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.


Arkansas Valley Conduit backers hope to make deal for excess capacity in the Pueblo Dam south outlet works soon

March 27, 2014
Pueblo Dam

Pueblo Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.

“We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”

That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.

The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.

The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.

By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.

Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.

During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.

“The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation approves cross-connection for the North and South outlet works

March 9, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Ever since it began storing water 40 years ago, the Pueblo Dam has been evolving as the needs of water users change. The next step will integrate the south outlet works with the newly constructed north outlet works on the face of the dam to provide more reliability to the urban populations that depend on Lake Pueblo as a source of water. The cross-connection is part of the package approved last week by the Bureau of Reclamation. Other pieces are the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master contract for some members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

“We get a better quality of water coming out of the reservoir. That cuts down on chemicals used for taste and odor issues,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The cross-connection will allow users of both outlets to continue using the dam when one outlet or the other is closed in an emergency or for planned maintenance.

“When one goes down, you can pull from the other side and still get part of your water,” Book said.

The dam was completed in 1974, but the south outlet — as the name implies, is on the south side of the Arkansas River — wasn’t used until 1983, when Pueblo West took its initial diversion of water. Two years later, the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs and four nearby water providers, began drawing from the south outlet. Pueblo hooked onto the south outlet in 2002, after gaining a license in 2000. The south outlet also supplies the Pueblo fish hatchery, operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The north outlet — formerly the primary outlet for the Arkansas River — was completed last year as part of the Southern Delivery System, which will begin serving Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West in 2016.

The Southeastern district, Colorado Springs and Pueblo water board are jointly developing a hydropower project at the north outlet works, which also continues to provide water to the Arkansas River.

There also are three gates that can empty water into the basin below the dam when the north outlet is closed. The Bessemer Ditch also has a direct connection to Pueblo Dam.

Before the interconnect is constructed, it would require a 40-year contract between Reclamation and those parties using the outlets.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


The Pueblo Board of Water Works plans to lease up to 5,500 acre-feet through the spot market

March 4, 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):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works will lease as much as 5,500 acre-feet of raw water this year on the spot market. The leases primarily provide a source of supplemental irrigation water for well or surface irrigation in the Arkansas Valley, as well as boosting supplies for some industrial or domestic users.

“I suspect there is enough demand out there for that amount of water,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the water board.

There were no spotmarket leases last year because of the drought.

This year, snowpack levels already have reached the average peak, giving the water board confidence that it will have some extra water to make available.

“We’ve built in three levels of conservative cushions so that this won’t leave us short of water for the next two years,” Ward said.

The amount of water available could drop if the water board finds any takers for long-term leases under a new rate structure that will charge $630.63 per acre foot. Ward still expects at least 3,500 acre-feet to be available.

While one-year leases have been increasing slightly over the past five years, hitting the $68-$150 per acre-foot range in 2012, the water board has been taking a hard look at its long-term (more than one year) water lease rates. The new rate is based on 1.5 times the rate for raw water charged to Comanche Power Plant a customer within city limits, Ward explained.

The water board’s last long-term contract was in 2012 for a 15-year agreement with Ordway Feedyard for about $376 per acre-foot (the rate increases at the same rate as city water bills). Other long-term contracts now range from $200-$400.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit — Senator Mark Udall

February 28, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Regional Director Michael Ryan has signed the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Final Environmental Impact Statement. The selected alternative is construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit using the Comanche North Alternative.

“This project will help water providers throughout the Arkansas River Basin meet existing and future demands,” said Ryan. “While funding details remain to be coordinated, it is prudent this project move forward to be in a position to take advantage of federal, state or local funding opportunities when they arise.”

The Arkansas Valley Conduit is a feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It will provide treated water to communities in southeastern Colorado. When complete, the pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit could be up to 227 miles long. The Comanche North Alternative includes three federal actions:

  • Construct and operate the Arkansas Valley Conduit and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnect between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works.
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • “For the many small rural water providers the conduit will serve, this critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed. Facing the water quality and waste water discharge compliance challenges has been daunting for this area, and the congressional approval in 2009 and now the Record of Decision from the Bureau of Reclamation provide real hope for an effective and efficient way to meet those challenges,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    A Record of Decision is a decision document; it concludes the environmental impact statement prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It does not provide or allocate funding for the project. Reclamation published the final environmental impact statement in August, 2013.

    “The District is grateful for this decision, which is one more milestone in a half-century journey to a clean water supply for southeastern Colorado. As federally-mandated standards have changed, the need for the solution the preferred alternative provides is even greater. The promise to build this piece of the project was first made in 1962 by President Kennedy and was restated in 2012, right here in Pueblo, Colorado, by President Obama. Now let’s move forward to the next phases of design and construction,” said Jim Broderick, General Manager for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    For more information on the Record of Decision, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. To obtain a hard copy of the Record of Decision, contact Doug Epperly at (406) 247-7638 or depperly@usbr.gov.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation approved the final construction plan for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday.

    “It’s been a long haul,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit. “This critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed.”

    The record of decision for the project was signed by Michael Ryan, Reclamation’s regional director. The record of decision includes the environmental impact study for the conduit, but the next step will be to obtain funding from Congress to build the project.

    Long, a Bent County commissioner and Las Animas business owner, has been working to get the conduit built since he joined the Southeastern board in 2002. The conduit was included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project legislation, but never built because of the expense.

    “In the last few months, it’s become clear that this will help, not only with drinking water, but at the other end with wastewater quality as well,” Long said.

    Reclamation Thursday approved a record of decision for the Comanche North route of the 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar. The chosen route includes initial treatment at the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock treatment plant and a pipeline that swings south of Pueblo near the Comanche power plant.

    The conduit will deliver fresh drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. It is estimated to cost $400 million, which would be repaid partly through revenue from Fry-Ark contracts.

    Also included in the decision is a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo for the Southeastern district and a cross-connection between north and south outlets at Pueblo Dam.

    The storage contract will set aside space for conduit participants and other water users in the district.

    The Southeastern district is focused on funding the project. Political wrangling delayed the record of decision and federal belt-tightening limited appropriations to about $2 million this year, rather than the $15 million the district hoped for.

    “I think this is a really important step forward, and I’m very happy,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “We still have a lot of work to do in funding the project.”

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    The Bureau of Reclamation signed the Record of Decision today for a project that’s been in the planning stages since Pueblo Dam was built in the 1960s.

    Part of the Frying Pan-Arkansas project, the conduit has never been built due to lack of money.

    U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Democrats of Colorado, issued a news release after the ROD was signed, which follows approval of an Environmental Impact Study last year.

    Here’s a release from Senator Udall’s office:

    U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet welcomed today’s signing of the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which represents a major milestone for the project that will bring clean water to communities in southeastern Colorado. The decision comes after Bennet and Udall urged the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that was finalized last August.

    “I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado,” Udall said. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count. This project will ensure we continue to smartly develop our water resources.”

    “Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” Bennet said. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done. With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to completing this historic conduit that will benefit many future generations of Coloradans.”

    Udall and Bennet have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado. Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works continues fee exemptions for economic development

    December 19, 2013
    Wind farm Logan County

    Wind farm Logan County

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A moratorium on fees to establish water service for companies that bring jobs to Pueblo was approved Tuesday. The Pueblo Board of Water Works has approved the exemption on a year-to-year basis for the last 30 years as a way to support local economic development. The resolution exempts fees for main extensions, tap, meter and plant water investment fees that otherwise would be required by the water board. The goal is to encourage industry that creates primary jobs to locate in Pueblo.

    Since 1984, the moratorium has resulted in the contribution of $5.7 million toward infrastructure that allowed companies to locate or expand in Pueblo.

    The most recent efforts have been to create water service to the St. Charles Industrial Park south of Pueblo. Vestas, Rocla and pewag have located in the park since improvements began in 2009. Prior to that, the improvements were concentrated at the airport industrial park east of Pueblo.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    ‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

    December 3, 2013
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

    “We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

    The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

    “The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

    “There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

    Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

    On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

    Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

    The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

    And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

    “It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

    The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

    That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

    The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

    “This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

    Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

    It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

    It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

    It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

    “Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

    Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Pueblo Board of Water Works storage recovers from #COdrought

    November 20, 2013

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Mission accomplished. The Pueblo Board of Water Works increased its storage levels by 10,000 acre-feet after cutting off spot-market water leases this year.

    “It was a good year for recovery of our storage reserves,” Water Resources Manager Alan Ward told the board Tuesday.

    At the end of the October, the water board had 37,500 acre-feet of water stored in four reservoirs, up from 27,500 acre-feet the previous year at the same time. Pueblo has long-term storage in Lake Pueblo, Clear Creek Reservoir, Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake.

    “Our spot market leases typically total about 10,000 acre-feet,” Ward said.

    There were other factors to the quick recovery, but they played a smaller role, he said. After drenching rains in August and September, water customers cut back use by about 1 billion gallons — roughly 3,000 acre-feet. But most of the water supplied to the city’s potable system comes from direct-flow water rights on the Arkansas River, rather than storage, Ward explained. Part of the reduction also came from reduced use in city parks, water that is provided at no charge. Water use was down at the Xcel Energy’s Comanche power plant, and good snows late in the season aided natural storage levels, he added.

    The new water year is looking more promising than the past two, with 93 percent snowpack in the Arkansas River basin and 123 percent in the Colorado River basin.

    “It’s still early in the season, and you can’t draw conclusions,” Ward said. “But it’s encouraging that we are near average and the Colorado is above average.”

    Click here for this morning’s snowpack report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    More coverage of the board meeting from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Tastes great, less money. That was Tuesday’s mantra at the Pueblo Board of Water Works monthly meeting as the board approved its 2014 budget. The board was slightly distracted because it was basking in the glory of capturing second place in an American Water Works Association regional water quality taste test earlier this year. But it was also proud of maintaining the lowest water rate among Front Range cities. Only Louisville has a lower base rate, but charges more as use increases.

    “Our rates are reasonable compared to surrounding communities, and it’s a heck of a buy,” said board member Nick Gradisar. “The average household will spend about $400 per year on water, and that is among the lowest on the Front Range,” said Seth Clayton, director of administrative services. “With all this, we’re still able to produce a product that is among the best in the state.”

    Pueblo rates will increase 3 percent next year, funding about 70 percent of the $34 million budget. Metered sales are expected to total $23 million, and will be supplemented by $8.2 million in leases of raw water. The remainder of the revenue will be generated by various fees and a transfer of $1 million from reserves. The bottom line for water users will be an average $1.02 increase per month for strictly indoor use, and $2.63 per month more during lawn irrigation periods, Clayton said.

    On the expenditure side of the ledger, 41 percent will go toward personnel services, 30 percent to operation and maintenance, 17 percent to capital projects and 12 percent to debt service. Major expenses include $3.37 million for utilities, mostly electricity; $1.03 million for the next round of automated meters; $2.4 million for main improvement and expansion; and nearly $1 million for water tank improvements.

    In other business, the board re-elected Mike Cafasso as president and Nick Gradisar as secretary­treasurer for the coming year.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    Pueblo Board of Water Works: 3% water rate hike likely, budget public hearing Tuesday

    November 18, 2013
    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works will have a public hearing on its 2014 budget at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Alan C. Hamel Administration Building, 319 W. Fourth St. The board is expected to approve a $34 million budget that will mean a 3 percent rate increase for Pueblo water users. The average monthly residential bill will increase about $1 per month, or $3 per month during summer months if yard watering is factored.

    The budget includes $100,000 for the CARES program, administered by Catholic Charities, that provides emergency funding for families. Last year, the program helped about 900 families.

    About $23 million in revenue, or 70 percent, comes from metered accounts, while water leases contribute $8.22 million, or 25 percent.

    Personnel services account for 41 percent of expenditures, while operation and maintenance costs make up 30 percent. Capital expenses amount to 17 percent, and fund transfers 12 percent.

    Among the largest expenditures are $4.8 million for debt service, largely for the 2009 purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares, and $3.37 million for utilities, mainly electricity purchases from Black Hills Energy.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works looks at 30-year, $120 million capital improvement plan, 3% rate hike

    November 13, 2013
    Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

    Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    While the Pueblo Board of Water Works has been systematically replacing pieces of its water system for the past 40 years, there’s still a lot of work to be done. The board Tuesday discussed a 30-year, $150 million capital improvement plan to upgrade aging infrastructure.

    “The system on the distribution side is in good shape,” said Terry Book, executive director. “Now, we’re dealing with infrastructure that is 50-100 years old, such as the water main rupture on Albany (in October). There is a finite life to these structures and we have to be proactive.”

    Aging infrastructure is one of the most critical needs for water utilities across the country, explained Seth Clayton, director of administrative services.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works will crack open the books on its 2014 budget at a workshop next week in advance of a public hearing. The board is looking at a 3 percent rate increase that would generate an estimated $21.6 million, based on about 8 billion gallons of water use. The increase would mean about a $1 per month increase for the average homeowner, excluding outside watering.

    Metered water sales within the city would be supplemented by $9.1 million in outside sales, including $6.3 million to Xcel Energy and Black Hills for power generation, $1 million in contracts with Aurora and $1.8 million in raw water sales. Revenue from all sources would be $34.4 million, an increase of about 4 percent from the 2013 budget.

    The workshop begins at noon Tuesday. The public hearing is at 2 p.m. Nov. 19. Both meetings are at 2 p.m. in the William F. Mattoon Board Room of the Alan C. Hamel Administration Building, 319 W. Fourth St.

    More:

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works plans more than $150 million in capital projects over the next 30 years. Here’s where the money would go: Water main upgrades: $47.5 million Other underground structures: $7.5 million Buildings & water resources: $47 million Large water tanks: $21.7 million Treating/pumping equipment: $11.9 million Transportation, heavy equipment: $10.4 million Computer equipment: $7.5 million

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    It’s probably no secret: Puebloans would sooner let the yard die than go without cellphones or Internet access.

    “As a water utility, we think we don’t have competition, but we’re competing with other utilities,” Administrative Services Director Seth Clayton told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday. “They have smartphones and a data plan. People have had to make choices.”

    The board held a workshop to comb through details of a $34 million budget for 2014. The budget will mean a 3 percent rate hike, which would mean a $1 per month increase for most of the year, with a $3 increase during the summer months.

    A public hearing on the budget will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

    Puebloans have decreased both indoor and outdoor water use in the past decade, even during a drought. That breaks earlier patterns when customers would increase lawn watering in response to drought.

    But times have changed. During the past three years, Pueblo has suffered through a drought with rainfall at 40-75 percent of average. Residential water use, which makes up the bulk of the city’s nearly 40,000 water accounts, has stayed relatively flat. In fact, in 2013, when August and September rains eased the blow, overall water consumption is about 5.5 percent below the five-year average. Residential water use is nearly as low as 2009, one of Pueblo’s wettest years.

    “It’s good for us on the water supply side, but we’re also operating a water utility,” Clayton said. “There has also been more awareness and education of customers, which is better than what we had pre-drought.”

    During the 2011-13 period, electric rates in Pueblo soared, unemployment rates remained high and the water board maintained a philosophy of low rates.

    “It’s important to us to keep rates as low as we can,” Clayton said.

    The board agreed.

    Board member Nick Gradisar pointed out that Colorado Springs residents are paying double what Pueblo pays for minimal water use and even greater amounts as use increases. Pueblo West rates are 40-60 percent higher than in Pueblo, depending on use.

    One way the board has kept rates low is to increase the portion of revenue from leases of water it holds for future use. Next year, water leases will bring in more than $8 million, about 25 percent of revenues, compared with about 20 percent a few years ago.

    Metered water sales would bring in $23 million if water use remains near recent levels.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works early 2014 budget indicates a 3% rate hike

    November 10, 2013
    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works will crack open the books on its 2014 budget at a workshop next week in advance of a public hearing. The board is looking at a 3 percent rate increase that would generate an estimated $21.6 million, based on about 8 billion gallons of water use. The increase would mean about a $1 per month increase for the average homeowner, excluding outside watering.

    Metered water sales within the city would be supplemented by $9.1 million in outside sales, including $6.3 million to Xcel Energy and Black Hills for power generation, $1 million in contracts with Aurora and $1.8 million in raw water sales.

    Revenue from all sources would be $34.4 million, an increase of about 4 percent from the 2013 budget.

    The workshop begins at noon Tuesday. The public hearing is at 2 p.m. Nov. 19. Both meetings are at 2 p.m. in the William F. Mattoon Board Room of the Alan C. Hamel Administration Building, 319 W. Fourth St.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    Six cities eyeing gravel pit storage east of Pueblo at Stonewall Springs

    October 21, 2013
    Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Developing reservoirs east of Pueblo remains an important component of a 2004 agreement to protect Arkansas River flows through the city. So far, the participants in the six-party intergovernmental agreement have relied on stop-gap measures to recover water, but recently there has been more activity that could lead to long-term changes.

    The situation was reviewed last week by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is a minor player in the effort, but shares some of the planning costs.

    Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works are the major players, and they have each had a role in the recovery of yield program. Fountain and the Southeastern district have smaller parts.

    “This is an important regional effort to understand the allocation costs,” said Gary Bostrom, water chief for Colorado Springs Utilities, and a Southeastern board member.

    The Pueblo water board took the lead in locating a reservoir site in 2005, trying to lease the Stonewall Springs site near the Pueblo Chemical Depot. When the cost proved too high, it was bought by private developers who proceeded with reservoir plans and a gravel mining operation.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife has an agreement to purchase a reservoir being developed by Stonewall Springs LLC, and it could be a candidate for municipal storage, said Bob Hamilton, Southeastern’s engineering director. Cities could participate by contributing water or money.

    A nearby reservoir plan by Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. on Southwest Farms appears less likely. Alan Hamel, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said Two Rivers’ loan application for the project will be “de-authorized” in November.

    Both sets of reservoirs would be filled and emptied by gravity flows on the Excelsior Ditch.

    A third plan is being tested by Colorado Springs that involves pumping between gravel pits just east of the Pueblo wastewater treatment plant.

    Up until now, Colorado Springs and Aurora have bypassed the most water, recapturing some of it in a reservoir on the Holbrook Canal north of La Junta under an agreement brokered by Aurora.

    More insfrastructure coverage here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works approves agreement with CPW for the management of Clear Creek Reservoir

    September 19, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    For nearly 50 years, the state has managed public recreation at Clear Creek Reservoir under an agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. A new license and agreement through 2024 that reflects changing needs was approved by the water board Tuesday. Some changes will be made in an agreement with the state that dates back to 1965.

    The water board purchased the reservoir in 1954 from the Otero Canal Co. Located in northern Chaffee County just west of the Arkansas River, the reservoir stores about one-sixth of Pueblo’s water supply. It’s also a nice place to boat, fish or view wildlife.

    The new license will still allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife to manage Clear Creek Reservoir, but preserves options the water board is considering, said Alan Ward, water resources manager.

    The board wants to swap land it owns along the Arkansas River east of U.S. 24 with the Bureau of Land Management for BLM land on the north and south embankments of the Clear Creek Dam. It also wants to preserve the ability to enlarge the dam in the future, so more flexibility is required in the licensing agreement. Access to some areas, including the caretaker’s house, spillway, dam, outlet works and shops will be restricted.

    The state also will continue a boat inspection program to prevent invasive species.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    Pueblo places second to Erie at the taste test at the RMSAWWA/RMWEA shindig in Keystone

    September 11, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The news might not rank up there with the ThunderWolves’ victory over the Bears, but Pueblo came out on top in a head-to-head matchup against Denver on Tuesday.

    However, the city is just No. 2 in the state when it comes to water quality. Pueblo’s water placed second in an annual taste test conducted by the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association. The group met this week in Keystone. The contest, judged by a panel of journalists, engineers and public health officials, was staged among 11 municipalities from throughout the state.

    Erie, a city of 21,000 in Boulder County, won the competition. Denver Water placed third.

    When you ask Don Colalancia, Pueblo’s water quality and treatment manager, about it, he’ll start rattling off chemicals such as powder-activated carbon, potassium permanganate and chloramine as the secret ingredients to Pueblo’s water.

    But there’s a simpler explanation: “The big thing is that we have some really good operators at the plant,” Colalancia said. “Any water plant can have taste and odor issues 24 hours a day. We’re constantly testing to catch things on the fly and adjust the chemicals if needed.”

    Pueblo’s annual water quality testing shows that the water meets all federal water quality guidelines as well.

    There was some grumbling among other contestants after the results were announced. “Fort Collins says they will bring a growler of Fat Tire next year, as it is an example of their ‘finished water,’ ” one observer joked.

    More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal:

    I had the honor to be a taste-testing judge at the association’s annual conference in Denver in June, and learned a lot about water taste tests — namely that while it’s fun to sample water, and that water officials are pretty competitive, it’s also a pretty serious aspect of the water-supply business. “It’s the way that people judge the safety of their water,” Pinar Omur-Ozbek told me in June.

    She’s an assistant professor at Colorado State University’s department of civil and environmental engineering in Fort Collins — and one of three professional taste testers on the national judging panel. (And she’s far more of an expert than me.) “If it doesn’t smell or taste the way people expect, then they think there’s something wrong,” she said.

    More water treatment coverage here.


    Two Rivers plans to lease 500 acre-feet of water to the Arkansas Ground Users Association #codrought

    March 5, 2013

    arkansasbasinalluvialaquifersubregions.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Some well owners in the Arkansas Valley will benefit from a lease from Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. The company, which is buying farms and creating water storage in Pueblo and Huerfano counties, is subleasing 500 acre-feet of water, which it obtained in a five-year deal with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, to the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association.

    Two Rivers will plant an additional 200 acres of vegetables on its Bessemer Ditch farming operation, company CEO John McKowen said in a press release. Two Rivers uses AGUA to augment wells it owns.

    Two Rivers leases the water for about $210 per acre-foot from the Pueblo water board under an agreement made in 2011. McKowen said the water is being provided at cost, and Two Rivers will not use the full amount on its ground. The water will be part of AGUA’s replacement water to make up for depletions from well pumping. AGUA members along the Arkansas River will be able to pump at 30 percent of normal rates. Along Fountain Creek, the pumping rate will be 40 percent to 45 percent.

    “The water made available to AGUA through our 2013 lease with Two Rivers will be invaluable in helping to blunt the effects of the ongoing drought. It will keep farms in production that otherwise would have been dried up,” said Scott Lorenz, manager of AGUA.

    “Two Rivers’ commitment to agriculture is clear, and we look forward to a positive, productive relationship with them for years to come.”

    Water for well augmentation plans have been hard to find this year. While the Pueblo Board of Water Works is fulfilling multiyear contracts, such as the one with Two Rivers, it is not planning to lease water on the spot market, a major source of supply for the well groups.
    Last week, the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association, another well owners association, told its members that it has no water this year.

    AGUA provides augmentation for about 250 farm wells, while CWPDA serves about 500 farms.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works ponies up $50,000 for wildfire mitigation near Twin Lakes #codrought

    January 16, 2013

    twinlakeswikipedia.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Forest fires can have devastating consequences to watersheds cities depend on, so the U.S. Forest Service is reaching out to municipal water providers to take measures to thin forests.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday voted to pay the Forest Service $50,000 to thin about 81 acres near Twin Lakes. The Forest Service provides the expertise and manpower to do the work. The water board will join other water providers throughout the West to reduce the impact of fires.

    Last summer, large fires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs burned thousands of acres, raising the specter that those cities will face the same challenges Denver and Aurora have had from the 2002 Hayman Fire.

    “A movement is under way for the Forest Service to go into watersheds that are vital to municipal water supply to thin the forests and reduce the impact of fires,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the water board.

    Colorado Springs and Aurora already have paid the Forest Service to clear other large areas near the Mount Elbert Forebay, located just north of Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is a vital transfer point for the Homestake Project which the two cities jointly operate. Pueblo also stores water in Twin Lakes, as well as Clear Creek Reservoir and Turquoise Lake in the same general area.

    “There are lots of areas in our watershed that are at extreme risk,” Ward said.

    The water board and Forest Service are studying the possibility for future agreements in the watersheds of transmountain ditches in the Tennessee Creek area, he added.

    Meanwhile climate change is expected to exacerbate the wildfire problem. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradodoan. Here’s an excerpt:

    Colorado’s future under the influence of climate change will be significantly warmer and drier than recent years, and the impacts will affect the regions’ water, forests, wildfires, ecosystems and ability to grow crops. That’s the conclusion of the draft of the federal government’s National Climate Assessment, which was released for public comment on Monday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

    The water content of Colorado’s snowpack and the timing of the spring runoff are changing, which could pose major challenges for the state’s water supplies and farmers, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University and co-author of the portion of the assessment addressing Colorado and the Southwest. The Southwest, including Colorado, will see significantly declining snowpack, increasing numbers of wildfires directly affecting communities, and threats to public health caused by spiking summer temperatures and disruptions in electricity and water supply, according to the assessment’s regional outlook.

    Mounting evidence suggests that temperature increases caused by people are responsible for killing trees throughout the region, increasing the number of wildfires and sparking bark beetle outbreaks.

    “Increased warming will increase wildfires and wildfire impacts,” Waskom said. “The models project more fire and greater risk.”[..]

    The only good news to be found in the climate assessment is that Colorado’s growing season may get longer as the temperatures warm, Waskom said.


    Pueblo: The PBOWW is eyeing a water rate increase of 2.75% in their new budget

    November 7, 2012

    pueblo.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    While you were dumping all that water on the lawn last summer, you were keeping your water rates down. The Pueblo Board of Water Works got a detailed look at the proposed 2013 budget Tuesday, with no major surprises in the picture. A public hearing will be Nov. 20.

    This year’s dry, hot weather meant a lower-than-expected increase in next year’s water rates — a 2.75 percent increase.
    Why? Metered sales were projected to bring in $22 million, but all the extra watering meant an additional $800,000 in projected revenue. “Any time we have a situation where expenditures are lower or revenue higher, our customers get a benefit,” said Seth Clayton, director of administrative services and finance.

    The water board also will see revenue of $7.6 million — in a $32.3 million budget — from water leases next year, including $5.2 million to power companies. While spot leases are not expected, the water board has several long-term contracts that provide additional revenues.

    Expenditures are expected to be relatively flat, as opposed to this year’s steep hike in electric rates. Electricity purchases amount to about $3.4 million. A 1.49 percent salary increase is included, along with a 1.25 percent hike in health insurance and 5 percent drop in dental insurance.

    An end to the drought could hurt next year’s revenues, which are based on consumption of 8.35 billion gallons for residential use. Outside lawn watering is the biggest variable for revenues, Clayton said. “Our customers are using their water wisely,” he said. “If we see a normal year, we will not see the consumption we have this year.”

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    Pueblo Board of Water Works staff water rate increase request totals 2.75%

    October 21, 2012

    bessemerditch1890waterarchives.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A relatively modest 2.75 percent increase in water rates is envisioned in the 2013 budget for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The increase would be the lowest since 2004, and would keep Pueblo’s rates the lowest among large Front Range water providers.

    It would mean an increase of less than $1 per month for the average residential customer.

    A $32.3 million budget is being proposed by staff. The water board will hear details about the budget at a workshop on Nov. 6. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled at 2 p.m. Nov. 20 at the water board offices, 319 W. Fourth St.

    The budget continues last year’s timeout for revenues into the water development fund — which uses one-time revenue sources such as long-term leases to fund water planning activities — until 2015.

    Spending increases in 2013 are expected in legal costs, maintenance and chemicals. Utility costs are expected to remain relatively flat.

    Among the largest costs for specific projects are $1.15 million for main expansion and improvement and $940,000 for continued conversion to automatic meter reading.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    The Cherokee Metropolitan District scores a 600 acre-feet water lease from the Pueblo Board of Water Works

    October 17, 2012

    arkansasriverbasin.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a two­year lease of water to the Cherokee Metropolitan District in Colorado Springs.

    The district is located just north of the Colorado Springs airport and serves about 18,000 people, said Sean Chambers, general manager of the district.

    “When we were formed, Colorado Springs did not think it would extend services,” Chambers said. “Now, we are an island within the city.”

    The district formed in 1957, and went through a series of reorganizations, consolidations and expansions until 1995. It lost water court cases that have reduced its ability to pump from the Upper Black Squirrel Creek and Chico Creek aquifers.

    The district will lease 600 acre­feet of water (almost 200 million gallons) yearly from Pueblo in 2013 and 2014 at a rate $366.25 per acre­foot or $219,750 per year. Any rate increases for Pueblo water would increase the payment by the same percentage. The amount is within Pueblo’s projected surplus, but in an emergency the delivery could be canceled “This is just a bridge for us,” Chambers said. “We would not be relying on short­term leases such as this for a water supply.”

    Cherokee is drilling wells and building a pipeline in northern El Paso County to deliver 1,000 acre­feet annually to meet its long­term needs, Chambers said.

    The district has implemented conservation measures, which include outdoor watering no more than three times per week, and sometimes has banned outdoor watering altogether.

    Cherokee has an agreement with Colorado Springs to deliver water to its system. The water would be exchanged from Pueblo’s accounts into the Colorado Springs system at Twin Lakes for delivery, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works is investigating an idea to create wetlands banks at its Tennessee Creek Ranches property north of Leadville in Lake County.

    The water board Tuesday approved a contract of up to $25,000 with Johnson Environmental Consulting to look at the concept of mitigating wetlands in order to offset impacts from projects elsewhere.

    The idea is to replace wetland areas destroyed by activities such as highway projects or reservoir construction by creating permanent areas to “bank” wetlands, said Executive Director Terry Book.

    “I like the intent,” said board member Tom Autobee, in making a motion to approve the contract.

    The Pueblo Water Board has looked at building a reservoir on the Tennessee Creek site since 1950, but those plans hit a snag in the late 1990s when fens — ancient marshy areas — were located on the site.

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Former ponds west of Pueblo once owned by Valco are now incorporated into Lake Pueblo State Park.
    Keeping water in them has become the responsibility of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, and a pending water court case will allow more efficient use of old ditch rights to meet that need.

    The water board acquired the Hamp-Bell Ditch water rights from Valco in 2004. The ditch diverted a relatively small amount of water, accruing more credits in the irrigation season than at other times of year.

    To balance the credits year-round, the water board will apply for storage rights.

    “Currently, the board replaces the nonirrigation season depletions from its other water supplies and the excess Hamp-Bell

    Ditch water from the irrigation season often goes unused,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager, in a memo.
    The complex historic use issues surrounding the ditch — which has 1870, 1878 and 1880 water rights — were settled in Valco’s 2003 court case, making the new case fairly straightforward, Ward added.

    “We should get a net gain of water to store,” added Executive Director Terry Book.

    The water board unanimously approved to enter a water court application to complete the plan.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    Drought news: This year’s drought could dry up irrigation water leases next season

    August 23, 2012

    arkansasvalleywateruse2011.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “We’re still in good shape in terms of having a reserve, but we’ll probably have to throttle back onetime leases next year,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the [Pueblo Board of Water Works]. “We may lease very little water or none at all on the spot market next year.”

    The water board leases have been an important source of water for farmers on the Bessemer Ditch and for well augmentation groups this year. This year the water board was able to lease 14,000 acre-feet — the equivalent of half the metered water supply for Pueblo.

    The situation shouldn’t affect the board’s long-term leases to Aurora, Xcel’s Comanche power plant and other businesses.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    Alan Hamel ends his run with the Pueblo Board of Water Works

    August 22, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday voted to rename its headquarters the Alan C. Hamel Administration Building at 319 W. Fourth St. Hamel, the executive director since 1982, officially ended his 52-year career the same day at the water board…

    Far from speechless, Hamel then proceeded to talk about his career at the water board, giving credit to the employees who worked for him and the board. He also praised present and past boards for allowing him to serve outside roles in state government and professional groups. “The board has been farsighted in letting us look on the outside to form partnerships,” Hamel said.

    A reception recognizing Hamel’s career is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Olde Towne Carriage House at the Riverwalk, 102 S. Victoria Ave.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    50th anniversary celebration of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo

    August 14, 2012

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    The project got its start with a visit to Pueblo from President Kennedy back in 1962. Here’s the first installment from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article, Woodka is a terrific writer. Here’s an excerpt:

    But on that day [August 17, 1962], work began to address the problem. Kennedy came to Pueblo to celebrate the signing of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Act the previous day. Local water leaders will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fry-Ark Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo…

    The Twin Lakes Tunnel was constructed by the Colorado Canal Co. during the Great Depression, while the old Carlton railroad tunnel was used by the High Line Canal Co. to bring in water. In addition, Colorado Springs and Aurora were already building the Homestake Project, which would be intertwined with the Fry-Ark Project as both were built.

    But the government project, a scaled-down version of an earlier, larger plan to bring water from the Gunnison River basin, represented a larger cooperative effort between farmers and municipal leaders in nine counties.

    Since the first water was brought over in 1972, about 2.1 million acre-feet of water has been brought into the Arkansas River basin for irrigation and municipal use. The project also generates electric power at the Mount Elbert Power Plant.

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    Woodka details some of the early water history along the Arkansas River mainstem in this report running in today’s Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Water Development Association of Southeastern Colorado was incorporated in 1946. Pueblo business leaders worked with valley water interests to investigate a Gunnison-Arkansas Project. By 1953, the project was scaled back to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, and the first hearings began in Congress.

    During the congressional hearings in subsequent years, the project evolved from one primarily serving agriculture to one that included municipal, hydroelectric power, flood control and recreation as well.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District formed in 1958.

    The U.S. House passed the Fry-Ark Act on June 13, 1962; the U.S. Senate, Aug. 6, 1962. President John F. Kennedy signed it into law on Aug. 16, 1962.

    Here’s a short look at Jay Winner, current general manager of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Back in the 1960s, his father Ralph Winner was the construction superintendent for Ruedi Reservoir, the first part of the Fry-Ark Project to be constructed and his family lived on the job site. His father came back in the late 1970s to supervise construction of one of the last parts of the collection system to be built, the Carter-Norman siphon. The siphon draws water across a steep canyon.

    For three summers, Winner, then a college student, worked on the latter project. “It was the most fun I ever had,” he laughed. “I got to play with dynamite.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A retired outfitter, [Reed Dils] is now a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board member and a former representative from the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Initially, the flows got worse,” Dils said. “They (the Southeastern district and the Bureau of Reclamation) had chosen to run water in the winter…

    “It became apparent to everyone there was another way to run the river,” Dils said. “Why the Fry-Ark act was passed, recreation mainly meant flatwater recreation. Over time, they learned there are other types of recreation.”

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District invite the public to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Pueblo State Park on Sat., Aug. 18. The event is located at Lake Pueblo State Park Visitor’s Center from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m.

    Reclamation, the District and Colorado State Parks and Wildlife are offering free pontoon boat tours around Pueblo Reservoir and free tours of the fish hatchery located below Pueblo Dam. There will also be historical displays and several guest speakers.

    Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose trans-basin water diversion and delivery project serving southeastern Colorado.

    The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project provides:

    - Water for more than 720,000 people
    - Irrigation for 265,000 acres
    - The largest hydro-electric power plant in the state
    - World renowned recreation opportunities from the Fryingpan River to the Arkansas River.

    For more information the 50th Anniversary Celebration – and to see a teaser of the upcoming film! – visit our website at www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

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    Meanwhile, Alan Hamel is retiring from the Pueblo Board of Water Works this month:

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Little did I know how important the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project would be as I was watching the president’s car traveling down Abriendo Avenue that day,” Hamel said. “Look at all that it has done for our basin and what it will do in the future.”

    Hamel became executive director of the water board in 1982, and was president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency that oversees the Fry-Ark Project, from 2002-04. He is currently serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    ‘A water tour also can sharpen your math skills’ — Chris Woodka

    July 29, 2012

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    Check out Chris Woodka’s recount of his recent tour with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The article is running as part of The Pueblo Chieftain’s excellent Colorado Water 2012 series Written in Water. Here’s an excerpt:

    In my roughly 25 years of covering water issues, I have been on several water tours, which are routinely sponsored by water providers in the summer months because you can drive to the sites where water development means the most at a time when those sites do not happen to be covered in several feet of snow…

    But last week, I joined the Pueblo Board of Water Works mountain tour as a guest. I was happy to just ride the bus, chipping in with a question now and then, but fully participating in the tour. I’d never done this.

    I didn’t take a single note, and this column will be all that I’m going to write about the tour.


    2012 Colorado November Election: The Pueblo Board of Water Works is considering opposing Initiatives 3 and 45

    June 23, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Initiative 45 would change Section 6 or Article XVI to require return flows from any water used in the state to be returned to streams “unimpaired,” which could create restrictive water quality standards, said Paul Fanning, the water board’s legislative liaison.

    Both initiatives also give every citizen of the state standing in any judicial proceedings. Currently, water rights holders are allowed to enter water court cases to defend their own rights. “If they prevail, there would be an unprecedented amount of litigation,” said Fanning, who attended the Water Congress workshop.

    The water board directed staff to prepare a resolution opposing the initiatives for a later meeting. “I think these would be a disaster for our state, and to the future use of water whether it’s for municipal, agricultural or industrial use,” Hamel said.

    More 2012 Colorado November Election coverage here.


    ‘Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water’ — Alan Hamel

    June 10, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “We have to protect the water we have, as well as provide water for endangered species,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water, particularly for use in power generation.” Last month, the Pueblo water board and other members of the Front Range Water Council weighed in on the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for oil shale and tar sands…

    The Front Range Water Council includes the major organizations that import water from the Colorado River: Denver Water, the Northern and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and the Pueblo water board. Collectively, they provide water to 4 million people, 82 percent of the population in Colorado.

    More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: Alan Hamel receives the Bob Appel Friend of the River Award

    April 29, 2012

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    Alan Hamel was honored for his 50+ years serving the rate payers of Pueblo Board of Water Works. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum gave Hamel the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas award Thursday at the culmination of a two-day event at Colorado Mountain College. “I’m humbled,” Hamel said. “I’ve been blessed to work in the field of water.”

    Hamel is retiring in August as executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, and in an April 22 Pueblo Chieftain opinion piece he tried to get people excited about tap water for the Water 2012 celebration.
    Must have worked.

    Actually, his accomplishments in water circles have gone far beyond the water board’s mission to provide safe, reliable drinking water for Pueblo. Hamel currently serves on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is the governor’s appointee to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He also has represented the Arkansas River basin on other state water panels, including the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Interbasin Compact Committee.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works approves plan to share costs with the City of Pueblo to provide looking water for Lake Minnequa

    April 18, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “This is definitely a way to make it an amenity and not a liability,” said Tom Autobee, a water board member who made a motion to pursue the plan. It passed 5-0. The 3.7-mile pipeline would connect the St. Charles reservoirs with Lake Minnequa in order to keep fresh water flowing into Minnequa. It would be gravity-fed and would cost about $1 million in materials. The project could start as soon as this summer. Right now, Lake Minnequa fills only with stormwater. Drought for the past two years has created low levels in the lake that have killed fish and created odors for the Bessemer neighborhoods surrounding the lake.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has agreed to flow some of its water through Lake Minnequa and the water board would provide some additional water to account for evaporation or for flow-through, under a separate agreement…

    The city would repay the water board through stormwater fees over three years, through a reduction in the amount remitted by the water board. The water board collects stormwater fees for the city on its monthly bills.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works is still actively trying to score shares on the Bessemer Ditch

    April 17, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Since 2009, the Pueblo water board has spent $59 million to purchase 5,541 shares, roughly 28 percent, of the Bessemer Ditch. The water board bought farms in 2010-11, but needed funds to pay for electric rate hikes in 2012. The board also wanted to hold the line on water rates “We still have an interest in purchasing shares and I’m sure there is interest in selling,” Hamel said. “But we did not budget any money to buy shares this year.”

    The water board anticipates spending another $1 million for a change case in Division 2 Water Court, which most likely would be filed in 2013. The change would allow water to be moved from the ditch into the city’s water system. Contracts for the sales allow the water to remain in use on farms for the next 20 years. The change case will cover only those farms purchased by the water board, and will not apply to other water users along the ditch, Hamel said.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Two Rivers Water Company has inked a purchase contract for a farm on the Bessemer Ditch

    April 15, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Two Rivers Water Company via PR Newswire:

    Two Rivers Water Company announced today it has entered into an agreement to acquire the operating assets of Dionisio Produce & Farms, LLC, including 150 acres of high yield irrigated farmland and 150 shares in the Bessemer Mutual Ditch Company, a senior water right on the main stem of the Arkansas River. Dionisio Produce & Farms has been producing vegetable crops in Pueblo County, Colorado since the 1930s.

    Two Rivers will also lease approximately 170 additional acres of farmland and purchase farm equipment, essentially merging the former operations of Dionisio Produce & Farms into Two Rivers’ farming subsidiary. Russ Dionisio, the third generation owner/operator, will join Two Rivers and continue to manage the farming operations on the acquired and leased land. Two Rivers intends to operate the acquired assets under the Dionisio name, one of the most respected growers under the Bessemer Ditch with well-established produce marketing relationships.

    John McKowen, Two Rivers’ CEO, commented, “Acquiring Dionisio Produce & Farms is an important strategic transaction for our company for several reasons. First, Dionisio is a trusted grower of fruits and vegetables for human consumption, which are a higher value agricultural category that compliments the Company’s existing livestock fodder crops. Second, this acquisition brings membership in the Bessemer Ditch, which takes its water by direct diversion from the Arkansas River. Finally, Russ Dionisio’s experience, reputation and proven skill in growing and marketing high value crops add substantially to our farming knowhow.”

    The acquisition, which is subject to on-going due diligence, is expected to close by July 31, 2012. Two Rivers has advanced $400,000 into escrow to support Dionisio farming operations during the current growing season. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the Company expects to arrange bank financing for a portion of the acquisition.

    Russ Dionisio said, “I am proud of the Dionisio farming tradition in the Arkansas River Valley and pleased to join Two Rivers to help carry on our business. By joining Two Rivers, I will be able to concentrate on farming, the part of the business I love, and rely on the Company’s skilled business managers to handle the finance, insurance and compliance aspects of our integrated enterprise. Two Rivers has demonstrated the skill, capacity and perseverance to redevelop both farmland and water infrastructure to support productive agriculture in Huerfano and Pueblo Counties. I am eager to integrate Dionisio into this dynamic organization.”

    As noted, the acquisition includes shares in the Bessemer Mutual Ditch Company. The Company’s President, Gary Barber, noted, “The productive integration of fertile land and reliable water under the Bessemer Ditch is a model the Company is trying to emulate as we build out our farm and water assets on the Huerfano and Cucharas Rivers system. When we finish refurbishing our upstream reservoirs and integrate a drought-proof groundwater component to our system, we expect to replicate the level of water reliability of the Bessemer Ditch that has sustained the Dionisios for more than 60 years, through all hydrological and weather cycles. By integrating the Dionisio business into our own, Two Rivers will gain not only a new source of farm revenue but also experience in growing and marketing the higher value crops that are the long-term future of our Company. This acquisition supports both our existing and our planned water rights and infrastructure, allowing us to manage our resources in conjunction with the Bessemer system.”

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    A water development company that plans to restore agricultural ground in Pueblo and Huerfano counties is purchasing a farm on the Bessemer Ditch…

    The acquisition will be added to the 4,700 acres Two Rivers already owns in southeastern Pueblo County and Huerfano County. The company has purchased nearly all of the Huerfano-Cucharas ditch, Cucharas Reservoir and the Orlando Reservoir system. The Bessemer Ditch water rights will allow the company to add fruits and vegetable crops to the forage crops it is growing on the other acreage, McKowen said. It also gives the company a direct water right on the Arkansas River, part of the long-term strategy for finding water to fill Cucharas Reservoir…

    The purchase of Bessemer shares is the latest in transfers that are changing the nature of the Bessemer Ditch. For years, the ditch was a collection of relatively small farming operations. Pueblo County’s largest ditch flows through Pueblo and irrigates about 20,000 acres, mostly east of Pueblo. It receives its water directly from Pueblo Dam. The Pueblo water board has purchased about 28 percent of water rights on the ditch since 2009 for $10,150 a share, and continues to make purchases. All of its contracts include allowing the farmers to use the water for irrigation for 20 years. The St. Charles Mesa Water District has purchased about 10 percent of the Bessemer Ditch over the years for domestic water service on the St. Charles Mesa.

    More Bessemer Ditch coverage here and here.


    Pueblo: The city’s raw water supplies are sufficient to cover anticipated growth

    March 11, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo’s advantage is that it has not grown into its existing supply, unlike many other Front Range communities. While storage is the key to ongoing statewide strategies, few new projects have been built since the completion of Lake Pueblo in the 1970s. The Preferred Storage Options Plan, which would look at enlarging Lake Pueblo, is 14 years old and “still at Step 1,” [Executive Director Alan Hamel] said. The water board bought 28 percent Bessemer Ditch in 2009 as a way to reduce dependence on Colorado River water, but half of Pueblo’s supply still comes from the Western Slope. It will be at least 10 years before the Bessemer shares are converted to municipal use in water court, Hamel said. At the same time, Pueblo water customers have voluntarily cut their use 17 percent and the water board is looking at other strategies for conservation…

    The water board is pricing water service rates to new large users at the true cost of providing water — $16,200 per acre-foot. As it has developed the policy, staff members have worked behind the scenes with city staff and met with the Pueblo Economic Development Corp. to make sure the rates don’t scare off companies that could bring jobs to Pueblo, Hamel said.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities’ Steve Berry: ‘In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered’

    March 5, 2012

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    Last week, the day before the Statewide Roundtable Summit, Western Resource Advocates, et. al., released a report titled, “Meeting Future Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin.” Colorado Springs and Pueblo are taking a hard look at the report, according to this article from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. “Colorado Springs Utilities was asked to peer review the draft version, and made extensive and substantial comments on it. In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered, and many of our suggested changes or corrections were not made,” said Steve Berry, spokesman for Utilities. The largest amounts of water, and presumably the largest conservation and reuse savings, come from Colorado Springs.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works is also reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager…

    The environmental groups say a combination of projects already on the books — conservation, reuse and temporary ag-urban transfers — could provide as much as 140,000 acre-feet, more than enough to meet the needs. Those numbers are being examined by urban water planners, who say the savings might not be attainable. “In general, we were unable to verify or recreate most of the numbers cited in their report, and their estimates for conservation and reuse are significantly greater than what our water conservation experts have calculated as realistic,” Berry said…

    When asked how conservation savings would be applied to new supplies, a practice cities find risky, Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, said they could be put into “savings accounts” for future use. When asked where the water would be stored, he cited the T-Cross reservoir site on Williams Creek in El Paso County that is part of the Southern Delivery System plan…

    Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the group supports [the Southern Delivery System]. Because the project already is under way, the groups look at SDS as a key way to fill the gap. The report also supports programs like Super Ditch as ways to temporarily transfer agricultural water to cities without permanently drying up farmland.

    Meanwhile, here’s a look at a report from the Northwest Council of Governments, “Water and Its Relationship to the Economies of the Headwaters Counties,” from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

    The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report.

    “This report makes an important contribution to the on-going dialogue about adverse economic impacts associated with losing water by focusing attention on Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties,” said Jean Coley Townsend, the author of the report. “This has never been done before. The report provides an important counterbalance to earlier studies that show economic impacts of losing water from the Eastern Plains.”

    Balancing the supply and demand of water could be the State’s most pressing issue. The report does not take issue with Front Range municipal or Eastern Plains agricultural water users — all parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view — but is meant as a thorough review of water as an economic driver of headwaters economic development.

    The report provides a balance to the existing solid body of work that measures the potential economic effects of less water on the Front Range and the Eastern Plains and the loss of agriculture in those parts of the state.

    “If we … are going to solve our Statewide water supply shortage challenges there must first be statewide mutual respect and true understanding of each other’s water supply challenges,” said Zach Margolis, Town of Silverthorne Utility Manager. “The report is a remarkable compilation of the West Slope’s water obligations and limitations as well as the statewide economic value of water in the headwater counties of Colorado.”

    More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works board approves over $1 million in water sales this season

    February 22, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The board agreed to sell nearly 14,000 acre-feet of water to eight water users in one-year lease agreements for surplus water. The sales do not affect water rights. The board also gets about $6.8 million for 21,000 acre-feet of water in long-term leases.

    Rates ranged from $67.55-$150 per acre-foot, with an average of $74 per acre-foot. Most of the water is going to irrigated agriculture. Rates are about 60 percent higher than recent years because of dry weather and high prices for agricultural commodities, said Alan Ward, water resources manager. Three well augmentation groups in the Arkansas Valley will purchase 7,250 acre-feet for about $556,000, while the Bessemer Ditch will buy 6,000 acre-feet for $405,000. There were bids for 53,696 acre-feet of water.

    Meanwhile, the board named the new director to take over for Alan Hamel who is retiring. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Terry Book, 60, will take the helm of the Pueblo Board of Water Works in August, the latest step in a 33-year career that has lasted longer than he first imagined…The training period starts May 23, and Book will become executive director Aug. 30…

    When Hamel became executive director in 1982, he offered Book a job as a division manager. Book stayed on, rising to his present job as deputy executive director…

    “I appreciate the opportunity and the confidence the board has shown in me,” Book said. “Alan has been a mentor to me, and he has set a high standard I will try to live up to.”

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    Drought news: The Pueblo Board of Water Works is forecasting $1,033,382 from one-year water sales this season

    February 18, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    For years, the Pueblo Board of Water Works has been the primary supplier of water sold on the spot market in the Arkansas River basin, making projections early in the year and sometimes amending them as conditions change. On Tuesday, the water board will consider a staff recommendation to sell, through one-year leases, nearly 14,000 acre-feet of water for about $1 million.

    What’s unusual is that the average price for an acre-foot of water jumped more than 60 percent this year to more than $70. For the past five years, it was in the $40 to $50 range. The minimum bid increased to $67.55 from $35 last year. “It’s interesting what can happen in a sealed-bid process,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the water board.

    Click through for the cool chart of past water sale history and the details about many of the bidders.

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Well groups last month complained that the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District was competing for augmentation water and potentially driving the price up on the spot market. This week, the Lower Ark district released a report that predicts at least 50,000 acre-feet of water will be needed to augment wells, surface-fed sprinklers and the Arkansas Valley Conduit by the year 2050. The report indicated water prices probably will increase anyway as the resource becomes more scarce.

    On Wednesday, the Lower Ark board met with three large well augmentation groups to look at ways they could help each other, rather than fight over a shrinking water supply. “The worst thing is to realize we are all in the same boat and the boat is sinking,” said Scott Lorenz, manager of the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association. “The Lower Ark is in the same boat we’re in. We want to work with you to create a win-win situation.”

    Two other well groups, the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association and the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, also sent representatives to the meeting.

    The three well groups provide replacement water for 117,000 acres of farm ground under 1996 state rules adopted to satisfy requirements of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Kansas v. Colorado case. The groups use various strategies involving water rights they own, water leases or purchase of water on the spot market…

    About 240,000 acres of ground are typically irrigated each year in the Lower Ark Valley, according to reports from the Division of Water Resources. “The number of sprinklers (under the surface rules) grew 12 percent last year,” said Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Ark District. “How are we going to get water for the next generation?”[...]

    The well groups are looking at a state-line credit of 44,000 acre-feet that has built up over the last 10 years. Next year, the state will look at lowering a presumptive depletion factor that could reduce the amount of replacement water that is needed.

    The Lower Ark board Wednesday learned of a $105,000 state grant to look at the amount of water that leaks from ponds used to feed sprinklers. The savings in water, if accepted by the state, would reduce the amount of water that irrigators are required to repay.

    The studies also could be useful to determining recharge rates, which could benefit well owners as well as the fledgling Arkansas Valley Super Ditch…

    “We have to work together. We need storage. Water is wasted every day and is moving toward Kansas,” said John Sliman, an AGUA member who has plans to build reservoirs on the Excelsior Ditch. “Finding an answer 20 years from today is too late.”

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch engineering report forecasts the need for an additional 50,000 acre-feet in the valley by 2050

    February 12, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The conclusion is reached in an engineering report by Heath Kuntz prepared as part of the Super Ditch exchange case filed by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in 2010.

    The exchanges involve up to 58,000 acre-feet of water, 30,000 acres of ground, 82 exchange sites and seven ditch companies. So far, there has been no filing for a change of use of the water. Without a water leasing program like Super Ditch in place, there is the potential to permanently sell more farm water and take away flexibility to use the best farmland to grow crops, said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district.

    “Without the Super Ditch, I can see the day when the Ark Valley turns the clock back to the 1950s and we’re reduced to furrow irrigation,” Winner said. “In fact, I think the demand for water might be even higher than this report indicates.”

    With the advent of surface-irrigation improvement rules in 2009, more replacement water will be needed as more systems in the valley are converted…

    Well plans administered by three major groups now use about 24,500 acre-feet of leased water, and the engineering report projects that would increase to 30,500 acre-feet of water by 2050. In addition, the Arkansas Valley Conduit is expected to be constructed in the next decade, and its water demands will include 3,100 acre-feet from new sources to serve about 40 communities east of Pueblo. “The total projected demands associated with these operations are approximately 53,300 acre-feet per year in 2050,” Kuntz said in the report…

    At its January meeting, the Lower Ark board heard from well associations that its lease of water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works, to help surface irrigators fill replacement needs, is raising the price others have to pay for augmentation water. The Pueblo water board typically sells water to bidders each year when the water is available. The price has been creeping up, as witnessed by the Fort Lyon Canal’s bid of $40 per acre-foot — twice its typical offer — in 2011. But the well groups argue that the $200 per acre-foot in the Lower Ark’s five-year contract takes water out of the pool available to them.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Pueblo Dam: The proposal for a hydroelectric generation facility at the north outlet works is moving through the bureaucracy

    January 21, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation in December accepted a lease of power privilege proposal by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “This is a big deal that will give us broader options for power in the Arkansas River basin,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern District.

    The next step is for the partners to sign an agreement and gain approval from Reclamation for its plan to build hydropower at Pueblo Dam. The generation facilities would be built in the next 10 years, Broderick said. The cost estimates and timeline for the agreement are slated to be discussed by the Southeastern board in February.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Alan Hamel is retiring from the Pueblo Board of Water Works after more than 51 years

    January 19, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Hamel plans to announce his retirement as executive director today, and will step down from the job at the end of August…

    “I turn 70 in March,” Hamel said Wednesday. “It will be a good time for me to step down and allow (wife) Mary Kay and I to spend more time together.”

    Hamel, who was recognized by the Colorado Water Congress with its top award in 2010, will continue as a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, as an advisory member with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, as a director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and as state appointee to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works hopes to finalize policy for large water users at their February meeting

    January 18, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The revised policy would charge large water users $16,200 per acre-foot for water use above 520 acre-feet annually either for potable or raw water. The charge up to the first 520 acre-feet is $1,233 per acre-foot. The difference in the rates reflects the cost of acquiring and developing new water determined in a study that was done about five years ago. The previous rate was based on a study from the 1980s, said Terry Book, deputy executive director. The new policy would also give the water board the opportunity to waive part of the fees, based on the economic benefits such as jobs that new customers would bring to the community. The water board now routinely approves a moratorium on fees for new industries, and board members had concerns about whether there would be flexibility in applying the new rates…

    While the Pueblo water board has acquired additional water through the purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares, those are set aside for long-range growth. A new, extreme demand could require additional purchases of water rights either by the new customer or the water board…

    The city of Pueblo, Evraz Pueblo and the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo are the largest users on the city water system.

    Here’s a look at Black Hills Energy’s water use from Christopher Burke writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    When water is removed from a natural stream system, such as the Arkansas River, it is either returned to that source in the same quantity in which it was removed, or it is not. The former is known as non-consumptive use and typically includes things such as hydroelectric power production and cooling water for steam power plants. Our W.N. Clark Plant and Pueblo 5 and 6 plants are of this type and use river water only for once-through cooling before returning the same water back to the Arkansas River. The latter is known as consumptive use and includes water that has been evaporated such that it is not available for immediate reuse. The new Pueblo Generation Facilities operate this way and will consume, on average, a total of 400 gallons per minute, according to 2012 estimates. Additionally, these facilities minimize any potential burden they might otherwise place on the municipal water treatment system through the use of zero-discharge technologies, which process all wastewater on site without discharging it back to the municipal sewage system for reprocessing…

    As a matter of contingency, Black Hills Energy has alternative access to a contracted water supply. If water were to become scarce due to drought, we have the capability, both operationally and technologically, to use air-cooling technology originally pioneered by Black Hills Energy’s sister company, Black Hills Power, in Gillette, Wyo. Such technology reduces or eliminates the need for large-volume cooling water in exchange for slightly diminished plant efficiency performance. The new location of the Pueblo Generation Facilities, away from the Arkansas River Basin and flood plain, also mitigates any potential risks to our operations in the event of flooding

    Finally, the board finished 2011 in a strong financial position. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works finished 2011 with $1.39 million more in revenues than were projected in the budget…

    Most of the increase in revenue, more than $1 million, came because of increased sales to water customers trying to keep lawns green through a hot, dry summer. Consumption totalled 8.8 billion gallons in 2011, about 7 percent above the five-year average. Customers paid $21.6 million for the water, about 69 percent of total revenues of $31.2 million…

    Sales of water on the spot market also exceeded expectations, generating $1.6 million, more than twice the amount projected. The water board also made $144,000 more on miscellaneous revenues, primarily the sale of scrap.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    Woodmoor Water and Sanitation withdraws water court change case, cites purchase of JV Ranch as reason

    December 16, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Woodmoor completed its purchase of the JV Ranch near Fountain in late November, and its board last week voted to pull a water court case that sought to deliver water by exchange from three ditch systems east of Pueblo. Woodmoor also has terminated all of the contracts on the Holbrook, High Line and Excelsior ditch systems…

    The water court application had been moving toward trial after the Pueblo Board of Water Works refused to settle the case. The Pueblo water board objected to the plan partly because it could involve the removal of water from Pueblo County to another basin. Woodmoor straddles the Arkansas and South Platte basins…

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also opposed the move, and took steps to help a farmer buy one of the farms Woodmoor was seeking on the High Line Canal, putting it in a conservation easement to ensure continued farming. “We ensured the water will run to the end of the High Line Canal forever,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district…

    After dropping its plans for Lower Ark water, Woodmoor opted to purchase the 3,500-acre JV Ranch, which has water rights of 2,500-3,500 acre-feet of water as well as a 70-acre reservoir. The purchase price will be $25 million to $35 million, depending on the historic average amount of water determined when a water rights change case is filed.

    More Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District coverage here and here.


    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board approves a $17.2 million budget for 2012

    December 10, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The major portion of the budget, $11.8 million, goes to repay federal costs of constructing the Fry-Ark Project, which includes the Fountain pipeline. Another $270,000 is revenue from state and federal grants.

    The operating budget for the district is $5.1 million, with about 60 percent in the general fund, and 40 percent in the enterprise fund.

    Of the $3 million district fund, $1.36 million goes toward personnel.

    The budget also includes a capital expenditure of $850,000 as the district’s share for purchase of the Red Top Ranch near Lake Granby. That cost will total $1.7 million over two years. The ranch purchase is part of a plan by Front Range water users, including Aurora, Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, to provide flows for endangered fish species in the Colorado River. Participation in the program is a condition for importing Fry-Ark water each year.

    The major project in the $2.1 million enterprise fund will be the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is preparing an environmental impact statement for the conduit.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Rules designed to limit consumptive use now cover nearly 20,000 acres in the Arkansas Valley

    December 10, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Understanding irrigation in the Lower Arkansas Valley

    Consumptive use refers to the amount of water a crop uses to grow, either through uptake into the plant and transpiration, or through evaporation. Usually it is measured in inches, but presumptive factors have been incorporated into the hydrologic-institutional model under the U.S. Supreme Court Kansas v. Colorado case.

    Return flow is excess water applied to fields that runs off as tailwater or infiltrates soil. Water also can seep out of earthen ditches as it makes its way to the fields.

    Water-short ditches, such as the Fort Lyon Canal or Holbrook Ditch, typically have more ground available to irrigate than water supplies will cover. Other ditches, such as the Catlin or High Line canals, have plentiful water except in very dry years.

    Sprinklers, drip irrigation and ditch lining allow water to be applied more efficiently to fields. In the process, more water could be consumed as more acreage is planted on water-short ditches or used more often on ditches with adequate water. Return flows could be reduced as a result.

    State engineer rules were adopted in Division 2 water court in 2009 to prevent shortages of return flows on the Arkansas River, to downstream users in both Colorado and Kansas…

    This year, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District established a group plan for farmers who use ponds to feed sprinklers to comply using formulas under Rule 10 of the surface irrigation rules. The plan also covers other types of improvements such as ditch lining and drip irrigation, but sprinklers account for nearly all of the impact so far. The Lower Ark district will use water from other sources, such as a five-year lease agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, to provide augmentation water to make up depletions from increased consumptive use.

    While the group plan requires a retainer fee and payment for augmentation water if the formula shows depletion, the payment is far less than farmers otherwise would spend on engineering at each site to show losses. So far, 88 farms with 104 improvements covering 19,767 acres are enrolled in the Lower Ark’s Rule 10 plan, said Heath Kuntz, the district’s engineering consultant. “We’re anticipating a lot of growth over the next few years,” Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, told the compact administration.

    From the state’s point of view, the program has been the backbone for enforcing the new rules. About 75 farms were signed up at the beginning of the program in April, and the others have signed on at the end of the irrigation season as the state assessed impacts, said Bill Tyner, assistant engineer for Water Division 2. “The Rule 10 plan has turned out to be the most successful part of the rules,” Tyner said, thanking the Lower Ark district and the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the seed money which launched the group plan.

    More Ark Valley consumptive use rules coverage here and here.


    Mark Pifher (Aurora water): ‘We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future’

    December 8, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora’s water rights include nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, about one-third of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and water from 1,750 acres of ranches in Lake County. Those rights provide an average yield of 22,800 acre-feet per year — the equivalent of 80 percent of the potable water used by Pueblo each year.

    - Aurora also uses the Homestake Project, Twin Lakes, Busk-Ivanhoe diversion and the Columbine Ditch to bring water from the Western Slope through the Arkansas River basin and into the South Platte basin. The average yield of those water rights is about 21,500 acre-feet annually.

    - The city can reuse its Arkansas and Colorado basin water imports, and has built the $650 million Prairie Waters Project to directly recapture flows, rather than exchange them.

    - Aurora’s South Platte water rights include wells, ranches, ditches and direct flow from the South Platte. They total about 46,000 acre-feet annually.

    - Aurora has an agreement to trade 5,000 acre-feet of water a year with Pueblo West from Lake Pueblo to Twin Lakes beginning next year. It will replace a similar agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works that expires this year.

    - The Pueblo water board sells Aurora 5,000 acre-feet of water each year.

    - Aurora has a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to store 10,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo and to move the same amount to Twin Lakes by paper trade.

    - The water is moved from Twin Lakes to Spinney Mountain Reservoir through the Homestake pipeline system…

    “We don’t have any current plans beyond what we’re already doing,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water. “We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future.”

    Instead, the city will continue developing Prairie Waters, a reuse project that pumps sewer return flows through a filtration and purification system, only at about 20 percent capacity so far. Aurora calculates that its average yield from its Arkansas River basin water rights is about 22,800 acre-feet annually. That’s roughly one-fourth of its total yield from its entire system, which includes South Platte and Colorado River basin rights. From a practical standpoint, Aurora does not move all of its water out of the Arkansas River basin each year.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.


    The Preferred Options Storage Plan surfaces again after dismissal of lawsuit over Aurora’s excess capacity contract with Reclamation

    December 7, 2011

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    In the late 20th century the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy Board floated the idea of expanding Pueblo Reseroir since new mainstem reservoirs are nearly impossible to permit nowadays and more storage is identified as one of Colorado’s big needs going forward. Aurora’s insistence on being part of the authorization legislation stalled the project. They are out now so expansion of storage in Lake Pueblo is back on the table. Here’s report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    “This allows us in the basin to concentrate on storage and move the PSOP process ahead,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    PSOP stands for the Preferred Storage Option Plan, developed by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy district in the late 1990s, when Hamel was president of the Southeastern board.

    Aurora remained at the table during PSOP discussions through 2007, when talks organized by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar broke off when the Lower Ark district sued the Bureau of Reclamation over an Aurora storage contract. In the newest agreement, reached as part of the conditions of a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit, Aurora has dropped its claim to be included in PSOP legislation, while agreeing to support the 2001 PSOP implementation report.

    Here’s a look at the settlement that led to the dismissal, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    A joint motion filed by all parties in the case asks federal District Judge Philip Brimmer to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be reopened. Stipulations attached to the case require Aurora to abide by an intergovernmental agreement reached with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in 2009.

    “It means the lawsuit is completely over,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “I think this puts the final part of the fence around Aurora. Our agreement restricts them from putting any more infrastructure into the valley to move more water out of here.”

    The agreement also reinforces past agreements Aurora has made to limit the amount of water it can move from the valley and defines the service area in which water from the Arkansas River basin can be used. Aurora also has agreed to withdraw its claims from any future legislation to study the enlargement of Lake Pueblo.

    Aurora, a city of 300,000 east of Denver, owns water rights in Otero, Crowley and Lake counties and pumps it from Twin Lakes into the South Platte River basin through the Homestake Project, which is operated jointly with Colorado Springs…

    One year ago, the case was administratively closed by Brimmer, but Aurora and the Lower Ark initially continued to work for federal legislation to study the enlargement of Lake Pueblo, a condition of the 2009 IGA…

    As part of the final IGA, Aurora agreed to withdraw its insistence for a clause allowing it to use the Fry-Ark Project in any legislation to enlarge Lake Pueblo. That has been a sticking point for 10 years, and was one reason for the 2003 agreement. Aurora will unconditionally support a federal study of the enlargement of Lake Pueblo. Aurora also has agreed to fully support projects backed by the Lower Ark District, including Fountain Creek improvements, the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch and the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The city will contribute $2 million over 10 years to such projects. It will also continue funding and support of water quality projects in the Arkansas River basin. The agreement also strengthens Aurora’s commitment to continue revegetation of farmland it dried up with the purchase of water from Crowley County.

    More Preferred Options Storage Plan coverage here and here. More Aurora coverage here and here


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works enters into a lease to supply 500 acre-feet per year to the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District

    November 25, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The water will be used by the district to augment water under new rules requiring irrigators to prevent improvements from increasing consumptive use and depleting return flows. Rule 10 allows for group programs. The rules were adopted last year and apply to surface-fed sprinklers, drip irrigation systems and off-farm canal lining that could reduce return flows, possibly in violation of the Arkansas River Compact. Systems fed by wells are covered by 1996 rules adopted after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Colorado in a lawsuit brought by Kansas over the compact. The Lower Ark District, with the help of state grants, started a group program that allows farmers to pay a fee for basic engineering and calculation of deficits to the river.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works green lights a 3.5% water rate hike

    November 23, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “This was a challenging year,” said Executive Director Alan Hamel, who reviewed the budget for the board. “We’ve been able to hold costs down and keep our rates reasonable. . . . We have the lowest rates of any major utility along the Front Range.” The $31.78 budget reflects a smaller rate increase than the 9 percent projected a few months ago or the 5 percent the board was looking at just two weeks ago…

    The budget increased largely because of $3.56 million more in utility costs, mostly driven by a 24 percent jump in rates by Black Hills Energy. Other major expenses include $910,000 for an ongoing program to convert meters to automated reading, $628,000 for main expansion projects and $550,000 to rehabilitate the Hellbeck water tank.

    The 3.5 percent rate hike means a homeowner with a 1-inch tap would pay an additional $1.15 per month in the winter, based on using 11,000 gallons, and $2.83 per month in summer months with water use of 32,000 gallons.

    Meanwhile, the board heard from customers about the shut off policy for non-payment. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The water board was sympathetic to their plight, but also took the time to explain the safeguards already put into place to avoid shutoffs if possible. So far this year, 2,246 accounts have been shut off for nonpayment. That’s less than 10 percent of those who receive shut-off notices that advise customers water will be turned off if payment is not received within 42 days of the bill, explained Seth Clayton, manager of the finance division. The water board next year will increase funding of the Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Service, a program administered by Catholic Charities, to $100,000. In September, the board increased funding of the program because of the need in the communities…

    The water board also is considering a budget billing program that would even out payments throughout the years. Shutoffs increase during summer months when water usage is higher, and payments could be averaged out by looking at historic use and making annual adjustments.

    Finally, congratulations to Mike Cafasso who was elected President of the board at the Tuesday meeting, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Cafasso, vice president of operations for St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and a long-time bank executive, was named to the water board in 2007 to replace Vera Ortegon, who resigned to join Pueblo City Council. He was elected to his first full term, six years, on the board later that year. He is also a past president of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and has been active in numerous church and civic activities. Cafasso will take over for Tom Autobee, a dentist who served for three years as president.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works drops proposed 2012 water rate increase to 3.5% due to a reduction in anticipated electrical costs

    November 11, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Even though there still are a lot of floating pieces in the puzzle, the water board directed staff to prepare a budget that would increase rates 3.5 percent, rather than the 5 percent anticipated last month. As recently as September, the water board had looked at an 8 to 9 percent increase, but made internal budget adjustments to hold the rates lower. A public hearing on the budget and rate hikes will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 22 at the water board’s offices, 319 W. Fourth St.

    “This has been a challenging year not only because of the economy, but because of the Black Hills Energy increases,” Executive Director Alan Hamel told the board at a workshop Thursday. “We’ve been an intervenor in several Black Hills rate increases.”

    To save costs, the water board teamed up with the Fountain Valley Authority and city of Pueblo to intervene in rate cases.

    “We want dependable electric service,” Hamel said. “We are trying to spread the impact over more years, so we don’t get more rate shock.”

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has contracted with the Pueblo Board of Water Works for a five year augmentation plan supply

    October 21, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District will buy 500 acre-feet of water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works each year for the next five years under the lease agreement. The Lower Ark board approved the lease Wednesday, while the Pueblo water board is expected to consider it in November. The price is $196.54 per acre-foot, the same rate as paid by Two Rivers, which is using the water in its project to restore agriculture on the Huerfano-Cucharas Ditch in Pueblo County…

    The water is needed to fill augmentation needs calculated under the district’s group plan that allows farmers to comply with state rules adopted last year. The district has other water resources, but some are dedicated to other purposes. The Pueblo water board, in nearly every year, has surplus water available for leases and has the option to curtail the deliveries if supplies run short. “We want to make sure we have a reliable supply of water for the Rule 10 plan,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district.

    State Engineer Dick Wolfe successfully guided the rules through Water Court to ensure that improvements such as large irrigation sprinklers, drip irrigation and canal lining did not increase consumptive use. Increasing consumptive use would decrease return flows used by ditches downstream and possibly reduce Arkansas River flows at the Kansas state line…

    Rule 10 allows farmers to join a group plan rather than go through more costly engineering on individual systems. The Division 2 engineer’s office developed a model that assures compliance with the formula governing well augmentation under the federal lawsuit. More than 70 wells signed up for the Rule 10 plan under this year, its first year. More are expected next year. Lower Ark has the only group plan in the Arkansas Valley…

    Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte said six owners of 10 irrigation sprinklers were issued notices of violation of the rules this year. One of those proved the sprinkler was installed prior to 1999, and thus exempt; one is in appeal; and the rest are apparently joining the Rule 10 plan.

    More Arkansas Valley consumptive use rules coverage here and here.


    The Two Rivers Water Company scores 500 acre-feet per year of irrigation supplies from the Pueblo Board of Water Works

    September 22, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Two Rivers Water Co., started by Denver businessman John McKowen and managed by Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, is renovating the Cucharas Reservoir dam, which has been under safety restrictions for the past 24 years. The lease will generate nearly $100,000 per year of revenue for the water board for 500 acre-feet per year. The water will be delivered to the confluence of the Huerfano River at the Arkansas River, where Two Rivers will exchange it upstream…

    During many years, such as this one, precipitation in the Huerfano-Cucharas watershed is not sufficient to fill the reservoir to meet the conditions of the ditch’s water rights. Cucharas Reservoir was built in the early 1900s to meet irrigation needs by storing water during wet years. The dam breached in 1987 and storage has been restricted since that time. After repairing the existing dam, Two Rivers plans to build a new dam in the rugged canyon just downstream…

    The lease with the water board is for $196.54 an acre-foot, which is lower than the board water sales under municipal and industrial leases, but higher than the water board receives on spot leases to agriculture. The lease would increase at the same rate paid by Pueblo customers.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


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