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

Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

From The North Denver News, "Funding for water projects throughout Colorado will be restored despite President Bush's veto as the United States Senate today successfully voted to override the President's veto on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by 79-14. The House of Representatives earlier this week also successfully voted to override the President's veto by 362-54. WRDA contains over $120 million for critical water-related projects in Colorado included at the request of Senator Salazar. The report authorizes federal spending on water development, infrastructure, flood control and other projects conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation."

Category: Colorado Water

6:08:13 PM    

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Groundwater is a huge source for drinking water across the U.S. Here's an article from Ohio State University dealing with the potential effects of rising ocean levels on groundwater aquifers along the coasts. They write:

As sea levels rise, coastal communities could lose up to 50 percent more of their fresh water supplies than previously thought, according to a new study from Ohio State University. Hydrologists here have simulated how saltwater will intrude into fresh water aquifers, given the sea level rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC has concluded that within the next 100 years, sea level could rise as much as 23 inches, flooding coasts worldwide. Scientists previously assumed that, as saltwater moved inland, it would penetrate underground only as far as it did above ground. But this new research shows that when saltwater and fresh water meet, they mix in complex ways, depending on the texture of the sand along the coastline. In some cases, a zone of mixed, or brackish, water can extend 50 percent further inland underground than it does above ground.

Like saltwater, brackish water is not safe to drink because it causes dehydration. Water that contains less than 250 milligrams of salt per liter is considered fresh water and safe to drink. Motomu Ibaraki, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State, led the study. Graduate student Jun Mizuno presented the results Tuesday, October 30, 2007, at the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver.

"Most people are probably aware of the damage that rising sea levels can do above ground, but not underground, which is where the fresh water is," Ibaraki said. "Climate change is already diminishing fresh water resources, with changes in precipitation patterns and the melting of glaciers. With this work, we are pointing out another way that climate change can potentially reduce available drinking water. The coastlines that are vulnerable include some of the most densely populated regions of the world."[...]

"Almost 40 percent of the world population lives in coastal areas, less than 60 kilometers from the shoreline," Mizuno said. "These regions may face loss of freshwater resources more than we originally thought."

Typically, coastlines are made of different sandy layers that have built up over time, Ibaraki explained. Some layers may contain coarse sand and others fine sand. Fine sand tends to block more water, while coarse sand lets more flow through. The researchers simulated coastlines made entirely of coarse or fine sand, and different textures in between. They also simulated more realistic, layered underground structures. The simulation showed that, the more layers a coastline has, the more the saltwater and fresh water mix. The mixing causes convection -- similar to the currents that stir water in the open sea. Between the incoming saltwater and the inland fresh water, a pool of brackish water forms. Further sea level rise increases the mixing even more. Depending on how these two factors interact, underground brackish water can extend 10 to 50 percent further inland than the saltwater on the surface. According to the United States Geological Survey, about half the country gets its drinking water from groundwater. Fresh water is also used nationwide for irrigating crops...

"To desalinate, we need energy, so our water problem would become an energy problem in the future."

Category: Colorado Water

7:05:29 AM    

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The Pueblo Board of Water Works is considering a 4.5% increase in fees, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is considering a 4.5 percent rate hike and a 30 percent increase in the fee for new service in its $29.5 million 2008 budget. Officials say the increase in rates is needed for inflation, upgrading water meters and providing a cushion against future expenditures, including the proposed purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares. The increase in the service fee is an attempt to have future growth pay for itself. The water board considered the budget in a workshop Tuesday. A public hearing is scheduled at 2 p.m. Nov. 20, when the board anticipates approval of the budget. The 4.5 percent rate hike would mean an increase of about $1.28 per month on a typical homeowner's water bill to $29.78 from $28.50 for 12,000 gallons, said Seth Clayton, budget specialist...

The increase follows hikes of 4 percent this year and 4.25 percent in 2006, following a 10-year period of relatively smaller increases. Since 1981, water increases have varied from none at all to 11 percent, but overall have virtually kept pace with inflation, Clayton said. Even with a 4.5 percent increase, Pueblo would have a lower rate for basic water service than any other of the 17 largest Front Range water providers except Denver, a comparison showed. Aurora has the highest rate, nearly two times what Puebloans pay. Pueblo's plant water investment fee is one-fifth the Front Range average, at $2,640 for a 1-inch residential main. The next lowest is Fort Collins, which charges $4,040, and the highest is Aurora, which charges $37,276. Originally, the staff planned to recommend 30 percent increases for the next three years to bring Pueblo's service fee closer to average, but the water board is only being asked to consider the 2008 increase this year, while a long-range plan is developed, Clayton said...

Metered water sales account for about 75 percent of revenues, and most likely will fall short of projections by $2 million this year, Clayton said. Sales sagged to 7.8 billion gallons because of increased conservation by users following the 2002 drought and better summer rainfall in the past two years. Still, he is projecting revenues of $18.1 million from metered sales, based on projected sales of 8.4 billion gallons. The 10-year average for water sales is 8.7 billion gallons. Raw water leases account for 18 percent of the water board's revenue. Long-term trades and leases to Aurora account for most of that amount, with a few other contracts and spot leases making up the rest, Clayton said. Meanwhile, plant water investment fees account for 5-7 percent of the budget. This year, they are expected to bring in $1.4 million, about $300,000 more than projected. Part of the thinking in increasing those fees now is to build up funds for proposed expansion of water services in the Pueblo Springs development north of the city, said Terry Book, director of operations. The developers would pay for the initial pump stations and water tanks for the area, but the water board would face future costs for additional pumping and pipelines, Book said. While the 4.5 percent hike would take effect Jan. 1, the plant water investment fee would not take effect until May 1, Clayton said...

Among large expenditures included in the budget are $1 million for the automated meter reading project, an increase of $500,000 with the goal of replacing all meters within 10 years. A new bacteriologist/chemist position is being added to meet increased regulatory requirements and $400,000 for facilities expansion. Inflation accounts for a 3 percent increase in operations and maintenance.

Category: Colorado Water

6:21:20 AM    

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There are three objectors so far, to the Rio Grande Water Conservancy District's groundwater sub-district #1, according to The Valley Courier. From the article:

The 12th Judicial District Court this week received three formal objections to the Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board's October 24th approval of its first sub-district water management plan. Farming Tech, Skyview Cooling and Bill Ellithorpe filed objections with the court to the management plan by the Monday deadline. District Judge O. John Kuenhold will now schedule a hearing on the objections. "The next thing would be to ask the judge for a hearing date and see if we can get it cleared up," said Rio Grande Water Conservation District Manager Steven Vandiver. He said he expected the water district's attorneys to contact the attorneys for the objectors to discuss how they might want to proceed. "Ultimately there will have to be a hearing before the judge and he will consider the objections on their merit," he said. The judge may opt to consolidate hearings for objections to the local water district's decision and objections to the state engineer's decision to approve the sub-district management plan. Individuals and groups objecting to the state's decision have until November 26 to file objections with the water court.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:13:57 AM    

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All parties have agreed on conditions for a Recreational In Channel Diversion (RICD) for Durango's proposed whitewater park, according to The Durango Herald. From the article:

Years of litigation and dispute over the city of Durango's claim on Animas River water for a white-water recreation park finally produced an agreement that all parties involved were hailing as a success Tuesday. Under the agreement, as much as 1,400 cubic feet of water per second will be available for a kayak park at Smelter Rapid on the Animas River in Santa Rita Park. But the deal also ensures that sufficient water will be available for future development upstream in the Animas Valley, which was the crux of opponents' concerns. Both the La Plata County board of commissioners and the Durango City Council passed resolutions on Tuesday to make the agreement official.

Durango's quest for water for the park drew objections from dozens of individuals and entities, including the county and the Southwestern Water Conservation District. But on Tuesday, Bruce Whitehead, executive director for the conservation district, said everybody comes out ahead with the agreement. "I think it is a win-win situation," he told commissioners. At the evening city council meeting, Whitehead said that the agreement involved a lot of hard work. "We are glad that we were able to work with everybody," he said. Echoing this, Commissioner Kellie Hotter said, "It's a really good day when all parties can come together, shake hands and walk away feeling like a winner." Otha J. Rogers, Durango's interim city manager, called the deal "a significant investment that the city has made for generations to come." The settlement averts a two-week trial on the case in water court, which had been scheduled to start Jan. 7. Durango Mayor Doug Lyon praised the negotiating parties' "honest give and take," and their ability to avoid a court case. "It's a really exciting time," Lyon said.

The amount of water allotted for the park varies from a low of 185 cfs from Jan. 1 to March 14 to a high of 1,400 cfs June 1-14. It also sets a usage schedule for a water right held jointly by La Plata County and the Southwestern Water Conservation District. That rate varies from 20 cfs to 40 cfs, depending on the season. Separately, it recognizes water rights held by the county alone on the Animas, Junction Creek and Lightner Creek worth a total of 9 cfs. The agreement also establishes how the various rights can be used. The county's water can go toward irrigation, livestock, and domestic and commercial uses within the county boundaries. But the joint right held by the county and the conservation district can go toward those purposes and industrial use as well with no set boundary. Nancy Lauro, director of the county's Community Development Department, explained that uses and flow rates were established by looking at the land-use plan for the Animas Valley and extrapolating the water needs based on the maximum allowable development for the area. "Twenty- to 30-year build-out is what we're looking at," she told commissioners.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:55:28 AM    

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Eastern Fremont County has approved joining the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, according to The Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Relief and happiness were the reactions for the proponents when they learned the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District inclusion question passed with 4,680 votes compared to 4,274 against. The yes votes totaled 52.27 percent of the vote, compared to 47.73 percent in the negative. "I am very thrilled that this passed," said Tom Young, who led the charge for the past two and a half years. "I was worried that" it might fail. "People in Fremont County are concerned about the water and what's going on with it."

John Sandefur, who has also worked with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District for the past several years, said it was awesome. "I am excited," he said. "This means we have the opportunity to protect our water. The people up north are going to come after it because their water wells are going down. Where are they going to go? The Arkansas River." The first time, the issue lost in court, Sandefur said. On the second attempt, "we had to withdraw it" because there weren't enough agricultural landowners signatures on the petition. Sandefur said the board couldn't stop people from selling the water or land, but it could "make sure they don't get the water above Cañon City."...Joining the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District will cost taxpayers about $3.80 each year on a $100,000 home.

Category: Colorado Water

5:40:04 AM    

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Our old friend La Niña is setting up in the Pacific Ocean so ski area owners and others are speculating on Colorado's winter weather right now. Here's a look at the subject from The Summit Daily News. They write:

Breckenridge weather watcher Rick Bly has been able to link October precipitation with season-long trends showing that, if October snowfall is above-normal, there's a better than average chance the rest of winter will also bring good snow. But that statistic may be trumped by the late emergence of La Niña conditions, when sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific are cooler than normal. This periodic cycle in ocean temperatures helps drive the storm track. And for now, that pattern is not looking good for Colorado, said Klaus Wolter, who specializes in climate diagnostics with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wolter said his record of forecasting winter snowfall for the southern Rockies during La Niña conditions is not all that reliable. But he's pessimistic about the current storm track, which is setting up too far north to bring much snow to Colorado, at least for the next couple of weeks. "This year is looking very dry ... we may be sliding toward drought, but not as bad as 2002," Wolter said. "I just don't like the way the storm track is setting up."[...]

Locally, reservoir levels and streamflows have been holding their own, said Scott Hummer, the State Engineer's water commissioner for the Blue River Basin. Dillon Reservoir is exceptionally full for this time of year, and most streams are flowing near historic means, Hummer said. That means snowmakers at Summit County resorts have been able to take their full allotments, at least when temperatures permit. Keystone, for example, used 28.3 acre-feet of water for snowmaking during October, while Arapahoe Basin drew 19.65 acre-feet out of the North Fork to produce artificial white stuff. Temperature records from the Dillon site show a continued trend toward warmer night temperatures. The average low for October was 25.3 degrees, more than five degrees above the historic average. The average high for October 2007 was 56.7 degrees (historic average, 55.3 degrees). Temperatures went to 60 degrees or above 15 times, and climbed above freezing every single day except Oct. 22, when the daytime high topped out at 30 degrees.

More La Niña news from NASA:

The tropical Pacific Ocean remains in the grips of a cool La Niña, as shown by new data of sea-level heights from mid-October of 2007, collected by the U.S-French Jason altimetric satellite...

"After eight very dry years on the Colorado River watershed and a record-breaking dry winter in Southern California in 2006-2007, the situation in the American Southwest is dangerously dry," said oceanographer Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This La Niña could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and Southeast United States."

A La Niña situation often follows an El Niño episode and is essentially the opposite of an El Niño condition. During a La Niña, trade winds are stronger than normal, and the cold water that normally exists along the coast of South America extends to the central equatorial Pacific. A La Niña changes global weather patterns and is associated with less moisture in the air, resulting in less rain along the coasts of North and South America, the equator and in the far Western Pacific. Jason will continue to track this change in Pacific climate.

Category: Colorado Water

5:30:44 AM    

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