Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

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We lost an entire day of posting yesterday due to server unavailability. It was late evening before we could get to a location with cell coverage and call the backup sysadmin. We're not going to catch up for a couple of days. Today we're heading up into Mesa Verde National Park for a romp around "Farview Reservoir." Tomorrow is a travel day. Posting will be on and off.

10:00:35 AM    

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Kremmling's water system is in need of upgrades and repairs along with new construction, according to Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

A significant portion of the town of Kremmling's water distribution system is in trouble and will have to be replaced in the next few years. That was the message delivered at the town council meeting last Wednesday. Public Works Director Doug Moses gave the trustees a brief but vivid description of the town's water system problems. "We really are in crisis in our distribution system," he said. Moses said his department became fully aware of the extent of the town's problem last year when the Kremmling Fire Department complained of a "decreased flow in the amount of pressure and volume of water coming out of the town's fire hydrants."

Moses said his department became fully aware of the extent of the town's problem last year when the Kremmling Fire Department complained of a "decreased flow in the amount of pressure and volume of water coming out of the town's fire hydrants." The Public Works Department looked into the problem and discovered that the town's steel water pipe system is beginning to fail. Steel water pipes comprise about 30 percent of the water system. Moses explained the steel water pipes have become "tuberculated," which is a combination of corrosion and mineral deposits that cause hardened clumps of material to form within the pipes. These tuberculated clumps have cut down the flow of water through the pipes. If the pipes were still strong enough, Moses said a mechanical "pig" could be used to clear them, but the level of corrosion has weakened the pipes to such an extent that many of them would fall apart if it were used. Moses said they are not only partially blocked by tuberculation, but the eighth-inch thick steel pipes are also heavy corroded. The corrosion is so extensive that he estimates that from November to April the steel pipes have leaked 60-percent of all the water flowing through them. "The only thing really holding these steel pipes together is the tuberculation and the dirt surrounding the outside of the pipes," he said. To show the extent of the corrosion, Moses put on a dramatic demonstration. He showed the trustees a 3-foot section of steel pipe that had been "in service" until just the previous week. Placing a flashlight inside the 4-inch diameter pipe and covering the ends of the pipe, Moses switched off the meeting room's lights. As he rotated the pipe, the trustees could see light shining through dozens of holes ranging from the size of pinheads to about half an inch in width that peppered its circumference. Moses described that 3-foot section of pipe as "typical" of all of the steel water pipes within the town's limits...

The town has about 24,000 feet of steel water pipe. Of this total, over 11,600 feet is 6-inch diameter while more than 12,300 feet is 4-inch. The steel pipes were reportedly installed in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Moses jokingly referred to the more than a half-century-old pipe as "one step up from wooden mains." He said its "caulk-and-lead joints" are such an antiquated type that he hadn't seen anything like it since he attended classes years ago as a student.

Category: Colorado Water

9:54:15 AM    

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From The Environmental News Network, "A new partnership has been launched to address the declining state of the world's fresh water supply and the lack of access to clean water services by the world's poorest people. The Global Water Initiative (GWI) brings together a group of seven leading international NGOs, including Action Against Hunger (ACF) [^] USA, CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), The World Conservation Union (IUCN), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Oxfam America and SOS Sahel - UK. The announcement of the GWI comes at a time when more than one billion people lack access to improved water sources, and more than 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation. Water resources are under increasing pressure from human use while communities are frequently affected by floods and droughts."

Category: Colorado Water

9:41:55 AM    

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New water fees may be on tap for Buena Vista, according to The Chaffee County Times. From the article:

The 2007 Water Service Rate Study recommending hikes of up to 20 percent "deserves a whole lot more study," the Buena Vista Trustees decided at a special work session on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at the community center. Leonard Rice Engineers of Denver, who prepared the study at a cost of $15,000, made recommendations on water rates, the system investment fees (tap fees) and a plan for switching to Equivalent Residential Units (EQRs). The existing customers must pay to maintain sufficient water and development must pay its own way, said Daria Giron, project manager for Leonard Rice. Town public works director Roy Gertson said the rate study was done to implement the Water Master Plan and get a fresh look at the system and new concepts.

Giron said that new regulations may up the water treatment requirements and there may be a need for expansion of the water treatment facility. The annual operating expenses were projected at close to $900,000 and revenues at $600,000, leaving an annual deficit of $300,000, she said. Rates must be increased to operate in a fiscally sound manner, she said. The proposed rate structure decreased the base gallons from 5,000 to 4,000 and proposed increases for the base rate. A 20 percent increase could interpret to about $5 a month per household plus the proposed percentage goes up exponentially per every 1,000 gallons used. The percentage of increase for senior citizens was less. For the anticipated growth, the recommended tap fee was $7,700. The Town expects to add 1,800 EQRs at a rate of 3.5 percent growth per year, she said. The costs of improvements are directly related to growth, she said. It is unknown if the decline in the housing market on the front range will impact Buena Vista, she said. The recommended cash-in-lieu of water rights would go from $6,000 to $8,400. Giron recommended water rights over cash-in-lieu. For the list of recommended improvements over the next 20 years that included pipe replacements, meter replacements, water rights storage acquisitions, chlorine contractor for water treatment, chlorine contractor for well #2, a membrane filtration process retrofit, the cost could be $4.6 million. Capital improvements for growth, including the total for the membrane filtration process retrofit, totaled $5 million for a total of $9.6 million. At a minimum, annual increases should be 3.5 percent to meet anticipated inflation, Giron said.

Category: Colorado Water

9:27:49 AM    

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The Rio Grande Water Conservation District unanimously approved the plan for their first groundwater management sub-district, according to The Valley Courier. From the article:

The board reconvened a public hearing that had been continued from June and took comments from 16 Valley residents on Wednesday before issuing its decision in favor of the first sub-district management plan. The majority of the speakers supported the plan while the remainder still had some concerns about the plan and/or the sub-district concept in general. Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board President Ray Wright said the board continued its June hearing until after the state engineer's decision on the management plan. Acting State Engineer Ken Knox approved the plan with some modifications. The first sub-district of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District is generally located in the closed basin area of the Valley north of the Rio Grande, Wright reminded the audience at the Wednesday hearing.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District Attorney David Robbins outlined what happens next. He said those appealing the state engineer's decision have until November 26 to file their objections in the water court in Alamosa, and those disagreeing with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board's decision now have 10 days to file their objections in the district court in Alamosa. The same judge, District O. John Kuenhold, will hear both the water and district court objections. Several of those who supported the sub-district plan during the Wednesday hearing told the water board the plan was not perfect but was better than the alternative of state regulations.

Gallegos questioned the 40,000-acre goal to take out of production to bring the aquifers back into balance. He said if the Valley had another year like 2002, "you would need to cut quite a bit more than just the 40,000 acres." Curt Trimble said he believed the 40,000-acre goal might be more aggressive than needed. He suggested adjusting that number downward depending on the kind of water year the Valley had. "When it comes to reality, reality always trumps your models."[...]

Samuel Selters shared concerns about the $75 per acre foot maximum fee in the management plan. He suggested the fee should either have no limitations or be set at a much higher amount for a maximum such as $500. "This fee should be high enough to have the individual farmer question whether or not it is economically feasible to pump out of the aquifer," he said. Robert Adkins also objected to the $75 per acre maximum fee and asked that the maximum be removed. He questioned why the fee should be held to a maximum rate when everything else like taxes and ditch fees go up. Wright said when all the fees are factored in, a farmer irrigating with no surface water could be paying $155-172 an acre in sub-district fees. He said that kind of cost would provide an incentive to change pumping and growing practices. "I tend to think it deserves a shot to see what the implementation looks like," he said.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

A plan designed to reduce groundwater irrigation and avoid state regulation in the north-central San Luis Valley cleared another hurdle Wednesday. The board of directors for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District signed off on a water management plan for Subdistrict No. 1, following a public hearing earlier in the day. The approval leaves only judicial review by both the Alamosa County District Court and the Water Court for Division 3 before it can be implemented. Supporters of the plan regard it as the best way to avoid the mandatory regulations from the state engineer's office. "There are other basins in this state that would love to be in this position to have the options that we have here with self government and self control," said Travis Smith, who sits on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Through a combination of local assessment fees and funding from a federal conservation program, the subdistrict would pay farmers to fallow up to 40,000 acres.

Lawrence Gallegos, a surface water user in the Conejos River basin, said during the public hearing he was a little happier with timelines in the new draft of the plan. But he called on the board to include more information on which acreage would be retired and how that might mitigate the impacts of groundwater use upon those who depend entirely on surface water. Gallegos, who was one of 16 to comment on the plan, also recommended it allow for adjustments on how much water the valley receives from year to year. Groundwater irrigators in the district would be assessed three fees: an administrative fee of $5 per acre, a $12 per-acre fee that would be matched with federal dollars to retire irrigated land, and a third fee on water use of up to $75 per acre-foot that would vary depending on how much groundwater an irrigator pumped and how much surface water the irrigator brought into the subdistrict...

Subdistrict No. 1 is the first one to have come this far through the regulation process. Steve Vandiver, the district's manager, said one for the Conejos River basin and another between Alamosa and Del Norte have started the petition process. Those would still be subject to hearings from the public and district court along with review from the state engineer.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

9:11:41 AM    

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From The Denver Post, "The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District filed suit Wednesday in federal court against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over a deal the government made with Aurora. The 40-year contract allows Aurora to store and purchase up to 10,000 acre-feet of water - about 5 percent of the city's water usage - from the Pueblo Reservoir each year. That water comes from the Arkansas River Basin. A previous deal between Aurora and the government was year-to-year. The lawsuit claims the government didn't conduct proper studies on alternatives to the eventual deal or on how the plan would affect the basin. 'We have to be conservative. We're already 100 percent short of what we need,' said John Singletary, chairman of the conservancy district board."

Here's a look at Aurora's alternatives if the lawsuit over Fry-Ark storage prevails, from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Aurora's alternative is spelled out in the environmental assessment, and plans have not changed, said Jerry Knapp, Aurora's Arkansas Valley operations manager. "It gets pretty hypothetical, because I don't know what the results of the lawsuit would be," Knapp said. "But, those alternatives haven't changed. We would still be looking at new projects." Lower Ark Chairman John Singletary said Aurora's future plans sound more like threats, and should not be viewed as concrete proposals. "To the best of our ability, we're going to watch everything they do and make sure it's done right," Singletary said.

Aurora's plans involve future projects in Pueblo and Lake counties. Pueblo County is in the Lower Ark district and Lake County voters are expected to vote in 2008 for potential inclusion in the district. "They keep threatening us with [OE]here's what we're going to do,'" Singletary said. "I am a little offended by their arrogance and the idea that they think they can come into the valley and bully everybody." In the short term, Aurora would anticipate a five-year period to amend its water right applications in the valley to include additional points of diversion, storing water in Lake Meredith and Lake Henry and exchanging water from there to its accounts in Turquoise and Twin lakes. Although the mountain lakes are operated by the bureau, Aurora has its own accounts in each. It is allowed to use space in Lake Pueblo only through an excess-capacity contract.

The bureau's environmental assessment also notes: "In the interim period before Aurora's decrees could be modified, the associated water rights that cannot be used would likely be traded or sold to other water users." In the long term, Aurora would construct or work in partnership with other interests to build a 10,000 acre-foot reservoir below Pueblo Dam. "It would probably be in Pueblo County," Knapp said. "We would need storage below Pueblo to comply with the Pueblo flow program." Aurora has an option to purchase a gravel pit operation 6 miles east of Pueblo for use as a future reservoir site, and development probably would take about 10 years.

Aurora also is working on a plan to construct the Box Creek Reservoir, between Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake in Lake County, and possibly could look for other storage upstream of Lake Pueblo, Knapp said. Regardless of whether the bureau's contract stands, Aurora would continue to work with other large water users - ditch companies, Pueblo West, Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs - on leases, cooperative agreements and efficiencies, Knapp said.

In 2004-05, Aurora leased water from the High Line Canal, and has filed a water court case seeking to obtain future exchange rights for High Line water. This year, Pueblo West leased some of its transmountain water to Aurora. The Pueblo Board of Water Works has a long-term lease and exchange contract with Aurora. Colorado Springs and Aurora are partners in the Homestake Project, which brings water from the Colorado River into their respective water systems through Turquoise, Twin Lakes, the Otero Pumping Station and Homestake Pipeline. They also are the major shareholders in the Colorado Canal and associated reservoir companies in Crowley County. All four of the municipal suppliers are partners in the Twin Lakes Reservoir Co. and own the overwhelming majority of shares. Aurora also has an intergovernmental agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District that promises to pay $25 million to the district over the life of the contract. The agreement also limits the amount of water Aurora may lease and export in the next 40 years. Aurora has an agreement with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District that reduces the water that may be taken from the valley in order to soften the effects of a call on the river to upper basin users and provides $1 million toward Preferred Storage Options Plan development on behalf of the district. There also is a provision for a $2 million payment to help Southeastern and the Upper Ark jointly develop storage after 2028...

The Lower Ark lawsuit claims Aurora will be able to move 14,000 acre-feet more per year than it otherwise could with the bureau contracts, drying up at least 7,000 acres with an economic impact of about $4.3 million per year. The suit claims the contract would damage potential water leasing programs in the valley as well as reducing the availability of water to farmers. Those actions and effects are contrary to the purposes of the Fry-Ark Project, and were approved contrary to federal policy, the lawsuit claims.

More coverage of the lawsuit from The Cañon City Daily Record.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:44:32 AM    

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The United Nations Environment Programme release a report this week that is lacking in positive news for readers. Here's the link to the main page and here's the link to Chapter Four: Water [pdf]. From the water article:

Climate change, human use of water resources and aquatic ecosystems, and overexploitation of fish stocks influence the state of the water environment. This affects human well-being and the implementation of internationally agreed development goals, such as those in the Millennium Declaration. Evidence shows that implementing policy responses to environmental problems enhances human health, socio-economic growth and aquatic environmental sustainability. The world's oceans are the primary regulator of global climate, and an important sink for greenhouse gases.

At continental, regional and ocean basin scales, the water cycle is being affected by long-term changes in climate, threatening human security. These changes are affecting Arctic temperatures, sea-and land ice, including mountain glaciers. They also affect ocean salinity and acidification, sea levels, precipitation patterns, extreme weather events and possibly the ocean's circulatory regime. The trend to increasing urbanization and tourism development has considerable impacts on coastal ecosystems. The socio-economic consequences of all these changes are potentially immense. Concerted global actions are needed to address the root causes, while local efforts can reduce human vulnerability

Freshwater availability and use, as well as the conservation of aquatic resources, are key to human well-being. The quantity and quality of surface - and groundwater resources, and life-supporting ecosystem services are being jeopardized by the impacts of population growth, rural to urban migration, and rising wealth and resource consumption, as well as by climate change. If present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress.

Practical implementation of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) at the basin scale, including consideration of conjunctive groundwater aquifers and downstream coastal areas, is a key response to freshwater scarcity. Because agriculture accounts for more than 70 per cent of global water use, it is a logical target for water savings and demand management efforts. Stakeholders who pay attention to increasing the productivity of rain-fed agriculture and aquaculture, which can contribute to improved food security, are proving to be successful. Water quality degradation from human activities continues to harm human and ecosystem health. Three million people die from water-borne diseases each year in developing countries, the majority of whom are children under the age of five. Pollutants of primary concern include microbial pathogens and excessive nutrient loads. Water contaminated by microbes remains the greatest single cause of human illness and death on a global scale. High nutrient loads lead to eutrophication of downstream and coastal waters, and loss of beneficial human uses. Pollution from diffuse land sources, particularly agriculture and urban run-off, needs urgent action by governments and the agricultural sector. Pesticide pollution, endocrine-disrupting substances and suspended sediments are also hard to control. There is evidence that IWRM at the basin scale, improved effluent treatment and wetland restoration, accompanied by improved education and public awareness, are effective responses.

Aquatic ecosystems continue to be heavily degraded, putting many ecosystem services at risk, including the sustainability of food supplies and biodiversity. Global marine and freshwater fisheries show large scale declines, caused mostly by persistent overfishing. Freshwater stocks also suffer from habitat degradation and altered thermal regimes related to climate change and water impoundment. Total marine catches are being sustained only by fishing ever further offshore and deeper in the oceans, and progressively lower on the food chain. The trend of fish stock degradation can be reversed when governments, industry and fishing communities work together to reduce excess fishing effort, subsidies and illegal fishing.

A continuing challenge for the management of water resources and aquatic ecosystems is to balance environmental and developmental needs. It requires a sustained combination of technology, legal and institutional frameworks, and, where feasible, market-based approaches. This is particularly true where efforts are designed to share the benefits of waterrelated ecosystem services rather than merely sharing the water resource alone. In addition to capacity building, the challenge is not only to develop new approaches, but also to facilitate the practical, timely and cost-effective implementation of existing international and other agreements, policies and targets, which can provide a basis for cooperation on many levels. Although many coastal environments are benefiting from existing Regional Seas agreements, there is a paucity of international agreements addressing transboundary freshwater systems, a significant source of potential conflict in the future. A range of perverse subsidies also hampers the development and implementation of effective management measures at many levels. The benefits of tackling well-understood problems, especially those at the basin scale, are likely to be greatest when efforts are coordinated effectively among different levels of society.

Thanks to Scientific American for the link.

Category: Colorado Water

8:16:25 AM    

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Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force delivered their report this week, according to Sadly, they didn't find any unspoken for wet water to help farmers pumping from the alluvial aquifer. From the article:

Earlier this year, Governor Bill Ritter formed a task force to look into a controversial water issue hovering over the South Platte River Basin. This week, that task force produced its recommendations...The South Platte River Basic [sic] Task Force met several times in the last several months. At times, they allowed public comment. Their report to Ritter (D-Colorado) included 10 recommendations. One of them encourages new water storage, which would include expanding existing reservoirs along with building new ones. Another recommendation promotes more efficiency in the Water Court, which can approve plans that would allow wells to pump again.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:53:04 AM    

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