Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co, Aspen and the #ColoradoRiver District reach deal

October 15, 2014

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

The city of Aspen and Front Range water interests have reached a compromise 20 years in the making that allows more water to be sent east when the spring runoff is plentiful, in exchange for bolstering flows when the Roaring Fork River is running low in the fall. The deal is between the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which operates transbasin diversion tunnels underneath Independence Pass, and the city of Aspen and the Colorado River District, which works to protect water rights on the Western Slope.

The deal, which has its roots in a 1994 water court application from Twin Lakes that sought to increase diversions during the runoff in high-snowpack years. It will leave 40 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir when Twin Lakes exercises its rights under the 1994 proposal. That water will be stored in the 500-acre-foot reservoir and released into the Roaring Fork for about three weeks in late summer, when seasonal flows are at their lowest. The water must be called for and released in the same year it was stored.

Grizzly Reservoir, located about 8 miles up Lincoln Creek Road near the Continental Divide, is a component of the transbasin-diversion system. A tunnel underneath the reservoir channels water underneath the mountain to the south fork of Lake Creek in the Arkansas River basin, on the other side of the pass.

Additionally, under the deal, the River District will have the right to store 200 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir and can call for up to 150 acre feet of that water in a year. Importantly, that 200 acre-feet can be stored long-term in the reservoir until it is called for by the River District, which manages water rights across the Western Slope.

Another 600 acre-feet will be provided to the River District for seasonal storage in Twin Lakes Reservoir, also on the east side of Independence Pass. The district will then trade and exchange that water with various entities, which could lead to more water staying on the Western Slope that would otherwise be diverted through other transbasin tunnels.

Twin Lakes diverts an average of 46,000 acre-feet a year from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and sends it to Colorado Springs and other Front Range cities. The city of Colorado Springs owns 55 percent of the shares in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., entities in Pueblo own 23 percent, entities in Pueblo West own 12 percent, and Aurora owns 5 percent.

Aspen and the River District intend to cooperatively use the stored water in Grizzly Reservoir to boost late-summer flows in the Roaring Fork as it winds through Aspen proper.

Water already flowing
The stretch of the Roaring Fork River below the Salvation Ditch on Stillwater Drive typically runs below environmentally sound flows each year for about eight weeks, according to city officials. And given that this spring saw a high run-off, the three parties to the agreement managed some water this year as if the deal was already signed.

“At the close of the current water year (which ended the last day of September), Twin Lakes started making releases of some of the water stored for the River District, followed by release of the 40 acre-feet, as directed by Aspen and the River District,” Phil Overeynder, a special projects engineer for the city, wrote in an Oct. 3 memo to city council. “These releases had the effect of increasing flows in the Roaring Fork through the Aspen reach by approximately 20 percent and will last for approximately a three-week period at the end of the lowest flow conditions of the year.”

Overeynder added that “both Aspen and the River District believe that this agreement, while not perfect, is of real and meaningful benefit to the Roaring Fork.”

Aspen City Council approved the agreement on its consent calendar during a regular council meeting on Monday. The agreement is on the River District’s Tuesday meeting agenda, and Twin Lakes approved it last month.

The deal still needs to be accepted by Pitkin County and the Salvation Ditch Co. in order to satisfy all of the details of the water court’s 2001 approval of the 1994 water rights application.

Junior and senior rights
In addition to its junior 1994 water right, Twin Lakes also holds a senior 1936 water right that allows it to divert up to 68,000 acre-feet in a single year and up to 570,000 acre-feet in a 10-year period.

Originally, the water diverted by Twin Lakes was used to grow sugar beets to make sugar, but it is now primarily used to meet the needs of people living on the Front Range.

The 1936 water right still has some lingering restrictions in high-water years, according to Kevin Lusk, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities who serves as the president of the board of the private Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. Under its 1936 right, when there is plenty of water in the Arkansas River and the Twin Lakes Reservoir is full, Twin Lakes is not allowed to divert water, even though it is physically there to divert, Lusk explained. So in 1994 it filed in water court for a new water right without the same restrictions so it could divert more water to the east. It was dubbed the “Twin Junior,” water right.

The city of Aspen and the River District objected in court to the “Twin Junior” and the agreement approved Monday is a long-delayed outcome of the case.

Aspen claimed that if Twin Lakes diverted more water in big-water years, the Roaring Fork wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of the high water, including flooding the Stillwater section and replenishing groundwater supplies. That process, the city argued, helps the river in dry times.

“We don’t necessarily agree with the theory behind it,” Lusk said of the city’s claim, but added that Twin Lakes agreed to the deal as part of settlement negotiations.

And since 2014 turned out to be a high-water year, Twin Lakes exercised its right to divert water under its 1994 Twin Junior right, and worked cooperatively with Aspen and the River District to release 40-acre feet of “mitigation water” as described in the pending deal.

The new agreement between the city, Twin Lakes and the River District is in addition to another working arrangement between Twin Lakes and Aspen related to the Fryingpan-Arkansas diversion project, which diverts water from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River.

That agreement provides 3,000 acre-feet of water each year to be released by Twin Lakes into the main stem of the Roaring Fork beneath a dam near Lost Man Campground, normally at a rate of 3 to 4 cubic feet per second.

More Twin Lakes coverage here.


Pueblo water use down 3% for 2014

September 29, 2014
Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Puebloans have been stingy with water this year, and it’s likely going to cost the Board of Water Works.

“We’re going to be 3 percent short in water use,” said Seth Clayton, director of administrative services for the water board.

Pueblo is on pace to use less than 8 billion gallons, down about 250 million gallons from projections.

The reason was a cool, wet, early summer that reduced the need for outdoor watering. On the hottest summer days, it’s not unusual for the peak pumping in Pueblo to hit 50 million gallons per day.

This year, the peak came on June 30, when 46.5 million gallons were pumped. Part of the reason for lower pumping totals has been reduced use in city parks, which receive water at no cost.

“September has been better with the warm weather,” Clayton said.

The average household will use about 113,000 gallons this year, which is down from 117,000 gallons last year and the average of 127,000 gallons from 2004-14.

Treated water sales are expected to fall $1.68 million below projections, but will be offset by $1 million in raw water leases, Clayton added.

“Overall, we will be about $800,000 short on revenue, but we’ll make up most of that on reduced expenditures,” Clayton said.

Total revenues for the water board were projected to be $34.48 million at the beginning of this year.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works leases net $1.07 million in revenue

August 20, 2014
Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Improved weather conditions have freed up more water for the Pueblo Board of Water Works to lease, filling in a potential hole in revenues. Water leases on the spot market this year will bring in about $1.07 million, with 8,567 acre-feet (2.8 billion gallons) leased through the bidding process.

An additional 2,535 acre-feet in leases to two well augmentation groups and to Mauro Farms were approved Tuesday, bringing in $228,750, after the initial round of leases in March. The additional water is being provided because imports from the Western Slope are higher than expected, while demand in Pueblo has tapered off during a cool, wet summer, said Alan Ward, water resources manager.

Pueblo’s transmountain water sources have yielded more than 19,000 acre-feet in the first six months of this year, about 128 percent of average. More than 44,000 acre-feet of water are in storage, 114 percent more than last year at the same time.

At the same time, Pueblo pumped just above 5 billion gallons through its treated water system as of July 31, a decrease of 7.83 percent from the five-year average. The board has 39,890 accounts, which represents an increase of 324 over 2005.

Roughly two-thirds of the board’s revenue comes from metered water sales within the city, which are projected to bring in $23.3 million. However, if decreased use continues, that figure could be about $1 million less by the end of the year.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

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

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


Pueblo: Rates are a complex question

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

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More conservation coverage here.


The Pueblo Board of Water Works okays water for marijuana operations within the city limits

June 18, 2014
Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water for marijuana operations within Pueblo city limits will be available as long as the feds remain lukewarm on enforcement, but the Pueblo Board of Water Works wants more time to think about supplying other Pueblo County operations. The board Tuesday approved a resolution to provide water from its non-federal sources to growers within city limits, provided that federal laws do not become more restrictive. The choice to make water available within city limits was unanimous, even though some board members are not fans of legal marijuana.

“Colorado and the city have legalized it, so it makes it tough for us to say, ‘No, you won’t have access to water,’ ” said board member Nick Gradisar.

Gradisar explained that federal enforcement under the current administration is deferential to Colorado and Washington laws on recreational marijuana, although the Department of Justice could crack down on marijuana operations if certain priorities such as organized crime involvement or weapons are violated.

The rest of the board joined him with varying levels of enthusiasm.

Jim Gardner supported the resolution wholeheartedly, comparing society’s attitudes toward marijuana with the prohibition of alcohol in the 1900s.

“These are things that are going to happen in our culture,” Gardner said.

Tom Autobee said the state has not done enough to regulate marijuana, and the city needs to treat marijuana like liquor licenses, taking neighborhood concerns into consideration. He supported the resolution “with reservations.” “This is a social experiment and I would ask people to use marijuana responsibly,” Autobee said.

Kevin McCarthy said the will of voters comes first, but was also uncertain about marijuana use in general.

“While I am uneasy about where this is going, there are sufficient protections in this ordinance,” McCarthy said.

Board President Mike Cafasso also had misgivings about marijuana, but saw the need to support city and state laws.

“This is not an easy decision for me,” Cafasso said. “I’m not a fan. I don’t believe it’s good for Colorado; it’s not good for our county; and it’s certainly not good for Pueblo,” Cafasso said.

A second ordinance that would allow the Pueblo water board to sell 800 acre-feet (260 million gallons) of raw water annually at top dollar (about $500,000 at 2014 rates) was tabled. That water most likely would be used for well augmentation. The water board has received about three serious inquiries about such water, according to Executive Director Terry Book. Initially, the board defeated the ordinance on a 3-2 vote.

Gardner and Gradisar voted for it, while the other three members wanted to table it, pointing out that there is no obligation under the city charter to make water available for marijuana.

“We have to be careful about making a judgment about who we will sell water to,” Gradisar said, pointing out that some would argue against selling water to coal-fired power plants.

“This is going to be an economic boon to Pueblo County.”

Cafasso convinced the others that it should not be a dead issue, but that staff needed to talk to other water providers to determine how the issue is being handled. So the board voted 5-0 to reconsider a similar resolution in 60 days.

“Let’s make sure before we parachute off the cliff we know where we are going to land,” McCarthy said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


“If we commit too much water, we lose our flexibility for operating during times of drought” — Alan Ward

April 17, 2014

cripplecreekrvtravel.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A gold mining company will lease some of Pueblo’s raw water for the next decade at a record price. The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a 10-year lease of 400 acre-feet of water to the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. in Teller County. The water will lease for $630.63 per acre-foot (an acre-foot is 325,851 gallons) initially, and will be adjusted annually by the same percentage as Pueblo water rates. That will mean more than $250,000 in revenue for the water board this year.

“The 400 acre-feet is a relatively small amount,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager. “If we commit too much water, we lose our flexibility for operating during times of drought.”

That amount also should not interfere with the water board’s other multiyear leases.

The price represents 1.5 times the price of the Comanche power plant lease, reflecting the water board’s policy of charging a 50 percent premium to customers outside city limits, Ward said.

Cripple Creek & Victor plans to use the water to augment its supplies and replace depletions to local waterways.

The water will be delivered to either the mouth of Fourmile Creek or Beaver Creek, or to the town of Victor’s account in Lake Pueblo. From there, it will be the gold mining company’s responsibility to exchange it upstream to operations located about 25 miles from the Arkansas River.

Revenue from the lease will be used to offset Pueblo water rates in the water board’s $34 million budget.

Metered water sales are expected to generate $23.3 million this year, while leases of water will contribute more than $8.2 million.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


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