Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

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You can always count on news organizations from the rainy side of Colorado to keep an eye on our politicians, especially a new governor. Here's a recap of Bill Ritter's speech to the Colorado Water Congress from the Durango Herald. They write, "Conservation will be the top priority as the state tries to solve its water problems, Gov. Bill Ritter told the Colorado Water Congress on Thursday. Ritter repeated the water policy he formed during his campaign last year: First, conserve more water. Then, look at recycling projects and sharing agreements between cities and farmers. And, as a last option, build more reservoirs."

Category: Colorado Water

6:50:35 AM    

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Here's a good background article about the fight against tamarisk from Seed Magazine. From the article, "The southwestern United States is defined by water, or more precisely, by its absence. Human settlers designed grand engineering projects to make the best use of what water was present, and today, water is captured behind massive dams and rerouted through concrete rivers. It's used to build cities, grow rice, maintain green lawns and golf courses, and fill swimming pools and 500-foot fountains in Las Vegas casinos.

"But scarcity has not been transformed into abundance; farmers, ranchers, states, and cities still fight over every drop. And so, amid the engineering marvels and hydraulic feats, a group of land managers is waging a campaign against an unlikely enemy: a water-sucking plant known as the tamarisk. To save a biome, we may have to kill one of its hardiest inhabitants.

"The tamarisk, an invasive species introduced to the United States from Eurasia, is a deep-rooted plant that aggressively obtains water from the soil and groundwater. A single mature tree can produce up to 500,000 seeds per year, crowding out native plants along rivers and creeks and reducing wildlife habitat. The species now infests all the major rivers, springs, ditches, and wetlands in ten states - including Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and California - and is rapidly expanding into others."

Read the whole article and follow the links. There is a lot of good information. More Coyote Gulch coverage of tamarisk here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:41:27 AM    

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The Southern Delivery System is in the news again. Here's an article from the Canon City Daily Record. They write, "The look of the proposed Southern Delivery System water project could change drastically if the Bureau of Reclamation approves a change on the 'No Action Alternative' being requested by Colorado Springs Utilities. CSU met with Fremont County Commissioners last week to detail changes it has requested on the original NAA while the SDS is working its way through the Environmental Impact Statement process. The Bureau of Reclamation is studying seven alternatives for the SDS, a proposed regional water diversion designed to remove water from the Arkansas River and ship it to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. The proposal is designed to deliver most or all of the participants' water needs through 2046...

"One original option, dubbed the 'Highway 115 Alternative,' also would take water from the Arkansas River near Florence while returning effluent immediately downstream. CSU also is requesting a change to that particular option, asking Reclamation to remove the return flow pipeline and instead transport return flows in Fountain Creek in Pueblo County."

Category: Colorado Water

6:30:29 AM    

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Here's an update on the Quagga mussel problem in Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River, from the Denver Post. From the article, "Quagga mussels were found this month at Lake Mead in Nevada and Lake Havasu in Arizona, alarming California officials who worried that the mollusks could damage the system that brings water across the desert to 18 million people in Los Angeles and San Diego. Those discoveries prompted a wider search for the mussels in California reservoirs and pipelines that are connected to the Colorado River Aqueduct, but divers who combed three major lakes did not find any of the mollusks. Bob Muir, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said those results were encouraging. But he cautioned that even if adult quaggas were not in the reservoirs, their larvae could still be present. In March, officials plan to shut down the entire 242-mile aqueduct for three weeks to dry out the canals and use chlorine to kill the mussels. Even so, because the freshwater mollusks multiply rapidly - with a single female laying as many as 1 million eggs- it is unlikely doing so will rid the state of the hardy mollusks."

Category: Colorado Water

6:24:22 AM    

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The future of water supplies were discussed at this week's Colorado Water Congress, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article, "The science that says water supplies in Colorado will shrivel with the onset of climate change is nearly a sure bet, one that begs difficult questions of Western Slope residents, legislators and the state's water managers. That was the message Friday to the Colorado Water Congress from Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District. A slate of scientific studies have led water managers to conclude the state can no longer look to the past to predict the future when it comes to forecasting water supplies, Kuhn said. The Rocky Mountains will simply get drier in the long run, and Colorado's wet winter this year should not lead people to think otherwise, he said. By 2050, flows in the Colorado River are projected to decline by 18 percent, and the average water storage in the basin will decline by 32 percent, he said. Warmer global temperatures will mean more precipitation in many other parts of the United States, but not for the Colorado River Basin...

"The common assumption among water managers in Colorado is that water in the South Platte, Rio Grande and Arkansas rivers has already been appropriated, but there could be about 500,000 acre-feet of water left to develop in the Colorado River Basin, he said. But, Kuhn said, that's not a safe assumption to make given global warming and climate change. Only about 150,000 acre-feet could be available, he said. Now, he said, politicians and water managers have to ask difficult questions for which there aren't yet any answers. 'Is there water for energy development?' he asked."

Category: Colorado Water

6:19:21 AM    

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Here's an update on the Fountain Creek lawsuit from the Pueblo Chieftain. They write, "The Sierra Club is telling a judge that Colorado Springs remains liable even if other sewage systems also have polluted Fountain Creek. Sierra says that 'other facilities' spills are immaterial' to whether the city violated the federal Clean Water Act by its own repeated spills of raw sewage, excessive chlorine and nonpotable water into the creek. The environmental group's assertion is in a new filing to U.S. District Judge Walker Miller. He is presiding over lawsuits by the club and by Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut against the city. Sierra's filing is in reply to a Colorado Springs request that the judge throw out the club's lawsuit. The city told the judge earlier this month that 'during the period from 2001 to 2005, 82 percent of the reported untreated wastewater releases into the Fountain Creek basin were attributable to wastewater systems other than Colorado Springs.'[...]

"Sierra is telling the judge that the city is liable under the act regardless of what actions the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has taken against the city's sewage system. The club also asserts the department 'took no action for 18 months on at least 20 discharges (by the city) and not all of (its) discharges are subject to' enforcement orders the department issued."

Category: Colorado Water

6:11:31 AM    

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The proposed Phantom Canyon project received a good deal of attention at this week's Colorado Water Congress, according to the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article, "A water project proposed for Fremont and Pueblo counties could link water users in northern El Paso County with farms in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Details of the project, which is still in its infancy, emerged Thursday and Friday at the Colorado Water Congress. The Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority has signed a memorandum of understanding with the developers of the Phantom Canyon Reservoir Project to consider use in a plan to bring water north to recharge an overtapped aquifer. 'We don't know enough to price these facilities as they relate to how we can use them,' said Gary Barber of the Pikes Peak group. 'They'll proceed with the development of assets and we've told them we[base ']re interested.' The Pikes Peak group includes Palmer Lake, Monument, Woodmoor, Donala, Academy, Tri-View and Cherokee water districts. The districts rely on the Denver aquifer for water supplies in a growing area outside Colorado Springs city limits. The aquifer has to be recharged to maintain pumping rates...

"Phantom Canyon, a project promoted by Colorado Springs developers Mark and Jim Morley, would build a reservoir incorporating hydroelectric power near Brush Hollow Reservoir. Part of the project is a 23,000- to 40,000-acre-foot storage reservoir at the Stonewall Springs Ranch near the Pueblo Chemical Depot. A pipeline from the reservoir is planned to take water north, including into northern El Paso County...

"Phantom Canyon is envisioned as a 55,000 acre-foot reservoir complex that would generate up to 370 megawatts of power during peak hours. During non-peak hours, electricity would be used to pump water to the reservoir from the Arkansas River, Morley said."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:04:24 AM    

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Here's an update on the meeting about the study of stream depletion from coal bed methane drilling that was held in Rifle yesterday, from the Glenwood Springs Independent (free registration required). From the article, "Although the Piceance Basin is the target of a coal bed methane study, state agencies don't think the alternate source of natural gas is looming on the horizon. The Colorado Geological Survey and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the state Division of Water Resources held a public meeting at city hall in Rifle Friday afternoon introducing the study and inviting public comment. Besides the Piceance, the study will also focus on the Raton and San Juan Basins, which both produce large quantities of coal bed methane (CBM). In drilling for CBM, water is pumped out of the hole to release the trapped gas within a coal seam. Disposal of the produced water, which is often highly saline, has caused problems in some areas where it is discharged onto the ground surface or into streams. '(The idea for the study) started in the San Juan Basin. Sen. (Jim) Isgar's constituents had concerns about stream depletion and water availability,' said Dick Wolfe, assistant state engineer with the Division of Water Resources."

Category: Colorado Water

5:49:40 AM    

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