the hydraulic fracturing products used by the 14 leading oil and gas service companies. The report contains the first comprehensive national inventory of chemicals used by hydraulic fracturing companies during the drilling process.

“Hydraulic fracturing has helped to expand natural gas production in the United States, but we must ensure that these new resources don’t come at the expense of public health,” said Rep. Waxman. “This report shows that these companies are injecting millions of gallons of products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals, including known carcinogens. I urge EPA and DOE to make certain that we have strong protections in place to prevent these chemicals from entering drinking water supplies.”

“With our river ways and drinking water at stake, it’s an absolute necessity that the American public knows what is in these fracking chemicals,” said Rep. Markey. “This report is the most comprehensive look yet at the composition of the chemicals used in the fracking process, and should help the industry, the government, and the American public push for a safer way to extract natural gas.”

During the last Congress, the Committee launched an investigation into the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the United States, asking the leading oil and gas service companies to disclose information on the products used in this process between 2005 and 2009.

The Democratic Committee staff analyzed the data provided by the companies about their practices, finding that:

The 14 leading oil and gas service companies used more than 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products, not including water added at the well site. Overall, the companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 different chemicals and other components.

The components used in the hydraulic fracturing products ranged from generally harmless and common substances, such as salt and citric acid, to extremely toxic substances, such as benzene and lead. Some companies even used instant coffee and walnut hulls in their fracturing fluids.

Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – are SDWA contaminants and hazardous air pollutants. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five-year period.

Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, was the most widely used chemical between 2005 and 2009. The substance is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under SDWA. Isopropyl alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethylene glycol were the other most widely used chemicals.

Many of the hydraulic fracturing fluids contain chemical components that are listed as “proprietary” or “trade secret.” The companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to identify these “proprietary” chemicals, suggesting that the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify.

Due to an embargo break, the committee is releasing the report this evening [instead of] Monday morning.

Related Documents:
Hydraulic Fracturing Report, April 18, 2011.

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From the Associated Press via the Laramie Boomerang:

The report said 29 of the chemicals injected were known-or-suspected human carcinogens. They either were regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act as risks to human health or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Methanol was the most widely used chemical. The substance is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The report was issued by Reps. Henry Waxman of California, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Diana DeGette of Colorado.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


NOAA State of the Climate Global Analysis March 2011: ‘The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2011 was the 13th warmest on record’

April 16, 2011

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Here’s the link to the announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center website. From the intro page:

- The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2011 was the 13th warmest on record at 13.19°C (55.78°F), which is 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F). This was also the 35th consecutive March with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average.

- The March worldwide land surface temperature was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 5.0°C (40.8°F)—the 12th warmest March on record.

- The March worldwide ocean surface temperature was 0.36°C (0.65°F) above the 20th century average of 15.9°C (60.7°F)—also the 12th warmest March on record.

- For the year-to-date, the global combined land and ocean surface temperature of 12.73°C (54.87°F) was the 14th warmest January–March on record. This value is 0.43°C (0.77°F) above the 20th century average.

Here’s Bob Berwyn’s analysis, running in the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Across the planet’s land masses, the most prominent warmth was recorded across most of Siberia, southwestern Greenland, southern North America, and most of Africa. Cooler-than-average conditions were reported from the western half of Canada, most of Mongolia, China and southeastern Asia. A notable exception to global warmth was in Australia, which experienced its coolest March on record, with above average rainfall across the entire country.

The wettest parts of the planet included Thailand, the Philippines, many western Pacific island nations, parts of northern and eastern Australia, and a band across central South America. The driest areas included across eastern Asia, much of Europe, the central United States, parts of Canada, and Argentina.

More Climate Change coverage here and here.


CWCB Water Availability Task Force: Monster snowpack across the northern basins, southern basins not so much

April 16, 2011

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Below are my notes from Thursday’s meeting:

Flooding outlook

It’s too early in the season to know what to expect from the monster snowpack. The state is watching the Yampa, White and Upper Colorado rivers closely. Localized flooding is expected and could be exacerbated by precipitation events or warming temperatures shortening the runoff season. The large main stem reservoir operators are drawing down right now in anticipation of the above average streamflows expected across the northern part of the state.

The CWCB is watching streamflow gages around the state and has set alarms for 5 or 10 year flows for advance flood warning.

The state’s Flood DSS website startup is May 1. There is some information there now. Here’s the URL:

http://flooddss.state.co.us/

[Macintosh users: The viewer app doesn't work in Safari. I hope the state fixes that.]

Report from the CWCB:

Veva DeHeza mentioned the drought workshops taking place over the first part of the summer:

http://cwcb.state.co.us/water-management/drought/Pages/MunicipalDroughtPlanningToolboxWorkshopSeries.aspx

At the CWCB meeting, May 17-18 in Durango, the board will consider, for the first time, a set of revised guidelines for approving municipal drought plans.

Another round of outreach is planned for phase one of the Colorado River Water Availability Study. Phase one of the study is not yet complete and phase two is on hold.

Report from the State Climatologist

Colorado had above average temperatures over most of the state in March. For the period of April 1-11 the northern mountains are doing very well with 1-2 in. of precipitation. Becky Smith reported above average precipitation for the Upper Colorado River. Fort Collins was near normal until March and has dropped since then. Boulder is showing below average precipitation for the water year.

Report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Snowpack/reservoir storage/streamflow forecast:

Yampa/White — snowpack 131% of average (the best since 1996 and second highest since the SNOTEL program began), this year has exceeded maximum values for the basin, streamflow forecast for the North Platte is 174% of average and the Yampa forecast is 157% of average.

Colorado — Snowpack is 131% of average, again the highest since 1996, reservoir storage is 113% of average.

South Platte — This is an interesting year for this basin. Echo Lake (Bear Creek watershed) is below average and the SNOTELS above Antero are all below average. Overall the basin is 120% of average and reservoir storage is 99% of average.

The forecasted streamflow for Clear Creek is 136% of average up from 121% of average last month. The streamflow forecast for the South Platte River is 112% of average and the forecast for the Poudre is 135% of average.

Gunnison — Snowpack is 114% of average, reservoir storage is 96% of average and inflows to Blue Mesa Reservoir are forecasted to be 111% of average.

San Miguel/Dolores/San Juan — Snowpack is 86% of average. Things have flattened down there with precipitation coming in at 94% of average — most of that due to a big storm in December. Without that storm things would now be very alarming. Reservoir storage is 105% of average. The streamflow forecast for inflows to McPhee Reservoir is 70% of average.

Rio Grande — The April 1 snowpack is 76% of average and reservoir storage 82% of average. The Sangre de Cristos are very dry. For example, the streamflow forecast for Culebra Creek is only 42% of average. That’s down from the forecast of 57% of average in March.

Arkansas — Snowpack is 103% of average but the number is misleading. The upper Ark valley is doing very well but the southern tributaries are very dry. Precipitation for the basin is 91% of average and reservoir storage is 90% of average. The streamflow forecast for the Arkansas River at Salida is 129% of average.

Long Term Weather Outlook

According to Klaus Wolter the current La Niña is the biggest event in 35 years. He forecasts a slight chance of above normal precipitation in May and June. The next week should be on the cool side helping to preserve the snowpack. There have been 3 dust events, “in the San Juans at least,” he said. Over the next two weeks he is forecasting that the northern mountains could get 1 – 2 inches of moisture and if those storms hit the plains some areas could see one half – 1 inch. The next two weeks may be wetter than normal.

Other task force reports

The representative from the Ag Task Force said, “Conditions have gone from bad to worse.” There are record low numbers of cattle in Colorado due to sell-offs of herds during the 2002 — numbers have not recovered and won’t this year. 60% of pasture and rangeland is in poor to very poor condition. 80% of the winter wheat crop is poor to very poor.

The representative from Colorado Springs Utilities said that there is virtually no snowpack above their South Slope collection system.


Wiggins: The town is gearing up to file a substitute water supply plan for their new well

April 16, 2011

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The ditch company [Weldon Valley] also did not have any objections to discharging the concentrated remains after the town uses reverse osmosis to clarify its water, said Tim Holbrook of Industrial Facilities Engineering, which is overseeing the project. Once Weldon Valley gives its approval, the town can file its water plan with the water court, Nation said.

That begins a time of waiting on a number of issues.

The case will wait for 60 days while other water users have a chance to file objections to the plan, and then a substitute water plan will be filed, Nation said. Usually, a town cannot file for a well permit until the substitute plan is filed, but it is possible Wiggins could receive an exception through an emergency filing, he said. If that happened, Wiggins could have authority for a well as quickly as two to three weeks after filing, but otherwise it will take longer, Holbrook said.

Wiggins can probably begin pumping water as soon as the substitute water plan is filed, but the best-case scenario for that is three months, Nation said.

More infrastructure coverage here.


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