Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap: “There is no such thing as an average year” — Nolan Doesken

Upper Colorado River Basin May 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal
Upper Colorado River Basin May 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Many of those who attended the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum showed up wearing short sleeves and enjoyed rafting or fishing adventures on the first day of the event.

Thursday, it was spitting snow.

Nothing better could illustrate the “trend” of climate in Southern Colorado.

State Climatologist Nolan Doesken illustrated this by flashing up a series of graphs that showed historical temperatures, precipitation and snowpack moving up and down seemingly at random. One graph showing multiple years with brightly colored lines looked more like an Op Art poster from the 1960s than weather data.

“It could be a hot summer. Rain? Who knows?” Doesken shrugged. “When in doubt, put out your rain gauge. There is no such thing as an average year.”

Still, scientists and engineers are determined to put numbers to this chaotic system.

Doesken described last year’s Miracle May, which boosted water supply, but got hoots from some water managers because of the flooding problems it caused. On a graph, it produced a fat bulge seldom equaled in many parts of the state.

And the effects of that month of moisture are still felt one year later.

Garrett Marcus, engineer for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, outlined the current reservoir storage for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

Release of water stored in Lake Pueblo this year seemed likely because of high storage levels coupled with a revision of capacity because of sedimentation. But cooperative efforts in March, coupled with a lack of precipitation, allowed levels to reach the mark deemed necessary for flood control by mid-April.

New snow now is improving the outlook for water supply.

“The last couple storms gave us the jump we needed,” Marcus said.

Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer for the state Division of Water Resources, talked about storage. The basin has 118 reservoirs, which can store up to 1.7 million acre-feet of decreed water rights.

The five largest reservoirs (John Martin, Pueblo, Twin Lakes, Turquoise and Nee Noshe) could hold 1 million acre-feet. Of those, John Martin and Nee Noshe are typically largely empty, but fuller than usual because of the 2015 rains.

The others are small, and in some cases restricted.

“To maintain the storage we think we have, we’ll have to spend a lot of money,” Tyner said.

Tammy Ivanenko, of the U.S. Geological Survey, outlined water use in Colorado and the Arkansas River basin based on the agency’s five-year reports from 1985-2015.

Surprisingly, state municipal water use has plateaued during that time, despite a growth in population to 5 million people from 3.5 million in 1985.

She speculated that conservation efforts, including water smart appliances, have caused the decreasing per capita use.

In the Arkansas River basin, about 68 percent of the water is used for irrigation, an amount lower than is often cited. Power generation uses about 15 percent; public supply, 8 percent; and industrial, 5 percent, according to the USGS data.

History in the Making: SDS Starts Water Delivery [April 28]

Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:

One of the largest water infrastructure projects completed in the U.S. this century started delivering water today to homes and businesses in Colorado Springs, Colo. The commencement of the Southern Delivery System (SDS) culminates decades of planning and nearly six years of construction.

See video.

“The Southern Delivery System is a critical water project that will enable the continued quality of life southern Coloradans enjoy. The water provided through SDS means future economic growth for our community,” said Jerry Forte, Chief Executive Officer of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Not only does SDS meet the immediate and future water needs of Colorado Springs and its project partners Fountain, Security and Pueblo West through 2040, it also increases system reliability should other parts of the water system need maintenance or repairs. The project will also help provide drought protection, a significant benefit in the arid west.

Construction started in 2010 and concluded in 2016. Originally forecast to cost just under $1 billion, SDS is started on time and more than $160 million under budget costing $825 million.

“On time and under budget are words rarely used to describe large infrastructure projects,” said John Fredell, SDS Program Director. “We adopted a philosophy that ‘these are ratepayer dollars’ and managed the project with exceptional rigor. It was the responsible approach to spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public money.”

Components of SDS
SDS is a regional project that includes 50 miles of pipeline, three raw water pump stations, a water treatment plant (pictured above), and a finished water pump station. It will be capable, in its first phase, of delivering 50 million gallons of water per day and serving residents and businesses through 2040.

Key permits and approvals for SDS required $50 million in mitigation payments to the Fountain Creek Watershed District, funding for sediment control, habitat improvements and other environmental mitigation measures. Additionally, Colorado Springs and Pueblo County, just this week, both approved an intergovernmental agreement requiring Colorado Springs to invest $460 million over 20 years to improve the management of stormwater that makes its way into Fountain Creek.

Early on in the project, SDS program leaders agreed to spend at least 30 percent of construction dollars on local contractors. More than $585 million, or about 70 percent of the SDS budget, went to Colorado businesses.

“SDS is one of the most important projects many of us will ever work on,” said Forte. “This is a legacy project – one that benefits so many people today, tomorrow and for generations to come. This is an amazing day for our organization and for southern Colorado.”

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

From the Associated Press via The Aurora Sentinel:

Water has begun flowing into Colorado Springs through a new 50-mile pipeline from the Arkansas River.

The city says the $825 million Southern Delivery System started operating Thursday.

The system is designed to handle growth in the state’s second-largest city until 2040 and provide a backup for its current aging system.

Pueblo West, Fountain and Security also get water from the pipeline.

The project includes modifications to Pueblo Dam on the Arkansas River, three pumping stations and a treatment plant.

Separately, Colorado Springs had to commit $460 million to reduce sediment in Fountain Creek. The sediment harms downstream communities in Pueblo County, and the county threatened to revoke a required permit for the pipeline if the issue wasn’t addressed.

SDS: “It has been a lot to get this Pueblo County agreement out of the way and taken care of successfully” — John Fredell

Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

The $825 million Southern Delivery System’s treatment plant was ready to serve drinking water Wednesday, as a project 20 years in the making finally made its debut.

The distribution system will be turned on Thursday to deliver water to Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain, and water will begin reaching those customers Friday. The SDS already supplies water to Pueblo West, which needed early assistance after a major water pipe in its system broke.

“Things are going great, just like we’ve always planned,” SDS Project Manager John Fredell said Wednesday. “We’ve worked on a lot of these issues a long time to get ready.”

The project hit a snag last year when Pueblo County, which had issued the essential SDS 1041 permit, began seriously pressuring Colorado Springs leaders.

The county insisted on more city stormwater projects to protect downstream residents from excessive flows, sediment buildup and water quality degradation in Fountain Creek.

The City Council signed an intergovernmental agreement April 20. It promises, among other things, to spend $460 million on 71 mutually beneficial stormwater projects over the next 20 years, with Colorado Springs Utilities guaranteeing any funds the city can’t provide.

Pueblo County commissioners approved that pact Monday, enabling SDS to kick off its operations on Wednesday, the target date set years ago.

“It has been a lot to get this Pueblo County agreement out of the way and taken care of successfully,” Fredell acknowledged. “But I really did not fear that it wasn’t going to happen. It was just a matter of timing.”

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has spent much of his first year in office negotiating with Pueblo County and with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the city’s long-time stormwater program deficiencies.

Dan Higgins, chief water services officer for Utilities, called it “a great day.”

“I look back at all the things we’ve seen our team experience,” Higgins said. “We’ve been through so much together. It’s just a fantastic experience for everybody that’s been involved.”

As usual, Fredell credits his project team for a job well done.

“I’m telling you, without all these great people putting out every ounce of energy they have, we couldn’t have done it,” Fredell said. “And to me that’s just so cool, to bring all these people together and they’re all pulling in the same direction.

“To me, that’s the coolest thing. I feel like the whole team, we have stronger friendships now than when we started. How many teams can say that? To me, that’s absolutely incredible.”

The project team determined in July 2009 that the SDS would start operating in April 2016.

“I’ll feel better Friday,” admitted Kim Mutchler, who has worked on SDS for Utilities’ government and corporate affairs team. “There’s a lot going on between now and then.

“I’m happy for these guys who have been on this project for so long. It’s just exciting to see (Utilities) board members and previous council members. We had a couple out there yesterday seeing (the plant) for the first time. It’s nice to see them excited.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The need for Colorado Springs to control stormwater on Fountain Creek was always tied to the Southern Delivery System, and the new agreement with Pueblo County is designed to cement the relationship.

During the permitting process for SDS, stormwater control was mentioned in both the Bureau of Reclamation environmental impact statement and Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Ever since Colorado Springs City Council abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009, the city engaged in political gymnastics to assure Pueblo County it was doing enough.

Monday’s completion of an intergovernmental agreement should represent an end to political bickering over stormwater, because it spells out very clearly what has to be done over the next 20 years.

Commissioners were quick to point out Monday that the items contained in the agreement are not the only things Colorado Springs must do in relation to SDS under the 1041 permit. But they have to do these things:

Fund stormwater control with at least $460 million over the next 20 years.

The funding will go toward 71 projects on a set schedule that can be adjusted only if both parties agree.

The amount of funding steps up from at least $20 million per year in the first five years to at least $26 million per year in the last five.

While the money can be matched with other funds, Colorado Springs must come up with the minimum amount, but the sources are not specified. Annual reports are required.

Colorado Springs also is required to resolve any conflicts with the IGA that might result from action by the Department of Justice, EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over the city’s failure to meet the terms of its municipal stormwater permit from 2013-15.

A provision of the IGA requires Colorado Springs to notify Pueblo County of any variance to its drainage criteria manual. The failure to apply the document to new development was among deficiencies identified by the EPA in its audit of Colorado Springs’ stormwater permit.

Regional cooperation on Fountain Creek.

The IGA triggers the first two payments of $10 million each that were negotiated under the 1041 permit. Five annual payments of $10 million are required. The money must be used for a dam, detention ponds or other flood control structures that protect Pueblo from flows on Fountain Creek that have increased because of growth in Colorado Springs and El Paso County.

The first payment is actually $9,578,817, because of credits for payments already made and an “index” fee, which amounts to interest payments. It will come within 30 days.

The second $10 million payment will be made Jan. 15.

The payments go to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which was created by the state Legislature to improve Fountain Creek.

Formed in 2009, the district grew out of discussions between the two counties. Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace sponsored the legislation when he served as a state representative.

The IGA also provides $125,000 to the district, which will be used in part to help fund a state study of a dam or detention ponds on Fountain Creek. The money is in addition to the $50 million required under the 1041 permit. The Fountain Creek board will determine exactly how the money is spent.

Both Pueblo County and Colorado Springs agree to work with other governments to find a permanent source of funding for the Fountain Creek district.

Colorado Springs also will pay $3 million over three years to the city of Pueblo for repairs to levees, dredging and removal of debris or vegetation in Fountain Creek.

Pueblo is required to match the money, but can use about $1.8 million that Pueblo County is still holding from $2.2 million Colorado Springs was made to pay for dredging in Pueblo. Some of the money was spent on demonstration projects.

The agreement also specifies that any disputes will be handled in the same way as disagreements in the 1041 permit. If not successful, legal action over the IGA would be handled in Pueblo District Court.

Southern Delivery System to be turned on today after decades — The Pueblo Chieftain

Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities
Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities plans to begin using the Southern Delivery System today, more than seven years after getting the green light from Pueblo County and the Bureau of Reclamation to build it. “We plan on 5 million gallons a day initially, but we may go less. It depends on how we use it,” said John Fredell, SDS project director. “On Thursday, the water we pump will be turned into our system.”

SDS will be able to operate after an agreement was reached on Fountain Creek stormwater control on issues not explicitly covered in Pueblo County’s 1041 permit. The new agreement contains funding benchmarks that were not originally in place.

Over the next 40 years, the amount of water pumped through SDS could increase to as much as 75 million gallons a day. Another 18 million gallons a day could be pumped to Pueblo West, which through a special agreement already is using SDS for its water supply.

The treatment plant as built can treat up to 50 million gallons per day, but eventually could be expanded to treat up to 100 million gallons per day.

As part of SDS, the city of Fountain can receive more of its water through the Fountain Valley Conduit, a line built from Pueblo Dam in the early 1980s as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

The other partner in SDS is Security Water and Sanitation, which serves an unincorporated area south of Colorado Springs and has an immediate need for a new water source because of well contamination.

Construction on the $825 million project began in 2011, one year after the Bureau of Reclamation approved the final contract for the use of Lake Pueblo as part of the project. In 2009, Reclamation issued a record of decision that allowed the project to be built.

Also in 2009, Pueblo County commissioners approved a land-use permit under the 1974 HB1041, which lets cities or counties regulate projects that cross their boundaries.

SDS includes a new connection built at Pueblo Dam, three pump stations, a water treatment plant and a treated water pump station. The North Outlet Works, Juniper Pump Station just northeast of Pueblo Dam and about 17 miles of buried 66inch diameter pipeline are the features of SDS in Pueblo County.

The project grew out of water resources plans that began in the late 1980s, when Colorado Springs purchased controlling interest in the Colorado Canal system in Crowley County.

In order to use the water, as well as provide redundancy for its other sources of water, Colorado Springs developed a Water Resource Plan in 1996. That plan identified other alternatives to bring water to Colorado Springs, including a route from a new reservoir at Buena Vista, a Fremont County pipeline and a line from Crowley County.

By the early 2000s, the Buena Vista reservoir was eliminated by environmental protests, and Utilities ruled out Crowley County because of the expense of overcoming water quality issues. By 2008, Fremont County and Pueblo Dam were being seriously considered.

The Pueblo Dam option was chosen in Reclamation’s record of decision as the route.

In the second phase of SDS, which is anticipated to begin between 2020-25, two reservoirs would be built on Williams Creek east of Fountain. The upper reservoir would be terminal storage for the pipeline from Pueblo Dam, while the lower one would regulate return flows from Colorado Springs’ wastewater treatment plant into Fountain Creek.

SDS is designed to serve a population of 900,000, about twice the current number living in Colorado Springs.

The 1996 water resources plan came at a time when Colorado Springs’ population had increased from 70,000 in 1960 to 330,000 in 1996. Utilities already is working on a 50-year plan to meet its future water resource needs.

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

“…we’re all tied to the #ColoradoRiver” — John Stulp

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows
Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Would you be willing to pay an extra penny or two on every beverage container you purchase for the next 30 years or so, if it could assure Colorado will meet its future water needs?

John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s special advisor on water policy and director of the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee, put that question to an audience of more than 50 people in Steamboat Springs on Monday, and he was surprised at how many hands shot up.

Now that Colorado has its new statewide water plan in place, Stulp said it’s time to begin thinking about where the state will get the billions of dollars needed to close the water supply gap the state faces to support another estimated 5 million residents.

“The governor believes every conversation about water should start with conservation,” Stulp said. “I’ve always said, ‘You can have as much fun as you can afford.’ The state’s role might be something to the tune of $3 billion,” suggesting the residents of the state need to plan to raise about $100 million annually.

And that’s a lot of beverage containers…

Stulp, who comes from a cattle ranching/wheat growing background in southeastern Colorado, thinks our futures are bound together by the urgent need for more water supply.

“I say it pulls us and ties us together,” he said, “and we’re all tied to the Colorado River, because if anything happens there, it happens to all of us.”

Denver Water, which supplies water to 25 percent of the taps in the state, is doing more than many might realize, Stulp pointed out. The biggest water provider in Colorado is serving many thousands more users than it did 30 years ago but is using the same amount of water, thanks to conservation measures including the re-use of water.

After all, Denver Waster’s customers want to enjoy the rivers of the Western Slope, too, Stulp said.

There has been a paradigm shift in the way the Front Range looks at water, Stulp continued. Former Department of Natural Resources Chief Mike King, who is the new director of future water supply for Denver Water, grew up on the Western Slope in Montrose and understands the water outlook from this side of the Continental Divide.

But the agency also knows if the lower basin states ever made a call on the Colorado, demanding their share of water, it would hurt the Front Range more than the Western Slope, Stulp said. In part, because every acre-foot of water that wasn’t diverted to the eastern side would be felt doubly, because the water is used more than once.

Asked by Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who also serves on the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District board of directors, if Gov. Hickenlooper is putting pressure on governors in the lower basin states such as California, Arizona and Nevada to use their water more wisely, Stulp replied, “Yes.” But he quickly added that diplomacy in the form of the relationships Colorado Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund has built with his counterparts is essential to Colorado’s relations with other Western states.

Marsha Daughenbaugh, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, asked Stulp for his reaction to the fact that 40 percent of food produced in the U.S., much of it with the help of irrigation, is wasted.

“It goes to show you how cheap food is in this country and how cheap water is,” he concluded.

Pueblo County OKs stormwater deal with Colorado Springs — The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

It was called a historic day for Pueblo County and Colorado Springs.

Pueblo County commissioners approved an agreement over the Southern Delivery System with its Front Range neighbors to the north during a meeting at the courthouse.

The agreement is a clarification of the rules and responsibilities with regards of one of the issues with a 1041 permit dealing with the SDS project, mainly how to control stormwater, flooding and sediment transports along Fountain Creek.

“We think it is historic,” Commissioner Terry Hart said. “This has been a growing process. It’s been a learning process as the growth of Colorado Springs has impacted more and more our downstream community.”

In the agreement, Colorado Springs would pay more than $605 million to cover environmental damage for SDS should the intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County be approved.

The proposed deal includes a guarantee to spend at least $460 million over the next 20 years to repair and build storm water structures in Colorado Springs in a way that benefits downstream communities, particularly the city of Pueblo.

Colorado Springs approved the agreement last week.

“We are thrilled that we reached this point,” Hart said.

“A lot of folks see this as an ending to a process and it’s just the opposite. It’s just the beginning. It’s a more cooperative approach between the two communities.”

Cartoon via The Pueblo Chieftain
Cartoon via The Pueblo Chieftain

Mark Pifher and Dallas May join the Southeastern #Colorado Water board of directors

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two new board members from opposite ends of the water spectrum joined the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

Dallas May, 58, a farmer and rancher from the Lamar area, and Mark Pifher, 65, a former director of Aurora water, were appointed to the board by 10th Judicial District Chief Judge Deborah Eyler and sworn in Thursday.

Eyler consults with district judges from the areas where appointments are made, because the Southeastern district covers a nine-county area. Terms are for four years.

May is a fourth-generation farmer who owns water shares on the Fort Lyon Canal, Amity Canal, Lower Arkansas Water Management Association and other ditches in the area. He replaces Leonard Pruett, who served one term on the board.

“I’ve been passive and always thought someone else would make the decision,” May said. “But given some of the controversial issues going on, I decided it was time to get involved.”

May said he is most concerned with protecting the water rights of those who choose to continue farming.

“My concern is that irrigation water does not depart the valley and leave it a wasteland,” May said.
He also would like to see the completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the top priority project of the Southeastern district.

“It’s ironic and absurd that Rocky Mountain snowmelt flows past us and we have to buy bottled water,” May said, regarding the need for the conduit. “It’s absurd that people try to buy it and pipe it into another water basin.”

Pifher, 65, of Colorado Springs, replaces Harold Miskel on the board.

Miskel, a retired Colorado Springs Utilities executive, had served since 2002.

Pifher four years ago left Aurora water to work on the Southern Delivery System for Colorado Springs Utilities, retiring last year. He continues as a consultant on SDS and water quality issues. He is the former executive director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

His expertise on state water issues and additional time on his hands since his retirement led him to apply.

“I hope to continue the work already started by the district on the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the use of water resources and the opportunities for storage,” Pifher said. “I will give a municipal point of view to the board.”

Reappointed to the board were: Gibson Hazard of Colorado Springs, who has been on the board for 28 years; Kevin Karney, an Otero County rancher and commissioner, now in his eighth year; and Vera Ortegon of Pueblo, a former City Council and water board member, who has been on the board for 12 years.

Officers were elected as well. Bill Long of Las Animas is president; Gary Bostrom, Colorado Springs, vice president; Ortegon, secretary; and Ann Nichols, Manitou Springs, treasurer.