Aurora Water sells $437 million in bonds to re-fund water plant debt — The Denver Post

prairiewaterstreatment

From the City of Aurora via The Denver Post:

Looking to capitalize on historic-low bond rates, Aurora Water on Thursday sold $437 million in bonds toward re-funding debt associated with its Prairie Waters Project, making it the largest municipal bond issue in the state this year.

With a net savings of $68.6 million, the issue consolidates two other issues and a state loan, water department officials said in a news release.

The Prairie Waters Project was completed in 2010 at a cost of $637 million. It recaptures water Aurora already owns in the South Platte River, beginning in Weld County, and makes full use of Aurora’s mountain and agricultural water rights, increasing the city’s water supply by up to 12 million gallons per day. The water comes from 23 wells that use a riverbank filtration process, pulling water through hundreds of feet of sand and gravel to remove impurities.

The bonds were offered on July 20 and July 21, with first priority given to Colorado residents and businesses.

#COWaterPlan: Colorado Ag Water Alliance workshop recap

stopcollaborateandlistenbusinessblog

From The Fort Morgan Times (Stephanie Alderton):

During the Colorado Ag Water Alliance workshop in Brush on Wednesday, speakers encouraged eastern plains farmers to think outside the box when using water.

MaryLou Smith, a Colorado State University professor and member of the university’s Colorado Water Institute, gave a talk about why farmers should think about using their water differently in order to prevent shortages. Several other speakers spoke about practical ways to do that, as well as some projects that have already begun. Part of the workshop’s goal was to introduce producers to the opportunities for alternative transfer methods under the new Colorado Water Plan.

The Plan encourages farmers to conserve water, but Smith said that’s only part of the equation.

“We recognize that ag water conservation can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” she said. “So we actually talk more about, ‘How might ag producers use their water differently?'”

She said Colorado often faces water shortages between agricultural and urban uses, and urban policy makers often blame ag producers for not conserving enough water. Her organization works with farmers to find a solution to these problems, although she said “there is no easy answer.” A few problem-solving steps she put forward included improving irrigation efficiency, using updated equipment like soil moisture sensors and trying new farming methods like split-season fallowing. These methods, Smith said, might help “take the target off farmers’ backs” when it comes to disputes about water shortages.

Dick Wolfe, [State Engineer] for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, addressed the “use it or lose it” mentality farmers often have toward their water rights, saying they should focus on finding beneficial uses for water instead of just using it up at any cost.

“How much water do you need to put to beneficial use for that crop, if you need to do it without waste?” Wolfe asked farmers.

Like many speakers throughout the day, he said he wanted to encourage dialogue between his organization and the producers who have to deal with water regulations on the ground.

At the end of the workshop, a panel of producers presented water-saving projects that are already underway. Chris Kraft, a Morgan County dairy farmer and member of the Fort Morgan Ditch Company, spoke about the longstanding ag and energy lease that exists between Fort Morgan farmers and the Pawnee Power Plant (now Xcel Energy). Agricultural producers have found a way to share water with the power plant instead of instituting a “buy and dry,” by selling all their water rights.

[…]

The other panelists mentioned several similar ongoing projects. Greg Kernohan, from the company Ducks Unlimited, talked about the Colorado Ag Water Protection Act, which he helped promote; Todd Doherty, of Western Water Partnerships, presented the South Platte Ag/Urban Pilot Project, an attempt to share water between farmers and the city; and Gerry Knapp, of the City of Aurora, talked about ag and urban partnership concepts as well.

University of Cincinnati Geologists Identify Sources of Methane, Powerful Greenhouse Gas, in Ohio, #Colorado and Texas

Photo via @bberwyn
Photo via @bberwyn

Here’s the release from the University of Cincinnati (M.B. Reilly):

Methane comes from various sources, like landfills, bacterial processes in water, cattle and fracking. In testing methane sources at three national sites, University of Cincinnati geologists found no evidence fracking affected methane concentrations in groundwater in Ohio. At sites in Colorado and Texas, methane sources were found to be mixed, divided between fracking, cattle and/or landfills.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati recently studied the sources of methane at three sites across the nation in order to better understand this greenhouse gas, which is much more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than is carbon dioxide.

The UC team, led by Amy Townsend-Small, assistant professor of geology, identified sources for methane in Carroll County, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, by means of an analysis technique that consists of measuring carbon and hydrogen stable isotopes (isotopic composition). This approach provides a signature indicating whether methane is coming from, say, natural gas extraction (fracking), organic/biologic decay, or the natural digestive processes of cattle.

Said Townsend-Small, “This is an analysis technique that provides answers regarding key questions as to specific sources for methane emissions. With isotopic composition analysis, it’s possible to tell whether the source is fracking or biogenic processes (like bacterial decomposition in landfills or algae-filled water). It’s a laborious technique to implement, but its use makes it possible to trace and attribute the source of methane production.”

[…]

Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin
Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin

MONITORING FRACKING IN COLORADO AND TEXAS
In the Denver Basin, which encompasses the city of Denver and the surrounding region, Townsend-Small and her team examined about 200 methane samples in 2014, collecting airborne measurements via aircraft as well as measuring methane levels on the ground, site by site.

Collection efforts focused on both atmospheric data and ground-level, site-specific samples in order to help ensure accuracy via cross checking of results.

In the Denver region, the isotopic composition signatures of the samples collected demonstrated that up to 50 percent of methane emissions in the region were from agricultural practices (cattle) and/or landfill sources, with the other half (about 50 percent) coming from fracking for natural gas.

Mead: 13.75 shares in the Highland Ditch, 276 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water on auction block

For nearly 30 years, Mead was a bustling community. At its peak, Mead had three general stores, a hotel, a combination grocery store and meat market, two saloons, butcher shop, filling station, two auto garages. Photo via HistoricHighlandLake.org.
For nearly 30 years, Mead was a bustling community. At its peak, Mead had three general stores, a hotel, a combination grocery store and meat market, two saloons, butcher shop, filling station, two auto garages. Photo via HistoricHighlandLake.org.

From The Denver Post (Danika Worthington):

“Water is the new gold,” said Scott Shuman, a partner in Hall and Hall, the auction house that will sell 411 acres of the Reynolds Farm and 13.75 shares in the Highland Ditch, along with the big-ticket item: 276 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water.

As Colorado’s population has grown, so has demand for water. Shuman said he expects farmers, cities and developers to try to get a piece of the Reynolds Farm portfolio…

High demand means prices are already high. C-BT shares have sold for between $25,000 and $28,000 each, according to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency that manages the C-BT system — which conveys water from the headwaters of the Colorado River to the Front Range and plains.

This means the C-BT water alone could bring in $6.9 million to $7.7 million, compared with the auction house’s estimate for the land of $5,000 to $15,000 per acre, or $2 million to $6.2 million…

These particular water rights are especially attractive because they can be used for multiple purposes — agriculture, development and industrial processes, including fracking — and can be easily traded as long as they stay within C-BT boundaries, said Reagan Waskom, director of Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute…

The Reynolds farmland, which is northeast of the intersection of Interstate 25 and Colorado 66, is bounded by Weld County roads 9 1/2, 32 and 13, and another property.

It is not annexed into a town, although it is in Mead’s growth area. Town manager Mike Segrest said he assumes it will be annexed in the future…

“The price of water is out of reach and the price of land is out of reach.” Waskom said. “Those are development prices.”

He said a farmer would need to have deep pockets and be willing to work the land without making much profit. He added that a young farmer could buy the land and the ditch rights and not the C-BT shares, shifting to dryland farming of crops such as wheat. But that’s a difficult transition and profits would be minimal, especially compared with an irrigated farm.

“Bankers are not going to go there with him,” Waskom said.

It’s more likely that a developer will buy the land, Waskom said. A developer could build on the land or transfer the water rights to a water provider that supplies an area where it has a project.

“I feel like it is inevitable,” Waskom said about the possibility that the water will be separated from the land. “I wish we could plan it better so that our best agricultural lands could stay in working lands. To me, it’s all being driven by the market, which I’m not saying is bad, but it may not end up with the kind of Front Range Colorado we want in 10 to 20 years.”

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Urban Water Conservation Through Native Landscaping. A Colorado River Day Webinar — Audubon

Photo via Audubon (Abby Burke).
Photo via Audubon (Abby Burke).

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register. From the website:

You Can Help Rivers: Create Habitat!

Urban Water Conservation Through Native Landscaping. A Colorado River Day Webinar.
Thursday, July 21, Noon – 1 p.m. MT
Register here.

Co-presented by:
Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Lead, Audubon Rockies
Don Ireland, Habitat Hero Award Winner and Volunteer HOA President, Cherry Creek 3

Did you know native landscaping can save both significant water and money? When we say significant, we mean it! Find out how a neighborhood in southeast Denver saved 15 million gallons of water and $100,000 annually by transforming to native landscaping and incorporating water efficiency into everyday life.

The Cherry Creek 3 Homeowner’s Association (HOA) won the 2015 Colorado WaterWise Conservation Award for their efforts! HOA Volunteer President Don Ireland will talk about how he and fellow volunteers led this 251-condo development into a new era of water conservation while simultaneously establishing a new landscaping plan that has attracted many new birds and pollinators into the neighborhood. This HOA, without formal training in water conservation but with a burning desire to “do the right thing,” has been a poster child for water conservation and Audubon Rockies’ Habitat Hero program around the Front Range and beyond.

Register for this webinar today.

You may also be interested in these upcoming webinars from Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network:

  • Wednesday, July 20, 1 – 2 p.m. MT: Lake Mead Structural Deficit and Why it Matters
    Presented by Kevin Moran, Senior Director of Water Programs, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Wednesday, August 7, 1 – 2 p.m. MT: Diversity and Inclusion in Conservation and Advocacy
    Presented by Chandra Taylor Smith, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, National Audubon Society
  • Wednesday, September 21, 1 – 2 p.m. MT: River Funding and Restoration Efforts
    Presented by Jennifer Pitt, Director – Colorado River Project, National Audubon Society and Scott Deeny, Arizona Water Program Lead, The Nature Conservancy
  • Flood plain meeting draws huge crowd — The Brush News-Tribune

    southplattebasin062015bobberwyn

    From The Brush News-Tribune (Katie Collins):

    Tuesday night saw the Mark Arndt Events Center in Brush packed full with nearly 400 citizens who gathered to take in information regarding the newly updated floodplain map that recently changed the borders throughout Morgan County.

    The Open House format was somewhat of a surprise for the hundreds who floodedinto the Morgan County Fairgrounds for the 4 p.m. start, but there, all were able to visit booths set up by representatives of the National Flood Insurance Program, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and FEMA who converged to host the informational event.

    Local entities from the Morgan County Planning and Zoning Commission, City of Brush, Town of Wiggins, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners and even local insurance agents were also present for the packed house, answering questions, fielding comments and concerns and helping property owners plug in addresses for an in-depth look at how the new borders might affect them and their insurance requirements.

    More information on specific property placement within the new map, on the City of Brush floodplain ordinance requirements, FEMA’s floodplain resources or on the National Flood Insurance Program, can all be found online at http://www.brushcolo.com by clicking on the orange ‘FLOODPLAIN UPDATES’ box.

    The digital map program that provides a more detailed property search can also be found at http://tiny.cc/CSLF_Morgan_County.

    #COWaterPlan: Colorado Ag Water Alliance workshop recap — The Fort Morgan Times

    South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia
    South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

    Here’s part one of a recap of the meeting in Brush yesterday from Stephanie Alderton writing for The Fort Morgan Times:

    The Colorado Ag Water Alliance, along with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Water Institute, hosted a three-hour workshop for producers to help explain the new Water Plan’s application to agriculture. Speakers with various roles in water and agriculture talked about the new state plan’s emphasis on alternative transfer methods (ATMs) to conserve water, how the plan will be implemented in the South Platte Basin in particular and how farmers can increase water efficiency. People came from all over the state to hear and discuss details in the plan.

    “A good Colorado plan needs a good South Platte plan,” Joe Frank, of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, said. “Nine out of the top 10 ag producing counties are in this basin.”

    During his talk, the first of the day, he explained that the area has an increasing water supply gap as the population grows, which the Water Plan seeks to address. Frank’s group is in charge of implementing the plan in South Platte by coming up with a balanced, pragmatic program for farmers that is consistent with Colorado law. He said that program will focus on maximizing the use of existing water, encouraging farmers and other organizations to use ATMs in order to share water more effectively and promoting multi-purpose water storage projects, among other things.

    Mike Applegate, of the Northern Water Board, talked about the status of current storage projects all over the state, while MaryLou Smith of Colorado State University gave a list of reasons why producers should want to use their water differently in an effort to conserve more. Phil Brink, of the CCA, reported the results of a survey on farmers’ opinions of ag water leasing, while Dick Wolfe, an engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, explained the problems with the “use it or lose it” mentality farmers tend to have toward their water rights. John Schweizer, a producer from the Arkansas Basin, talked about the success of the Super Ditch near his hometown, an ATM project that recently started seeing results. After a final panel made up of people involved in various ATM projects, including Morgan County dairy farmer Chris Kraft, the audience spent more than an hour trading questions and comments with the speakers.

    The purpose of the workshop, according to a CAWA press release put out beforehand, was to bring people together to discuss the “opportunities and barriers” the Water Plan presents. The speakers in the second half of the day presented many opportunities in the form of ATMs and other projects. For example, Schweizer said the Super Ditch, though it’s taken many years to be completed, has the potential to help many farmers conserve water without new legislation or complicated water rights battles.

    “We’ve had a lot of people say this wouldn’t work,” he said. “We’re starting to prove them wrong…I see nothing but a glorious future for this project.”

    But it was clear that many people at the workshop saw many remaining obstacles to water efficiency. During the question and answer session at the end, several people pointed out that, while ATMs can make it easier for farmers and other organizations to share water, they can’t solve the problem of water shortages by themselves.

    “We are concerned that the state Water Plan talks so much about these ATMs, and a lot of policy makers around the state are counting on them,” Smith said while moderating the discussion. “Part of what we want to do is get the message of what you guys are saying back to some of those policy makers.”