Anyone up to applying a mathematical model to the butterfly effect? — Chris Woodka

August 17, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Anyone up to applying a mathematical model to the butterfly effect?

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is trying to develop a model that shows how changes in water use in one area affect flows elsewhere.

Called SWAM (simplified water allocation model), the latest addition to a growing base of knowledge is a $100,000 grant request from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to refine hydrologic models of the Arkansas River basin and analyze shortages that could occur — for both farms and cities — by the year 2050.

“This would be a scaled-down model that would give you an idea of the impact,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.

“Other basins have decision support systems,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “We’re years out from the development of a full basin model.”

The decision support system for the Arkansas River was delayed by the CWCB because of the federal Kansas Colorado lawsuit over the Arkansas River Compact. But major changes in hydrology occurred during the course of the 24-year lawsuit, including farm dry-ups, increased storage and pipeline construction.

Questions of harm to water rights were decided by lawyers and engineers, rather than a common scientific model. As it stands, the use of a model raises as many questions as it answers.

Roundtable members asked whether this particular model could solve the questions of water rights vs. flood control on Fountain Creek, change the amount of water owed to Kansas or reveal which water rights are harmed by a decision.

“This is a broader scope,” Scanga said.

The study would probably build on existing water balance studies for portions of the river. Some of the existing models were developed for a specific purpose, and don’t reflect overall impacts.

The new project will attempt to look at how municipal, industrial, agricultural, environmental and recreation uses of water would be affected by projects in wet, normal or dry years. It will also evaluate likely future conditions under various rates of growth.

The study won’t change water laws within the state, alter the allocation of water under the compact or prevent a drought, but it might help parts of the basin prepare for changes.

“We’re hoping that we get this right,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Mesmerizing monsoon cloud video by @todd_shoemake @NWSAlbuquerque — @jfleck

August 16, 2014


San Luis Valley: Well rules heading into home stretch — Valley Courier

August 15, 2014

San Luis Valley Groundwater

San Luis Valley Groundwater


From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Years in the making, rules to govern wells in the San Luis Valley are likely one meeting away. In Alamosa yesterday Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer Dick Wolfe told the advisory group assisting his office in developing the rules that he expects next month’s meeting to be the last one before he submits groundwater rules to the water court.

“We have been working at this a long time now,” Wolfe said. “We would like to get this through.”

One of the goals of the rules is to reach sustainability in the confined (deep) and unconfined (shallow) aquifers in the Rio Grande Basin, which encompasses the San Luis Valley. The state legislature has set that sustainability benchmark as the time period between 1978 and 2000, and the rules specify how that goal will be determined and reached.

Wolfe said the peer review team, which has overseen the technical aspects associated with the rules, will be meeting again on Monday to finalize changes to the g r o u n d w a t e r m o d e l t h a t will be used to implement the rules. They will finalize response functions within the next few weeks, Wolfe added, and the final draft of the rules should be ready about this time next month.

Wolfe said anyone with further comments at this point should submit them to Deputy State Engineer Mike Sullivan.

“I envision about a month from now will be the last meeting and would envision very shortly thereafter being in a position to submit these to the water court for their consideration,” Wolfe said.

After Wolfe submits the groundwater rules to the court, objectors and supporters will have 60 days to file responses. If there are objections to the proposed rules, the judge will have to set a trial date to deal with objections that have not yet been resolved by that date. Wolfe said in Division 2, there were 21-22 objections filed , but the state was able to resolve all of the issues raised in the objections short of a trial.

“I hope we get to do that on these. We would like to get these implemented and operational,” he said.

The rules will become effective 60 days after publication or after all protests have been resolved, in the event there are protests.

Trying to minimize the objections that might arise over proposed groundwater rules, Wolfe set up an advisory group at the onset of the rulemaking process. In January 2009 he signed an order establishing the advisory committee, which includes representatives from senior and well user associations, residents from the basin’s various geographical areas, canal and irrigation companies , municipality and county designees, federal and state agencies, engineers and water attorneys. The initial group, comprised of 56 members , met for the first time in March of 2009. At that time Wolfe told the group he hoped to submit well regulations to the water court by the end of that year.

The process took longer than initially expected, in part due to the laborious development and revision of the groundwater model, the Rio Grande Decision Support System.

The arduous process may soon be over, however. Advisory group member LeRoy Salazar told Wolfe yesterday he hoped the rules would be ready by October so the farmers and ranchers could have time to review them in the winter months when they are not as busy.

“I think we are almost there,” Salazar said. “We appreciate all the work so many of you have done getting these rules.”

Wolfe explained as he went through changes in the proposed rules yesterday that most of the modifications now are for the purpose of clarity, consistency and flexibility within the document.

One new definition introduced into the document during yesterday’s meeting was composite water head, the metric by which sustainable water supplies will be evaluated and regulated. The composite water head represents water levels or artesian pressures of an aquifer system within specified areas. It is derived from the annual measurements collected outside of the irrigation season of multiple monitoring wells, water level or artesian pressure and applies weighting within the specified areas. The metric will refer to the change in the composite water head from a baseline rather than an aquifer’s absolute elevation.

Water Division 3 Assistant Division Engineer James Heath explained that this is not based on individual wells but composite water head representative of different areas throughout the Valley that have been divided into four response areas: Conejos Response Area; Alamosa La Jara Response Area; Saguache Response Area; and San Luis Creek Response Area.

“Each well would have its own percentage based on the area it represents,” he said. Wolfe said the water division has been working with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District to add new monitoring wells in areas where there might not be sufficient existing wells to provide representative data.

Those are scheduled to be in place by March 2015, which will serve as a baseline for the groundwater rules. Wolfe said the model would utilize the data that has been gathered over time as well as the new data, which will fill in some gaps that have existed in data collection. He added within 10 years after the effective date of the rules his office, using the model and all of the collected well monitoring data, should be able to establish with a fair amount of confidence the historical average composite water head for each response area for 1978-2000 , the sustainability target set by the state legislature.

“That’s what we are building back to,” Wolfe said. Heath said the new data would be calibrated into the model, which can go back in time to extrapolate the 1978-2000 ranges not available in existing data.

“This 10-year time frame gives us time to add in additional information ” that will better give us confidence when estimating the water levels in these locations going forward.”

The rules require that after five years the composite water head in each response area must be above the minimum level it was in 2015, the starting point.

“If not, there’s a provision they’ve got to reduce their pumping levels back to what they were in the 1978-2000 period,” Wolfe explained. The next benchmark is at 10 years and the next at 20 years, Wolfe added. Between the 11th and 20th years, composite water levels must be maintained above the 1978-2000 range for at least three out of 10 years, Wolfe explained.

“Once we reach the 20th year, they’ve got to meet absolutely that sustainability requirement from that point forward ” This is just the first step in that process getting there.”

Salazar said the 1978-2000 target set by the legislature may have been based on faulty assumptions and may need to be modified.

“I guess in the end we may need to go back to the legislature and say it didn’t make sense to do what you did,” Salazar said. “We didn’t have the database we needed.”

Wolfe said the data collected from this point on may confirm the need to go back to the legislature, but “what this does is gets us started on the path so we can collect data we need.”

He added, “We may have to come back and amend the rules at some point.”

He said the primary purposes of this plan are to protect senior water rights and reach sustainability, and if the plan needs to be modified in the future, the state can go back to the court to do that.

Pat McDermott from the water division office said the state is recognizing this basin has finite water supplies.

“We have to learn to live within our means,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.”

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here.


Loveland receives $1.66 million check from FEMA for #COflood damage

August 15, 2014

New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call

New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call


From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Craig Young):

The city received its first FEMA reimbursements for flood losses this week — four checks totaling $1.66 million.

The checks came through the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, the state agency that is funneling Federal Emergency Management Agency payments to local governments.

Loveland suffered almost $24 million in infrastructure losses during the Sept. 12-13 flooding, and city finance director Brent Worthington said he expects FEMA to cover about $9 million of that.

Normally, FEMA pays 75 percent of eligible expenses, and local governments cover the rest. Last fall, Gov. John Hickenlooper pledged that the state would split that 25 percent remainder with city and county governments.

Worthington said the state’s share will be about $1.5 million, but Colorado won’t pay until each project is completed and the state does a complete review of the work.

“They’re doing advances of 50 percent of the FEMA share,” Worthington said. “They will hold back the remainder.”

The first checks from FEMA went to cover mostly water and sewer line repairs and replacements — $792,458 for emergency protective measures to save a 48-inch waterline in the first days of the flood, and $777,865 for water and sewer line repairs including replacement of the city’s “Meadow Pipeline,” according to a press release.


Colorado’s Water Plan — KRCC #COWaterPlan

August 15, 2014
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Click through to listen to the radio show. From KRCC (Sam Fuqua):

“Civilization in this part of the world,” Preston says, “is really based on capturing the runoff that comes out of the snowpack, storing it, and being able to deliver it when it’s needed. Without that, this reverts to desert.”

Preston also coordinates the Southwest Basin Roundtable, a regular gathering of agricultural, municipal, environmental, and recreational water users…

In the Southwest Basin, Preston says some of the roundtable’s conversations have centered around balancing agriculture and the environment.

“A lot of the challenge—and I think the roundtable’s done a very good job of it, because everybody gets along and tries to understand each other’s perspectives,” Preston says, “is how you reconcile or integrate the need for agricultural deliveries with the environmental values and keeping kind of adequate water in the streams.”

Trying to support healthy ecosystems and a healthy farm and ranching economy with limited water is a big challenge, but add to that the state’s projected population growth of 5.5 million now to over 10 million by 2050.

Then, says James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, there’s drought.

“We’ve had it over our history,” says Eklund. “What makes it unique now, or different now, is that we are seeing patterns of extreme drought in more sustained periods than we’ve ever seen them in our history. The Colorado River basin has been in a 14-year period of drought that has not been equaled in human recorded history.”[...]

There’s broad agreement that one of the biggest issues for the Colorado Water Plan—both now and in the foreseeable future—is the question of transbasin diversions. That’s the technical term behind moving water from the Western Slope to growing cities on the Front Range. It’s always been a sensitive topic, and the Delores Water Conservancy District’s Mike Preston says his basin roundtable favors tougher limits on household water use, especially on lawns.

“People aren’t really interested in bringing the Colorado River across the Continental Divide and diminishing agricultural potential in order to grow bluegrass in front of suburban households.”

Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund says he’s seeing more cooperation from Front Range cities looking for more West Slope water.

“They’re saying that kind of for the first time,” Eklund says. “Saying, ‘We understand that even though we have a legal right to go take that water because we secured those rights a long time ago, we’re not just going to go do it because it’s something that we can do and we’ll see you in water court.’”

Eklund says the state water plan will not supersede prior appropriation– Colorado’s seniority-based system of water laws. But, he says, prior appropriation may need to bend to reflect the changing times, just as it’s done for over a century.

“Prior appropriation has had to either adjust or flex in each one of those times,” Eklund says, referencing the growth of cities and the agriculture economy across the state, as well as environmental needs, and even the connection between surface and ground water.

From Steamboat Today (Ren Martyn/Marsha Daughenbaugh):

The Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Roundtable gave preliminary approval to the first draft of their Basin Implementation Plan on July 23. The plan now will be submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which will consolidate plans from the nine Colorado water basins and develop a State Water Plan to be delivered to the governor by December 2015.

The BIP addresses our basins’ responsibilities to balance current and future needs of our water resources. Development of this document has been a labor of love and concern by countless volunteers and a culmination of years of professional studies commissioned by the roundtable.

Our roundtable identified eight primary basin goals for Northwest Colorado:

• Protect existing decreed and anticipated future water uses in the Yampa-White-Green basins.

• Protect and encourage agricultural uses of water in the basins within the context of private property rights.

• Improve agricultural water supplies to increase irrigation land and reduce shortages.

• Identify and address municipal and industrial water shortages.

• Quantify and protect non-consumptive water uses.

• Maintain and consider the existing natural range of water quality that is necessary for current and anticipated water uses.

• Restore, maintain and modernize water storage and distribution infrastructure.

• Develop an integrated system of water use, storage, administration and delivery to reduce water shortages and meet environmental and recreational need.

The roundtable acknowledges long-standing discussions of trans-mountain diversions of West Slope water to the East Slope and are taking a position that prior to any development of a new trans-mountain diversion, the Front Range first must integrate all other water supply solutions including conservation and reuse plus maximize use of its own native water resources and existing trans-mountain supplies.

The BIP also states: “Before it could be considered by the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable, any proposed trans-mountain diversion out of the Colorado River Basin must undergo a full operational analysis to determine its impact on the entire river system. The analysis must recognize that, within the Colorado River system, the diversion of any ‘extra’ water available during wet years may occur under certain ‘trigger’ conditions of a full (or nearly full) supply in reservoirs designed to carry the Colorado River Basin through a drought. This analysis must be sufficient to determine that the risks of operating project(s) in a junior manner to identified Colorado River Basin needs are understood by all. Such a project should not be funded by the state of Colorado, but by interests, public and/or private, willing to accept such operational and financial risk.”

Future projects and agreements cannot impact existing legal compact obligations to provide water to downstream users…

The current BIP, as presented to Colorado Water Conservation Board, is a working document. The roundtable continually will update and refine it in response to the needs and demands of our region. It is available for public review on the Colorado Water Conservation Board website at http://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cowaterplan/yampa-white-green-river-basin.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Fountain Creek erosion mitigation project results encouraging

August 15, 2014
Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek erosion via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A project to restore a small portion of Fountain Creek could have benefits for longer reaches.

“There are 51 miles of bank on each side of the creek from Colorado Springs to Pueblo,” said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. “Now we know a method to use to control erosion.”

Small was giving a report to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which gave the green light to a $146,000 state grant toward the $189,000 project last year to undertake the project on Frost Ranch, located in El Paso County about 25 miles north of Pueblo.

The project restored the channel and fortified the bank along 480 feet of the Frost Ranch. Past floods had eaten away about 70 feet of the bank, including vegetation. Three tiers of dirt secured by netting rising about 4 feet were chosen as the way to restore this particular area. About 7,500 willow plants, along with grasses and other vegetation to hold the shore.

Work began in April and was completed in mid-May.

The first test of the work came on May 23, when the creek swelled to 3,000 cubic feet per second, rising nearly to the top of the newly constructed embankment, Small said. The work held, and the moisture spurred plant growth. About 75 percent of the plants survived.

A larger wave of water, 5,000 cfs, came on July 23. While some of the water overtopped the bank and deposited sand along the top, the bank stayed in place.

The roundtable applauded the district’s efforts.

“Frost Ranch has been an excellent neighbor to the creek,” said SeEtta Moss of Canon City, who was appointed to the roundtable to represent environmental interests. “I’m delighted to see what’s been done.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here.


USBR finds $2 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit for the current fiscal year

August 15, 2014

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Valley Conduit has received $2 million for the current fiscal year through reprogramming of funds within the Bureau of Reclamation, according to Colorado Democratic U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall.

“Folks in Southeast Colorado have been waiting a long time for the federal government to fulfill its promise to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Bennet said. “Making these resources available for the conduit is crucial to completing this phase of the project and moving it one step closer to completion.”

Earlier this year, the senators backed legislation that loosened purse strings within the Bureau of Reclamation and allowed for transfer of funds to projects such as the conduit, which was first authorized in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Act.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of the project, was dismayed when President Barack Obama’s budget submitted to Congress contained only $500,000 in funding this year. More was needed to complete planning and feasibility analysis before the design work and land acquisition can begin.

“Southern Coloradans have been counting on the Arkansas Valley Conduit’s construction for access to clean drinking water — they’ve been waiting long enough,” Udall said.

U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Colorado Republicans, also support the conduit and applauded the news.

“This completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit will ensure the continued delivery of clean drinking water to families, agriculture producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado,” Tipton said.

The $400 million conduit is in its early stages, having gained approval last year from Reclamation for the 120-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads.

It would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities by providing filtered drinking water. Most of the communities along the route rely on wells and many of them are facing water quality compliance issues that could force more expensive alternatives to the conduit.

“The support we have gotten from Congress, Gov. John Hickenlooper and James Eklund of the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been tremendous,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “This will allow us to move the project forward as was intended more than 50 years ago.”

Hickenlooper praised the decision: “We have worked closely with all parties to stress the need for this conduit and will continue to support Southeastern and local government in the hard work to bring this project to fruition.”

From Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today released the following statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to redirect $2 million to fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

“The Arkansas Valley Conduit will serve 50,000 people in more than 40 communities in southeastern Colorado. We commend the Bureau of Reclamation for prioritizing this project and thank the leadership of the Department of the Interior, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, as well our congressional delegation for ongoing efforts to deliver funding for this critical project. We have worked closely with all parties to stress the need for this conduit and will continue to support southeastern and local government in the hard work to bring this project to fruition,” Hickenlooper said.

The conduit, a water pipeline originally envisioned as part of the federal Fry-Ark Project legislation in 1962, will assist communities experiencing high water treatment costs by providing water from Pueblo Reservoir. The latest funding will assist with preconstruction costs associated with the 130-mile project.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


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