Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Saturday, March 4, 2006

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Pueblo Chieftain: "Two lawsuits in federal court against Colorado Springs for polluting Fountain Creek have been consolidated into one case.

"U.S. District Judge Walker Miller, in an order Friday, combined the lawsuits of Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and of the Sierra Club, as had been anticipated.

"The defendants, Colorado Springs Utilities and the city of Colorado Springs, joined the Sierra Club in requesting the consolidation, and Thiebaut agreed to it.

"The litigants agreed that the move 'would serve the interest of judicial economy and administrative efficiency' because the lawsuits involve essentially the same issues of fact and of law.

"Thiebaut sued in October and his lawsuit was assigned randomly, a normal court practice, to Miller.

"The Sierra Club sued in December and its lawsuit was assigned to Judge Wiley Daniel."

Category: Colorado Water

11:42:38 AM    

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Coyote Gulch wishes that Coloradans would stop fighting over water. Groups on the Arkansas river just won't listen. Of course they just might be right. According to the Pueblo Chieftain a couple of recent exchange agreements are stirring up trouble.

From the article, "Two applications by Colorado Springs and one filed jointly by Aurora and the High Line Canal have been filed in Division 2 water court. Each has generated more than 30 statements of opposition...

"Nearly all contain standard water court objections - filed to protect existing water rights, river conditions or preserve past court agreements.

"But some say the new exchanges could violate intergovernmental agreements and even the Arkansas River Compact. A few question the legality of authorizing transfers of water to reservoirs that don't yet exist or are not owned by the cities. Several charge that the exchange rights themselves are speculative.

"Complicating the court fights are several other filings, including February claims by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to exchange water associated with the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a filing for a hydroelectric power right at Brush Hollow Reservoir by land developers Mark and Jim Morley and the city of Lamar[base ']s exchange case for one-quarter of the Fort Bent Ditch.

"In recent weeks the court cases have spilled outside the courtroom. The Southeastern District last month charged Colorado Springs and Aurora violated a verbal agreement by filing for exchanges after earlier agreeing not to file. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District last month demanded work on the court filings cease until negotiations over the Preferred Storage Options Plan were complete."

Category: Colorado Water

11:38:53 AM    

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Runoff will be spotty in southwestern Colorado but most reservoirs are OK, according to the Durango Herald.

From the article, "Runoff from this year's meager snowpack throughout southern Colorado is expected to be as low as 2002, one of the worst drought years on record...

"In the San Juan, Animas and Dolores river basins, the snowpack is 41 percent of its historical average...

"February was a dry month across the entire state, with average snowpack readings falling in all of the major river basins. With these declines in snowpack percentages, concerns are increasing about water supplies for the coming spring and summer months. The state's snowpack totals, as a percent of average, have decreased each month since January...

"Mike Gillespie, the snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service office, said reservoir storage provides only limited hope for those water users with access to stored water. Only the Gunnison basin is storing significantly above average volumes, while water users in the Rio Grande and Arkansas basins are limited to well-below-average storage volumes.

"Reservoir levels in the San Juan, Animas and Dolores river basins are just slightly ahead of last year, at 109 percent."

Category: Colorado Water

11:25:35 AM    

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Loveland Daily Reporter Herald: "H2Oil? A pair of Colorado entrepreneurs have developed a way of treating water pulled from wells...

"Richard Seaworth, a Wellington farmer, has joined forces with Brad Pomeroy, an oil producer, to treat water pulled from the ground by oil wells.

"The pair, under the company Wellington Water Works, recently built a $1.4 million water plant off County Road 70 north of Wellington.

"State governing bodies have permitted the plant to treat 161 acre-feet of water a year. An acre-foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons, enough to serve one or two households for a year.

"While consultants validated the treatment process in 2004, the real test comes when the plant begins operations in a couple of weeks."

Category: Colorado Water

11:15:28 AM    

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Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "In the past four years, Clark Kagele has replaced two of the four wells on his 1,700-acre central Washington farm after the wells went dry. The cost: nearly $1 million.

"Kagele was lucky. His new wells actually tapped clean water. A neighbor down the road spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to dig a deeper well only to draw air. Another tapped into a salty liquid that had to be treated before it could be applied to his fields.

"So goes the story of farming atop the Odessa aquifer, a large, underground water source that feeds some 270,000 acres as a temporary substitute for surface water irrigation. Farmers first dug the wells in the 1960s, believing that the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project would eventually be completed. Countless studies and four decades later, the aquifer remains the primary source of water for crops, and wells that were intended to last only a few years are going dry...

"The Columbia Basin Irrigation Project is fed by water impounded behind Grand Coulee Dam, which was completed in 1942. Congress originally authorized the project to irrigate about 1.1 million acres, but only about 600,000 acres were developed before Congress cut spending for large Western water projects.

"Farmers in the undeveloped area received permission from the state to dig wells as a temporary water source while they wait for surface water. About two-thirds of the Odessa aquifer lies under that area, and the impact of drawing water from it was noticed immediately.

"By 1967, the state had imposed a moratorium on new wells. The state then adopted new rules in 1974 intended to control the rate of decline, but not stop it, said Ken Slattery, program manager for the state Department of Ecology's water resources program.

"The rules allow for declines of no more than 30 feet every three years, and no more than 300 feet total - a number that is quickly approaching in some areas...

"As part of the study, for which the state pitched in $600,000, researchers will create a computer model of the groundwater system to find out how many people would need to stop using their wells to stabilize the aquifer...

"Lawmakers in Olympia have tried to help. The Senate passed a bill intended to ensure that Odessa-area farmers will not lose their water rights under the state's use-it-or-lose-it law if they rotate to dry-land crops or their well goes dry.

"Lawmakers also approved a bill seeking to make more water available in the future by increasing storage in new reservoirs. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill Thursday...

"Kagele, though, and other farmers like him most want to see the irrigation project completed.

"A 1989 environmental review, the last major study of the project, estimated the cost for completing the second half of the project at more than $1 billion. The idea was quickly shelved as concerns about endangered species - particularly salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River - became more heated.

"Whether completing the second half of the project is feasible today remains to be seen. Key to any proposal: engineering, impact to the environment, and of course, money, said Bill Gray, deputy manager of the Upper Columbia area for the Bureau of Reclamation."

Category: Colorado Water

11:04:11 AM    

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